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Panel still needs to fill 2-year North Irwin Council slot

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Unless a North Irwin resident steps forward in the next week to fill the latest vacancy on borough council, officials plan to convene a special board to recruit somebody for the post.

Council began the year with an open seat that was created when Councilman Edwin “Bo” Anthony was elected in November by write-in votes to both four-year and two-year terms. Anthony chose to serve the four-year term.

The vacancy was filled on Feb. 10, when council voted unanimously to appoint Earl Kaiser of Broadway Avenue to the position. Kaiser was the only person to submit a letter expressing interest in serving on council.

At the same meeting that Kaiser was sworn in, borough manager Adele Nehas informed council that Jeffrey Scott, who was elected in November to a four-year term, has declined to take office for personal reasons.

Mayor James Douglas said it was “probably mid-January” when he learned that Scott was not interested in serving.

Douglas said no immediate action was taken to fill Scott's seat because “we were already dealing with trying to fill a vacancy.”

“There's no question that we've had trouble getting people here to serve,” the mayor said. “In the past there has been a lot of hostility on council, and while I think things have calmed down a lot, many people may not know that. I'm hoping there's somebody in the borough who will consider filling the seat.”

Douglas noted that even though council only has six members of seven members, it still can take votes to conduct borough business. If a vote ends in a tie, the mayor is responsible for casting the deciding vote.

Nehas said the borough will try to fill the vacancy as soon as possible.

“Our solicitor has suggested that we convene the borough's vacancy board and try to fill the seat in time for the person to be sworn in before or during our next council meeting on March 10,” Nehas said.

The vacancy board is comprised of the six members of council and resident Jennifer McCutcheon, who was re-appointed on Jan. 6, to serve a two-year term on the vacancy board. After the vacancy board has convened, it will have 15 days to fill the open seat.

If the vacancy board is unable to find a resident to serve, the board must petition the Court of Common Pleas to appoint a resident who is registered to vote in the community, according to Beth Lechman, voting systems coordinator for the Westmoreland County Election Bureau.

Nehas said the borough is hoping to avoid going to court to fill the seat “because that could take some time and money.”

Even though Scott won a four-year term, the person who is appointed to replace him will only be able to serve two years, after which they will have to run for the remainder of the term, Lechman said.

Anyone interested in serving on council should submit a letter of interest to the municipality. The address is: North Irwin Town Hall, 21 Second St., North Irwin, PA 15642.

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