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Potential security measures discussed for monthly borough council meetings

Published August 28. 2013 05:01PM

Lehighton Borough Council this week heard several suggestions on how security can be increased at meetings. Among them:

• Locking the doors when the meetings begin and not letting anyone inside the council room at that point.

• Pat-downs before entering meetings.

• Metal detectors.

None of these measures are expected to be implemented immediately. Pat-downs would likely be illegal, the borough's solicitor advised.

The discussion was initiated by Councilman Scott Rehrig, a retired state police trooper, who said the recent shooting at a meeting of the Ross Township Supervisors is evidence that such violence can occur anywhere.

On Aug. 5, three men were killed when a man feuding with Ross Township officials over conditions at his trash-filled property blasted his way into the municipal meeting.

He was identified as 59-year-old Rockne Newell, who indiscriminately fired shots as he barged into the meeting, authorities said. He left long enough to get another weapon from his car and continued firing upon returning until he was tackled by at least one person and shot with his own gun, police and witnesses said.

Ross Township is about 35 miles from Lehighton.

Rehrig said he is not only concerned about security during council meetings but also at borough offices in the municipal building.

"We have to have more stringent safety precautions in the building," he said.

Attorney James Nanovic, borough solicitor, said most municipal buildings lack security measures. Even the Carbon County Courthouse Annex has none.

Rehrig suggested that besides locking council doors when the meetings begin, that there be only one open entrance to the council meetings.

Attorney Nanovic said locking the doors isn't a good idea because it would prohibit people who are late from attending meetings.

Borough manager Nicole Beckett was instructed to investigate what security measures can be taken and report back to the council.

In other business:

• The council is giving consideration to purchasing a new police cruiser which would be equipped with a computer, camera, and locator device.

Because of the added equipment, one price estimate for such a cruiser is $57,091.

"It does cost a lot of money, but if we're going to have a police department, we're going to have to spend money to protect (the police officers) and protect us," Rehrig said.

He proposed the additional equipment on the new cruiser, stating, "I think we should go to the next level of police safety and police protection and do it," adding such accessories not only protect the police, but also protect the public.

No action was taken on the cruiser purchase.

• The council refused to renew a lease with Checkered Flag, which had been leasing a garage along Sgt. Stanley Hoffman Boulevard (Route 209).

Rehrig said, "My feeling is we're trying to make Stanley Hoffman a more appropriate place. Renewing (the lease) won't do it."

"We're trying to beautify the area," he said.

• Rehrig said he wants crosswalk signs painted at all locations where crossing guards are positioned.

• A letter was received from Michael Heery, president of the Lehighton Rotary Club. He said in the past years the borough council had a member representing the borough at Rotary meetings. That chair has been empty, Heery said.

Rehrig suggested that a member of the Rotary attend the monthly meetings of Lehighton Borough Council, whereby there is no annual membership fee.

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