Hollidaysburg eyes party houses

Borough ordinance would crack down on ‘disorderly’ homes

HOLLIDAYSBURG — In an effort to give officers more power to police party houses and other “disorderly” homes, Borough Council moved Thursday to advertise a new ordinance.

“This was an ordinance that I feel was necessary for us to address,” Police Chief Rodney Estep said.

Estep said his officers are occasionally hung up by existing rules, which include a “fairly large gap” between enforcement inside and outside of homes.

The goal of the proposed ordinance is to provide harsher punishments for owners and occupants of homes that generate a large number of police complaints.

“When we have a house that … causes us issues, we have problems with addressing those issues efficiently,” Estep said. “We have this throughout the borough … and our hands really have become tied.”

Estep told council members that he researched disorderly house ordinances that exist in other area communities, including Roaring Spring, Williamsburg and Altoona.

Those ordinances can be used to combat “a multitude of things around drinking and partying,” Estep said, explaining that is true both inside and outside of problem homes.

At that, Councilman Mark Shawley asked Estep to clarify that the ordinance would not give officers power to simply enter a problem home without a reason.

Estep said that is correct.

“You still have to have probable cause,” he said.

“Our police department, we handle things very professionally. We are going to give people a warning,” Estep continued. “These are for the circumstances in which we can’t control it through our normal measures.”

To create the new ordinance, it first must be advertised for adoption, borough solicitor Nathan Karn said.

But first, Councilman Sean Burke asked that the proposed ordinance be rewritten to eliminate unnecessary and confusing terms, specifically a passage, which makes it a “violation to be an occupant of any common ill-governed.”

Burke said he was unsure what the term “common ill-governed” meant. Others in attendance did not have the answer.

There also was discussion about how large fines could become for repeated disorderly house offenders, with Councilman Jeff Ketner suggesting a maximum of $1,000.

Karn said $1,000 would not be lawful, and that a cap would exist at $600.

Council members eventually voted unanimously to advertise the new ordinance, with the language revisions and a maximum fine of $600.

They will have to vote on adoption at a later meeting.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.