Luzerne County assistant engineer Christopher Belleman was unanimously confirmed as Operational Services Division head at a $75,000 salary during Tuesday’s council meeting.
A Kingston resident, Belleman will oversee engineering, roads and bridges, recreation, environmental projects, planning and zoning, 911, emergency management, buildings and grounds and security. Operational services is among eight divisions created by home rule.
Councilman Jim Bobeck asked Belleman if his background prepared him to manage the variety of offices.
Belleman, 58, said he has 30 years of civil engineering experience overseeing projects and believes his skills are “easily transferable” to the new position. He said he will meet with staff in each department to assess their services and compare their operations to other counties to determine if changes are warranted. Belleman said he does not believe in “knee-jerk” changes.
Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck asked Belleman about his experience serving on the county Flood Protection Authority, which oversees the Wyoming Valley Levee, under the prior government system.
Belleman said he and other authority members made a “courageous decision” to drop pursuit of an inflatable dam on the Susquehanna River.
Councilman Stephen A. Urban, a flood authority member, praised Belleman for his on-the-job performance and for supporting the decision against a dam on a “polluted river with acid mine drainage.”
“You’re a true asset to this county, and you have my overwhelming support for this job,” Urban said.
Councilman Harry Haas said Belleman quickly addressed his recent report of downed trees.
Belleman said county employees must be committed to public service and said he believes the county is a “great place to live.”
“I’m humbled by council and the county manager’s confidence in me,” Belleman said.
County Manager Robert Lawton has two more division head posts to fill — budget and financial services and human services.
In other business Tuesday:
• Council postponed discussion on Lawton’s proposed capital projects plan until a special public hearing scheduled for Tuesday. The hearing will be after a 7 p.m. human services department budget work session in the council meeting room at the courthouse. Lawton anticipates spending $30.7 million on improvements to county-owned properties, including roads and bridges, through 2016. The plan is posted under the meeting agenda at www.luzernecounty.org.
• County Interim Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz and representatives of Michigan-based New World Systems Corp. updated council on the continuing implementation of the new $1.2 million financial software system. The county spent $449,710 on the system to date.
The system’s first-stage July 1 implementation was delayed, but officials said the final data on purchasing accounts should be up and running within a few days.