Commissioners approve submitting grant

·3 min read

Aug. 15—POTTSVILLE — The Schuylkill County commissioners approved applying for a $473,700.91 grant for election-related costs Wednesday.

County Administrator Gary R. Bender will apply for the Election Integrity Grant Program administered through the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The application is due by Monday.

Albert L. Gricoski, election bureau director, said the county will know by September if it receives the grant, which the county will need to apply for annually.

"The grant is part of a $45 million grant from the state going to all counties and its based on the registration that is in each county," Gricoski said.

He said the money should take care of "the majority of the expenses the election bureau has for running elections."

The funds can be used for payment of staff to pre-canvass mail-in and absentee ballots; physical security and transparency costs for centralized pre-canvassing and canvassing; post-election procedures required under the election code; the printing of ballots; training costs for district election officials; payment of staff at polling sites on election day; secure preparation, transportation, storage and management of voting apparatuses, tabulation equipment and required polling place materials; costs of county board of elections duties related to processing of voter registration applications; and other applicable costs permitted by law, according to the Department of State.

Commissioner Gary J. Hess said the grant is a "big help," by alleviating costs the election bureau and taxpayers would have to otherwise pay.

Chairman Barron L. "Boots" Hetherington said the county spends more than $100,000 for each primary and general election, including poll workers and other costs.

"There are some strings attached to it, right?" Hetherington asked Gricoski, who said yes.

For example, the county must begin pre-canvassing at 7 a.m. on Election Day and must continue until each mail-in ballot and absentee ballot received that day counted, something the county does anyway, Gricoski said.

In other business, the Schuylkill County Tax assessment office is getting three Subaru Imprezas for field appraisers. The total cost is $91,185, or $30,395 with annual lease payments per vehicle for five years through Mauch Chunk Trust Co. The vehicles are from Steve Moyer Subaru, Leesport.

By a vote of 2-1, with Hess voting no, the board approved the request. Despite saying, "it's a great idea," Hess said he had a problem with not enough effort or research of the vehicles in the county.

"The purpose is solely, solely for tax assessment field appraisers to conduct county data collection and district work," Chief Assessor Kent Hatter said last week. "To avoid any confusion, this investment is not for countywide reassessment. The vendor and their subcontractors will have their own vehicles solely for tax assessment."

The vehicles will be part of Hatter's 2023 budget for the office.

Employees sometimes use their personal vehicles because there is only one county-owned vehicle for use. When purchased, the vehicles will be all-wheel drive hatchbacks with GPS that provide an extra safety feature for employees when they are traveling in areas where there is no cellphone reception. Potential privacy issues will be reduced because they will be driving county-owned vehicles, Hatter said.

Hatter said he didn't know when the vehicles will be available for use.

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