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County Hall Corner: Lights, Camera, Action?!

When the Lycoming County Commissioners brought up the subject of live-streaming their meetings a few years ago, I had to smile. It was hard enough for me to sit through those work sessions and regular meetings week after week; I could not imagine following them virtually from a single static camera.

But, and not for the first time, I was wrong. In fact, I have recommended to a number of people to go on YouTube and check out a certain discussion that I thought would answer their questions or inform them of an important issue. However, I always try to give them the time of the spot in the video that would interest them. It is sort of like panning for gold. It does not help to say there is gold in the creek — you need to know where in the creek the gold is!

I have a ‘reserved’ seat in the back of the room where the meetings are held along with Sun-Gazette reporter Pat Crossley. Pat is an outstanding Sun-Gazette reporter who writes an account of the meeting in the following day’s paper. She has been covering these meetings for several years now, and before her was Mike Reuther (a crack reporter but also someone who could crack me up with his jokes), and before Mike was — y’know, I can’t remember because they moved on. But these folks do help me keep my sanity because right before the meeting, we discuss the agenda and try to figure out how much Tylenol we will need to get through the session.

And, of course, we are always wrong. These commissioner meetings hardly ever turn out the way we think they will. We look at an agenda item and agree, “Oh, that will be a hot potato.” It comes up, and after thirty seconds of discussion, it is passed unanimously. No story there. The opposite is more the norm. A simple procedural matter that usually is passed instantly, for some reason out of nowhere, gets bogged down as each of the three commissioners has a different take on the subject.

Slowly but surely, though, the business of the county is taken care of, and toward the end of the meeting, the real drama begins — the comments section. It begins with “Commissioner Comments.” This is where they may talk about anything and everything, although to their credit, they rarely get into national political matters. It is not that they don’t care, that is for sure; rather, it is because there is not much of anything they can do about what goes on in Washington, D.C.

Although occasionally Commissioners Metzger and Mussare will lambast Harrisburg (especially during COVID), by and large, the focus is on matters in or around our region of the Commonwealth. The three often will attempt to explain why they have taken a particular action or policy, such as they recently have done with the use of the ARPA Funds.

For me, at least, this is the best part of the meeting, largely because this is what all three of them do best. I would love to tag Commissioners Metzger, Mussare, and Mirabito as the ‘Three M-Egos’ because it is so catchy, but it also would be grossly unfair. All three of these men are honestly passionate about making Lycoming County a better place to live for all of us. It is very hard to get elected as a Lycoming County Commissioner, evidenced by the ten candidates for the position in the last election. The campaign process requires a lot of face-to-face contact with the constituents. In past elections, I have seen candidates that had great credentials, but the public sensed something was missing. These three made the connection and have tried hard to live up to it.

The County Commissioners’ weekly meeting concludes with “Public Comments.” The majority of the time, it is the same retired folks who come up to the podium and bring up their current heartburn. Sometimes there are surprises, such as what happened at the meeting on Thursday, January 5th. One man got up and commented how pleased he was about the 2020 recount vote and how nine out of ten people he talked to agreed that it was a good idea and worth the cost to conduct this recount. Immediately after him was another man who stood behind the podium and took exactly the opposite view; he thought the recount was a total waste of time and money, and everyone he talked to agreed with him.

The three commissioners listened patiently, and when the gentleman had finished, Commissioner Metzger thanked both of them for their comments, and with that, the meeting was adjourned. Hope you enjoyed the show — that’s all, folks!