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Mayor Parker Breaks Tie as Clarion Borough Says No to Mini-Casino, for Now
Parker was called upon for what is believed to be the first time in his short tenure as the mayor to cast a tie-breaking vote after the Clarion Borough Council voted 3-3 on a measure to put the borough on the so-called “do not want” list. Council President Carol Lapinto was absent from the meeting.
“I also wanted us to have time to consider our options and get more public feedback,” Parker said. “Also, I think it is important for us to have the ability to put any sort of restrictions on it.”
At least the partial reasoning of Parker and at least two of the three council members who voted with him – Jason Noto, Rachel Roberts and Brenda Sanders-DeDe – was that a vote to put the borough’s name on the “do not want” list didn’t have to be permanent but that not voting to put the borough on the list would mean the borough council would then have no further say in the matter.
“Now is when we have a choice to say yes or no as a council,” Noto said. “If we say ‘no’ now, we can change our mind in the future after we have had more study and had an opportunity to look at the pros and the cons of it. We can then change our minds on it. We can then pass an ordinance to then allow.”
“If we don’t do this now, it’s here, and there is nothing we can do as a municipality about it. You lose the choice if we don’t say ‘no’ now. We can always change our mind, and I might well change my mind if we decide to enact an ordinance to allow it. But for now, the only way we have a choice and the ability to study the issue and to decide if this is good for our borough is if we say ‘no’ now.”
Ben Aaron, one of three votes to not put the borough on the “do not want list” along with outgoing councilman Keaton MacBeth and Earl Zerfoss, believes that by putting itself on the list the borough is all but eliminating itself from consideration by someone who wants to operate a mini-casino.
“I don’t think we will have a choice that will have to be made in the future,” Aaron said. “If we ban it now, nobody is going to build a casino here anyway because it’s banned. They will find a municipality that allows it. I don’t think we would care to be on that list whenever we are trying to attract business to the borough.”
Zerfoss, who originally voted erroneously to put the borough on the “do not want list” is in favor of a casino coming because it would mean revenue to the borough. At first, he was confused about what a ‘yes’ vote meant despite asking numerous times to have the vote explained to him and was allowed by Sanders-DeDe, the acting borough president, to change his vote.
“I plan on voting for it (to allow the casino) because to me it’s a good thing that we have it,” Zerfoss said. “When you pick up the (paper) there are bus tours going to (Rivers Casino), to Atlantic City, Ocean City, any other city. I know this is scaled down from Ocean City or (River Casino)….It’s good that we get the revenue. We can’t keep raising taxes, or pretty soon there will be a ‘for sale’ sign on us because they won’t need us. There is a lot of revenue in it. If we would be lucky to get it, I would rather we get the money than Franklin or Knox or anyone. I want it for Clarion Borough. I think it’s a good thing.”
When asked if he was concerned about Aaron’s argument of someone not even considering Clarion because it is on the “do not want” list, Parker said he wasn’t.
“I have no concerns about that at all,” Parker said. “If they want to build a casino here bad enough, they will get in touch with us.”
Prior to the debate by the council, borough resident Cindy Miller spoke against the mini-casino.
“I’m not for it,” Miller said. “I realize people say ‘anything to save the town.’ But, it’s the kind of saving you don’t want. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Watch the entire debate here.
(Editor’s note: On the video, Zerfoss is voting to put the borough on the “do not want” list thinking he was voting the other way. The council, knowing how he believed, allowed him to change his vote after the video was shut off. In addition, Parker didn’t take part in the debate, and his quotes came after the meeting.)
The council voted to adopt the proposed 2018 budget that holds the line on taxes at 22 mill and doesn’t increase any fees. See more about the budget from the November meeting.
In addition, the council approved the 2018 salary schedule and passed a resolution to seek proposals for a 2018 tax anticipation in the amount of $300,000.00. It was noted that in recent years the borough hasn’t actually needed to touch that money but that it is a good thing to have just in case.
LEAF COLLECTION ENDING
It was announced that leaf collection is ending and that Wednesday, December 6, is the last day. The original last day was set for November 21, but a lot of residents must not have gotten the word and leaves are still on the streets. But December 6 will now be the definitive last day.
WINTER PARKING ORDINANCE IN EFFECT
A reminder to borough residents that the winter parking ordinance is in effect, and residents should obey the signs on the streets of when they are allowed to and not allowed to park on the street.
According to Zerfoss, who said he has been on council for 40 years, when he first came on council there was no winter parking ordinance, and the snow plow driver would have to get out of the plow truck and knock on the door of the residents to get them to move their vehicles.
“This is much more efficient,” Zerfoss said.
STORM WATER UPDATE
The flyover to determine the amount of permeable surfaces in the borough has been completed, and the borough should have some of the results within a month.
In addition, the preliminary cost estimate and design work for the Center Place Storm Water Project has been completed, and an additional easement to Comet Grocery Store is needed. It was also announced that a senior housing project will be constructed along Fifth Avenue and that hopefully, the work on the two can take place around the same time.
ZERFOSS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR RADAR
Zerfoss mentioned that he heard that the Pennsylvania Legislature is once again going to take up the proposal to allow municipal police forces to use radar to catch speeders.
“This has come up many times,” Zerfoss said. “And, it keeps failing. We should send a letter, as we have done in the past, supporting this. We are entitled to the same privileges as the state police. We are not second class, we are first class like them.”
Borough Secretary Linda LaVan said there was some discussion on the public safety committee about her and police chief Bill Peck getting together to write the letter, and she anticipates that will happen soon.
- There will be a bi-annual reorganization meeting for the council at 6:45 p.m. January 2, 2018, in the assembly room at the Clarion Free Library with the regularly scheduled council meeting to follow at 7:00 p.m. MacBeth is leaving council and is being replaced by Rose Logue.
- Tea with Mrs. Claus will be held at the Library on December 9. In a lighter moment, Zerfoss said he wouldn’t be able to attend, but he wanted someone to tell Mrs. Claus to tell Santa Claus that he wants a casino and radar for Christmas.
- Sanders-DeDe commended MacBeth on his two years of great service to the council.
- Miller asked if there was any word on her concern about jake braking along Greenville Pike. She was told that it falls under the borough’s noise ordinance and that signs will be put up and local businesses will be informed.
- A Holiday Concert sponsored by the Blueprint Committee featuring Lauren Skelley and Lauren Snyder, Franklin Taste of Talent winners, and Isaac Cole, a former American Idol contestant, will be held at 7:00 p.m. on December 9 at Hart Chapel on the campus of Clarion University. The concert is free but donations will be accepted.
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