Charleroi council discusses stepping up the fight against drugs

July 15, 2017

In the past week and a half, there were three fatal overdoses in the borough of Charleroi.

At Thursday’s borough council meeting, Councilman Larry Celaschi said, “We utilize outside services, have seminars for public awareness. This is disturbing.”

Councilman Frank Paterra said the only way to fight this war on drugs is with more “soldiers” on the street.

“We have two police officers per shift. I would like to add more soldiers on the street to fight the war on drugs.”

He added while he always has tried to avoid tax increases, “I feel if we need to raise taxes to for the security of our community, that is what we need to do.”

Charleroi Regional police Chief Eric Porter said in June the department had nearly 500 calls. “That is a lot of calls.”

He said he would never turn down the offer of adding another officer, if the budget would allow it.

Paterra said he would like to discuss the matter with the Charleroi Regional Police board and possibly split the costs with the other municipalities in the area who are covered by the police force. Another option would be the addition of a part-time officer.

Paterra said an additional officer would help combat the drug epidemic, but a town hall meeting with business owners, residents and clergy is needed to fight the drug epidemic on all levels.

“We need the fire department, street department and police department to work together on all avenues,” he said.

Councilman Larry Celaschi encourages residents to call 911 if they see any criminal behavior.

“Our brand-new wall, kayak launch and surrounding area have been vandalized with gouges and graffiti,” he noted.

Charleroi fire Chief Robert Whiten Jr. said his department also is dealing with the epidemic and has been advised to suit up with bulletproof vests and special breathing apparatus during drug calls. The department is receiving four bulletproof vests through the Dr. Charles Tucker Foundation and hopes to acquire two more through another donation. The department also received a $140,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security for 22 new protective breathing devices. Whiten said a second fund drive mailing is going out. The first mailing of 3,397 went out in February, and the department received donations from only 386.

“These were small donations, not $1,000 or even $100 donations, they were more like $20 and $15 donations. It takes $300,000 to $400,000 to operate every year,” said Whiten.

In other business, council approved a motion to enter into an oil and gas agreement with EQT Production Co. for 64 acres, with a proposed payment of $9,010.35.

Council recessed the meeting until 6 p.m. July 25, when it is expected to open bids and approve the borough’s sanitation contract.

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