Newry council shrinks board to 3 members

Borough had trouble filling five-seat panel

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Keeping five members on Newry Borough Council has become difficult, so council secured approval Monday to reduce its governing body to three members.

Because council has been operating with two vacant seats, the change is effectively immediately, solicitor Michael Emerick said outside the courtroom where Blair County Judge Wade Kagarise signed council’s request for the reduction.

An immediate benefit, Emerick said, is that it changes the quorum to transact business from three to two members.

So if one of the current three members is absent from a council meeting, the two who are present have the power to vote on bill payments and to conduct business that would otherwise remain on hold.

“We’ve been dealing with this for quite a while now,” Newry Borough President Mike Seno said of repeated attempts to keep five people on borough council. “It’s been like a turnstile.”

Seno, his wife, Ann, and borough resident Richard Giarth currently serve on what’s supposed to be a five-member council. The two vacant seats were last held by Donald Gonsman, who died in September, and Brian Price, who resigned because of illness, Seno said.

Blair County election records show no candidates filed petitions earlier this year to seek their party’s nomination for council seats. That means write-in votes will be the determining factor in deciding who wins the November election when two seats, ones held by Mike Seno and Ann Seno, are up for grabs because they’re finishing four-year terms, while Giarth will have two more years remaining on his four-year term.

In the petition filed with the county court, Emerick said the borough has 129 registered voters among its 266 residents, as reflected in a 2017 census population report.

The state’s borough code, Emerick told Kagarise, allows councils to be reduced to five or three members in boroughs of fewer than 3,000 residents.

With Kagarise’s approval, Newry becomes the only borough in Blair County operating with three council members. It’s also the county’s smallest borough, confined within three square miles.

Monday’s hearing to consider reducing Newry Bor­ough Council to three members was advertised in the Mirror and in the Blair County Legal Journal.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.