The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 6, 2014

2 commissioners talk up getting word out, helpline

By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY — In what Commissioner Matt McConnell called the “everyday mundane business of running the county” two of the three county officials discussed everything from the 2-1-1 helpline to parking problems to building sheep pens to the idea of using social media to spread information to residents.

Wednesday’s work session started with a proclamation declaring Feb. 11 of every year as a reminder for residents to use the helpline for services that can’t be rendered by calling 911. Started a year ago, the line has received nearly a thousand calls from people needing everything from housing assistance to help with utilities to food, according to Jim Micsky, executive director of the United Way of Mercer County.

Commissioner John Lechner said the 2-1-1 social services line has lifted a burden from the county’s 911 operations. “People would call there for everything and ask them to solve all their problems and some of those problems just can’t be solved there. I remember some of those calls from my days as a cop. This is a wonderful thing for the county and I certainly hope people take advantage of it,” he said.

Micsky said he’d like to see four times as many calls in the future, once word spreads about the service that can put people in touch with the correct agency to help them.

And to help get the word out about county news involving oil and gas exploration or timely events, McConnell said he’d like to explore the idea of starting a Facebook page or a Twitter account. He added however, that access to Facebook is blocked on county computers.

“The county’s webpage is something people have to go to and look at, but this would be a better way if we can do it,” he said.

McConnell said he has a personal Facebook account but he would not use it to announce county information. “I also use that to campaign and I will not mix the two,” he said.

Lechner said, “I don’t tweet, text or Facebook and I’m not going to start, but I think it’s fine to see if that’s something we can do. The more people we can reach, the better. And young people especially use social media these days. And it’s part of an ongoing effort to bring the county into the electronic age.”

An expansion of services in the county’s Children and Youth Services department has brought several additional employees, creating a parking problem. McConnell said the board needs to consider some ways to clear some space and provide for additional spaces.

McConnell also discussed a joint program involving a local tube company, a trucking company and the Mercer County Career Center that helped replace stolen sheep pens at the Penn State Extension 4-H park in Coolspring Township.

Donated pipe, transportation and welding services helped replace the pens and McConnell laughed when he said he learned something new.

“I learned why the pipe have to be placed vertically. I asked because it was a cost savings to run them horizontally. Then I learned that sheep can climb up the pipe and escape,” he said.

He plans to discuss the community project in further detail later, he said.

The third commissioner, Brian Beader, was absent.