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W-B offender ordinance debated

Councilman vows more action on law to restrict sexual offenders that a citizen calls “unconstitutional.”

WILKES-BARRE – An ordinance designed to ban sexual offenders from certain parts of the city was placed on the backburner by city council earlier this week, but the councilman who proposed it says it will return to the agenda soon.

That doesn’t please one city resident who told council members at a meeting Thursday that the ordinance would be unfair to sexual offenders.

The proposed ordinance was tabled by council on Tuesday when Mayor Tom Leighton said it needs to include a map outlining the specific areas that would be off limits to convicted sexual offenders. At that Tuesday work session, Councilman Jim McCarthy argued that it was the city administration’s job to configure the map. He has since changed his tune, announcing Thursday that a professional has agreed to create the map free of charge and the process is under way.

Council President Tony Thomas Jr. said council is “100 percent behind it” as long as the ordinance is complete. He said a vote on the proposed law could come as early as January.

City resident Sam Troy urged council to vote down the ordinance, which would prevent registered sexual offenders from living within 1,500 feet of any school, child care building, public park or recreational facility.

“I think these people have served their time, served their debt,” Troy said, claiming that many sexual offenders had been abused sexually in the past.

“These people have a lot of emotional scars,” he said, calling the proposed ordinance “unconstitutional.”

McCarthy fired back by saying “people can’t be cured of pedophilia.” The councilman claims that 40 percent of people convicted federally of sexual crimes against children repeat the offense within three years of being released from prison.

“I want it to be constitutionally sound, but I want it to protect our kids,” McCarthy said. “I want to see little children going to school and being safe. If you have a problem with that, sir, I’m sorry for you.”

In other business Thursday, council:

• Passed its 2007 budget with no discussion. It was presented in October and a hearing was held on it Tuesday. Although it calls for an increase of $1 million in spending over this year’s $36.7 million general fund budget, no tax increase is proposed.

• Agreed to take on a $5 million general obligation note for the construction of its intermodal transportation center, which will be located between the Labor & Industry Building on South Washington Street and the Wilkes-Barre Center on South Main Street. Funding has been acquired for the center, which will cost $18 million to build.

The length of time the city will have to pay back the $5 million debt has yet to be negotiated, said Thomas. The councilman said the city will eventually make back the entire $5 million through parking fees.

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