HONESDALE, PA — Receiving and spending money was the dominant topic of the Wayne County Commissioners meeting last week. In addition to accepting a proposed 2021 budget (see article above), the …
HONESDALE, PA — Receiving and spending money was the dominant topic of the Wayne County Commissioners meeting last week. In addition to accepting a proposed 2021 budget (see article above), the commissioners accepted an additional $15,000 grant for its Bureau of Elections, reallocated spending on broadband expansion projects, set new rates for election workers and looked ahead to future projects.
The extra $15K for the election bureau came from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a foundation started by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg that aims to “harness the promise of technology to modernize the American voting experience.”
The foundation had already provided the bureau with $25,000 prior to the General Election. Chief financial officer Vicky Botjer said that the county also has funds allocated through an elections security grant (and potentially CARES Act relief, if needed). She said that the funds will help pay overtime to election workers and county employees from other departments that helped on Election Day.
“The overtime was extensive, and the mail-in ballot option and the popularity of it changed the workload for that office tremendously,” commissioner Jocelyn Cramer said.
In other electoral process news, the commissioners approved raising the pay rates for election poll workers for the first time since 2014. The judges of elections rate changed from $160 to $175, plus $20 for making their returns and mileage; the rates for inspectors of elections, clerks of elections and constables changed from $150 to $160. The raises will go into effect in 2022. Commissioner Joe Adams said that Election Day is a 15-hour workday and said these rates aren’t “exorbitant” considering.
Continuing its efforts to expand high-speed internet access in the county, the commissioners approved the allocation of CARES Act funding to two broadband projects and reduced the amount of money granted to another project that could not be completed by the end-of-the-year deadline.
Adams Cable will be receiving $58,5000 to purchase and install node-splitting devices, “which would help ensure that 2,400 customers continually receive broadband service that meets or exceeds federal minimal broadband speeds.” ICON Technologies will be receiving $65,518 for further expansion work to upgrade bandwidth and improve battery capacity to maintain power during electrical outages.
On the flip side, Laurel Highlands Total Communications, a company that originally received $448,942 to expand fiber connectivity to 75 underserved homes, has reported that it is unable to complete the project for 21 homes in Salem View Estates. The commissioners, therefore, reduced the company’s grant by $427,942 to be reallocated elsewhere, because any unused CARES Act money must be returned to the state by the end of the year.
“[It’s] a shame; there are a lot of people on that road who could have used the service,” Adams said, adding the county has no choice but to make sure all of its funding is spent or else send it back. “Our intent is certainly not to give this money back, it’s certainly to use it for our business community and for other technology and emergency projects in Wayne County.”
Looking ahead to future and potential projects, the commissioners requested a Local Share Account-Monroe County (LSA-Monroe) grant for a project at Industrial Point near the confluence of the Lackawaxen and Delaware rivers in Honesdale. The commissioners didn’t give specifics yet, but said the project could include utilizing the old hospital building and “rail and trails scenarios.”
Supporting other potential LSA-Monroe grants in the county, the commissioners also sent several letters of support for local applicants: including one for the Greater Honesdale Partnership, applying for additional funds for its downtown revitalization effort, and one for the Wayne Economic Development Corporation for a project at Sterling Business Park.