Carbon County ranks seventh in the state when it comes to the number of cases handled per probation officer.
Currently, nine adult probation officers are each handling caseloads in excess of 200.
Many of those cases deal with drug or alcohol related crimes.
To help alleviate the burden on officers and allow them to do a better job, the Carbon County Salary Board voted 4-1 to create an additional adult probation officer position at no added cost to the county.
Commissioner William O'Gurek cast the sole "no" vote.
Before the vote, President Judge Roger Nanovic explained the need for the position.
He said that in addition to the office being one of the busiest in the state, Carbon ranks first in 24 sixth-class counties in Pennsylvania. Class is determined based on the county's population.
"It has been brought to the attention of the court and the board that the number of cases handled by the officers is very heavy," Nanovic said. "Our intent would focus on drug and alcohol related issues. I think the board is well aware that there is a high rate of crimes in this county among drug and alcohol offenders."
He said the new officer would also provide more frequent urine screenings; as well as handle the responsibilities of the current part-time drug detection specialist, who is retiring on May 30.
The officer's salary will be $14.75 an hour. Both the salary and benefits will be paid through the Offender Supervision Fee fund, so there is no cost the county.
Nanovic said this position, which went into effect immediately, will be in the AFSCME Court Appointed Professional Employees union.
Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard thanked Nanovic for focusing on the drug and alcohol end of things when looking into creating this position.
"I think it (the drug and alcohol problem) is a serious problem here, not only in Carbon County, but all over," he said.
Following the vote, O'Gurek explained the reason for voting against the position, was because the 2014 budget did not include any additional positions and he had also voted "no" last year, when the district attorney office requested the creation of a position two months into the budget year so he wanted to be fair.
Gerhard said he understood O'Gurek's thoughts, but said he voted in favor because the new officer will not cost the county anything and the position will concentrate specifically on drug and alcohol cases.
"I understand we're on a tight budget," he said. "We're watching our spending on a day-to-day basis and we are controlling that and continuing to do that daily, but I felt the position is needed."
In addition to the probation position, O'Gurek abstained from abolishing the part-time drug detection specialist, which passed with a 4-0 vote.
O'Gurek also voted "no" on changing the salary for an office administrator in the district attorney's office because he felt a 22 percent increase was not the correct action.
Gerhard explained further that the person moving into the position, Joan M. O'Donnell of Jim Thorpe, has over 17 years experience in the county, so that was taken into consideration when determining the salary. The new annual rate for the position is $31,449.60 per year, effective March 10.
"I understand the concerns," Gerhard said, but I felt that it was fair."
Other actions taken by the board are:
Ÿ Changed the rate of one secretary II/district attorney from $14.25 per hour to $11.26 per hour, effective March 10.
Ÿ Changed the rate of one part-time legal secretary from $10.21 per hour, to $12.55 per hour, effective March 10.
Ÿ Established the positions of two temporary clerks at $8 per hour, effective March 6. The positions are excluded from the retirement plan because they are not expected to work 1,000 hours.
Ÿ Abolished the positions of one part-time clerk and one summer clerk at $8 per hour, effective March 6. This is due to the name of the positions being changed to temporary clerks to allow for the spots to be filled whenever there is a need.
Ÿ Changed the rate of two temporary parking attendants from $10.31 per hour to $9.72 per hour, effective March 6.
Ÿ Changed the rate of one programs coordinator from $19.07 per hour to $17.46 per hour, effective March 6.