By Rick Hiduk
(Exclusive to EndlessMtnLifestyles.com readers)
As Wyoming County prepares for limited openings of more businesses on Friday, the county’s recycling center is also preparing to resume operations on a limited basis starting Tuesday, May 26. The commissioners have been coordinating efforts with recycling director Mike Rogers to renew the process as safely as possible.
As of Tuesday, the center behind the Tunkhannock Township Building on Route 92 south will be open from 7 am to 3 pm on weekdays only. Five bags of clean recyclables per person per week will be accepted initially. Trucks full of recyclables will be turned away. There will be no weekend hours for the immediate future.
As they are received, the materials will be isolated for three to four days to allow for any potential coronavirus contamination to die off. Commissioner Rick Wilbur asked that residents also allow the recyclables to sit for at least five days before taking them to the center.
“Every bottle and can that comes in there is physically touched by our employees,” Wilbur explained. Sorting is a rapid and intense process, and it is human nature for the employees to sweat, need to scratch an itch, or simply adjust their face masks, potentially infecting themselves. By holding recycs back as long as possible, Wilbur suggested, “the odds of anything being alive there will be pretty much nil.”
The bins will be inside. Masks and safe distancing are required as residents will come into contact with center employees. Once capacity is met for that day, which is not expected to take long each morning for the first few weeks, no more recyclables will be accepted until the next operating day.
Nothing can be left outside the center, and violators will be prosecuted. Clandestine drop-offs were an issue even prior to the pandemic shutdown and will no longer be tolerated, Wilbur maintained.
“Give them a chance to get caught up. We do not have an unlimited amount of space to separate things,” Wilbur cautioned. “When we caught up, we can open again on weekends. I know it is inconvenient, but this whole coronavirus has been inconvenient.”
Opening the recycling center slowly will allow for the process to be streamlined, he related. If residents fully cooperate, services can be expanded. If not, the center could be closed again. “Be courteous to employees,” Wilbur added. “These are not their rules. Be patient.”
Municipalities that are part of the county’s recycling program are asked to hold off on opening the bins at their respective sites until the main center is caught up. Residents may call 570-836-0729 in advance of loading up their recyclables to make sure that the center is still receiving on any given day.
How To Approach the ‘Yellow’ Phase
“Patience” and “cooperation” were two terms used repeatedly as the commissioners and the county prepare to “go yellow” on May 22. Commissioner Ernie King encouraged everyone to follow the guidelines associated with the limited reopening plan. “We all want to get to green, and the best way to do that is to follow the guidelines,” he remarked.
Operating businesses under the yellow caution light “is a step,” Wilbur stated. “It’s not an end. We have a long way to go.”
The commissioners commended Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce president Gina Suydam for her collaboration with the PA Chamber of Commerce to offer a series of webinars on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays that provide information that business owners need to move forward. Interested readers can log on to www.BringingPABack.com and www.WyCCC.com for webinar schedules. An archive of previous sessions is accessible at https://business.wyccc.com/news/.
In the meantime, Rep. Karen Boback is leading a 12-member task force that includes Sen. Lisa Baker, Tunkhannock School District superintendent Heather McPherson, Tyler Hospital CEO Ann Marie Stevens, EMA director Gene Dziak, and mental health advocate Mike Donahue. “They are coming up with a plan to get us moving forward and help us move toward green,” Wilbur said, in reference to the next phase of reopening. “They will be working more closely with the governor’s office until we get a plan.”
Lori Bennett ask the commissioners if the county would automatically go green when Gov. Tom Wolf’s current disaster declaration expires on June 4. Commissioner Tom Henry quickly responded with a resounding, “No. There are still things we have to do.”
Wilbur agreed, conceding that the commissioners do not yet have the “road map” they have been asking of the governor’s office, and he expects the governor to extend his order.
County EMA director Gene Dziak added, “We can continue our state of emergency, and I would recommend that we do that until we come out of yellow into green.” He is recommending the same to municipal leaders throughout the county.
Dziak has been asked about the fluctuating figures attributed to the county that appeared to some to this past week to bring a person back to life when the number of deaths dropped by one. Dziak explained that when people die from COVID-19 in nursing homes, the number is sometimes attributed to their former residential address, despite having been long-term residents of the home.
Dziak thanked local PA Department of Health representatives Amanda Moyer and Jane Orloski for helping to sort out the discrepancies and feels that the ongoing statistics should be more accurate. The numbers for Wyoming County have stabilized with no new positive cases or deaths. Henry and Wilbur agreed that Moyer and Orloski have done an exceptional job on behalf of the county and that a ‘thank you’ letter or proclamation is in order.
On the topic of supplies, Dziak reported that the EMA has an adequate amount of hand sanitizer but is still running low on masks for first responders. A fresh influx of supplies will be coming again tomorrow from Procter & Gable. Wyoming County EMA will serve as a distribution point for supplies earmarked by P&G for Luzerne, Lackawanna, Sullivan, Bradford, and Susquehanna counties.
Other Topics of Discussion
Many annual observances are being missed or happening under the radar due to the inability to gather in large groups to celebrate or mark specific occasions. Commissioner Henry was in Bradford County last week to speak at a Drug Treatment Court graduation there. The event was held outside, and safe distancing was practiced by participants. Despite the limitations, Henry described the event as “heart warming.”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Henry encouraged those interested to log on to www.luzernecounty.org/466/Mental-Health-Developmental-Services to participate in ongoing GoTo meetings and a celebration scheduled for 1 pm on Wednesday.
Tina Henning noted that this is National EMS Week and asked those listening in on the meeting to remember to thank their first responders.
The years-long flood buyout process and demolition of flood-prone homes in Meshoppen borough is finally complete, and FEMA has asked the commissioners to sign off on the close-out letter. Dziak suggested that he should conduct a final inspect of the two impacted streets in Meshoppen over the next few days so that the letter could be signed by next Tuesday.
Census results in some parts of the county are still extremely low, including in Laceyville, Nicholson and Meshoppen boroughs, where compliance has been lower than 20 percent. On the other hand, more than 63 percent of Tunkhannock Township residents have completed the survey. A regional U.S. Census representative has requested a meeting with the commissioners to see how to to boost returns prior to a door-to-door canvassing of the county.