BROOKVILLE â€” The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent a letter commending the staff of Jefferson County for its role in developing the county hazard mitigation plan, the commissioners announced at their meeting on Tuesday.
FEMA praised the county for its support and assistance in developing the plan, which expires on July 2, 2017, and contains mitigation strategies designed to reduce future disaster losses for the purpose of making the county's communities safer and more resilient to hazards.
Said Eugene K. Gruber in the letter sent by FEMA, "FEMA recognizes Jefferson County staff's dedication and support during the development of the plan.
The final product will allow for risks to be mitigated prior to a disaster and will assist the constituents of your county in the event that a disaster should occur. We appreciate all the effort the Jefferson County staff has put forth in this effort."
Said Tracy Zents, Jefferson County director of emergency services, "I'm only as good as my staff is, and I've got a good staff that works very hard ... I can't take all the credit for it. They're the ones who put in the hard hours to make it happen."
Commission Chairman Paul Corbin expressed the commission's appreciation to Zents and his staff for the quality of their performance on the job.
At their meeting on Tuesday, the commissioners also discussed the budget proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett for 2013-2014.
Commissioner Jeff Pisarcik indicated that the budget is currently only a proposal that now has to be negotiated.
He said that Jefferson County representatives, including State Rep. Sam Smith and State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati have said that negotiations are currently underway and that they don't necessarily agree with everything in Corbett's budget.
"It'll be interesting," Pisarcik said. "We've all been watching the human services part, which affects us county-wide a lot, and it seems like they're trying to keep it at last year's numbers. So, we'll see. How's it going to affect us here in six months, who knows?"
McIntyre added, on the subject of human services funding, that there's currently a bill coming up in the House of Representatives to restore $84 million to this year's current budget.
"Now, I don't know what that's going to lead to," McIntyre said, "but obviously, there are some representatives out there who feel the need to bring that funding level back up ... where it was in years past. I guess, again, we'll see what happens with that bill."
Said Corbin, "To me, it seems like it's pretty much the same game that's played every year ... There'll be negotiations with the legislature, and I guess whoever has the most power at the end of the day will determine how it's spent."
The commissioners asked Zents what he knew as far as the funding situation for emergency services.
Zents said that some changes have been made to the wireless fund that his department applies for annually for 911 operations.
The first change applies to the funds management services, which he said are being changed so that wireless funding and wireline funding will no longer be eligible to be used for them. Zents said that the plan now is to hire people on the state level to come out and train the county employees how to do funds management.
"That's okay," he said, "but being the small county that we are, we are not accountants, so we don't have time to sit and make sure that everything is spent accordingly, according to the guidelines."
Zents said a letter has been sent asking for a reversal on that decision and that emergency services is still awaiting a response. He said that what it means for the county is that the funds will have to come out of the general taxpayers' money.
He said that he hadn't heard anything on Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) funding and doesn't know yet what kind
of money can be expected from that.
The commission also addressed an alarm trip that occurred at Jefferson Place, which houses its offices.
Zents said that a fire alarm went off in the facility and that, by the time his team was on the scene, the alarm had been reset with speculation currently being that it was reset downstairs, where the alarm was silenced prior to any calls being received at the 911 center.
The county had developed an emergency response plan, and the building was evacuated according to it.
Corbin said he thought the evacuation went well, though he expressed some disappointment that, in the downstairs area of the building, business continued to be conducted as usual.
Zents said that the investigation turned up a pull station at the lower parking level that is believed to have gotten moisture inside of it, causing the alarms to trip.
He said responders also found a heating unit up in the generator room by the elevator shaft with the bearings gone
out of it.
He said that finding that likely stopped another problem from occurring.
Finally, Corbin said that the county will be conducting sexual harassment training with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP).
It will be mandatory training for all employees.
In other business, the commissioners approved the following items:
â€˘ Invoices in the amount of $749,559.89 for the period of Jan. 22 through Feb. 12 inclusive.
â€˘ Pending invoices in the amount of $315,438.09.
â€˘ The actual gross payroll in the amount of $203,347.71 for payment for the period of Jan. 13 through Jan. 26 inclusive.
â€˘ The actual gross payroll in the amount of $202,898.34 for payment for the period of Jan. 27 through Feb. 9.
â€˘ A motion to enter into an agreement for part-time use of a forensic pathologist, Eric Lee Vey, M.D., for a one-year period beginning Jan. 1, 2013, and ending December 31, 2013, at a cost of $850 per autopsy or exam.
â€˘ The appointment of James Venture of Reynoldsville to the Jefferson County Reynlow Park Authority for a five-year term expiring on Dec. 31, 2017.
The commission is issuing a reminder that Feb. 19 will be the first day to circulate and file nomination petitions if one is running for public
All county offices will be closed on Monday, Feb. 18, in observance of Presidentsâ€™ Day.