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INDIANA: Committee, landlords to meet on rowdy behavior

by on August 06, 2014 11:00 AM

Indiana Borough council’s ad hoc “college-age activities” committee, which has been gathering weekly in a search for strategies to keep a lid on celebrations of rowdy young people such as spring’s “IUPatty’s Day,” will meet Tuesday with landlords of student rental properties.

They will discuss the role the property owners may play in controlling large groups of students and other young people like those who gathered in outdoor celebrations in March that blocked traffic and contributed to other disruptive behavior, Nancy Jones, borough council president, said Tuesday night.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania will host the meeting at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, and Robin Gorman, chief of staff to IUP President Michael Driscoll, said 665 landlords have been invited to participate. That discussion will not be open to the general public or the news media in order to encourage a more free exchange of ideas and comments.

IUP officials and the Indiana County commissioners asked the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to analyze the unruly and unsanctioned St. Patrick’s-season parties in Indiana and officials met Friday to study the findings in an “After Action Report/Improvement Plan” issued by PEMA.

In short, PEMA concluded the Indiana area has what it needs to handle unruly crowds like the revelers in March, but the various local agencies need a plan for working together when unanticipated disruptions take place. PEMA suggested local leaders model a “whole community” approach to preparing and responding to incidents, creating a multi-agency planning effort, and improving communications among them before, during and following events.

“The report is actually very good,” Gorman told council Tuesday night, adding that planning for future events has already started and is coming “into alignment.”

“You’re looking at leaders that have come together” with courtesy and respect for each other in the meetings, she said. The planning sessions have opened new lines of communication and have been a great collaboration “that we owe our citizens,” Gorman said.

“People are trying” to find solutions, she said. “They’re talking. It’s in the right spirit. … It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of heavy lifting by a lot of people.”

Jones and borough manager William Sutton said in the spring that many of the details of the ad hoc committee’s recommendations would not be made public, and Councilman Gerald Smith said Tuesday he had concerns about the “secret” meetings.

But Jones and Gorman said after the meeting that the issue of rowdy behavior by crowds of young people was too massive to get everyone involved in at first and so representatives from many stakeholders — including IUP students — participated in the meetings that produced the PEMA report. Now, Gorman said, efforts will be made to provide more inclusiveness in the planning process.

Gorman also said there are no plans to release the full PEMA report to the general public, but copies will be furnished upon written request to the IUP president’s office.

Jones said she is actually looking forward to this fall’s IUP homecoming because it will be a test of the new strategies for controlling crowds recommended by the PEMA report and by council’s college-age activities committee.

“What did we fix? What do we still need to fix?” Jones said.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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