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County Hall Corner: Yes, Life Will Go On

My wife, three children, and I happened to be in Moscow in August of 1991 when the independence movement began, which resulted in the fall of the USSR. We had waited in line for two hours to get into the one and only McDonalds Restaurant in Russia and were enjoying our American cuisine of Big

My wife, three children, and I happened to be in Moscow in August of 1991 when the independence movement began, which resulted in the fall of the USSR. We had waited in line for two hours to get into the one and only McDonalds Restaurant in Russia and were enjoying our American cuisine of Big Macs and Coca-Cola when my teenage son David looked out the window and remarked, “Hey Dad, a tank just went down Gorki Street.” I replied, “David, this is Russia. There is nothing unusual about a tank in the street.” But he retorted, “But Dad, there were civilians riding on the tank!”

Now, that was unusual. We grabbed our food and ran out to see what was happening. We were not the only ones, as we followed the tanks several blocks from Puskin Square to Red Square where thousands of people had assembled. There was a makeshift podium set up with a portable PA system. A rather passionate man was speaking very enthusiastically about something that we couldn’t quite figure out but were pretty sure was not in support of the present government.

All this was quite interesting, and I realized we were in the midst of something historic — but that could also turn into something horrific. I did not want my family to get caught in a Tiananmen Square type event (the Chinese government’s brutal slaughter of protestors in Beijing in 1989) and decided that discretion was the better part of valor and went to distance us from this demonstration as soon as possible.

We went about two or three blocks to a popular tourist area on Arbat Street and found it was as busy as ever. We saw the same normal activities as we walked around the city to kill time before our departure on the train that would take us back to Riga, Latvia, where we were living. It was on time, and there was no panic of folks getting on the train. Had we not been to Red Square, we would never have known there was anything unusual going on.

Our friends and family back in the States had been following what was happening in Moscow on television and actually knew a lot more about the situation than we did. But it was their impression from the news that the country was in total upheaval. We reassured our loved ones that though there was lots of confusion during this change in government, life was still going on.

These thoughts went through my mind while attending the Lycoming County Commissioners Meeting on Tuesday, November 10th. To follow the national media, the only thing going on in America is the disputed national election. Yet, this subject was not even mentioned as the commissioners went through a long and challenging agenda that dealt with significant property assessment issues, replacing county employees, and evaluating and approving of various contracts and expenditures needed for a wide variety of areas. Even the mention of a payment of $54,182.00 for the purchase of central scanners needed for the Voter Services Office (which was covered by a state grant, not out of county funds) did not get one peep of comment from the commissioners about the election itself.

The point is, that while we certainly should be concerned about who will be living in the White House, it is more important to think about living in our own house. Times are really hard. American Rescue Workers had been serving 750 meals a month in the early part of the year; it is now serving upwards of 1,200 per week. County government is also working extremely hard to help businesses that have been especially hurt by the shutdowns.

Shannon Rossman, director of the Planning Department, noted that her staff was processing 168 awards for relief funds for local establishments. The urgency was highlighted by an example of notifying a company they were receiving a grant, only to discover they had been forced to close their doors the day before.

Mya Toon, the county’s chief procurement officer, announced a new way for vendors to bid on county sale items. Previously, vendors and buyers needed to go through Mya, which was an awkward and limiting process. This has now been changed by the PennBid Program, which was described by Commissioner Mirabito as an eBay for government items. It will offer more folks the opportunity to bid on excess county items and more funds for the county.

Yes, the mess of the recent election will be felt for some time, but in a strange sort of way, it was quite refreshing to attend a one-hour county commissioner meeting that covered a wide variety of important areas, which in many ways is no different than several hundred other such meetings I have attended in these past few years. It reminded me that even in the midst of a historic disputed presidential election, life is still going on pretty much as usual in Lycoming County.

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