More Hopatcong officials agree: the borough has a drug problem.
Mayor Sylvia Petillo and Councilman Mike Francis each, in separate interviews Sunday, said tackling illegal drugs in Hopatcong should be among the lead concerns of a new health advisory committee the borough council is expected to announce at a special meeting at 4 p.m. Monday at the municipal building.
"We still have health issues that I think are important to address," Francis said, "not the least of which are helping our senior citizens and addressing the drug problem in the town."
Said Petillo, "I want [the health advisory committee] to start working on this like the drug problem in the town."
Petillo and Francis' comments come on the heels of newly-appointed police chief Robert Brennan's statement that cracking down on drugs in Hopatcong would be his top priority.
"We have a drug problem that we need to address, that we're taking care of," Brennan said Wednesday.
Hopatcong has seen at least 11 drug arrests in March, according to police reports.
If implemented, the committee would eventually take over for the current board of health, which has seen less activity since Hopatcong became the last Sussex County municipality to merge its health department with the county in 2009.
"[The new committee] should be very productive, very active," said Petillo, who also said Councilmen John Young and Michael Francis will serve on the committee.
The committee would also implement a year-long wellness campaign in the borough, the mayor said.
"There are many opportunities for a proactive board to contribute toward the health of the community," Francis said. "We have a lot of issues (and) a lot of people who are financially stressed. They need help. There are things that we can do."
Petillo said merging the borough's health department with Sussex County was a cost-cutting move. She said Hopatcong was able to host last fall's flu clinic at a reduced rate due to its association with the county.
Petillo said creating a health advisory committee had been in the works since the merger.
She said current Board of Health members would be able to finish their terms and that she hoped to start accepting applications from residents to join the committee soon. Applicants with backgrounds in the medical field would gain preference, Petillo said.
Board of health President Thomas Forbes couldn't be reached Sunday.
Those interested in applying for a post can email Borough Administrator Robert Elia at firstname.lastname@example.org.