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Two New Members Set to Join State College Borough Council on Monday

by on January 06, 2014 6:55 AM

Two new members will join State College Borough Council during a reorganization meeting Monday afternoon.

Newly-elected council members Evan Myers and Theresa Lafer will formally join the board at noon on Monday. The two were elected to the board in November.

Myers, the Chief Operating Officer at AccuWeather and former borough Planning Commission chairman, says he has several goals he'd like to accomplish while serving on council.

First, Myers says he wants to see the borough's neighborhoods become more vibrant.

"I'm a proponent of strong and sustainable neighborhoods and I think there are a number of things we can do to make that a reality," he says.

Myers says sustainability can be reached by supporting the State College Community Land Trust, an organization that works to increase home ownership through affordable housing initiatives.

Additionally, Myers says he wants to see improved connections for biking and walking between neighborhoods, downtown and campus, as well as enhanced community parks and shopping.

Myers also wants to hear more from residents. He says elected and appointed officials need more input from citizens when it comes to planning and development for the borough.

Finally, Myers wants to see the relationship between the borough and university strengthened.

"I don't think it's been functioning as it should be. We need to build on the strengths of each other," he says. "I'm not blaming Penn State or borough officials ... I don't think there's blame. I just think we need to work together."

He points to the gas pipeline Penn State is installing as part of a project to convert the West Campus Steam Plant from coal to gas. The conversion of the steam plant caused controversy in the State College community with many residents raising concerns about potential dangers. As a result, Penn State agreed to spend nearly $10 million to move the pipeline so that it runs through campus and not the borough.

"I have certainly been opposed to the gas pipeline and I think the university should have, and still should, explore moving the power plant out of downtown," Myers says. "I don't think it belongs there. That's not what the trend is today. They're usually built outside of town ... I believe there still is a safety issue there. I think that needs to be looked at."

When it comes to the borough's finances, Myers says he wants officials to look at revenue streams beyond a tax increase. In December, council was set to approve a real estate tax increase to balance the 2014 budget, but threw the measure out at the last minute.

"I'm not opposed to raising taxes if there's a fundamental reason to do that. 'We haven't raised taxes in awhile' isn't a reason ... Other resources need to be explored before you raise them," says Myers.

One new source of revenue, he says, will be the proposed downtown development project, known as the Metropolitan, which includes three levels of underground parking, one level of retail and restaurant space, one level of office space, seven floors of student housing and two floors of general occupancy housing.

Myers believes the project will increase revenue and jobs for State College.

"There are ways to raise revenue without raising property taxes," he says.

Myers has served on the board of directors at AccuWeather since 1976. Other experience includes on-air meteorologist. He also served on the Consolidation Study Commission and Downtown Strategic Plan Committee.

Also joining council on Monday is Lafer. When reached by phone Friday, Lafer declined to be interviewed.

Lafer previously served on council between 2008 and 2012. She is employed as an adjunct professor and staff member at Penn State, according to her LinkedIn page. She has also served as a member of the State College Community Land Trust.

She has a master's degree in higher education administration from Penn State. She also has a master's degree in medieval history and sociology from The State University of New York-Binghamton.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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