It’s unlikely a majority of Luzerne County Council will vote next week to earmark $2 million in past-borrowed funds on improvements at county-owned Moon Lake Park in Plymouth Township.
Councilman Tim McGinley, who was absent from Tuesday’s work session when Stephen A. Urban proposed the allocation, said committing $2 million of the county’s remaining $18 million in capital funds without discussing what planned projects will be cancelled as a result is “irresponsible financial management.”
“I will consider any proposals, but we must ensure everyone knows exactly what the ramifications are,” McGinley said.
McGinley also said a sudden $2 million change in plans would go against the spirit of the county home rule charter, which requires an annual public hearing on the county’s long-range capital plan. Council members must vote by Sept. 1 if they want to change the capital plan submitted by county Manager Robert Lawton, which does not include any immediate capital investments in Moon Lake.
Council Chairman Rick Morelli, who also was absent from the work session, said he is “adamantly opposed” to committing $2 million to Moon Lake now and supports the possible state takeover of the 650-acre park.
“It’s irresponsible for any elected official to throw something out there without properly analyzing it and looking at the pros and cons,” Morelli said.
Urban said during the work session he was pushing for the investment because he believes some of the capital funding should be spent on recreation to “benefit the average citizens of the county.” He also said he wants the money earmarked to Moon Lake before the $18 million is “all spent.”
The administration and some council members say the capital funds must be reserved if possible because it’s unclear when the county will be in a position to borrow again. The county owes nearly $400 million and does not have an uninsured credit rating needed to borrow more or refinance debt repayments at lower interest rates, officials say.
Morelli said council members who support Moon Lake investment should have raised the issue during a council committee meeting.
“This is not good government. Some council members want to continue to throw out surprises and grandstand and have their own personal agendas,” Morelli said.
Council members Kathy Dobash, Eileen Sorokas, Edward Brominski and Stephen J. Urban supported Urban’s motion to put the matter before council for a vote next week.
Morelli said he may not attend the voting meeting because he is out of state for mandatory work training.
If McGinley votes against the Moon Lake allocation and the four remaining council members retain their no votes, the matter will be blocked in a tie vote.
Moon Lake’s in-ground swimming pool and camping sites closed years ago due to budget cuts, but the park is open for fishing, mountain biking, hiking and other passive activities. A master plan has estimated millions of dollars would be needed for repairs to the water and sewage treatment systems and other park infrastructure.
The county’s citizen Recreational Facilities Advisory Board recently presented a report to council committee members urging them to initiate discussions with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources about a possible state takeover of the park.