Council honors four firefighters, Miller for their service to the community

PUNXSUTAWNEY — A Punxsutawney Borough Police officer was awarded the "key to the city," and four members of the Punxsutawney Fire Department were honored for their years of service upon their retirement at Monday's Punxsutawney Borough Council meeting.

"Punxsutawney Borough Police Officer Ryan Miller was given the coveted 'key to the city' for his heroic act when he jumped onto a suspect who had an explosive device attached to his body," said James T. Wehrle, mayor of Punxsutawney Borough.

Wehrle said he presented Officer Miller with the key because he placed the lives and safety of the citizens of Punxsutawney above his own.

Miller thanked Wehrle, Police Chief Tom Fedigan and council for recognizing him with the "key to the city."

Wehrle also honored Raymond Tinker and John Wolfe — who have retired from the Central Fire Department — and William P. Wolfe and William Phillips — who retired from the Lindsey Fire Company — with proclamations that proclaimed Monday as their day, honoring them for their years of service in Punxsutawney.

Bryan Smith, Punxsutawney Fire Department chief, also thanked each of the retiring members for their years of service to the department.

Larry Chenoga, council president, said that he feels any member of the fire department should be honored upon retirement, regardless of how many years of service they put in.

"The fire department is our first line of defense in emergency situations," Chenoga said, adding that when there's a major storm, firefighters are the first ones out clearing the streets from the damage caused by the trees that have fallen and assisting with keeping the public away from fallen power lines.

"The same for (members of) our police department, who risk their lives to protect our community on a daily basis," he said. "As far as I am concerned they deserve a big thank you from the entire community."

Also, at Monday's meeting, council:

• Approved a request to vacate Farmer's Alley located between McDonald's and the Punxsy Hotel parking lot.

Jay Lundy, borough solicitor, said before final approval can take place there are numerous things that need to occur. For example, a public hearing needs to be scheduled.

"I'm not sure if there are any utility easements that are needed prior to vacating the alley," Lundy said.

Ben White, borough manager, said there is an existing sewer line located beneath the alley that those who want the alley closed want to build over, and that issue will need to be addressed.

• Approved a request to use Barclay Square made by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle for Groundhog Day Feb. 1 through Feb. 3, 2013.

• Approved a request by the Punxsutawney Central Fire Department to designate six labeled parking spaces in the Civic Center parking lot for fire department personnel only. The spaces requested were the first six from the curb on Front Street to the corner of the fire department building.

Chenoga said the spaces are needed especially when there is an activity going on in Barclay Square.

If the spaces are all taken that would slow the response of firefighters in the time of an emergency, as they would not be able to find a space to park, he said.

Council agreed that the spaces should be designated with signage and also the lines should be painted red to bring more attention to those spaces.