NEWPORT TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)– It’s being dubbed as ‘Save SCI Retreat Round 2’ and after a public Department of Corrections blunder, local stakeholders and state officials met face to face as a community fights to save a regional asset.
“You know what? This does suck. I wish I didn’t have to close this (expletive)… It is what it is.” That comment from Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel in October has since had him relieved from these proceedings and reignited a campaign under Act 133 to save SCI Retreat from closing.
“This meeting was very important for the municipal leaders in the communities that are going to be most impacted by the potential closure of SCI Retreat,” said state senator John Yudichak.
Eyewitness News has this exclusive coverage of a private meeting between DOC officials with local shareholders at the Newport Township Municipal Building.
Members of the Shickshinny Sanitary Sewer Authority noted they would be devastated as they have an entire plant devoted almost entirely to SCI operations. One says this meeting is more effective than the large public hearings.
“Unfortunately due to the last incident, they were listening today,” said chairperson Holly Morris. “They were hearing what everyone in the room had to say.”
“It’s more of an intimate discussion,” added secretary Carol Dronek.”Not just the technical things but the personal things that go on within communities.”
Those invited to the meeting told Eyewitness News the DOC is doubling down on a commitment to keep shareholders involved in the process moving forward.
“It says a lot when you look a person in the eye and understand the severity involved with this discussion,” said Newport Township manager Peter Wanchisen. “I came away from this meeting much more confident in the system.”
Local officials and community leaders are far from giving up their fight.
“Closing prisons doesn’t necessarily save dollars,” said Yudichak. “We’re here to be community partners with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Department of Corrections. We want to find a way to save SCI Retreat.”
Eyewitness News was told a sizeable party of DOC officials from Harrisburg, including deputy secretary Tabb Bickell, were in attendance. They want to thoroughly hear out concerns from those who will take the largest blows, should SCI close down.
Those shareholders in attendance are now more confident that their concerns are being heard and that this new round of meetings is far from a ‘dog and pony show.’