The diamond area of downtown Bellefonte was cordoned off and surrounding buildings evacuated for more than two hours Tuesday after local police and a bomb squad responded to a suspicious sound emanating from a mailbox in front of Bellefonte Twist on Allegheny Street.
After an investigation, it was determined that the only piece of mail in the box was a bill, and the sound turned out to be a safety alert pager that had been put into the mailbox. The pager was the type worn by people with health concerns to report emergencies such as falls.
Streets were reopened at about 12:30 p.m. after the area was deemed safe.
Bellefonte Police Chief Shawn Weaver said police don’t know how the pager got in the box. Evidence from the incident is being turned over to a United States postal inspector for further investigation, he said.
His department was called about the sound, described by Bellefonte Borough Manager Ralph Stewart as a “vibrating noise, like an alarm going off,” at 10:04 a.m., Weaver said.
They later received reports that the sound had been audible since about midnight. A bomb squad was called in as a precaution, and bomb technicians from Penn State police and state police in Hershey and Johnstown responded and used a robot Tuesday to remove the object.
Bellefonte police were also assisted by the Centre County Sheriff’s Department, local fire companies, Bellefonte EMS and Spring Township police.
Nearby buildings, including the Brockerhoff, YMCA and the courthouse annex, were also evacuated as a precautionary measure.
The main courthouse was not evacuated and business went on as usual inside, although the front entrance was closed and the hearing between Penn State trustees and the Penn State Alumni Association, which started in Courtroom 1 at the front of the building, was moved to Courtroom 2 during proceedings.