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Public Reacts to Ross Library Funding Debate; Board Declines to Offset Bellevue Pool Costs

The Ross Township Board of Commissioners declined to take action Monday on Bellevue Borough's request to help provide discount rates to Ross residents for the upcoming swimming season.

Talk of a potential referendum on a tax increase to fund Ross Township's share of the costs is starting to draw out supporters of the library. 

Two residents attended Monday's regular board meeting of the Ross Township Commissioners to speak in favor of continuing the financial support of the library, while Sandra Collins, executive director of the library, sat in attendance. 

"I'm here to solicit your help in continuing the efforts of Ross Township toward the Northland Library," resident Nick DiCicco said in an appeal to the commissioners not to sacrifice the annual contribution of about $400,000 to the library. 

He said he is a frequent user of the library's services. 

"I see parents and children—a lot of activity for the young and seniors," he said, adding that without library services, "I think we go back to the cave." 

About 11,000 Ross Township residents have library cards at Northland, but even if no one had a card, the library should still be supported, DiCicco said. 

"They should have that service," as an option, he said. 

Resident Harry Armstrong said he, too, supports the library but didn't want to see another increase in his taxes. 

"I'm trying to find out why all of the sudden everyone has a big need for money," he said. 

An ordinance proposing the referendum is expected to be formally introduced at the next meeting, Commissioner Chris Eyster told the board.  in order to free the line item in the general operating budget for other services.

"My political thinking is it’s more important to have roads that are paved properly than a library in another municipality," Eyster said when he proposed the referendum. 

The board has since continued discussions about the library cost,  in order to provide more options for withdrawing from it, if they ever desired to. The contract, however, already provided the options they sought. 

In response to Monday's public comments, Commissioner Gerald O'Brien said he thought the wrong message was getting out. 

"I think this is developing into a case of Armageddon. I don't think the board has said they're going to withdraw from the library," he said. "It's not a question of dropping out of the library. That's not even being discussed." 

Ross, McCandless, Franklin Park and Bradford Woods formed the  in 1967 (Marshall joined in 1988), and it has been operating under its current funding agreement since 1993. Ross Township's portion of the library's funding is about 29 percent of the total municipality contributions and about 17 percent of the library's overall budget. It has budgeted $404,346 for 2012, down from $426,321 in 2011. 

 Most recently, a similar referendum attempt in 2009 ultimately failed to get the board's support. 

Also on Monday:

* The board discussed the the Borough of Bellevue's request for help with the costs of operating the Bellevue Memorial Park Swimming Pool. That request appeared to have no support, and no action was taken during the board's committee meeting. Board President Grant Montgomery said he didn't expect the issue to be brought before the board for formal action. 

The borough had requested an unspecified contribution from Ross toward the pool's $165,000 operating budget. The pool is in Ross Township, but Bellevue owns the land and facilities and maintains them. The contribution would have gone toward discounting that rate to make it equal to what Bellevue residents pay. 

Ninety-eight families and 56 individuals bought passes to the pool in 2011, paying an extra $9,300 all together, Ross Township Manager Wayne Jones told the commission. 

* Commissioners approved a two-lot subdivision request for property at 2198 Babcock Boulevard. The owner of  made the request. The change has no immediate benefit and does not affect the lot the restaurant is on, said a representative from , who spoke on his behalf. The move sets up the possibility of a future sale of the portion of the property that is zoned residential and is currently vacant, he said. 

* Commissioner Dan DeMarco, in response to  accused of stealing about $117,000 from Ross taxpayers over a two-year period, said he wanted to emphasize that the board asked Ross Township Tax Collector and Treasurer Donna Carey to resign last summer. 

"I want it to be on the record, this board of commissioners formally asked the tax collector to resign her position," DeMarco said. "It was voted on. The letter was sent. She refused to resign. I want that to be clear. She refused to resign as we requested. We didn’t elect her or appoint her."

After an hour-long executive session, Commissioners approved:

* An Insight Pipe Contracting bid for the previously unbudgeted amount of $16,500 for the CCTV inspection of a storm sewer culvert along McKnight Road. 

* A a one-day suspension of a Ross Township Police Officer on the recommendation of the police chief. The name of the officer was not released nor was the reason behind the suspension given. 

* The hiring of a public works employee to fill one of the positions still open in the department.

Two items on the published agenda were not discussed:

* A conditional use approval request to operate The Glen Montessori School, a private school that , was postponed after the property owners failed to appear.

* An ordinance that Eyster proposed that sought to was removed from Monday's agenda without discussion. 

Commissioner David Mikec was absent from Monday's meeting. Commissioner Pete Ferraro participated by phone. 

Conrad February 07, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Although I agree that libraries are valuable assets that should be kept open, hopefully sooner than later the township commissioners better realize that the tax paying public is NOT a cash cow that can be milked whenever the need arises. If they can't or won't recognize that simple statement, then perhaps we should put people in there that do.
SLR February 07, 2012 at 09:06 PM
I doubt any commissioner of either party ever considers taxpayers as "cash cows." We are not overtaxed in Ross Township. We live in a wonderful community and it takes money to operate. Ross Township's expenses have increased over the years just as everyone else's has. We have not had repeated tax increases. You want a nice community you have to pay for it. Let's support our fair share of the library. The commissioners are elected to make these decisions. I do not supoport a voter referendum. I do support eliminating health insurance coverage for our elected part time commissioners.
Keith Crandell February 08, 2012 at 12:46 PM
There are lot of kids that use the pool that come from Ross and the North Hills school district. I feel that we should help offset the cost if it is an option.

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