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By Jill Runfola

Important issues facing local communities were discussed as citizens got to know local politicians during Meet Your Elected Officials Day on May 16, 2018 in North Belle Vernon Community Bank Park. The event was informative yet fun and included a tasty cookout prepared by Just-A-Tavern, funded by NBV Community Bank Rec Commission.

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Those who gave of their time for the day were (l-r): Anthony Dinch, Washington County Field Organizer; Pa State Rep. Bud Cook; Jason White, Washington County Commissioner; and Belle Vernon Mayor Gerald Jackson.

The evening of great conversation was held with the following elected officials, among others: State Senator Pat Stefano; PA State Rep. Justin Walsh; PA State Rep. Bud Cook; Legislator Ryan Warner; Westmoreland County Commissioners Ted Kopas and Gina Cerilli; NBV Borough Council Member RJ Sokol; State Senator Kim Ward.

According to RJ Sokol, Chair of Parks and Recreation and NBV Councilman, “The NBV Community Bank Park is a perfect background setting for this May 16 gathering. It was a drug-ridden, vandalized facility. Then, the state, via elected officials and private citizens joined forces to take back the park and turn it into one of the top recreational facilities in the Mon Valley.”

Most of the elected officials agree that drugs are the community’s biggest problems, which includes the whole Mon Valley and surrounding areas. However, Belle Vernon Mayor Gerald Jackson cited a concern in the area as “too many grandparents raising grandkids.” He said, “Think about how difficult that must be. They’re on a fixed income.”

Rep. Bud Cook said, “We’ve turned the corner on drugs. Awareness is there now.” Mayor Jackson added that unemployment is becoming a problem among drug users, because job applicants cannot pass a drug test. He concludes that on August 11, at Belle Vernon’s Ted Kuhn Park on 4th and Main, they will hold a recovery day for former drug users now clean. He urges all recovered addicts come celebrate.

Monessen Chief of Police Jim Smith concluded, “There’s not an arrest solution to the drug problem. The way you attack this problem is education and enforcement.” He added that Mon Valley Opioid Coalition meets at

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NBV officers who attended included (l-r): Patrolman Robert Cunningham, Washington Township; Patrolman Alyssa Houghes; Chief Eugene Lipan; and Patrolman Kyle Sneddon, all of North Belle Vernon.

the municipal building in Monessen the last Thursday of the month and is working to provide support.

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