Borough Council Reaches Out, Town-Gown Style
The Off Campus Student Union (OCSU) and State College Borough hosted a question and answer session last night. Walking into Heritage Hall, I was immediately accused of being a student only there for class credit.
Most of the audience was made up of graduate students with questions about housing projects, zoning laws, and noise violations. The panel speakers included Borough Manager Tom Fountaine, Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, Director for Centre Region Code Enforcement Walter Schneider, Borough Council President Ronald Filippelli, and Police Chief Tom King.
Audience members were allowed to submit questions beforehand if they were “mic shy”; alternatively, they could ask on the spot. One student asked about noise violations, and why there were such harsh penalties for small offenses. Police Chief Tom King immediately responded, “Since there are people of all ages living in diverse neighborhoods with different lifestyles, it is hard to balance between when noise is too loud or reasonable.” There were more citations this year than the past few years, and there are about 1200 noise violations a year.
Recycling was a big topic of discussion, and Mayor Goreham was shocked that residential complexes such as The Palmerton, 250 East Beaver, and 119 South Burrowes do not provide recycling bins for their residents. Another question was asked about homelessness in State College. The panel said that there were shelters available and that they spoke to an individual who chose rather to live in parking garages and under canopies than go to the shelter.
After that were questions about on- and off-campus lighting. The only project mentioned was to modify the existing lights on Garner Street to LED lights, which are not as bright. They do plan on increasing enforcement with more police patrol, though, including motorcycles.
A huge problem mentioned was that the income from rent is not considered earned income; therefore, the tax money is not given to the Borough. Mayor Goreham stated that they recently rescinded a tax called the “business privilege tax,” thus the Borough is struggling to gain money. She even mentioned something as horrible as a tax on drinks; a “punishment fit for the crime.” There are mass amounts of money that are put into the clean-up and enforcement as a consequence of drinking.
The Borough provides public services like the police and fire department, and Filippeli mentioned that 45% of the budget they have go toward police services. With issues of binge drinking escalating, the number of emergency room visits at Penn State is increasing rapidly. “On average, about two students every day are admitted due to alcohol-related issues,” said Fountaine. The issue of underage citations when ambulances are called came up. Chief King said that if a student arrives safely at the hospital, the police would not be notified, but that police tag along with every call that requires an ambulance. He then talked about three programs to help improve educating students about alcohol and said, “it’s not prohibition, drink responsibly.”
Problems with living off-campus? You could always live in dorms with an R.A…
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