Carbon County commissioners on Thursday took steps to save $30,000 to $40,000 annually by retaining three lawyers as conflict counselors in criminal and juvenile matters in county court.
All three commissioners voted to authorize the advertisement in the Carbon County Law journal seeking letters of interest to retain the professional services.
The court has often had to appoint attorneys to represent defendants because of conflicts among attorneys in the public defenders office or other areas.
Over the past three years, those appointments have cost the county $367,142. In 2010, the county spent $125,151; in 2011, it spent $116,289; and in 2012, it spent $125,702.
President Judge Roger Nanovic suggested to commissioners during cost-cutting talks that they consider contracting the attorney services. The county could sign contracts with attorneys who would handle the workload on a yearly basis, and the court would appoint one of the attorneys under contract.
The commissioners decided on three $25,000 per year contracts $75,000 over 12 months. That's a substantial savings over the amounts the county had been paying in each of the past three years.
"Quick action was needed, considering the "rate of appointments in 2013 is costing the county more than the prorated costs we would have paid under contract. Through five months this year, we have paid $41,936, or an average of $8,387 per month. But based on three contracts totaling $75,000, the average per month would have been $6,260 per month if the contracts were in place," said Commissioner William O'Gurek.
In other matters Thursday, commissioners accepted a proposal from Buckno Lisicky & Company, Allentown, for completion of the audit of the narrowband Local Share Account Grant at a quoted price of $43,000:
An audit is required to close out the narrowband project the county funded through the Local Share Account grant program (gaming revenues from the Mt. Airy Casino in Monroe County). The county received a Local Share grant in the amount of $907,453 to fund the project, which ended up costing $920,252. The municipalities paid the remaining $12,799 on a prorated basis.
Narrowband was necessary because the FCC required all radio frequencies be changed to 12.5 kHz bandwidth for emergency personnel before Jan. 1 of this year.
The county hired the Delta Development Group of Mechanicsburg in late 2011 and applied for the gambling revenues in January 2012 in an effort to ease the burden emergency personnel were facing as a result of the federal mandate. The project was completed in late 2012, resulting in EMS, police departments, fire companies and government radios and pagers being changed in frequencies.
The hiring of Buckno Lisicky & Co. is the final action of the project with the audit being necessary for the county to be in compliance with the grant regulations.
Also on Thursday, commissioners approved execution of "offer to purchase" letters to the six affected property owners for the right of way in regards to the Carbon County Bridge No. 16 Project, as required by the Pa. Department of Transportation and Keystone Acquisition Services:
This moves ahead a project that has been a concern of the county for the last 14 years.
Bridge No. 16 is along Koch Road, Towamensing Township Route 447, and will be replaced in the near future using state and federal money. For several years, engineering of the proposed new bridge has been under way by Carbon Engineering, Inc., Summit Hill, under a $635,876 contract.
Deficiencies of the current bridge were first brought to light way back in 1999, when the county posted it as having a five-ton limit. Meanwhile, the county positioned itself within the Northeast Pennsylvania Rural Transportation Funding Organization (NPRTPO), which sets aside state and federal funds for projects like this, for funding.
In 2008, Judy Borger, director of the county's Office of Planning and Development, testified before the NPRTPO, calling its replacement a "high priority" because of the roadways and deck needing work, arches being deteriorated and because of its narrow width.
Then, Towamensing Township's Zoning Ordinance as it pertains to historical structures slowed the project. Township officials wanted the county to save the bridge and build a new one near it, but engineering reports indicated the roadway does not meet highway design standards.
The county also had to provide hydraulic and hydrologic reports, showing stream flow data. Eventually, it was determined the bridge, built in 1916, has no historical significance.
Proposed is a concrete arch bridge with a Type M bridge rail. It will be a 60-foot span and will be built in such a way that it will afford upstream and downstream views of the Pohopoco Creek.
The commissioners anticipate funding for the project to be set aside for replacement next year, with 80 percent being provided by the federal government and 20 percent to come from state funds.
In March, the county hired Indian Valley Appraisal Company at a cost of $5,250 to work with PennDOT and Keystone Acquisition Services to provide appraisals on rights of way for six parcels needed for the replacement project.
The "offer to purchase" letters note the county has completed appraisals of the said properties.
"The amount summarized below is offered as just compensation for land which must be utilized by the county to construct and/or maintain the proposed highway facility as delineated on the plan for the project. The offered amount also includes compensation for all improvements located on the affected areas and loss in value, if any, to your remaining property."
They are being offered to: Harry W. Zazulak, 415 Koch Road, Kunkletown, $600 for .05 acres required for a right of way and .01 acres required for a temporary construction easement; Michael Buskirk, 675 Koch Road, Kunkletown, $600 for .05 acres required for a right of way and .003 acres required for a temporary construction easement; Richard J. Morrissey, Easton, $700 for .05 acres required for a right of way and .08 acres required for a temporary construction easement; Teresa A. Siska, 95 Whitney B Road, Kunkletown, $600 for .05 acres required for a right of way and .01 acres required for a temporary construction easement; Matthew D. Frable and Stacy J. Frantz, Kresgeville, $500 for .06 acres required for a right of way and .06 acres required for a temporary construction easement; and to the estate of Robert Rian Siska, 95 Whitney B Road, Kunkletown, $900 for .08 acres required for a right of way and .02 acres required for a temporary construction easement.