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Council meets on Lewistown refugee plan

Charity resettlement program contested by public

LEWISTOWN–The public bore a heavy presence at Monday night’s Lewistown Borough Council meeting. The refugee resettlement program discussed during the prior meeting was the topic of interest.

The program itself, is run by a Catholic charity that looks to resettle people coming from poor situations elsewhere in the world and tries to integrate them into communities within the state. The refugees would settle into the area closest to Nittany Paper, the company offering them employment upon arrival. These people would be taught the language and customs of the area in which they would be living.

The charity did not attend tonight’s meeting to give the public an update on the state of the program. They said they had not yet contacted important groups such as local school boards, Juniata Terrace and Granville Township officials to be better situated in the process.

Members of the community made their opinions on the plan known to the council during public comment. Jim Smith told the council, “Do your research on this.” Another member of the public, Matt Boyer, also revealed his thoughts on the program:

“They did this program in Lancaster. It has tripled the crime rate, tripled the burden on the tax payers… it is not a good scenario whatsoever. It will not work in this community. We are not wealthy enough to do this. We are going to suffer greatly. By doing this it will push us backwards instead of forward.”

Mayor Bargo added that she has spoken to mayors from both Chambersburg and Carlise about the similar programs they had in their area. “They are nothing but an asset to their borough. They are hard workers. They live in their community, and both had good things to say about it.”

The council is going to look at multiple aspects of the program before they can consider giving a legitimate answer.

In other business the council:

¯Approved the consent agenda.

¯Approved the buying of a police vehicle.

¯There is no Recreation Board meeting in December.

¯Approved to advertise the Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Ordinance.

¯Approved Street Sweeping Ordinance to include Harding Avenue on Street sweeping schedule.

¯Approved request from FAME to reppoint Debbie Bargo to FAME EMS Board of Directors for 2020.

¯Mark Sievers stated property tax will not increase in 2020

The Lewistown Borough Council will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 13, 2020, at the Lewistown Municipal Building, at which the refugee program discussion will be revisited.

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