The Luzerne County Elections Committee has scheduled a special meeting for 10 a.m. Monday to certify Robert Schnee as the winner of the April 6 special election for state representative in the 116th legislative district.
This opens the door for the county council to vote at its next meeting on April 26 to declare Schnee’s council seat vacant.
The board must select someone to fill the rest of the seat through 2023. A decision has not yet been made on whether to be a Republican or a Democrat, but several members Council members have already publicly stated that they believe the county’s self-government charter calls for a Republican.
Schnee was elected Democrat in 2019 but later changed his registration to Republican.
Section 11.05(G) of the County Home Rule Charter states that the appointee “shall be a member of the same political party as the person to whom he or she is to succeed and must have been a member of that party continuously since the when the person whose vacancy was most recently elected or appointed to the office.”
Once the new member’s party is determined, the council would follow past practice of seeking out citizen candidates and interviewing them publicly.
Monday’s Electoral Council meeting is being held at the County Courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre, with instructions for a remote attendance option posted under the Council Authorities/Boards/Commissions Online Meeting link on lucernecounty.org.
Councilman Chris Perry congratulated Schnee at his final council meeting last week, saying Schnee moved from Hazleton Area School Board to county board and now state representative because he always caring about people.
“I’m going to miss him here,” Perry said, drawing applause for Schnee.
Schnee is serving the remainder of Tarah Toohil’s term as state representative until this year now that she is a county judge.
The county council voted unanimously last week to sell 50 properties in the repository, a pool of tax-delinquent plots that were not foreclosed in previous anti-tax auctions.
Depot packages are available for purchase at any time. Sales are encouraged as the county has amassed about 1,000 depot properties that are now in limbo, with no working owners to maintain them and pay taxes.
A list of available repository properties and information on all tax claims are posted on lucernecountytaxclaim.com.
911 radio upgrade
Council last week cast a vote on forming a committee of inquiry to review the county’s 911 emergency radio communication system upgrade project.
The project’s addition of emergency communications towers and new satellite dishes and microwave antennas will address spotty or no radio coverage in parts of the 980-square-mile, largely mountainous county, the county said. The new system should be operational in July.
Councilman Kevin Lescavage said he wants a committee struck to make sure all expenses and receipts are in order.
Some council members proposed last week to present questions to the administration first before deciding whether to use a special committee.
Board Vice Chairman John Lombardo said Rosencrans will be invited to answer questions at the April 26 board meeting.
Councilman Stephen J. Urban was the only council member to vote against the filing.
During the discussion, Lescavage asked if there was a $7 million overrun in the project. County 911 Executive Director Fred Rosencrans told him the $7 million was not an overrun and was made public at the start of the project as a 20-year maintenance cost.
Unlike other costs, the maintenance portion will be part of the 911 service’s annual budget, officials said. The support and maintenance agreement includes round-the-clock monitoring and support and two hardware “refreshes” of the system after seven and 14 years to ensure its durability, officials said.
The rest of the project was covered by an initial allocation of $1 million from the county, $1.33 million in state grants and $19.7 million borrowed by the county, according to previously published reports.