Susquehanna County Commissioners Talk Communications and Taxes
By Sandra Raub
Some items on the agenda of the Sept. 28 Susquehanna County Commissioners’ meeting prompted lively input from the audience and necessitated clarification by the commissioners.
The first topic for discussion arose when minutes for the previous meeting were being approved, and a visitor asked about the lack of discussion of agenda items as they are voted on. The visitor expressed concern over the wording in Resolution 2011-10 as adopted by the commission at the previous meeting, specifically the phrase “social justice,” further elaborating that the expression carries connotations that troubled him. The same visitor also asked that the commission consider reading the motions on the table aloud prior to the vote and expressed an interest in more public input being garnered prior to voting. It is this writer’s experience that reasonable public input is always honored by the commission at its meetings.
In later discussion, a question arose when the commission was voting to accept a proposal from MCM Consulting Group, Inc., McMurray, PA, for the preparation of a propagation study concerning the change in county communications from wide band radio frequency to narrow band, a change which must be made by the end of 2012. The change, according to the commissioners, is an unfunded mandate by the FCC and will result in huge expense that the county is ill-prepared to shoulder, and the study is required in order to apply for federal help with the cost. A previous study conducted did not garner funds, the commissioners admitted, due to the drying-up of federally earmarked monies.
Commissioner Mary Ann Warren stated that the county’s official position has always been opposition to the banding change, but Commissioner Michael Giangrieco then took the floor and explained what the commissioners have been doing in the matter. He stated that due to the topography of Susquehanna County, communications between various emergency agencies have long been an issue, with parts of the county being simply unreachable by radio. According to Giangrieco, the county was quoted a price of $3 million approximately five years ago to upgrade its system, but he expressed concern that even that upgrade was not guaranteed to make all areas accessible. He further stated that, to his knowledge, the state police had recently upgraded their communications system at a cost of $50 million, and still had problems reaching some of the more remote areas by radio.
Giangrieco’s steps thus far have been to gather representatives from various police, fire and ambulance agencies to meet with Tom Marino, so the people on the ground who are most affected can express their needs and concerns, and to express to the federal government that it is unfair to financially burden local governments that do not have the funds to upgrade to the narrow band system. The visitor who prompted this discussion wondered if public pressure in the form of a letter-writing or telephone call campaign to various government officials at the state and federal levels could help.
A final matter of discussion was properties that are being exonerated from the tax rolls. A visitor asked why these properties were being exonerated and the tax money subsequently lost. In the specific case in question, it is because the property was a trailer on a lot, which has been removed, but the commissioners further elaborated that properties do not go to tax sale until they are three years delinquent, and added that tax sale is avoided if partial payment of one year is made before the three year mark is reached. The regrettable result is that often taxes are in arrears on certain properties for a number of years.