Opera house purchase helps Resiliency Project move ahead

MUNCY — A meeting that began with an admonition from a borough resident for council to “step up and take ownership” of the Mozley Opera House ended three hours later with council voting 4-3 to begin the process of doing just that.

Voting in favor of the measure were Edward Feigles, Linda Stein, Matilda Noviello and Dana Bertin. Opposed were Karen Richards, Elaine McAlear and Council President Richard Baker.

The acquisition of the historic building is slated to be part of the Muncy Resiliency Project and is projected to serve as a resiliency center. Council voted at last month’s meeting to adopt a resolution endorsing the Greater Muncy Area Resiliency.

The motion for Borough Manager Bill Ramsey to begin to take steps necessary for the borough to take ownership of the property, by donation from the Brook estate, was reached after much back and forth between the two sides.

Initially the subject had been brought up by Muncy resident Jeff Smead who urged council to not let the opportunity “slip through your fingers.”

“This is something we cannot pass up,” he said. He also added that there was tremendous support in the community for the project.

Smead, who left midway through the meeting, was backed up by other residents who also were in attendance.

“There is a ton of support,” Selinda Kennedy said. “It’s very exciting, something you just have to go for it.”

At issue for those opposed was who would be responsible for the building until a foundation could be established, which is the eventual plan for the operation of the center.

“We have an obligation to all the residents,” Richards argued. “We have to be prudent.”

She further argued that the building would have to be appraised and improvements made.

“What’s inside doesn’t matter,” Feigles countered, “everything inside is coming out.” He also stressed that the borough would not have any expense, beyond providing insurance for the property, until the proposed foundation would take over the building.

“We don’t have to make improvements on our dime,” Feigles said.

The real issue, according to those in favor, was whether the borough was willing to take ownership for two to three years until the foundation takes over and if the foundation doesn’t, then the borough can sell the property.

“Someone needs to get it out of private hands,” Feigles said. “We’re buying it to preserve it.”

In a related topic, council said the Department of Community and Economic Development had awarded the borough resiliency plan a $250,000 grant. Although the money has not been received as yet due to budgetary procedures, according to Feigles, “It’s there, it’s ours.”

Another topic of discussion for the evening was police coverage.

Again, Smead initially addressed council about the issue in regards to the recent loss of a full-time police officer. He argued that he thinks borough residents are not in favor of replacing a full-time officer with a part-time one.

“Law enforcement on the cheap will not cut it,” he said.

Police Chief James Dorman told council that it is difficult to schedule so many part-time employees because most have other jobs. Another difficulty is that the department supplies the school district with a school resource officer during the school year, which takes him away from the borough during that time.

Another resident voiced her concerns about just hiring part-time officers.

“We don’t live in Mayberry anymore, we have bigger issues,” she said. “I understand your thinking and what you’re trying to do, but another full-time officer would invest in the town.”

Council agreed to form a committee to meet with Dorman to work on a solution to the problem.

In other business, council rescinded a motion made last month to purchase a dump truck for the public works department. It also voted to restrict turns and to post the necessary signage on Plum and McCarty alleys alerting residents to the traffic change.

Council approved the Muncy Police Department Bargaining Unit Contract with revisions pending ratification by the police.

Council approved by resolution the following appointments:

• Betty Baker to the Historic Commission for a five-year term.

• Carolyn Phillips to the MBMA for a five-year term.

• Selinda Kennedy to the Shade Tree Commission for a five-year term. Council also accepted Kennedy’s resignation from the zoning hearing board.

Feigles declined the position as chairman of the planning commission.

In a report on the Main/Water Streets project, Ramsey told council the project is being taken over by the state Department of Transportation. He noted that because the borough bought the former Myers Auto Parts store and demolished it, PennDOT has informed him the borough will not have to provide matching funds for the project.

“This is good news,” he said, “but it will take awhile.”

In anticipation of the borough’s annual yard sale on May 6, council agreed to give $150 for advertising to Brandy Kift, organizer of the event.

The next meeting of council will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at borough hall.