The big payback: Northumberland County officials visit more court-cost scofflaws
SUNBURY - Northumberland County law enforcement officials went door-to-door again Monday, collecting what they could of the $22.8 million in unpaid court costs owed to the county.
There are no delusions of eventually bringing in the entire sum, but as little as 1 percent would mean $228,000 in revenue.
Officials collected $1,200 Monday and another $700 is expected to be paid by Friday. Payment plans that should bring in thousands more were established.
About $3,500 was collected two weeks ago from other past criminal defendants, along with establishment of additional payment plans.
It's a slow go so far, but it's a start.
"We're making contact, getting some payments. I think it's going good," said Andrew Charnosky from the probation department.
There are 14,123 open cases from the past 50 years involving delinquent court costs. The largest single amount of money owed by one offender is $194,000.
Ideally, if staffing in the sheriff's and probation offices would allow, such collections would take place three or four days a week, said deputy probation chief Tim Heitzman. As it is, a collection sweep will occur as scheduling permits, but the sweeps do have the backing of the county commissioners.
Charnosky and Jason Lasko from the probation department and Brad Harvey from the sheriff's office led Monday's effort. They were joined by Justin Dunkelberger, county prothonotary, and Heitzman, along with members of the local media.
The law enforcement officials worked from a list of 43 names from the Sunbury and Northumberland areas, people who owe a combined $466,000. It's safe to say most of those who answered the door were less than thrilled to see them, but there was little in the way of resistance.
First installments paid
The first visit was to Lake Augusta Outfitters at Shikellamy State Park. Its owner, Angela Troutman, owes $1,016. She established a payment plan within minutes and made the first installment later Monday morning.
Benjamin Kelley Jr., of Northumberland, was furious at the sight of the media, but he paid $500 cash and agreed to pay $100 a month to erase the $1,971.19 he owes.
Kenneth Stuck, of 120 S. Sixth St., Northumberland, who owes $2,543.15, was working and not home. But contact was made later and he agreed to pay up to $100 a month, Heitzman said.
Pay or jail
A few others weren't home, either, like Selena Delosier, of 233 1/2 S. Third St., Sunbury, who owes $9,414.04. Business cards were left on her doorstep. A neighbor spoke briefly with law enforcement.
"I let her know it's in (Delosier's) best interest to call or go to jail," Lasko said.