Veto Vote Threat by Lansdale Mayor Stalls Municipal Complex Progress: Update
The preliminary and final land development approval for the municipal complex has stalled, awaiting a two-thirds majority vote from council next month to override Mayor Andy Szekely’s veto.
The last vote at the last meeting at Lansdale Borough Hall—a unanimous one granting preliminary and final land development approval for a new municipal complex—went from bittersweet to sour Wednesday night when Mayor Andy Szekely threatened to veto council’s vote. “This requires my signature. In thinking long and hard about this, I will not sign it, effectively vetoing it,” Szekely said. Szekely refuses to officially sign off on the land development, citing the borough is needlessly spending $10 million for renovations without exploring other options. He said there was no Requests for Proposal process in the hiring of Spiezle Architects to design the project. Council must have a 2/3 majority vote—or six people—to override the veto, per Solicitor Mark Hosterman. Szekely has submitted to Hosterman in writing his reasons for the veto. First of which is the RFP issue: Spiezle was hired through a RFP for a facilities stud, but hired without a RFP for architectural work, he said. “Conducting a study and doing architectural work are two different issues,” Szekely wrote. He wrote that spending $10 million on a new municipal complex does not improve the life of the average resident. “To claim that the new borough hall will be a gathering place for residents is wishful thinking,” Szekely wrote. “If borough operations are running smoothly, there is almost no need for residents to go there other than to pay bills, request permits and discuss problems.” Szekely criticized the plan for a 120-seat meeting room, when average attendance at meetings is less than 30 people. “No one considers a residential move or makes a business decision based on a town’s municipal building,” Szekely wrote. Lansdale Council is expected to approve a bid award for the project at its next meeting Nov. 6, which takes place at the North Penn School District Educational Services Center at 6:30 p.m. Council Vice President Mary Fuller said she was disappointed by Szekely’s threat and wondered why he would be against a new borough hall. “I am disappointed that the only veto that this mayor has ever issued will be against a new borough hall,” Fuller said. “Those of us sitting up here, and those who work in here day after day, we work on the inside, we know what’s wrong with those buildings.” “I’m not sure what your motive for this veto is,” Fuller said, adding it is three weeks before an election where Szekely, a Republican, could be ousted by Democratic challenger Doug DiPasquale. After the meeting, Fuller said she was fed up with the “pay-or-play politics” in Lansdale. “The funny part is the mayor stated to the press that he would elaborate on his decision to veto, as he only made the decision on his way to Wednesday’s meeting,” said Fuller. “People on the street have told me he was spotted drinking at Lansdale Tavern with a former councilman pre-meeting and post-meeting. I have to wonder what truly inspired this decision: politics, alcohol, former alliances or a combination of the above.” Council President Matt West lauded Szekely during the meeting for using his authority as mayor. “How about that? Democracy at work. Great! One of those checks and balances that the mayor gets to conduct. Well done,” West said. After the meeting, West compared Szekely’s maneuver to the effects of the shutdown that the nation was facing as of Wednesday evening. “It’s obstructionist for the sake of being obstructionist,” West said. West added he was certain there would be a two-thirds majority voting to override the veto next month. Councilman Requests Delay of Project Bid Award Szekely wasn’t the only one to potentially gum the works. Councilman Jack Hansen requested his colleagues not take action on the bid award vote next month. “The reason is, in January, we will have a different council sitting here. It’s a project the new council has to deal with for the next two years,” Hansen said. “I ask council not impose this will on the next council. This will also affect the borough for the next 50 to 60 years.” Councilman Dan Dunigan said such an action would be “irresponsible” as the council that brought the project to this point. “We planned for it, the money’s in the bank, we’ve gone through the designs, so to get down the road and say ‘Eh, we’ll let the next guy decide whether or not to get it done,’ no thanks,” Dunigan said. Council heard again firsthand of the unreliability of the HVAC system in borough hall from borough Manager Timi Kirchner. “Two Mondays ago, my office suite was an icebox,” Kirchner said. “I show up on Tuesday in the icebox, and it’s 82 degrees. That’s life in borough hall all the time, among other discomforts.”