Glen Rock council considers moving taps to borough park
- The Glen Rock Borough voted to suspend any violations for Joshua Corney, who plays taps nightly.
- The borough voted as a "good faith" measure while negotiations between the council and Corney continue.
Nightly taps will continue in Glen Rock borough for now.
During its Tuesday night meeting, the borough council unanimously voted — as a "good faith" measure — to suspend outstanding violations against Joshua Corney while negotiations between the borough and Corney continue.
Corney, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, had been playing taps from speakers from his Glen Avenue home for about two years. It played for 57 seconds at 8 p.m.
Some residents complained about the music, and during the borough council's June 21 meeting, the members voted to limit the music to Sundays and selected holidays.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania threatened litigation against the borough, and the council then allowed Corney to play taps from his home at the same volume which he used to play.
Meeting: The council met at the Glen Rock EMS building, and attendance was limited to media and residents of the borough. The room was packed with about 100 people, and about a dozen of them spoke.
During the meeting, Council President Doug Young said the council had just finished an executive session in which the council spoke with Corney and his attorney — Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU — about a potential solution.
Young said something that was discussed is moving taps to the Glen Rock Park.
"It moves the source of the sound away from the complainants," he said.
Additionally, Young mentioned that there were talks about getting a plaque at the site to explain the significance of taps and that the American Legion might get involved.
"There's a lot of positive aspects to this proposal, and there's a lot of work to do," he said.
Young said the council is hopeful that there will be a solution soon. After the meeting, Walczak said a decision might not be made for a couple of weeks.
For taps: Kayla Lehigh, who lives near Corney, told the council the music doesn't bother her, saying it isn't "intrusive or loud."
She said she went around to many of her neighbors to sign a petition asking the council to allow Corney to resume playing taps nightly.
"Every single person in my community is for taps — and I think that says a lot," she said.
Lehigh said she gathered 563 signatures in support of the music, which she said is more than the amount of people who voted in the last borough election.
Glenn Engler, another neighbor of Corney's, said playing taps is a good way to honor the people who served in the military.
He mentioned that on July 4 he listened to the music outside Corney's home and that even children stopped what they were doing when the music played.
"This is how we teach, this is how we learn," Engler said.
He said Corney's music wasn't a "noise" or "nuisance."
"It is a proud display of respect, which we all ought to share," Engler said.
Against taps: Becky Thomason and her adult son Scott Thomason addressed the council during Tuesday's meeting. Becky Thomason, the second person to complain, said her husband, who has Parkinson's, gets irritated by how loudly the music is played.
Becky Thomason contended it was never about the music playing nightly but rather the volume at which it played.
Thomason, who has family in the military, said at first she didn't mind the music, but eventually it became louder.
"I was taken aback — this was not 'Fort Glen Rock,'" she said.
She said she in no way wanted to stop Corney from playing nightly. She said her family feels like "pariahs" for complaining.
Becky Thomason said she and her husband are members of the American Legion. Now, she said, she's not sure if they're welcome there.
Becky Thomason also said she was in favor of the council's previous decision because it still allowed Corney to play about 60 times a year.
Scott Thomason, who is in the Navy, told the crowd he once experienced an accident while on duty, and he almost died. He said he went into a coma.
Scott Thomason said had he died, he certainly wouldn't want someone honoring him by playing music the way Corney does.
He also said that if Corney were to continue playing taps as he does, it will open a "Pandora's Box," in which anyone can play anything at any volume.
He mentioned that he would be allowed to play his music, Bach and the Rolling Stones, from his house.
"Mr. Corney, do you have the contact number for the ACLU?" he said. "I might need it."
Motorcycle rally: As the council met Wednesday, a rally was held by motorcyclists from around the area at the Freedom Armory in support of Corney.
Ryan Walton, of Carroll County, Maryland, helped organize the event. The retired service member said he grew up in the Dover area.
Walton said he was living out of his car last summer when he drove through Glen Rock and heard taps playing.
"I didn't know it came from Josh's place," he said.
Walton said he was in a "bad state" when he heard the song, and that it helped turn his life around.
"It was my sign," he said.
Background: During the borough council's June 21 meeting, the council voted to limit the music to Sundays and selected holidays. Corney, who was a councilman at the time, was not present during the meeting because of surgery.
He resigned about a week later but declined to say why he was resigning.
On July 5, the ACLU of Pennsylvania threatened to sue the borough if the council continued to enforce its decision. The ACLU sent a letter to Young and asked the borough to come up with a resolution by 5 p.m. July 7.
The ACLU issued a statement saying that other noises — such as lawnmowers, church bells, concerts and vehicles — that are louder and longer than taps are allowed by the borough. By censoring Corney's music, the borough is violating the First Amendment, the ACLU said.
Walczak said last week that the borough would allow Corney to resume playing taps nightly at no louder than he played it previously.
Corney began playing taps nightly again on July 10.
After Tuesday's meeting, Walczak and Southern Regional Police Chief James Boddington said there were threats coming from people online.
On Friday, Corney and the borough released a statement regarding the issues related to the nightly playing of taps at Corney's residence.
The two said they would like to address the threats to the community, themselves and local businesses.
The release stated they are asking for an "end to the threats, vandalism, intimidation, hateful discord and references to violence," to allow safe discussion of the taps issue without "fear of reprisal or retaliation."
"Such threats of violence are contrary to what we are all trying to achieve, and they distract from the process of coming to a positive resolution of the matter for the entire community that will allow us all to honor our fallen veterans," the release reads in part.
The next Glen Rock Borough Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 9.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.