2002.08.28 In a pickle in Punxsutawney

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Maybe I have it easy here—easy, but far less entertaining. Writing about Morenci city council meetings is simply no match to those in Punxsutawney, Pa.

Morenci city council member Lucy Bach handed me a hefty document a few Monday nights ago that represented a five hour meeting of the Punxsutawney Borough council. It started at 7 p.m. and it ended at two minutes after midnight.

What’s Lucy’s connection? She has a close one. Her daughter, Mary Jane, serves as borough secretary, and as a Punxsutawney council member points out, Mary Jane has little to do during the week other than typing up the minutes of the meeting.

Take that as a hint of the level of hostility that exists among certain council members and borough employees.

The meeting minutes from June 10 needed 58 pages of legal size paper to tell the story. It’s extremely detailed. Apparently, Mary Jane transcribes the meeting from an audio tape.

The first 16 pages of the minutes—an estimated hour and 22 minutes—record the discussion about clarification of the working foreman’s job description.

They turned on Mary Jane because she transcribed the motions as they were spoken, rather than correct any errors. Councilor Francis Molinaro stated a person would receive a hundred dollars an hour during a trial period, rather than one dollar an hour.

“Come on, you are not talking to a bunch of dummies here, maybe one or two,” Molinaro said.

A few pages later, he suggested that in the future, something like this should be typed and talked about and then “give it to the girl to type it.” The girl, I assume, is Mary Jane.

On page 9, councilor John Sisk asked, “It is corrected now, right?” It seemed to be, but three pages later, Molinaro asked, “Can we go on? I have to be out of here at a certain time.” But it wasn’t until page 16 when everything was finally straightened out.

Councilor Molinaro appears to be a reporter’s dream. If only I had someone like him to spice up meetings.

• “The Third World seems to be living better than Punxsutawney. I am sick of this council here. You know what it reminds me of? Sitting on a chair on the Titanic.”

• “We pay that girl a lot of money to do nothing but budgets all day.”

• “My only concern, and this is where things blow up my skirt….”

• “You are trying to look like God. I’ve got news for you; you are not.”

• “No one wants to tell Legal and Finance because they want to be big shots around here.”

• “Everybody here likes to be a big shot.”

• “Of course I never get much done because people are jealous.”

• “He called me every effing word in the book. The next time I am going to punch him right in the face.”

•  “Our attorney, our illustrious attorney who is out hunting….”

• “Half of [the ordinances] don’t mean anything. It’s just that times have moved so forward.”

• “I used to be very brilliant.”

Rich, rich, rich. What a story to write.

One of the people who does have the pleasure of quoting Mr. Molinaro is Dee Veitz of the Punxsutawney newspaper, The Spirit.

She wrote a column about another 58-page meeting—this one lasted until 1 a.m.—and commented about how people tend to lose their tempers and become disrespectful as the long evening wears on. She even referred to the Punxsy Borough meetings as “Hell on Earth.” The long hours are wearing on her, too.

Apparently, she got chewed out pretty good for her coverage of the meeting. She wrote a follow-up story and got raked once again.

She went on to explain how her job works—if it’s spoken at a public meeting and it’s news, it goes into the paper—but then she got a little eccentric herself. She justified her job as reporter by telling about her near-death experience from a liver infection.

“Our heavenly Creator pulled me into His space for one Brief moment and returned me to this life to serve His will. I will champion the rights of ‘the little dogs, the working dogs’.”

And probably even the ground hogs. It seems something strange is going on in Punxsutawney. I don’t think it’s been the same since the last Phil died.

    – Aug. 28, 2002 
  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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