Saturday, July 12, 2014

New county committees start this week

February 02. 2014 11:21PM

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Luzerne County Council’s new committee structure will take effect this week, with four of eight committees meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The committees meeting Tuesday in the courthouse council meeting room: judicial services/justice, correctional services, administrative, and operational services. Council members Jim Bobeck, Tim McGinley, Stephen A. Urban, Stephen J. Urban and Rick Williams were appointed to these committees by council Chairman Rick Morelli, who believes the new system will make council members more informed about pending issues.

Council members Edward Brominski, Kathy Dobash, Harry Haas, Linda McClosky Houck and Eileen Sorokas serve on the committees that will meet the second Tuesday of the month, starting Feb. 11 — economic development/real estate, budget/finance, human services/legislative, and authorities/boards/commissions.

• A public hearing on eight proposed 2014 budget amendments will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the jury meeting room on the second floor of the county courthouse.

• County deputy budget/finance director Donna Magni was terminated Friday, but county officials did not provide a reason, citing personnel confidentiality. Magni had served as temporary interim budget/finance division head for 90 days last year and had worked as deputy since 2011.

• New county budget/finance division head Brian Swetz sent an email to county employees Friday instructing them to disregard W-2 reports that were issued for tax purposes because many are missing some information. He said corrected versions will be issued “as soon as possible.”

• Brominski has declined his recent appointment to the county Retirement Board, saying he does not “wish to butt heads” with three other board members — Swetz, Bobeck and county Manager Robert Lawton. Morelli will appoint someone else to the board, which oversees the employee pension fund.

• A crowd sat outside the meeting room during last week’s council meeting because the room again hit its 50-person capacity. Morelli said he has asked the administration to set up a television outside the room so surplus attendees know what’s going on inside.

Morelli also is reconfiguring seating for the 11-member council into a tighter U-shape to encourage more interaction among members, he said.

• During discussions about Brominski’s proposal to add $3.5 million in revenue to this year’s budget from auctioning the former Valley Crest Nursing Home in Plains Township, council members questioned whether any buyers have expressed an interest.

Lawton said he met with two potential purchasers since last October, and they were interested only in 5- to 12 buildable acres of the 62.35-acre property.

McGinley asked Brominski if the $3.5 million was based on an appraisal, and Brominski said no. The county had appraised the property at $4.136 million a year ago.

McClosky Houck said revenue from a property sale should be set aside to build a cash reserve needed to obtain a credit rating to refinance outstanding debt at lower interest rates.

• West Wyoming resident Ray Gustave pressed council last week on the status of a new purchasing policy under home rule, saying he raised the issue almost a year ago.

County Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri said he and other staff solicitors are actively working with the purchasing manager to develop a policy.

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