SUNBURY - The Northumberland County Salary Board approved approximately $35,000 in raises at a special meeting Wednesday morning.

While every motion was passed by the four-member board, it was Commissioner Stephen Bridy who cast the lone dissenting vote on increasing the salaries of non-union personnel from human services, but voted in favor of the other raises.

Bridy said human services employees care about their clients and deserve to have pay increases, but the county is not in a financial position do it.

"We know there are inequities, but where will it stop? I have to take a stand somewhere," he said.

County Human Resources Director Joseph Picarelli explained he had done a cost analysis of the human services employee salaries and found they were inequities in their pay compared to other county employees and other neighboring counties.

These employees are efficient and cause few problems, he said.

Plus, Commissioner Rich Shoch said, "We're going to start losing good people to other counties."

Controller Tony Phillips said the human services employees deal with vulnerable individuals who may not be able to handle the changeover of employees.

Human services departments received a total of $13,514 in pay increases, but only $1,730 comes from county money. The rest is paid through state and federal allocations.

The following individuals were approved for raises in the human services departments:

- Pat Rumberger, director of the Area Agency on Aging, increased from $51,592 to $52,624.

- Catherine Gemberling, a director of social services for Children and Youth Services, from $45,900 to $47,775.

- Lisa Shaffer, a director of social services for Children and Youth Services, from $46,819 to $48,710.

- Jennifer Willard, administrator of Children and Youth Services, from $52,562 to $53,710.

- Jerome Alex, administrating officer of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Services (BHIS), from $50,677 to $51,692.

- Glenda Bonetti, Drug and Alcohol administrator, from $41,520 to $44,084.

- Judith Davis, BHIS administrator, from $56,961 to $58,101.

- Christopher Minnich, BHIS program specialist, from $51,692 to $52,726.

- Carmine Picarelli, BHIS program specialist, from $47,755 to $48,710.

- Terry Williams, Base Service Unit director, from $47,755 to $48,710.

Motions to increase the salary for two employees in the Veterans Affairs (VA) office and the recycling coordinator were approved unanimously.

VA Director Belinda Albright was granted an increase from $23,073 and VA Service Officer Pat Gotman was increased from $10,872 to $26,201. Albright's work week increased from 33 hours to 40 hours and Gotman's work week increased from 20 hours to 40 hours.

Shoch explained a part-time employee resigned from the VA office, thus increasing the workload of the other two employees. Since each employee has a positive record, their salaries and time worked was increased.

"They are the two best employees I have ever seen in the county," Commissioner Vinny Clausi said.

The salary of Dale Henry, the recycling coordinator, was increased from $33,496 to $34,840.

Clausi explained Henry had been working as director of the department for nearly a year for no additional pay.

The salary board also approved a motion to open a dialogue between the Children and Youth Department in order to resolve the high turnover rate of employees.

At a $26,000 starting rate, the county is the lowest of six neighboring counties and they are wasting time and money training new employees regularly, Clausi said.

"I don't want my fingerprints on it if a child dies because we didn't have enough people in the department," he said. "We have a duty and obligation to take care of the children of this county."

Shoch said the exit interviews reveal there is too much stress for employees compared to the salary, and how they manage their work must be handled differently.

The salary board approved a motion to authorize the deletion of today's and future salary board meeting recordings following the subsequent approval of those meeting's minutes at a future meeting, but Shoch voted against it.

While Shoch did not comment during the meeting, he was prompted for his reasons after the meeting by a News-Item reporter.

Shoch said he wanted to remain consistent, as he has recently gotten into a disagreement with Bridy and Clausi about whether the county should keep 768 hours of tape recordings from county commissioner meetings.

In other business, the salary board will be sending letters to the magistrate district judges' offices to start a dialogue on whether they can manage with cutting half a position.

Prison board

The Northumberland County Prison Board also met Wednesday for less than five minutes before they entered into a 45-minute executive session for contractual/personnel matters.

In the public portion of the meeting, Bridy announced that they received two bids for updating their security cameras and a decision would likely be made at the next regular meeting to award those bids.

Also, Don Purcell, of Elysburg, asked the board to look into finding the jacket he brought for his son, a former inmate. The piece of clothing apparently never was given to his son.

Clausi promised Purcell he would.

No action or further discussion was taken following the adjournment of the executive session.