Acting City Manager Harry Walker addressed council and residents at Monday night's council meeting presenting highlights of his first week on the job in the city.
Walker said he was "looking forward to working in the city" and will be following up on a number of matters. Walker reported attending last week's session of the Coatesville Redevelopment Authority and said he was looking forward to working with the board "to provide impetus for redevelopment."
In discussing the city's budget, Walker expressed the belief that the budget deficits of the past have been reigned in, but said, "There are items in the budget that need attended to." He hopes to have a balanced budget by the end of the year and also felt that present revenue streams were below expectations.
"We need to keep the trust fund level where it is. We don't want to see it depleted anymore," Walker said. The trust fund balance is $38 million, Walker reported, and he was looking for ways to increase revenue.
Walker also felt the city needed to pursue economic development as well as redevelopment to improve the quality of life for all citizens of the city.
Walker said the city would have to deal with the resignations taking place.
"If I didn't think I could shepherd progress of this city, I wouldn't have come here," Walker told the audience. In closing he touched on some of the rumors that reportedly had been circulated about him. "I'm not dishonest as has been rumored. A lot of that stuff is nonsense. I'm sure you'll be happy with the final version of our city."
A life-time of service to the Coatesville community was also recognized by Council as president Kareem Johnson read a proclamation honoring Gladys Johnson Flamer on attaining Centenarian status on June 6 and for her life-time of service to the community. In addition, she has been a member of the Eastern Star for 53 years, active in church work, and is a judge of elections in her voting precinct.
"I would like to thank Coatesville and the community," Flamer told the assemblage. "I'll truly be an antique on my birthday." Flamer smiled and added, "I'm wordless and I usually don't have trouble speaking."
In addition to honoring Flamer, Johnson also took part in the swearing in of Brandon Shaut as a career firefighter for the city. Shaut's mother Pam took part in the ceremony, holding the Bible while Shaut was administered the oath.
In other council action, members approved the preliminary plans for Chetty Builders Pennock Place Tower One development at the corner of Rt. 30 and south 3rd Avenue. Steve Siana, special counsel for the city, read the resolution approving the preliminary plans only for the development with a list of applicable conditions.
The plans had originally been submitted as preliminary/final, but Siana said that an extension could not be worked out on time, but to allow the plans to progress. Siana said the preliminary plan approval should be given.
"I'd like to welcome you to the city," council member Stephanie Smith-Dowridge told Walker in her remarks. She also expressed a desire to see that executive sessions were held when all council members could attend. Walker said that he had already discussed the matter with Johnson on procedures which would allow further lead time before matters reach the council agenda.
Council member Kurt Schenk said he wanted to clear the record about Walker's hiring and the message he had left with a resident. According to Schenk it was his understanding that Walker would not be coming to the city, but in further contact with council members, his vote changed and he voted for Walker's hiring. He couldn't contact the resident, Schenk said, because the original message had already been erased. Schenk concluded, "We need change. We need tax relief in the city and I'm hoping with your (Walker's) help this can be achieved."
Mary Frances Johnson, former council member addressed Shenk saying, "You don't base your opinion on what other people are going to do. You base it on the facts you know." Ms. Johnson also told council "You don't talk to each other on the phone and make decisions. It violates the Sunshine Law."
Council member Patsy Ray addressed the number of calls she had received from citizens concerned with pool openings. Ray said she felt that one of the two city pools should be opened but funding is necessary for that to happen.
In addressing council, resident Paul Johnson said, "I'm here to talk about kids, 13 to 18 years old forming gangs. Summer's coming and we need to help these kids." According to Johnson, "they are threatening other kids with weapons and baseball bats. Other kids are joining gangs so they don't get attacked." Johnson, a former school board president, told council, "You have to give these kids a place to go."
In her closing remarks, council vice-president, Robin Scott, said that recreation needed to be addressed. "We have to work together to make this happen," Scott said. "The gangs out there on Fifth Avenue really concern me. I lay awake the night before a meeting trying to find ways to make the city better."
In his closing, Johnson said, "We have to really come together to address these (recreation) issues." Johnson offered his congratulations to resident Geri Allen for her work with the youth in the city. "We need volunteers to go out there and work with our kids. Maybe go out and play basketball with some kids ... mentor a child. There are kids out there who need our help," Johnson said.