Drugs take center stage at Parkersburg City Council meeting

Nearly 20 people spoke about the life-and-death issue of drugs facing the region at Tuesday’s Parkersburg City Council meeting, with several asking council to redirect money from a proposed pay increase to drug abuse prevention and recovery efforts.

A 5 percent pay increase for all City of Parkersburg employees except elected officials and appointed department heads was ultimately rejected with a 6-3 vote and sent back to committee.

Parkersburg resident Tina Richardson started off the public forum portion of the meeting, addressing the nearly $800,000 carryover the city had from fiscal year 2015-16, which ended June 30.

“I’d like to know with the surplus that we have, why not one dime is being spent toward our drug addiction problem,” she said.

Earlier this month, council approved Mayor Jimmy Colombo’s proposals for $462,105 of the carryover. A resolution on Tuesday’s agenda would have allocated the remaining $303,377 to the pay raises and the creation of two new positions, an executive administrative assistant for the mayor and an assistant information technology technician.

“If you don’t stop it, at least lower it,” said Donna Helmick, co-founder of the group M.A.D. in PKB, a local anti-heroin group. “This is citizens coming together. Where’s the city at?”

Parkersburg resident Tyler Farley, 21, said he’s been sober two years thanks to the Amity center in south Parkersburg. But the 15-bed, 28-day program can’t meet the need in the community, he and others said.

Farley and Parkersburg resident Justin Stukey held up a banner from the event filled with names of people who had died because of drug addiction. Parkersburg resident Rich Walters said the number of names on the sign “will double again next year and maybe triple” if no action is taken.

Other people talked about their battles with addiction, and representatives of the Vandals Motorcycle Club voiced their support for fighting the heroin problem in the area.

Parkersburg resident Cathi Wermter said that in addition to finding a way to expand recovery resources locally, the number of police officers and their salaries should increase.

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