North Belle Vernon fills council seat, shuffles posts
The moving and shuffling continued for North Belle Vernon borough council Tuesday at their monthly meeting.
Council filled a seat left vacant after the appointment of Craig Ambrose to mayor, following the recent retirement of former Mayor Ed Lyons.
Mark Frederick, who is running for a council seat in next Tuesday's primary election, was appointed to Ambrose's former seat after being nominated by Councilman Brett Berish. His appointment passed by a 5-1 vote.
Councilwoman Betty Shine-Hill cast the lone dissenting vote.
Frederick was appointed to the Public Safety Committee and the Public Works committee, both positions formerly held by Ambrose.
Shine-Hill was unanimously voted in as the new council vice president after being nominated by Councilwoman Diann Donaldson. With the move, she was forced to give up her responsibilities as chair of the Recreation and Parks Committee. Those roles have been transferred to Councilman John Ross.
Ambrose's name will be removed from the banking signature card and Shine-Hill's will be added so she will have the ability to sign borough checks.
“Betty I'm sure will be glad to assist you in any way she can,” council President Dennis Simboli told Ross.
Admitting he was “winging it” at his first council meeting as mayor, Ambrose offered a short report.
Ultimately, his message was simple. There will be more police officers coming to the borough.
“We are going to have to hire some more guys,” Ambrose said. “We've always been kind of a training ground here. I'm glad the guys we've had have moved on to full-time jobs and bigger municipalities. I've been actively involved with Councilman (Brett) Berish as chair of the public safety ... we will be working close together. I'm all ready getting involved in a number of things that are going on (within the police department.)”
After taking office, Ambrose said he will be looking to make some changes in the operation of the department.
In other matters, Simboli announced that Ambrose and Lyons have received a letter from American Legion Post 659 in the borough.
“When they have the Memorial Day ceremonies council may participate in the marching, but they will not be on the podium because they have a lot of elderly people involved and they're trying to move the (ceremony) faster,” Simboli said during his report. “It takes possibly 10 seconds, maybe 15, for the mayor to introduce council. Personally, I feel offended because we are all elected officials by the residents of this borough and it's like we're being singled out now. As far as I'm concerned, don't look for me in the parade.”
Ambrose said he doesn't see how council members being on the podium during the service is going to slow it down.
“I think it's totally ridiculous,” Ambrose said. “It's not just us, it's Belle Vernon borough council as well. They've invited the former mayor (Lyons) to speak. I don't have anything against the former mayor, but I would think that putting more speakers in is going to slow it down.”
Simboli stood firm in his decision.
“Like I said, for as many years as I can remember, this is a chance for the residents that elected you to see you. Don't look for Denny Simboli because he won't be there,” Simboli said. “We represent this borough, and no disrespect to the veterans, I won't be there.”
Council members agreed about not understanding the reasoning for the legion's decision and questioned it, but added that the day is to remember those who served their country and they will be at the ceremony, regardless.
In other business, resident Jennifer Wiant asked council to consider opening a dog park in Graham Street Park.
An option, Wiant said, would be to eliminate the tennis courts and replace them with the dog park.
Council voiced concerns about liability with some members thinking it was a positive idea. Wiant agreed to research the matter thoroughly and report back at next month's meeting with additional support from the community.
“I think it's the perfect area for a dog park,” Wiant said during her presentation. “We're looking into having fundraisers to offset borough costs and have volunteers willing to monitor the park to make sure owners are fulfilling their responsibilities of cleaning up after their dogs.”
Council took the following action:
• Appointed Robert (R.J.) Sokol to the borough Planning Commission.
• Accepted a bid in the amount of $7,460 from Donald Panepinto Jr. of Lawns Unlimited to repair damage in the 300 block of Trail Alley, which has been closed for over two years. In the contract, Panepinto specified that he will pave the street and repair any damage sustained to property around the project.
• Approved summer hours for the borough office, which will now be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2667.