SALISBURY TWP., Pa. -

Coming soon to the Lehigh Street “Auto Mile:” a Kost Tire & Auto Service shop will be built right between Jiffy Lube and Midas Muffler.

On Thursday night, Salisbury commissioners unanimously gave preliminary and final approval to plans to build the shop at 3117 Lehigh St. in the township.

An office building that now stands on the nearly three-quarter acre site will be replaced by a 6,240-square foot auto service shop with seven service bays.

This will be the first Lehigh Valley location for Kost Tire, a family-owned business based in Clarks Summit that has 52 shops in Pennsylvania and New York.

Erwin Kost said his company hopes to start construction before the end of this year and open the shop by early spring 2013, “as soon as asphalt can be poured.”

The company will observe its 75th anniversary next year. Its first shop opened in 1938 in Forest City, Susquehanna County.

The township’s planning commission recommended approval of the plan on Sept. 11, with some waivers and deferrals.

One deferral means the applicant will not immediately have to plant street trees until the township requires them, another delays installation of sidewalks. No tractor-trailers will be allowed on the site.

Four commissioners voted to approve the project. The fifth commissioner, James Brown, was absent.

During the commissioners’ public workshop session that followed the regular meeting, township manager Randy Soriano presented details of his administration’s preliminary 2013 budget to commissioners.

But at the end of that meeting, Soriano refused to answer any reporters’ questions about that proposed township budget.

He declared: “It’s not a public meeting, it’s a work session. It’s not a board of commissioners meeting.” He also maintained the budget, copies of which all the commissioners had, is not yet a public document.

Commissioner Debra Brinton seemed surprised that reporters were even covering the workshop, asking why one was writing things down. Reporters routinely have covered commissioners’ workshop sessions for years.

Soriano told commissioners his goal is to not increase taxes next year.

The budget proposal apparently includes $100,000 to hire two more township police officers. Soriano would not confirm what he seemed to be indirectly telling commissioners during the meeting: that hiring two police officers would require a tax increase, which he opposes. He told them: “I’m proposing ‘cut that’ because I’m not proposing a tax increase.”

“But won’t we have to increase taxes at some point?” asked Brinton.

Said Soriano: “That’s a determination the board has to make.”

Brinton added: “I don’t want my taxes to go up. I have to pay them.”

Police Chief Allen Stiles declined comment to clarify the manager’s remarks.

But Stiles did say one officer he proposes hiring will fill a vacancy that has been in the department since 2011. “That will give me more people on patrol,” he told commissioners. “That’s where I need them.”

The additional officer will be on patrol, but eventually will allow the chief to promote another member of his department to detective.

Stiles said the 17-member department has only one detective and needs a second because “we’re getting busier and busier with some very difficult investigations. One of these days we’re not going to be handle everything that goes on.”

Soriano told commissioners Salisbury’s public works department also wants two more employees, one paid out of the general fund, the other paid out of the water and sewer fund. Four long-time employees in that department retired this year.
He is projecting total operating revenue at $5,815,597.

Commissioners have to approve a 2013 budget before the end of December.

By consensus, commissioners agreed to reschedule their November meetings to Nov. 15 and Nov. 29. They had been scheduled for Nov. 8 and 22, but that second date is Thanksgiving.