The readers of The News-Item are all too familiar with the lawsuit brought by majority County Commissioners Rick Shoch and Sam Schiccatano regarding permit fees for the new Northumberland County Prison. Recently, Commissioner Schiccatano has put out blatantly false information about this matter. We want to set the record straight.
At the last hearing on this matter, Lycoming County Senior Judge Dudley N. Anderson sent a clear message to the parties that this case should be fairly settled. We agree completely. Since the last hearing, we have worked closely with Northumberland County Commissioner Kym Best, who voted against the lawsuit, to try to find a solution. On Feb. 11, two of Coal Township’s commissioners sat down with Schiccatano and former county commissioner Vinny Clausi to negotiate. Coal Township offered a number of proposals, some ranging to six figures. Schiccatano turned them down. We (Zalar-Fetterman) feel there should be no financial settlement, reason being it is simply not fair to our own residents who have paid the 1 percent for years!
Schiccatano then claimed that he has reached a deal with two Coal Township commissioners and is waiting for a third vote. However, Schiccatano refuses to name the two supposed supporters or the dollar amount. The reason for this is simple. They don’t exist. They are a story made up by Schiccatano to try to look good as he goes into a primary he knows he may lose.
We can expect more of this from Schiccatano as the following facts come out:
• Shoch and Schiccatano wasted money buying the Northwestern property when the county already paid $2 million for the Celotex site in Sunbury.
• The new prison will cost almost $2 million a year more to run than Schiccatano claimed.
• Bills are still coming in for prison construction, which will result in no savings.
• The county recently paid $215,854.33 on overtime for prison guards. Mismanagement in operations?
• Transportation costs for the sheriff’s office are driven up by the location of the prison.
• The county has no money to finish crucial 911 projects because the majority commissioners used the borrowed money to buy the Northwestern site.
• Shoch and Schiccatano failed to include permit fees in the bid specs for the prison contract.
Coal Township’s permit fees only became “excessive” when Schiccatano decided he needed to try to claw back money to cover his fiscal mismanagement of the county in general and the prison in particular. Desperate to make ends meet, and over the objections of Best, Shoch and Schiccatano took the drastic and costly step of suing one of their own municipalities.
As countless applicants, including Aldi and Geisinger, paid our fees without protest, we must defend Coal Township. We will not simply hand over taxpayer money to anyone who files a lawsuit. Unlike the county under Shoch and Schiccatano, Coal Township has been a responsible steward of tax dollars with no tax hikes in three years. This foolish lawsuit promises to make a tax increase necessary. We have spent $53,000 to defend your lawsuit and 1 mill of taxes in Coal Twp. equals approximately $45,000. You’re killing us!
Sam, you met with both Zalar and Fetterman and it is clear you desire to continue to waste taxpayers’ money. Remember we only need (your description) the big city lawyer because you have filed the senseless lawsuit. It is on you, not us!
Fortunately, Shoch is stepping down from his self-appointed role as King of the County. Sam, you are our neighbor and representative. We urge you to join with Kym Best to drop this obscenity of a lawsuit.
Craig Fetterman and George Zalar
Coal Township Commissioners