The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 29, 2013

Rec commission accepts audit bid

JOHNSTOWN — A bid to audit the Westmont Hilltop Recreation Commission’s 2012 finances was accepted and a separate bid to make a commercial appraisal of The Ridge complex was reviewed at Monday night’s special commission meeting.

Southmont Borough’s participation in the commission will be severed at the end of the calendar year, after disputes over an audit the commission must perform to receive borough support. The commission’s audit – as well as audits for any other borough tax-receiving entity – is mandated by a resolution council passed in February.

At Monday’s meeting, it was unclear whether the unanimous acceptance of an audit costing $3,250 for 2012 alone would encourage the borough to stay in the regional organization.

And both sides of the dispute, represented by Southmont Councilman Herb Ewald and commission chairman Joseph Veranese, debated which organization dropped the ball on audit workshop talks. Veranese asserted that multiple missives about a workshop were sent to the council, but no correspondence was received.

“It makes me sad to think we screwed around for three or four months and we had all that time,” Ewald said. “The horse is out of the barn now. I think we should have done something like this three months ago.”

Veranese rebutted that the commission was never against an audit in the first place. The workshop idea came from the borough, but communication broke down somewhere along the way.

“Southmont didn’t respond. Let’s not be disingenuous about the position,” he said.

After Southmont sent a letter to the commission suggesting The Ridge complex off Route 271 in Upper Yoder Township be sold and the proceeds divided between the four owning entities, the board passed a motion to appraise the property for no more than $1,200.

A bid submitted at $1,200 by David J. Murphy Real Estate  was reviewed by commission members Monday. Another bid is expected this morning from Moskal Realty.

Some commission members and audience members, however, took issue with the fact that the commission doesn’t own any part of The Ridge, it merely manages it.

The property itself is jointly owned by Westmont, Southmont, the Westmont Hilltop School District and Upper Yoder Township.

“If we’re not part of The Ridge properties, then why are we responsible (for the appraisal)?” Ewald asked, adding that he feels it’s a “premature” decision.

Treasurer Dr. Kamal Gella reminded him that the commission does receive a portion of revenue from the 62-acre recreation complex – the appraisal is a service they would perform, as managing entity.

A motion to delay the appraisal until Southmont Borough can react to the commission’s accepted 2012 audit was shot down 4-3.

Veranese, Gella, school district delegates Toni Callahan and Michele Trevorrow and Westmont Borough Councilman Bud Moran, who reversed his opinion after the vote, all felt it was best to get the appraisal done now.

Greg Heider, vice president of Sportsman’s Supply Inc., told the commission he feels The Ridge is a “gem” and that it shouldn’t be sold – and the commission agrees.

Heider said instead, money should be spent to develop it and engage residents – as a soccer complex, winter tubing park or a football practice field for the Hilltoppers.

“If you build it, they will come,” he said.

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/JustinDennis.

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