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Seats could remain open on several small Westmoreland councils

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

If you are a registered voter in a small borough that can't generate enough write-in votes, the court could mandate your public service.

It's a dilemma playing out in small boroughs scattered around Westmoreland County. Ballots for public office in some communities — including North Irwin, Arona, Madison and Adamsburg — are incomplete, which leaves vacancies on council.

“It does happen,” Jim Montini, director of the Westmoreland County Election Bureau, said.

If there are vacancies in elected office, council members have 30 days to fill them, according to the Pennsylvania Borough Code. If that doesn't work, council will form a vacancy board that has 15 days to fill open positions.

If still open, the vacancy board must petition the Court of Common Pleas to appoint a resident who is registered to vote in the community.

There is no information available regarding how often the court must appoint registered voters to serve.

In North Irwin borough, six four-year council terms are up for election.

Those not seeking reelection are Matt Berkhouse, Council President Kim Macalus and Kenneth Galley.

A two-year slot is available in this election because of the death of Bernie Reynolds, who passed away in May.

Gina Sonnik and John McIntyre are the only names on the ballots for the openings.

McIntyre originally also planned not to seek reelection, but has said he changed his mind when he realized no one else was running.

That means, as it stands, that there will be four empty seats on council starting in January.

Sonnik, who has lived in North Irwin for eight years, is concerned about the vacancies.

“It's sad. I feel I need to represent the borough in a positive manner,” she said.

After six years on council, Macalus said she wants to let others get involved.

She said she always thought it was her civic duty to serve on council and feels disheartened others don't choose to serve as well.

“It's a sad state of affairs,” Macalus said. “I hope that some people will come out there and throw their name in the ring for the right reasons.”

Without council's dedication, several projects such as flooding initiative on Fourth Street or paving projects, would fall to the wayside, she said.

“Our streets are falling apart,” she said. “You need an aggressive council to get in there to possibly raise taxes or get some grants written.”

North Irwin council meets at 7 p.m. the second Monday of each month at the North Irwin Town Hall on Second Street.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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