SUNBURY - Northumberland County commissioners tabled a motion for further study Tuesday to allow three row officers authority to provide free services to veterans.

Vinny Clausi, Richard Shoch and Stephen Bridy agreed with recommendations by county prothonotary Justin Dunkelberger and register and recorder Mary Zimmerman to delay taking action on the motion until more details are developed.

Dunkelberger, who noted there are approximately 9,000 veterans in the county, said some counties offer certain services free to veterans while others don't. He favors providing free services to veterans for serving their country, but also pointed out the county could lose significant general fund dollars by not charging veterans.

Bridy, who strongly supports the free services, said Montour County already provides them as a way to show its respect for veterans.

Clausi said he also was in favor of providing the free services, but said state fees couldn't be eliminated.

Bridy said he recommended the idea to Dunkelberger, who plans to confer with Zimmerman and county coroner James Kelley to devise a policy that would determine which services could be provided free and how the process of identifying veterans would work.

The tabled motion requested authorization for the prothonotary, register of wills, clerk of orphans' court and the coroner to provide any disabled war veteran or member of the armed forces with a certified copy of any death, birth or marriage certificate or decree of divorce for use in connection with any claim for death benefits, compensation allowance, family or dependency allotment free of charge.

In other business

The commissioners approved a motion on a split vote to amend a question on the ballot in the May 20 primary election for residents of Ralpho Township that was approved Monday night by Southern Columbia Area School Board.

The question reads as follows:

"Do you favor Southern Columbia Area School District increasing the rate of its tax on real property by 6.52 mills more than the Act 1 2014-2015 Index, which is 2.7 percent, plus any Act 1 exceptions approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education? This equates to a $155.01 tax for a property assessed at the average assessment of $23,775. The revenue generated from the increased tax rate will be used to help balance the district's budget for 2014-2015."

The original ballot question proposed increasing real estate tax by 4.2 percent.

Shoch and Bridy, a Ralpho Township resident, voted to amend the question while Clausi opposed the motion.

"That's a high rate for that district," Clausi said. "I don't want to be part of it by putting it on the ballot."

Although he approved the amendment, Bridy said he was against increasing the tax, but doesn't believe the rate hike has a chance of being passed by the voters.

Shoch said it should be up to Ralpho Township voters to decide the issue.

Leases, services

The commissioners agreed to lease the Jay Bacon farmland tract on Route 147 along the Susquehanna River near the Point Township/West Chillisquaque Township line to Robert C. Snyder Farms Inc., Northumberland, at $75 per acre, and the Four Seasons farmland tract along Route 11 in Point Township to Strouse Farms at $225 per acre.

The board awarded a $138,885 contract to Redrock Construction of Mifflintown for the superstructure replacement of a county bridge on Township Route 411 that travels over Schwaben Creek in Washington Township.

On a 2-1 vote, the commissioners awarded a contract for cleaning services to Service Master Clean, Harrisburg, for $153,900. The cleaning services were formerly provided by county employees for many years.

Bridy said the change in services is expected to save the county approximately $60,000 unless the minimum wage increases.

Clausi opposed the motion because he doesn't want to see county employees lose their jobs. "This is a sad day in Northumberland County," he said.

The board entered into a contract with Sunbury Supply to complete routine service for the existing air conditioning and heating equipment at the county administration center ($1,821 per year), career and arts center ($2,267 per year) and courthouse ($415 per year) for a total of $4,503.

Commissioners granted a request by district attorney Tony Rosini to pay Dr. John S. O'Brien II to serve as an expert witness and provide consultation services for the commonwealth in the criminal homicide case against Miranda and Elytte Barbour, of Selinsgrove. The husband and wife are accused of murdering Troy LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton, on Nov. 11.

O'Brien will be paid $500 per hour for his services that will not exceed 40 hours.

Honors

A proclamation was passed by the board honoring the Nationwide Cooperative Extension System on its 100th anniversary.

At the beginning of the 70-minute meeting, the commissioners presented honorary certificates to Mary Barrett, Carolyn Mull and Teresa McCabe of the Area Agency on Aging (AAA).

Barrett, who serves as APPRISE coordinator, received the BRAVO Award from the state Department of Aging. Mull, a fiscal technician, received the Department of Aging's Outstanding Senior Community Service Employment Program Participant Award. McCabe, senior center services supervisor, was chosen by the Department of Aging as having the 2014 best practice in nutrition for older Pennsylvanians.

The commissioners and AAA director Pat Rumberger commended the award winners.