LAWRENCEVILLE, Pa. (WETM) – Tensions remain high in Lawrenceville Borough in regards to the council leadership, prompting the community of 600 to draft a petition demanding the resignation of multiple council members.
In the July 5 monthly council meeting—which played out similarly to the June meeting, full of applause, anger, and calls for resignation—the community presented the council with the news that a petition had been signed, demanding council president Gordon Chilson and council member Robert Penzone resign.
18 News obtained a blank copy of the petition, which accused Chilson and Penzone of failing to “properly and successfully manage the Borough’s business”. It further claimed the two have “negatively impacted [Lawrenceville’s] reputation in the eyes of Pennsylvania” surrounding boroughs.
The community claimed over 100 people have signed the petition, which was reportedly sent to multiple public officials at the local and state level. Tioga County Commissioner Erick Coolidge confirmed he received a copy of the petition, as did State Representative Clint Owlett. The office of State Senator Chris Dush confirmed it was aware of the petition but hadn’t yet received it. Attorney General Shapiro’s Office was unable to confirm whether it had received the petition.
This mirrors other growing calls for Chilson and Penzone to resign from the Borough Council. Signs could be seen on lawns around the Borough calling for the resignation of both men.
All this comes just days before a hearing in the Tioga County Upper Common Pleas Court in regards to a Petition to Enforce filed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
On July 8, the courthouse in Wellsboro confirmed the hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on July 12 in Wellsboro. In a phone call on the same day, Chilson denied the hearing was happening at all.
Coolidge said that in failing to address the long list of violations from the DEP, Chilson is not living up to his responsibility as an elected official. He also commended the community’s response in drafting the petition.
“You can’t take an oath of office for granted,” Coolidge said. “I’ve had the privilege of taking it several times, and each time it means the same thing: I owe the public my best obligation to do my job. And if I’m not, I need to be called on it, and that’s what they’re doing with Mr. Chilson.”
“That oath of office has meaning,” Coolidge added. “You hold your hand up, and you swear to do your best and not misrepresent or mislead.”
Owlett said in part in a statement, “It’s always a good thing when people engage in their local government and I hope that those on town council will listen and take the communities’ concerns to heart.”
Lawrenceville Mayor Kris Davis, saying he works with the council daily to address the DEP violations, weighed in on the continuing drama in the Borough. He said he wants the community to know that the council isn’t ignoring the problems at hand.
“Every day is a step forward,” Davis said. “I think a lot of the people that are calling for this think we’re just sitting on our hands… Every day, every week we are talking and meeting and moving forward with it.”
Davis, who attends at the monthly council meetings but doesn’t vote to make decisions with the seven council members, said his priority is try to make the council work together. Plus, he added that the Borough is in a much better position than it was earlier this year, especially after hiring a secretary.
The DEP filed the Petition to Enforce in early June after the borough failed to address numerous violations concerning its Water and Sewer Treatment Plant, prompting the county Emergency Services, DEP, and Federal Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the plant and issue notices of violations.
On June 30, the Borough was again issued a notice that it had failed to hire a certified Water and Sewer operator by the June 9 deadline. Davis confirmed that as of July 8, the Borough had still not hired an operator after the last candidate didn’t have sufficient licenses.
Davis also expressed his own frustration with the DEP, saying the Borough has submitted the required operations, maintenance, and emergency response plans multiple times—most recently on July 7. However, the DEP has reportedly rejected the plans each time without providing a reason.
18 News will continue to follow any developments from Lawrenceville and provide updates as they become available.