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County Hall Corner: Viewers Guide to the Commissioners Meetings

I have made the best effort to make every Lycoming County Commissioners Meeting possible, but the recent snowstorms have housebound me more than I have liked. I have found it necessary to utilize the county’s videos of these meetings to keep informed. For the novice, watching these might be rather tedious, so I am providing

I have made the best effort to make every Lycoming County Commissioners Meeting possible, but the recent snowstorms have housebound me more than I have liked. I have found it necessary to utilize the county’s videos of these meetings to keep informed. For the novice, watching these might be rather tedious, so I am providing some guidelines that should help.

First, understand the camera is currently locked into one position, which is focused on the front table, typically having the solicitor, the three commissioners, and the administrative assistant. Since COVID, they rarely are all there. This means that they will be heard through a speaker. The camera angle also means that all those addressing the commissioners from the podium that is to the left and in front of the commissioners will not be in view of the camera. Only their voices will be heard.

This does present some problems because when department heads come to address the commissioners, they do not introduce themselves, which means that many times the viewer is not exactly sure who is speaking. Generally, they are speaking because an expenditure or issue that has arisen on the agenda pertains to their department. The names of these department heads can easily be found on the county’s website: lyco.org.

The meeting itself follows a very set agenda. It will open with Commissioner Board President Scott Metzger offering a prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioner Metzger will then ask the public if they have any comments on agenda items only. By law, no official action can be taken by a governing body that the public cannot comment on first. Of course, this would require that the public knows what is being presented. If they are there in person, they can pick up an agenda at the entrance, and it also can be accessed by going to the county’s website.

If a county resident wishes to comment, they go to the podium, identify themselves, and state their concern or support for a particular item on the agenda. The commissioners generally simply thank the individual and do not comment, which would come later in the agenda.

Before COVID, there were often recognition ceremonies that followed, but since March 2020, these are sadly fewer and farther between. Public servants that were receiving ten/twenty/thirty-year pins or retirement were surrounded by their colleagues as they were recognized. Also, various causes had their ‘weeks’ or ‘months’ recognized that brought to the public attention many worthwhile causes. Hopefully, those features will return someday.

What generally follows next would be bid openings, if there are any. These are quite anticlimactic as that is all that happens – the bids are opened, and the vendor and the amounts are quoted. No action is taken immediately, as these need to be reviewed extensively by the Chief Procurement Officer, Mya Toon. The actual purchase would then come up at a later meeting as an agenda item.

These agenda items are what most of the meeting revolves around, termed ‘action items.’ The commissioners generally are granting the expenditures or initiatives of the various offices. Almost all of the groundwork for these decisions were made in meetings and conferences with the departments. This is why these ‘official action’ discussions and decisions almost seem rehearsed (which in some ways they are), but it is for a reason. The commissioners really and truly want the public to know that due diligence has been done on these areas for funding sources or anything else that can help save tax dollars.

When all these administrative matters are covered, the fun begins. This is the time for “commissioner comments,” and these could be on anything at all. More times than not, there will be comments on the comments between the three men. These discussions are often quite lively and make it worth the suffering through an hour of mundane matters that preceded them.

And last but not least are ‘public comments.’ When these are in person, it is generally because the individual has a really serious concern that they want to get off their chest. More often than not, with COVID, the public texts their concerns to the commissioners. The commissioners respond in some way or another, to the person’s satisfaction with the concern and sometimes not.

Go to the lyco.org website, and the first icon on the left is “Commissioner Meetings” with the symbol of a camera. Click on it, sit down with your popcorn, and enjoy the show.

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