Mount Pocono Borough’s council meeting was packed with accusations against a former council member of creating fake emails, the immediate removal of the current zoning officer, and a new Starbucks coming to Route 940 in Mount Pocono.
“After two and a half years as the zoning officer, Dennis Noonan violated stipulations in his contract that created a conflict of interest for the position,” said Claudette Williams, president of Mount Pocono Borough.
Zoning officers are responsible for interpreting and enforcing property zoning regulations and requirements for the municipality. The board terminated Noonan effective immediately and named a part-time interim officer, Jean Simchak.
“Simchak was the borough’s previous zoning officer that has the experience and capabilities to fill in temporarily,” said Williams. “She will be able to train and transition a new candidate, once we appoint one.”
Terminating the zoning officer came at the end of a two and a half hour long meeting that covered a long list of action items and topics to be discussed on Monday evening.
Land bank ordinance
The controversial topic of land banks was finally decided in a favorable vote. Williams claims it’s a choice between losing out on taxes during the first five years or facing declining home values and derelict properties in dangerous conditions.
A land bank is a government entity designed to acquire and maintain vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties out of foreclosure. They then rehabilitate and bring properties back to the tax rolls by selling the properties to new, responsible owners.
Municipal Authority filing judgments
Mike Oser is the Chairman of Mount Pocono Municipal Authority, a sanitary wastewater treatment facility for over 1300 residential and commercial subscribers.
Oser said the new board came into the Authority operation with a delinquent accounts status of approximately $250,000. After collection efforts, including compromise payment plans, the figure has been reduced to $180,000.
“It isn’t fair to the other rate payers who diligently pay their sewer fees every quarter,” said Oser. “The Board decided to not only lien properties but file in civil court to acquire a judgment against the property owners, which permits the Board to proceed in collecting the delinquent debt by any legal means possible to include sheriff's sale of personal property.”
Four borough employees, including road crew, janitor and seasonal, received their quarterly reviews and earned merit increases that brought them up to an hourly rate of $15 or $19.
Williams praised their hard work and said it was important to get everyone to a sustainable wage.
Time clocks and security cameras
After years of discussion, the board finally voted to purchase new fingerprint time clocks. Workers don’t have any immediate supervisors and currently submit their hours via the manual honor system.
Security camera system will be revamped for safety and effectiveness. There are currently 10 cameras inside and outside the borough building, however the access to cameras is locked in the secretary’s office.
“We are changing out the system to allow more visibility and include access to the mayor and council president,” said Williams. “This is an effort to provide a safer environment for all.”
Fake borough email address
The board approved to accept the resignation of long-time borough council member Donna Casole and advertise the open position. After 12 years with the borough, her letter was presented and discussed at the Feb. 18 work session.
According to Williams, former Council member Tom Ford was present at that work session and published the announcement and advertisement for the new position in his newspaper.
“Ford presented the info as if he was still a council member to start accepting resume applications through a fake email address ’Lori@mountpoconoboro.com,’ said Williams. ”Our Secretary/Treasurer Lori Noonan confirmed that it wasn’t her email address and she knew nothing about it.“
Williams explained that Casole’s resignation hadn’t even been accepted by the board as of then. They went on to contact Ford about the email and were told it was a mistake and it was retracted.
“This was not a mistake; the newspaper that Mr. Ford created is called ’The Boro;’ the website he created, mimicking the council’s page, is also called ’The Boro,’ said Williams. ”It would appear to me that he was to receive and screen the resumes himself.“
Starbucks is coming
Mayor Mike Penn announced the new Starbucks will be located between Perkins and Walmart on Route 940 in Mount Pocono. It is estimated to open before the end of year.
Also, the McDonald’s in Mount Pocono will be undergoing renovations.