Unread motions spark questions

BY STACI WILSON

The Susquehanna County Commissioners were questioned Wednesday about the way the public meetings are conducted.

After regularly attending several recent meetings, at the Nov. 24 meeting, Cheryl Matulevich of Hop Bottom asked the commissioners, “Why does no one ever read the motions?”

The commissioners read only the motion number listed on the agenda prior to voting on the item.

Matulevich asked, “Why are meetings conducted in this manner?”

She said she had been at a commissioners meeting and witnessed the elected officials losing their place on the agenda. “Take time to read the motion. The office is of such vast importance.”

Matulevich also said that she didn’t think the commissioners should be cutting off discussion during a meeting.

Following a vote on an agreement with Endless Mountains Health Systems regarding the hospital building project, Commissioner MaryAnn Warren had stopped hospital administrators from giving an update of the project’s process.

Commissioner Michael Giangrieco said the commissioners were following the law and that all of the commissioners were available to speak with the public after meetings.

“(This administration) decided not to turn meetings into a circus,” Giangrieco said.

Matulevich said she thought the hospital update should be part of the meeting so it could be part of the public record.

Chief Clerk Sylvia Beamer told Matulevich the county does not document the public comment made at the commissioner meetings.

The commissioners executed a cooperation agreement between the county and Endless Mountains Health Systems regarding a $2 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant to aid in the construction of a new hospital facility.

Giangrieco abstained from the vote. The agreement was reviewed and approved by County Solicitor Michael Gathany.

EMHS CEO Rex Catlin said that in order for the hospital to receive the state grant, the commissioners needed to support the replacement of the facility.

Catlin also said the agreement exposed the county to only a limited amount of liability, but the county would be liable for any inappropriate expense paid using grant funds.

In addition to state watchdogs overseeing the grant fund usage, in the agreement EMHS holds the county harmless.

Commissioners Warren and Leon Allen also voted to rescind a July 14 resolution that allowed the county to use both the Municipal Claims and Tax Lien Act and the Pennsylvania Real Estate Tax Sale Law to help maintain the public archive of tax records and to protect delinquent taxpayers from excessive fees associated with third party tax collecting agencies.

Tax Claim Director Cathy Benedict said the county does not have to use both the laws and that the Real Estate Tax Sale Law is sufficient to achieve both the county’s goals.

Giangrieco voted against rescinding the July 14 resolution.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will pay $37,350 of the total $46,688 for expenses incurred by the county to revise the Municipal Solid Waste Management Plan.

The equipment bid for Jan.1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2012 was awarded to the lowest qualified bidder, Ken Raugh Excavating, Montrose.

Penn State Cooperative Extension and Susquehanna County Children and Youth will continue to jointly fund staff assistant position for an additional three-year term, Jan. 1, 2011 – Dec. 31, 2014. The employee is considered a Penn State employee. The county portion of the agreement is $4,561 for three years.

The resignation of Betty Phillips was accepted with regret by Mary Evans, Register and Recorder. The commissioners acknowledged the resignation.

The commissioners also acknowledged the hiring of Susan Gesford, Springville, by Evans to the position of Third Deputy in the Register and Recorder’s office, effective Nov. 22.

Ryan Latz, New Milford, was hired to fill and open, full-time Caseworker position in Children and Youth, effective Nov. 29, per the recommendation of agency director Susan Adamec.

The commissioners also acknowledged Sheriff Lance Benedict’s acceptance of the resignation of Deputy Sheriff Joshua Atherton, effective Dec. 2, with regret.

Atherton also resigned from his position as a part-time county detective with the District Attorney’s office. That resignation was accepted with regret by D.A. Jason Legg and acknowledged by the commissioners.

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