SELINSGROVE – Selinsgrove Borough Council chairman and finance committee member Marvin Rudnitsky said he would not participate in any further financial discussions involving a non-profit organization run by his daughter and of which he is a board member. board of directors after concerns about a possible ethics violation were raised by the council’s attorney.
Following the August 1 council meeting – in which a discussion involving Rudnitsky’s daughter, Kelly Feiler, president of the Regional Engagement Center (REC), which receives $60,000 a year from the Rudy Gelnett Trust Fund of the borough, held an hour-long public session – council member Christopher Kalcich said the composition of the three-member finance committee may need to be changed.
Kalcich suggested a “shuffle” of the finance committee due to the conflict of interest involving Rudnitsky, who is also a member of the REC board, and finance committee chair Bobbie Owens’ new rule that any discussion on REC’s request for Gelnett funds will be done during the board meeting. open session for transparency purposes.
“I enjoyed hearing all the information, but I don’t think we should pick just one organization,” Kalcich said, adding that the REC discussion takes up too much of the public board meeting.
Rudnitsky said he took Kalcich’s recommendation into account.
“The last two meetings have been unduly extended due to issues not addressed in the finance committee,” said Rudnitsky, who sits on the committee with Owens and board member Sara Lauver.
“In the event of a conflict” involving requests and discussions about Gelnett’s funding at the REC, Rudnitsky said, he will step down from the finance committee and allow Kalcich or another borough council member to take his seat. “I could step back (from the committee), but frankly I think I have a lot to offer.”
It is not clear if this is enough to address the concerns raised publicly.
Following the meeting, in which borough attorney Robert Cravitz warned Rudnitsky not to answer questions as chairman of the board on REC finances due to potential ethics violations since that he sits on the organization’s board of directors, Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch filed a right to know. request a copy of the audio or recording of the board meeting.
Piecuch did not comment Friday on why he requested the information or what action, if any, he planned to take.
REC funding, project
The REC is gaining attention not only because of the significant public funds it receives from the borough-managed trust fund, but because of the non-profit organization’s plan to develop an intergenerational multi-generational community program. million dollars in downtown Selinsgrove with state and federal funds even as it struggles to pay its bills for operating a 10-week summer camp; nine-month after-school program and adult exercise classes.
REC has an annual operating budget of approximately $360,000 to deliver the three programs, including $130,000 for payroll. As president of the five-year-old nonprofit, Feiler is paid $55,000 a year. There are two other full-time employees: a director who receives an annual salary of $40,000 and an assistant director who receives $35,000.
At the August board meeting, when the board was deciding whether to approve the award of $30,000 in Gelnett funds to support REC’s $175,000 after-school program, Feiler said that the organization was operating at a financial loss and struggling to pay payroll in July. According to the minutes of the August 18 REC meeting, the organization was operating with an annual loss of nearly $83,000.
Owens suggested charging participants a small fee after school and called on the REC board to come up with a sustainability plan.
After Owens and board members Richard Mease and Scott Frost voted against releasing the $30,000 Gelnett fund to support the REC’s hospitality program and board members Kalcich, Lauver and Sara Maul voted to approve the funding, Rudnitsky, who has always abstained from REC financial requests, dropped his gavel and stepped out into the audience to inform the board:
“When you cut the grant to REC, you don’t hurt Kelly Feiler. You hurt the children.
The $30,000 went to REC when Mayor Jeff Reed broke the tie and voted to approve the funding.
Frost later told the Daily Item he was concerned the REC was “not doing anything to support itself” while receiving funds from the Gelnett Trust, adding that Selinsgrove Pool and Library, both recipients of the funds , charge a fee to customers.
When asked why the REC doesn’t charge a fee for the after-school care program for students in grades 3-12, Feiler told the board it’s part of the ‘core value’ of the organization to provide the weekly program free of charge. . About 50 students visit the center at 429 8th St. in Selinsgrove each weekday, she said.
Feiler told the board that she expected to raise $111,000 in grants this year, but despite applying “for 50 grants,” she had received $22,000 by the end of June.
“If Gelnett wasn’t here, would this program be sustainable?” Cravitz asked at the August meeting.
Feiler replied, “Thank goodness Rudy Gelnett is there for the children of Selinsgrove.”
Cravitz went on to ask if there is a plan to make the foster program sustainable to which Feiler responded that the multi-million dollar Intergenerational Living Center community project is the plan for sustainability.
Although he was unable to obtain grants from many valley charities for the REC’s $175,000 after-school program, Feiler was able to secure millions of dollars for the proposed multimillion-dollar project to create senior housing, creative spaces, a greenhouse, a bicycle and a skateboard. park and youth center in downtown Selinsgrove.
So far this year, Feiler has applied for and received a $2 million grant from the state Redevelopment Assistance Program (RACP), of which $2 million in non-state funds is required. She is also waiting to hear if a $1.5 million grant from the US Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development will be approved.
In April, State Senator John Gordner credited Feiler’s “enthusiasm” and Rudnitsky’s “professional experiences” in winning the competitive RACP grant for which REC must submit a formal application in mid- november.
Feiler also requested $2 million from the Federal Housing and Urban Development Fund, whose U.S. Senator Bob Casey extended a request for $1.5 million to support the intergenerational community project.
It is among 40 projects ranging in cost from $65,000 to $2 million that Casey recommends receiving Congressional funding from the 2023 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriation Bill.
“For rural communities in Pennsylvania, community centers are often anchors in the area,” Casey said of his support for the Selinsgrove project. “The Intergenerational Community Center will bring the people of Selinsgrove and Snyder County together and create economic opportunity, promote healthy living and more. Now that Congress is directly funding community projects for the first time in a decade, I have fought for rural communities like Selinsgrove to be included and eligible for federal funding.