HARMONY — A contentious discussion about an issue at November’s Christmas Market included potential solutions and some continued finger-pointing at Tuesday night’s borough council meeting.
The safety concerns from the Nov. 10 and 11 market days were first brought up at the Jan. 8 council meeting when Gwen Lutz, Harmony Christmas Market’s event organizer and museum vice president, said there were issues with the performance of Zelienople police officers, citing tardiness and lack of traffic control.
Lutz was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, but state Constable Mike Cornell, who volunteers on Harmony’s parks board, spoke about Harmony’s Silvester celebration, which required police assistance for traffic control.
“The officers this year had apparently received instructions to just close the roads,” Cornell said of traffic control during the event’s races. “They were not receptive to any direction from us during the event — and I don’t mean to put them down. They were apparently doing what they were told to do, but there seems to be a disconnect.”
Council President Greg Such said it’s “obvious we have a little bit of growing pains” since the fire police were disbanded and the job shifted to Zelienople police.
Such suggested meeting in advance with police to coordinate future events better.
To further address these concerns, Zelienople Police Chief Jim Miller presented the board with a new event form for police coverage.
Harmony Mayor Cathy Rape said she was concerned that the form’s rigidity and specific plans might not allow for appropriate responses to something unexpected happening.
The form includes a required submission of the number of officers needed within 30 days of the event and a traffic and safety plan submitted two weeks before the event.
“Whatever you want next time, it needs to be in writing,” Miller said. “They’re only going to follow orders of what they’re told by the supervisors. You tell me what you want to do and I’ll make sure it happens.”
Miller also said it was “strange” that it took a while for these issues to be addressed because the market was held in November, but problems weren’t mentioned to the council until January.
“Why does it take two months to hear about it?” he asked the council. “I didn’t hear a word from anybody for two months.”
Rodney Gasch, Historic Harmony president, said receiving the bill in the mail prompted more immediacy for finding a solution to the problems, while Miller countered that it became an issue because “nobody wanted to pay the bill.”
The next event in Harmony requiring police assistance is the Shamrock Shuffle, which will be hosted March 16 by the Zelienople Rotary Club. The event includes a half-marathon, 5K and one-mile fun run in Harmony, which will require traffic control.
The new form will need to be completed and a plan will have to be determined to receive police aid at the event.