Everywhere you turn there are help wanted signs posted for just about every job imaginable.
Now, the county’s Bureau of Elections and Voter Registration is in the position of filling its top positions with the departure of two key employees.
It was announced at Thursday’s commissioners meeting that Michael Anderson, the election bureau’s chief clerk, was promoted to director of domestic relations effective Sept. 20.
That announcement preceded the commissioners honoring Jo-Ellen Reilly, the department’s deputy director of elections, with a proclamation announcing her retirement after 25 years with the county. Thursday was Reilly’s last day with the county.
These departmental personnel transactions come less than three months before municipal elections on Nov. 2.
When asked what these transactions mean for that department, chairman Robert Phillips said the moves speak for themselves.
“It’s going to be difficult; timing we can’t control,” said Phillips. “People retire and that’s what happened in domestics, from whence he came. He was there nine years and had been coming along as the heir apparent but, you know, not knowing when that person was going to retire an opening came open over here and he took the job for us.”
Phillips added there is one positive with Anderson’s move to his new position.
“It’s one of those timing things that’s a tough one for us (but) we’re glad he’s still with the county,” noted Phillips. “I mean, that’s a plus. But, it is tough timing for both of those key positions, and it’s a short window.”
Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz noted Anderson’s move is part of upward mobility any employee seeks in their career.
“You can’t keep good people down,” said Litz. “So we’re happy for him.”
When it was noted that the top two positions in that department were being vacated, Commissioner William Ames, who is also the elections chairman, jokingly quipped that it was easy to tell that “we are all overjoyed” with having those jobs open at the same time.
In a follow-up telephone call, Anderson said he has informed the commissioners’ office that he would be available to assist or answer questions as long as time allows and if he’s permitted to assist his former department by President Judge John C. Tylwalk, who will be his new supervisor.
“My first priority will be to the new department and if we can work something out where I can assist or answer questions, my new office will only be down the hall,” said Anderson. “I have invested five years in the bureau and I am certainly not going to let it burn to the ground. As much as the President Judge will allow me to help the department, I will make myself available.”
Concerning Reilly’s retirement, Litz noted she will be sorely missed – especially with the approaching election cycle this fall.
“She is just so thorough and stays on the job until it is done,” Litz said. “We have counted on her in that position for so long that she’ll be hard to replace.”
In other county business, the commissioners voted to approve a request to use $600,000 via the federal HOME program towards the construction of six affordable housing units in Cleona Borough.
Bryan Hoffman, executive director of the Lebanon County Housing Authority, said HOME is a federal program that provides assistance for the development of housing and support for housing assistance for low-income families.
The funding request, which was approved unanimously, will be used toward the conversion of the former Lebanon Mutual Insurance building, in the 100 block of West Penn Avenue, Cleona, into six affordable housing apartments situated on the first floor.
Hoffman said $300,000 will come from prior HOME funding, which, if not spent, will be recaptured by the state, and about another $500,000 in coffers from rent paid to the authority by other low-income renters.
“We have, and will put in, along with another nonprofit, approximately $700,000 for, we believe, will cost around $1.3 (million) for the full project,” Hoffman told the commissioners. “So we would like to apply for approximately $600,000 to the state in HOME funding for renovation of the building to create affordable apartments is an allowable use under HOME.”
Hoffman noted that past HOME project requests to the state averaged around $600,000, and added that officials at the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development told him that this funding request is a valid use of HOME dollars.
Hoffman said the full basement will be converted into an auxiliary storage location for the Palmyra-based The Caring Cupboard.
“The other thing we plan to do, which is not directly relevant to HOME because you can’t use HOME dollars for it, is to turn the full basement into an auxiliary food bank. It won’t be as large as their primary site, but it will be an area where the residents of that area in Cleona can come to get assistance with food,” he said.
Hoffman added this move has many benefits.
“It’s a great area, it’s a great building, it’s in a great location, it’s in an existing building, it’s not new construction, and it doesn’t disturb any existing land,” Hoffman noted, in explaining the move to convert the former commercial building into affordable housing units.
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