The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 6, 2013

Tough cuts

In as much as some of the public employees of Northumberland County feel any cuts are unfair, the fact is that all governments are cutting. The federal government has frozen hiring, sequestered, dropped award programs, and ignored cost of living raise appeals by employees and unions. Times are tough for all government employees, but these cuts are necessary and come at a time when fiscal restraint and control must be adhered to.

Every county in this state needs to take a page from the feds and look within, make the least painful and most effective improvements, and operate more efficiently than ever. Nothing, including county wide re-assessment of antiquated property valuations and industrial development opportunities should be overlooked.

As one of the larger counties in Pennsylvania, there is no excuse for not having adequate operating capital to ensure the efficient use of county programs and property. The prison and court house buildings have become spectacles representing how bad off financially Northumberland County is. The fact is that a new jail for instance would cost millions of dollars to build and operate, but if it were combined with a neighboring county, it could be fiscally advantageous to collectively operate the new facility.

The removal of the prison boards would eliminate bureaucratic governance and put the decision making back with the prison's administrator where it belongs. A public safety complex with training grounds for emergency services, a prison, and sheriff's station would be far less expensive than paying the price of outdated buildings, grounds, and the lawsuits arising from functionally challenged buildings by employees, inmates, and the public.

A courthouse located in two places may be more efficient than one old courthouse. Separate civil and a criminal courts have advantages, particularly if the criminal court is attached to the prison and the civil court house to the clerk and assessor's office. The courthouse has served its purpose and needs to be retired. Every tenant inside the court house needs a smaller more efficient operating location where they do the bulk of their business.

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