Commissioners Hear Crisis Center Statistics and Public Support for Streams Initiative
Courthouse Smoking Ban Proposal Tabled For Now
By Rick Hiduk
It was the second time in a year that a representative of Bradford County’s Abuse and Rape Crisis Center spoke before the Bradford County Commissioners, and, on Oct. 13, center volunteer Beth Thompson updated those in attendance at the commissioners’ meeting with alarming new statistics faced by the agency.
Thompson spoke from the heart, relating her own experience of abuse as she explained that the cruelty and manipulation that manifests into a crisis comes in many forms.
“It’s not just about being beaten black and blue,” said Thompson, who spoke about “financial abuse,” in which case a spouse controls all of the money in a household in an effort to prevent the other from leaving, owning a vehicle, or even buying clothing. The compassion and guidance that Thompson found at the Towanda-based crisis center resulted in her becoming a volunteer and an advocate for the organization.
Physical abuse of relationship partners, the elderly, and children remains the Abuse and Rape Crisis Center’s primary focus, however, and the number of clients needing a temporary place to stay is growing by more than 30 percent each year. During the 2009-10 fiscal year, the center assisted 337 people. Last year, that number grew to 527. With 192 people sheltered during the first three months of the 2011-12 fiscal year already, Thompson explained, the number of local residents who could be eligible for assistance through the agency by next summer could top 768. Those numbers do not reflect people who are turned away from the center simply because they have no place to stay, a factor she blames on the economy and the housing shortage in the county. “There is nothing that we can do to help these individuals,” she said of numerous homeless people who have sought assistance from the center.
Bradford County Prothonotary Sally Vaughn backed up Thompson’s statistics by noting that the number of protection from abuse orders filed through the prothonotary office doubled between January and June. The number of family court cases has paralleled a general increase in crime in the county, she added.
“Our mission is to end interpersonal violence,” Thompson stated, citing the overall increase in population in the county for the majority of the escalation in new cases. She also implored the commissioners and the public to continue to support the agency, since funding from government sources has been drastically reduced at the same time that more help is needed.
On a different note, Betty Snyder attended the commissioners’ meeting to thank the board for recently issuing statements that challenged Harrisburg’s notions about how local municipalities manage their creeks and streambeds. She cited Sugar Creek along Route 6 as particularly troublesome and suggested that gravel and stone dredged from the streams might be used for road renovation projects.
Ann Andrews echoed Snyder’s sentiments, adding that Wappesening Creek and other streams in the Windham area have washed away pastures and replaced them with rocks. “I walked over a mile on a gravel bar that had never been there before,” Andrews remarked. She fears that the potential for ongoing damage to segments of Route 187, which has yet to be reopened to the New York state line, remains high without significant changes in policy and actual repairs to the streams that threaten it.
Although Snyder directed her comments at commissioner Doug McLinko, he was quick to point out that recent statements issued on behalf of Bradford County to lawmakers in Harrisburg represented a collaboration of all of the commissioners.
Commissioner Mark Smith related that, during Governor Tom Corbett’s recent visit to Bradford County, the commissioners sat down at a table with him to discuss their concerns about Harrisburg dictating environmental protection laws that don’t take the county’s unique topography into account. “I do believe that he’s going to be on our side in this issue,” said Smith.
McLinko agreed, but added that Corbett suggested that Bradford County is going to have to lobby intensely to have existing laws modified in its favor. “It’s going to be the fight of our lives, and it’s going to take everybody.” Submission of photos by Bradford County residents as requested by the commissioners at the previous meeting is going well, McLinko noted, but residents also need to contact their state senators and congressional delegates to make their wishes known.
“We really don’t matter in Harrisburg,” he said of Bradford County’s influence on state-wide policies. “We need to charge our elected officials to work for us.” McLinko reiterated that every stream is different, and it frustrates him that, only after a catastrophe, do government agencies relax their regulations.
On the topic of an extended courthouse smoking ban, Smith indicated that the proposal has been tabled until further notice. The controversial plan, which McLinko put off during the Oct. 6 meeting because he felt that it needed more discussion, will have to be rewritten and advertised again prior to a vote by the board.