Commissioners wary of Workforce Investment Board

The Warren County Commisioners voted Wednesday to take no further action on signing a resolution for representation on the Northwest Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board (WIB).

Commissioner John Eggleston addressed Commissioner Stephen Vanco saying, “Mr. Chairman, I’d like to make a motion that we simply remove this from the agenda and take no further action on it at this time. Basically my reasoning is we’ve appointed one of our members, Mr. Vanco, to be the representative to the board and we are still reluctant to sign the agreement as written. My suggestion is that we go forward without signing it and see what happens over the next couple of months. The audit report has not yet come back on this organization and there is still some uncertainty and questions about its organization. Rather than addressing this in every meeting, my thinking is we take it off the agenda. We can always resubmit it at some point down the road if that becomes necessary.”

Commissioner John Bortz agreed saying, “The real sticking point with this has been underneath Section 4 of the current resolution … states that one commissioner acts as a binding majority for all of Warren County. In my nearly ten years of being in office, it’s always taken a majority vote of the commissioners to do anything. The suggestion by our solicitor was to effectively reverse this language, and it would say something along the lines of a commissioner shall act as a policy and advisement, but shall in no way bind the county for any further performance with out a majority vote of the commissioners.”

He continued, “We have taken the (action) of appointing Commissioner Chair Stephen Vanco to the WIB. I wish him well in that appointment. I hope he finds a more productive use of his time than what I did.”

Vanco said, “I personally feel that this is a good move. From the correspondence I have been receiving there is going to be a change in officers and board on the WIB, and there may be a change in policy. I’d like to have at least one meeting under my belt before we make a decision.”

Toby Rohlin, Warren County fiscal director, reported, “We have cash on hand of $771,000, comparable to a figure of a year ago of $624,000 so we’re running similar to where we were last year, which is better than I expected. Total accounts payable on the table today are $91,917. The jail is $23000; county operations are approximately $69,000.” He then broke down the individual costs for operations, but noted the breakdown for the jail would wait for an upcoming prison board meeting.

He noted that after costs there is about $500,000 remaining.

Eggleston asked Rohlin, “Any feelings whether we’re liable to get through the year without having to draw down that last $500,000?”

Rohlin replied, “Oh, we’ll draw it for sure. No question. The question is whether we will need more than that. For the past ten years that I’ve been here, we have been able to get through. This year is going to be very tight, as you know we had to raise taxes and the money’s not going to be here until the fall.”

Bortz questioned Rohlin, “How have we been doing with regard to our expenses? It has been our policy to pass a budget and then keep the shirtsleeves rolled up, manage our expenses and keep them down. How do those expenses, as a rule, seem to be coming in?”

Rohlin answered, “We’re staying on budget. Actually we’re doing a little bit better in the health care area, which is a big comfort. We’re only halfway through the year… but so far so good.”

A motion to accept the fiscal report was passed without comment.

Bortz then asked to hear Eggleston’s comments on a county contract with the U.S. Postal Service regarding a building lease in Youngsville for District Magistrate Cynthia Lindemuth’s offices.

Eggleston said, “We have been renting three rooms in the Youngsville Post Office. Most of the work had to do with our wanting to put a parking lot, but the lease does not include parking. We’ve done the planning for a parking lot, and the negotiations centered around them wanting us to pay for the parking lot, and pay additional rent for the use of the parking lot. We negotiated with them for almost a year, and finally got them to see the wisdom of allowing us to build a parking lot and not pay additional rent.We may not build a parking lot, it depends on the cost.”

Bortz spoke of an existing building in Youngsville that the county owns and was used for the magisterial district, and Eggleston said it would come down to the cost of building a parking lot and the advantages of having a fixed cost lease without paying utilities. He said, “It’s considerably cheaper than running our own building which is in need of quite a bit of upgrades. So when we get the price for the parking lot, the decision will simply be an economic one. If it comes in at what I hope it will come in at, it will make economic sense to build the parking lot and we can sell the building, put it back on the tax rolls, and go from there.”

Vanco commented on a lack of ability to terminate the lease on the county’s part, although the Postal Service can terminate the lease with 30-days notice. Rohlin said the Postal Service could conceivably say “Thanks for the parking lot, you have thirty days to get off our property.”

Eggleston said he had made it clear during emails and phone calls that the presence of the magisterial district in Youngsville is “subject to the whim of the state, they could eliminate that position tomorrow. We don’t want to obligate ourselves to a five-year lease… and make a motion to table this until I get this answered.” Bortz seconded the motion and it was approved.

The commissioners approved of a contract for an online law library with Nexus, saving $15,000 in annual savings replacing an existing West Law print subscription and services for district magistrates, the public defender, and the district attorney. Forest County would pay 20 percent of the cost, which reflects its usage, according to Linda Critzer, district court administrator. A motion to approve the contract passed, with the contingency of the commissioners having a conversation with the Forest County Commissioners..

An issue with the malfunctioning air conditioning system that failed while nearly 200 people were in the main courtroom on Monday was addressed. Regarding the discomfort felt by prospective jurors, Bortz asked, “Is there an opportunity for an apology now? There certainly is, and let me just say on behalf of the Warren County Commissioners, for all those people who were inconvenienced that particular day I apologize that they were met with those situations, that is not the standard that we want to maintain the Warren County Courthouse.” He praised Ron Farnham, maintenance director for the county, for coming in on his day off to fix the situation.

Eggleston noted that the air conditioning system was poorly designed, and couldn’t be fixed without replacing the system. They agreed that an additional person should be trained to work on the air conditioning, and Eggleston said, “I could be trained.”