COPS confirms deadline issues
SHAMOKIN - A federal agency spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the city clerk's wife did report having encountered computer issues on deadline when she attempted to submit an application for a police department grant.
No other would-be applicant, however, ran into the trouble Meg Bartos had while the 7:59 p.m. June 4 deadline came and went, said Corey Ray of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), an office of the U.S. Department of Justice.
And while the COPS website was experiencing problems in May, resulting in an extension of the original grant deadline, no problems with the application website were reported by anyone other than Bartos on June 4, Ray said.
He said Bartos was in touch with technical support to address the issues she was having, which, ultimately, were never resolved.
"For some reason, they were having trouble entering in their narratives. This was an issue unique to Shamokin ... we did not have this reported by any other agency," Ray wrote Tuesday in an e-mail to The News-Item.
"That issue was taken into consideration after the solicitation closed, but the application was still deemed too incomplete to score. Substantial information was missing and it was not possible to score the application and include it with the others received on time," he wrote.
Green Reliance Associates, a firm owned by Bartos, wife of City Clerk Steve Bartos, was contracted by city council on May 13 to complete an application originally due May 21, but that COPS estimates takes "weeks" to complete.
Despite the application having been only partially submitted, Meg Bartos was paid in full, $2,500, for her services. Payment was made May 24, the same day she submitted an invoice and 11 days before the extended deadline.
There remains discrepancy over the terms of the contract. The News-Item previously reported the contract was for $50 an hour not to exceed $2,500, and four city councilmen believed that to be accurate. However, Steve Bartos has refused a request to listen to an audio recording of the May 13 meeting and said the printed minutes reflect the official record, which simply says Green Reliance be paid $2,500.
Pennsylvania law says audio recordings of council meetings are public record and should be available for access. Steve Bartos has since asked for 30 days to reconsider his denial.
None of the four councilmen saw the invoice before it was approved for payment nor were they aware of a discrepancy in the hours billed and the amount paid. Councilman Bill Milbrand said previously he was "irritated" by the situation, but no one has suggested anything more will be done.
Fewer applications received
More than 1,700 applications were submitted to COPS for a grant that would pay the salary and benefits of a new patrolman for three straight years - in the city's case somewhere between $375,000 and $450,000.
Ray said many of those applications were submitted on deadline.
"Our application system was online and running without any problem," Ray wrote in a previous e-mail.
The day after the deadline passed, Steve Bartos wrote to COPS seeking permission to submit a paper application for the grant, citing the computer issues. COPS denied the request, stating the application was required to be submitted online.
The successful submission of an application wouldn't guarantee the funds would have been awarded; however, since the application wasn't submitted on time, Shamokin is guaranteed it won't receive the grant.
Shamokin Police Department has three vacancies due to retirements over the years.
The number of grant applicants this go-around is less than in years past, Ray said, where the totals averaged between 2,000 and 2,400. In some cases, he said, it could have been that there was a focus on school resource officers during this grant round (although, as in Shamokin's case, funding for a regular patrolman could also be sought). In others, he said it could have been that local agencies were still required to fund 25 percent of the salary and benefits over the three-year period and felt they couldn't afford to do so.