More magical mischief in Bellevue

WizardVue Two kicked off last Saturday morning with a performance by Colonel Eagleburger's Highstepping Goodtime Band. The up-tempo band, formed six years ago, performs throughout the Pittsburgh area. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

The magical forces that turned Bellevue into “WizardVue” last Saturday may have had some unfortunate mind-clouding side effects. The Harry Potter-themed festival has been the subject of heated discussion by Bellevue Council over the last few weeks, and continued to be front and center at Tuesday’s council meeting as officials expressed frustration that their directives had not been followed.

Their frustration grew due to the absence of two people who may have been able to answer some of council’s questions. Director of administrative services Ron Borczyk did not attend the council meeting, nor did Mayor Emily Marburger, who rallied the Friends of Bayne Library, a private nonprofit organization, to be the sponsor and beneficiary of the event.

In an attempt to avoid nearly $10,000 in costs billed to the borough following the first festival last August, council approved WizardVue Two on the condition that Marburger and the Friends supply plans and financial reports, and that there be no cost to the borough. Just days after council expressed concern that adequate reports had not been received, Marburger personally had the borough’s public works crew cover the “Live, Worship, Shop” sign that marks the Route 65 entrance to Bellevue.

In response, council voted two weeks ago to bill the Friends of Bayne Library for the cost of putting up the sign, as well as the cost of having the DPW remove it within 24 hours of the festival. The sign was not removed until Monday, however.

“Our motion was very clear,” said council member Glenn Pritchard.

“Our instructions were flippantly not carried out,” said council member Jodi Hause.

There was some confusion over whether council’s directive was ever communicated to the DPW, a question that could not be answered with Borczyk absent from the meeting.

Council also discovered that the borough’s emergency management plan had been put into effect despite the fact that Police Chief Matt Sentner had told council previously that it would not be used this year. Pritchard said that the protocol was not fully implemented, as the whole idea of the plan was to involve all first responders, and in this case only the police department seemed to be aware of what was going on. Pritchard said that some borough employee had to be in charge of implementing the plan last Saturday, and that Bellevue would be paying the personnel costs whether or not they were ever identified as being related to WizardVue.

The plan also resulted in Bellevue renting two golf carts at a cost of $435. Council member Anya Pikul said that a representative of the Friends had agreed that the group would pay for the carts.

“Why are we the middleman?” Pritchard asked. Council member Linda Woshner asked what would happen if the Friends did not have enough money to cover the rental cost. There were no answers to those questions, but council refused to approve payment for the cart rental.

Those who attended WizardVue may have noticed two Avalon Police officers in uniform and on patrol at the festival. Most of the expense billed to the borough last year came from the number of outside law enforcement officers brought in. Pikul said that Avalon would not be billing Bellevue for the two officers, because the neighboring borough owed Bellevue for the use of Bellevue officers.

Pritchard also said that DPW workers had been used as “personal aides” for the event, and had worked on tasks that were beyond the scope of their duties that day, such as setting up tables and chairs.

His primary question was how council could deal with situations in which its instructions were being ignored.

“We talk about it, but when push comes to shove, we back down,” Pritchard said.

Woshner said that council was going to have to adopt all kinds of regulations because of “one event that took advantage.”

The repercussions are already being felt. At the pre-council meeting two weeks ago, council granted permission for the YMCA to hang a banner across Lincoln Avenue at no cost to the borough. According to Volunteer Fire Company representative Jenn Slavicek, the YMCA had contacted the VFC about hanging the banner, as has been done in the past, but then called back to say the borough’s DPW had already hung the sign.