W-B Council OKs Requests To Suspend Alcohol Ordinance

March 29, 2019

WILKES-BARRE — Over the objections of a resident, council on Thursday approved requests to suspend an ordinance banning alcoholic beverages in public parks for two upcoming events. Hidden Creek Vineyard and Winery asked to be allowed to provide wines for tasting and purchase from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 27 and 28 at the city’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival at Kirby Park. And Luzerne County asked that a vendor be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages for public consumption from 5 to 11 p.m. at a designated area the River Common for a new concert series planned for July 12, 19 and 26 at called “Rockin’ the River.” During public comment prior to a vote, Sam Troy said Luzerne County has “the dubious distinction of ranking in the top 10 of the 67 counties for alcohol problems.” Troy also said allowing alcohol consumption at the events would be “setting the stage for problems afterward.” Regarding the river event, he thought the “hard-core rock … music … and the socialization aspect of the event would still be a good draw (without alcohol). We all know alcohol can cause problems.” “Would you guys feel more remorseful about voting for this if, God forbid, something happened at this event? And we all know alcohol inflames the passions, right?” he said. “It’s definitely better to be on the safe side.” Ted Wampole, director of the county visitors bureau, said he didn’t intend on speaking at the meeting, but he felt he needed to respond to some of Troy’s “unfounded” comments. Wampole said no representative ever said the reason for alcohol at the river event was “to ensure good attendance,” or that the music would be hard-core rock. “The reason we’re asking to approve the waiver is because it is a Friday night at 5 o’clock. This is a grown-up event. We anticipate that coming at the end of the week, some people may want to have an alcoholic beverage and I don’t particularly think there’s anything wrong with having a responsible drink,” he said. Wampole said organizers, at the direction of the county, have been “meticulous to make sure this thing is done properly,” adding that he’s been working closely with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to follow regulations, and with the county sheriff’s department, which would provide security. Council voted unanimously to approve suspending the alcohol ordinance for the two events. Those resolutions and approving meeting minutes were the only agenda items. Swimming, summer jobs and the homeless During public discussion, Troy said he was disappointed with council’s vote. He also proposed that the city hire more part-time employees to do outdoor upkeep work in the summer and fall and provide bus trips for city children to communities that have public swimming pools. City Administrator Rick Gazenski said funding more part-time jobs would be difficult, and bussing entails liability issues. Joyce Zaykowski, director of Economic and Community Development, said the city has had a hard time finding people willing to work part-time summer jobs. Councilwoman Beth Gilbert said the county transit authority runs buses to Frances Slocum State Park, which has a pool, during the summer and might be willing to run routes to community pools as well. Resident John Suchoski asked if homeless people living under the South Street Bridge would be addressed and complained about a loading zone in front of Dollar Tree on South Main Street, where he’s seen unloading occur outside permitted hours. He said there should be metered parking there. Gazenski said the homeless situation “is being addressed as we speak.” Zaykowski said no one wants to lose a downtown business over a parking issue and officials are working on a solution. Problem with feral cats to be addressed Residents Susan Hall and Jo Ann James, and Brenda Buckler, of cat rescue Whiskers World, all spoke in favor of the city working with advocacy groups on a trap-neuter-release program. James and Buckler both complained about animal control officer Adam Oliver, who did not attend the council meeting. James said Oliver threatened her with fines for housing feral cats because she has a dog coop in her yard that was for her late dog, and it will remain there because she plans on getting another dog in the future. Buckler said Oliver is inconsistent in his willingness to work with advocates of trap-neuter-release efforts and programs. She accused him of having taken kittens to a shelter and leaving the mother, and vise versa. A representative from No Nonsense Neutering provided council with information on trap-neuter-release at Tuesday’s work session and advocated for an ordinance supporting it as well as funding the neutering. Gazenski said there seems to be some “miscommunication between the group that’s here and between the administration and possibly our animal control person,” that “we’re not all on the same page,” and it’s “imperative that we all sit down” to discuss the issue in depth. Contact the writer: smocarsky@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2110, @MocarskyCV