CLARION – Clarion County officials earlier this week applauded the efforts of an area congressman to bring agricultural benefits to the county.

On Tuesday, Commissioners Wayne Brosius, Ted Tharan and Ed Heasley unanimously approved a letter acknowledging U.S. Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson and his work with the “recent economic and trade agreement to reduce tariffs on U.S. and Chinese goods.” Terms of the agreement specifically mention hardwood lumber as one of the products the Chinese would purchase from the United States.

“The congressman is cautiously optimistic that this will be a step towards a rebound for many hardwood producers in Pennsylvania,” the letter from the commissioners states, noting that Thompson met with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and the U.S. Trade representative to ensure that hardwood would appear prominently in the trade agreement. “We hope this will be a step to get this industry out of the extraordinarily soft market the tariff has caused for them.”

According to Heasley, one potential beneficiary of the agreement could be Allegheny Wood Products in the Fryburg/Marble area, which was forced to close after a devastating fire.

“This is a big plus to help keep [the business] and employees in our county,” Heasley said.

The letter expanded on Heasley’s optimism, stating that the county hopes that Allegheny Wood Products will rebuild and other similar businesses will thrive.

“Clarion County is a great community that is developing steadily,” the letter states. “By working together, we can promote new economic development and create new jobs while still supporting our current agriculture, industry and manufacture businesses.”

County Hires Interim Public Defender

In other matters during the Jan. 28 meeting, the commissioners approved a contract with the DuBois/Brookville-based law firm Zwick & Zwick LLP to provide legal services for the public defender’s office.

“It’s for the interim,” Brosius explained, noting that the contract with the law firm is effective Jan. 16 through March 15, giving the county additional time to find a new full-time public defender.

The cost of the contract is $1,350 per week.

Former public defender Erich Spessard resigned from his post earlier this month to take the position of assistant district attorney.

Brosius noted that the county is still accepting applications for a new public defender.

“We’re going to try a different route by contacting some colleges directly to see if we can get some bites,” he said.

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Other Business

• Brosius announced that Clarion County will be participating in the 2020 CHEMSWEEP program, offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA).

CHEMSWEEP allows businesses or individuals who utilize pesticides to safely dispose of up to 2,000 pounds of waste pesticides for free.

Those interested in participating in the program must complete an application and return it to the regional PDA office by Feb. 28. The collection of pesticides will take place between June and November.

“It will be a few years until this [program] returns to Clarion County again,” Brosius said.

• Treasurer Tom McConnell reported that Clarion County ended 2019 with a balance of $4,476,072 in the general fund.

The county began 2019 with a balance of $3,484,136.

McConnell credited high interest rates and department revenue for the nearly $1 million increase.

• A contract was approved with Delta Development Group for grant writing services effective Jan. 28 through Jan. 28, 2021 at a cost of $30,000.

• Brosius was unanimously elected to serve as chairman of the Clarion County Election Board.

• The commissioners unanimously approved an additional payment of $25 for county poll workers per training attended, plus a mileage reimbursement of 51 cents per mile.

• Approval was granted for the four-year lease of a 2020 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD from Redbank Chevrolet at a cost of $8,810.27 per year, with a $1 buyout option at the end.

County officials explained the new vehicle will replace the county’s current Ford Explorer, which will be given to Coroner Daniel Shingledecker for official use.

“We’ve been planning on doing this for several years,” Tharan said. “It’s just never happened.”

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