By Peter Becker
Managing Editor
Hawley Borough passed the 2013 budget Dec. 12th without any tax increase. Councilman John Robertson reminded, "Times are not good economically."
Robertson made that statement as he concluded his report of the delinquent sewer bills owed by Hawley property owners. Robertson is on the board of the Hawley Area Authority. He noted that the delinquent sewer bills owed to the Authority totaled $83,641.95, as of the November board meeting. This was up from $81,117.95 in October. During October, $13,664.22 had been collected from delinquent customers.
Contacted later, sewer plant manager Frank Schwesinger said that the total of delinquent funds is actually less than it used to be in past years, and he has been employed by the Authority 13-14 years. He said that the number of delinquent customers is about the same, but more of them are making arrangements to pay their bills. He credited staff for diligent effort at collections.
The proposed 2013 budget for the Hawley Area Authority is to be voted upon, Dec. 20 by the Authority board. The approximate $630,000 budget contains zero increase in sewer rates. The current rate is $51 per unit (residential or commercial), each month.
The Hawley Borough budget for 2013 totals $323,660. To help prevent a tax increase, the seven members of Borough Council and the Mayor volunteered to waive their salaries. Councilman Joseph Faubel estimated that this totals around $5,000.
Faubel chairs the Borough Finance Committee. During the discussion about a requested business tax abatement program, Faubel cautioned that the Borough could face a financial crisis in a few years and a significant tax increase was likely.
"We have a balancing act- money won't drop out of the sky," Faubel noted. He said he would seriously consider the five-year tax abatement program asked by the Hawley Silk Mill, which could spur business investment in the community. The matter, which weighs the impact on taxes on struggling residents, and possibility of increasing business growth and jobs, will be discussed further at the Borough Planning Commission meeting Jan. 1st at 7 p.m. The discussion was reported more fully in the 15th edition.
Also discussed:
• A state grant application was turned down for the park playground that Tom Regenski proposed, to honor his late son Caleb, who died in 2007 at the age of 2. Council member Mary Sanders called the news "disappointing." The project is totally separate from the boy's mother's efforts to raise funds for needy families of sick children.
• Mill Market LLC, which operates at the Hawley Silk Mill, is applying for a liquor license. Attorney Anthony Waldron said that the license would be transferred from Keuster Inc. in Beach Lake, which has been closed a few years. A hearing is required before Borough Council and was set for 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, prior to the 7 p.m. Council meeting.
• Parking meters in the borough will be bagged from Dec. 14 to Dec. 28 for the holidays. Volunteers from Council bag the meters bright and early on the 14th.
• Eva Warner was introduced as the new Administrative Assistant. Nancy Morales, who had resigned for a new position, will continue on the Borough Parks & Recreation Committee.
• Mayor Kevin Hawk performed one wedding in the past month.
• The Borough does not inspect mold problems in dwellings, Borough Solicitor Robert Bernathy stated. A complaint was received by a new tenant who reports a mold situation in the home. Bernathy said this was a matter between the tenant and landlord, and the tenant should be referred to legal counsel of her choice. Mold is not included by the inspection due to liability, Bernathy said.