Participants in the Tuesday morning meeting of the Wyoming County Commissioners included (from left) Tom Henry, Rick Wilbur, and Ernie King and chief clerk Bill Gaylord.
Photo and story by Rick Hiduk
(exclusive to EndlessMtnLifestyle.com readers)
The Wyoming County Commissioners held their regular public meeting on July 5 and covered a lot of ground with an ambitious agenda. Standout topics included the potential for an adult day care center to give caretakers of seniors with Alzheimer’s a break, the approval of the county’s purchase of the former PA Ag building on Route 92, a major triathlon event planned for Lake Carey in September, and the welcome news that the county’s Health & Family Partnership (H&FP) program received a record amount of funding for the next 12 months.
H&FP provides services for first-time parents, including connection to a nurse who will link the expecting mother with the support, advice and information needed to have a healthy pregnancy, healthy baby, and five years of follow-up at no cost to the parents. Wyoming County H&FP program director Teresa McClosky brought the good news to the commissioners, which they called a “welcome surprise.” In fact, they had to vote to add the item to the agenda, as McClosky herself didn’t know until last Thursday that her request for increased funding had been approved.
Funding had essentially “flat-lined” at an amount just above $221,600 in recent years, but the PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning was able to make use of American Rescue Plan Act money to approve McClosky’s application on behalf of the county. She described some anxious moments last week, knowing that funding for 2021-22 would end on June 30. She received confirmation at 3 pm that day that the agency had been approved for $321,435 annually for the next three years with a two-year renewal option after that.
New County Office Building Becoming Reality
Since their last meeting, the commissioners learned that Gov. Tom Wolf had signed a bill (Act 26 of 2022) that allows for the sale of the property along Route 92 in Tunkhannock Township on which two former state office buildings have been sitting vacant since the flooding of 2011. The smaller of the two buildings, which took on much more water, will be razed to make room for a parking lot. The larger building that used to house the state’s local Dept. of Agriculture offices will be renovated to make room for county departments that are currently situated in Eaton Township on Route 29. A 2,300-square foot storage garage will also be utilized.
While the legislation, which passed both the state House and Senate unanimously, takes effect immediately, the commissioners have been told that it will take another four to six months for closing. The commissioners have been working on the purchase for the past few years, initially offering one dollar for the 10.3-acre property. They eventually reached a compromise with the state to pay $125,000.
“It’s still a bargain, even if we have to put some money into it,” said commissioner chair Rick Wilbur.
Commissioner Ernie King noted that the property was appraised for $950,000.
Lake Carey in the News
Two items involving Lake Carey were on the agenda: a recent meeting with the Lake Carey Dam Association and initial plans for a the Lake Carey Loop Triathlon.
On the former, commissioner King said that the county’s role in the dam replacement is limited while the Association waits for DEP to approve a plan. Only when the full cost of the project is understood can the commissioners and state legislators begin seeking grants to help cover the cost of the project. “Right now, we’re there for support,” King stated. “We’re just trying to make sure that, when things are in place, that we can help them in any way possible.”
R.V. Martin III brought an update to the commissioners for plans to conduct a triathlon in and around Lake Carey that everyone in attendance felt has the potential to become a highly-anticipated event that will draw people to the area each fall. Slated for Sunday, Sept. 18, the Lake Carey Loop Triathlon will include a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer bike ride, and a five kilometer run. He is working with the U.S.A. Triathlon Association to make sure that the course meets “sprint distance” specifications so that it can become a sanctioned event in the future that will attract participants from all over the state and beyond.
The impetus for the competition began with the establishment of the R.V. Martin Scholarship Fund, which honors R.V. Martin Jr., who passed away in August 2021.
In addition to building up the scholarship fund, R.V. III said that he hopes that the event will grow in scope to allow for the triathlon committee to make monetary donations to organizations in both Wyoming and Bradford counties, as the Martin family’s lives spanned both communities since Ralph Vernon Martin Sr. moved to Lake Carey in 1958. “The better we do, the more good causes that we can help,” R.V. III remarked.
R.V. Sr. delighted in pulling children in inner tubes around the lake behind his boat, and his grandson feels that utilizing the lake for the family-oriented recreational event would also be a fitting tribute to him.
The commissioners indicated that they were already on board with the event, having approved a Marcellus Legacy Fund grant for the event. R.V. said that the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau has offered to help promote the event. He is currently looking for volunteers and sponsorships. For updates, interested readers can follow The Lake Carey Loop Triathlon on Facebook. R.V. can be reached via email at RV300WSMAG@yahoo.com.
Mum’s The Word on Hospital
The commissioners had no new news on the situation involving the recently shuttered Tyler Memorial Hospital other than to say that negotiations are ongoing between Commonwealth Health and several interested parties to reopen the facility. They said that they had recently received an email confirming that things “are moving along” and that they are praying that the situation is resolved.
Other Issues Discussed
Inmate outsourcing continues to bleed the budget of the Wyoming County Correctional Facility. The staff is short nine employees, which has resulted in an additional 10 prisoners – a total of 35 – being sent out this past weekend to other facilities at a cost to the county of more than $75 per day.
The commissioners are still waiting on the Eaton Township supervisors to return a signed agreement that will officially return possession of Seneca Trail Park to the county.
The commissioners have met with Carriage Barn Builders to discuss options for new doors at the old main entrance of the courthouse. Judge Russell Shurtleff has some funds that can be used for historic renovations. Commissioner Wilbur said that both historical accuracy and security will be considered in the final design.
Human services director John Alunni has been meeting with representatives of the Area Agency in Aging to discuss options for adult caregivers to have some place safe to take seniors with dementia and other cognitive issues so that they can have some some time to themselves and get things done with peace of mind. The commissioners were asked about recent efforts to have a facility for both cardiac rehab patients and those with Alzheimer’s in the county. They said that the state turned down the request, suggesting that there aren’t enough people in the county needing those services. The commissioners strongly disagree and said the proposal is under appeal, but they have no new news.
The commissioners reported that the first Fork Over the Love meal giveaway sponsored by Mental Health and Mental Disabilities Services conducted at Tunkhannock High School last week went very well. The remainder of 200 meals purchased from local business that was not distributed was given to Seven Loaves Food Kitchen.
Dedication of the new DAR monument on the west courthouse lawn is slated for Sunday, July 17 at 1 pm.
The commissioners plan to attend the opening of a new art exhibit at the Dietrich Theater at 2 pm on July 17.