Action was taken by the Schuylkill County commissioners at their public meeting Wednesday, held in the courthouse in Pottsville, to submit applications to the state's Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to seek more county land be included in the KOE (Keystone Opportunity Expansion) zone program by requesting tax exemptions for the period from Jan. 1, 2014 and to terminate Dec. 31, 2023.

The applications seeks to add 350 acres to be added into KOE mostly located in Foster Township. Approvals are also needed from Foster Township supervisors and Minersville Area School District plus acreage on both sides of SR901 located partly in Foster Township and partly in Butler Township. The Butler Township supervisors and North Schuylkill School Board must join in the approval of the resolutions.

Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier called the KOE program a valuable economic tool which had worked well in the county and created jobs. Commissioner Gary Hess called it a good investment and pointed out after the exemption period expires the company starts paying taxes and jobs created remain in place.

Frank Zukas, head of the county's Schuylkill Community Development Corporation (SEDC)) pointed out this year Wal-Mart's building in the High Ridge Industrial Park in Butler Township goes off the exemption list and will be paying real estate taxes. Zukas stated the parcels proposed are underutilized or unoccupied and this would be a long range program.

The KOZ program originated in 1998 and David Argall, then a state legislator, personally delivered the county's initial application to participate in the program to the state agency and was very instrumental in initiating the program in the county.

Over the years more than 3,000 jobs have been created on land that previously was blighted. Under KOZ real estate taxes are exempt for a 10 year period plus earned income and net profit taxes, business privilege and mercantile taxes. The county waives business gross receipts tax for operation conducted by a qualified business.

Current KOZ properties in Schuylkill County are as follows:

Silvercreek Water Company, 85.2 acres on north side of Interstate 81 in Butler Township; US Federal Prison, off Airport Road, 14.79 acres in Butler Township and 33.4 acres in Foster Township; SEDCO, Butler Township, 88.81 acres; SCIDA, Foster Township, 28.7 acres; Coal Products Inc., Foster Township, one tract containing 72 acres and a second tract containing 29.1 acres; Schuylkill County, Foster Township, 50 acres and CES, LP, Foster Township, 300 acres.

Consulting contract

The commissioners awarded a contract in the amount of $121,056 to Mullin Lonergan Company for consulting services related with the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program administered by Gary Bender, for the county. Also West Penn and Pine Grove townships receive separate grants but their programs are administered by the county.

A lease for strip mining of coal on county land was amended for Premium Fine Coal Company to increase the acreage by 152 acres in Blythe Township which brings the total acreage leased to 272 acres. The additional acreage includes both surface and reserve.

An agreement was entered with Hahner Brothers Roofing and Metal Company, Pottsville, for the re-roofing of the Schuylkill County Public Safety Building on North Centre Street, Pottsville, which houses the 9-1-1 center, at a cost of $99,722.74. Hahner submitted the low bid.

Service agreements

Purchase of service agreements were approved on behalf of Children and Youth Services Agency with providers as follows:

Dr. Matt Shollenberger, PHD, Wyomissing, for group counseling at $50 per unit, individual counseling at $150 per unit rate.

Catholic Social Services, Hazleton, for infant respite care at $30 per day, infant foster care at $37 per day, and foster care at $49.36 per day.

Youth Services Agency, Jim Thorpe, for Camp Adams, at $146 per day and weekend at $152 per day.

Friendship House, Scranton, for HH Foster Care, $23 per diem; KKK Foster Care, $83.50 per diem; and Group Home at $173.31 per day.

Pyramid Healthcare, Duncansville, for Group Home and Shelter, $169 per diem; Sexually Reactive Group Home, $182 per diem; and Ridgeview Adolescent Inpatient, $214 per day.

Pennsylvania Treatment and Healing, Turbotville, for social activities at $5 per unit; specialized foster care, $83 per unit; and Outdoor Weekend Program, $315 per unit.

Proclamation

A proclamation was adopted recognizing the Schuylkill County Animal Response Team's slogan, "No Animal Left Behind." The team responds to disasters to rescue animals and is on call 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Personnel matters

Action taken on personnel matters were:

Community Development Department - Gary Bender, Porter Township, promoted to director at $47,057 per year and Michelle O'Conner, Girardville, appointed assistant coordinator at $28,931 per year.

County Finance Office - Paul Buber, Port Carbon, named director at $67,638 per year.

Children and Youth Service Agency - Michelle Mikita, Shenandoah, promoted to caseworker 2 at $19.3910 per hour.

Rest Haven Home - Martina Stevenosky, Branchdale, Branch Township, hired as full time social services director at $43,411 per year.

The commissioners were informed by the Conservation District that Thomas Barnyock Jr., Branch Township, was employed as an unpaid intern.

The Public Defenders announced the appointment of Peter Bendza, Foster Township, as an unpaid intern.

County Prison - James Fensermacher, Auburn, resigned as a correctional officer.

At the conclusion of the commissioners meeting the county salary board met and approved the salaries recommended for the appointees and created the position of assistant coordinator in the Community Development Department.