Vote to tap Coatesville trust fund unanimous

After three failed attempts, council agrees to withdraw nearly $2.25 million

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Former City Councilman Kareem Johnson expresses support to City Council and support for withdrawing money from the trust fund.

With their backs up against the wall, the seven members of Coatesville City Council voted unanimously Monday night to withdraw nearly $2.25 million from the city’s dwindling trust fund – a bailout all have described as distasteful.

The vote marked the fourth attempt to authorize the withdrawal after three previous efforts failed. Without the emergency infusion of cash, Coatesville employees would not have received checks on their next scheduled pay day, Oct. 19, according to John Marcarelli, the city’s finance director.

A handful of the citizens who packed City Hall urged the council to transfer the funds needed to keep the city afloat, but they also pressed for changes so that the financial crisis doesn’t reoccur. The trust fund “has been used far too long as a safety net,” said Marie Hess as many residents nodded.

Council President David C. Collins assured the audience that “it’s not going to be business as usual.” He said he would be proposing reforms, some of which would likely appear on the next meeting’s agenda. Chief among them are getting legal and police costs under control, he said.

Collins said he wants council to consider releasing the city’s labor attorney, Siana, Bellwoar and McAndrew from its contract and “seek a new attorney if that’s appropriate.” According to figures presented by Marcarelli last week, the city has paid the firm more than $122,000 so far this year.

After the meeting, Collins said he realized that the firm sued the city the last time its services were ended. “I don’t know how they got back in here,” Collins said.

Advocating “stronger management controls and oversight,” Collins said he wants a month-to-month review of the city’s finances, and he suggested electing a citizens’ council “to make sure that it’s on track.”

“We can’t keep doing the same thing in the same way and expect a different outcome,” Collins said.

Councilman Jarrell Brazzle agreed, posing numerous questions before the group’s last vote of the night: approving accounts payable. He asked whether a “conflict of interest” existed with a Zeke’s Oil Company contract when the owner, Joseph “Zeke” Disciullo,  chairs the Revelopment Authority. After a pause that generated no response, City Manager Kirby Hudson said the contract goes “way back,” predating Hudson’s tenure.

Brazzle also questioned a $56 expenditure for Interim Police Chief James Bell’s business cards. “I just paid $9.99” for some, Brazzle said, pledging to continue his line-by-line scrutiny of the budget.

In closing remarks, Councilman Jeff LoPrinzi commented on the turnout. “Why can’t we get this kind of a crowd when there’s regular stuff going on?” he asked, explaining that even the routine meetings are important.

Councilman Joseph Hamrick expressed optimism that the city could improve its financial health. “We have the cohesion to hold spending down,” he said. “I believe we have the strength here as a council to hold our administration to that number.”




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One Comment

  1. EX Coatesvillian says:

    City needs to present this Ordinance to City Council on 10/16 for a 2nd Reading. If Council votes ‘yes’ on 10/16 then the City will be able to withdraw the funds. City cannot withdraw the funds based on the 1st Reading. Has anyone asked if the City will need to pay penalties for early redemption? What will this withdrawal really cost the City, and will it be the last withdrawal in 2012?

    Payday will come before they have the opportunity to present and vote on 2nd Reading of the Ordinance. City Mgmt is telling the press, “Employees will be paid on Payday!”
    Either City Mgmt is exaggerating their plight, or they don’t know what they are talking about. Neither of these are good options, but neither are surprising me either.

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