The realization of building a new county public safety building took another move forward Wednesday, June 10, with the commissioners opening bids for the project during their meeting livestreamed on the county YouTube channel with phone-in availability for members of the public who wanted to ask questions.
The public safety building will be constructed in New Milford Township, near the Gibson barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police. The land was transferred to the county last year.
Bids for fire protection, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and general trades were received for the project, and will be sent to the county solicitor and engineer for review before being awarded.
Chief Clerk Rebekah Hubbard reported that the bids were in line with the commissioners’ expectations.
Three companies submitted bids for plumbing, ranging from $60-80,000; six companies bid on the electrical, with a range of $2.3-$3+ million; HVAC bids from six companies came in between $2.3-$2.8 million; and nine companies offered bids for General Trades, ranging from $8.68 to nearly $14.8 million.
Following the review, the winning bids will be posted on the county website.
CDBG COVID-19 FUNDS
The commissioners authorized Susquehanna County Housing & Redevelopment Authority to apply for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) COVID-19 funding through the Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
The commissioners said the funds received by the county could be used to help small businesses by providing up to $1,500 to assist with rent, utilities or other COVID-related bills.
Then on Thursday, DCED also announced that new funding is available to counties under the COVID-19 County Relief Block Grant.
Under the program, $625 million was made available to Pennsylvania counties in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding in the form of block grants administered by DCED. According to information Commissioner Alan Hall stated on social media Friday morning, Susquehanna County would receive $3 million.
This funding may be used to offset the cost of direct county COVID-19 response, assist municipalities with COVID-19 response and planning efforts, fund nonprofit assistance programs, and deploy broadband to unserved or underserved areas.
That funding can be used for a variety of programs or to offset costs associated with the COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration. Uses include:
*Offsetting the cost of direct county response, planning & outreach efforts related to COVID-19.
*Small Business Grant Programs to support businesses with fewer than 100 employees & to support businesses and other entities that are primarily engaged in the tourism industry.
*Grant programs to support the following entities for costs related to assisting businesses during the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency: CEDOs, LDDs, IRCs, SBDCs, EDCs.
*Assistance to cities, boroughs, incorporated towns or townships located within eligible counties for response and planning efforts related to COVID-19.
*Behavioral Health & Substance use disorder treatment services.
*Nonprofit assistance programs for entities that are an exempt organizations under section 501(C)(3) OR 501(C)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
*Broadband internet deployment with priority given to unserved or underserved areas.
To be eligible for the funding, counties must have been and remain in compliance with all relevant laws, orders, and regulations during the disaster emergency proclamation dated March 6 and any subsequent renewals. This includes orders by the Governor, Secretary of Health.
Any noncompliant county will be ineligible for funding and may be required to return all or a portion of the awarded block grant funding.
When announced, the counties had until Monday to determine if they would be applying for the funding, that deadline was extended to today (Wednesday, June 17), according to Hall.
He said the commissioners are still in discussion on whether to pursue the funds, and are still working to get clarification on some of the rules and requirements.
“If I can figure out a way to get that money without selling our souls, then I am in favor of it,” Hall said.
Commissioners Arnold and Herschel did not respond prior to press time, to a request for comment about the potential funding.
As of last week’s meeting, Susquehanna County was the only county in the northeast region that had not met the four metrics the state is watching in its tiered reopening plan.
The county moved to the “yellow” phase on May 22, and on Friday met only two of the metrics: contacts of cases being monitored; and hospital bed availability (no more than 90 percent filled).
The two metrics the county has not met is stable, decreasing, or low confirmed case counts in past two weeks compared to the previous two weeks; and PCR positivity rate of <10% in past 14 days. The county had met the metric until Friday’s data was released by the state Dept. of Health.
A spike in positive COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks is partially attributed to a large data dump from one of the commercial testing facilities, according to a news report from last week with information attributed to the Dept. of Health.
As of Monday, June 15, there were 171 positive cases of COVID-19 in the county, with 122 of those (as of Monday, June 15) from residents and staff connected with long term care facilities
To date, there have been 17 COVID-19 related deaths in the county.
By phone, audience member Vera Scroggins asked when the commissioners’ meetings would be open to the public in the courthouse.
Commissioner Chair Elizabeth Arnold said that would happen when the county enters the state’s “green” phase.
Scroggins also questioned the commissioners for not wearing face masks during the meeting. Arnold said she had her mask with her, and that county employees are wearing masks in common areas, such as hallways, but are not required to wear them while at their desks.
Arnold said the commissioners have been trying to “get the message out there” and providing businesses with flyers and signage regarding the business’ required wearing of face masks to help stop the spread of the virus.
Commissioner Judy Herschel has been working with health care providers on acquiring PPE – which is now supplied via emergency managers from the Dept. of Health.
It was reported that Susquehanna County, however, has struggled to get an adequate stock of enough PPE. Herschel has been working through the governor’s office.
OTHER AGENDA ITEMS APPROVED
In other business, the commissioners:
*accepted, with regret, the resignation of Kym Ord as District Justice Office Manager, effective June 17; and approved the transfer of Nicole Calby from the District Justice Office Assistant Manager to the Office Manager spot;
*acknowledged and accepted the hiring of two people in temporary positions to process doe permits, effective July 13, in the county treasurer’s office;
*approve an exoneration request for the Methodist Church in Lanesboro, and a request from the Tax Claim Bureau that all delinquent taxes associated with the parcel be exonerated.