Conklin takes ‘good common sense approach’
By JOHN RISHEL
LOCK HAVEN — Standing for “just a good common sense approach to making decisions for this county that affect us now and in the future,” Democrat candidate Paul Conklin, 66, is seeking his second term as Clinton County Commissioner.
“My family, children and grandchildren all live here, and I hope that they can all stay here and have a future here,” Conklin continued.
Early on in his working life, Conklin was a school board director, served on the Keystone Central School Board, and was a chairman supervisor in Castanea Township.
“When I served on school board there were a lot of issues going on, even back then in the early 80’s. When I was getting to the end of my working career, I felt the need and obligation to try to get involved in county government. I have made a very good impact so far, accomplishing a lot of things over my first term. I am looking to continue those new and innovative things we have been nurturing along,” Conklin said, as to why he wants the position. “I would like to serve another term to see those things fulfilled and go about any new initiatives that we may bring forward to the county. I’m really looking forward to another term to complete all that. With my previous involvement in the school board and being a township supervisor, I was close to all those problems and issues that happen in the townships. To become a county commissioner, it was just further involvement in all the issues and activities that happen in this county. I am a lifelong resident of Clinton County. My grandparents opened the first church in Castanea Township. They were quite active in their community at the time and I just felt a need and desire still to do things that are good for the county.”
According to Conklin, there is always an ongoing effort in the county to reduce expenses, everything is constantly being reviewed.
“It is not like you all of a sudden wake up and decide ‘well let’s think about reducing expenses.’ That is an ongoing process any time it comes to approving a purchase or a project. We need to continue to try to decrease expenses in county government,” he said.
To do so, policies and written job descriptions have been implemented to provide structure and organization to the working environment of government employees, to “get things done that benefit the county.”
“There is a really good attitude in the our employees now. I don’t hear the mumbling and grumbling anymore. It is now a positive family attitude, getting along and getting it done together,” Conklin added.
The Clinton County Correctional Facility is also doing very well now, according to Conklin, after recent efforts to change the culture.
“People connected to the prison tell me what a different place it is now compared to ten years ago. There was a lot of stress, turmoil, and turnover. We have reduced a lot of that. The overtime rates and mandatory call-ins have been going down. The prison budget last year ended up a half million dollars under budget. That is a combination of revenue going up, and expenses going down,” he said.
A daily reporting system also contributed to that, according to Conklin.
“People that have normally been sentenced to jail time, now the judge remands them to be home. They may wear an ankle bracelet or submit to drug testing. It keeps them out of prison. Taxpayers no longer have to supervise, feed them, and be responsible for them at the tune of $70 per day, per detainee. Yet, they are still accountable daily to probation.”
This allows the county to provide leads for job opportunities or local volunteer organizations.
“The prison release system was the number one way contraband was entering the prison,” Conklin noted. “Now that we don’t release those inmates, we don’t have that problem any longer. We also put some equipment in that will scan anyone entering the facility that are being detained, and detect anything hiding on their person, and the equipment was actually financed by insurance programs that insure the county.”
As for construction, local businesses and industries, “good things are going on,” he said, including a new paper machine at First Quality the potential Renovo Energy Center.
These are “good, permanent jobs”, Conklin said.
“It is hard to think about what isn’t working. I have a clear conscience we are doing it the right way. We support veterans groups, giving them additional office space than they had before,” he added.
He also mentioned additional recreational benefits coming to the county, such as the Chestnut Grove Recreational Authority and the Bald Eagle Valley Trail.
“I want to make something available for families and children. People that are move here, they look at what families can do. They see these projects and know we are a forward, progressive thinking community,” he said, while joking that even bald eagles are participating, with four nesting sites now in the county.
“We haven’t increased taxes for several years now. We keep a lid on that. No one wants to pay any more than they have to, but we have to pay taxes to live in a civilized society, support those programs, and those social ills that exist. We are mandated by the state to provide things like Children and Youth Services and have a prison. We also have a county-owned nursing home, Susque-View, and it has always operated in the black. That provides people the opportunity to not move away from friends and neighbors.”
To Conklin, the most important issue to be addressed is jobs.
“If people have jobs, they are taking care of their families, and the social ills tend to decrease. There is more money in the household and they can pay the taxes that we need for the county. Businesses are thriving, they’re paying their taxes. Jobs are really what triggers the whole mechanism that creates a healthy community. We need good, life-sustaining jobs, not just temporary, or part-time, jobs. We focus on how to attract more businesses and that is happening now. We hear through the planning commission that people are venturing in and asking about availability, space, rules, zoning. It doesn’t always come to fruition, but there is interest. With these projects completed, we are going to have more jobs than people in the county. We will have axed out and anyone who really wants a job in Clinton County will have a job in Clinton County. That’s a great thing and there are a lot of different entities making that happen.”