Accident spurs public safety discussion

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 5/12/21

HONESDALE, PA — Councilor Robert Jennings was not able to remain at the Honesdale Borough Council’s last public meeting long, so he spoke at the top about an April 24 car accident that …

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Accident spurs public safety discussion

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HONESDALE, PA — Councilor Robert Jennings was not able to remain at the Honesdale Borough Council’s last public meeting long, so he spoke at the top about an April 24 car accident that required the quick action of local fire companies.

Around 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, two cars collided head on while traveling on Route 6 near Apple Day Spa, Jennings said. A young boy involved in the crash had to be life-flighted to a hospital. 

“The fire department was toned out at 8:01 p.m., and they were en route minutes later at 8:04 p.m., and they arrived at 8:08 p.m.,” Jennings said. “I want to thank chief [Steve] Bates and all the firemen for their dedication and their great service that they gave that night.”

Bates was on the call and responded that he and his department were “just doing our job.”

Jennings later told River Reporter that he believed the accident was more evidence that the borough needs to invest in its local police department. No local officers were on duty the night of the crash, and the state police were not able to immediately arrive at the scene.

“This is just a perfect example of why we need more police officers in the Honesdale Police Department,” Jennings said. “It’s really a public safety issue. The people of Honesdale deserve full-time police coverage.”

Jennings has long been an advocate for hiring more officers; the local department currently has too few officers to work the 12 midnight to 8 a.m. shift and “at least half of the time,” too few to cover the 4 p.m. to 12 midnight shift, according to police chief Richard Southerton.

Southerton’s hands are tied as the chief, unable to hire more officers himself and forced to make schedules with what he has available. He doesn’t think it’s fair that firemen have had to pick up the slack.

“The fire companies are all volunteers, so them having to do traffic control for extended periods of time, waiting for the police to show up, isn’t fair to them; they’re not getting paid to be there,” Southerton said. “So, they’re stuck covering for the police department whose [officers are] paid.”

Due to the prodding of Jennings and councilor Jim Brennan at a previous meeting, the borough has voted, 4-3, to hire two additional police officers: one this year and one next year. Brennan expects the first hire to be made by fall of this year.

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