County approves video arraignment system

February 26, 2020
In The News

The Wyoming County commissioners have approved the purchase of a video conferencing system in the county jail for arraignments.

During Tuesday’s commissioners meeting, Commissioner Rick Wilbur said this includes a one-time purchase of a computer and monitor for $882, plus $648.90 annually for software.

The jail already has a room set up for video arraignments, but Wilbur said officials have been reluctant to use it because the equipment doesn’t work well. He also said the county’s judge and magistrates have assured it will be put to good use.

“It will save us some time, save us some money, and be a lot more secure,” Wilbur said.

Sheriff Bob Roberts added that it also cuts down on the liability of transports.

Commissioner Tom Henry reminded that the system can also be used with other jails.

Also on Tuesday, the commissioners heard from Jack Hubert, the county’s director of veterans affairs, and Dave Broadwell, a staff member from Congressman Fred Keller’s office, who hope to push the Ambassador for Peace Medal that honors Korean War veterans.

Broadwell said the South Korean government administers the medal as a way of thanking U.S. service members for their role in the conflict.

A veteran had to serve “boots on ground” or in Korean territory or waters between 1950 and 1953 to earn the medal. Those who participated in a United Nations peacekeeping operation from 1953 to 1955 after the armistice signing can also qualify.

Veterans must submit a DD 214 certificate of release or discharge from active duty. If this isn’t possible, Broadwell said other ways of proving one’s service could suffice. Both offices can help veterans struggling to provide the proper documentation.

Qualifying next of kin could also apply on behalf of a veteran. Further questions can be directed to Hubert at 570-996-2258 or Keller’s Tunkhannock office at 570-996-6550.

Next week, the commissioners have a meeting scheduled with Rep. Karen Boback, Eaton Twp. supervisors, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and PennDOT regarding the rest area on Route 29 that has received numerous complaints for litter and noise.

The county owns the land, but Henry said a handshake deal with PennDOT from over 50 years ago made the property into a rest area that PennDOT maintains.

Those involved plan to discuss which actions to take moving forward, as PennDOT doesn’t want the responsibility of the rest area anymore, Henry said.

The commissioners have also been meeting with county department heads in groups.

“It was basically a group meeting with the commissioners talking about the state of the county,” Wilbur said, noting these will be followed up with individual department meetings.

Additionally, a security task force looking to evaluate building security measures in the courthouse and other county buildings had plans to meet on Tuesday, which will also include safety drills.

A consultant will help officials undergo an assessment looking for areas of improvement due to a grant of $10,000 from the county’s insurance carrier

This Friday, the commissioners will convene the salary board to discuss two new positions, including a case management and bail supervision specialist made possible through a U.S. Department of Justice grant and a full-time elections office employee.

The full-time position will replace a former part-time position, which Wilbur said was necessary due to a variety of changes in the election law and 2020 being a presidential election year.

This Friday, the commissioners also plan to meet with representatives of the National Weather Service to review emergency plans.

Commissioner Ernie King represented the commissioners at a meeting of the Wyoming County Emergency Services Group, which was inactive for some time. The group has decided to disband and plans to form a countywide group for fire chiefs with the goal of coordinating companies and equipment.

Bill Bender, a consultant with Merrill Lynch, has been undergoing a free review of the county’s pension plan and plans to give recommendations, Wilbur said.

The commissioners have also been communicating regularly with representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development regarding plans for the Bridgeview Commons project in Nicholson, but no decisions have been made yet.

The commissioners approved purchasing a new rug for Magistrate Plummer’s office for $1,000 and eliminating a service contract on the current one, which will save $800 annually.

They also allowed Human Services to post a county social service aide I position, which was vacated Jan. 17. The full-time position has a starting salary of $16,871.40.

In the prison board portion of the meeting, the commissioners approved the termination of a corrections employee, but did not disclose the circumstances.

Warden Ken Repsher said the jail has one inmate boarded out for safety reasons. Currently, the jail houses 47 men and 11 women.

The Wyoming County commissioners are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, March 10 at 9 a.m.