NEW BETHLEHEM – In a continuing effort to get more young people involved in local government, New Bethlehem Borough officials last week honored outgoing junior borough council person Aidan Griffin, and encouraged other area students to apply for the position.
Griffin, a recent 2020 graduate of Redbank Valley High School, has served as the junior council person in New Bethlehem since 2019. He plans to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania this fall to major in safety science.
In his role as junior council person, Griffin attended regular council meetings and other community events. Although he could not vote or attend executive sessions, Griffin said the experience gave him a greater insight into how local government works.
“I wanted to become a junior council person to gain an in-depth understanding of how local borough government functioned,” Griffin said. “I gained first-hand experience overseeing how local legislative decisions were made and it was very informative and related well to my interest in history and political science.”
Griffin also said that the most important thing he learned during his year in the position is that a lot more work and thought goes into making decisions for the borough than most people are aware of.
The Junior Council Person Program is a statewide initiative from the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs which aims to get young people involved in their local communities. It was the second year for the program in New Bethlehem.
“While the junior council person doesn’t have an official vote on council, he or she does have a voice and an official seat at the table,” New Bethlehem Mayor Gordon Barrows said. “It is a mutually beneficial relationship that actively engages borough officials, the Redbank Valley School District and the youth. It also allows borough officials to serves as mentors to students who will be future leaders in their communities.”
Barrows said the program provided Griffin with the chance to learn such skills as team building and collaboration, public speaking, public engagement, budgeting and running effective meetings. He said it also allowed the student to see how issues that impact his community are deliberated.
Although PSAB representatives could not attend last week’s council meeting due to COVID-19, the council and mayor presented Griffin with a framed certificate/award as well as a letter of recommendation to aid him in his future endeavors.
Barrows pointed out that Griffin not only served this past year as junior council person, but also took part in the following activities at his school, including Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society, soccer, track and field, and Student Council.
With Griffin graduating, the council is currently seeking high school juniors and seniors who live within the borough to apply for the position. More information about the program can be found online at: NewBethlehemBoro.com/Junior-Council-Person.
• Officials announced that the borough’s new garbage truck is now in service, and because it features a “tipper” on the back that mechanically tips certain 64-gallon trash cans into the truck, the borough is offering for sale the specialized 64-gallon cans at a discounted rate of $49.39. The orders are contingent on at least 100 cans being purchased in the borough. Those interested should contact the borough office as soon as possible.
• The council formed an official committee to deal with blighted properties in the community. Council members Stewart Bain, Scott Barrett and Don Heeter volunteered to serve on the committee, along with Mayor Gordon Barrows.
• The council unanimously moved to request that PennDOT conduct a speed study along Route 28 (Broad Street) to Redbank Valley High School. Borough police are seeking to have the speed limit on the eastern portion of the street lowered to 25 miles per hour.
• The council hired Justin Swartfager as a part-time police officer.
• Barrows announced that he was approached by a businessman who is seeking farmers in the area who would be interested in raising Wagyu beef cattle. He said anyone interested, can contact the mayor’s office.
• The New Bethlehem Police Department will host its second annual Cops & Bobbers youth fishing day at Gumtown Park starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15.