Newly hired deputy sheriff Jaime Lopez (standing, above left) and sheriff Bob Roberts paid a visit to commissioners (seated, from left) Tom Henry, Rick Wilbur, and Ernie King during their Dec. 31 virtually-broadcast work meeting.
By Rick Hiduk
(Exclusive to EndlessMtnLifestyles.com readers)
The Wyoming County Commissioners held a work meeting on Dec. 31 at which they welcomed a new deputy sheriff and approved a final version of the 2021 budget. On Jan. 5, they conducted their first public meeting of the year and updated the protocol for people entering the courthouse in Tunkhannock.
Retired Pennsylvania State Trooper Jaime Lopez was sworn in by Judge Russell Shurtleff on Monday, completing the sheriff’s staff and filling a position open since August 2020. “We felt it was worth the wait to get someone with that kind of background,” Wyoming County sheriff Bob Roberts said of Lopez and his 25 years of experience with PSP. “He worked most of his career in this county. He’s familiar with the county geographically, and he knows the people.”
Lopez’s extensive background also translates to less training for certification. “He will just have to go through an 80-hour waiver class as opposed to a full deputy sheriff training academy,” said Roberts, who’s staff now includes four full-time deputies and one part-time deputy.
“He is ready to step in immediately and is a welcome addition to our sheriff’s department,” commissioner chair Rick Wilbur remarked.
The commissioners followed up on an announcement last week by county director of elections and voter registration Flo Kellett that 12 more county residents have been added to the PA Voter Hall of Fame. Members of the elite group have voted in every November election for 50 consecutive years. This year’s inductees have been voting since 1970.
Normally, there would have been a brief ceremony held in a courtroom in their honor, commissioner Tom Henry noted, but it was not possible this year due to COVID. Each participant will receive a certificate from the elections department.
Marking 50 years of their dedication to democracy are Dennis Boice of Tunkhannock, Robert Day of Mehoopany, Melvin Gilpin of Dalton, Robert Gritman of Tunkhannock, Ellen McClain of Laceyville, William Smarkusky of Nicholson, Cynthia Stevens of Nicholson, Kenneth Vanderburg of Factoryville, Patricia Wadas of Tunkhannock, Dale Wagner of Tunkhannock, Russell Wall of Monroe Township, Diane Wilson of Tunkhannock.
A brief discussion of the Roadside Rest in Eaton Township recapped an early winter cleanup at the popular park along Bowmans Creek that had to be closed last year due to vandalism and drug use. “It’s looking real good for the first time in a long time,” said Henry.
He and fellow commissioners Rick Wilbur and Ernie King reported that turnout for the cleanup event was very good and that several local businesses loaned equipment and/or provided supplies. Wilbur related that talks will resume in the spring as to what can be done to open the park to the public again.
At least two of the commissioners plan to attend a meeting in Nicholson on Wednesday evening at which options for flood protection along Martin’s Creek will be discussed. The meeting is sponsored by the Wyoming County Conservation District and will be held at the Nicholson Borough building at 6 pm on Jan. 6. In-person participants, limited to one per household, are expected to adhere to CDC COVID guidelines, and those who would prefer to participate virtually can request the meeting link by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Commissioners meetings will continue to be held virtually, as the courthouse remains closed to most visitors. After noting that people have been allowed into the courthouse by appointment for the past few weeks, Wilbur suggested that the board make that protocol official.
“It’s still not safe enough to allow unrestricted access to the courthouse,” Wilbur maintained. “The courts are being very careful about allowing large groups in – only the people who have to be here.”
“Being extremely cautious as we have been has been working,” Henry stated. “I miss having people at our meetings, but we’re still in a global pandemic.”
“We’re also trying to get people to do more online,” Wilbur said in reference to the newly upgraded website www.wycopa.org. “Like dog Licenses. You don’t need to come here for that.”
Wilbur is cautiously optimistic about recently released COVID statistics that suggest that transmission of the virus may be easing in Wyoming County. “I hope that’s not an anomaly,” he remarked. “I hope it’s a new trend.”
In other business, Taylor Case and Anthony Carpenter were approved as new full-time corrections officers at the Wyoming County Correctional Facility, as well as Brandon Smith as a part-time CO. There are still openings for corrections officers, Wilbur noted.