BLAIRSVILLE — Blairsville council had its choice of eight candidates for the tax collector’s job, and in the end, settled for the one familiar face.
At a special meeting Thursday, council appointed former tax collector Joan Baker to the position, giving her back a job she left around this time last year.
Baker told borough council that she loved the job and the people and that she wouldn’t have stepped down had it not been for her husband’s cancer diagnosis. He was receiving radiation treatments, she explained, and she needed to set aside her duties so she could be with him.
The treatments were successful, so now she can resume her duties, she said. The position, which pays around $32,000 annually, was vacated last month by Baker’s successor, Carol Tarasovich.
Tarasovich resigned amid the financial mess in her office. Officials have said tax receipts due to the borough, county and the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District have significantly lagged behind previous years, and a recent review by an independent auditor found that Tarasovich’s records were incomplete and that she had been sitting on roughly $268,000 in tax payments.
Council agreed to appoint Baker following two rounds of nominations.
In the first round, Councilman Jeff Marshall nominated Jeff Helm, a CPA who formerly served on the Blairsville-Saltsburg school board and on the Blairsville Community Development Authority.
But Marshall couldn’t find enough support — the nomination was rejected on a 3-2 vote, with John Bertolino, Nancy Dunmire and Paul Fodor voting against Helm. Councilman Jim Mollo was absent.
In the second round, Fodor nominated Baker, who won the appointment unanimously.
Council said each of the candidates was qualified, and Fodor said it was difficult to have to pick just one.
Bertolino urged each of them to consider running for the office when Baker’s appointment ends in two years from now. If they do, they’ll have to run against Baker — she said she’ll seek re-election in 2015.
Baker will re-establish shop in her former office, which was in the borough building, and will resume her previous office hours: 10 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
She’ll have the office free of rent as council agreed to make the space available to the successful candidate at no charge. Bertolino said council wanted to encourage whomever they appointed to take up occupancy in the borough building.