Residents were urged to get involved, make their voices heard and be part of the solution.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
FARRELL, Pa. -- People who live or work in the targeted Weed and Seed community revitalization area will be the key to making the program work, the Pennsylvania state Weed and Seed director said.
Carl Anderson was in Farrell on Thursday to encourage public participation in the state's ninth and newest Weed and Seed project, which covers portions of both Farrell and Sharon.
Gov. Mark Schweiker was in town Dec. 5 to officially kick off the program, which will get $220,000 over three years to "weed" out crime and "seed" new community development.
"We created a lot of expectations," Anderson said, adding, "This is what comes next."
Getting involved: He spoke to about 50 interested residents of the targeted area, urging them to get involved, particularly in the Target Area Local Leadership team.
"This group will be the eyes and ears of the entire program," he said, adding that it will have numerous subcommittees.
For example, if a person has a particular concern about rental housing and absentee landlords, that person should get on the housing subcommittee, he said.
Police, including the Pennsylvania State Police, will handle the weed portion of the program, but the seed portion will rely on the public, Anderson said.
The TALL team will identify motivated community residents who want to help, provide them with leadership training and begin doing community projects such as beautification programs, public marches and solicitations for participation, he said.
A second group, called the Assistance for Impact Delegation, will be made up of key nonprofit, government and private sector leaders who will develop a revitalization plan for the 60-block targeted area.
That team will have to find the program gaps between what exists and what the community needs to rebuild, Anderson said, suggesting that could be things like after-school programs, job training and community policing.
Progress: Robert Kochems, the Mercer County assistant district attorney assigned as community prosecutor to direct the weed portion of the effort, said things are already happening.
Police made 25 warrant arrests, 21 other on-the-spot criminal arrests and 70 traffic stops in the targeted area in December.
Half of those traffic stops resulted in charges being filed for crimes beyond traffic violations, he said.
There was some indication that not all members of the group have the strongest faith in the police.
One woman asked if the committee would deal with police brutality issues, and another asked who would be watching the people in authority who might be "on the drug man's payroll."
Both Anderson and Kochems said there are already systems in place to deal with those types of problems.
The key to the weed effort as well as concerns about police or other corruption is communication, Kochems said, urging residents to feel free to contact him or others in authority if they see a problem.