Carbon County has a "stinky" problem.

That's why, on Thursday, during the county commissioners' meeting, the board took action to proclaim a disaster emergency for the courthouse basement, which has had a problem with raw sewage leaking into the lowest level of the century-old structure for quite some time.

The county then voted to enter into an agreement with Bracy Contracting Inc. of Allentown, the general contractor for the courthouse renovation project, to excavate the contaminated soil in the basement and install geotextile fabric, stone, a container and a new concrete slab. The cost of the project is $5,950.82.

Initially, the project was listed as a change order for Bracy to include under the courthouse renovation project, but questions were raised.

Robert Crampsie, county controller, said he didn't believe the basement issue was related to the courthouse renovation project.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein agreed and asked if the board could table the issue until the county's solicitor could review the information.

Commissioner Charles Getz then asked about issuing the disaster emergency, even though the county has been trying to fix the problem for quite some time.

He was told that if the leak was a health risk to employees in the building, then it could be considered an emergency situation that needs to be fixed immediately.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said some of the employees have, in fact, been complaining of the smell, as well as feeling sick.

Randall Smith, county administrator, said that the county was never able to find the origins of the sewage leak and probably never will.

Nothstein added that the Jim Thorpe Sewer Authority was even called in to test the area to try and find the source, but their attempts also failed to locate the source of the leak.

The reason the county proclaimed a disaster emergency was because it could then move forward immediately with hiring a company to fix the problem, rather than go through the process of gathering three quotes or bidding out the project.

In other matters, the county voted to approve a proposal from Pelican Insurance Program, a division of CCAP insurance programs, for the renewal of general liability and professional liability coverage for Weatherwood, the Carbon County nursing home and rehabilitation center in Weatherly, for the period March 1, 2010 through March 1, 2011. The cost is $73,455, down $15,727 from the previous policy.

O'Gurek said even though the term is for a year, officials have informed Pelican of the impending sale of the facility so they could drop out of the insurance early.

"We'll get a prorated share back, whenever we are determined to be out of the business," O'Gurek said.