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Public Hearing for 'Paterno Way' Proposal Expected in September

on March 20, 2012 7:58 AM

A public hearing on the proposed renaming of Park Avenue for Joe Paterno is tentatively scheduled for September, State College Borough Council President Don Hahn said Monday.

The hearing will be held jointly by the borough and College Township, Hahn said at a regular meeting. He said a specific date hasn't been established.

But the gathering also will solicit public input on additional public naming ideas to honor the late Penn State football coach, Hahn said. Specifics on that front have yet to be ironed out.

Hahn said he and Dave Fryer, the College Township Council president, think the start of football season would be an ideal time "to reflect on Coach Paterno's contributions to our community."

Paterno, 85, died Jan. 22 of complications from lung cancer.

Fryer and Hahn met recently to discuss the naming question. A petition drive led through WBUS (93.7 FM -- "The Bus") has gained more than 7,000 signatures in support of renaming much of Park Avenue as "Paterno Way." The signatures represent supporters from across the country, many of them living locally.

The roadway, at the northern border of University Park, passes through the borough and College Township. Authority to change its name appears to rest with township and borough council members.

Both elected bodies have appeared willing to entertain the concept. Hahn said the hearing in September should include representation from the state Department of Transportation and from Penn State.

The university has yet to decide whether or how it may newly attach the Paterno name to anything on campus. It's awaiting the outcome of an internal investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, hired to look into the circumstances surrounding child sexual abuse and a cover-up alleged by state prosecutors.

Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, 68, of College Township, is charged with 52 criminal counts in the abuse case. Former university administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are charged with perjury and failure to report. All three men have maintained that they are innocent.

University board members fired Paterno in the wake of the criminal charges, saying they believe he committed failures of leadership.

Freeh's report may not be complete until late 2012. Borough Council member Ron Filippelli said he would like that report to be complete before municipal officials begin any kind of public-property naming process to recognize Paterno.

Hahn, however, said he does not see the completion of the Freeh report as a prerequisite. The Sandusky matter "deals with a small and sad part of his career and his legacy," Hahn said of Paterno.

"For me, it's a question not of whether to honor (Paterno), but what's the best way to do so," he said.

Hahn said the borough and College Township will form a planning committee to arrange the joint hearing. The committee will include two council members and the municipal manager from each municipality.

Elected officials are expected to talk more in the coming weeks about the timing of the hearing.

A C-NET recording of Borough Council's Monday meeting is embedded below. Among other matters reviewed at the meeting:

  • Council members heard from Cathi Alloway, the Schlow Centre Region Library director. She said the library receives $120,000 less annually in state funding than it did five years ago. The proposed budget now circulating in Harrisburg would cut another five percent of the library's state support. Alloway is asking municipal officials to help the library protest the proposed reduction.
  • This year marks the fifth anniversary of State College's having declared itself a Climate Action Community, borough arborist Alan Sam said. He said a local sustainability fair is in the works for Sept. 8. A borough sustainability committee also is working to adjust the borough's sustainability goals, Sam said.
  • Mayor Elizabeth Goreham made two proclamations. One sets 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. March 31 as Earth Hour in State College, part of an international awareness effort concerning climate change. Borough residents are asked to turn off their lights for the hour. The other proclamation lists April 21 as Watershed Cleanup Day, part of a Clearwater Conservancy effort.

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