100th anniversary of Smith-Lever Act recognized

LEWISTOWN – Recognizing the establishment of Cooperative Extension nationwide, the Mifflin County Commissioners on Thursday adopted a proclamation celebrating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act, legislation that established extension in the United States.

“Cooperative extension is a critical component of the three-part land-grant university mission and works collaboratively with research, particularly the Agricultural Experiment Station System, and academic programs in 106 colleges and universities,” Commissioner Mark Sunderland read from the proclamation.

Sunderland said cooperative extension prepares people for healthy, productive lives through sustained education, such as the expanded food and nutrition education program, breaking the cycle of poverty and reducing expenditures for federal and state assistance programs.

The proclamation urges local citizens to observe and celebrate the centennial with a focus on launching an innovative and sustainable future for cooperative extension. It also thanks cooperative extension volunteers who provide thousands of of hours to promote 4-H, Master Gardeners, family and consumer sciences and other programs throughout the community.

Several staff members and volunteers from the Penn State Cooperative Extension office in Lewistown were on hand to accept the proclamation.

“I believe Extension is a very important part of the infrastructure of the county,” Commissioner Otis Riden said after the ceremony. “You all do a good job for what you do for the county and you all need to be congratulated for all that you do.”

In other business Thursday, Chris Wysocki, administrator of Juniata Valley Behavioral and Developmental Services, presented his quarterly report.

“Services this fiscal year are moving forward rather well,” Wysocki reported. “We anticipate we’ll come down to the end of the fiscal year using pretty much all of our funding.”

Wysocki said as legislators continue to hash out details of the 2014-15 budget in Harrisburg, there is some concern in the behavioral health community about funding for next year.

“As you know, the state recently reported a significant shortfall in revenue and that gives us significant concerns for future funding,” Wysocki said. “In February when the budget first came out, it looked like flat funding for us. However, it looks like some dollars will be susceptible to cuts. If we have even as little as a 5 percent cut in funding, we’re looking at maybe having to cut some services. We probably won’t know for sure until August or September even if the budget is passed on time.”

Wysocki said currently in Mifflin County, nine base, 83 consolidated and 126 person/family directed supports individuals are receiving intellectual development services; 460 individuals are receiving mental health services; and 44 individuals are receiving early intervention services.

In other business Thursday, during the public comment period, local resident Karen French, an outspoken critic of the county’s Children and Youth Services, presented the commissioners with a copy of a letter she obtained from the Department of Public Welfare that noted 43 complaints CYS has received regarding the agency’s practices and procedures.

“They’re saying Mifflin County has to change their culture with practices,” French said regarding the letter.

Commissioner Kevin Kodish noted he recently had a conversation with Cathy A. Utz, acting deputy secretary of the Office of Children, Youth & Families of the Department of Public Welfare about the local CYS situation.

“Ms. Utz indicated her department is satisfied with the progress shown by Mifflin County Children and Youth, and she expects the progress to have a positive impact on the citizens of Mifflin County,” Kodish said in a statement after the meeting. “Ms. Utz indicated that some legitimate concerns were brought forth, and that Mifflin County CYS is working through the issues, and the overall quality will be improved. Thus, something good is going to come out of it.”

Kodish said Utz will communicate with the commissioners monthly so that status reports are available.

The commissioners also adopted two more proclamations, one recognizing May as Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month in the county and the other honoring corrections employees.

“It is especially important that the citizens of our Commonwealth be aware of motorcycles on the streets and highways and recognize the importance of staying alert, practicing safe driving techniques and promoting motorcycle safety,” Sunderland read from the proclamation on motorcycle safety.

The commissioners then moved on to the proclamation honoring corrections employees from May 4-10.

“Pennsylvania’s correctional system is the oldest in the nation,” Sunderland read. “The ‘Pennsylvania System,’ as it became known, was the leading influence in the development of penology throughout the 19th century and the forerunner of modern corrections.”

The proclamation noted that Pennsylvania faces new and difficult challenges in corrections. With 25 state correctional institutions, one motivational boot camp, a training academy, 13 community corrections centers and 43 contract facilities, 63 county prisons and jails and 15 federal facilities, Pennsylvania houses more than 101,000 inmates and employs more than 31,000 trained corrections professionals.

Several staff members of the Mifflin County Correctional Facility were on hand Thursday to accept the proclamation.

“We appreciate and thank you (commissioners) for the support,” MCCF Warden Bernie Zook said. “I also want to say thank you to our great staff. We seldom get to recognize the people in corrections. But these people provide valuable public safety for residents of the county. I’m grateful for the professionals on the staff.”

Zook also reported that with a few minor corrections to routine procedures, the Mifflin County Correctional Facility is about to be recognized as being 100 percent compliant with state guidelines for the eighth consecutive year.

In other business, the commissioners:

Appointed Victor Yoder, of Reedsville, to a five-year term on the Mifflin County Hospital Authority.

Approved a three-month extension to the Mifflin County Intermediate Punishment Plan Grant to allow the probation department to spend down state funds for monitoring individuals who otherwise may be incarcerated.

Approved a professional services agreement of up to $8,000 with the EADS Group to provide engineering services for the Mifflin County Boat Launch Project.

Hired Cody Roadcap as an intern in the public safety office from May 19 to Aug. 15.

Hired Garath Brought as an intern in the probation office, effective May 12.

Hired Erin Miller as a caseworker for CYS, effective May 20.