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Council will set work session to discuss placement of public sharps containers

MORGANTOWN — Health Right Peer Recovery Coach Dani Ludwig said she was disappointed Morgantown City Council didn’t take up Health Right’s proposal to place needle collection (sharps) containers in and around the downtown during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Council instead agreed to schedule a work session after the first of the year to continue the discussion.

Health Right Executive Director Laura Jones made the case for the containers during the Nov. 30 committee of the whole meeting. She explained that the clinic had the funds to place three containers as well as the ability to empty and maintain them.

The only need, Jones explained, was the city’s agreement on locations. Ludwig echoed those sentiments on Tuesday.

“We don’t plan on making any moves without consulting the city first. We strongly urge you to take action as soon as possible,” Ludwig told Council, explaining Health Right will not order the containers until a vote is held.

While some members of council seemed to echo Ludwig’s frustration that the issue could be kicked down the road unnecessarily, others countered that the city should at least have a basic policy in place spelling out where the boxes will be and how they’ll be handled.

“I think we need to have a meeting where the protocols are worked out. We talked about having three locations. I think we need to have a chain of how the sharps go from where they are to where they ultimately go,” Councilor Jenny Selin said. “I think we need to develop a proposal.”

Further, BOPARC — on whose property at least one of the containers is likely to be placed — is still gathering information on the topic.

Like Jones, Ludwig said regardless of whether anyone likes the idea of public sharps containers, they’re needed.

“Yes, this is the world we live in,” Ludwig said. “No, we don’t have the power to change it right now, but we have the power to do a lot of things that can make it a lot easier and safer.”

City Manager Paul Brake said council could also consider a trial placement to determine the effectiveness of the containers.

Also on Tuesday, Brake said the city has received “a couple” proposals for a facilitator to spearhead a 9-12 month comprehensive look at homelessness, addiction and other issues facing the city’s downtown, but isn’t ready to make a selection.

Brake went on to say that he recently reached out to WVU to consider assisting with what promises a big financial endeavor.

“I had a recent conversation with WVU, not only representing the university, but the hospital as well, and asked their consideration if we do go the route of hiring a consultant or facilitator, that they help us share in the cost,” Brake said. “That conversation continues in that regard.”

In other news, Council:

  • Read a proclamation recognizing the career of William “Mickey” Rinehart, who retired as a captain with the Morgantown Fire Department earlier this month after 30 years with the department.
    “Mick, thank you for everything you’ve done for the city of Morgantown and the Morgantown Fire Department,” Chief Mark Caravasos said. “We’re going to miss you, brother.”
  • Approved a resolution adding “veteran status” to the Morgantown Welcome Statement.