Borough considers issuing citation for drug paraphernalia possession

If a proposed ordinance is passed by South Williamsport Borough Council next month, those stopped by borough police who are in possession of drug paraphernalia may be issued a non-traffic citation instead of being charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense.

The change would get police officers back on the street faster instead of spending time on paperwork, according to Chief Robert Hetner.

Hetner said officers still will have discretion to charge offenders with the higher offense, but the ordinance would give police more options.

“By doing a citation, (police) have the ability to issue a paper document and have limited involvement,” Councilman Robert Cronin said.

Although the measure stops short of decriminalizing possession of drug paraphernalia, the ordinance would equate the offense with summary offenses such as disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, according to Cronin.

He and Hetner said those cited with possession still could face fines, jail time or both.

“Ultimately, people could still be incarcerated for these offenses,” Cronin said.

Those charged with possession still would have to appear before a District Judge, he said, and face fines of $200 to $600 possible jail time of up to 30 days.

“It has some teeth to it,” Hetner said of the proposal.

In addition, money from fines generated by such citations would be funneled back to the borough because they would be treated as a non-traffic citation.

The ordinance now is in draft form and is not specific to the borough, but should be up for final approval at council’s March 11 meeting.

In other business, council voted 5 to 2 to retain Larson Design Group as the borough’s engineer for non-Community Development Block Grant projects. Cronin suggested that the borough accept a lower bid from URS Corp. instead.

Cronin and Ed Weinhoffer voted against hiring Larson Design Group, while J. Bernard Schelb, Jeff Tompkins, Dan Cupp, Benjamin Landon and Anthony Mussare voted in favor.