clymer welcome sign

CLYMER — The town council on Tuesday took a leap toward clearing a hurdle that has kept townspeople and borough leaders alike on edge the past several months.

Council hired Hunter Scherf, of Indiana, as a part-time patrol officer to bolster the thinned ranks of the police department.

Dressed in his Saltsburg Borough police uniform, representing one of his two other hourly law enforcement posts in Indiana County, Scherf stood alongside Clymer patrolman D.J. Clawson — the town’s only other active police officer since late winter — and was held as council’s solution for a dearth of law enforcement service that brought residents again to council’s doorstep.

Mayor Christina King said Scherf would be scheduled on the streets at least 32 hours a week to start.

That will swell the police presence in Clymer, when added to the 10 to 20 hours weekly that Clawson has served after finishing a full-time schedule with the Northern Cambria police department.

The citizens had noticed.

“I know we are down now,” resident Lori Jarvie told council during the comment period at the start of the meeting. “What can be done? Will there be more police presence?”

Jarvie said she represented a lot of folks with the same concerns for safety of children on residential streets where drivers seem to speed a lot.

She didn’t claim to be a victim but said the town has had more thefts and vandalism, and problems with noisy older kids who stay out past curfew.

“We are working diligently to address that,” Council President Louis Tate told Jarvie, acknowledging that the borough kept the police manpower shortage low key so as not to encourage trouble. “Everyone on this council agrees with you and council intends to take care of this.”

Minutes later, Public Safety Committee chairwoman Brietta Mighells asked the board first to raise the part-time police officers’ wages to $15 an hour and to retroactively approve King’s June 3 decision to hire Scherf. Council approved both, 6 to 0.

There was more encouragement for townspeople.

State police Trooper Brennan Herr said the Indiana barracks has covered Clymer in those thin times when no local officer was on duty.

He quoted the stats, since the beginning of the year: Troopers responded to one vehicle theft, four fraud/forgery reports, one general theft, one retail theft, three burglaries, one overdose and seven traffic accidents in Clymer.

“We will always respond to calls for service when your department is not on,” Herr told residents. “That’s 24/7, 365. Don’t ever hesitate to call with any info you have. … We are happy to help. Anything you need, give us a call, backup, anything like that.”

King said the borough would consider hiring yet another part-time officer but several factors will bear on that.

Police Chief Joe Douglas and part-time officer Louis Sacco are still sidelined with medical issues. Their ability and availability won’t be known until they recover and return to service.

The borough budget also matters.

“If everything goes well, we could be (hiring),” King said. “At this point we’re just trying to see what’s going to happen because there are a lot of what-ifs.”

In other business Tuesday:

• Councilman Jeffery Gromley reported on behalf of Clymer Volunteer Fire Company that it will host the Central Pennsylvania Firefighters convention in mid-August.

“This convention is the big one,” Gromley said. “It will be here before you know it.”

Clymer last hosted the event in 2010.

“This is the one where they bring the campers in,” he said. “The last time we did it, we had a very good turnout. It ends up helping the businesses in town. And we hope the community will enjoy it.”

The convention is set for Aug, 15, 16 and 17. Events include a parade, live bands on Friday and Saturday and a D J. on Thursday. Complete details of the event, Gromley said, can be found on the fire company’s page on Facebook.

• The Rev. Kendra Balliet, pastor of Clymer United Methodist Church, bid farewell to the council and townspeople and introduced her replacement.

As part of an annual reassignment of clergy, a United Methodist Church bishop has sent Balliet to the Luthersburg Charge based in DuBois, beginning July 1.

Balliet’s Clymer territory has been split in half. The Tanoma area will fall in with the Creekside area served by the Rev. Becky Edwards.

Pastor Caleb Fugate, of Punxsutawney, who recently earned a Master of Divinity from Duke University, will serve the Clymer and Diamondville churches. Working through Grace United Methodist Church in Indiana, he also will serve as the United Methodist Church campus minister at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Balliet, the leader of the Clymer Ministerium, regularly attended council meetings to bring town leaders up to date on the work of the coalition of Protestant churches of the area. In the past year, the ministerium spearheaded a new summer feeding program to provide lunches for children of needy families in the region, organized a series of Christmas season celebrations and Bible studies and developed a “Blue Christmas” program in support of people experiencing grief and depression over the holidays.

Councilman Joe Krolick encouraged a round of applause for Balliet’s service to the area.

Balliet said that Fugate, Edwards and she will jointly hold an outdoor worship service at 11 a.m. June 30, the final Sunday of her term in Clymer, at Sherman Street Park.

Staff writer/Web Editor, The Indiana (Pa.) Gazette

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the Indiana Area and Homer-Center school boards and White Township, Center Township, Homer City and Burrell Township, and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.