City Council focusing on Coatesville’s red ink

Ways to cut costs dominated Monday night’s meeting

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Council members Joseph Hamrick (from left), Jeff LoPrinzi and Jarrell Brazzle listen to explanations for some of the city’s recent expenditures.

Money – specifically a scarcity of it – dominated Coatesville City Council’s Monday night meeting.

The council voted to re-approve the authorization to withdraw $2.25 million from the city’s trust fund, an action that was needed because an earlier vote constituted a month-long emergency measure. Finance director John Marcarelli has said he wanted to be able to withdraw funds as needed to pay bills through 2012 rather than make a single withdrawal.

Other payments that received unanimous approval included a tax anticipation note (TAN) of $947,000 plus nearly $21,000 in interest and $1,500 to prepare a grant related to storm-water runoff mandates. A vote to solicit proposals for a 2013 TAN of up to  $1.4 million generated questions about whether it would be more cost-effective to borrow the money from the trust fund.

Ja’Nya Jackson (left), 8, and  CheyAnne Costello, 3, received plaques for their assistance in tree-planting along the Brandywine Creek.

Marcarelli said the cash-strapped city would earn more interest from the trust fund than it would pay on the TAN. Council voted 5-1 to solicit bids. Jeff LoPrinzi dissented, saying later that he wanted more information. Councilman Ed Simpson did not attend the meeting.

The Council was united 6-0 in votes to begin the search to replace Siana, Bellwoar and McAndrew, the city’s labor counsel, an effort to curb skyrocketing legal fees; set up a budget review committee that includes council members and two citizens; authorize ads for public meetings and workshops related to the 2013 budget; and approve amendments to the city’s Civil Service regulations.

The latter would lengthen the time of service needed for promotion in the Police Department. Under the current system, an officer who passed the Civil Service test could be promoted to corporal after one year; the change would require four. Although the amendments would only affect new hires, Councilman Jarrell Brazzle said more reforms are needed, echoing the meeting’s primary theme.

“We really need to look at ways of cutting costs,” said Brazzle. “They have a golden contract with diamonds and platinum on it.”

City Manager Kirby Hudson said numerous fees on the books have been ignored, and he said he has instructed his staff  to start making a list of “anything and everything we can charge for.” He said the directive will likely make people unhappy but it is necessary. “These fees are there for a reason; they’re part of the lifeblood of what comes into the city,” he added.

However, Hudson balked when council members pointed out that a date needs to be set to begin withholding health insurance contributions from some employees. They said the measure was approved by City Council more than a year and never enforced.

“We’re trying to do things differently; it’s not the intention to overburden the staff,” said Council President David C. Collins, addressing Hudson’s reluctance to reduce some workers’ net pay. “We need to renegotiate all the contracts.”

Council members requested more research on a proposal to incorporate the city’s Solid Waste bill into the real-estate tax bill. The change would increase efficiency and generate income earlier in the year, according to Marcarelli .


City Manager Kirby Hudson (left) whispers an explanation to Councilwoman C. Arvilla Hunt regarding a $400 bill for a police consultant to help officers “get along,” an expenditure that was questioned.

The approval of bills, once a perfunctory exercise, prompted numerous inquiries. “Mine’s going to be long-winded,” said Brazzle. He suggested that if he went first, other council members’ concerns might get addressed.

Among the expenditures Brazzle questioned was a cellphone bill for $180 from AT&T, which is not the city’s carrier. Hudson explained that the city pays his bill, which was high that month because “everybody kept calling me when I was in Mexico.”

A $732 charge for a police officer’s YMCA membership  prompted a comment from Councilwoman C. Arvilla Hunt: “We have a full gym downstairs.” Brazzle countered that the gym fee is included in the police contract.  A $400 fee for Human Management Services raised numerous eyebrows when Hudson explained it involved teaching police officers “how to get along.”  He said he could not discuss it further and then whispered an explanation to Hunt.

Brazzle asked whether anyone had determined whether purchasing gas from a company owned by Joseph “Zeke” Disciullo,  who chairs the Revelopment Authority, represented a conflict of interest. Solicitor John Carnes said the contract, which “goes back to time immemorial,” was not improper because Disciullo “did not vote on it.”

In other, non-financial action, City Council heard accolades from Wes Horner, a senior advisor for water resources at the Brandywine Conservancy, about the efforts of two girls to help plant trees a week ago during cold, rainy weather. Community Policing Officer Rodger Ollis presented CheyAnne Costello and Ja’Nya Jackson with plaques for their service.

Later in the meeting, Interim Police Chief James Bell gave Ollis an award from the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County, which had cited him and the department at a recent recognition ceremony. “The people who really deserve” praise are the victims, said Ollis. pointing out that he was simply doing his job.

Hunt, whose son is the quarterback for the Coatesville Area Senior High football team, ended the meeting by urging residents to vote online for CASH, which is competing against Downingtown West for a spirit award from Channel 6.





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  1. Jarhead says:

    I just want to know if we are going back to the Matthews regime with another pretend chief who is not Act 120 certified and who cannot make a arrest, or carry a pistol.

    • Mike McGann says:

      In a word, “no.”

      I can’t go into detail, but I (and two other media members) was allowed to sit in on the interview process for the gentleman who I expect will be the new chief. While I can’t name names, I’ll have a column tomorrow talking about it and what it means to the city’s future. It’s good news.

  2. Current Coatesvillian says:

    I would like to know if the council is so worried about money then why did they bring in a person as Chief of Police when he is not even qualified to be a Chief? Sgt. Audette was doing a fine job until a true Chief could be found. That would have saved the City money. It is funny because Sgt. Audette is still doing the job, because the so called Chief does not know how to be a Chief. And if money is an issue why isn’t somone looking into Public works and how much money is being wasted on usless employees who do not contribute to working for the City and making a difference; there is at least 3 that I have been made aware of.

  3. Ex-Coatesvillian says:

    Does anyone even know what the City’s finances really are? Does Council know?

    The City has posted Jan – June Financial Reports on it’s web page. June’s Financial Report is reporting May’s financial data….May! We are a week away from November! Where is the financial data for June, July, August, and September?

    Is there a purpose for withholding the City’s financials? What is the City hiding?

    The City’s Code Book (aka the City’s law) states (see: Article VI, §2-609 B) that Financial Reports must be presented monthly (at the minimum) and made available to the public.

    The City is also operating under an Amended 2012 Budget. Why isn’t that on the City’s web site?

    Is anyone at City Hall in charge of posting these items? Or is this data intentionally being withheld from the general public?

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