Lebanon County Commissioners on Thursday, Nov. 2, agreed to accept as a member of a nine-county terrorism task force a $1.27 million federal grant to combat terrorism throughout the region. 

The grant authorizes the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to provide federal funds intended for “the purpose of supporting the identified planning, organization, equipment, maintenance, training, and exercise needs to oppose acts of terrorism and other catastrophic events.”

Lebanon, Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Perry, Schuylkill and York counties make up the South Central Counter Terrorism Task Force, and the funding is earmarked for activities that support the grant’s goals.

Bob Dowd, county director of emergency services, said the grant’s terms cover three years, beginning Sept. 1, 2023, through Dec. 29, 2026. All activities covered under the grant must be concluded by Aug. 31, 2026.

“All counties sign on to the grant,” said Dowd. “We just need to accept the grant.”

Dowd also presented three change orders totaling $157,629 for construction of the county’s new 911 Center in North Cornwall Township. All three grant orders were unanimously approved by the commissioners.

The first change order was for L3Harris of Melbourne, Florida, for $49,663.20 for changes to the microwave configuration system, which Dowd said was an expected charge. 

“When they come out and do the surveys and identify the exact parts they need, there are always little changes,” Dowd said about that change order.

The second and third change orders were for eciConstruction of Dillsburg, who is the general contractor for the $30 million project. The second change order totaled $72,408 and covers several project items.

“It was rentals for humidifiers for humidity control over the summer, some additional work that needed to happen for the tower foundation that went in, and additional flashing and trim work that needed to get done on the outside of the building when they built the windows in,” Dowd told the commissioners.

The third change order was $35,458 and pertains to driveway paving and other changes to the building’s exterior. 

“The changes better accommodate snow removal, eliminate future maintenance costs and then there is an asphalt index increase that was part of this. When they pave, they always charge you what the current index is — that’s how business is always done. Nothing out of the ordinary here,” added Dowd

Chairman Robert Phillips asked Dowd for an update on the change order set aside funding, which was earmarked at the beginning of the project to ensure the county had enough money available to cover increased costs for a project of this magnitude.

“Total contingency we built into this project was $1.7 million, and with these change orders we are at $806,000 spent, so we’re not even quite halfway,” said Dowd. “I do expect there to be a couple hundred thousand dollars more as we wrap this up, but from a building construction standpoint, we’re in very good shape — not over budget.” 

Phillips also asked Dowd for an update on the arrival of the switchgear, which LebTown had previously reported caused multiple delays to the project’s completion. The first was due to supply chain issues in shipping from the manufacturers to the assembly plant and then additional delays when the switchgear failed to pass inspection.

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The component is critical since it is part of the center’s redundancy system to ensure 911 operations continue to function without interruption. 

“The switch gear is closer than what it was,” said Dowd. “Some of our equipment has started to arrive,” said Dowd. “When I say some, think of them as big breakers that sit at the edge of our electrical connection to our building, have arrived.”

Delivery of that equipment permits the contractor to wire it into the building and get commercial power flowing to the building. However, the most vital component still hasn’t been delivered.

“What’s still missing is the brains, that’s the most important piece,” added Dowd. “The monitoring control section of that switch gear, which means none of our redundancies will work. We can’t automatically switch over the generator, do any of those things until the rest of the head arrives. But, the silver lining, if there is one, allows us to start the process of turning on the building systems, like the air conditioning, the water and all the systems that need to go through a two-month calibration period.”   

Dowd added that there is no estimated time of arrival for the remaining switchgear.  

Jamie Wolgemuth, county administrator, asked Dowd to provide an update on land negotiations between the county and Heidelberg Township to purchase grounds for the construction of one of the county’s new towers. The new towers will enhance communications between 911 operators and first responders.

“We have a sales agreement on a piece of property in Heidelberg Township that’s contingent upon zoning approval for a variance,” added Wolgemuth.

“The zoning hearing went very well,” announced Dowd. “We had a neighbor show up, and the neighbor was supportive of the concept, which was a great thing.” 

Dowd added that the county is waiting to make the land purchase, contingent upon obtaining a highway occupancy permit. Wolgemuth said the neighbor was concerned about line of sight and the possibility that the land might be sold to a developer, which would lead to additional traffic on “a treacherous stretch of highway.”

Audrey Fortna, director of Lebanon County Probation Services, and John Schott, planner for the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, presented two items to the commissioners from that department.

Fortna sought permission to move a portion of county funding for the Youth Advocate Program (YAP), which is part of the Community Treatment Center and a segment of the juvenile treatment court, into an “insurance” pool to cover costs the county would pay when the number of juvenile offenders falls below a certain threshold.

Fortna told the commissioners the YAP program is required to maintain a minimum of four beds for juvenile offenders or they are unable to bill for the services they provide.

“If by some chance we would dip under that four participant number, then we’ll have money in our budget to fill that void and pay for that spot until we get the number back up,” said Fortna, who added that the county has, on average, between five and seven juvenile offenders in the program simultaneously.

Fortna said available funding totaling $24,000 would be reappropriated toward the community treatment center program to use only as needed.

“Again, I don’t anticipate any issues but the thought of possibly losing that option is very scary when you look at community safety and the lack of options we have for our kids,” she concluded before the commissioners unanimously voted to approve the reappropriation of the available funding.     

Shott requested and the commissioners agreed to increase the intermediate punishment grant by $8,000 for additional in-person training for probation officers through the University of Cincinnati Correctional Institute and the Ohio Risk Assessment System. The one-day training will be increased by one to two days.

Concerning personnel transactions, the commissioners took the following actions under changes of status/transfers/promotions through the county’s Human Resources Department:

  • Approve the recommendation from District Attorney Pier Hess Graf to remove one interpreter pay stipend from the District Attorney’s Office and move it to the budget of Central Booking, effective immediately.
  • Agree with Teamsters Local No. 429, on behalf of employees in the county’s social services unit, that beginning with the first pay periods in 2025, 2026 and 2027, employees will move up one step on the salary schedule, which equals a partial percent increase, plus an increase in the salary schedule of the remaining percentage difference to equal the agreed upon total percent increase designated for each year.
  • Agree with Teamsters Union Local No. 429, acting on behalf of the court-appointed professionals unit, to provide a uniform allowance totaling $175 for full-time probation officers annually during the first pay period in November.    

In other county business, the commissioners also voted to:

  • Approve a hotel tax grant application for $5,000 for out-of-county marketing for Gretna Music’s summer concert series. 
  • Reappoint Dr. Joseph Barber and Rev. Dennis Scalese to three-year terms on the county’s Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention advisory board.
  • Submit a grant through the county’s insurance carrier risk pool for three all-purpose sports training mats for the count’s probation department. The training mats cost $281 each and with shipping totals $1,054.91. The expense is covered under the $30,000 annual grant the county’s insurance carrier provides participating counties to help reduce their liability.  
  • Approve the minutes of their Oct. 19 meeting and the treasurer’s report. 
  • Grant real estate tax exemptions to two fully disabled veterans.
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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...