Lebanon County commissioners on Thursday, Nov. 17, approved the county’s ongoing participation in a nine-county South Central Counter Terrorism Task Force.
Approval is needed by all participating counties for the task force to receive $1.2 million in federal funding for a three-year period from September 2022 through 2025. Lebanon County’s Emergency Management Services department personnel participate in the task force on behalf of Lebanon County residents.
“The grant is signed by all nine counties and Dauphin County is the fiduciary agent, they manage the money, but all of us have to sign it to accept the grant,” said Dowd.
“It’s all Homeland Security funding that is passed down through the state,” he added, in response to a question from commission chairman Robert Phillips asking if the grant is 100 percent funded by sources outside of Lebanon County.
On what was a light day of business before the commissioners, Dowd presented two other grants, which were both unanimously accepted. (Commissioner Mike Kuhn, who was ill, participated in the meeting via conference call.)
The second grant was for the county’s hazardous mitigation program in the amount of $100,000.
“This particular grant secures funding for the county’s required annual hazardous mitigation plan update,” said Dowd.
The third grant was for the 911 statewide interconnectivity program in the amount of $93,846.
“This grant specifically funds our regional 911 phone system connectivity to make that possible,” said Dowd. “This is for our network between here and York County for our regional phone system.”
The commissioners also entertained a short presentation from Kerry Royer, director of the Mount Gretna Outdoor Art Show. Royer came to thank them for their ongoing support of the two-day event in mid-August, which is the largest annual gathering in that bedroom community.
She also requested funding via the county’s hotel tax grant program in the amount of $10,000 to cover a majority of their $16,660 promotional budget for 2023. Their 2023 budget calls for nearly $9,000 in radio and television advertising; $7,000 for billboard advertising, $1,700 to send a national call for artist applications in industry magazines and websites; and $1,000 for website and event ticketing.
“Last year we got a grant, we increased our online ticket sales, and when I did a report for our pre-sale tickets, 85 percent of those tickets were from outside Lebanon County,” said Royer. “So I wanted to thank you for that.”
She added that the show, which received 8,000 visitors in 2022, has been named one of the top shows nationwide, landing in the top 200 in Sunshine Artists magazine, a professional trade publication for artists and art shows. The show was also rated No. 38 in contemporary craft, which covers traditional, modern and hand-made production works, according to Royer.
“That is a good indicator of future success for the art show,” added Royer, who noted that the art show will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024.
“We will be planning some special celebratory events,” she said. “We plan to honor the history of the start of the show.”
Philips said he appreciated her report to the commissioners.
“This is right in our sweet spot of 85 percent (of visitors) coming from outside the county and that is a beautiful thing for our restaurants and our hotels, from whence the money comes, so it is all good,” said Phillips. “Thank you for your feedback.”
It was noted that the commissioners had, at a recent meeting, reduced the amount an organization can receive via the county’s hotel tax grant program to $7,500, but added the art show would receive the requested amount because their application was submitted prior to the commissioners setting a lower rate earlier this month.
The commissioners voted at their Nov. 3 meeting to lower future funding requests to $7,500 since staff had warned them that the fund was reaching levels that might make it insolvent.
It was noted during Thursday’s meeting that some organizations might receive $10,000, but only under special circumstances. Most are expected to be capped at $7,500 so that more organizations can benefit from it, according to Phillips.
In her closing remarks, Royer said that this has been a great vehicle to build the Gretna community and a great event for the art show and Pennsylvania Chautauqua, the organization that sponsors it.
In other county business, the commissioners voted to:
- Sign an office lease agreement with Sen. Chris Gebhard’s district office, which is located in the municipal building. The lease terms are in the amount of $21,518 annually starting Jan. 1, 2023, through Dec. 31, 2026. The agreement amounts to $1,793 monthly, which is an 8-percent increase to cover cost-of-living expenses.
- Provide $5,000 from the county’s hotel tax grant fund program to support Music at Gretna programming, which receives 79 percent of its audience from other counties.
- Reappoint Leroy Leach to a five-year term (2022 to 2027) on the board of the Housing Authority of the County of Lebanon.
- Approve two applications for three-year terms for Brittany Hilton (May 1, 2022, through May 1, 2025) and Maribel Gonzalez (Dec. 31, 2022, through Dec. 31, 2025) on the Lebanon County Commission for Women.
- Grant applications from four 100 percent disabled veterans seeking real estate tax exemptions.
- Approve the minutes of their Nov. 3 meeting, and the treasurer’s report.
- Accept various personnel transactions as presented by the director of the county’s human resources department.
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