County looks at funding for zoning office

In a short work session Monday morning, the Warren County Commissioners mulled the expense and the reach of the county zoning office.

The discussion was prompted by Commissioner John Bortz’s concern about taxpayer funding of the office.

He estimated the costs for the county office to be between $70,000 to $80,000 annually.

“At this point, I just want to bring some additional attention to the fact that we are collecting tax dollars from all landowners from within the county… for services that (the residents of Warren and Youngsville) have no opportunity to participate in,” he said.

Warren and Youngsville have independent planning and zoning offices that are funded by city and borough taxes.

Commissioner John Eggleston noted that the same argument could be made for the funding for the sheriff’s office and local police agencies and recycling services.

“That’s part of the dilemma of county government versus municipal government, in the inter-twining of services… and I agree with you that we need to take a look at this and figure out where we are going with it in terms of limited tax dollars,” he said.

Bortz replied, “Zoning, by the commonwealth statute, is a municipal function, not a county function. It was by an act that took place in the 1960s… that the aggregated zoning issue came under the county umbrella. For a period of time, perhaps that made sense, however, as we’re parsing every dollar… we have to ask ourselves, is taking on that additional responsibility as a county something that we can just absorb. In my own mind, I’ve answered that question soundly, no, we have to do something.”

“I’m not saying dispense with it,” he added. “I’m saying that maybe we go into a pay-to-play type of an opportunity, I think it does need to be looked at. We are cutting funding for human services and other programs that are out there, and yet we’re picking up the cost of something like this.”

Also during the work session, the commissioners agreed to open bids for the McGuire Run waterline project.

Four bids were received, ranging from a low of $25,719 from Earth Movers Unlimited to a high bid of $57,013 from Guyer Brothers. As Wednesday morning’s regular meeting will be too soon, the issue will be brought up at the Sept. 11 meeting in the Jackson Courtroom. Eggleston said the bids will undergo an administrative review to make sure they are responsible bidders.

Eggleston said paving of the parking lot at District Justice Cynthia Lindemuth’s office in Youngsville awaits bid approval, now that an agreement has been reached with the U.S. Postal Service regarding the lease. The agreement gives the Postal Service and the county the right to cancel the lease.

“We’re happy,” said Eggleston.

During the salary board portion of the meeting, the commissioners approved a promotion to sergeant for a corrections officer at the Warren County Prison, at a pay rate of $19.91 per hour, and the hiring of a part-time social services aide at $11.39 per hour, for an annual pay of around $8,800 with no benefits.

Mary Kushner, administrator for Forest-Warren Human Services, described the position as budgeting, transportation, teaching adult living skills and others.