Last updated: February 16. 2013 7:49PM - 354 Views

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How do you succinctly capture the essence of Luzerne County government?

Not what it was, but what it should be in the future?

That's what county council's strategic initiative committee is pondering as it prepares the county's first mission statement.

The committee will brainstorm ideas for the statement and other county priorities during its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 4 in the courthouse council meeting room.

A mission statement is supposed to briefly describe the "purpose of the organization's existence and what actions it takes to fulfill this purpose," according to the Seattle-based Municipal Research and Services Center.

The Internet is loaded with examples of mission statements adopted in counties across the country, with many promising transparency, fiscal responsibility and a focus on the health, safety and welfare of all citizens within their boundaries.

A county in Michigan whittled down its statement to once sentence: "The mission of Kalamazoo County government is to provide responsive, innovative and cost effective services."

• Wednesday is Robert Lawton's six-month anniversary as Luzerne County's first permanent manager under the new home rule government. Council plans to adopt a format Tuesday to evaluate his performance after he's been on the job a year.

• Friday is Jim Bobeck's last day as county council chairman. Tim McGinley assumes the leadership post Sept. 1 and has promised to try to build consensus among his council colleagues.

Bobeck said he sacrificed personal time for the chairmanship because he wanted to help the new home rule government get off the ground.

"I hope the best and brightest of the county continue to involve themselves more in helping the county."

• County tax claim operator John Rodgers, of Northeast Revenue Service LLC, did his best to pump up sales at last week's back-tax auction.

When no takers surfaced for several Jenkins Township parcels on a street named Paradise on the River, Rodgers referenced the exotic sound of the locale, trying to drum up interest.

One bidder offered a higher price than needed for a property in Hazle Township because he mistakenly thought he still had competition. Rodgers urged him to stick with the top offer.

"The county needs money. We'll take all we can get," he said.

• A crowd of elected tax collectors is expected at Tuesday's council meeting for a discussion on the home rule option to stop using them for county taxes.

The county administration is preparing a report outlining the hundreds of thousands of dollars in net savings that could be realized by absorbing the service in-house.

Several documents outlining tax collection rates and systems used in other counties have been posted on the council section of the county website, www.luzernecounty.org, under Tuesday's meeting agenda.

• Tuesday's council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in the Emergency Management Agency building, Water Street, Wilkes-Barre.

• The county administration plans to present a detailed report on the county's more than $400 million debt Tuesday, including options to reduce the load if non-budgeted revenue windfalls surface.

Some of the outstanding debt is locked into "call protection" that guarantees investors a percentage of return for a specific time period, preventing the bonds from being "called back" or refinanced at lower interest rates until the protection expires.

Lawton said he wants the public to understand how the county amassed the debt so past mistakes are not repeated.

• County Councilman Harry Haas asked for a discussion on a potential skate park on land near the courthouse during Tuesday's council meeting.

County Chief Engineer Joe Gibbons will outline options, including the need to consider ongoing maintenance costs.

The park idea came up because UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc. has cleaned up contamination on a 3.3-acre parcel on Water Street in Wilkes-Barre and is looking for a reuse that doesn't involve structures that could be flooded by the adjacent Susquehanna River.

Skateboarders routinely congregate at the River Common levee portal by the courthouse.

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