NEW BETHLEHEM – New Bethlehem Borough Council welcomed its newest members and selected a former councilman to fill a vacant seat at its annual reorganization meeting on Monday evening.
Four borough residents stepped forward to fill a vacancy left when former council member Gordon Barrows opted to move into the borough mayor position last month. Tracie Price, Keegan Bell and Stewart Bain were present at the meeting and spoke briefly about their reasons for volunteering to serve. Jennifer Gold, who was absent, sent a letter outlining her wish to serve.
Stewart Bain, whose previous term on the council ended in December, was selected by a majority vote to fill the vacant spot.
Newly elected council members Scott Barrett and Brian Fox were sworn into office by Barrows, followed by selection of officers for the upcoming year.
Lisa Kerle was named president, and former council president Sandra Mateer was selected as vice president.
Council voted to retain Judy Williams as the vacancy board chairperson.
Members discussed serving on various committees. During the discussion, Bain proposed adding a fourth alternate member to the mandated three-person committees.
“This would be good for those times when a committee member cannot attend a meeting, allowing projects to move forward without a tie vote,” he said.
Kerle noted that February’s meeting will include discussion about social media and the state’s Sunshine Law.
“We have been reminded on a regular basis by the borough solicitor about possible violations pertaining to Facebook and other media,” she said. “Proceedings pertaining to borough business cannot be conducted electronically. If there is ever a legal challenge to a decision, all electronic devices including personal computers and cell phones could be included in an investigation.”
Mateer said that while passing information is allowable, discussion is not.
Looking forward, council members put forth their ideas for improvements in the coming year.
Fox said that he would like to encourage more cooperation between the borough’s fire and police departments. Barrows recommended starting each council meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and a formal prayer asking for guidance and focus for council members.
Additionally, Barrows suggested that the council coordinate with the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce in support of local businesses.
“During opening ceremonies, the chamber is well-known for its big pair of ribbon-cutting scissors,” he said. “The borough could offer a large golden key, somewhat like the keys to the city.”
Mateer said that the borough needed to get its paving-project wish list completed before bids are submitted to area paving companies.
“We are already a little late on this, and the delay could hold up some projects in town,” she said.
Also, New Bethlehem is still looking for a solution to the large sandbar at the mouth of Leasure Run which formed during the July 2019 flash flooding in town. Mateer added that Clarion County is beginning work on its comprehensive plan and has asked the borough for its input.
“Unfortunately, New Bethlehem formulated its own in 1975 and it may need some work, too,” she said.