Commissioners talk opioid legislation, rental rehab

The Lycoming County commissioners discussed potential legislation on opioid prescriptions and grant funding for the city’s rental rehabilitation program in the Brodart neighborhood at their meeting Thursday morning

The commissioners approved an extension to its subrecipient agreement with Williamsport, giving the city until the end of June 2020 to expend the remaining $177,000 in grant monies from the state Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement fund.

The funds are used in the city’s rehabilitation program for rental properties in the Brodart neighborhood, which has been successful but slow-moving due to a combination of reasons, said Jenny Picciano, lead planner.

Finding qualified property owners with tenants willing to discuss their income as outlined in the grant’s requirements has been difficult, Picciano said. Also, participating property owners are required to get three private bids from companies for the work that needs done, which then must be reviewed by the city, she said.

If finding qualified landowners and tennants willing to participate further delays the program, Picciano thinks it may be possible for the city to expand the focus area beyond Brodart; however, that would be up to the city and the grant provider, she said.

The commissioners later gave kudos to state Sen. Gene Yaw’s dedication to working to be on the front-end of the opioid crisis, mentioning that Yaw intends to introduce further legislation in an attempt to curb the potential to become addicted to opioids through legal prescriptions.

“He really has played a very significant role in the state in helping to pass legislation, whether it’s the prescription monitoring program or legislation to limit the number of days that minors get prescriptions for opioids … It’s key,” said Commissioner Rick Mirabito. “He told us last night of other legislation he’s got in the works — one of them is to straight-off limit how many days of opioids anyone can get.”

Yaw mentioned that legislation Wednesday during a county Substance Abuse Coalition public meeting, held to educate people about Naloxone and other aspects of the opioid crisis, the commissioners said.

While attendance was good, the majority of people there were members of county government or emergency services, Commissioner Jack McKernan said.

“Hopefully, in the future, we can get more public participation,” McKernan said.

In addition to encouraging public participation at various meetings, the commissioners also asked that community members give them recommendations on how to make county government information more easily accessible.

The request comes in light of the state’s Sunshine Act, which declares that entities run with public tax dollars must vote on decisions at meetings that are accessible to the public and in which the public can comment and ask questions about the actions those public officials take.

That act and the encompassing Right to Know law are celebrated in honor of founding father James Madison each year during the week of his birthday.

In another matter, the commissioners approved hiring Elizabeth McCray as a full-time replacement paralegal in the public defender’s office at $16.59 per hour, effective March 25, and Tyler P. Amos as a full-time replacement correctional officer relief in the prison at $16.01 per hour, effective Sunday.

The commissioners also approved reclassifying Vicki L. King to a higher paygrade as a full-time administrative case officer in the adult probation office due to reaching fully-qualified status. Her pay will increase to $20.31 per hour, effect April 7.

Commissioner Tony Mussare also was present. The next meeting is at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Executive Plaza.

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