Bloomingdale Fireworks Cancelled; Attorney Fees Questioned
Public questions borough attorney fees after council decides to end fireworks event.
The Borough of Bloomingdale will not have a fireworks presentation this July because of budgetary restrictions, according to the council.
The fireworks were discussed during a council meeting Tuesday in which the municipal budget was introduced by title. While budget figures were not read aloud at the meeting, Borough Administrator Ted Ehrenburg told the council that the budget that was being introduced was $45,000 over the state-mandated 2 percent cap. As a result, the budget will have to be further reduced before the budget is adopted in June.
Resident Meredith Mascitello got up during the public comment portion of the meeting and asked about the status of other borough events, such as the Nightmare on Bailey Avenue Halloween event and the Christmas event the borough has sponsored over the past several years.
Council President Linda Huntley said the Nightmare on Bailey Avenue event will most likely no longer be a public event, but could continue as a private event if the Bailey Avenue residents wish, and that the Christmas event will continue, but "not to the extent of this year."
Pete Ensley, another resident, said he was disappointed that the fireworks display was being canceled because of money.
"A lot of people put their heart and soul into it for many years," he said. "I'm looking for some positives in this town. All I see is negative."
Ensley brought up the legal fees line item in the budget that was introduced Tuesday-a topic that was discussed during the introduction of the budget. According to Ehrenburg, the line item in the 2011 budget for legal fees is $125,000 more than it was in 2010.
In February, the borough hired Mark Semeraro,of McManimon & Scotland, LLC, to replace Joe McMahon as borough attorney. McMahon was asked to stay on with the borough as special counsel for a salary of $15,000, according to Ehrenburg.
While Ehrenburg said Semeraro was apparently hired at the same base salary as that which McMahon was earning with the borough, $45,000, Semeraro's firm recommended the legal line item be $165,000 total for 2011, not including litigation, which comes at a cost of $150 per hour as per Semeraro's appointment. Litigation would include costs of working on lawsuits involving the borough, Ehrenburg said, while Semeraro's base salary and the legal fees pertain to day-to-day operations as the borough attorney.
"I think you've got your priorities a little messed up," Ensley said. "He hasn't done anything special for me yet, besides sit there and rock in that chair."
Earlier in the meeting, the council decided not to purchase a new police vehicle, at which time Mayor Jon Dunleavy brought up the increase in legal fees over last year's.
"Now, because our legal line is $125,000 more, we cannot afford a new police car," Dunleavy said. The mayor questioned Councilwoman Jo Ann Pituch on the matter, and she replied, "Not at this time, I don't want to answer this question."
As tensions appeared to escalate on the topic, Pituch said to the mayor, "I think it's about time you shut it up," and said that she had "had enough tonight."
Later, during public comment, resident John D'Amato also questioned the increased amount in legal fees.
"When do we reach a point in time where we say it's enough with him?" he asked.
D'Amato praised McMahon, who was sitting in for Semeraro during the meeting while he was absent, and said that he did not feel Semeraro was doing as well in the position as McMahon had in the past.
"The attorney we have now is not doing the job we need him to," he said.
But Dunleavy defended Semeraro and said that it is not his fault that the borough agreed to pay more money in legal fees.
"All he did was submit a proposal to the borough," Dunleavy said. "The governing body, the majority of the governing body, with a 5-(to)1 vote, voted to hire him."