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Coming up on Tuesday: Manager’s state of the county report


February 25. 2013 1:42AM
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Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton will present his first home rule-required “state of the county” report during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Former interim manager Tom Pribula presented last year’s report because Lawton was still transitioning into the manager position.

The report is required 60 days after the close of the fiscal year.

* Tuesday’s council work session and meeting will start at 6 p.m. and is scheduled to be held in the county’s Emergency Management Agency building, Water Street, Wilkes-Barre.

Future council meetings will be held in the redesigned council meeting room on the first floor of the county courthouse.

* County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis also will present her home rule-mandated annual report during Tuesday’s session.

* Kingston resident Ed Gustitus complained about a lack of progress in the Hotel Sterling demolition at last week’s council meeting.

Lawton said the county is no longer involved because Wilkes-Barre officials chose to “go it alone” funding the teardown.

City Mayor Tom Leighton said last week the city is still awaiting historical structure clearance and processing other paperwork. He said an announcement on the timetable of the demolition is coming soon.

* Council is set to vote Tuesday on the amount of the bond required for Lawton this year.

Factoryville-based DGK Insurance and Financial Services, the county’s insurance advisor, sent a letter to county officials recommending the bond remain at $1 million.

DGK’s letter says the state commissioners’ association recommends $1 million coverage for counties the size of Luzerne and the county “appears to have the appropriate checks and balances, oversight and controls in place.”

* Lawton’s one-year performance evaluation procedure was approved by council last week.

Council will invite some employees, elected officials, union representatives and local community leaders to evaluate Lawton’s performance by answering four questions.

Council members can then review those submissions as part of their formal evaluation starting around mid-March.

* Several council members have called for discussion on county Councilman Stephen A. Urban’s proposal to start converting the workforce to 20-percent health care contributions.

Non-union workers have been paying 10 percent for nine years, and union employees pay flat monthly contributions or 10 percent. The 20 percent could be implemented at 2 percent annually for non-union workers and be negotiated into union contracts as they expire, Urban has said. Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he will schedule a discussion at an upcoming council meeting.

* A 2006 lawsuit filed by former county prison worker Sam Hyder against the county and Urban when he was a commissioner has been discontinued.

It’s unclear is the county’s insurance company agreed to a settlement with Hyder. County Solicitor Vito DeLuca said no settlement will be paid by the county’s general fund operating budget.

Hyder’s lawsuit maintained Urban broke a confidentiality agreement when he released details of a $70,000 workers’ compensation settlement Hyder reached with the prison in 2000. Urban and the county said the confidentiality agreement was unenforceable because the settlement involved a public entity.

Hyder returned to prison employment as deputy warden in February 2004. He was furloughed from the $74,263-a-year position in January 2010 and lost an appeal seeking workers’ compensation for on-the-job stress in the warden position.

* Jackson Township resident Ed Chesnovitch urged council last week to cross-train election workers to help with increased in-house county tax collection planned for 2014. Chesnovitch said some election workers have periods between elections when they’re not as busy.

* On the subject of Chesnovitch, a regular county meeting attendee, he has been telling county officials an imposter is trying to make it appear he’s posting comments after online newspaper articles under the heading “Chesno.” He said he is not that poster.

* Kingston resident Brian Shiner asked Luzerne County officials to publicly cite a reason if they’re attending county meeting by speaker phone. Shiner said protocol must be followed, saying he could imagine a scenario where the council clerk is the lone attendee at the head table manning speaker phones for all 11 council members.




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