By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — The Union County commissioners are not “charging, demanding or requesting” $200,000 to furnish 911 services to northern Northumberland County as media reports indicate, the three officials said in a press release Thursday.
Union County Commissioners Preston Boop, John Showers and John Mathias said the release Thursday is to “go on the official record, in writing” making an offer of a $100,000 annual reimbursement from Northumberland County, starting Jan. 1.
The press release was sent via email and regular mail to Northumberland County Commissioners Vinny Clausi, Stephen Bridy and Richard Shoch, the Union commissioners said, adding they would not make further public comment on the issue.
The action followed news that a $200,000 demand for 911 services was a topic at a Northumberland County commissioners’ meeting and during Clausi’s appearance on WKOK’s “On the Mark” radio show.
“We fail to understand the Northumberland County commissioners’ insistence that the Union County commissioners are charging, requesting or demanding $200,000 for 911 services provided,” the commissioners said. “We regret the inability of our two boards to have resolved this issue amongst ourselves officially before the issue became such a topic of great public consternation.”
Mandated by the federal government to make 911 upgrades, Northumberland County must decide either to buy a new system that will cover the entire county or continue to pay Union County for the 911 services it provides to the Milton, Watsontown and Turbotville areas.
Northumberland County pays Union County $60,000 per year for 911 dispatching services and receives $40,000 a year through service fees on the use of land-line phones.
A drop in the number of land-lines in use, however, has made a financial discrepancy that Union County cannot pass on to its taxpayers, the commissioners said.
Clausi said Union County officials, during a February meeting, made a new proposal to increase the fee to $200,000 a year to continue serving the area.
“We had a meeting, and all three commissioners were there,” Clausi said. “I got so mad that they demanded $200,000, I left the meeting.”
Union County officials say that is not the case. At the February meeting with Northumberland County, they laid out several scenarios “where we could easily justify a reimbursement request in excess of $200,000,” but that “we also expressed a willingness to settle at a number considerably less than the justifiable,” an offer that was made after Clausi left the meeting, according to the press release.
Shoch has attempted to move along the negotiations. The Union commissioners said they have repeatedly offered to settle for $100,000 to $110,000 annually and that Shoch has told this to the other Northumberland commissioners.
“Yet all we heard (Wednesday) from Commissioners Clausi and Bridy is this position that we are demanding $200,000,” the release said.