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State subsidized child care proposal irks Carbon heads

Published January 08. 2013 05:01PM

Carbon County officials are getting tired of the state's antics when it comes to a new subsidized child care proposal.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Monday afternoon, which followed the annual county salary board meeting, the board voted to submit an addendum to Carbon County's original application to administer the subsidized child care services program in Carbon and Monroe counties. The two counties, which currently have their own county offices but are overseen by the state Department of Public Welfare, are being combined into one region by the state in a cost-saving measure.

The addendum, as requested by state officials, adds a satellite office in Monroe County, which would be overseen by Carbon if approved. The added costs push the county's proposal to over $4.2 million over a five-year period.

Prior to the vote, Commissioner William O'Gurek voiced his concerns over the addendum because he feels the state keeps changing the rules.

"When the state Department of Public Welfare wanted to combineState the subsidized child care programs in Carbon and Monroe, we found ourselves in a situation of wanting to preserve the program and jobs, we put together a proposal that we felt we could live with," O'Gurek said, noting that initially DPW officials said the $4.1 million five-year proposal was too high, even though it came in $26,000 lower than the state's current budget for the program.

"I have serious reservations about whether we can trust the state. The state put this program together, got one bidder for the program which was us, and then came back saying that we were too high and we had to have an office in Monroe. It's one of those things where the state is dictating how the program will function."

O'Gurek added that in addition to now being forced to add a satellite office in Monroe County, the state is strongly suggesting that if Carbon receives the contract, they should hire Monroe County people to fill the six new positions that will be created.

"If awarded this contract, my vote would be to hire Carbon County people," O'Gurek said, adding that he would also urge his colleagues to look at county employees that were let go this year because of financial strain in the county.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein echoed O'Gurek's thoughts, saying that he feels that if Monroe County would have put an application in to service the two counties, they would have not been required to build a satellite office in Carbon.

"They are changing the game plan in the middle of the game," Nothstein said. "Our new proposal increase is up over $47,000 from what we initially proposed because they changed the rules and then they question our benefits when I'm sure the person working at the state level had far better benefits than our county employees. None of us are happy with the state at this time."

He noted that the reason Carbon submitted the proposal was because the commissioners did not want to see more county jobs lost.

But, he stressed, that the county is not locked into administering the program if the state accepts the proposal.

"Just because we're applying doesn't mean we have to accept the proposal when it comes down," Nothstein said. "If we look at things and things aren't working in the right direction, we can terminate because we have no agreement in place. We're going to have to wait and see what the state says, but we're at the end of our rope."

Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard agreed with his colleagues, saying that he would also favor hiring Carbon County people to fill the positions that would be created if Carbon administers the program in Monroe.

Robert Crampsie, county controller, also questioned if the county took into consideration the additional work that would be put on a number of offices, including the controller's and treasurer's due to the additional children in the program.

Carbon currently services about 300 children through the program; but an additional 1,300 would need to be processed if Monroe was also included.

O'Gurek said that they had calculated indirect costs when putting the proposal together.

In early 2012, the state announced that it had decided to consolidate the subsidized child care services program in all counties and was looking for administrators for each region. Carbon is supposed to be combined with Monroe.

Monroe decided not to pursue the venture while Carbon felt it could handle it.

In early September, Carbon County responded with a $4,195,089 proposal to take over the program in both counties for five years. The costs would cover employee salaries, indirect costs, supplies, travel, the facility, telephone, postage and more. This was the first step in the application process for the position.

At that meeting, Amy Rontz, director of Carbon County Child Care Information Services, explained that the Child Care Program helps low income families pay for day care while parents are working or training.

In other matters, the board received notice that Carbon County will receive $666,434 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development for the 2012 Community Development Block Grant program.

Of that total, the county will oversee $234,810 and use it to help non-entitlement communities fund projects; while the remaining amount will be split between Franklin Township, $81,905; Jim Thorpe, $85,790; Mahoning Township, $82,227; Lehighton, $91,173; and Palmerton, $90,529.

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