Request to display religious material spurs warning in Bellefonte

A pastor spoke out against a proposal to display religious material in Talleyrand Park at Monday’s Borough Council meeting.

Pastor Carl Miller’s oral statement to the council was prompted by the Bellefonte Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ request to display literature in the park and farmers market at the council’s Sept. 15 meeting. The council decided not to vote at the previous meeting and to instead seek its solicitor’s opinion.

Miller said he felt the request to display religious material on public property was inappropriate. He said approval of such a request would open up the council to more requests, such as more religious displays and political ads in public places.

Counil President Frank Halderman said it would review the solicitor’s opinion and vote on the request at a later date.

The council also voted 8-0 to approve an agreement that runs from January 2013 to January 2016 with Bellefonte police. The agreement states that the police will contribute 3.9 percent of their pension plan for 2015.

Don Holderman, the borough’s assistant manager, said the vote was a technicality as the state requires annual approval of less than 5 percent contributions.

“We have contractual obligations to the police for them to pay 3.9 percent,” Holderman said. “This is something that comes up every year.”

State aid and the borough will cover the rest of the pension plan cost for 2015.

The council also said it would respond to a letter from property owner Brian Witmer, who asked the borough in a letter why changes were made to parking from 311 to 313 East Bishop St.

The council previously limited parking and turning at the intersection of East Bishop Street and South Ridge Street. Witmer asked the borough to allow parking 20 to 50 feet from the intersection. He also asked the council overturn turning restrictions at the intersection.

Councilman Paul DeCusati suggested during the meeting that the borough send a letter to Witmer explaining the parking and turning restrictions were made for safety reasons.

The Bellefonte Sunrise Rotary Club also presented the council with a $12,500 check to repair and improve the playground at Governors Park.

Angela Dick, the club’s president, said the money came from the Bellefonte Children’s Fair.

Holderman said the borough’s goal is to match the club’s contribution in 2015.