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Union rep challenges new tax assessor job

Published October 27. 2011 05:01PM

A business agent for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) accused the Schuylkill County commissioners of violating a union contract by failing to post a change in a position in the assessment bureau.

Guy Wiederhold, business agent for AFSCME, which represents certain departments at the Schuylkill County courthouse, including the assessment bureau, claimed the commissioners were eliminating a position and at the same time creating a part time position, which he claims is a new position and should be posted. He voiced his objections at the public meeting of the county commissioners held Wednesday at the courthouse in Pottsville.

Martina Chwastiak, director of the county's Human Service Bureau and labor negotiator for the county, disagreed. She claimed the action taken by the commissioners was according to the contract agreement which reads: "If a vacancy occurs in a full-time position, this does not include part-time and temporary vacancies, openings or position and the employer determines to fill such vacancy."

The position over which the dispute occurred was action taken by the commissioners to eliminate the position of assistant chief assessor in the assesment bureau because the holder of the position, Helene O'Connor, of Minersville, was retiring.

The commissioners then created a part-time chief assessor position and hired back O'Connor to this position at the same hourly salary of $23.7238 she received as a full time employee. Wiederhold claims they were creating a new position as it should be posted and announced he was filing a grievance to have the job posted.

Mark Scarbinsky, fiscal administrator for the county, later commented that the commissioners, in the last four years, have changed the position of 74 jobs either consolidating positions, eliminating them or turning them into part time which has resulted in a large savings to the county. He said the action of the job in the assessment bureau saves the county more than $40,000 annually. Also the job is not an ordinary labor job as the person holding the position of assistant assessment chief must first acquire a Pennsylvania Evaluation License which can take up to three years of schooling.

Controller Melinda Kantner added that the commissioners should not have taken action on the position because it does not become effective until April 2012. Kantner claims this should be the job of the new board of commissioners who will take over as of Jan. 1.

Only one of the current members of the board, Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier, who is currently the minority commissioner, is seeking reelection as the other two commissioners, Mantura Gallagher and Francis McAndrew, are retiring.

Other business

Scarbinsky and Paul Straka, budget director, were named to execute all required forms and documents for the purpose of obtaining financial assistance for boroughs and township who suffered damages from last summer's tropical storm Lee.

The commissioners authorized PrimeCare Medical Corporation, which provides health care to inmates at the county prison, to be the county's representative to negotiate with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections through a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum will allow for PrimeCare to represent the county's interest as it relates to the implementation of newly adoped State Act 22 at the county prison. The act deals with co-payment for medical services provided to inmates.

The commissioners agreed to participate in this year's black fly suppression program at a cost of $7,698. No work is required by the county staff for this program.

The commissioners are asking for bids for repairs to a county bridge which carries Broadway Street over the Schuylkill River in Schuylkill Haven. Bids must be in the controller's office by 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28, and will be opened at the commissioners' work session Wednesday, Dec. 7.

A lease was renewed with Tremont Borough for office space for a magisterial district court and related activies for five years commencing Dec. 12 and ending Dec. 11, 2016. The rental rate remains the same at $1,895 per month.

Fee for service contracts on behalf of the Childlren and Youth Service Agency were approved with the following providers:

Salvation Army, West Nyack, N.Y., for medical fostercare at leval IV at $41 per day, regular foster care at $50.71 per day and intensive foster care at $77.72 per day.

NHS Youth Services, Harrisburg, for Vcore at $147 per day, renew at a$229.45 per day and Empire sex offenders at $275 per day.

Chor Youth and Family Services, Reading, for traditional foster care at $4511 per day, residential treatment at $323 per day and and adoption finalized at $3,500.

Catholic Social Services, Hazleton, for infant respite care at $30 per day, respite foster care at $40 per day and foster care at $49.36 per day.

Coal leases

The commissioners renewed mining leases for one year with four coal companies operated by the Joseph Kuperavage family who strip mine on county held land.

K&K Coal Company, which has an operation in East Norwegian Township and which has paid to date $626,487 in royalties; Joe Kuperavae Coal Compnay, which has two strip mine operation ongoing in Blythe Township and has turned to the county $1,087,633.18; and Bell Corporation, which has a strip mine operation in Schuylkill Township and has paid $120,004.92 to date in royalties. The county collects $3 for each ton mined.

Personnel matters

With the retirement of Helene O'Connor, Minersville, as assisant chief assessor, the commissioners rehired her at her current position on a part time basis with the same salary base, $23.7238 per hour. The change is not effective until April 8, 2012.

Carole Syzdek, Barnesville, is retiring as the county zoning officer which is also not affective until May 5, 2012, as she will be utilizing her days off available time per union contract.

Rest Haven Home and Hospital - Darlene Torraco, Tremont, retiring as full time physical therapy aide; Michelle Hummel, Saint Clair, transferred from part time to full time licensed practical nurse at $16.8814 per hour; Ashley Ziegler, Pine Grove, transferred from part time to full time licensed practical nurse at $15.99 per hour; Brittany Webb, Schuylkill Haven, transferred from part time to full time nurse's aide at $11.72 per hour; Melissa Beck, Pine Grove, transferred from full time to part time nurse's aide at $12.3734 per hour; Julie Moyer, Middleport, hired as a part time licensed practical nurse at $15.99 per hour and Ashley Spittler, Pine Grove, hired as a per diem nursing assistant at $13 per hour.

District Attorney James P. Goodman informed the commissioners he was promoting two assistants, Attorney Douglas Taglieri, Minersville, and Attorney Jennifer Lehman, Washington Township, to positions of full time assistant district attorneys. Taglieri will be paid $43,462 per year and Lehman $48,291 per year. Their added duties will be for appearances before magistrates and night work.

Children and Youth Services agency announced the promotion of Zachary Lynde, Orwigsburg, from caseworker 1 to caseworker 2 at $17.4314 per hour and Office of Senior Services announced the resignation of Michelle Singleton, New Philadelphia, as aging care manager.

Ed Clark, Ashland, was appointed to a five year term beginning Dec. 12, to serve as a member of the board of directors of the Schuylkill County Housing Authority.

Salary board

The county salary board met after the commisioners meeting and transacted the following business.

The board approved the creation of a new position at Rest Haven Home, per diem nursing assistant and eliminated the position of chief financial officer.

Approved the action of DA Goodman to eliminate three full time assisant district attorney positions and create two full time assistant district attorney positions with more responsibilities. The changes saves the county over $11,000 annually in salaries Goodman reported.

In the tax claim bureau the position of full time assistant chief assessor was eliminated and the new position of part time assistant chief assessor was approved and salary set at $23.7238 per hour. Controller Melinda Kantner, a member of the salary board, voted no on the changes claiming it should be left to the new board of commissioners who will take over in January because the changes made do not take effect until April 2012.

The three commissioners, Mantura Gallagher, Francis McAndrew and Frank Staudenmeier approved the changes. The four make up the salary board.

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