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Last updated: March 23. 2014 11:34PM - 2064 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com



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Luzerne County Council members will decide tomorrow night if they want to pay someone to transcribe everything said at council voting meetings and possibly work sessions.


Councilwoman Kathy Dobash suggested reviving verbatim records, saying a printed document is a valuable resource for future reference. Meeting minutes summarize but don’t capture many relevant details, she said.


Verbatim minutes were compiled before home rule, but commissioners had three assistants who jointly transcribed from recordings. Council has one clerk.


Councilman Jim Bobeck said most of the discussion about voting items occurs at work sessions, and he estimated transcribing a work session and meeting each month will cost at least $15,000 annually. He referred to the “long windedness” of council members.


Councilman Harry Haas said he won’t support the expense because the county posts audio recordings of all meetings on the county website.


Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck also she will vote against the expense and said she does not believe council members’ words “warrant being carved in granite,” especially when the county is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.


Dobash said listening to audio tapes takes too long and said another solution should be found if a majority of her colleagues won’t approve hiring a stenographer.


• Tomorrow’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the council meeting room at the courthouse.


• Council is set to fill vacancies on the assessment appeal board, election board, ethics commission and three other outside boards tomorrow. Vacancies on numerous other boards will be filled after all applicants are interviewed.


• County Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri asked assistant solicitor Vito DeLuca to fill in for him at last week’s council work session because Pedri lost his voice, though Pedri still tried to speak on some matters. As a backup, Pedri printed out three cards he could flash in an emergency that said yes, no and “I will review and advise.”


• The county is seeking proposals to handle back-tax collection. Northeast Revenue Service LLC took over the county tax claim office in April 2010, and the company is expected to submit a proposal to continue handling the work. Proposals are due Friday.


• Jackson Township supervisors have sent emails to county officials asking them to address large potholes on the county-owned portion of Chase Road, saying it has become “almost undrivable and a safety hazard.”


• McClosky Houck said county officials must press for completion of the 2012 audit, which was due June 30, 2013, under the home rule charter.


The county administration said the delay stems largely from the auditor’s continued requests for additional information. McClosky Houck said an on-time audit is crucial to obtain a credit rating to refinance debt repayments at lower interest rates.


“We need to regain a focus on what matters to the future of this county - timely and unqualified audits as well as structurally balanced budgets and the establishment of a reserve- so that we can reduce debt service and use our resources to benefit the future of our county and its residents rather than continue to pay premiums on the past,” she wrote in an email.


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