CLARION – In light of the recent statewide Emergency Declaration, Clarion County officials earlier this week detailed their response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

During their first-ever phone conference meeting on Tuesday morning, Commissioners Wayne Brosius, Ted Tharan and Ed Heasley outlined the county’s extended emergency disaster response.

In the wake of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Clarion County, the commissioners extended the Declaration of Disaster Emergency for the county until May 15, authorizing the Clarion County Public Safety (CCPS) director to “coordinate the activities of the emergency response to alleviate the potential effects of this disaster.”

“All departments of Clarion County are doing their best to serve the needs of county residents in this difficult time,” a press release issued by the commissioners states, noting that CCPS has been continually working with FEMA, PEMA and local agencies. “[The CCPS has been] sending personal protection equipment whenever possible to local emergency medical services, quick response services and long term health care services. CCPS is also reaching out to county fire departments to offer assistance.”

To aide in the efforts, according to the release, all county buildings will remain closed to the public, but county services will continue to be offered with staff on-site or working from home. Information on how to conduct business with county departments can be found on the Clarion County website, www.co.clarion.pa.us, or by calling (814) 226-4000 and dialing 0 for a live operator.

“The only way to contain this disease is to take it seriously,” the commissioners said in the release. They urged residents to continue avoiding large gatherings and making unnecessary trips to public areas, as well as maintaining social distancing practices. The commissioners also stressed the need to abide by the recommendations established by the CDC to reduce the spread of COVID-19 — including washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, covering coughs or sneezes with your elbow and not your hands, cleaning surfaces frequently and staying home especially if you feel sick. “Gov. Wolf has not issued a stay-at-home order to Clarion County but be as diligent as possible on your own.”

The commissioners also announced that because of the limited county services, Clarion County has enacted a reduced work force as of March 27. The temporary layoffs affected 24 positions in various departments — including seven positions in the Commissioners’ office, 13 positions in the Courts, one position each in the Register and Recorder’s and Sheriff’s offices and two positions in the Prothonotary’s office. The District Attorney’s office also postponed filling a vacant position and is currently working short staffed.

According to the commissioners, layoffs were decided through conversations with department heads and are considered temporary. For the duration, the county will provide healthcare benefits for the furloughed employees.

“The county is going to pay 100 percent of the healthcare benefit premiums instead of the normal 87.5 percent,” Brosius said, noting that he was not sure how long the layoffs would last.

County officials went on to thank county employees, first responders and the public for their efforts and patience in dealing with these unusual circumstances.

“This is all new, and we think everyone is doing a fantastic job,” Tharan noted.

Healsey expressed further appreciation to the Clarion County Career Center for its recent donation of masks and gloves to CCPS.

“Those supplies have been shared with county first responders,” he said.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website at www.doh.pa.gov, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.

Other Business

• Also in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commissioners approved a motion for the Clarion County Park to remain closed until further notice.

The park was supposed to open for the season on April 6.

• The Clarion County Salary Board and Board of Commissioners both approved a contract with Teamsters Local 538 for the court-related union — including office staff for the Prothonotary, Register and Recorder and Sheriff.

According to county officials, the four-year contract, effective Jan. 1, 2018 through Dec. 31, 2021, includes 2.5 percent raises starting for the second half of 2018, and all of 2019, 2020 and 2021.

• Approval was given to Resolution No. 3 of 2020, authorizing county director of accounting Rose Logue to execute all required forms for the purpose of PEMA reimbursements associated with COVID-19.

• March was proclaimed Social Worker Awareness Month in the county.

• A contract was approved with Francis J. Palo for Phase II of the Brady Tunnel Rehabilitation project at a cost of $545,000, with the county acting as a pass-through.

• An agreement was also approved with Joe Rainey to maintain the East Brady Overlook at a cost of $50 per mow.

• The commissioners approved a four-year lease with Redbank Chevrolet for a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 for the EMA and Public Safety.

The lease includes a $10,768.59 annual payment, with a $1 buyout.

• A letter of support to endorse the 2020 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant application for Armstrong Trails to acquire property between the trail and Upper Hillville Road in Madison Township was approved.

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