I have a few questions after attending the Phoenixville Borough Council committee meetings on Tuesday, July 28. First, I have to ask, whose idea was it to do away with regular committee meetings? This new format is terrible. It is uninviting for public participation and has totally removed the citizen committee members, which is a shame. Having served on the borough parks and recreation committee as well as the borough finance committee, the role of the citizen committee member is important and provides useful insight and feedback to council. Side note: kudos to council member Dana Dugan for requesting a separate meeting for the budget review. I hope she will next recommend a return to set, scheduled and organized committee meetings with public participation and citizen members.
Second, thanks again go to council member Dana Dugan for pointing out the absolutely ridiculous payment to a labor law firm which was recently hired. This change from one local firm to two regional firms, which by the way both charge more according to what I was told, was a waste of time and now is also a proven waste of money. Mayor Michael Speck and council member Michael Kuznar also spoke against the payment of $2,350 for a two hour meeting that was a “meet and greet” according to Borough Manager Jean Krack.
Which brings me to my question about this: if the meeting was only two hours long and the maximum allowable billable rate is $250 per hour per attorney, who approved this payment and why? There is no circumstance under which such a payment makes sense, and if checked computationally, the bill would not have added up to $2,350. The only action now should be to fire this firm after they refund our taxpayers this money and redo the borough policy on payments.
Next question. On top of a math refresher class, I’m thinking some members of council may benefit from a refresher on civics as well. From the comment at the last meeting about council dictating what they want despite huge public outcry to last night’s comment by council member Jon Ichter that the borough owns the parks, there seems to be some confusion on the role of elected officials. No, you don’t get to dictate to taxpayers, you are there to represent us, not rule us. And second, we own the parks. They are held in trust for us by the borough. So yes, we get a say in who uses them, when and for how long.
Which brings me to my next question, what, if anything is going to be done to reprimand Councilman Jon Ichter for the illegal path he built? No one mentioned any sanction at this meeting, but frankly I believe Mr. Ichter needs to resign. He lied to the members of the HOA. He may have misused HOA funds and then to compound his egregious act he knowingly built this path without proper permits or safety precautions, an obvious failure as an elected official. For the good of all involved, Mr. Ichter should resign.
And my final point about a comment made last night by Borough Manager Jean Krack. He was explaining that Planning Commission does not need to “listen” to the school board, which is correct. But since actions taken by Planning impact our school district, and therefore taxpayers, wouldn’t it make sense to have an interactive and strategic task force to ensure any development adequately plans for district impact?
And please know, I appreciate all that our council members do, and they do plenty that is positive and helpful, like approving the Firebird Festival at this same meeting. Serving on council can be time-consuming and is often a thankless job. So while I have questions, I also have gratitude and respect for those who do step up to serve their community.
— Lisa Longo