Indiana Council

If anyone had been there to speak before Indiana Borough Council Tuesday night, this would have been the view from the podium at the first in-person gathering of the borough's elected officials in more than a year.

Everyone had a vaccination, so masks weren’t required Tuesday night, as Indiana Borough Council conducted its first in-person meeting in 14 months.

It also didn’t last that long, as the half-hour session was sandwiched between executive sessions for personnel reasons — including interviews with potential new borough solicitors, who could be called in to replace Neva Stotler.

It looked like some social distancing was being practiced, but that was in part because Stotler, Council Vice President Gerald Smith, Councilwoman Sara Stewart and Mayor Joseph E. Trimarchi were absent.

Two local and two out-of-town firms are under consideration for Stotler’s job. A vote on a new solicitor appears likely to happen at the June 22 council meeting.

Council approved an agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for the removal of abandoned infrastructure for the Mack Park and Carter Avenue bridge replacement project, under which PennDOT will reimburse the borough for 75 percent of all costs, less betterment.

The infrastructure in question interferes with PennDOT’s work improving a portion of state Route 4005.

Council acted on voice votes Tuesday night regarding that agreement and the lease purchase of a 2021 Ford Explorer from Tri-Star Motors for Indiana Borough Police Department.

The new police vehicle is being acquired via a CoStar agreement in the amount of $35,706.

However, the suggested motion entailed “two annual payments of $13,992.18” for the vehicle.

“It is a lease program with interest,” borough Manager C. Michael Foote explained.

The vehicle won’t be the only new item for IBPD. Chief Justin Schawl told Council Public Works Committee Chairman Donald Lancaster that “training for Axel is going well.”

Axel is a 17-month-old black mouth cur mix, rescued from a kill shelter in Kentucky by a rescue group in Westmoreland County. He’s now in training as a therapy dog.

The police chief also reported that the borough is dealing with multiple special event applications as Indiana emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Events that take place at IRMC Park in downtown Indiana are a reason for the borough’s decision to replace Jersey barriers often used to block off the North Seventh Street parklet with removable bollards.

Foote said a donor who chose to remain anonymous donated $2,000 toward a price tag of “a little over $5,000” for the devices. He said the rest of the cost will be covered by liquid fuels tax revenue.

The borough manager said installation of those bollards will be conducted today and Thursday, closing off North Seventh between Philadelphia and Nixon streets.

Foote also said the borough for a 13th year will receive Tree City USA honors, while a first-time effort to seek recognition from the League of American Bicyclists concluded with Indiana getting an honorable mention.

New borough clerk Laurie Busovicki read a letter into the record from local resident Jennica Giroux, who said “it is long past time to move from consideration to action” about decriminalization of recreational marijuana.

“The borough needs to pass an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana possession now,” Giroux wrote. “For every week you delay you continue to add to the list of names that The Indiana Gazette police log publishes weekly (of those) charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.”

She said “numerous Pennsylvania cities and municipalities have already” voted to decriminalize marijuana.