Lebanon County Commissioners took unanimous action on a number of items across several departments on what was an otherwise light meeting agenda on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Two such actions involved approving grants for the district attorney’s office and probation department.

The DA’s office requested and received permission to apply for a Victim of Crime Act grant in the amount of $123,493 for Oct. 1, 2023, through Sept. 30, 2024, from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Brian Deiderick, first assistant district attorney, said the grant serves specific purposes.

“It specifically is targeted for direct services for victims and witnesses of crimes,” said Deiderick. “There are very specific guidelines and very specific restrictions on how that money may be spent. We have to provide quarterly updates and reports on how the money is being spent. Luckily, knock on wood, we have not had to make any changes or ask for any modifications to the grants that have been submitted.”

He added that the funding is restricted to cover personnel costs, benefits, training and specific supplies.  

Commissioners also approved accepting a Continuing County Probation and Parole grant for the county’s probation department. That fiscal year 2023-24 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency totals $81,527 and matches the same amount for the previous fiscal year. 

Audrey Fortna, director for Lebanon County Probation Services, wrote in a memo to the commissioners that the funding will be utilized to support staffing expenses in her department. 

Fortna also delivered some good news after the commissioners voted to approve the grant.

“Part of the application for this year also provided us with projected awards over the next few years,” said Fortna. “By 2027-28 fiscal year, we’re projected to receive $165,109, so it will go up gradually over the next few years.”

Chairman Robert Phillips asked Fortna how the funding formula is calculated.

“It’s based on several different things,” said Fortna. “It does take a look at our use of probation with restrictive conditions, intermediate punishment and it takes a look at our data entry into the SGS web-based system, up-to-date and accurate restitution collections and how we process that here in the county, so it does take several different things into account. I’m happy to say that at this point we’re in very good standing.”

Fortna closed by saying she hopes the funding projections are accurate and that the county will receive funding increases via this grant in coming years. 

Holly Leahy, administrator of Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention, presented two provider contract amendments, one for fiscal year 2022-23 and the other for current fiscal year 2023-24.

There were 12 contract amendments for the current fiscal year in the amount of $48,471 and three for the previous year totaling $1,014. In both cases, Leahy told the commissioners that both increases were covered under current allocations, meaning there would be no additional use of taxpayer dollars to pay those invoices.  

The commissioners acted on several Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) resolutions and the administration of the Home Program for fiscal year 2022-23 as presented by Dan Lyons, programs director for the Lebanon County Redevelopment Authority.

Lyons said the county is entitled to an allocation of CDBG redevelopment funds following a months-long process that includes public hearings and the acceptance of funding requests from county municipalities. 

“This year, we received activity requests from Myerstown Borough for street improvements on South Railroad Street, as well as requests from Volunteers in Medicine and Lebanon Family Health Services,” said Lyons. “All are returning applicants, regular recipients of community development funding.”

Lyons added that another request was received from West Cornwall Township, but that one ultimately did not meet CDBG funding criteria since it is designed to benefit low- and moderate-income individuals.

Lyons requested the county pass three resolutions that are part of the application submission process. His department asked the commissioners to approve the submission of the proposed budget and application as signed by Phillips, publish fair housing guidelines, and accept Section 504 guidelines concerning housing discrimination.

“It instructs us to conduct one activity each year to further the goals of fair housing, and this year we are holding a full day of training for all housing and redevelopment authority staff,” noted Lyons. “Section 504 names Jamie Wolgemuth as the county’s ADA and Section 504 officer and guarantees equal access to these programs for persons with disabilities.”

The county also renewed its administrative agreement with the redevelopment authority for the CDBG and Home programs for fiscal year 2022-23.

During personnel transactions, the commissioners entered into a collective bargaining agreement between the Court Appointed Professionals Unit from Jan. 1, 2023, through Dec. 31, 2025.

Highlights of the agreement include: a three-year term; wage increases at $2.00 per hour for 2023, 4% for 2024 and 3.5% for 2025; increases to the annual health insurance deductibles and co-pays and the addition of spousal exclusion beginning Jan. 1, 2024 for new hires; Health Insurance Exchange (HELX) pay increase to $250/month; an increase to on-call wages; the addition of uniform allowance and longevity payments; and the removal of articles/language that no longer apply to the new agreement.

In other county business, the commissioners voted to: 

  • Grant a notice to proceed from Mechanicsburg-based Wilson Consulting for a price proposal for the final design for the replacement of county bridge #1, which is located on Michter’s Road over Hammer Creek in Heidelberg Township. The replacement project would begin in late May and conclude by Oct. 24, 2024, according to technical scope documentation supplied by the engineering firm to the county commissioners. 
  • Appoint Jerry Succi from ASK Foods, Palmyra, to serve on the board of the Southcentral Workforce Investment Board in the business category. The appointment is for a three-year term from Nov. 1, 2023, through Oct. 31, 2026.
  • Accept two bids from Michael Balmer in the amount of $25 each for the sale of property from the Lebanon County Tax Claim Bureau repository for properties located at W of Harnish Street, Palmyra, and 1133 Houtztown Road, Myerstown. The acceptance of the bids will move these two parcels from the repository for unsold properties and onto the tax rolls and so that back taxes in the amount of $854.83 for both properties can be paid for tax years 2020 through 2022.
  • Grant real estate property tax exemptions for two fully disabled veterans.
  • Approve the minutes of their Oct. 5 meeting, the treasurer’s report and other personnel transactions. 
The success of the Philadelphia Phillies so far in the Major League Baseball playoffs was the talk of the room before and after the County Commissioners meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19. Here, Lebanon County Sheriff Jeffrie Marley Jr. models bling that contains the face of Phillies player Bryce Harper. Commissioner chairman Robert Phillips purchased the souvenir at the stadium during an earlier round game in Philadelphia. If the Phillies clinch the National League crown by defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks, they will play either the Houston Astros or Texas Rangers in the World Series.

The county’s elections office shared several reminders with LebTown for the upcoming municipal election on Tuesday, Nov. 7. 

Sean Drasher, department head of Lebanon County Voter Registration/Elections, said today is the last day to register to vote and Oct. 31 is the deadline to request a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot. 

Both ballots are due at the county election bureau office by 8 p.m. on Election Day. (Military and overseas absentee ballots must be submitted for delivery no later than 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 6.)

“Please don’t wait until 8 p.m., legally 8 p.m., but it would be nice to not have them roll in at 7:55 p.m.,” said Drasher. 

Drasher said the number of mail-in ballots sent to voters would be approximately 8,000 through Friday, and he anticipates the total number to rise to about 9,000 when the application deadline closes. 

Drasher told LebTown that “everything is rolling on” schedule as his office prepares for the upcoming election in just over two weeks.

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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...