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County Commissioners Enjoy a Break from Controversy, Vote to Apply for Hazmat Grant

by on April 21, 2015 2:45 PM

For the past several months, it’s seemed like every Centre County Commissioners meeting brought some new twist in the conflicts between various county judges and elected officials.

But at this Tuesday’s meeting, things were quiet for one of the few times so far this year. The commissioners approved several routine contracts, paid the bills, and decided to apply for a state grant for emergency response training.

“Frankly, we welcome the calm,” said commissioner Steve Dershem.

Commissioners meetings have been the scenes of some drama ever since January, when two defense attorneys first presented the commissioners with an affidavit accusing Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller of forging a judge’s signature.

At more recent meetings, the commissioners have announced the county was being sued by two of its own judges, and have voiced concerns about Parks Miller’s decision to appoint her personal attorney as special assistant district attorney.

The commissioners had no updates or new comments to make on any of those issues on Tuesday. Parks Miller’s attorney, Bruce Castor, has not petitioned the county to be paid for his work as a special ADA (although he has said that he might), and the county’s recent legal costs still hover around $24,000.

With no new bombshells to drop, the commissioners unanimously voted to apply for a “hazardous materials response fund grant” through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

If the agency decides to award the grant to Centre County, county staff will receive over $27,000 – but employees will also have to come up with a detailed response plan for every single hazardous material handled anywhere in the county.

“I suppose that plan includes Penn State,” commissioner Chris Exarchos said. “That’s quite a task in itself, with all the labs they have on campus.”

County administrator Time Boyde agreed that it was a tall order to fill, but said the county was fortunate to also have Penn State’ hazmat team on its side.

The commissioners also approved contracts with two companies to provide IT support and help guide the county as it upgrades its 911 and emergency call systems.

Finally, the commissioners gave county staff some extra time to consider an offer from the Irwin, Pa.-based company Nutrition Incorporated to provide meals to senior citizens at roughly $4.13 a pop.

Office of Aging Director Clayton Reed said Nutrition Incorporated helped the county provide over 76,000 meals to seniors in 2014, but their new offer represents an increase of almost 50 cents a meal over last year’s agreement. Reed expects to come back to commissioners with a recommendation in three weeks.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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