HARMONY — Safety concerns for Harmony's Christmas Market in November became a point of contention at Tuesday night's borough council meeting.
The market, held Nov. 10 and 11, was well-attended and enjoyed, according to Gwen Lutz, event organizer and Harmony Museum vice president.
But Lutz said there were issues with the performance of the on-duty police.
Lutz said the officers were late to the event and “when they did get there and finally closed down traffic, every time I looked up on Main Street there was another car going through.”
Although there were no accidents, Lutz said it “sent me into a panic like I've seldom been in before.”
She also said a tractor trailer passed by “within inches” of a horse and buggy with children and families aboard.
Lutz said she provided informational packets to the officers working at the event, but “evidently none of them read it” because two tractor trailers drove through the crowds during the Nov. 11 market.
In addition to tardiness and letting unapproved traffic through, Lutz said she found police on foot, rather than “at their stations.”
At the top of Lutz's issues with the force, however, was the $1,200 bill that the museum had to pay for two days of police assistance.
Lutz said in previous years the museum paid $300 for traffic control. But this was when the fire police were in charge at the event, she said. Lutz said the museum accepted the bill and was not looking for a rebate, but hoped to resolve some of these issues before next year's market.
Zelienople Police Chief Jim Miller, who attended the council meeting, responded to Lutz's concerns.
“You can't restrict the trucks on the street because you didn't close the street off, legally,” Miller said. “You have to have them be able to access their facility.”
Miller said people have a right to get to their properties, and if a street is shut down, there needs to be enough notice to provide a detour, so they are still able to get to their destinations.
“It's a public street,” Miller said. “You just can't arbitrarily shut a street down, unless you have approval.”
Miller said he wasn't sure how the event was handled in the past, but that there wasn't enough information ahead of time to execute the role Lutz expected them to fill at the market. “We were given no information ahead of time,” Miller said. “They just said to show up. That's all we did.”
Lutz called the officers' performance “really irresponsible,” and also asked the council if it would be possible to have volunteers direct traffic next year instead. Don Sims, council vice president, said council would discuss options with Miller.