Council silences siren for curfew

EBENSBURG – At a busy Monday evening meeting, Borough Council silenced its 10:45 p.m. fire siren, which for years had signaled curfew in Ebensburg.

Borough Manager Dan Penatzer said the issue was brought up in an email from a new resident, who suggested that – in the age of cellphones, where people can set personal alarms – the siren might be unnecessary, serving only to wake sleeping babies and agitate dogs.

“Personally, he feels we’re waking up people to tell them it’s 10:45 at night,” he said.

Some council members expressed nostalgia for the siren, with at least three noting that they “don’t even notice” the noise anymore, but all agreed the daily work required by the fire company to set off the siren was not needed.

But council was reluctant to do away with the longtime curfew, which was passed exactly 50 years ago Sunday.

The borough’s 1964 curfew ordinance states that it is unlawful for minors under age 18 “to be or remain in or upon any of the streets, alleys, parks or public places” in Ebensburg between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a parent or guardian.

The ordinance also allows police to take minors into custody for violating the ordinance to return them to their parents, while repeat offenders can be reported to the county’s Juvenile Court.

Borough Police Chief Terry Wyland said there’s only been a couple of serious curfew problems in his 30 years with the department, but said police use the curfew as a tool.

It serves a purpose, he said, but noted that every year there seems to be fewer children “running around late at night.”

Councilman Joe Lutz suggested the ordinance discourages delinquency and drug dealing by preventing teenagers from gathering.

Penatzer noted that state law allows teenagers to be on the road later than the curfew, and said council might consider lowering the curfew age from 17 to 15.

Many said they would rather leave the ordinance as is.

According to PennDOT, junior license holders are not allowed behind the wheel between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they have a job or are performing charity or volunteer work.

Junior drivers can obtain an unrestricted license before age 18 if they take a driver’s education course and maintain a clean driving record for a year.

But Lutz said council should not eliminate a law-enforcement tool, even a seldom-used one.

“They can drive,” he said, “but the congregation is what we’re worried about.”