Treasure Lake borough initiative hearings begin|
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
By Ian Erickson Staff Writer
DUBOIS - Last night, the first of three advisory committee hearings was held concerning Treasure Lake's borough initiative. Witnesses from both sides testified, with at least 50 residents in attendance. The hearings are being held in the DuBois Area Middle School auditorium.
Treasure Lake first attempted to become its own borough and separate from Sandy Township in 1974, but failed. It also had another failed attempt in 1982. The most recent attempt started in 2006 and has led to the hearings.
The chairman of the advisory committee, Attorney Peter F. Smith of Clearfield, is conducting the meetings. The committee representatives for Treasure Lake are Jason Gray Jr. and Robert Hanak, while the representatives for Sandy Township are Brady Laborde and Mark Sullivan, both township supervisors.
Smith said that the result of these committee meetings will be a written report submitted to Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman. After Ammerman receives the report, the next step will be a hearing at the Clearfield County Courthouse. Following that hearing, it would be decided whether to place "the borough question" on the ballot for registered Treasure Lake voters.
The attorney representing Treasure Lake is Michael P. Yeager. David King, a Treasure Lake resident, was the first to take the witness stand. Yeager asked him what he thought about Treasure Lake becoming a borough. King said, "My gut reaction is that it's about time."
King was asked if he uses the services that Treasure Lake offers. He said, "I moved here in 1979, and I like to golf, fish and dine out here." King added, "Personally I associate with being a resident of Treasure Lake as opposed to Sandy Township, but I have nothing against Sandy Township. Most people don't even say they are from DuBois."
On cross-examination, Attorney Greg M. Kruk, representing Sandy Township, questioned King about every resident having an assessment but not always paying it. Kruk said that the assessment payments have about a 50 percent delinquency. Kruk also mentioned that if Treasure Lake becomes a borough, only permanent residents would be allowed on borough council. This means that part-time residents who have vacation or weekend homes would not be eligible.
The second witness was Treasure Lake resident Bill Reznor. He said, "I feel that Treasure Lake needs to be in control of its own destiny."
Yeager asked Reznor about his experience with the Sandy Township police. He said that he was in the group that went to Sandy Township and asked to have more police force added, which he said, was unsuccessful. Reznor said the township gave many restrictions if they would add more coverage.
Reznor mentioned that Treasure Lake has approximately 2,000 homes and its own fire company, which is owned by the property owners and is a leased agreement with the township.
Reznor was asked to describe the average Treasure Lake resident. He said, "I think of them as multi-faceted people and a middle-class working community." He said that in the community there are three lakes, two golf courses and four restaurants. Reznor said that he thinks Treasure Lake would have public access, but would remain private with a security checkpoint.
The third witness for Treasure Lake was Terry Kline, who worked for the state police for 32 years. He believes that the tate police would still be available to Treasure Lake because its residents pay taxes like everyone else. Kline feels that having a borough police force backed up by state police would make coverage better.
On cross-examination, Kruk asked Kline if he created a borough police budget. Kline said, "There is no budget for a borough police force that I know of." He thinks that it would likely be paid for by borough taxes.
John Kelsey, chief of DuBois Fire Department, was the next witness to take the stand. He said that there are five DuBois fire companies and the Third Ward, near Juniata Elementary School, is the closest to Treasure Lake. When Yeager asked him about coverage if Treasure Lake became a borough, Kelsey said, "We would still provide the same coverage as we do now, but for me there would have to be a discussion with the city."
On cross-examination, Kelsey said that DuBois has no tanker for the rural parts of Treasure Lake because they use fire hydrants in the city. He also said that they typically send one fire apparatus to Treasure Lake. He finished by saying that if Treasure Lake became a borough, coverage would depend on how the new chief sets it up.
The final witness for Treasure Lake for the first session was David Singer. Singer had similar feelings as Reznor about the township police. He said that he seldom sees the police in Treasure Lake. "I think without question that we can improve police services. I haven't studied this, but I know that there isn't great collaboration between Treasure Lake and Sandy Township."
On cross-examination, Kruk also asked Singer if he created a police budget. Singer said that he thinks the budget is possible, but he did not create one. "I don't think we necessarily need borough police."
Singer noted that he was not happy with service he requested from the township. Kruk asked him why he did not talk to them about it. Singer said, "The reason I didn't go to Sandy after my unsatisfactory service was because I'm realistic. I didn't want to be the guy complaining about police."
The night of testimony finished with the first witness for Sandy Township, Dick Castonguay, township manager. Castonguay gave numerous facts about the township including there are 30 full-time township employees; the 2010 census says township population is 10,625, which is 36 percent in Treasure Lake and 64 percent in other areas; Treasure Lake has 90 miles of roads and the township has 79 miles of public roads.
When comparing Treasure Lake to the rest of the township, Castonguay said, "It creates what looks like a goal post on a football field."
If the borough does form, Castonguay said the township would lose about $1.6 million in total funds, and that would be the minimum every year. He also said that with the loss, the township could have to raise the total millage rate to 33.68 mills, and the tax on $100,000 market value homes could go from $387 to $900. He also noted that township staff may have to be cut. "It would be unsettling to have to cut staff, but we might have to," said Castonguay.
Kruk asked Castonguay what the downsides of Treasure Lake becoming a borough are. He said, "I've never heard of a private borough in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." Castonguay also thinks that Treasure Lake will have the same responsibilities as the township if they separate. He said, "A planned residential development separating from a township would be like succeeding from the union."
Cross-examination of Castonguay will be held tonight along with the rest of the testimony from the committee hearings.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the DuBois Area Middle School auditorium.