Last updated: January 19. 2014 11:52PM - 3527 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com

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The Luzerne County Prothonotary’s Office will stop issuing passports on Feb. 11 due to recent layoffs, said county Judicial Services and Records Division Head Joan Hoggarth.

Five workers were furloughed in the prothonotary’s and clerk of courts offices, which share staff, to help close a gap in the 2014 budget.

Hoggarth said the two offices must concentrate on covering mandated services with the reduced staff, and the issuing of passports was optional.

Passports are available at post offices in Wilkes-Barre, Nanticoke, Dallas and Hazleton, she said.

• Several citizens had to sit outside the council courthouse meeting room during last week’s meeting because the space reached a roughly 50-person capacity, prompting public criticism. Some had questioned the meeting relocation from the more spacious Emergency Management Agency building early last year.

Council Chairman Rick Morelli said he will address the matter because he believes it is “uncalled for” keeping citizens outside the meeting room, particularly if there is no broadcast of the meeting outside the room so they can see and hear what’s happening inside.

• Council members were briefed in executive session last week on three proposed contracts with unionized workers in Children and Youth, Aging and Mental Health. Council members are expected to vote on the agreements later this month.

Negotiations continue with workers covered by three other union contracts that expired the end of 2013 for the prison, assistant district attorneys/public defenders and the rank-and-file residual unit.

• The county’s 2012 audit is still pending because more analysis is required on the county’s capital assets and outstanding vacation and sick time accrued by employees — areas that were not thoroughly examined in past county audits, officials said.

• Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the courthouse council meeting room.

Agenda items include a discussion and possible vote on new council operating procedures presented by Morelli, including creation of council committees to review information and requests before matters come to council for a vote.

Morelli, who was appointed chair earlier this month, said he wants new procedures in place for February, but some of his colleagues said more discussion and review might be needed. Some complained changes were difficult to track because Morelli presented a new document instead of specific alterations of the original procedures.

The 33-page document has been posted on council’s website (www.luzernecounty.org) along with color-coded comments and changes proposed by various council members.

For example, Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck has challenged changes that would automatically make the council vice chair the chair if the chair steps down before the January reorganization meeting. McClosky Houck said council members voted on a new chairman when Jim Bobeck stepped down and said council members should preserve that right. Councilman Edward Brominski is currently vice chairman.

• Council also is scheduled Tuesday to hear a proposal to extend Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) tax-exempt status on two properties in the Hanover Industrial Estates in Hanover Township.

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