Lackawanna City Council Member Joseph L. Jerge climbed atop a soapbox Tuesday night with a fistful of ideas to increase revenue that included increasing permit fees, traffic infraction fines and garnishing the wages of residents delinquent on their property taxes.
“We need to do everything we can right now to generate funds,” the 3rd Ward councilman said during a regular meeting. “We’re broke, and by the way, I’m not running for anything this year.”
Since 2009, there was $444,000 in outstanding property taxes, according to a report Jerge requested from City Comptroller Peggy Bigaj-Sobol. Even if only 20 percent of that were collected, it would help the city, said Jerge, who also suggested that the city hire a debt collector.
Minutes earlier, Jerge reproved the recreation director for not having a report on the last three years of funds generated from softball and festivals.
Jerge also chastised city workers who spend their days surfing the Internet when they’re supposed to be working.
His remedy for that infraction was to buy software to monitor Internet usage on city computers. In addition, Jerge sought a forensic audit on city computers going back three months to a year. “If someone doesn’t start holding people accountable, we’ll continue just to watch the city drizzle down the drain,” he said.
When City Attorney Antonio M. Savaglio warned of the possibility of union grievances , especially in the case of firefighters who have “a “lot of down time,” Jerge responded:
“It’s not spyware. I don’t think anyone up here wants to monitor what people do on the Internet because, frankly, we don’t care. This software will let us track how much time an employee is spending on personal things. If anyone grieves us wanting to deny them spending their entire work shift on Facebook, we should put their picture on the front page of the newspaper.”
Jerge also requested that the director of public safety submit a comparison of fees for parking tickets and traffic infractions among Lackawanna and surrounding municipalities.
“I hope everyone understands what I’m trying to do is to think of ways to make more money,” Jerge said. “I get pulled over in Brant, and I have to pay $220 to get a speeding ticket reduced to a parking ticket. I begrudgingly paid it because I didn’t want points on my license, and I didn’t want to go to traffic school.
“No problem, but if the City of Lackawanna is charging 50 bucks, well, maybe we should start thinking about that.”