Uncommon rift among Hawley council members

HAWLEY, PA — At the monthly meeting of the Hawley Borough Council held on January 2, council members learned that levee insurance coverage had been procured, at a cost of $30,920, for which no vote had been taken.

Although the need for the insurance was known, the high cost of this coverage was unanticipated. The borough’s annual budget is approximately $525,000.   

The problem resulted from the current insurance carrier declining to include the levee in 2018 as part of the borough’s general insurance coverage. This action was taken as a result of a 2016 report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that rated the condition of the levee as “unacceptable.” The council has been working to rectify this situation through various means, and a contract was signed in September 2017 for work on the levee to start in 2018.

Stating that she had signed the agreement, council president Ann Monaghan explained that the action was taken to forestall a problem of having no coverage for the levee. Levee coverage is for a breach or any injury to users of the levee or trails in Riverside Park, and provides protection for residents within the floodplain as regards their individual flood insurance coverage.

Councilwoman Michele Rojas, who has been instrumental in seeking grants and other funding options for the levee repair work, had in the past stated that insurance coverage could be a problem. A representative from the borough’s insurance broker said that 26 carriers had been contacted about providing the coverage, and all had declined to write a policy. 

Michael Dougherty, joined by Rojas, called out Monaghan on taking the action without informing other council members. Vice President Elaine Herzog and Councilman Joe Faubel, who handles budget and finance matters for the council, were aware of Monaghan’s action. Councilwomen Christine Ferrara Murray and Pat Jacobsen also stated that they were unaware of the action until the announcement at the meeting.

Rojas said that she had done her best to keep people apprised as the issue became apparent. She asked why there had been no vote, or at least the courtesy of an email to let members know of the action. Rojas said, “We weren’t all involved in the decision process, but we’re all involved in the potential tax raise” that could be a consequence of the new arrangement.

Dougherty said that in the past he had contacted everyone about a $2,000 purchase of doors for the park. “How are we budgeting this?” he asked.

The borough’s insurance broker, AMSkier, has agreed to non-interest payment terms.

Monaghan acknowledged the concerns regarding the process, but said that in the end, the insurance had to be obtained and that the risk of not having coverage as 2018 approached was too great.

In other business, the borough agreed to continue its arrangement with Commonwealth EMS for ambulance service due to the lack of a timely response from Hawley Ambulance to repeated requests for information. Herzog made the motion to continue service with Commonwealth and added that it wasn’t that the borough did not appreciate what Hawley Ambulance has done previously.

After a public hearing held prior to the regular meeting, the council approved a conditional-use permit for the First Presbyterian Church of Hawley for an addition between the church and administration building.      

The council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is February 14. 

 

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