LOCK HAVEN - Low-income property owner who may feel "bullied" by developers - especially potential natural gas drillers - have a friend in Harrisburg.
That was the message at Thursday's commissioners' meeting from Mary Vuccola, representing the northcentral region for the state Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Justice Board.
The program, she said, focuses on community involvement in areas with high levels of poverty, like most of Clinton and Centre counties.
"We want to stimulate a friendly rapport between DEP and communities," Vuccola said. "We're also a resource for communities that feel they're being treated unfairly, like with the Marcellus Shale. We want people to know what their rights are.
"If you feel you're being bullied by a well-drilling company and feel you're being taken advantage of, we're there to protect low-income people," she continued, noting those with low incomes also likely have low education levels.
Vuccola added her group also has 15 "scholarships" available to residents who want to attend a three-day conference at the end of April to learn more about the program.
The scholarships will pay for room and board, and are available on a first-come, first served basis by calling her at 858-5433.
In other business at their meeting, the commissioners:
- Resubmitted their request for a $500,000 grant from the state Bureau of Rail Freight.
The commissioners passed a similar measure last year, but were not approved for funding.
Commissioner Tom Bossert said the money will go toward $1 million or more in improvements at the Renovo Rail building in its industrial park.
He said the grant would include a 25 percent match from the company for the work, which would include improvements to the switch on the east end of the facility to allow the company to hook onto the main rail line leading from the property.
- Heard from Commissioner Tom Bossert that the Lycoming-Clinton County Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board has recently passed a new drug-testing policy, which mirrors the one in Clinton County.
The policy states employees in "sensitive positions" must take a drug test when hired and be subject to random drug tests throughout the year.
"This is a milestone event," he said.
- Approved the transfer of Tom Sobiech from a full-time GIS technician to a database administrator in the IT Department, effective Jan. 22.
Commissioner Joel Long said this move is designed to facilitate the inputting of property values from the recently-completed countywide reassessment project.
Sobiech's salary will increase from $38,942 to $39,250.
Long attributed Sobiech's salary increase to the fact that he will now have a supervisory role over some members of the staff and was included in this year's budget.
- Heard from Michael McDavid, regional director for the Penn State Cooperative Extension, working with county extension services and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
He thanked the commissioners for their annual support of the office, along with their commitment to find another educator at the Clinton County office to replace Bobbi Jo Simcox, who recently retired as 4-H and Youth Development educator.
Extension Director Jim Ladlee said he hopes to fill Simcox's position in either April or May.
- Re-appointed James Russo, David Grimm and Jonathan Bravard to the Clinton County Sewer Authority for a three-year term, expiring Jan. 1, 2012.