KNOX - Knox Borough Council members Feb. 3 engaged in preliminary discussions on potential changes to the borough's annual Horsethief Days festival, namely allowing outdoor alcoholic beverage consumption during the event.
Council vice-president Linda Runyan said the topic had been broached during a recent Horsethief Committee meeting, and it was decided thereafter further conversation should take place at the next council meeting.
Council president Jack Bish said the idea of allowing alcoholic beverage consumption by Horsethief attendees centered on bolstering turnout to the festival's musical acts, which has seen decreasing numbers in past years.
"I think the whole justification was they (the Horsethief committee) thought since we have zero attendance at the music events, people would be more willing to come out and listen to the music if they were able to have a drink on Main Street," said Bish.
During the meeting, council members reviewed copies of an ordinance previously enacted by Shippensburg Borough allowing alcohol consumption under certain conditions during special events, including a similar festival held there.
According to Bish, Shippensburg's ordinance does possess safeguards which protect against public intoxication, a component council members said Knox would implement if an ordinance there was looked into further.
"It would have to be some sort of super exception for them," said Bish of the Shippensburg ordinance's permissions for special events. "It still doesn't supersede being drunk and stumbling around. You're only allowed to have one drink and it has to be in unbreakable (open) containers."
The times and dates allowing alcoholic beverage consumption during the event could be designated by the Knox council, which would likely only fall on a Friday or Saturday night when music is expected to be scheduled.
The festival is slated to take place Aug. 15 through Aug. 22.
According to borough legal counsel John Marshall, Shippensburg's ordinance specifically relates to allowing consumption at the discretion of the borough. It could conceivably prohibit public consumption outside of explicitly assigned events and boundaries, along with the selected dates and times.
"This just has to do with when they're on the sidewalk or street walking, then it designates when they're allowed an open container when they're in a public place," said Marshall.
Council member Carl Salser asked if a scenario could exist where the borough could be held liable if some sort of consumption-related incident were to occur during the festival.
"I don't see why there would be," said Marshall. "All you would be saying is if you're walking in town carrying an alcoholic beverage in an open container, then it will be permissible between these dates and times. You're not in any way supplying it or authorizing them being intoxicated."
Bish agreed, noting consent for consumption would not give attendees free reign to become inebriated.
Knox Borough Police Chief Jason Bowen said public intoxication would be dealt with as it would any other time.
Salser also asked Marshall if he knew of any other municipalities in Clarion County that have made similar exceptions for such events. Marshall through his review of ordinances for other municipalities he represents, he had not found any exceptions in the area.
No official action was taken toward the matter. Council is expected to revisit the topic during next month's meeting at 7 p.m. March 2.
Skateboards and bikes during car show
Runyan told council the Horsethief committee also needed guidance on how the borough could curb the use of skateboards, bikes, scooters etc. during the festival's car show.
"Last year we had a lot of trouble with the bicycle and skateboard riders who were riding around the cars at the car show," Runyan said. "If you know anything about antique cars, that's a no-no."
Runyan went on to say the idea of the committee purchasing and erecting signs barring the use of skateboards and bikes on East State Street and Main Street was brought up during a previous committee meeting
Marshall said he believed if signs were erected there, Bowen would have the power to enforce them as temporary traffic restrictions. Marshall added he would have to do some more research on the enforceability.
"That was the issue they brought up; there aren't any signs (restricting bike/skateboard use)," said Bowen regarding an incident which occurred during last year's event. "I think it's like a no trespassing sign. If it's up, you can say there's your sign, either leave or we'll deal with you accordingly."
Marshall noted limiting traffic to pedestrians and those requiring a wheelchair or other handicap-use vehicle would seem to be a good idea.
"Well, we've got until August to figure it out," said Bish.
lCouncil approved advertising for sale by bid the Boy Scout Troop hall located on Petrolia Street. The Boy Scout Troop 56 in Knox was dissolved around March 2016 and the hall has not been in use since.
Marshall said he put together a proposed bid package available to interested bidders at the borough office. The minimum bid is $10,000.
An open house of the building will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. April 17. The borough will accept bids until 4 p.m. May 4. The bids will then be opened during the council's meeting at 7 p.m. the same night.
lBowen was sworn-in as the borough's new chief of police at a salary of $40,040. Bowen will enter his second stint as chief, replacing Joab Orr who resigned to seek employment elsewhere.
lCouncil member Tom Goble noted construction in the Knox Public Library's basement is continuing. The library board also approved the installation of LED lights inside the building at its last meeting.