NEW BETHLEHEM – A new member of New Bethlehem Borough Council has proposed looking into rental inspection efforts in Rimersburg and Clarion in an attempt to clean up the community.

Councilman Don Heeter, who was elected to council in November, brought up the issue at the group’s Jan. 16 meeting, saying that a number of rental properties in New Bethlehem are eyesores which bring down property values for other homeowners.

“It needs addressed in this borough,” Heeter said, noting that both Rimersburg and Clarion have seen success with rental inspection regulations.

“From what I understand, the rental ordinance in Rimersburg works,” councilman Stewart Bain added.

Member Ronald Geist noted that such inspections would be wrong if the borough was doing it just to generate revenue. Others said the purpose would be to make rental homes and apartments safer and to clean up properties in town.

Council president Sandy Mateer recommended that the council look at the ordinances in use in Rimersburg and Clarion in order to develop one that is best suited for New Bethlehem’s needs.

Bain told the council that he heard Rimersburg had a lot of trouble with some landlords when the rules first went in place several years ago, but now the program is running smoothly.

No official action was taken on the rental matter.

Action was taken, however, on plans to add a junior member to the borough council.

Councilman Gordon Barrows presented a resolution for New Bethlehem to start a junior council member program, based on an idea from the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.

Barrows said that the junior council member must be a resident of the borough, be a junior or senior in high school, and attend council meetings. He said the borough is open to having more than one junior member, and noted that a couple of local students have already expressed interest.

“It’s definitely a nice way to bridge the gap between the youth and local government,” Barrows said, hoping that the time served as junior council member would lead into future involvement in the community.

Junior council members would not be able to vote on items, officials said.

Unanimous approval was given to begin the program, and Barrows said he hoped to begin distributing the information at the high school.

He also noted that he would eventually like to see the borough provide a scholarship to the selected junior member, but that the legalities of doing so are currently being investigated by the borough solicitor.

Other Business

• The council reminded residents about the borough’s ice and snow removal regulations, which require sidewalks to be cleared within 24 hours of a snow event. They also asked any residents who would be willing to shovel snow for those who can’t do it themselves, to contact the borough to be placed on a contact list.

• Members also asked residents to help shovel snow within three feet around fire hydrants near their properties.

• The council approved sending out a fact sheet in the upcoming property tax bills, to alert residents to various ordinances and regulations pertaining to the borough.

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