Last updated: April 28. 2013 11:48PM - 5327 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6388

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Five people applied for the Luzerne County chief engineer position vacated by Joe Gibbons’ departure for a job outside the region, according to the county human resources office.

Friday was Gibbons’ last day of county employment.

* Richard Cardamone starts work today as the county’s new budget/finance division head.

* County Manager Robert Lawton said interviews continue for the five remaining division head positions. He told council he might reach a decision this week on one or more applicants. If so, council will call a special meeting next week to vote on confirming them.

Lawton must choose division heads to oversee the prison system, judicial records, operations, administrative services and human services.

* The county-owned Valley Crest Nursing Home in Plains Township can sit vacant about five more years before demolition will be the only option, Gibbons told council last week in a report on unused county government properties.

Demolition is estimated to cost around $1 million, the report said.

The county has unsuccessfully tried to sell the 62.35-acre property since the private nursing-home operator moved into a new facility in 2010.

Gibbons supports partially demolishing the structure to create a center for county government offices but said that may not be possible with the county’s $430 million in outstanding debt. Other options: continue trying to sell the property or subdivide the property to try to sell the land and building separately.

* The state Department of Environmental Protection takes exception with the county’s attempt to negotiate permit fee forgiveness in exchange for allowing the agency to access county-owned land to address a flooding issue, said agency spokeswoman Colleen Connolly.

DEP told county officials it is resorting to forced entry on county land in Hanover Township because the county refused access. The state wants to drill new boreholes to drain water from an underground mine to prevent potential flooding in the township’s Lee Park section.

Gibbons has said the state’s decision was premature because the county was negotiating an access agreement to protect the county from liability and possibly eliminate other permit fees the county believes are unwarranted between two government entities.

Connolly said fees were “never an item up for negotiation” because her agency only waives fees for emergencies, such as flooding. She said it is “extremely rare” for a government entity to refuse DEP access to complete a flood-control project.

* The county administration put a court hearing about Flood Protection Authority board seats on hold last week to try to work out an agreement to end the litigation.

The action asked a judge to determine if three unpaid citizen authority board members should remain in their seats due to an authority incorporation paperwork matter that had nothing to do with them.

One solution would be submitting new state paperwork saying five citizens will serve on the board. However, some county officials want to keep the original structure with the county planning/zoning director and assistant engineer on the board, saying their expertise is valuable.

The authority oversees the Wyoming Valley Levee and other flood-control projects.

* As part of a discussion on workforce standards, council’s strategic initiatives committee is proposing switching employees to a combined leave program providing a set number of days off without labeling them as sick, vacation or personal.

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