Bellefonte council welcomes new members, mayor; criticism again aired over Garman demolition

The first Bellefonte Borough Council meeting of the year Monday brought new faces — and some old ones in new chairs.

New council members Randall Brachbill, Karen Harvey and Barry Spicer attended their first meetings, and former councilman and new Mayor Tom Wilson took his new seat for the first time.

Council also re-elected Frank “Buddy” Halderman as president and elected Paul DeCusati as vice president. DeCusati had been serving as the interim vice president since December when former councilwoman Vana Dainty resigned her post.

Wilson is excited to get finished with his first meeting and is hoping to get a jump on his duties in what he called an exciting time for Bellefonte.

“I’m hoping that the changes that will be coming about, like the waterfront district and the planning of the armory, (are) something to look forward to,” he said after the meeting about the proposed redevelopment of the property along Spring Creek and the borough’s recent purchase of the old National Guard Armory.

He has taken some meetings with agencies like the police department and hopes to meet with some other local mayors to talk about ideas and challenges that face all local municipalities.

A small contingent of locals also attended the meeting to again express distaste with the council for voting in November to demolish the Garman Theatre.

Now that demolition of the property has begun, resident Mary Vollero made one last pitch to stop it before it was too late.

“This has been a difficult season for Bellefonte as we grieve the loss of two beautiful, historic buildings on our diamond,” she said, receiving applause from the small audience when she concluded her comments.

She asked council to make a motion to suspend or delay the remainder of the demolition, but none came.

The Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association, which made an unsuccessful proposal to rehabilitate the building into a regional arts center, will still take its case to the state Supreme Court to overturn lower court decisions.

Attorney Bruce Manchester said he is working to finalize a re-submission of the appeal and the organization will still go forward with it even if the building is demolished. He would not provide further comment at this time.

The building is being demolished to make room for a 32-unit workforce housing proposal by State College developer Ara Kervandjian and his company, Progress Development Group. The proposal would create one new building where the Garman and next-door hotel Do De stood and utilize the nearby Cadillac Building for additional housing space.