County grants funds to online education tool

The Lycoming County commissioners will use $19,600 from impact fee monies to help fund ReadyRosie, a web-based program that helps parents interact with and teach their children through videos that demonstrate how to find learning moments in everyday activities, according to the program’s website.

“This is a small but, I think, important effort to try to work on a countywide basis to do something with our kids both before they get to school and after,” said Commissioner Rick Mirabito. “It’s analogous to teaching soft skills. These are really teaching kids before they get to school.”

The initiative comes from a small group called the Early Learning Team, consisting of volunteers from throughout the county, who have helped one school district implement the program and are now trying to spread the program to other districts, Mirabito said.

Mirabito said rural Pennsylvania has been facing a “brain drain,” in which young workers are leaving to find jobs in other communities. He said he hopes early intervention efforts such as this program will help build a better future for the youth, workforce and employers of the community.

“If we want to attract major employers to our county, we have to show them that we have a workforce,” Mirabito said. “Not just one for this year, but a workforce they can count on for 25 years.”

In another matter, the commissioners heard from Bastress Township resident William Keller, who asked how the county will repay the $439,000 it plans to borrow from impact fee revenue or other non-taxpayer monies in order to pay off debts at the White Deer Golf Complex.

Mirabito explained that, if the golf course becomes profitable in 2018 and beyond, he estimates annual revenues of about $50,000 would pay back the money in 10 to 12 years. If the complex does not end this year in the black, he said, there are plans to sell off some of the land and money from that sale will replenish the funds used to pay the debts.

“This is at least $439K, but there’s been additional money that we’ve put into the course. It’s our intention to pay back those funds when either the golf course begins to make profit on its own or when we decide to sell its assetts,” Mirabito said.

“We’ve told (the golf course) a number of times, ‘This is a do or die year,’ “ added Commissioner Jack McKernan.

Before adjourning, the commissioners also mentioned they have not heard much feedback yet by way of the county using impact fee monies to help fund the Mansfield Police Academy, from which many county residents graduate, said Commissioner Tony Mussare.

They said some of the feedback they have received has been negative, with constituents concerned that other teaching facilities might seek similar support.

Bradford and Tioga counties already have helped fund or pledged to help fund the academy, and academy Director Scott Henry said Tuesday that he has requested aid from other entities as well. Mussare said Tuesday the amount Lycoming County might offer would likely be “nominal.”

The commissioners will meet with Henry on Monday to discuss the matter further.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Recognized Loyalsock Township High School social studies teacher Jennifer Wahl for her achievement in being named Pennsylvania’s Teacher of the Year.

• Approved two invoices totaling $427,739 to be paid by Resource Management Services revenue for the purchase of a new 2018 Volvo hydraulic excavator and to rebuild the engine and torque converter in a 2009 Caterpillar tractor.

• Approved an Emergency Management Performance grant application in the amount of $316,232 which will fund about 50 percent of the salaries and benefits for four Department of Public Safety personnel.

• Approved a three-year professional service agreement in the amount of about $95,000 with Eaton Corp. to perform maintenance, repairs and other related services on the Department of Public Safety’s 11 uninterruptible power supplies. The cost is eligible for reimbursement from 911 funds.

• Approved the following personnel actions: Beatrice S. Cocchera as a full-time replacement telecommunicator in the Department of Public Safety at $16.59 per hour effective Monday; Elizabeth J. Burkhart as a full-time replacement clerk in the prothonotary’s office at $13.95 per hour effective Jan. 29.