Driven to discussion: Adamstown council ponders drunk-driving program, sidewalk concerns

By on May 22, 2017


Members of Adamstown Borough Council were told that the Every 15 Minutes car crash simulation, a staged two-day event intended for juniors and seniors in high school, may be “too traumatizing” for Cocalico students.
The program attempts to prevent students from drinking, texting, drugging while driving.
The program goes to extremes in making its point. Willing students, as “passengers” and “drivers,” are seen “thrown” from a vehicle with fake, gushing blood over the scene.
One parent conteds the program “emotionally affects fragile people.”
“My daughter was upset for a week,” she said.
Cocalico High School used to host the nation-wide program, which some call, Operation Prom Promise, but has not in the past 17 years.
“It’s something, believe it or not, the parents didn’t want to have done, and teachers didn’t want to have done because it used to be done at Cocalico and they stopped it because it was too traumatizing,” Sandy Roth, who witnessed a similar situation at Wilson High School, recalled at the May 2 Adamstown Borough meeting.
Cocalico Principal Chris Irvine said the program, then called “Every 30 Minutes,” was last held in 2000, when he was assistant principal. The intensity of the program was tough for some students to handle, he said, so the decision was made to not continue.
However, Irvine said he has gotten requests from some in the community to reinstate it and he has initiated some discussions with East Cocalico Police Chief Terry Arment.
Irvine said he is attempting to pull the essential community partners together, but the planning process, which will largely occur in the summer months, will be time consuming.
While he hopes to bring back a program next spring, Irvine said it will be greatly modified from what students witnessed in 2000. Irvine also hopes to compare notes with his counterpart at Ephrata High School.
Mayor Dean Johnson received an invitation from Ephrata Mayor Ralph Mowen and from Ephrata Police Chief William Harvey to attend the event in front of Ephrata High School last month.
“I was impressed,” said Johnson.
“Two previously wrecked cars were props, along with one person lying on the street and one unresponsive in the vehicle,” said Johnson. “The students came out and it was absolutely dead quiet. You could hear the birds but that was about it.”
Because Every 15 Minutes is supposed to seem real-life, the fire/police/EMS prepare like it’s an actual accident. Officers respond to investigate the accident, and they do a mock evaluation of a DUI driver, who is arrested and transported to “jail.”
“Off in the distance, you could see the police cars coming and as they got closer, the sirens got louder,” said Johnson. “After the police cars got there, three fire trucks came. Both fire crews went to the most critical vehicle and started tearing it apart. They took both doors off, they took the hood off. They actually cut the roof off to get the person inside. The ambulance people took the patients. The police were talking to the two people in the other vehicle. One person was taken off in handcuffs. The other person was escorted to another police car and put in the back seat.
“It was real-life situation when you have a car crash. After all that was done, the person laying in the street was covered up with a sheet and then the hearse came.”
The second day of the event, students were assembled into the auditorium where a casket was placed on stage. Students read letters about the victim that was killed. A priest was present.
“I didn’t attend, but I heard the stage event on Friday was more moving than what you saw on Thursday,” said Johnson.
“It’s a tear-jerker,” said Roth, who viewed Ephrata’s presentation on YouTube. “When they read the letters, you need tissues.”
“The whole idea is to give a sense of feeling of what really happens when someone gets killed, said Johnson. “If anyone has an opportunity to see one of those, go, just go.”
Councilman Mark Bansner was asked his thoughts about the program.
“I personally believe it should be brought back to Cocalico,” said Bansner.
“Death is traumatic, having a friend or acquaintance pass as a teen is brutal. I witnessed it first hand with a friend’s family.
Bansner believes working with Harvey “can go a long way in bringing the program back to Cocalico.”
“I have no idea why some parents disagree with presenting a program like this to students,” said Bansner. “They would certainly be fine with counseling after the traumatic event takes place, why not a little preventive training to try a stop these events from happening! Life can be traumatic, sheltering young people from it does not prepare them to handle life in tough situations.”
Also at the borough meeting, Joe Dietrich, former council member, spoke about being “irritated” with people “storing trash cans on their front porches, trash in their backyards, and all over the place.”
Dietrich wanted council to consider adopting a “minimum property upkeep ordinance.”
“When you talk about trash, are you talking about literal trash or are you talking about junk?” asked Councilwoman Cindy Schweitzer.
“Probably a combination of the two,” said Dietrich. “I just think it looks horrible when you have trash cans on the front porch, some people maybe don’t have an option.”
Dietrich said he is not asking that residents be required to spend money.
Regarding sidewalk and curbs, Councilman Mike Wetherhold discussed a new less expensive way for residents to fix their sidewalks. The community committee is preparing an ordinance which will require residents to fix their sidewalks and curbs at their own expense.
A demonstration was recently held at 127 W. Main St. where the sidewalks were injected with foam which lifted the sidewalks to be at the same level as the curb.
“I was pretty impressed to be frank with you,” said Wetherhold.
Wetherhold showed ‘before’ photos of the sunken sidewalks, and photos of the process and how they were lifted.
“This is one potential solution for people who have a similar problem,” said Wetherhold. “The only alternative solution is to rip out perfectly good sidewalk and put in new, but this is quicker and cheaper.”
Wetherhold was asked of the cost. He said he was not ready to comment on the specifics.
Johnson was at the demonstration.
“All they did was drill a 5/8-inch hole and squirted this foam down underneath there and it brought it up two inches right up to the curb,” said Johnson. “It did a very neat job, I thought it was very clean. The 5/8″ hole, they filled that up and leveled it off and you’d never know it was there.”

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