PHOENIXVILLE -- Borough Council's Community Development Committee Monday evening approved the proposed five-year extension of its professional services agreement with the Main Street-Community Development Corporation.
The approval of the $125,000 per year agreement came by a slim 4-3 margin. It came, too, only after extended and fractious, debate.
"We will be discussing the General Fund budget in the October time frame," said Council Finance Committee chair Jeff Senley (R-North). "But at this time we have no knowledge of where we will be on the General Fund. We're being asked to commit money we don't know we have. We could vote on this [now] and it could be void by December."
The agreement's annual cost "is the equivalent of one-fifth mill of tax," said Richard Mark Kirkner (D-North). "We're committing to expenses when we don't know where the money's going to come from."
"We know where the money is," Senley said. "It's in the pockets of people who live here."
"Back in 2000, when Anthony DiGirolomo was on Council, he really planted the seeds for this," Kirkner continued. "The intent was never to have this as a taxpayer-supported entity." He suggested that "there are services we need that we can obtain in the market. Spell out the services and put out an RFP [request for proposals]."
"This is a vague, open-ended agreement," Kirkner said. "It is not a good contract. This is premature. I'd hate to lay off a patrolman or a member of the streets department to foster this relationship. No way. No way. No way."
"I don't want to talk about letting a patrolman go," said Carlos Ciruelos (D-East). "That's the politics of fear.
"We're already the envy of other communities. We shouldn't put ourselves at a disadvantage," he said. "This is about a relationship with the CDC. We've seen proven results. I look all over the Borough and I see results."
Dave Gill (D-West) agreed. "I'm proud of our downtown, and the CDC has a lot to do with that. People come to Phoenixville and they have something to do. I expect even bigger and better things in the future."
Kendrick Buckwalter (R-West) returned to budget issues. "In July we don't even know what cost increases are going to be for next year," he said. "To commit to this when we already have to take $484,000 that was not budgeted for 2008 out of one-time revenues this year, and have items already on the Capital Projects and Improvements Plan that were put off, I don't believe to be good fiscal management."
"I don't see it as a $125,000 increase," said Borough Manager Jean Krack. "You already committed $111,000 a year for three years. The increase is $14,000 a year for five years."
Buckwalter disagreed. The money funding the last three years of the agreement "had been set aside four or five years ago," he said. "Our taxes each year have not been impacted by that expenditure."
A move by Senley to table the issue until November failed. Mike Handwerk (D-Middle) directed his comments to him. "We've asked for Jean Krack's input on this twice. He's given it." He said that Council should not delay the decision further.
Ciruelos, Handwerk, Gill and Mike Speck (D-East) voted to approve the agreement. Buckwalter, Senley and Kirkner opposed it. Council president Henry Wagner (D-Middle) was absent.
The action in Committee will require formal approval by the full Council at its August meeting for business.
On other issues, Council:
agreed unanimously to declare First Friday, August 1, 2008, as George Hinkle Day, remembering the contributions to Phoenixville by a loyal citizen and dedicated volunteer. Hinkle died July 30, 2006, at 78.
agreed by a vote of 7-1, with Senley in dissent, to advertise for public hearing zoning ordinance changes, recommended by the Planning Commission to Council Thursday, to permit senior housing as a conditional use in a redrawn Commercial-Office District. The changes could permit the proposed 80-unit HUD-funded senior housing project at 55 Starr Street to move ahead.
completed a public hearing but did not take final action on approval of a state grant application for $250,000, to be applied to a revolving redevelopment loan fund. The principal amount will support the Foundry project, with interest payments funding fae§ade grants for downtown properties; principal repayments would be used for future redevelopment projects. A similar loan program funded renovations to The Colonial Theatre.
approved the filing of a merchant application with NXGEN, a national payment services company, to process bill payments by credit card and to establish new online bill payment services for residents.