With many still recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19, the Borough of Bath Council’s first motion of 2021 was to waive the 2021 real estate tax penalty period through the end of the year.
The decision was made during council’s virtual meeting on January 4. Council first explored waiving the penalty period through the first quarter, but upon further discussion, chose to waive the penalty period through 2021.
Some who have lost their jobs due to COVID, said Council President Mark Saginario, are just getting back to work now, while others are still out of work. Waiving the penalty period will help lessen any financial burden.
“2020 was a very challenging year for everyone,” he said. He thanked residents for putting their trust in borough officials and members of council for helping to keep business moving.
Other business included discussion of a thirty-year-old public utilities ordinance that until now has not been enforced. In 1989, the borough passed an ordinance that would require public utility companies (gas, water, etc.) to submit permit applications, engineering reviews, and fees before completing any work, thereby notifying the borough of the work that needs to be done and providing funding should any streets have issues later (like potholes).
Upon learning of the ordinance, UGI requested confirmation that the law be applied uniformly to all other utilities, including the borough’s water authority. The nonprofit water authority, however, has asked for an exemption from the fees.
Borough Manager Brad Flynn and the borough’s solicitors said fees cannot be waived by council. Instead, the ordinance would have to be amended. Otherwise, the borough could face legal challenges from UGI or other utility companies.
Council suggested a meeting between borough solicitors and water authority solicitors. Flynn said if the solicitors can find legal precedence for excluding the authority from the fees, then council will have something concrete to base their decision on.
“When we start enforcing old ordinances that haven’t been enforced, we’re going to have these little hiccups,” Saginario said.
Following the meeting, council will decide whether to amend the ordinance with an exemption or keep it as is.
Finally, council thanked the Economic and Community Development Committee for organizing the holiday door decorating contest. All feedback was positive, with several residents even calling the borough office to give their thanks for the holiday events in town.
“Things like that right now are really helping people get through this,” said borough office administrator Merena Rasmus.
The hope is to hold similar events going forward. Perhaps, added Councilwoman Carol Bear-Heckman, even a summer door decorating contest.
The next council meeting will be held on Monday, February 1 via Zoom. Following a hiatus due to COVID-19, the rental inspection ordinance will be re-added to the agenda for council’s discussion.