FEMA Buyouts Expected Early in New Year
By D.C. Koviack
Wyoming County’s Emergency Management Director, Gene Dziak, told the commissioners on Tuesday that the FEMA buyout of flooded and destroyed properties should take place in two phases, one near the end of January and the other in mid-February, 2012. Dziak noted that the deadline for applying for a buyout was Wednesday at midnight. About 90 homes have applied thus far for a buyout in the county, but not all may be approved.
Some municipalities are also not in favor of the buyouts, because that means the properties revert to the municipality and that no taxes can be collected on them. For smaller municipalities or those that rely heavily on property taxes for revenue, this can be a significant loss.
The first round of buyouts concerns Hurricane Irene, which hit Wyoming County in late August of this year. The second round relates to Hurricane Lee whose remnants stalled as a low level tropical storm during the first week of September and deluged an already soggy region.
Dziak and the commissioners also discussed last week’s snowstorm and the unfathomable response by PennDOT to the clearing of roadways. Fortunately, Dziak noted, EMA and emergency responders were able to get where they needed to go despite the storm and road conditions.
In a related topic, Dziak received approval to purchase a carport for the EMA vehicles; the purchase will be made from Keystone Caps in Tunkhannock and will be less than $2,500. The money will come from the EMA’s Response line item. The carport, Dziak explained, will allow emergency vehicles to be ready to go even in inclement weather, without taking time to remove snow or ice from windows and windshields.
In other business, the elected officials’ bond for the county will now come under the PCorp agreement. PCorp is the cooperative insurance policy that Wyoming County participates in. It serves most counties in the commonwealth. The switch from independently insuring elected officials for their bond will save the county several thousand dollars; participation through PCorp only recently became available.
A grant was approved from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for $10,000 for the Victims’ Resource Center and Juvenile Probation. The grant is the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant; the VRC retains $8,800 of the funding and Juvenile Probation receives the rest. The grant was not cut this year.
Eric Brown of the county’s Tax Claim office brought a couple of tax appeal issues to the commissioners’ attention Tuesday. Brown noted that the old WalMart building, now under a purchase agreement, will negotiate restrictions on the sale and a tax rate with the county. The county’s tax anticipation loan, which will fund the county until tax revenue begins to come in early in 2012, was also reviewed.
The loan bid was put out to seven area banks, and four responses were received. Low bidder was First National Bank, formerly Community Bank, at 2.23 percent interest. Next was M&T at 2.56 percent. Third was Peoples State Bank at 2.68 percent and last was People's National Bank at 3.25 percent. The low bid was accepted. The loan will be for $1.7 million dollars, and the commissioners said Tuesday they expect to pay it back as early as possible to avoid paying too much interest. This tax anticipation procedure is generally followed every year.
Prior to the commissioners’ meeting, the prison board attempted to have a meeting but lacked a quorum. An informational session commenced, with Warden Mickey Ameigh telling the board that union contracts are being re-negotiated for the full-time correctional officers at the county jail. Additionally, Ameigh said that he and County Administrator Bill Gaylord are still trying to get answers on the Act 22 regulations, which are supposed to be in force. Act 22 mandates that health care providers charge only the medicare/medicaid rate to inmates while they are incarcerated. However, the Act has some “grey” areas and it is these particulars Ameigh and Gaylord are trying to get answers on. One specific area of confusion is whether or not ER visits, in-patient treatment, or both, are included in the new regulations, as different interpretations have been advanced.