Wyoming Commissioner Tom Henry (above, standing, right) read the proclamation declaring March 29 as C.A.S.U.A.L. Day, promoted by the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, represented by Karen Saunders (back left). Also preparing for the event were (seated, from left) Commissioner Judy mead, administrative assistant Linda Stacknick, and Commissioner Ron Williams.
Photos and Story by Rick Hiduk
Thursday, March 29, will be marked as C.A.S.U.A.L. Day at the Wyoming County Courthouse and other county buildings. Employees and visitors are encouraged to purchase special T-shirts for the 15th annual event, which is promoted by the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute (NRCI) to bring awareness to colon and rectal cancers.
The commissioners welcomed NRCI president Karen Saunders to their regular public meeting on March 6 and took the opportunity to commend their administrative assistant, Linda Stacknick, for many successful years at selling both T-shirts and pens for the cause. Stacknick raised about a thousand dollars for C.A.S.U.A.L. Day in 2017 and is hoping to eclipse that total this year, “even if by just one dollar,” she stated.
“This event doesn’t happen without volunteers like Linda,” Saunders remarked, noting that Cancer Awareness Saves Unlimited Adult Lives Day was established in honor of her aunt, Helen Phillips, who fought a courageous battle against colon cancer and passed away in the summer of 2002. “So this is personal for me, as well as professional.”
Part of the fundraising efforts go towards providing assistance for un- and under-insured people who are at risk for colorectal cancer. NRCI, Saunders noted, can be an informational resource for anyone affected by the illness. Approximately 200 people die each year in NRCI’s NEPA service area each year from colorectal cancer, which is largely preventable. Though mortality rates continue to drop due to increased awareness, she explained, “We still have a long way to go.”
Storm Response Deemed Successful
The commissioners gave high marks to the numerous county, state and local entities who played a role in protecting citizens and providing shelter in the wake of the nor’easter that dumped as much as 10 inches of snow on eastern portions of the county last Friday. The biggest challenge, EMA director Gene Dziak (above) related, was finding alternate ways to stay in touch when Verizon Communications suffered a colossal east coast failure.
A request went out first to all fire stations in the county to bring in as much personnel as possible. Then a public alert was issued to report issues directly to the fire companies. Once that was accomplished, emergency responders were charged just as much with clearing trees and branches from roadways that were downed by high winds as they were responding to numerous accidents.
When Route 81 in Susquehanna County was shut down, Dziak noted, traffic was detoured onto Route 11 through northeastern Wyoming County, which was in no better condition. A bus carrying 51 college students broke down, and Greyhound couldn’t get a replacement bus to them.
A Red Cross shelter was set up at Factoryville, and the 51 bus riders were transported there by Factoryville firefighters, where they were fed and given shelter until they were picked up on Sunday.
The commissioners expressed gratitude to fire companies, the Red Cross, PennDOT, county EMA employees and all those who were part of the response effort. Dziak was leaving the commissioners meeting to participate in a webinar to prepare for the next storm predicted to move through the region between Tuesday evening and Thursday morning. Though he did not expect it to be quite as bad as the March 2 storm, he insisted that “uncertainty” has become a key word in disaster preparedness.
Staff Added at Special Needs
Lori Bennett, director of Wyoming County Special Needs, reported to the commissioners that a suitable rental property has been found in downtown Tunkhannock that will serve as a drop-in center for the agency. Some remodeling is needed before it can be open. Due to an expanding caseload, she added, new therapist Nicole Lewis has been brought on board to assist lead therapist Katie Holahan.
Grant Applications Noted
Commissioner Judy Mead made the motion for the commissioners to sign a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) local district waiver that would pave the way for Keystone College to apply for a grant on behalf of the county. The funds will be used for a presentation for students as to how the criminal justice system works and how not to get caught up in it.
The county will apply for an Act 101 grant for a public education program about recycling and to purchase a new skid steer for the county’s recycling center in Tunkhannock Township. The amount sought is $31,745.
Special Buyout Account Created
Feeling that the PEMA/CBDG buyout of homes in Meshoppen borough is imminent, deputy chief clerk Georgette Smith asked that the commissioners make a motion to create a special account to handle the buyout money. The commissioners approved the measure unanimously, agreeing that it was best to keep the grant money separate from the county’s general fund. They could not say, however, when the buyouts might occur.
Housing Board Appointment Delay Questioned
Former state employee and military veteran Jeff Zimmerman, who tossed his hat in the ring more than six weeks ago to fill a vacancy on the Wyoming County Housing & Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board told the commissioners that he has yet to receive any acknowledgment from the agency, let alone a call for an interview. After a year of hearing a number of complaints lodged against HRA during commissioners meetings, he felt a civic all to be part of the process, he explained. “It only takes a minute to pick up the phone and make a call, even if it’s to say, ‘we’re busy. Can we meet in April?’”
Henry maintains that he submitted Zimmerman’s name for consideration and asked board member Stacy Huber to look into it, adding that the commissioners make appointments to the board based on the board’s recommendation.
“We don’t want to discourage people though, and that’s what’s happening,” said Commissioner Ron Williams.
The three commissioners promised Zimmerman that they would get an answer for him soon.
The YPR-NEPA Wyoming County Team will sponsor an employment workshop at the County Emergency Operations Center from 6 to 8 pm on Thursday, March 29. Recovery specialist Ryan Taylor explained that topics will include resume writing, cover letters, job interview skills, on the job tips, available services and the expungement process. Question can be directed to him at 912-532-6378 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
After announcing a new schedule for prison board meetings last month, the commissioners changed the date once again. Henry apologized for the inconsistencies, noting it has been difficult to get all of the board members lined up for the same dates. The plans now are for prison board meetings to be held prior to the last commissioners meeting of the month, whether that be the second or third meeting.
Finally, in hopes that the season for digging something other than snow is just around the corner, the commissioners also read a proclamation declaring April as Pennsylvania 811 Safe Digging Month. The state’s one call system can provide information on underground utilities within three business days to engineers, designers, excavators and homeowners. In addition to the 8-1-1 shortcut, one can also call 1-800-242-1776.
The next commissioners meeting will be held on Thursday, March 22, the shift due to the participation of the commissioners in the Spring CCAP Conference, which will be held in Harrisburg March 17 to 20.