Public comments on public comment at Luzerne County meetings

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -
Luzerne County Courthouse -

Citizens periodically complain the feedback they offer during public comment at Luzerne County government meetings isn’t appreciated.

Ed Chesnovitch, a regular council meeting attendee, has even come up with a catchphrase for this sentiment, ending most of his public comments with the statement, “Thank you next.”

The opposite scenario is occurring at the county Flood Protection Authority, which oversees the Wyoming Valley Levee, because citizens can raise their hand to ask questions and make suggestions during the meeting.

Richard Adams, county council’s new appointee to the five-member authority board, is making an issue of this practice. According to minutes from the authority’s Dec. 19 meeting, Adams said he found the constant interruption with public comment a little disorienting and distracting and wondered why it was allowed.

Board Chairman Kevin O’Brien and member John Maday said they support expanded public comment because authority meetings cover a multitude of important issues tied to flood protection, the minutes said. Maday said he believes public input in any form is healthy for an organization.

• County Council’s legislative committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday at the courthouse to clarify its 2018 priorities, discuss council’s role in combating the opioid crisis and firm up plans to host a spring roundtable with area legislators.

• Tuesday night is packed with county government meetings, all at the courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

A new council ad hoc committee will hold its first session at 4:30 p.m. to discuss suggested revisions to three codes required under the home rule charter: personnel, administrative and ethics.

Council’s Authorities, Boards and Commissions Committee will hold a work session at 5 p.m.

County Manager C. David Pedri will present his annual “state of the county” report at 5:30 p.m.

Council will hold a voting meeting and work session starting at 6 p.m.

• A tabled council appointment to the county Housing Authority is listed for a possible vote at the council meeting.

Federal law requires the appointment of an authority tenant to the board.

Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck challenged plans to appoint someone at the last meeting because only one tenant applicant was on the eligibility list.

Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he asked the authority executive director to canvas and seek applicants, and a prospective tenant was forwarded to the county.

McClosky Houck said council had publicized the opening in authority buildings when the last appointment came up five years ago, and council ended up receiving several applications as a result.

Councilman Stephen A. Urban said an authority boss or manager shouldn’t be involved in recommending someone to a board that oversees him. Tenant applications should not be “handpicked” by the authority administration, McClosky Houck said.

According to Tuesday’s agenda, the authority has since posted a notice in all buildings inviting interested residents to submit applications to the county council clerk.

• Two proposed litigation settlements also are up for a council vote. On the solicitor’s advice, council does not release the settlement amounts until the voting meeting.

The first settlement is with Melissa Moser, who filed a negligence and personal injury action against the county in 2014 alleging her 14-year-old sustained permanent injuries when a concrete barrier allegedly fell on him while he was playing at the Seven Tubs Nature Area in Plains Township.

The other litigation involves an negligence and wrongful death action filed by the estate of Mark Lacey over 2012 fatal motor vehicle crash that occurred when former county aging department caseworker Doreen Chacke was on her way home from a nursing home, the agenda said.

• The county rounded up 27,781 tires in its 2017 recycling collection, according to a recent report.

Another random statistic: a total 35,187 licenses were issued by the county last year, including dog, hunting, fishing, small games of chance and bingo ones.

Luzerne County Courthouse County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

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

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