The News-Item’s cheers and jeers from the past week of news:
• Cheers to the state Senate’s passage of Bill 955, which would launch a pilot program in which the state fire commissioner would select one community college each from the eastern, central and western regions of the state to enter into agreements with school districts and vocational-technical schools for firefighter training classes. The intent is to get more students interested in firefighting, with studies showing there is a better chance of hooking them for life when they start at a younger age. The bill would create new partnerships and ultimately help address the shortage of volunteer firefighters, making it legislation that is both practical and vital.
• Cheers, on a related note, to Shamokin Fire Bureau Chief Jason Zimmerman for asking city council to consider drafting a letter of intent for the creation of a survey for possible consolidation of fire companies in the city. We realize there is considerable pride and tradition in the separate departments, but the chief is right when he says, “Volunteers are dropping at a rapid rate. It’s forcing our hand to come up with a plan to deal with it.” This should be a call for action by fire department and city leaders, one that should quickly move up the priority list. While on the subject, we’ll take the opportunity to “cheer” city firefighters for their night-and-day response efforts during the always busy winter season.
• Jeers to Sunbury officials for reportedly complaining about the county’s hesitation in paying a bill for $25,111 toward salaries and related expenses incurred by treasurers of third-class cities. Majority Commissioners Rich Shoch and Sam Schiccatano apparently balked at the bill, which from Shamokin (the county’s only other city) is just $900, and wanted to get more details about the charge. Of course, this led to yet another public confrontation between Shoch and minority Commission Kym Best, of which many county citizens have also grown tired. As to the bill from Sunbury, we also don’t care that it’s been “done that way” for the past 40 years. Let’s get details and, if it’s all legitimate, we’re certain the bill will be paid promptly.
• Cheers to OxyContin maker Purdue, which said it will stop marketing opioid drugs to doctors. Of course, this comes only after lawsuits that blame the company for helping trigger the current drug abuse epidemic. Still, it is positive news in this ongoing battle, and one that could force the hand of other Big Pharma companies to also be responsible corporate citizens and recognize that their products are endangering the lives of millions.