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Council sets meetings between public, advisors

Middletown Borough Council is planning a series of three ward meetings and a town hall meeting in March to “allow residents to hear updates about issues facing the borough from the professional experts advising council,’’ according to a borough media advisory.


The borough has “been very actively seeking to inform the public of what’s going on in Middletown,” and the meetings are another way to keep the public informed, said Chris Courogen, borough secretary and director of communications.


“It’s an opportunity for people to come out and hear what’s going on in the borough, without any filter, without anybody twisting facts,” Courogen said. “They can get the information first-hand, they can ask questions, they can hear it from the professionals who’ve been called in to help solve the rather significant problems facing Middletown.”


The meetings – three ward meetings held on consecutive Thursdays beginning on March 7, followed by a town hall meeting on March 28 – will include presentations by borough Police Chief Steven Wheeler, borough solicitor Adam Santucci, bonds and debt consultant Jay Wenger, and budget and financial advisor Mark Morgan. Courogen said he did not know for sure if the professionals would be paid for their attendance, but he assumed they would be paid.


The presentations will be followed by a “brief” question-and-answer period, he said.


Council Vice President Robert Louer Sr. sees the meetings as an opportunity for people who do not attend council meetings to come ask questions and learn about the issues facing the community. People frequently ask him questions about council issues outside of meetings, Louer said, but he has to be careful what he says because of ongoing litigation – that’s why the meetings will include the professionals who know what they can and can’t say.


“All of the questions these people ask, we have an answer,” Louer said. “We expect to lay out as much information as we possibly can.”


It’s not the first time in recent months that town meetings have been held in Middletown:  The Rev. Vernal Simms, pastor of City of Refuge Church in Middletown, has organized four town meetings since September. All council members were invited to the meetings, Simms said, but none attended.


But Courogen said the ward meetings will be different from Simms’ meetings because “these are not political events.’’


“These are informational for the residents to be able to hear directly from the experts,” he said. “These are not meetings with a political agenda. These are meetings to inform the public, not to misinform the public.”


Simms isn’t buying it. He says his meetings were never political.


“I made it clear to [council President Christopher McNamara] that our meetings are not political. I don’t have anything political to gain,” he said. “Our town hall meetings were for the people to get information.”