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July 10, 2013

County to eliminate jury posts, again

NEW CASTLE — The Lawrence County commissioners plan to eliminate two unneeded positions next week — for the second time.

In December, they unanimously abolished the two elected county jury commissioner positions. Those two officials oversee the choice of jurors for county court trials each year. By law, one Democrat and one Republican must hold the positions, which each pay $12,000 plus benefits and cost the county about $55,000 annually.

However, after the commissioners abolished the positions, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared unconstitutional Act 108, the state legislation that made it possible, because of a problem with the way several actions had been combined in the bill, Commissioner Dan Vogler explained.

Tuesday, Vogler said that new, corrected legislation passed May 6, once again giving county commissioners the power to abolish the posts. The local commissioners have prepared legislation to rescind their December 2012 action and pass a new motion to get rid of the positions.

This means that Amy Shea and Helen Jackson will lose their jobs at the end of the year. Vogler said that selection of jurors is computerized and the positions are no longer necessary and were eliminated after consultation with court officials. He added the court employees will handle selection of jurors now. While the two jury commissioners had the power to excuse people from jury duty, he said he is not sure how such requests will be handled under the new system.

More than half of Pennsylvania’s counties had abolished their jury commissioners under the initial legislation.

Because Commissioner Steve Craig was on vacation, Vogler and Commissioner Bob Del Signore decided to delay formal action until next Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the commissioners approved three requests to use money from the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund. Shenango Township will get $10,000 for completion of a township comprehensive plan; New Visions of Lawrence County will receive $10,000 and the Lawrence County Agricultural Preservation Board will get $8,200.

The money comes from the county’s annual share of fees imposed by the state on gas and oil drilling. Jim Gagliano, county administrator, said $235,000 remains in the county fund from this year’s proceeds and Vogler added the commissioners will address some county needs with the funds.

Local governments also receive their own share of the money from the state drilling fees.

The commissioners also approved proclamations commending seven people for their actions in saving Donna Hunter from a June 7 Perry Township house fire at her Portersville Road home.

Fire officials said at the time that six neighbors and a passerby pulled Hunter from the burning structure before firefighters arrived. The seven receiving proclamations are John Caccia, Anthony Stefura, Alan Folino, Mark Green, Ken Massioni, Nathan Boyle and Traci Copper.

 

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