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East Carbon citizens form community coalition

Sun Advocate community editor

Some East Carbon residents have banded to improve the community and presented the plan to the city council on Tuesday.

"Our group is composed of many members of the community including private citizens, leaders, youth and religious figures," said Liz Ferguson, the spokesman for the development coalition. "We want to examine all the risk factors that exist in our community, conduct studies and make recommendations to the city council on those matters. Many of the issues that affect us here have been going on for years and we need to work on them."

Ferguson said the top two priorities of the group are finding ways to reduce substance abuse in the community, both in youth and adults, and to beautify the town.

"There are a lot of questions from our group about what can be done concerning substance abuse and the dealing of drugs in our town," stated the spokeswoman. "There are many rumors like the one that says there are not enough funds for the police to act on known suspects. People also want to know why some people are known to be dealers but no action is taken and they continue to do business here."

Councilwoman Darlene Kuhns, acting as mayor for the evening with Dale Andrews on vacation, told the group that the council and the police are concerned about drugs and that the city will be getting another officer in December which will help in the fight. But she also said there is a lot more to it than that.

"When it comes to drug dealers, saying that they are dealing and proving they are are two different things," stated Kuhns. "I wonder if the drug task force in Price could help us with this problem?"

Councilman Dave Maggio said that the dealers have been very hard to catch.

"To make it stick the police much catch them in a purchase," he said. "Besides I see the problem is more than just methamphetamines. Abuse of prescription drugs is also a big problem in our town."

The group then asked what they could do to help.

"It takes everyone," said Councilwoman Darma Lopez. "The police have to have evidence. Everyone needs to start watching and to start to mark down times they see things, license numbers, etc."

The council asked East Carbon Police Officer Steve Boyer who was present at the meeting to talk to the group about the situation and he responded with some advice to the group.

"All you have to do is to start to write it down and give it to us, but remember there is some risk in this," he told the nearly 50 people who had showed up for the meeting. "Drug dealers will not be happy about this and they have a lot of bad friends. However the only way we can control this problem is for citizens to get involved."

Boyer also said that the department knows that a lot of problems are occurring, however they have been frustrated in their efforts to enforce the law by the fact that people say others are selling drugs, but there is no evidence or testimony to back up the claims when push comes to shove.

"I understand people's fears about doing this but we must have citizens testify if we are going to do anything about it," said Boyer. "Be in the street, watch what's going on and report it. But remember too that you may end up ratting out people you know, people that are your friends, because some of them are involved."

One citizen suggested starting a neighborhood watch in town. The group committed to help start a watch to work on the problem and give the police department support.

A second topic of conversation became the beautification of the town.

Complaints have come from residents to the council in the past about run down houses, yards with weeds and junk out of control and abandoned structures.

The members said the group wants to help do something about those things.

"The way we look at it, the city and our group must be a team to work on this problem," stated Ferguson.

Kuhn said that everyone on the council is concerned about the way some of the homes in the community look and have been doing everything within their power to force people to clean up their residences.

"However, understand there are things we cannot do," she said. "It would be wonderful if we had ordinances that regulate everything but even with what we have, when we enforce them, we get taken to court by those that own the property. Then the situation gets dragged out."

Maggio explained to the group that there are a number of ways to attack the problem, but they all have drawbacks, the largest one being that the situations often become very expensive for the city.

"Once ticketed we can take people before a judge which is a Class B Misdemeanor and a $999 fine," said Maggio. "We can also hire someone to fix up and clean up the messes, and attach the bill to their taxes if they don't pay for the services. If they don't pay their taxes we can place a lien against their property, but to be honest the last time we did that it cost the city much more than the house was worth. The question on all of this is if we can recoup our costs. Our town can't afford to do too many of these kinds of things."

Maggio also said by his estimation the vast majority of the problems in the town are homes and buildings owned by absentee landlords or houses that have renters in them.

Ferguson said that the group had already begun work in the community on the weed and garbage situation in some areas.

"We cleaned up a lot by the drive-in that had a lot of weeds and we also went down to the rest stop at Sunnyside Junction and cleaned that up last week," she said. "We want to organize to do more of this and we want to invite everyone to come and help."

Someone in the audience suggested that the coalition offer to help clean up private property of people who can't do it, like the elderly or those that are incapacitated.

Eleanor Griggs suggested that many people may not know about the ordinances and that every residence in the community should be given a copy. She also wondered how many citations have been written up since the last meeting of the council. The council members stated that they didn't know off hand, but that they could check with Chief of Police Sam Leonard.

The problem of junk cars in yards was also under discussion once again. There was some disagreement over what constituted a junk car and many in the audience wanted the council to clarify that definition. Tentatively it was established that a vehicle is a junk car if it is not licensed and hasn't been moved for a year.

During the waning moments of the meeting many in the audience expressed their views on cleaning up the city and helping in every way they could. Some also talked about other situations the coalition and city could help out with.

"When I was a kid and rode the bus to school from up here, East Carbon was just a bunch of sage brush and Sunnyside and Columbia were the prettiest little towns around," said Earl Gunderson. "I think it is time to take back our town, clean it up and fix it up."

The assembled group broke out in applause at that statement.

The coalition also announced during the meeting that they will be having another meeting for anyone who wishes to attend on Oct. 25 at 6:30 pm in the ABC Learning Center in East Carbon.

This Saturday, Oct. 16 the group will also be holding a community party and barbecue at the old shopping center in the middle of town. That celebration will begin at noon. All residents of East Carbon are invited to attend.

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