NEW BETHLEHEM – Spend any time following New Bethlehem politics, and two issues will undoubtedly surface again and again — the creek, and cats.
Both topics were discussed by borough officials last week as the community continues to clean up from the July flash flooding, and one resident voices concerns about a flood of cats in his neighborhood this summer.
At their Aug. 20 meeting, borough council members talked about the new debris area in Red Bank Creek, created when Leasure Run flooded the night of July 19. Officials said the debris, which extends about two-third of the way across the creek, has the potential to cause severe flooding in the downtown business district, especially when the winter ice begins to move out.
“That might be a concern down the road with ice and flooding,” borough emergency management coordinator Ed Goth told the council, noting that low interest loans are now available that could be used to remove the debris and open up the creek.
Goth noted that only loans are available, and not grants.
“There’s no free money,” he cautioned.
Council president Sandy Mateer said she has reached out to both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and PennDOT, both of which have turned down the borough’s plea for help in removing the debris.
“We’re concerned about the high school and other businesses flooding,” Mateer said, pointing out that if the water backs up, PennDOT’s Route 28 will be among the first areas to flood.
“Something needs to be done before winter,” said Randall Stahlman, mayor of South Bethlehem Borough and an official with the Clarion County Office of Emergency Services. He said his office would continue to try to find funding for the debris removal. “The main thing is, let’s get it out of the creek.”
Later in the meeting, Mateer said she would also continue to explore avenues of funding for the project, noting that if grants can’t be found, the borough may need to consider taking out a loan to do the work.
She said that Glenn Shick was brought in recently to assess the situation, and estimated that the debris would fill around 100 trucks. Mateer said another issue would be where to dump all the fill once it is dredged from the creek.
Mateer said she would reach out the area’s state and federal officials to see what could be done, and that she would even see if the governor would issue an emergency directive for PennDOT to help with the project.
“If we don’t, we’re going to have flooding,” she said. “It’s our business district.”
“We need to at least investigate it,” councilman Gordon Barrows said of exploring loan options.
Cats On Dog Hill
Washington Street resident Larry Dubia told council members that roaming cats have once again grown into a big problem, especially in the Dog Hill neighborhood where he lives.
He said that while some of the cats may be pets of people who let them roam free, others are possibly living in or nearby an abandoned house in the neighborhood. He said the cats dig into his mulched areas and the smell is oppressive.
“The cat problem is an issue,” New Bethlehem Police Chief Robert Malnofsky agreed, noting that others have voiced concerns to him this summer as well. “There is no shelter that will take cats.”
Mateer explained that the borough has an ordinance in place that requires all cats to be licensed, have their rabies vaccinations and be spayed or neutered if they are allowed outside.
“The borough has received numerous complaints lately about cats defecting and spraying on people’s property, causing damage, odors and health issues,” she said after the meeting. “Pet owners are responsible for the damages their pets cause.”
She also noted that feral cats are becoming a problem once again.
“We have not been able to find shelters or agencies willing to take them because they are overcrowded,” she said. “State law and our ordinance allows appropriate humane measures to be taken if the animals are not claimed. The borough asks all pet owners to be responsible for their pets.”
Councilmen Bryan Ruth and Gordon Barrows said they would reach out to the local group, Just Us For The Animals, to see if they can help with the problem in any way.
• John Smith was hired as a full-time police officer effective Aug. 25.
• Marty Henry was appointed to the borough’s Civil Service Commission.
• The council set Oct. 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. as trick-or-treat time in the borough.