Luzerne County borrowing may receive sixth vote needed to avoid shutdown

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | November 24th, 2015 6:36 pm

A $20 million Luzerne County loan needed to avoid mass layoffs and a debt repayment default may have the six county council votes needed to pass.

County Councilwoman Eileen Sorokas, who voted against a similar loan last week, made a motion to place the proposed borrowing on the agenda.

Under council bylaws, the loan could not be on the agenda unless it is introduced by a council member who previously opposed it.

It’s unclear if Sorokas will vote for the borrowing because the council members are hearing public comment.

The meeting was moved to the larger courthouse jury room due to the crowd, which is packed with more than 100 citizens, mostly employees.

Aging worker Shoshana Hayward broke down at the podium as she pleaded with county officials to pass the loan to avoid service cuts at active adult centers and other county agencies.

Hayward said many elderly residents have their only daily hot meal at these centers, and some would slip into depression without the opportunity to be around peers.

“It allows them the opportunity to socialize,” Hayward said.

Union head Kerri Gallagher said a loan is the “only option” to cope with the delayed receipt of $22 million in state funding due to the budget impasse because mass layoffs will jack up the county’s unemployment costs and hurt many people.

“The county will be facing devastation,” said Gallagher, who represents hundreds of county employees in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.