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Commissioners OK housing funds

The Lycoming County Board of Comissioners approved funding for housing programs through STEP and also fund a Habitat for Humanity project in its recent meeting.

STEP provides residents who qualify with funds to make repairs to homes and obtain help in paying rent.

The four STEP programs approved by the commissioners included the urgent needs program, $25,000; supportive housing program, $265,000; homes-in-need program, $225,000; and Greater Habitat for Humanity program, $63,000. All programs are budgeted items.

Commissioner Tony Mussare questioned whether funding was less for the homes-in-need program than in previous years.

“Those are usually homes where seniors live who fall within a certain household income,” Mussare said of those who would be most affected by the funding decreasing. “I know how beneficial it was to many of the seniors.”

Jenny Picciano, community development and lead planner at Lycoming County Department of Planning and Community Development, told Mussare that in 2019, the amount was $300,000, and for 2020, it was $250,000.

“It has fluctuated in the past. I think last year it was a little bit lower because more money was award to the supportive housing program given the need for those kind of services,” she said.

“We have to be very careful of squeezing this program out,” Mussare said. “I know a lot of the elderly were the ones that took advantage of this program, and if you said it went from $300,000 to $225,000 in three years, that’s a substantial amount of money.”

Picciano noted that funding for these programs, through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, comes from Marcellus Shale activity in the state. She said that has gone down as well.

Although the goal of the programs is to help homeowners remain in their homes, the funding available through the programs also keeps the properties on the tax rolls.

Rachelle Abbott, chief operations and planning officer for STEP, noted that the housing stock in the county is old with many homes built in the 1950s and ’60s. Many are also occupied by older residents. She added that said that even with the funding approved by the commissioners, the “need is still great.”

“It’s an investment to upgrade and many seniors don’t have the means,” Abbott said.

By helping indiviuals with repairs, “it truly keeps homes stabilized so that they don’t become blighted,” she stated, which might affect resale value.

Abbott noted that there are currently 700 homeowners on a waiting list who qualify for home repairs.

Other items approved by the commissioners at their meeting Tuesday included

• A resolution for the donation of surplus property to the Muncy Borough Police Department. Mya Toon, the county’s chief procurement officer, told the commissioners that the property included lights.

• The contract with Centre County Correctional Facility for housing inmates. It was noted that the rate remains at $65 per day. Currently there are four females at Centre County.

• An amendment to adjust labor rate to the professional service agreement with Bestline. According to Jason Yorks, the county’s director of resource management services, this would be an adjustment to a 2016 contract with Bestline to service equipment purchased from them.

Under personnel, the board approved the following replacements at the paygrades listed: Joseph C. Ruby, law clerk II, $54,178, effective Oct. 3; Sue Berkheiser, female resident supervisor/cook, $15.60 per hour, effective Sept. 19; and Paige Emerick, female resident supervisor, $15.37 per hour, effective Sept. 2o. They also approved Kevin S. Styer, full-time administrative change, correction officer relief, at $17.46 per hour, effective Sept. 14.

The commissioners encouraged county residents to visit the county’s interactive website, Lyco.org, and click on the newly added section of authorities and boards in order to apply for positions listed.

A proclamation for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month was read by commissioners.

The next meeting will be at 10 a.m., Sept. 21 at the Commissioner’s Board Room, Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.

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