Emmaus borough council began rebuilding a bridge with the business-promoting Emmaus Main Street Partners Monday night -- but not without some angry words exchanged between council members about economic development issues.
Council member Nathan Brown proposed that borough manager Shane Pepe or a member of council resume attending all monthly meetings of Main Street Partners - something that routinely was done until the beginning of last year.
Brown indicated his three-member community relations and development committee supported that proposal.
Pepe indicated he has no problem again attending the Main Street meetings.
Pepe said he attended the 7:30 a.m. monthly meetings until a year ago and added previous borough managers had been attending the organization's meetings for two decades. "I went to all their monthly meetings with a representative of council," said Pepe.
Council president Lee Ann Gilbert proposed sending Pepe to the meetings on a quarterly basis.
"I cannot go and I know most of us sitting in this room cannot go at 7:30 in the morning," said Gilbert.
Brown agreed to that change in his proposal, as long as another member of council would be permitted to attend meetings Pepe does not attend.
"If you want to attend, I have no problem with that," said Gilbert.
Council member Roy Anders, who is on Brown's committee, said he also might be able to attend some Main Street Partners monthly meetings.
He said having someone from council attend the meetings might help reduce "hard feelings."
If going to the meetings produces a positive result, "the whole borough will benefit," said Anders.
Brent Labenberg was the only member of council to vote against the motion, saying a motion was not needed to send a borough representative to the meetings.
Gilbert said council's general administration committee had directed Pepe to no longer attend those meetings. "That's why we're handling it by a motion," she said adding it was her decision to do so.
Pepe later said council's general administrative committee directed him to stop going to the monthly meetings early in 2013 because those council members felt the meetings "were not progressive enough" for him to spend his time attending them.
"I always left their meetings at 8:30 whether they were finished or not," Pepe told council.
"This motion shows the Main Street Partners that we are committed to them," said Brown.
"To say we don't support them, I totally disagree," said Labenberg after the 6-1 vote. "Maybe we haven't had people going to their meetings, but that doesn't mean we don't support them."
Labenberg said council always supported the organization's events in Emmaus, with the help of the borough's public works department. He also said facade grants always have been supported by council, as was the Main Street Gallery project even though "it was not presented to us accurately."
"They could do a better job of communicating with us too," said Labenberg.
Pepe said Main Street Partners does communicate information to Brown, who currently is council's appointed representative to that organization.
Labenberg said everyone on council should be getting that information, including yearly reports with financial information. "That's on us," said Pepe. "Not to throw you under the bus, Mr. Brown, I apologize."
Partnership 'not there'
Brown reported that he had attended a recent meeting of Emmaus Main Street Partners.
"They felt the partnership was not there between council and the Main Street Partners," Brown told council.