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Assessment concerns raised at Lackawanna City Council meeting

It was clear from the onset of Lackawanna City Council’s reorganization meeting Monday that Third Ward Council Member Joseph Jerge meant business.

He was steamed that newly elected City Council President Keith Lewis tossed out an item Jerge wanted on the agenda regarding the rising tax assessments faced by the city’s business community.

Jerge had invited a handful of businessmen – including Fulvio Stampone, whose family recently opened a liquor store on Route 5, and Premium Coffee Roasters owner James DeMarco – to register their concerns over the high cost of doing business in Lackawanna.

“We have businessmen here who are the lifeblood of the community,” Jerge said. “They provide us with jobs.”

Jerge said Lewis lacked the authority to remove items from the agenda because he had not been officially sworn in as council president. City Attorney Antonio Savagilo concurred. Lewis also removed an item Savagilo submitted regarding Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski’s salary.

Jerge wanted more detailed information from city Assessor Frank E. Krakowski regarding non-homestead lot sizes and the assessed valuations.

Lewis, however, remained firm.

“This is not the forum for this,” Lewis said. “You petition the board of assessment.”

His remark prompted the business owners in attendance to state their concerns even though they were ruled out of order.

“If the process is broken, why don’t you fix it?” Stampone asked. “If I asked for a review and I don’t get one, what’s the next step?”

Newly elected Fourth Ward Councilman Jeffrey P. DePasquale offered a suggestion that quieted the room.

“I’m interested in starting a task force to see what our businessmen are up against,” DePasquale said.

“We’ve been hearing this for seven years,” said DeMarco of Premium Coffee.

In other action, First Ward Councilman Abdulsalam K. Noman registered his concern about the dumping of mattresses and tires on Steelawanna Avenue. And he renewed a question he has raised numerous times.

“What’s going on with the old Friendship House property on Ridge Road?” he asked.

Development director Fred Heinle had an answer for him.

“We have one developer ready to proceed with senior citizen housing on the western part of the parcel,” said Heinle, who assured Noman more information would be forthcoming.