It was a venture into the unknown, and after all was said and done, most were in agreement that “we should do it again.”
Indiana Mayor George Hood, IUP President Dr. Michael Driscoll and Bill Sutton, who serves the dual role of Indiana Borough manager and chief of the borough’s police department, were in the spotlight at a public forum Thursday evening to air concerns and answer questions involving the borough and the university.
Although the 50-seat theater at the Jimmy Stewart Museum was almost filled to capacity, I must say that I was disappointed that more community residents were not in attendance.
The majority of the audience was made up of either members of Indiana Borough council or those who surround the president at the university.
It sure doesn’t do any good to complain to your friends and neighbors about IUP, and this open forum offered the opportunity to be heard by key IUP personnel who could either provide answers or investigate the residents’ concerns. ‘
As one borough council member stated, “We should stop everyone (when the subject comes up) from bad-mouthing IUP, and likewise stop IUP from bad-mouthing the borough … or everyone else that has something negative to say.”
He received a round of applause.
Dr. Driscoll has the knack of putting the audience at ease and in his opening statements jokingly commented that he had prepared a 50-minute lecture to get the proceedings under way.
“I just want to hear what Mayor Hood and Chief Sutton have to say. Our future is tied together. We have no choice, we are stuck with each other.”
He added: “I am pleased with the connection we have made thus far.”
When he touched on the construction on campus, he apologized for the inconvenience it may cause residents who would drive through the university.
Hood responded, referring to the many street closings in the borough this summer, smiled and stated, “I left home this morning and then couldn’t get back.”
Economic development was a key issue that was discussed and the IUP president affirmed that the university plays a major role in this area “by employing a lot of people” — it’s ranked as one of the top employers in the county — and educating people who will hopefully work in western Pennsylvania and build the economy of the region.
Since he arrived at IUP on July 1, 2012, the personable president and his wife have been visible in the community, and this certainly promotes a much stronger relationship between IUP and the borough.
One of the major concerns, which was covered in Gazette reporter Sam Kusic’s story on Friday, was the student housing situation, as all the new construction could leave empty student rentals throughout the borough.
Finding an answer to this problem will take a major effort by all parties involved, a situation that both the borough and university are well aware of,
As new council member Larry DeChurch said as the two-hour forum was drawing to a close, “We have opened a line of communication that did not exist in the past. We hope to do this again.”