Last updated: May 25. 2014 11:50PM - 3837 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

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Luzerne County is seeking proposals from companies to design, build and operate billboards on county-owned property, according to a new county website posting.

The county’s outside financial advisor suggested advertising to generate revenue for the cash-strapped county in a 2005 recovery plan, and former county controller Walter Mitchell raised the idea again in January.

Proposals are due June 9.

• The county is seeking a human resources director at a salary of $55,000 to replace Andrew Check, who recently resigned to accept a private-sector position. Resumes are due June 9.

• Councilman Harry Haas publicly criticized council Chairman Rick Morelli’s decision to reschedule last week’s work session from Tuesday to Thursday due to the election. The election is no longer tabulated in the council meeting room on election night, and Haas noted four council members missed the meeting or attended only a portion due to the change.

• Tuesday’s monthly council voting meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the council meeting room at the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.

• Council will vote on a union agreement switching eight deeds employees to a different American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.

With the change, deeds and wills workers will be covered by the same collective-bargaining agreement, allowing efficiency, cross training and equal compensation, officials said. The two former row offices merged under the judicial services and records division due to home rule.

Eight workers will receive pay increases totalling a combined $14,600 as part of the package, which changed some job titles, according to the agenda submission at www.luzernecounty.org.

• Hazleton Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi’s request for the city to acquire a vacant county-owned lot at 56 N. Cedar St. also is on Tuesday’s agenda, though council is expected to hold on to the property and try to sell it as part of an upcoming initiative to unload county property to generate revenue and return parcels to the tax base.

Past county officials bought the 0.18-acre lot for $30,000 in 1999 to provide parking for county offices located nearby at that time. The mayor’s office included 2013 photos, which are included in the meeting agenda packet, showing abandoned vehicles, trash and overgrown weeds on the lot.

• The county District Attorney’s Office opened 4,444 new adult criminal cases in in 2013, compared to 4,200- to 4,300 in 2012, county District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis told council in an annual report presented at last week’s work session.

The office’s juvenile unit had 343 cases in 2013, compared to 317 the previous year.

Salavantis said the caseload is “slowly increasing,” but the office is “doing a good job moving cases through.” She credited council for increasing the office budget to $5.3 million in 2014 — an increase of around $480,000 from the prior year.

• The county’s rank-and-file AFSCME residual union and county may be close to hammering a proposed contract, officials say. The union, which has the right to strike, is working under an agreement that expired the end of 2013. Binding arbitration may be needed to obtain new contracts with assistant district attorneys/public defenders and prison workers.

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