Tunkhannock Borough Council heard from members of the community Thursday night regarding substance use disorder resources in the borough.
Merriel Oliver responded to backlash that her husband, Frank, received about a guest column in The Wyoming County Press Examiner, in which he questioned the Wyoming County Hope Coalition’s plans.
The Hope Coalition is an organization aimed at combating the opioid epidemic in Wyoming County.
She defended her husband’s inquiries about “obscure language” in the plans, availability of employment for individuals in recovery and possible economic impacts of the coalition’s goals.
Oliver also suggested the Hope Coalition practice transparency, openness and clarity of language and goals in addition to holding its meetings at a time where more people could attend.
“It’s a coalition of people in the community who want to coordinate all of our resources and make things better. If you make things better for people who are struggling with substance use disorder and their families, we’re going to have a better community,” Hope Coalition member Sandy Vieczorek responded.
“It’s certainly not meant to make anything harder or worse in this borough or this county. It’s a really concerted effort,” she added.
Barb Landon, who also advocates for substance abuse disorder treatment, said Trehab opened a wellness resource center in Susquehanna County last December, and plans to do the same on Warren Street in Tunkhannock.
She stressed that the center will not provide medication-assisted treatment.
“It’s a resource center for anyone who has mental health or drug and alcohol problems,” Landon said.
Besides counseling, resources such as GED, housing and employment help will be available.
“It’s not just for those individuals. It’s also for family members,” she said. “I’m a prime example. My son is a recovering heroin addict. It affected the whole family.”
Other than Al-Anon meetings, she said families don’t really have anywhere to go for help.
Landon acknowledged that there was discussion about incorporating MAT into Trehab’s Tunkhannock center, which was shot down.
However, Trehab may provide this at Tyler Memorial Hospital, which she and Vieczorek agree is a better-suited location.
As far as the Children Service Center in Tunkhannock planning to offer MAT, Landon said this is a state issue in which the borough or county do not have control.
Pilgrim Holiness Church Pastor Joel Byer expressed concern over the CSC’s plans, as it’s in close proximity to the church’s school that has 35-50 kids coming in and out each day.
The pastor stressed that he is in favor of “treatment and compassion” and doesn’t want it to turn into an “us versus them” or “not in my backyard” scenario. His primary concern was the location.
“The only reason I’m here tonight is because I’m concerned about the safety of the kids there,” Byers said.
Frank Oliver said he feels sad to see the community divided and stood by his questioning of the coalition’s goals.
“My message tonight involves acknowledging the good motives of the people involved in the Hope Coalition,” Oliver said, but noted that harm can still come from good intentions.
In other business, council member Marshall Davis said the council police committee met on May 30.
“We discussed at quite length about where the manning of our department presently lies and where it’s going in the future,” Davis said.
The borough has been down one full-time officer since 2016 because the police department has been seeking federal funds to offset the costs of hiring a replacement.
“It seems now pretty apparent to everybody that under the current federal administration, that’s not going to happen,” he said.
Davis said the committee believes it’s necessary to move forward without the funds, especially since Bob Roberts, another full-time officer, was successful in the May primary race for county sheriff and could win this fall.
Boroughs in Pennsylvania need to fill these positions through a special process that could be lengthy, Davis explained, so the committee wants to get moving to have a certified list of candidates ready by this October.
Council approved having a joint meeting with the police committee, borough manager and chief of police to work out the details of a timeline for advertising, tests and the selection process.
Tunkhannock Borough Police Chief Keith Carpenter said the amount of criminal calls have been “up tremendously” this past month.
Council also approved advertising for two crossing guard positions for the borough at the request of Carpenter.
Council member Dan Gay said the planning and zoning committee met with the county planning commission to discuss rezoning the area around the courthouse to allow lawyers to move closer.
The planning commission made a recommendation that if the borough decides to proceed, professional help should be sought, leading council to approve a motion to contact a professional.
Council also revisited discussion of the noise ordinance, which came up when Yearbook Diner/Blogg Pub & Grill owner Carlos Penedos brought up issues he had been having with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board citing him for noise complaints.
Council made a motion for solicitor Paul Litwin to move forward with the next step of the process, whether that be advertising or sending it to the PLCB.
Suggestions to change the violation start time from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., as well as changing the cost for a third offense from $1,000 to $500 were also heeded.