PHILMONT — Concern about drug overdoses in the village sparked a vivid discussion by the board of trustees at its workshop meeting.
Mayor Brian Johnson and trustees Douglas Cropper, Debra Gitterman and Larry Ostrander expressed several concerns about drug use in the village that came up in discussions about the softball field, local policing and Greener Pathways, an organization dedicated to recovery services. Trustee Jason Detzel was absent.
Johnson and the trustees did not specify which drugs they were talking about during the discussions, but were concerned about overdoses.
Philmont has had five non-fatal overdoses and one fatal overdose this year, Greener Pathways Program Director Carl Quinn said Monday.
“One more overdose is too many,” Johnson said. “I know that is probably unreasonable but that was my goal... we’ve got to do something.”
The board discussed taking down the softball field and leave a plain grassy field in its place. The scoreboard does not work, the lights are expensive to turn on, the bleachers are unsafe and the building is in disrepair, Johnson said.
He said the dugout is used for drug activity.
“As far as the dugouts go, they’re doing drugs inside of them,” Johnson said.
Everyone in the village seems aware of drug activity except for police officers, Johnson said. He expressed frustration over county and state officers stopping people for parking tickets and said he wants village police to be more active in policing drugs.
“I don’t want them to write speeding tickets,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we need to write speeding tickets. I think we need to sit where there is known drug activity in the hills. Everybody seems to know about the drug activity in the village but our cops and I don’t know why. I don’t know why that is.”
Cropper said officers are aware of the problem but don’t want to deal with it. “They don’t want to deal with it,” he said to Johnson. “You know that they know.”
Having police cars parked near areas with drug activity will help address the problem, Cropper and Johnson said.
“If they are sitting down there, the stuff is going to go away,” Cropper said. “You don’t even have to make an arrest.”
Johnson said if illegal drug activity is happening in rental units, the village can give violations to landlords. “If the landlords are creating a problem for us we might as well create a problem for them,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he spoke with Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, and told her the village needs oversight for how Section 8 money is given.
“They just hand out all this money and there is no interaction with the people who are receiving the money after they hand it out,” he said. Johnson said counselors should make visits to Section 8 housing every few months to see if there are drugs there. Ostrander said he gets two complaints a month about drugs.
Gitterman suggested the village use services from Greener Pathways, but trustees were hesitant over where the company’s mobile clinic should be parked.
Ostrander said the vehicle should be in a conspicuous spot on Main Street or near the community center, but also asked, “Do we want people who are in need of help around children?”
Village residents were upset about the organization’s mobile clinic recently parked near their homes, so the trustees have to be sensitive about where it is located, Ostrander said.
Gitterman responded that instead the board could educate the public about the organization and about drug addiction.
If fear and ignorance are driving “not in my backyard” responses to having a mobile clinic in the village, then education about drug addiction and treatment is important, she said Monday.
The data comes from OD Map software, which the New York State Police, New York State Park Police, Valatie Rescue Squad, Columbia County 911, Chatham Rescue Squad and Chatham Police Department participate in, according to the OD Map website.
Philmont sometimes comes up as an overdose hot spot, but is not always considered one, Quinn said. “I wouldn’t say it has an all-the-time problem, but that is not for me to say,” he said. “But we do see hot spots [in Philmont] from time to time, will pop up, that we respond to for overdoses.”