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Mayor’s Disclosure Shocks Police Chief
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            The details of East Greenville Borough's Project X were revealed at Tuesday's council meeting. The disclosure shocked Drew Skelton, chief of the Borough of East Greenville Police Department.

            Mayor Keith Gerhart publically identified the project at the police station, located in Colonial Village, as a proposal to install steel plating on three exterior walls. Municipal officials had previously attempted to keep that activity secret, citing officer security.

            Skelton, who watched the meeting through a live feed on Facebook, described Gerhart's disclosure as "reckless and negligent."  Skelton said the mayor's words put him and his staff at risk.

            "I was shocked that people would put their political agendas over the safety and well-being of borough employees," the chief said Wednesday morning.

            After the meeting, the mayor said he made the announcement because a former member of council discussed the details at a public meeting earlier this year. Further, Gerhart claimed the steel plates were mentioned during meetings in 2017 and that those references are reflected in the corresponding meeting minutes.

            "Even if the mayor's statement that Project X was revealed publically prior to the meeting was true, I see no valid reason why he would have to disclose the information," Skelton said.

            Skelton said the mayor should have considered continuing to refer to the project as Project X until the work was completed.

            According to Solicitor Mike Peters, council came up with the name "on the fly" during an executive session. Peters said after the meeting that he felt comfortable with Gerhart's disclosure since the engineering and design details will remain a secret.

            However, on Wednesday afternoon, in an email message, the solicitor expressed concern that the Project X concept somehow became public knowledge. "I do not have enough information at this time to determine how it was made public," Peters wrote.              Now that the concept is public, I will continue to stress the importance of keeping the specifics regarding the project confidential."

            In related budget news, East Greenville Borough spent $112,591 more on police than it planned for in 2017, according to Gerhart. 

            Citing figures approved by borough auditor Greg Ede, the mayor stated that the municipality budgeted $664,874 for police, but spent $777,466. He said the borough allocated $268,680 to the Upper Perk Police District for the first five months of 2017, leaving a balance of $396,193 for the rest of the year.

            "These numbers do not lie," Gerhart said. "If you want to challenge them, I would like to see how I am incorrect."

            According to the mayor, a claim by his predecessor, Ryan Sloyer, that the borough would save $160,000 by starting its own police department did not materialize.

            Reached by phone later Tuesday night, Sloyer disputed Gerhart's assertion. The previous mayor stated that the municipality registered $160,000 in operating expenses savings that helped offset the capital expense of renovating the clubhouse to its' current state.

            The borough still owes the municipality's water fund $80,000 from a loan it took out to help fund the work. Last month, Ede recommended that the members pay off the loan as quickly as possible. Gerhart said he would favor a proposal to allocate any remaining funds at the end of 2018 towards that loan.

            "That's the way I'm leaning," Gerhart said.

            During the meeting, the mayor presented a cost analysis for the Colonial Clubhouse conversion that totaled $365,732. 

            Additionally, the current mayor discussed the cost analysis for the outstanding building projects at the converted police station. His figures identify $184,265 worth of renovations at the facility in 2017. He also estimates $178,722 in proposed projects during the current year.  They include $40,000 for steel plating, $16,500 to purchase and install an emergency generator, $16,380 to purchase, ship and install bollards, $7,380 to install fencing with razor wire behind the station and $5,300 to replace flooring. 

            Gerhart included an $88,580 grant from Montgomery County to install bathrooms that meets standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 because it is funded by taxpayers throughout the county.

            The borough has already spent $9,862 on engineering costs.  Some of the costs are estimates and may vary depending on the actual costs at the time of the purchase.

            After the meeting, the mayor said he decided to collect the figures for the police station after member Joe Rock asked for an overall projected cost during the Aug. 20 council meeting.





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