Hearing continues on fate of Wernersville corrections center

HEIDELBERG TWP., Pa. - A months-long hearing about the Wernersville Community Corrections Center in Berks County did not end Monday night.

Instead, officials with the facility used four hours of a meeting to continue stating its case for staying open.

It was the fourth hearing focused on whether the center should be able to continue operations on the state hospital grounds in South Heidelberg Township, and a fifth had to be scheduled because the state's testimony still isn't complete.

Frustrations started to boil over Monday night as people from both sides said the whole process is taking entirely too long.

"We felt like the process would move expeditiously and, unfortunately, it has not, and it's really causing fatigue on our citizens," said Sean McKee, South Heidelberg Township manager.

While they don't agree on much, the township and state both expressed frustrations with how long the hearing has dragged out.

"Part of the reason it's taking so long is because there's been a lot of community questions," said David Narkiewicz, attorney for the corrections center. "It's also taking quite a bit longer on our part as well, and it's just the volume of legal information that we're trying to put in."

The ongoing hearing is to determine whether the corrections center should be allowed to continue operations on the state hospital grounds.

Township officials argue the center is in violation of the zoning ordinance and poses a danger to the public. The state has argued that it is exempt from those laws.

"We basically are preempted by law from having to comply with the zoning because of certain statutes," said Narkiewicz.

The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, September 19 at 5 p.m. at Conrad Weiser High School.

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