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May 9, 2013

Regional 911 operation on the table

MERCER COUNTY — As technology advances, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania is looking at legislation offering incentives for counties willing to combine 911 emergency calling centers, according to Mercer County Commissioner Chairman John Lechner.

Discussing a recent newsletter from the CCAP organization, Lechner explained Wednesday that legislation is currently in front of the state’s Senate that looks to put in place financial incentives for consolidation, which Lechner said, can be “very expensive.”

“You’re looking at either someone moving into our facility or us moving into theirs or possibly building a whole new building. You have to look at the radio and tower system. Right now, we have different antennas hanging on space we lease. It’s a mish-mash of different frequencies that various departments broadcast on,” he said.

“But a joint operations center, where we owned our own towers, would run in the millions. But possibly we could then lease space on our towers. This is all still out there in the land of ‘what if’ “ he said.

Counties have the responsibility for operating 911, which stems from the state Public Safety and Emergency Telephone Act enacted in 1990. The organization said counties are meeting the key public safety objectives but are “wholly unprepared” for newer technologies.

Other issues that the commissioners organization are considering priorities include making sure employees in the Veterans Affairs office are accredited. Both Director Larry Scheetz and Assistant Director Nathan Nych are accredited, meaning they are authorized to validate veteran’s claims for assistance. Commissioners will vote today on hiring an assistant in the Veteran’s Affairs office, and she will also be accredited, Lechner said.

Also there is legislation that allows county officials to abolish the jury commissioner positions, even though those positions are up for election this year. Previous statutes said the positions could be eliminated, but not during an election  year.

Lechner said that isn’t relevant to Mercer County, because they never adopted the resolution to abolish the positions. The two jury commissioners work part-time to handle the paperwork associated with calling residents in for jury duty and Lechner has said in the past  “if it  isn’t broken, don’t fix it” regarding abolishing the positions.

Commissioners will meet today to consider:

ä Accepting a $4 million grant from the state Office of the Budget under the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project to help Wendell August Forge Inc. with its industrial expansion project. The total project  is $8 million. The county acts as a “pass-through” agency for the money, Lechner said.

ä Authorizing an annual agreement with landscaper Roger L. Hoffman to maintain and repair seven county-owned flood control dams. Hoffman will be paid $70 an hour for his maintenance work.

ä Purchase service agreements with providers for Children and Youth Service programs

ä Several personnel changes at the county jail, controllers office and the veterans affairs office.

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