East Carbon City (ECC) council decided on June 23, that negotiations for a possible merger between it and Sunnyside City (SSC) need to take place. Reasons for the merger were detailed during the meeting by councilmember Dave Maggio who expressed that financial issues between the two cities are nothing new and that because of them, the situation between two has deteriorated.
"We cannot ask our tax payers to fund another community," said Maggio during the meeting. "It's illegal." As reported last issue, SSC owes ECC for services including police, sewer and water totaling up to around $55,000. And although SSC has pledged to pay the money over coming months, many ECC council members would like to see the merger happen.
According to Maggio, SSC uses more than the 31.5 percent of water that is delegated to them, and because the ECC police also patrol SCC, he feels that it's unfair to both the citizens of ECC as well as the police force. "It's about cash. ECC money should be budgeted and spent for us, we have police officers working at substandard wages," said Maggio.
As to the money owed ECC. Councilmember Andy Urbanik was aware that ECC mayor Orlando LaFontaine, who was not present, had contacted SSC and was told that the city intended to raise it's property tax in order to get the money. However, "property taxes are collected at the end of the year. What will they do (for the money) between now and then?" said Urbanik. The two cities have tried to seriously merge one other time in the early nineties, and while it was unsuccessful, it was a very close call according to Maggio, who said while ECC voted to merge, it was only by a small margin that SSC voted to stay a independent.
Although Mayor LaFontaine was not present for the meeting he has noted in past meetings that he would like to see the situation resolved and because the proposal is likely to meet with opposition from the SSC council, any kind of deal could take time to develop. Both county and state authorities have indicated that they want the two entities to combine, because being so close together makes them difficult to fairly disperse funding for various projects around the two cities.
After discussion the council approved that Mayor LaFontaine write an approved letter to the people of SSC and ask that they attend a hearing and discussion on the matter. Although a time was not set for the hearing, it will likely be after Community Daze.
"It's time has come," said Maggio.
The council also discussed it's police force because while an officer has quiet, the other officers are taking on the vacant shifts. ECC police chief Sam Leonard was present to request that the city council split the vacant officers salary among the officers who are making up the shifts. "Being a union person I realize it's kind of cheap, but being a councilmember, I understand, said Maggio.
After a brief discussion, the council vowed for better pay for the ECC police.