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Not certified

Published March 30. 2012 05:01PM

A Carbon County commissioner is again questioning a proposal to hire a hazardous materials contractor that isn't state certified.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner William O'Gurek asked why the county was trying to rush through hiring Rapid Response Inc. of Northampton, when the contractor has not met with them to discuss any concerns that were brought up two weeks ago about the team's lack of state certification.

"I'd like to see this company have the opportunity," he said before pointing out that the action the board was about to take would approve a statement of works stating that the county was retaining Rapid Response as the secondary hazardous materials coverage.

"Today we have a statement of works which says we met with representatives of the company," O'Gurek said, adding that he never met with representatives.

He asked Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard if he had met with representatives from Rapid Response, to which Gerhard said he had not.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein said nothing much has changed since the last meeting with the team three years ago, when Rapid Response wanted to become Carbon's primary Hazmat team. He noted that Rapid Response officials gave a presentation recently for the county Local Emergency Planning Committee, which recommended them for the position.

O'Gurek asked Gerhard if he would vote on this matter since the commissioners did not meet with the team.

Gerhard said he didn't think he could at this time, adding that he felt concerned that O'Gurek couldn't bring his concerns to them before the public meeting because it could have been handled better.

"If you had a problem with (Rapid Response not being state certified), maybe you should have approached Wayne or I about this before the meeting and we could have gotten it taken off the agenda until we get more information," he told O'Gurek.

O'Gurek said he voiced his desire to meet regarding the statement of work to Nothstein on Friday afternoon, when he received the information, but received no response to his request.

"My feelings about this were certainly conveyed to Wayne when he handed me the statement and now it's on the agenda," he responded.

O'Gurek aired other concerns about the group, including its indemnification clause that states that the customer would indemnify Rapid Response whether the demand is based on negligence of the company or not.

"I have a serious problem with that," he said.

Nothstein said he wished O'Gurek would have asked John Rozman of the division of technological hazardous planning for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, what the county has to do to get Rapid Response certified.

He added that he will set up a meeting between the county and Rapid Response so any questions could be answered; and hopefully, a resolution could be reached.

Nothstein also pointed out that two weeks ago, a tractor trailer spilled hydraulic fluid from Lehighton to Jim Thorpe, and the response team that was called in was from out of the county.

"We're calling in people outside the county, when we have three owners and many of the employees (of Rapid Response) living and paying taxes in Carbon County," he said. "I find it appalling that we can't even give them the secondary chance to respond to an incident. I think it behooves us that we should go out and support all our county residents when it comes to employment. I can't understand that unwillingness on your behalf."

"I don't know where you get the word unwillingness from," O'Gurek responded. "I prefaced my remarks that I would really like to give this company the opportunity. You said to me (two weeks ago) 'would you be willing to sponsor them' and my reaction was I would be willing to discuss it, but we didn't discuss it. All I'm saying is let's do it right."

Gerhard added that the board needs to bring issues like this to the others' attention before public meetings so they can work on them.

In other matters, Michael Guy of the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce, approached the board to inform officials that the chamber supports the proposal by Walt Bevilacqua, president/owner of WB Electric in Jim Thorpe, regarding charging stations for electric vehicles.

Guy said that the chamber would be willing to take over the maintenance of the stations if the county moves forward with the project.

"We feel it's a good thing to have because this is the future and we think it is something that shows people that come to visit us that we are green and involved in the future," he said.

Nothstein and Gerhard said that this is something the county plans to look into but many questions must be answered before officials make any decisions.

The board withdrew its motion and the matter will now be discussed before it is brought up for a vote at a later meeting.

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