WEST MIDDLESEX – West Middlesex Council underwent a power change, as Bob Lark was replaced as council president by Cynthia Gilkey, who had previously been vice president.
The change came Thursday at council’s reorganization meeting. Gilkey was elected in 2017 to a four-year term as a borough councilwoman.
Incoming Councilman Eric Lucich was voted vice president with Councilman Ron Preston voted as pro tem, the third person in charge of duties.
During his tenure, Lark criticized past councils for sloppy record keeping, which he said made it difficult to get a good picture of the town’s finances. After sifting through records, Lark said council found a borough bank account with more than $30,000 dating back decades that West Middlesex officials hadn’t known about.
As president, Lark had heated exchanges with members of the West Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department over finances and ongoing talks of a possible merger with Shenango Township Volunteer Fire Department. Preston also had pointed questions for fire department leaders.
Gilkey said she didn’t foresee making any immediate changes as president.
“There’s not going to be much changes on day-to-day operations,’’ she said. “I will be following rules in conducting (council) meetings, maintaining order and signing documents.’’
Assignments among council members will be given a review, Gilkey said.
“Even then I don’t anticipate much changes,’’ she said.
Last April, Gilkey was accused of pointing a gun at two Shenango Township police officers. However, the most serious charges against her were withdrawn and she qualified for accelerated rehabilitative disposition on charges of terroristic threats and harassment. Upon completion of the program, the charges will be expunged.
Gilkey acknowledged the incident which she is working through, but said it wouldn’t affect her capacity as council president.
“I don’t think it’s relevant,’’ she said.
She will have to confront a sewer cost dispute with Shenango Township and its municipal authority. West Middlesex council and the borough municipal authority have been at odds with Shenango Township over, among other things, past due bills the township said it is owed by the town.
The communities share a joint sewer system that the state Department of Environmental Protection says must be upgraded.
However, Shenango Township bears the overwhelming costs of the project because it must install new lines. West Middlesex has little, if any, costs for upgrading its sewer lines. But the communities share the sewage treatment plant, which also needs repairs.
Shenango Township has said the town owes money for past repair work at the plant. Initially, Shenango Township put the amount owed at more than $300,000. But in recent months, the township lowered that figure to $62,827. Council rebuffed the township on paying the bill, saying it didn’t provide enough information on costs or why the town should have to pay anything.
Gilkey said she wanted to work with the township on the matter.
“I think we should at least let our solicitors correspond with the each other,’’ she said. “I think it’s the best way to minimize the animosity between the municipalities. The general discord going on now isn’t getting us anywhere.’’
When asked if she would consider boards of both communities meeting she responded, “I’m open to a face-to-face meeting. Why not?’’
The Shenango Township Municipal Authority held its regular monthly meeting at the treatment plant at the same time West Middlesex council was meeting at the municipal building.
During the authority meeting Tom Hubert, a member of the panel, said Lark was no longer president of West Middlesex council. Both men have exchanged heated words over the past year concerning the sewer costs. Hubert said he wanted everyone to see that he wasn’t smiling.
“But you can’t see how my inside is thinking,’’ he said.
Hubert said he wanted to work with Gilkey on the sewer dispute.
“Let’s talk,’’ he said.