Tensions escalate over snow removal contract

Tensions among the Kilbuck Township Supervisors escalated earlier this week when supervisors' chairman Russ Hardiman refused to consider several items on the regular meeting agenda because of the absence of supervisor John Fader.

After receiving two bids for winter snow removal and road salting, the supervisors were set to decide who would receive the contract, and for how long. Bids had been received from two contractors for options of one-, two- and three-year periods.

The low bidder in each case was Diamond Landscaping, which performed the work during the past winter. The company is owned by current Kilbuck planning commission chairman and potential new supervisor Tom Tomaro.

Tomaro is the sole candidate on the ballot for the seat being vacated in December by Hardiman, having obtained sufficient votes in a primary election write-in campaign.

Township solicitor Chuck Means clarified that there were no legal or ethical problems involved in awarding the contract to Diamond, even if Tomaro is elected to office in November. Means said that a public official is permitted by law to be a party to a contract awarded through a public bidding process.

"The bid process is designed by law to be available, and you've used it," Means told Hardiman and supervisor Susan Merkner at the Sept. 22 regular meeting.

Should he be elected, however, Tomaro would be prohibited by law from voting on any matters related to such contracts.

The supervisors agreed last month to advertise for bids for the work despite the fact that the township now has a three-year contract with Diamond, only one year of which has been completed. Officials said, however, that there had been a discrepancy in how the prior bids were advertised, with only one year authorized.

Tomaro said that the three-year agreement was reached when he refused to take a one-year contract because the company was purchasing new equipment to perform the work.

When Hardiman began to adjourn Tuesday's meeting without addressing the motions to award the snow removal contract, he was questioned by Merkner. Hardiman initially said that he felt the motions should not be considered until Fader was present. Merkner responded that her absence at a meeting had never stopped the other supervisors from conducting business. Hardiman then said that he did not see the point in bringing up the contract because he favored a three-year term that he said he believed Merkner opposed.

Hardiman invited Merkner to make a motion to award the contract, which she did, for a one-year period. Hardiman refused to second the motion, which meant that it failed.

Merkner argued that Hardiman could not read her mind, and that she simply was beginning with the first motion of three on the agenda, something township secretary Harry Dilmore said was recommended by the solicitor.

When Hardiman refused to budge, Merkner announced that she would inform the supervisors by next month whether she would resign or possibly bring legal action against the other two supervisors.

Merkner maintains that she is being excluded from deliberations and decisions by the other supervisors.

After the meeting, she admitted that she favors one-year contracts for snow removal and other services because more frequent bidding could produce lower prices.

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