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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Jim Martin

(5/2012) By the time this article goes to press, the month of April, 2012 will likely be history, but it represents a number of notable happenings. The House of Representative unanimously approved HR 675. In today’s political climate, people may ask, "What bill could possibly be unanimously approved?" HR 675 recognizes April, 2012 as National County Government Month and notes the vital services counties provide in protecting and enhancing the health, welfare and safety of the residents. The challenge for county commissioners and administrators is to provide these services in a sensible, cost-effective way.

Since 1991, the National Association of Counties has promoted the annual recognition of April as County Government Month to highlight the roles and responsibilities of the nation’s counties to meet the needs of their communities. The theme established by the National Association of Counties for this year’s event was "Healthy Counties, Healthy Families," which encourages counties to promote healthy living and lifestyle choices in their communities. Appropriately, during the month of April, 2012 the Adams County Commissioners made a number of serious proclamations to promote healthy living and lifestyle choices in Adams County. Those proclamations included Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Alcohol Awareness Month, and National Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention Month. It is a sad omen that we need to make such proclamations. We should also be aware of the damage and destruction of lives that results from drug addiction.

Since the 1960’s our social ills, such as those mentioned above, have continually escalated while the family structure has deteriorated. We have paid the price for this scenario, not only in ruined lives, but in increased cost to the county through administering programs dealing with crime, truancy, abuse, and addiction. These programs account for a staggering portion of our county budget. These costs and expenses are in addition to the funding that is needed for Mental Health and Mental Retardation programs.

The Governor’s proposed budget cuts for the 2012-2013 fiscal year will reduce the MH-MR funding by 20%. One of the major effects of this cut would likely remove individuals from in-patient programs to an out-patient situation with an uncertain level of supervision. The fear is that many of these individuals will become prone to criminal acts and they eventually will be placed in our Adult Correctional Facilities. This scenario then results in a more expensive level of care due to incarceration. Our Adams County Warden is not looking forward to this situation. It creates a more difficult prison environment in addition to the increased operational cost that will likely put upward pressure on the county’s prison budget.

Since the subject of Adult Correction and prison has been mentioned, it gives me an opportunity to turn to something of a more positive note. Recently the Adams County Commissioners had the honor of attending the Annual Prison Volunteers Appreciation Banquet. Warden Clark graciously thanked us for our participation and attendance. Commissioner Phiel was amazed and thrilled to see more than 75 volunteers in attendance. Commissioner Martin has been a prison volunteer prior to become commissioner and as a regular banquet attendee was encouraged again to see so many faithful volunteers. The Commissioners and prison staff thanked the volunteers for their valuable service. Their service represents a genuine concern for the inmates, trying to lead the inmates to a better outcome in life. The prison administrators were quick to point out that the volunteer service provides a savings to the county of more than $100,000 per year. Much credit goes to Chaplain Will Olson for keeping the volunteers current with prison policy and for coordinating the volunteers to fill the various programs.

At the banquet Warden Clark shared his vision of a new program to be instituted as a positive step to reduce recidivism (returning to prison). The new program will created a supervised family center at the Adams County Correctional Facility. This will allow family members to visit the inmate in a family setting rather than being separated by a windowed partition. A similar program has been instituted in the Pittsburgh prison system with positive results. The objective is to keep the family intact through regular contact so that over time family relationships do not fade and become difficult to re-establish after the inmate’s release. Children may be one of the biggest benefactors knowing that they can physically relate to their father or mother rather than just having a past remembrance. Also inmates have developed greater accountability for their actions as a result of the program.

During the month of April the all-new Adams County Board of Commissioners completed and surpassed their first 100 calendar days in office. Over this period much territory has been covered. The first significant action during the first 100 days was the authorization for the county to move forward with the County-Wide Emergency Radio Project. Since then a bond to finance the project was issued and subsequently it has been closed with the authorized signatures. Per a local financial advisor, the bond issue sold in a relatively short period of time as a result of the County’s good bond rating.

Prior to the bond issue we completed a detailed review of the vendor contracts relative to the radio project. This review was aided by our Radio System Working Group that included over 90 years of combined professional expertise provided by community leaders. The Commissioners were truly grateful for this generous contribution. Following a final legal review, on March 29th the final contracts for construction and implementation were signed. In the very near future, a final system’s design review will be conducted to determine if any changes are required prior to the start of ground construction.

To fulfill one of our strategic goals of good community relations, we began our series of community meetings on March 13th in the borough of East Berlin. This meeting featured a lively discussion centered around economic development and planning as it related to Adams County. Please mark your calendars as the next Community Meeting will be held May 22, 2012, 6:30 pm to 8:00pm at the Littlestown Alpha Fire Company. The meeting topic will feature Adams County’s water resources as it relates to supply, quality, and economics. Adams County has been designated as a critical water planning area, thus , learning what measures will help us to protect and conserve our water resources will be fundamental to the quality of life and the future economics of Adams County. In addition, the Conservation District will provide information concerning the control of the West Nile Virus. The meeting will conclude with public participation and an opportunity to meet the Adams County Commissioners.

In closing, I would like to answer a question that I have frequently been asked while attending public events "Are you enjoying your job as commissioner?" To be honest, it is not a job that I would describe as enjoyable, but rather a combination of rewarding and humbling. It is humbling to be entrusted with the affairs of the county and it is rewarding to find resolutions that lead the county in a positive direction. It is definitely enjoyable to work with the many talented officials, directors and support staff of the Adams County government.

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