A New Year’s Eve party held at The Eureka in Houtzdale caused the commissioners to disagree over the appointment of owner Josh Berndt to the Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority.
At its reorganizational meeting Tuesday, the commissioners had two vacancies to fill on the CCRTA board.
The commissioners voted unanimously to appoint Susan Reed to the CCRTA board.
This left two applications from Berndt and Shannon Wolanski, general manager of Comfort Suites in DuBois, for the remaining open seat.
Commissioner Dave Glass made the motion to appoint Wolanski. However, Commissioner John Sobel made the motion to appoint Berndt because most of the board members are from the Clearfield and DuBois areas and this would give the southern part of the county representation.
Sobel said he doesn’t object to Wolanski being on the board.
“Personally I would like to see someone from the Moshannon Valley on the board,” Sobel said.
Glass said he likes what Berndt has done in Houtzdale but doesn’t think he should serve on the board because he held a large New Year’s Eve party.
“I can’t in good conscience vote for somebody who defied (COVID-19 mitigation) orders and held a big New Year’s Eve Party publicly,” Glass said.
Scotto said doesn’t know what happened at the party because he wasn’t there, but he spoke to Berndt and he said the party was only for friends and family and they followed all the CDC guidelines.
Glass said Berndt brought this on himself because he advertised the party on Facebook.
“We are talking about putting someone on the tourism board. We are talking about putting out a good face, not not just for our county but to those people who want to visit this county,” Glass said. “We want people to represent our area.”
“If he hadn’t done this I would be voting for him,” Glass said.
Scotto said it wasn’t a wise decision for Berndt to hold the party, but he said Berndt told him he followed all the CDC guidelines.
Scotto added, “I’m not the police, I’m not here to judge him. And I think the work that he has done in Houtzdale is commendable and I think he would be a good member for the board.”
Sobel said he and Scotto respect and understand Glass’s opinion on the matter.
Berndt was appointed on a 2-1 vote with Sobel and Scotto voting in favor and Glass voting in opposition.
Berndt said in a telephone interview with The Progress that the event was a private party for friends and family. Berndt said he followed all CDC guidelines, everyone’s temperature was taken before they were allowed to enter the building, they had masks and hand sanitizer and the tables were spread out for social distancing.
He said the party lasted five hours and a total of 28 people attended and doesn’t believe there were more than 10 people in the building at any one time.
When asked if he charged admission to the party, Berndt said he did in order to offset some of the cost. He likened it to holding a party and asking friends to chip in to help pay for some of the cost.
“I can assure you I spent a lot more money than what my friends chipped in,” Berndt said.
When asked about advertising the party on Facebook, Berndt said he only sent the ad to people he knew.
“I didn’t invite the world,” Berndt said.
The event, advertised as “Race into 2021 at The Eureka” on its own Facebook event page, began to be advertised on Dec. 5. The event featured live music and food and was a BYOB event due to state liquor laws.
The page stated that temperature and ID checks would be conducted at the door and no one under 21 or with a temperature over 100.4 would be permitted.
Tickets were available online and at the door, as per the event’s page.
Numerous photos of the event were posted on Jan. 3 with no attendees wearing masks.
Berndt said he held the party because the pandemic has been difficult for a lot of people, especially his friends who own businesses and he wanted to have a night of “decent normalcy” while still being safe.