A shortage of Luzerne County staff engineers has forced the county planning/zoning office to retain an outside company to review plans and conduct inspections, officials say.
The county won’t shoulder the expense of paying the outside engineer —Quad 3 Group in Wilkes-Barre — because the work is included in a fee paid by property owners and developers seeking subdivision and land development approval, said interim county Planning/Zoning Director Nancy Snee.
However, the county will lose revenue because payments that will now go to the outside engineer previously went to the county for performing the work in-house, Snee said.
The county received $157,000 from engineering work completed for the planning/zoning office last year, she said. The revenue varies annually based on the number of applications, which is largely driven by the economy, she said.
County Manager Robert Lawton said the revenue loss should have no impact on the county’s strained general fund operating budget because the county saved about the same amount not paying engineer salaries.
The county engineering office was reduced to one engineer — Greg Parrs — in March when engineer Mel Morris resigned to accept a private-sector position.
The administration has not yet filled two other vacant engineer positions — the chief engineer job vacated when Joe Gibbons resigned last May for a position outside the region and the assistant engineer position previously held by Chris Belleman, who is now executive director of the county Flood Protection Authority.
Lawton said the selection process continues for the engineering positions, which are among about 50 vacancies countywide.
The county will receive additional engineering assistance with this week’s hiring of South Carolina engineer Tanis Manseau as operational services division head. Manseau said he is in the process of applying for a professional engineering license in Pennsylvania.
It’s unclear how much engineering work will be handled by Manseau because the division head post, created by the home rule charter, is more administrative. Manseau also must oversee budgets and personnel in other departments, including roads and bridges, recreation, 911, buildings and grounds and security.
Snee said the outsourcing was necessary because Parrs is busy with other responsibilities and isn’t experienced in handling work for her office.
Quad 3 was retained because the company already has an existing contract with the county, Lawton said. That contract expires in October, and Lawton said the administration has started preparing a request for proposals with the goal of attracting submissions from multiple engineering firms.
Snee said her office will continue to receive revenue from applicants to cover administrative costs.