FORTY FORT — A representative of Susquehanna River Watch chastised the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority board on Wednesday — 12 days after a woman was attacked on the levee — for failing to respond to safety concerns raised previously.
Donald Hosey Jr. pointed out to the board members that Kingston resident Gerald Reisinger told them at the authority’s April 15 meeting that there were “serious problems along the riverfront.”
Reisinger in April said he could show the board at least 10 campsites, describing the terrain as a haven for criminals and the homeless. He had said he has found weapons and evidence of drug activity there, and that naked men approached him and some college students when he was in Nesbitt Park with the students as a rowing coach.
Authority Executive Director Chris Belleman had said he would accept Reisinger’s invitation for a tour of the area, but the tour never took place.
Then on May 9, a homeless man, who later said he has mental problems, was sitting on a bench on the levee along Church Street in Kingston when he suddenly attacked a woman in her 30s from behind. The man dragged her down the levee toward a wooded area along the Susquehanna River and threatened to kill her with a knife that he pulled out, police said.
The woman suffered lacerations to her arms in the attack. The homeless man, Jarrett Bidding, 22, is jailed for lack of $100,000 bail as he awaits a preliminary hearing on May 28 on multiple charges.
“Dr. Reisinger … asked you to come down, he wanted to show you what was happening on the riverfront before this incident,” Hosey told the board. “Your committee would not come to the park so he could show you the potential danger. That potential danger happened and a woman was traumatized.”
Authority Chairman Kevin O’Brien said the board members are volunteers. “I have a job. I work for a living, sir, and unfortunately, I couldn’t take time out to meet with the gentleman.”
O’Brien also said authority Executive Director Chris Belleman is busy working on numerous levee projects, but he suggested Hosey or Reisinger contact Belleman to arrange a meeting, and he would be glad to meet with them if he was available.
Even before public comment, O’Brien addressed the issue of the attack, saying Belleman has been in touch with authority employees who work on the levee, and also municipal officials, “asking them to increase the police protection and police patrols. So we are addressing it, we are asking the proper authorities to become a little bit more aware of the situation.”
Board Solicitor Christopher Cullen commended Hosey for speaking on the issue and said “these are the types of things that should be brought to the attention of public officials in Wilkes-Barre, etc., who have jurisdiction … over these particular areas.”
“You’re absolutely right. There shouldn’t be this type of circumstance in public parks along the river or in any public park,” Cullen said. “However, the authority can do only so much. It’s efforts like yours, bringing this out to the public via the authority meeting and the press, that creates the opportunity for something to be done.”