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Carbon holds Government Day

Published April 27. 2012 05:01PM

Students from seven area high schools had the opportunity to see how Carbon County operates during the county's 12th annual Government Day.

On Thursday, students from Panther Valley, Marian, Palmerton, Lehighton, Jim Thorpe, Weatherly, and Carbon Career & Technical Institute high schools found themselves spending a day observing Carbon County officials doing what they do best, run the county.

Students visited the Carbon County Courthouse and Courthouse Annex in Jim Thorpe and county Emergency Management Agency and 9-1-1 Communications Center in Nesquehoning.

They talked with various county officials, including Judges Steven Serfass, Joseph Matika and Roger Nanovic; Roberta Brewster, court administrator; District Attorney Gary Dobias; William McGinley, clerk of courts; Joann Behrens, prothonotary; Greg Mousseau, public defender; and Sheriff Dwight Nothstein in the morning and learned what goes into operating the county.

The students then attended the Carbon County Commissioners' meeting, in which they got to see how the commissioners make decisions that they feel are best for the county.

Some of the decisions that were made included accepting the weekly personnel and treasurer's report, adopting proclamations, entering into agreements with various outside companies to provide services, and paying the bills.

Commissioners Wayne Nothstein, William O'Gurek, and Thomas J. Gerhard, thanked the students for their interest in government and explained to them about different decisions and how the county operates some programs.

Nothstein welcomed the students and explained what they would be experiencing at the meeting.

"I want to thank all the students for coming out today to participate in Government Day," Gerhard added. "Government is very important and I encourage everyone to register and vote."

O'Gurek also conducted a quiz to see who lives in a borough or township. All students answered either one way or the other.

He then asked how many live in a county, to which all raised their hands.

He explained that this proves his point, being that "county governments are the fastest growing form of governments in the country today" because everything in the area must go through the county seat, like obtaining a dog, hunting or marriage license; recording a deed; adopting a child; applying for a passport; voting; and more.

Following the meeting, Ronald Sheehan, county treasurer; and Emmett P. McCall, recorder of deeds, explained to the students what they do to help make sure the county operates properly.

The students were then given the opportunity to ask questions on any aspects of politics or government. Some topics for questions included what made the commissioners want to get involved in government and what they do in their spare time; handgun regulations; the financial health of the county; and controversial decisions made by the board.

One question that was also asked, which was experienced recently during the primary election was the new voter identification rules.

The commissioners all agreed that they are not in favor of the new requirement, which states that voters must supply a valid photo identification card with an expiration date before they are allowed to vote. This is to cut down on voter fraud, but the board said that instead of cutting down on fraud, it may cut down on the number of citizens, especially the elderly, who cast a vote in the upcoming presidential election.

The students then went to the communications center to learn about the Emergency Management Agency, 9-1-1 Communications Center; as well as listen to two programs by Jeanne Miller, the director of Carbon and Schuylkill counties educational services at Lehigh Carbon Community College; and Cheri Santore, the director of the Area Agency on Aging.

A question-and-answer panel was conducted prior to the completion of the day.

Carbon County Government Day was the idea of former Commissioner Charles Getz, based on a similar event he ran while he served as a Kidder Township supervisor. The first county Government Day was held on April 26, 2001.

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