The longest discussion item by the county commissioners on Thursday wasn’t even on the agenda at the start of their biweekly meeting. 

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz asked her two colleagues if they would be willing to have a discussion about needed repairs at Monument Park and how to pay for them since the site, which is located at Lehman and Eighth streets, is owned by the county. 

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“There are some citizens who have a discussion on social media about Monument Park,” said Litz, “and I thought it was worth bringing it to the floor.”

Litz told fellow commissioners Robert Phillips and Mike Kuhn that she has been lobbying for new lights, benches and planters, among other necessary revisions. 

“We have to keep repainting the flagpole, and it was brought to my attention that needs done again,” said Litz. “We have to rent equipment, go up high and paint it, so I think replacing that with an aluminum flagpole would be a very appropriate improvement to the park.”

Another needed repair involves signage that informs readers the need for a permit for any public event held at the park. Litz said that the Plexiglass sign announcing the permit ordinance is hard to read due to weathering and should be replaced.

“I thought we could do a sign to that effect, that, you know, there is an ordinance and you must have a sign to bring to conduct business, so to speak,” said Litz.  

Usage of the park as a public venue for events, however, is not viewed favorably by some county residents. (Erected in 1869, the park was created “in the memory of Lebanon County soldiers and sailors who died in the service of their County during the rebellion,” according to information contained on the county’s website.)

“I would like to bring up that there are people in our community – especially veteran organizations – who view this park as hallowed ground,” said Kuhn. “While it is not a grave site, it is a monument established to honor Civil War veterans who died in service from Lebanon County. And there are people who feel we should have no events there, and that should be a part of the discussion.” 

Litz said another problem at the park involves inadequate and burned-out lighting. “The other thing that was brought up is that a lot of the lights don’t work and they’re very few and far between,” she added.

Although the park is not to be occupied after dusk, Litz said people have commented on social media that individuals have been seen there when the park is closed to the public. “There are people in there after dark … and it’s supposed to close as soon as the sun sets,” she said.

Litz suggested paying for renovations from ARPA funding the county received during the COVID-19 pandemic, and asked if county staff could gather price quotes for the needed repairs if there is an agreement to pursue park renovations. 

“I would love to see that get done. I think there’s so much interest and history in that park and I just place that on the table for your consideration,” she said. “If everybody is in agreement, we could move to move ahead with it – to get those quotes – and come back for a vote another time.”

Phillips said he was willing to discuss costs and the possibility of doing the project but wanted to wait and have that meeting when county administrator Jamie Wolgemuth, who was not in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, was available to participate in the conversation.

The other major action items at the meeting all involved the county’s Department of Emergency Services. 

DES director Bob Dowd presented three change orders for the county’s new 911 Center building project for just under $119,733. 

Dowd said the first involved several changes to the design of the HVAC system in the amount of $32,800. He said the change included “radiant slab and open ceiling space at the entrance” to the building for work to be performed by contractor Frey Lutz Corp. of Lancaster.  

The second order of $11,183 was for the installation of water piping in the computer room to help maintain proper humidity levels during the winter months. That contractor is Jay R. Reynolds Inc. of Willow Street.

The final change order was for the radio system to increase microwave capacity from 105 megabytes per second to 155 mps for the linking of the network. The upgrade will enable emergency personnel to load additional items to the system, as needed, in the future. That change cost the county about $75,750 for work to be conducted by L3Harris of Melbourne, Florida. 

As part of the center’s $30 million budget for the project, the county earmarked nearly $1.73 million as part of a contingency fund for change orders that might arise during the life of the construction project.

Following the meeting, Dowd emailed LebTown the following financial figures:

Total Contingency$1,727,223.00
Total Change Orders$763,414.46
Total Contingency Remaining$963,808.54

Dowd also told LebTown that the county is well within the contingency portion of the budget at this stage of the project, adding that he believes any remaining changes will fall within the available funding parameters.

“These change orders are for items that will help improve the facility’s functionality and are easier to implement now and at less cost than if we were to wait and do them in the future,” Dowd told LebTown.

In a separate item related to DES, the commissioners, by a 2-1 vote, agreed to officially lift the 30-day countywide burn ban that was implemented on June 8. Revoked on June 26, Litz said she voted no to officially ending it because she felt it was premature to end it in late June.

Read More: Commissioners lift countywide burn ban, effective immediately

Dowd told the commissioners that of the 24 fire chiefs throughout the county who responded to a poll conducted by DES, 22 believed it was appropriate to lift the ban near the end of June.

The commissioners also presented a proclamation to Anna Devine, who had worked for the county since 1986. 

She started her career in Children and Youth Services on Aug. 18 of that year and stayed in that department until a transfer to Area Agency on Aging on Sept. 20, 1999. She remained with AAA for the rest of her career, which ended with 36 years of service to the county on Saturday, July 8.  

Anna Devine, center, was recognized at the July 6, 2023, meeting of the Lebanon County Commissioners for 36 years of service with the county. From left to right, Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz, John Devine, Anna Devine, Commissioner chairman Bob Phillips, and Commissioner Mike Kuhn. (James Mentzer)

In other county business, the commissioners voted to:

  • Approve real estate tax exemptions for seven fully disabled veterans.
  • Accept the minutes of their June 15 meeting, various personnel transactions and the treasurer’s report.  

After the meeting, Lebanon County treasurer Sallie Neuin presented LebTown with an announcement that said her office is now officially collecting real estate taxes for the Lebanon School District. She said the bills had been mailed on Friday, June 30 and that business had been “steady” from those who brought their payments to the county office.

Read More: County treasurer to collect Lebanon School District’s real estate taxes

“Most were happy that they are now able to pay their taxes locally,” said Neuin to LebTown. “There’s been a little confusion with the new look, but everyone will eventually understand it. Staff has been answering questions via phone and for those individuals who have come to our office to pay their bill.”

City residents can pay their real estate taxes either by check, money order or cash at the county treasurer’s office during normal business hours. 

There is also a dropbox located on the west side of 8th and Elm streets that is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The treasurer’s office asks that no cash be deposited in the dropbox.  

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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...