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Legislation will allow Franklin County government to keep current structure of elected officials

July 09, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Legislation that was recently passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly will allow the Franklin County, Pa., government to keep its current structure of elected officials.

Because the county’s population exceeded 145,000 in the 2010 U.S. census, the commissioners could have been required to add a new elected row office. The county’s row offices include sheriff, prothonotary, register and recorder, treasurer, coroner and district attorney.

County commissioners anticipated being required to add a new row office — register of wills and clerk of the orphans court. However, newly passed House Bill 163 is awaiting Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature to keep that from happening.

“The legislation is going to save our county over $100,000 a year in future costs,” said David Keller, chairman of the commissioners.

Keller joined state Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, at a news conference the lawmaker hosted Tuesday about the legislation.

Alloway said Centre and Monroe counties were in similar positions where they would have been forced to add offices.

“We’re all struggling to watch dollars we have. ... This is something that goes to the bottom line of county commissioners and row officers being good fiscal stewards,” Alloway said.

Alloway said he worked with state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre/Mifflin, to pass the legislation. House Bill 163 was part of a flurry of bills to be passed in the final days of the legislature’s spring session.

Negotiations about the state’s budget create a bottleneck for all bills because they end up being linked one way or another to the spending plan, Alloway said.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly failed to accomplish goals set by Corbett for the session. Those included public employees’ pension reform, privatization of liquor stores and development of a transportation funding plan.

Alloway said he and many of his colleagues were disappointed.

“There were many big issues we were hoping to get across the finish line that we didn’t,” he said.

Pensions, which involve a major unfunded liability in the state, are the biggest issue, Alloway said. Lawmakers need to step up and make changes to their own plans first, he said.

Efforts to eliminate the county-level jury commissioners positions in certain counties failed when jury commissioners sued, Alloway said. Like the row offices issue, eliminating those positions could save counties money, he said.

Franklin County Commissioner Robert Ziobrowski said Pennsylvania counties have many different configurations on how they handle row offices.

“Ours is one that works very well,” he said, praising the staff in those offices.

Register and Recorder Linda Miller and Clerk of Courts William Vandrew attended the news conference. The responsibilities of their offices would have been divided if the county added the new row office.

“We’ve supported this from day one,” Vandrew said.

The county commissioners must take their own vote to not add the office. They said they can reverse that vote if needed in the future.

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