Last updated: July 06. 2014 11:03PM - 1378 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com

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Some Luzerne County Council members keep calling for more state funding in various areas, but they may be waiting a long time if past experience is an indicator.

Council recently voted to ask the state to increase funding for district judge offices. Additional requests for state money to cover public defender’s office expenses and a new county prison have been proposed.

However, the state has largely ignored 1987 and 1996 state Supreme Court orders to fund all county court-related employees. To date, the state has funded only the salaries of judges, district judges, court administrators and their immediate deputies, officials say.

• Rick Williams, chair of council’s operational services committee, asked county Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri to draft a proposed zoning ordinance change allowing backyard hens in residential areas. The committee will review the document next month before deciding whether to advance it to council for its consideration, he said. A council majority did not support the change in a recent poll, with several council members citing opposition from some municipalities covered by county zoning.

Williams had hoped to give these municipalities the option to opt in or out of the backyard hen change, but Pedri said last week that’s not an option because the zoning ordinance is a package that must be accepted in its entirety by municipalities that don’t want to handle zoning on their own.

• Councilman Jim Bobeck told citizens he is drafting a suggested meeting structure change that will streamline decision-making and do away with most committees.

• Some council members have been pushing for more assistance from county prison inmates cleaning up county-owned property, including parks.

The administration is responding to the request but stressed the county would break the law and possibly violate union contracts by regularly scheduling inmates to handle specific county work assignments. Providing assistance to churches and nonprofits also links inmates to networks that may be valuable when they are released, officials said.

• As promised, court officials have started posting vacant positions under the career opportunities section of the county website (www.luzernecounty.org). Applications are being accepted for a unionized magisterial secretary at a starting salary of $24,200.

• Hazleton resident Larry Plesh will start work today as county engineer at a salary of $42,000, said county Operational Services Division Head Tanis Manseau.

“I’m really excited about getting him. He has a lot of practical experience,” Manseau said.

• Four County Council committees will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council meeting room at the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.

• Kingston resident Brian Shiner advised council members to have one pledge of allegiance and moment of silence applying to all four committee meetings, saying repeating them four times in the same night is “ridiculous.”

• Court officials are near finalizing the purchase of guns for county probation officers who complete training and pass psychological testing, said county Court Administrator Michael Shucosky. The weapons will be funded by a probation supervision fee — not the county’s general fund operating budget.

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