In the first meeting of the new year, the Huntingdon County Commissioners had plenty of items on the agenda, but they also addressed concerns about potentially purchasing new voting machines, as part of state mandate, if the state doesn’t certify the current ones.

Huntingdon Borough resident Jim Cassatt asked the commissioners what benefit there would be to purchasing new voting machines, and what new voting machines can do that the current ones do not.

Commissioner Jeff Thomas pointed out that they’ve been lobbying through the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) not to purchase any new machines, and the county, as well as 17 other counties, are in a similar position where they currently have voting machines with paper trails.

Sather added that this issue is one of the main issues CCAP wants to address.

“We’re trying ways to either get our machines certified or get 100 percent funding from the state to purchase new machines that are certified.

Former county commissioner and Penn Township resident R. Dean Fluke attended Tuesday’s meeting and said the commissioners never mentioned exactly how many machines would need to be purchased and how much each machine would cost.

“You’ve never mentioned looking at places like Bedford County, where I believe they went from having 60 some machines to 40 some machines in the most recent election,” said Fluke, noting that a mandate implies the state has to give funds for it.

“If they aren’t providing funding, then why are you going to do it?” asked Fluke.

Todd Township resident Nancy MacNamara asked if commissioners have made any consideration of purchasing the former Mutual Benefit Group building that is being leased by the county for Children and Youth Services, and Sather said they have not.

Sandra Witt of Mapleton brought up concerns regarding the lack of cellphone coverage in areas in the county, saying the lack of coverage could mean the loss of life.

“If I’m on the road, and something should happen to me, I could die because I can’t call 911,” she said.

Thomas addressed Witt’s concerns, noting he lives in an area of the county that has little to no cellphone service, and they’ve lobbied with state legislators as well as the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission to find ways to bring more cellphone service to the county. He encouraged Witt to also lobby to state and federal legislators, because they can’t personally bring more cell service to the county.

The commissioners also approved the first resolution of the year, which was for the tax application note for $1.75 million.

“This is a one-year loan at 2.59 percent interest, and it has to be paid off before the end of the year,” said solicitor Peter McManamon.

A Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant for $10,000 from the state Emergency Management Agency awarded to the county was also approved by the commissioners.

County EMA director Joe Thompson said this grant, which they applied for last year, will go toward preparedness for emergencies involving hazardous materials, as well as digital and paper emergency response plan.

“This is something that can help volunteer fire companies with training they need without having to spend money,” said Thompson.

County planning director Mark Colussy also presented the commissioners with a number of items Tuesday.

The state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) now requires a form to be filled out to authorize a new signatory for all Community Development Block Grant (CGBG) and HOME invoices, so commissioners approved adding Melody Mason, community development administrator, to be the additional signatory.

“I’m approving a resolution asking for Melody Mason as authorized signature associated to invoices with DCED’s new electronic invoicing system,” said Colussy. “Sather will still be an approved signature, as the chief elected officer.”

Fluke asked if it was is just to have one commissioner’s signature as a signatory, as he believes all three commissioners should be signatories.

Commissioners also approved allowing the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant awarded to the Huntingdon County Career and Technology Center for $1.25 million to be funneled, in a manner of speaking, through the county, which would allow HCCTC to the sub-applicant.

“The county needs to take action on a statement of compliance containing nine minimum requirements, enacting a resolution to file grant by the board, a cooperation agreement with HCCTC and an opinion of council proving opinion of no pending or threatened litigation,” said Colussy.

The certification of ag land preservation funds for $7,207.15, including $5,000 in Act 13 funds and $2,707.15 in the Clean and Green Rollback was also approved by the commissioners.

“The state Department of Agriculture requests each county participating in the agriculture conservation easement program to file a certification of county funds that accounts for all county matching funds,” said Colussy.

Commissioners also approved the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) priorities to officially be submitted to PennDOT. These priorities were approved at the Huntingdon County Planning Commission meeting in December.

The top priority for safety and mobility was identified as the intersection of Cold Springs Road and the Petersburg Pike. Priorities for major projects were identified as well, with the first priority being a combination of improvements to routes 522 and 453 to realign curves, eliminate blind spots and reconstruct the road to a 24-foot cartway. The secondary priority was a four-lane reconstruction project to Route 22 from Mount Union to Mill Creek. Bridge replacement priorities were identified as Wilson Bridge in Cromwell Township and New Fording Bridge in Todd Township.

CYS caseworker I Kayla Handy was approved to attend training sessions in Mechanicsburg that equal to 20 days from January through March, some requiring overnight stays, at a cost of $1,243.68.

Huntingdon County Sheriff Jeff Leonard was approved to attend a winter conference in State College at a cost of $75.

The resignation of Tracy Worthy Jr., corrections officer with the Huntingdon County Jail, was approved, effective Dec. 31.

Kylie can be reached at khawn@huntingdondailynews.com.

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