Wyoming County Commissioners Judy Mead (above, left) and Tom Henry (center) were happy to welcome fellow commissioner Ron Williams back to the table on July 10 after a lengthy absence.
Photos and Story by Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)
The Wyoming County Commissioners agreed on Tuesday to put the first $10,000 of a $60,000 grant toward the development of a new hazard mitigation plan, a process the county undergoes every five years. County EMA director Gene Dziak was on hand to explain the importance of the plan and to encourage every borough and township in the county to get involved as early as possible.
“Helping us do it at the county level and then accepting our plan in their own meetings makes it easier on them and saves them a lot of money,” said Dziak (below, right). “All municipalities have to have a hazard mitigation plan to get any kind of state or federal funding.”
Wyoming County EMA is employing Vision Planning and Consulting LLC, the same firm that developed the previous plan. Most importantly, the company has a solid reputation with both PEMA and FEMA, the agencies that approve the plans and respond to disaster relief requests accordingly. “They know how this plan should be written to be approved,” Dziak remarked.
On Thursday afternoon, July 12, Dziak will meet with Vision representatives. At 6 pm that evening, the first workshop involving municipal officials – EMA coordinators, council members and supervisors – will take place. “We are not going to be making decisions,” Dziak said of the initial gathering. “We want to start compiling projects.”
Municipal leaders are generally aware of the areas within their communities that are prone to flooding, poor drainage and erosion. Getting them on the county’s list now can put them in the running for additional funds to raise roads, expand culverts, replace drain pipes and make other repairs to mitigate disasters. Signing on to the county plan will save each municipality time and money in the event that officials need to apply for financial assistance.
“It’s important that the municipalities grasp this and appreciate it,” said commissioner Judy Mead. “It’s a lot of work on behalf of Gene and his people to do this.”
While attendance at the first meeting is not mandatory, “It’s important that they be there at one point or another to be part of the deal,” commissioner Tom Henry explained.
Dziak indicated that response to outreach to municipalities has been good, but he has not yet heard from everybody. Municipal officials also do not have to have a plan already in mind to be part of the process. Once the county plan is approved and individual municipalities adopt it, Dziak related, Wyoming County EMA can “guide them through the system” in the event of a disaster, by explaining what applications should be submitted and helping with the wording on the forms.
Commissioner Ron Williams Returns
After months of absence that was never fully explained out of respect for the long-time board member, commissioner Ron Williams surprised everybody in attendance at the July 10 meeting when he arrived a few minutes into the session. William’s return was applauded and, after engaging in the ongoing business of the board, he took a few minutes to explain why he had been gone for so long.
Initially, a planned surgery for the removal of two tumors yielded one which was cancerous but of a non-spreading nature. During the course of his recovery, Williams said that he lost his footing on a staircase in his home and injured his right leg, resulting in cellulitis. After a period of bed rest, Williams was dismayed to learn that that he was unable to walk due to the shifting of two discs in his back. He attributed a sudden turnaround in his health to prayers and well wishes from the community.
“Much to the surprise of my therapist, my legs started working again,” Williams stated. A few steps led to a few more and, on Tuesday, Williams was able to maneuver to his waiting seat solely with the help of a walker. “I’m one to believe in miracles and the power of prayer,” he remarked.
Concerns Over Popular Park Addressed
The recent heatwave has drawn hundreds of people to Roadside Rest, a public park along Route 29 south of Tunkhannock in Eaton Township that is owned by PennDOT. The surge of families using the park for picnics and relief from the heat was unfortunately coupled with the use of Roadside Rest by drug users. Owners of land on the opposite side of Bowmans Creek expressed concerns to Eaton Township officials about people wading across the creek and getting out on their property. A cleanup of the park after a particularly busy weekend resulted in the collection of a number of hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia, prompting both state and township officials to discuss the possibility of closing the park.
Though the county technically has nothing to do with the park, the commissioners are concerned about its visitation by drug users, and the notion that innocent people may not be able to enjoy the green space because of the improprieties of others.
Henry said that there were discussions between PennDOT officials, township supervisor Paul Rowker, Pennsylvania State Police and him to address the problem. The county offered gloves for continued cleanup of the park, and the State Police will step up patrols of the site. In the meantime, “no swimming” signs have been erected by the township on the park side and by private land holders on the opposite shoreline.
New Hires Announced
The commissioners announced that Dylan Flexer has been hired as a new full-time adult probation officer, effective July 10, to replace Chris Caduggin. Flexer has recently moved to Wyoming County from Carbon County, where he served as a deputy sheriff and worked at the correctional facility there.
Dalton manning was promoted from part-time to full-time as a corrections officer at the Wyoming County Prison.