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On town equipment use, Mayor McCleaf is correct

July 20, 2005

Judging from recent reports, some of the operating procedures for the town of Williamsport might have been put together by scriptwriters for the old Mayberry RFD television show.

After learning that the town had filed required audits with state late for 10 years in a row and that the town's budget deficit was approaching $1 million, last week the council heard that town employees were using municipal equipment to make money on the side.

Their activities include repairing sidewalks, which Town Supervisor Jeff Long said were done at rates 60 to 70 percent of what contractors charge.

Edward Kuczynski, the town's attorney, said the issue of what liability the town had for the use of such equipment was "as clear as mud."

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We're no legal experts, but how difficult would it be for someone who was injured or whose property damaged during one of these extracurricular jobs to argue that because town officials allowed the practice that the town should be liable?

And then there is the question of fairness. Contractors have to charge more for their work because they have to maintain their own equipment, as opposed to allowing the taxpayers to do it for them.

This practice is apparently a long-standing tradition in Williamsport and we're not suggesting that the employees involved are bad people.

But given the town's precarious financial position, it's time to adopt more business-like practices. When the council meets in August, it should follow the suggestion of Mayor James G. McCleaf II and prohibit such activity.

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