Bellefonte Borough Council looks at grant effort as way to mend community ties frayed by Garman debate

Borough Council continued a discussion on the Keystone Community Development program at its work session Monday, providing more insight into the effort that is expected to bring in grant funding over the next five years.

Borough officials said the committees created through the program will be all-inclusive, enabling anyone who wants to participate the ability to do so.

Councilman Joe Beigle said it’s important for the council to get behind the program and give its full support, because of an increasing divide in some of the residents over the past few months. A November vote to demolish the historic Garman Theatre was a point of contention for many members of the community.

“What better way to bring things back and bring focus into town than to put that stuff aside,” he said, advocating that the town needs to move on.

While several council members and officials spoke in favor of the program, some expressed a few concerns.

Councilman Walt Schneider said he continues to want a more firm makeup of the four committees to move the program in the right direction. Those committees would include a design committee, a steering committee, a marketing committee and a business and merchant committee.

Borough officials have penciled in the Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority to be a part of the steering committee and for the Historical Architecture Review Board to participate with the design committee, but those and the other two will be open to additional participation.

Schneider wants borough staff to look into some musts for those committees to find people with specific expertise or occupations to keep continuity and provide more direction.

“The structure is timeless regardless if people come and go,” he said.

Bellefonte Intervalley Chamber of Commerce Executive Gary Hoover said one of the most important things is making sure the effort is all-inclusive and is scheduling semi-frequent meetings. Hoover was the chairman of a similar effort in the past called the Alliance for Bellefonte Community Development, and its steering committee met on a monthly basis.

The next main step for the borough is to get a Keystone Development Community designation that opens up the possibility for more grant funding.