Veto of anti-festival ordinance stands

Volant borough council failed to override three vetoed ordinances on Tuesday. 

This story has been updated.

The future of festivals in Volant became a little brighter Tuesday after borough council members failed to override a veto on an ordinance restricting the popular events.

In a two-hour virtual meeting, council members failed to override Mayor Ingrid Both-Hoesl’s veto on public events by a 4 to 3 vote. Council president Bob McGary and members Deb Lakin, Wayne Edwards and John Shaw voted in favor of the override while Howard Moss, Don Little and Tony Bevilacqua voted against. The council needed a supermajority — a majority plus one vote — to override veto.

The newly enacted restrictions would require a $1-million insurance policy and the city’s permission for any event drawing more than 25 people.

“I am not against the council. I am not against the merchants. I’m supposed to be objective,” Both-Hoesl said. “I’m trying to see both sides, but one thing that really bothers me and the reason why I vetoed this was because I saw no discussion.”

Before the vote, merchants and members of the public became increasingly angry when the council members wouldn’t answer their questions during the public comments portion of the meeting. McGary asked solicitor John DeCaro to weigh-in on whether council members had to respond to questions, and DeCaro explained they were not required to do so.

“That might be the procedure, but, to be honest, this makes people angry,” Both-Hoesl said. “That’s not good. When you got a problem, you gotta talk. This is like a marriage.”

After asking questions about the ordinances during her allotted time without receiving answers, Elaine Barlow, owner of Snowbirds Hideout, became upset.

“I’m done wasting my time with you,” she said. “I’ll see you in court.”

Christopher Papa, on behalf of nine merchants, filed a memorandum on Dec. 8 objecting to the ordinances.

Volant residents Glenn and Kim Smith spoke in favor of the ordinances by saying someone needed to be responsible for the festivals financially through insurance and otherwise because borough residents should not be tasked with the costs.

Although planning to do so earlier this month, Both-Hoesl did not resign her position as mayor. She cited unprofessionalism and bullying from borough council members and employees as the reason for her intended departure. During the meeting, Lakin told Both-Hoesl to “back off” while discussions continued before voting.

Little, who attended the virtual meeting from a hospital bed, told Lakin several times to stop being disrespectful at different points of the meeting including when she asked him why he didn’t clean the borough’s public bathrooms.

Council members voted to override vetoes on two other ordinances aimed at festivals — portable toilets and alcohol. The yes votes were McGary, Lakin, Edwards, Shaw, Bevilacqua and Moss. Little was the lone no vote. These two ordinances were not heavily opposed by the merchants. 

Although Bevilacqua and Moss voted in favor of the override, they believe the ordinances need to be amended.

Moss made a motion towards the end of the meeting to create to create a committee of three council members and three merchants to meet face-to-face to create a bridge of communication between the two groups. Moss proposed he, Bevilacqua and Shaw represent the council in the committee. Moss, Bevilacqua, Little and Shaw voted yes. McGary, Lakin and Edwards voted no.

“I think the only way you’re going to revolve these ordinances is to talk,” Shaw said. “I don’t know of any other way.”

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