The Schuylkill County Commissioners on Wednesday announced they plan to furlough between 30-50 union employees in an effort to balance the 2010 budget.

During the board's weekly meeting, it was noted the administration sent memos to department heads in the past week indicating the planned layoffs. The action comes after American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees rejected the commissioners' request to reduce the work week from 35 to 30 hours, which would have resulted in a 14 percent pay cut for the workers.

While confirming the planned AFSCME layoffs, the commissioners did not discuss the 2010 budget, although financial officer Paul Straka indicated the county's estimated deficit in next year's budget is $4.5 million. He said it was initially believed the county's contribution to the employees' retirement fund would be about $1 million. Now, he said, it has been learned the required contribution will be $2.5 million.

Meanwhile, in related action this week, the county's salary board set salaries for three positions the commissioners filled this week as a matter of consolidation. Straka, Shenandoah, was moved from budget analyst and purchasing manager to assistant county administrator in charge of fiscal operation (salary of $52,745); Martina Chwastiak, West Brunswick Township, was transferred from risk manager to human resource director and risk manager (salary of $52,745); and Heather Garrity, Pottsville, transferred from payroll administrator to payroll administrator and assistant risk manager (salary of $33,271).

The commissioners said the consolidation of duties will save the county payroll expenses in the long run, a claim disputed by union representative Guy Wiederhold, who said the three raises were a "slap in the face" to union employees who may lose their jobs. (See related story).

In other matters this week, the commissioners entered an agreement with Direct Energy Business Company, of Pennsylvania, for the purchase of electricity for the county's electrical needs.

The request was made by Lisa Mahall, county engineer, who reported at Wednesday's meeting, that the agreement was part of the on-demand energy and chamber choice. The cost of electricity will range between $0.0875 to $0.0975 per KWH and the term of the agreement is for 28 months commencing Jan. 1, 2010.

Mahall said the savings will be 13.27 to 17.9 percent over the estimated rate that the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company would be charging as a provider. The agreement includes all of the county's electric accounts, with the exception of the office of public safety and their communications towers.

The lease with Port Carbon Borough for the second floor of the Port Carbon Borough Hall, 301 First Street, consisting of 2,100 square feet, was renewed. It is used to house the office and chambers of District Justice David Plachko. The lease term is for five years, expiring Dec. 31, 2015 and the monthly rental is $1,750.

A contract was entered with Jack Rich Inc., Frackville, to provide 3,000 gallons of fuel oil for heating the child development building in Pottsville and the county garage at a cost of $7,047, for the period from January to December 2010. The public works office reported this was a savings of 45 cents per gallon over last year. Rich was the only bidder.

Three coal land leases were renewed with Joe Kuperavage Coal Company, of Blythe Township to strip mine for coal on county-held land. Royalties paid for the past year on each of the three parcels were $5,852, $2,068 and $9,834 and the grand total to date on each parcel was, $388,005.50, $4,324, and 20,562. The royalty to the county is $4 per ton.

Contracts were approved for Rest Haven Home and Hospital, including:

Ÿ Prostat Inc., Reading, for provision of a temporary nursing staff at costs ranging from CNA $21.50 to $22.50; LPN, $35.50 to $38.50 and RN, $45.50 to $49.50.

Ÿ Pinacle Health Hospice, Harrisburg, for provision of respite care and hospice service to residents at no monetary consideration for this contract. Contractor agrees to pay Rest Haven $138 per day for respite care.

Ÿ Gary Coertese, Pottsville, for podiatry services with no monetary considerations for the contract as the contractor agrees to bill resident insurance.

Ÿ On-Site Health Services, Lafayette Hill, to provide optometry and opthamology for facility residents with the contractor agreeing to bill resident insurance for services.

Ÿ Sue Chesonis, Pottsville, for provision of in-house nursing pool at a cost of $13 per hour; and with Robin Korrubin, Pottsville, for in-house nursing pool at cost of $18 per hour.

Ÿ Simplex Grinnell, Allentown, for provision of computer software installation and support for nurse call system at cost of $9,982.

The board reappointed three people to the Office of Senior Service Aging Advisory Board, Rev. Paul Schjaediger and District Justice James Reiley, both of Pottsville, and Mary Labert, McAdoo. Their terms are for three years, ending Dec. 31, 2012.