Commissioners Hear from Residents Afraid of Silica Facility – County Receives $60-Grant for Emergency Management

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signing

Photos and story by Rick Hiduk

Wyoming County Commissioners (from left) Judy Mead, Tom Henry, and Ron Williams discussed a variety of topics in their July 29 meeting and signed an Emergency Management Performance Grant.

The regular meeting of the Wyoming County Commissioners on July 29 began with public commentary about the recent decision by the Wyoming County Planning Commission to deny preliminary approval to D&I Silica to locate a sand transfer facility in Tunkhannock Township.

The 4-2 vote against the facility at the July 16 meeting of the Planning Commission surprised many in attendance, as it was determined that D&I had fulfilled all requirements of the county’s subdivision and land-use ordinance (SALDO) and had procured all of the needed permits.

Commissioner Tom Henry noted that D&I has 30 days to formally appeal the decision. “So far, they haven’t done anything,” he added.

Those in attendance at the meeting seemed intent on getting the county to move more quickly on the restructuring of a Comprehensive Plan that has been in the works since last year. Audrey Gozdiskowski urged the commissioners to do what they can to strengthen language in county ordinances and sections of the current SALDO to prevent the building of gas-related facilities that might be harmful to residents.

Get it done before the appeal process begins,” she stated.

We don’t have any ordinances,” fellow resident Eileen Barziloski interjected. “What’s being done for the future?”

Henry assured her that the Planning Commission has the evolving Comprehensive Plan on the front burner but did not offer an estimate for its completion. He noted that the county does not have any zoning ordinances, and that many decisions are ultimately up to the individual municipalities.

If we’re going to have a patchwork of ordinances, that’s not going to benefit the people of the county,” said resident William Quinn.

Gozdiskowski agreed and stated, “They’ll keep putting the worst stuff in the weakest places.”

Henry and Commissioner Ron Williams said that there will be public meetings in the coming months concerning the Comprehensive Plan and the SALDO at which the public can ask questions and express concerns.

Gozdiskowski provided the commissioners with information about the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which she said provides models for state legislation that protects municipalities and strengthens local rights for residents, as well as offering models for constitutional amendments that better recognize local self-government.

In other county news, the commissioners accepted an Emergency Management Performance Grant for $60,950. The grants were issued by Gov. Tom Corbett’s office last week to counties across the commonwealth.

Chris Ciprich was hired by the county as a part-time consultant to perform some of the duties currently handled by Director of Juvenile and Adult Probation John Yarnell. The commissioners maintained that Ciprich is only a temporary hire, but they are unsure as to how Yarnell’s departure on Aug. 8 will be handled in the long run.

The adult and juvenile probation departments were combined previously to save the county money. In hindsight, the merger might have overwhelmed Yarnell, whom Henry suggested was not happy in the position and found another job.

Commissioner Judy Mead related that the new transportation deal secured for senior citizens by Trehab is working well. The county is still looking for a good deal on two newer vans, Williams noted. In the meantime, Mead said that the new plan will “lead to more opportunities for seniors” in Wyoming and Susquehanna counties.

Chief Clerk Bill Gaylord suggested to the commissioners that they engage soon in earnest discussion about what he views as abuses among some county employees of “comp” or “flex” time. Williams agreed that a few employees have manipulated the system. Henry agreed that a discussion was merited but stressed that emergency workers, in particular, should be compensated in some manner when they work through the night or many days in a row in the event of a crisis.

The next meeting of the Wyoming County Commissioners will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 12, immediately following a Prison Board meeting, which begins at 9 am.

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