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Lycoming County set to receive grant for Voter Services

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Executive Plaza.

The county’s Office of Voter Services is closer to receiving an election integrity grant totalling $366,000 as the Lycoming County commissioners this week approved a contract with the Department of Community and Economic Development to receive the funding.

The commissioners had approved the application for the grant at last week’s meeting.

“It (the contract) puts into writing the requirements, that we discussed verbally last week, that Act 88 places on counties with respect to election administration and reporting requirements the process

requirements,” said Forrest Lehman,

director of Voter Services.

The projected funding will be structured over the fiscal year, July through June 2023.

The grant comes with nine discrete categories which Lehman described as “fairly narrow” compared with grants his department has received from other sources.

“The most notable category would be for expenses relating to poll workers and precincts. It could be used for all of the compensation that we pay to poll workers. Probably to the polling place facilities, expenses relating to ballot printing which are often fairly expensive, although we print our own ballots, so we save a lot of money and have a lot of control by doing that,” Lehman said.

“But there’s a lot of different expenses that are eligible. Some of those final conversations would have to be had possibly with the county solicitor, possibly with purchasing to try to figure out which expenditures fit under which categories so that we can get the most out of it,” he said.

The grant is set up so that the counties receive the money now. They then have to account for their spending at the end to certify that all the funds were used. If there aren’t enough eligible expenses then part of the funds might have to be returned, Lehman said.

“The challenge is that it’s not just a blanket, ‘you can use this for whatever you need to,'” he said. “It’s got to fit into one of the nine categories, so there are some expenses where counties may struggle. If the expense doesn’t fit, you’re not going to be able to be reimbursed for it.”

The funds could be received by the county as soon as Sept. 1, Lehman said.

In other actions, the commissioners approved market rate adjustments for the prison lieutenants, sergeants and supervisor. All employees in those categories will receive a $1.90 pay adjustment, and the starting salary for those positions are increased by $1.90.

Commissioner Rick Mirabitor cited a shortage of correctional officers and difficulty in recruiting people for those positions at the current pay rate as the impetus for the adjustment.

“Many of those officers are eligible to retire. We are at a critical standpoint right now as far as our employees there,” Commissioner Tony Mussare said.

He noted that many of the corrections officers are young, and the county needs a succession plan in place in order to encourage the more mature employees to stay longer in order to train younger employees.

“It is a difficult environment to be working in,” Mussare said. “They are our managers and supervisors over there, and they are taking on forced overtime as well…it’s stressful. The conditions over there are stressful. We’ve had as many quit as have applied.”

Those eligible for the pay adjustment also help in training staff, Commissioner Scott Metzger said, which reduces costs to the county.

Other personnel items approved by the commissioners include hiring the following persons at the pay rate listed: Sarah Delp, full-time bail release officer at the prison, $22.39 per hour; a part-time detective in the District Attorney’s office, $23.66 per hour; Jennifer Mills, full-time resident supervisor at the Pre-Release Center, $17.18 per hour; and Brian Moser, custodial worker in Facilities Management, $12.21 per hour.

The commissioners approved the following action items:

• An engagement letter with Baker Tilly for a 2021-22 audit.

• A subrecipient agreement with Franklin Township for $96,489 of the 2020 Community Development and Block Grant (CDBG) to be used for Lairdsville lateral installation.

• A subrecipient agreement with South Williamsport Borough for $95,656 for the acquisition of properties for building four Habitat for Humanity homes. These are 2021 CDBG funds.

• A budget revision certification to the 2020 CV CDBG program which will move $36,455 from STEP supportive housing program and $34,268 from the American Rescue Workers’ mortgage, utilities and rental assistance program to the Brook Street water main project in Montgomery.

• A budget revision certification adding Phase 2 to a project in South Williamsport.

• A Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission grant-in-aide for $242,417 which is used for salaries.

• An agreement with Trisha Hoover Jasper, an attorney, $40,000 annually in installments for assessing 65 new cases this year.

• A bid from Mar-Allen Concrete Products, Inc. for an epoxy overlay for the bridge over Cedar Run.

• An application to encumber liquid fuel tax funds for county bridge 107 in the amount of $150,000.

• A subrecipient agreement with Pheasants Forever for a Conservation Acquisition Partnership program grant in the amount of $124,311 for the Pine Run Restoration Project.

The next commissioners meeting will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 25 in the Commissioners’ Board Room, first floor Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.

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