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TMI for council committee trying to oversee certain spending in Allentown

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Jul 09 2013 08:56:57 PM CDT
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

A city council committee trying to keep closer tabs on certain spending by Mayor Ed Pawlowksi's administration got more than it bargained for Tuesday.

For the first time ever, the budget and finance committee was presented a quarterly report by the administration that was supposed to show how much money each department has spent for contracted services.

However, at 74 pages, the report was so long and dense, it was too much for committee members to digest.

Committee chairman Peter Schweyer noted that the report was "a first try" and the method of providing information is "a work in progress," before asking deputy finance director Debi Bowman to whittle down the information before the next quarterly report is due.

"I read as much as I could of the 74-page report, but I can't necessarily translate all of it," Schweyer said.

Committee member Jeff Glazier asked Bowman to provide a point of comparison -- "a benchmark" -- when listing amounts spent using money in an Account 46.

Council's intent in asking for quarterly reports on each department's Account 46 was to know specifically what the administration is using the money for, especially if one project was abandoned so the money could be spent on something else, Schweyer noted.

He said council and the administration agreed to the quarterly reports during last year's budget negotiations, and that the administration has been very cooperative in trying to keep up its end of the bargain.

In other business, Thomas Hahn, of 2016 East Highland Ave., asked if city would have to buy new equipment -- including trucks, backhoes and lawn mowers -- once the $220 million, 50-year lease with the Lehigh County Authority for the water and sewer systems goes into effect.

Director of finance Gary Strathearn said negotiations are under way about what city equipment the authority will get, and that a list will be available before both sides close on the lease agreement at the end of the month.

Schweyer assured Hahn, "We're not losing every piece of equipment, just the equipment need for contracted services [the LCA is] required to provide. We'll have a better idea at the end of the month [and] that list will be made public."

Hahn also wanted to know if Allentown taxpayers will foot the bill for capital improvements to the water and sewer systems during the lease.

Schweyer said the cost of general maintenance of the systems up to $2 million will be the responsibility of the LCA. Beyond that, a cost-sharing provision of the lease will kick in, he said.