DANVILLE -- By a vote of 2-to-1, the Montour County Commissioners approved seeking a grant for an expanded independent living program for the county children and youth services Monday.

Commissioner Trevor Finn voted against it since he said agency executive director Craig Patterson had not responded with additional information about the program. Commissioners Harold Hurst and Bernie Swank voted in favor of the grant, which should take effect July 1.

Mr. Finn made a motion to reject the application that died for lack of a second. Vice Chairman Mrs. Swank made a motion to approve the application, which was seconded by Chairman Mr. Hurst.

The county's share of the expanded program would be $1,000 if the agency needs to use those matching funds, Mr. Patterson said.

The agency is seeking $10,006 in federal entitlement funds for the independent living program plus about $4,000 from the state to expand the program to use teens who are not being served, he said.

Reached after the meeting, Mr. Patterson said the commissioners were notified in February of a meeting held April 20 to explain the program. State child welfare officials attended as well as the commissioners except Mr. Finn, according to Mr. Patterson.

Previously, Mr. Patterson attended a commissioners meeting to explain the program where Mr. Finn had questions about it including a proposal to pay teens to attend meetings and to spend money on a dinner.

On Monday, Mr. Patterson said his agency is mandated to provide independent living program services to teens who have been in foster care on or after their 16th birthday.

He said his agency is seeking an additional $4,000 from the state to provide services to teens as young as 14.

"We're redeveloping our program. We are going to try to open the door a little wider," he said of the new part of the program. The mandated program has been in effect for more than 20 years, he said.

The agency is trying to prevent placements, dysfunctional families and break-ups of families, he said. "Maybe all it takes is a turn in one direction. We have a lot of great community resources to get people involved," he said.

Examples of ways they could help a 14-year-old in what he termed a survival-level home would be exploring mentoring programs, interventions to help the teen and working with the family to help the teen. "We want the child to be productive for the community and part of the community," he said.

For the independent living program model with a grant of $10,006 for 2007-08, Mr. Patterson proposes a community "buy in" initiative as an example a dinner to gain information about community needs and to promote the plan and program, two-hour bi-weekly group meetings of teens with regular activities, speakers and life skill training and stipends of $5 for participating in the meetings, referrals for additional services as needed and to provide transportation as needed.

In other action, the commissioners voted to purchase a used trailer for the county's mower for $895 from Mr. Hurst. A new trailer sells for $1,895. Mr. Hurst abstained from voting.

The commissioners also voted to seek $13,692 to reimburse the assessment office for expanses related to Act 1. The money is for hours worked and software updates provided to the school district to comply with the act. This is part of a one-time statewide appropriation of $3 million.

They approved applying for an annual Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency grant of $1,200 for radiation emergency response.

The commissioners voted to post the position of field assessor/clerk internally and to advertise the full-time position.

They accepted the resignation of Bill Lynn from the comprehensive plan advisory committee.

The board received a letter from Central Susquehanna Opportunities saying the agency will terminate its lease at the county's Woodbine Lane offices as of June 30. Mr. Hurst said this will free up space for the county conservation district.

The commissioners hired Paul Buck retroactive to May 29 as a seasonal employee at $8.66 per hour.

P E-mail comments to kblackledge@thedanvillenews.com.

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