Special Ford City Council Meeting Reconvenes Tomorrow

Ford City Borough Manager Eden Ratliff and Council President Kathy Bartuccio listen to Council Vice-President Jerry Miklos during last night’s meeting. Miklos advocated for a community newsletter next year.

By Jonathan Weaver

Last night’s Ford City Borough Council special meeting was suspended after about an hour of discussion items for further discussion on the community’s proposed 2015 budget tomorrow night.

Borough Manager Eden Ratliff is finalizing details of the tentative budget with the Borough accountant today before preparing the document for possible advertisement later this week.

Council members generally discussed the borough finances during their public work session before the meeting. They are expected to have to vote on a 2.5 million General Fund funding plan similar to the one that was passed for 2014.

At the work session, Council Vice-President Jerry Miklos was concerned with how the municipality was going to pay for rising health insurance and pension concerns, as well as fund the borough police force, which the borough Police Committee recommended to be disbanded earlier this summer but is currently in litigation about after a grievance filed by full-time sergeants John Atherton and Mark Brice.

“We definitely have to cut somewhere,” Councilman Gene Banks said.

Banks recommended hiring a grant writer to pursue other funding sources for community programs. Ratliff is expected to receive some grant writing training as he undergoes free management training by the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Miklos said he would also like to fund Ratliff taking classes for grantwriting without stretching Ratliff too thin.

“We do have to make some investments to get a return – but in order to do that, it’s either going to fall on the backs of the taxpayers with increased taxes or we have to make some serious cuts somewhere,” Miklos said. “There’s only two ways to get ahead of the curve: increase revenue or decrease expenses.”

There was a police item on the agenda last night – purchasing a new $23,000 police car for Sgts. Atherton and Brice – but the item was tabled until the budget was available.

Miklos said with the addition of the new vehicle, one or two of the current cruisers would go out-of-service.

“We were hoping to have enough money at the end of this budget to buy the car in-full,” Miklos said.

A letter will also be sent to Governor-elect Tom Wolf, in-part asking for help funding money to invest in Pennsylvania State Police troopers’ police protection rather than the current local police force.

Something else that might have to be calculated into the General Fund cost includes the establishment of a borough community newsletter – which council members tentatively agreed to set up during the beginning of last night’s meeting.
Miklos spearheaded the project in the past and said that it would help get informative, factual information out to the taxpayers.

“This is not going to be a dissertation (but) just a brief synopsis of what’s going on in the Borough with facts and clear understanding of where their money’s going, what’s happening, Miklos said.

“I will take part of that responsibility if someone will share it with me,” Mikllos said.

Turns out both Councilman Banks and Councilwoman Schaub volunteered to help.

Miklos projected the newsletter to be available at local businesses and hotspots monthly, hopefully by the beginning of the year.

“We want the public to know everything,” Miklos said.

The five Borough Council members present – with Councilman Scott Gaiser absent – also voted to advertise for someone to construct a new Borough website.

“We are in the process of taking the current website down – we’re going to take that down and then we’re going to advertise to bring someone in and create a new website rather than refurbishing (the current one),” Ratliff said.

Former Website Administrator Ryan Bloser constructed the website before he graduated from high school in 2002 and said the website project would be a good project for a high school/collegiate team to work on, especially with all the updates that have occurred since his initial construction.

Ford City Borough paid roughly $135 per year for the web service, but the website has not been updated since August 2011 according to the current homepage.

Tomorrow’s meeting will begin at 4:30PM at the Ford City Borough office at the corner of 4th Avenue and 10th Street.

If the tentative budget is passed Wednesday, it will be available for public examination for 10 days. The proposed budget then has to be advertised before final adoption.


Elementary “Turkey Wars” Benefits Community Action Foodbank

Sixth-grade Lenape Elementary students loaded more than 4,000 canned food items for Community Action volunteers to put onto a box truck Monday morning.

By Jonathan Weaver

More than 4,150 canned food items will be on the tables of needy families during their Thanksgiving dinner Thursday thanks to a local elementary school.

In one week, that many cans were donated by Lenape Elementary School students in Manor Township.

School guidance counselor Ashleigh Wasson and Extended Day Kindergarten Teacher Jennifer Hill helped a half-dozen sixth-grade boys put the cans into boxes for Community Action pick-up Monday morning at the school and reflected on the “Turkey Wars” competition.

“They were excited about the competition against classrooms, but a lot of kids were talking more importantly about helping others – I heard lots of positive comments from students,” Wasson said. “From students to parents to staff, everybody really came in and got excited about how they could help with the food drive.”

Hill was part of the school-wide Positive Behavior Team that collaborated on the school effort during American Education Week. Formerly a second-grade teacher at Shannock Valley Elementary, she said this year was the first “Turkey Wars” at Lenape Elementary and praised students.

Two different levels of winners will receive an award for their donations. Mrs. Dillick’s sixth-grade class brought in 437 cans of food and Ms. Mottura’s second-graders brought in 240 cans.

“Our students that collected kept track of the individual classrooms by day and then we had an Excel file that did the math for us- showing us each individual classroom how much they had during the week and then the total for the whole school,” Wasson said.

Mrs. Zimmerman’s gifted students also coordinated the collection of donated food items and tallied daily totals.

Sixth-grader Aaron Dunbar of Kittanning brought in more than half of his class’ total – thanks in large part to his mother, Mary, and her coupon clipping skills.

“Wednesday, I brought in a box full of 12 and then I came in and told my mom, ‘Hey, our class is losing, so why don’t we just bring in more.’ She was like ‘Well, we have 70 in our pantry,’ Dunbar recollected. “I came in and told the kids I was bringing in a whole bunch, but I was told she brought in 218 and everybody started smiling at me.

I ended up bringing in 240.”

Instead of brother, Ralph, bringing in cans for his class, he allowed Aaron to take them in instead.

The Dunbar Family also helps needy families annually in other ways

Sixth-grader Jordan McCombs was not in Mrs. Dilick’s winning class, but felt like a winner each day when he collected cans from various fifth-and sixth grade classrooms.

“I think it’s nice that we could help out families for the holidays,” McCombs said. “This was a lot of stuff that will help out a lot of people.”

For each non-perishable food item donated, the class received a colored turkey feather for their classroom door – created by sixth-graders. Eventually, teachers had to use Post-It notes or make their own feathers, however.

“We ran out of feathers – we had 2,000 feathers made,” Wasson said.

Last week, teachers thanked the entire student body for their support and collaboration

Many of the other district elementary schools conducted food drives in their communities – including students that attend West Hills Intermediate in East Franklin Township.

Community Action Employees Ron Bennett and Roy Forester said this is the non-profits busiest time of the year.

“This is probably the most so far we’ve collected this year,” Forester said.

The men said they still have to pick up food from Kittanning and West Shamokin High Schools, Lenape Technical School in Manor Township and the Grace Christian School in West Kittanning.