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Franklin Co. agencies bring out wish lists for 2007 budget

November 01, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County elected officials and departments are requesting additional personnel as the Board of County Commissioners began holding hearings on the 2007 budget.

District Attorney John F. Nelson on Tuesday outlined his request for a sentencing guidelines coordinator, a pretrial county detective and another legal secretary, as well as adjusted salaries for assistant district attorneys.

The November trial term began last week with about 470 cases listed, many continued from previous trial terms. Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom said Tuesday that half or more of the cases listed for November will be continued because prosecutors and defense attorneys do not have the information needed to negotiate plea agreements.

A sentencing guidelines coordinator would calculate the prior criminal record score of offenders, Nelson said. The scores are used by the courts to assist in determining the length of sentences, information defense attorneys want to see before negotiating pleas, he said.

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Even with national databases, it is difficult to get information on the outcome of criminal cases defendants had in other counties and states, Nelson said. Determining the actual identity of defendants, particularly illegal aliens, complicates the matter, he said.

Accurate prior record scores could reduce the number of continuances and presentence investigations done by the Probation Department, which Nelson estimated at about 1,000 a year. The aim is to get defendants to enter plea agreements with agreed upon sentences earlier in judicial process, such as at their mandatory arraignments, he said.

A pretrial county detective would collect discovery evidence and assist in researching prior record scores, Nelson said.

Amassing copies of video tapes, wiretap recordings, photographs and other evidence needed by prosecutors and defense lawyers is a sometimes tedious task, Krom said. Police officers work different shifts and days and getting the evidence can take a lot of time, she said.

Nelson asked the commissioners adjust the salaries of assistant district attorneys due to retention problems. Two left in the past year "for purely financial reasons," he said.

Another legal secretary is needed to assist in processing the estimated 700 juvenile criminal cases his office handles annually, Nelson said.

When he started working for the county 16 years ago, Children and Youth and Family Services Director Doug Amsley said juvenile court was held once a month. Now, juvenile court is held three times a week, he said.

Amsley asked for two more juvenile probation officers and an administrative assistant. He said most of his officers average a caseload of about 80 juveniles each, although some state-funded positions

When the hearings began last week, Sheriff Robert Wollyung requested five new full-time and two part-time positions, County Administrator John Hart said.

No date has been set for adoption of a preliminary budget, Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said.

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