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On Second Try, County Gets Emergency Advisors

The Susquehanna County Commissioners' meeting last week began as a partial rerun of the previous meeting with the attempt to create the Susquehanna County Emergency Advisory Committee. After all was said and done, the resolution submitted at the prior meeting was approved with only one change, the deletion of one person, Kevin Pietriyk as the communications representative.

Apparently, County Solicitor Michael Giangrieco recommended that no communication person be included on the board. That was the particular ire of those present from 911, both at this meeting and the last meeting. Giangrieco said that there are sometimes contentious issues that could lead to problems if individuals are being criticized, and he believes there should be no one there "to remove the possibility of retaliation so there is no chilling effect on what the committee says or does." One dispatcher said they "already have a chilling effect."

Contradicting Jerry Fives, who had said earlier that they have an open-door policy in the committee and want the dispatchers input, and commissioners saying that Fives had been to talk with some of the dispatchers already, the group of five or six dispatchers at the meeting said, "We've never seen him."

Dispatchers with concerns on personnel issues were directed to go to their superiors first before approaching the commissioners. Apparently, some had tried to go before the commissioners without following procedures. Both Director Dawn Watson and Deputy Director Mark Woods indicated that the dispatchers hadn't brought their grievances to them first.

The commissioners tried to divert the personnel issues, saying that the committee's job is to "see into the future and funding," according to Chair Roberta Kelly.

Fire companies are heavily represented on the new committee, but Fives indicated that most of them also have other emergency experience such as medical. Yet lack of communication among the various fire companies is one thing that will be addressed through the committee and its regional representatives who can keep the individual companies informed.

"But dispatchers are an important part of emergency management services," said James Jennings.

A dispatcher said, "We're where the rubber meets the road." Another dispatcher said a letter tells her to meet with the department head, then the union. "What if we're not comfortable with that?"

Kelly replied that if they weren't happy there, they should "look somewhere else," which brought puzzled looks and questions.

Commissioner Jeffrey Loomis said, "I strongly believe in chain of command." Yet, Mark (Woods) and Dawn (Watson) said they (dispatchers) had not met with him.

Another dispatcher said he was not comfortable with people on the committee except one (who is a dispatcher, presumably elsewhere) who doesn't have to meet our certifications.

Also passed was a resolution to adopt a mutual aid agreement for emergency services, which is a formal agreement needed under Title 35. It is between Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties.

The replacement of the roof on the County Office Building came in with a bid of $87,600 from C & D Waterproofing Corp., Bloomsburg. The head of the county's maintenance department had estimated the cost in the neighborhood of $40,000–$50,000. It will be reviewed.

In personnel matters, Darsey Vogel was hired as a part-time corrections officer with the salary board setting her salary at $10.54 per hour, per union contract.

Terry Schettini was introduced as the new Cooperative Extension Director, covering a multi-county area. His base is in Lackawanna County. He'll now cover those two counties, plus Wayne. By spreading out administration, it will allow more time for staff in the field.

Joann Kowalski, who has filled the dual position of Director and Agent, will now work full-time as an Extension Educator.

Schettini will try to standardize operations and coordinate resources. He'll be available mostly on Wednesdays in the county office, but can be contacted regularly by other staff.

New vending machines in several places in the county buildings will provide income for employee funds. Fifteen percent of the proceeds will go into that fund which can be used for things such as a Christmas party, which the commissioners said cannot legally come out of regular county monies. The county pays for the electricity to run the machines, however.

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