Lycoming County to consider extending $72K lobbyist contract for levee

The Lycoming County commissioners will consider extending a $72,000 contract with Keller Partners and Company through Dec. 31, 2019, later this week, for aid in finding, applying for and securing federal and state grant funding for levee rehabilitation.

For 2018, the county shared the $72,000 cost with municipal partners Williamsport, South Williamsport, Loyalsock and Old Lycoming townships. However, whether that cost will be split and how has not been decided for the extension.

“There’s potential that we could fund the entire piece …,” said Matt McDermott, director of administration. “At the end of the day, that’s a small price to pay for the federal and state dollars we’re trying to secure.”

The company is working toward securing funding through an infrastructure grant meant for job-sustaining projects, said Fran McJunkin, deputy director of geographic information systems.

“Levees aren’t traditionally what you would expect to apply for through that grant, but we’re getting the green light to move ahead,” she said.

Commissioner Tony Mussare expressed dismay at the pay structure for the contract.

“My only concern with this extended contract is that it appears to me that it’s a retainer, and I’m not in favor of retainers any longer,” he said. “They bill us $6,000 a month, whether they do anything or not. It would seem to me a better contract if they billed us for the work that they did.”

McJunkin spoke to the importance of maintaining Keller, saying infrastructure nationwide is aging and communities are looking at Lycoming County for insight on taking care of their respective levees.

“I have people across the country who are waiting to see if we can figure something out, because almost all of the levees built in our nation were built in that 1950s range,” she said. “They are all aging out, they are all looking for funding. And, right now, (Keller) is providing us with paths that I would not have thought to follow or look. I think our best option right now is to follow through and see where it takes us, because, right now, nobody funds levee rehabilitation.”

Mya Toon, chief procurement officer, reassured the commissioners that “there is an out” for the county built into the contract.

“If we’ve got an out, then I’m okay with it. To this point, I think we’ve gotten value out of the agreement,” said Commissioner Jack McKernan, adding he hopes they will have “significant money lined up” in the next five to six months and can then conclude the contract.

In another matter, the commissioners approved an increase in compensation for seven contractors who provide medical services to the prison. Their hourly rates went up from $85 to $95 per hour and on-call rates went up from $27 to $36 per day. The contractors are used on an as-needed basis, Toon said.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Extended the master leasing program administered by Transitional Living Centers Inc., which now has 19 participants, through 2019 using 2015 state Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement funding.

• Approved a cooperative agreement with the county Industrial Development Authority as the administering agency for a $2 million Rural Community Assistance Partnership grant to Lycoming Engines.

• Approved an annual contract with Columbia County for as-needed inmate housing at a rate of $70 per inmate per day.

• Renewed a five-year rental equipment agreement with Marco/Trey Phillips, formerly Phillips Supply, at a rate of $53,738 to lease copiers. The rate includes seven replacement copiers per year, showing a potential savings of $64,000 for 2019 alone, said Leslie Kilpatrick, of information services.

• Extended the state Department of Agriculture’s lease through Dec. 31, 2021, for $3,762 per month.

• Approved a lease agreement with Greevy and Taylor for $18,000 per year through Dec. 31, 2021.

• Increased compensation for William Miele, chief public defender, from $85,000 per year to $105,000 based on an upcoming homicide trial.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito also was present. The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. in Executive Plaza.

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