HONESDALE, PA — Honesdale voters have their choice of four candidates vying for three seats on the borough council in the upcoming election on November 5: two incumbents, Michael Augello (R) …
HONESDALE, PA — Honesdale voters have their choice of four candidates vying for three seats on the borough council in the upcoming election on November 5: two incumbents, Michael Augello (R) who is the sitting president, and James Jennings (D) who was appointed to council a couple years ago; and two newcomers, Jason Newbon (R) and Jared Newbon (R). Current councilor Travis Rivera is not seeking another term.
The council is responsible for shaping borough policy and drafting the yearly budget; the latter is in the works right now. Over the past few months, Honedale’s costly stormwater issues have been front-and-center during budgetary conversations.
As reports about Honesdale’s battered infrastructure from the heavy summer rain became the norm at monthly meetings, Jennings, who is on the stormwater committee, was especially vocal among council members about the need for a full-fledged maintenance plan.
“This is a major issue… we’ve got to come up with a plan,” Jennings said about road conditions at a meeting on July 8. At the following month’s meeting, while other council members discussed stormwater projects’ effect on the budget, Jennings reemphasized his sense of urgency, saying the borough must seriously consider raising taxes and borrowing money to prevent “kicking these problems down the road.”
The borough has since taken some steps toward developing a stormwater plan: It has hired a firm called Entech Engineering which will conduct stormwater studies and help Honesdale apply for a “Pennvest loan” to help cover the cost of fixing current problems and preventing future ones.
Focus has shifted away from stormwater issues during the last two meetings, and toward traffic safety and Honesdale’s under-staffed police force.
The Honesdale Borough Police Department only employs three full-time officers, one-third the amount needed for a 24/7 police force. For a while, the department relied on a group of part-timers to fill in the gaps as much as possible, but part-timers are now increasingly looking for work in other municipalities.
At the October 14 meeting, the public, the councilors and police chief were unanimous that something needed to be done. Augello, however, did not want to rush into any hasty solutions.
“My attitude is that, because this decision is so significant to the people of Honesdale, that the decision should not be made by just the council,” Augello said, telling The River Reporter that no action should be made on the issue until after this year’s election.
Because hiring new officers would have a significant impact on people’s taxes, he also said that council should hold a public forum to get a better sampling of input from residents rather than just the small number who show up to monthly meetings.
“Just because I don’t want to raise my taxes… if the rest of the public wants to and is willing to, then I’ll bite the bullet and go along with it,” he said. “But in the same breath I’m not going to shove it down their throats either.”
Jennings made similar comments to The River Reporter regarding the need for further council deliberation as well as more public input.
“Everyone’s on the same page, we all want to [have more police protection], it’s whether or not there’s money available to do it in a way that’s not band-aiding it,” he said. “At the last meeting, someone mentioned, ‘Well you know, we got to have it, so raise the taxes,’ but that’s one person’s perspective.”
Neither of the two incumbents has spent much time campaigning in the traditional sense. Jennings, who works as a marketing manager at Yoga International, is mostly letting the work he’s been doing on council speak for itself. However, walking around town and talking with residents has resulted in a “constant, accidental campaign.”
“I would hope that my track record of trying to make progress, and making progress in certain areas, would be enough,” he said. “I constantly talk to people anyway, as I walk up and down Main Street, and all around town, and see what they need and what they’re questions are.”
Augello has taken a somewhat laissez faire attitude toward election season.
“As far as running, honestly… if the people want me to, I’m happy to be there; if the public wants somebody else, that’s fine too, my world doesn’t end,” he said.
He came to council about four years ago with one specific goal: establishing a borough manager position. A borough manager brings more organization to the council, Augello said, taking care of the day-to-day decisions and allowing the council to focus on broader matters. Borough secretary Judith Poltanis now acts as borough manager as well.
“Council members are great in theory, but you should not have each one taking a department and running it by themselves and not talking to anybody else, and that’s how it was going for quite a while,” he said. “I’m happy with where that is now, but the problem being when I’m off [the council], if there’s a couple other changes that could all disappear in five minutes.”
Jared and Jason Newbon have not yet responded to a request for comment.