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South Williamsport, PA
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County Hall Corner: Keeping the Ship on a Steady Course

The Lycoming County Commissioners are doing their very best to keep a steady hand on the helm, and they should be commended for their efforts. The work session on Tuesday, March 17th was heavy on substantial work. Among other things was the approval of Tom Heaps’s reorganization of the Prothonotary/Central Collections/Assessment office. Similar to the

The Lycoming County Commissioners are doing their very best to keep a steady hand on the helm, and they should be commended for their efforts. The work session on Tuesday, March 17th was heavy on substantial work. Among other things was the approval of Tom Heaps’s reorganization of the Prothonotary/Central Collections/Assessment office. Similar to the money-saving and process-improving design of DA Ryan Gardner’s restructuring of the District Attorney’s office done in January, Heap’s efforts will eliminate three positions plus Heap’s old position as director of Assessment/Tax Claim Bureau and Central Collections Office which is now under the Prothonotary’s office. This may seem like a lot of administrative rigmarole, but the result will be substantial cost savings and increased efficiency in this critical office.

At that same meeting, they also approved a long, long list of grants and monitoring agreements for organizations such as the Lycoming County Library System, the Lycoming County Industrial Development Authority, Veterans Memorial Park Commission, the West Branch Fireman’s Association, and a number of others. The spirit of the meeting was upbeat and positive, and besides some county officials communicating via speakerphone, none would be the wiser that there was a full-blown crisis they were dealing with.

That would be addressed the following morning at the press conference called by the County Commissioners to note the actions the county is taking on COVID-19. Each of the commissioners spoke one-by-one, providing encouragement during these trying times and practical advice such as utilizing reliable information sources such as the CDC and the PA Department of Health.

They were followed by the newly appointed Director of Public Safety Jeff Hutchins. His most valuable tidbit was that we can all trust the mail service, as the virus is not spread through the mail. He introduced President Judge Nancy Butts, who emphasized that everyone should limit their visits to the courthouse to the absolute minimum and that many services could be utilized online (lyco.org). This site also contains phone numbers for a host of county services that could save a trip. Following Judge Butts was District Attorney Gardner, who warned any potential perpetrators that law enforcement will not be compromised during this time.

Gardner was followed by Matt McDermott, Director of Administration and Chief Clerk, who spoke rather encouraging words that Pennsylvania is being recognized on a national level as one of the most prepared states in the union. County Prison Warden Brad Shoemaker noted that all inmate visiting and outside volunteers for inmate programming has been discontinued until further notice.

Sheriff Mark Lusk closed out the parade of officials by noting all this activity is not panic but good sound judgment. But holding to the concept of keeping your powder dry, Sheriff Lusk also noted that though his office is currently not issuing gun permits or renewals, a “little known fact” is that gun permits are still valid for six months after expiration. But he closed his comments with some reassuring words, and that was that all those in the county associated with public safety and protection are meeting several times daily to continue to share information and ideas. No stone is being left unturned.

Commissioner Scott Metzger, who opened the press conference, closed it by reading from the Bible, Joshua 1:9, “ Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Amen to that.

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