CLARION – Although some parts are still under review, Clarion County earlier this week settled the salary portion of a new contract with the probation officers’ union after nearly a year of negotiations.

During their meeting on Tuesday, Commissioners Ted Tharan, Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley unanimously approved a tentative agreement with the union representing the county’s probation officers which finalized collective bargaining.

The term of the new contract runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020.

“Our attorney met with the union representatives to come up with this pay schedule,” Tharan said. “It’s the same [wage increase] we pay our county employees.”

According to the agreement, probation officers will receive a 2.5 percent wage increase each year of the contract. The starting salary will also be increased by the same percentage every contract year beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

In addition, employees will receive an annual $50 longevity bonus for five to nine years of service, $100 for 10 to 14 years and $150 for 15 to 19 years.

“There is quite an adjustment to the years of service amounts,” Tharan noted.

According to Brosius, the previous contract for the probation officers expired at the end of last year.

“It’s March so it’s a little late, but it’s not totally unusual for negotiations to go beyond the length of the contract,” Brosius said.

Although negotiations initially began last spring, Tharan added, the judge wanted to address some issues with attorneys from both the AOPC and the county before the contract was finalized.

“Since they are court people, we thought it was only right for the judge to have a chance to put his input in,” he said.

The remainder of the contract is still under negotiation.

In other business during the March 13 meeting, the commissioners unanimously denied a request from Fair Districts PA, asking the commissioners to support House Bill 722 in Harrisburg which calls for an independent commission to address the issue of redistricting in Pennsylvania.

In explaining his no vote, Tharan said he believes that ultimately the decision for change should be left to the voters who elect their individual representatives and can vote them out of office if they disagree with their position.

“My view is that the courts are to interpret the law, not make the law,” Tharan said, adding that the commissioners’ support would not change the law. “I’m not sure I can support the new commission as it is because it puts the decision in the hands of the courts.”

Other Business

• Resolution No. 5 of 2018 defining the emergency succession of county officers and the continuity of county government was approved.

Clarion County Public Safety director Jeffrey Smathers said that the only changes made from previous years dealt with the rewriting of department head titles which were done in the recent restructure.

• The commissioners also approved letters of support for a Sligo Borough project to replace the pedestrian bridge near Route 58 and for the Allegheny Valley Land Trust for its application for a Department of Natural Resources and Conservation grant to help restore the Brady Tunnel on the Armstrong Trail.

According to an AVLT representative, the grant would pay for the design and engineering of the 2,468-foot tunnel and to fix any immediate issues to prevent further deterioration.

• The purchase of two new Clarion County Transportation vehicles was also approved. The vehicles can accommodate four passengers or one wheelchair.

Both of the county’s current vehicles are five-years old and have reached 100,000 miles, qualifying them to be replaced.

The total cost of the purchase is $78,753. PennDOT will pay for $78,236, while the remaining $517 will come out of the county’s capital equipment account.

• A retainer contract on behalf of the Clarion County Coroner’s Office with Lyell P. Cook of the Erie County Coroner’s Office for forensic pathologist services was approved. The contract is effective Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 at a cost of $950 per autopsy and a $10,000 retainer.

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