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Bolivar community members speak out

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Between opposition to proposed low-income housing to incredulity at a former official's membership in an organization supporting a ban on assault weapons, attendees at a Bolivar Borough Council meeting expressed a litany of concerns.

Resident Arch Dodson, a former councilman, said council needs to cautiously approach a proposal for low-income housing planned for Bolivar Park between Third and Fifth streets.

Councilwoman Sue Bartow said council and a professional grant writer have only preliminarily discussed seeking money or investors for affordable housing limited to senior citizens.

Dodson said often times if a builder cannot generate enough interest with older citizens, he will seek interest from those in low-income households.

“I would not want to see low-income housing. It's not that I have anything against low-income people. Some people really need those types of housing. But the affect on the communities that have built low-income housing has been extremely detrimental,” Dodson said.

The public will be invited to future meetings on the housing President Clark Baird said.

“The general consensus of the council is that we want seniors-only housing,” he said.

John Clark, a Fairfield Township resident whose family owns property in the borough, told officials he was “surprised and concerned” to find former mayor Everett Saxton's name on a membership list of the national Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The coalition asks mayors to pledge to keep “lethal, military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines” off the streets, according to its website.

“To sign up for a coalition that says in my official capacity as mayor, I'm committing my town, my resources to support this illegal language is inexcusable,” Clark said.

Clark said he considers Bolivar his community, and community members would not want Bolivar associated with the coalition.

“It supports the ban on assault weapons, which violates the U.S. and Pennsylvania State constitutions,” Clark said.

Saxton submitted his letter of resignation last month after council members repeatedly criticized his management of the police department.

Council members voted to accept the letter on Feb. 7 and appointed Councilman Tom Pickup as mayor.

“This group supports a direct infringement on our constitutional rights,” said Pickup. “I'm embarrassed that a town like this would sign up for anything like this.”

He said he would work with Clark to remove Saxton from the list of about 800 mayors, because he no longer represents Bolivar.

In other news, council members voted 3-2 to approve a 9 percent raise for borough worker Ron Houck, bringing his hourly wage to $9. Baird voted it, citing financial constraints.

“I can't see giving someone a raise when we're trying to cut everywhere we can,” Baird said. “If we lose the borough worker over this, we'll hire another one. We burdened the taxpayers with the cost of fire hydrants this year, the mayor's giving up his wages, and we completely cut our police department, and now we're giving people raises?”

Pickup said he voted against the raise because it was not enough.

Houck “made $8,000 last year, and that's $4,000 under the federal poverty rate. I'm embarrassed to say that we pay someone so little,” Pickup said. “I think the taxpayers would appreciate us giving our borough worker a raise.”

Pickup first proposed a $1.75 raise, but it was rejected 2-3.

Council is seeking letters from those interested in filling Pickup's vacant council seat for the remainder of the year.

Letters should be sent to the borough building at 622 Washington St., Bolivar, PA 15923, before the March 7 meeting.

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or