clymer welcome sign

CLYMER — There will be another increase in police presence on the streets of Clymer as the borough council responded Tuesday to another round of complaints from townspeople of petty, after-dark crimes in the borough.

It was much like council’s meeting in June, when residents spoke of teenagers walking the streets in violation of curfew, rummaging through unlocked cars, damaging property and stealing things from residents’ porches.

A month ago, council hired Hunter Scherf, of Indiana, as a part-time police officer to shore up the ranks of the medically depleted department. Tuesday, council voted to make Scherf a full-time officer starting Aug. 1.

Council members commiserated with the complaints.

Kim Butler told second-hand of Hancock Street residents who cut down a berry bush because youngsters used it to hide from the view of a security camera while they stole stuff.

Councilwoman Stephanie Brilhart said she personally was a victim: “I found five sparklers on my lawn today.”

“I think Hancock Street is out of hand,” said Butler, who also told council that she recently moved out of the borough.

“I don’t think it’s just Hancock Street,” Brilhart said.

Clymer Fire Chief John Gromley said the fire station’s vintage siren, long out of commission, has been out for repairs and may be placed back in service by the end of the month. He said it will be set to sound a warning at curfew seven nights a week, although it couldn’t be programmed to go off at different times. Curfew is 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, but 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Brilhart also acknowledged that sounding curfew would not automatically put minors back under their parents’ watch at home, and said that any youths picked up by police would be held for their parents to come and pick them up.

Council members and Mayor Christina King repeated a plea for residents to phone 911 and the state police to report any suspicious activity.

“Make things known. I know we’re having a problem and we’re trying to solve the problem,” councilman John Hughmanic said. “But if you report it to us and the state police, they can check things out as they’re going through Clymer.”

Council President Louis Tate reassured residents at the meeting that the borough and police department would respond to townspeoples’ concerns, but he said the situation is not a crisis.

“They’re making excessive noise, yelling,” Tate said.

He said borough officials believe much of the problem of roaming youths can be traced to a single family, and the unchecked use of social media has led to overstatement and overreaction to what actually has been happening.

“Social media can stir the pot big time,” Tate said. “It’s natural that in the summer, kids are going to be out. And you can’t just chase them all off the streets like you’re in lockdown. But they have it portrayed as something a lot worse than it is, in my opinion.”

In other business:

• Council clarified the current management of borough business. George Oakes has taken a new full-time job and no longer serves as borough manager, but works a few hours for Clymer Municipal Authority on water and sewage plant tasks as needed on weekends.

Rob Barto, the former borough manager who stayed on as Oakes’ assistant when he semi-retired in early 2018, again is the de facto manager and has agreed to take on increased duties for less pay.

Council voted to make the arrangement official: Barto’s pay will be cut from $1,500 to $1,000 a month and he will work 25 to 30 hours on borough business as needed. Councilman John Buterbaugh said the borough intends to hire a new full-time manager.

• Gromley said Clymer Fire Company will host the annual Central District Fire Convention from Aug 15 to 17 at the fire station, the adjacent field and neighboring streets. Highlights of the schedule include a children’s version of the battle of the barrel hose contest, a parade at 5 p.m. Aug. 17, a memorial service at 9 a.m. Aug. 16, the coronation of the convention queen at 6 p.m. Aug. 16 and a country music concert at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15.

• On behalf of the street crew, Gromley reported that an ongoing natural gas service pipeline replacement project continues in the borough, and that the project contractor expects to return to Morris, Sixth, Hancock and Walcott streets to restore some areas to pre-project condition.

Gromley also advised that residents are responsible for removing weeds that may be growing from the cracks in the sidewalks.

The street crew also has been replacing catch basins, a time-consuming process made even longer by recent rainfall.

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.