Lebanon County plans to purchase 30 body-worn cameras (BWCs) for its adult and juvenile probation officers, pending approval of a federal grant application to be filed in the coming weeks.
County Commissioners on Thursday unanimously greenlighted their permission for the submission of the application by Probation Services to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the state agency that will secure the federal funds on behalf of the county.
Criminal Justice Advisory Board planner John Shott said the purchase is a worthwhile endeavor given the current climate law enforcement officers face while on duty.
“We do believe that body-worn cameras are essential in a time when the interaction with law enforcement and the members of the public continues to fall under pretty heavy scrutiny,” Shott told the commissioners. “There’s no doubt that probation officers are law enforcement officers, and who also find themselves in the same risky situations as the police.”
Shott added that use of BWCs is a win-win for probation officers and the public they serve.
“Recording encounters with offenders provides a layer of protection against charges of misconduct but also holds the officer to a higher standard and in the process maintains, we believe, public confidence in the professionalism of the office,” Shott added.
In addition to the BWCs, the county will purchase such accessories as docking stations, signal sidearm kits, licensing fees, warranty and replacement plans, and professional training to use the equipment. (The signal sidearm kit activates the camera when the sidearm is drawn out of its holster.)
The cost of the BWC project is $107,703, with $53,851 each coming from the county and federal grant funding, according to Shott.
Although the purchase does require a 50-50 match according to federal guidelines, no additional county dollars from its general fund will be required for the initiative. Act 35 Supervision Fees that probation officials collect on a monthly basis from offenders will be used to fund the county’s portion of the BWC cost, noted Shott.
“Most of the hardware that we would purchase under this grant, if awarded, would come in the first year,” he said. “The grant requires a local match of 50 percent, with no more than $2,000 in federal funding per camera system.”
Audrey Fortna, director of Probation Services, said, when asked if county probation officers have ever worn cameras, that few counties in Pennsylvania currently have BWCs for their staff members.
“This is brand new (for us), and is quite rare across the state at this point,” said Fortna. “I know that the one manufacturer that we’ve spoken to, though, is meeting with state parole, so I think it is a matter of time for this to start being implemented across the state.”
In other county business, the commissioners took action to approve provider contracts and 2022-23 fiscal budgets for three separate county agencies, including Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention (MH/ID/EI), Area Agency on Aging, and the Lebanon County Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. The budgets for all three agencies follow the state’s fiscal year calendar, which begins annually on July 1.
Holly Leahy, administrator for MH/ID/EI, presented a number of provider contracts, contract amendments and the fiscal budget for the coming year for approval.
The department’s fiscal year 2022-23 contracts, which total over $4.8 million, signal an increase in spending of $549,441 over the previous year.
“These will be funded through our state and federal allocation, but there is a 10 percent required county match for some of those services as well,” said Leahy.
The breakdown of provider contracts, costs for the coming year and comparison to the 2021-22 budget funding are:
- Twenty-three provider contracts that cover MH/ID/EI services in the amount of just over $2.7 million, a 12.5 percent increase from the previous year.
- Thirty-six providers for the ID non-waiver program totalling just over $1 million and another ID waiver contract in the amount of $20,050 for one provider, an increase of 20 percent from the 2021-22 budget.
- Twenty-five providers for the EI non-waiver contracts in the amount of $987,556, a 1.5 percent increase.
- Six support service providers totalling $63,500, a 4.5 percent increase.
Leahy also presented six contract amendments for services and supports in the amount of $146,208, which will be covered through current allocated state and federal funding, meaning no additional county tax dollars are needed to fund the expenditures.
Leahy’s final presentation was an overview of the departmental budget of over $7.27 million, which represents a decrease of $463,686 over 2021-22 due to a “new funding methodology that allows the agency to present a more realistic budget.”
“The deficit amount of $218,291 plus the required 10 percent county match is $536,166, which you will note is quite a difference compared to 21-22, where we were actually budgeting $1,042,000 as the deficit,” said Leahy. “So we’re very pleased to present this budget this morning.”
Carol Davies, administrator for Area Agency on Aging, presented to the commissioners provider contract amendments for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which ends on June 30, provider contracts for 2022-23 and a number of appointments to its advisory board.
The three provider amendments totaled $6,514, and two of the three amendments allow the agency to hire staff on a temporary basis while the department tries to fill vacancies through the state’s Civil Service process.
“We have funds available within our budget, so we are not asking for any additional financial support from the county commissioners at this time,” said Davies.
Davies also presented 37 provider contracts for fiscal year 2022-23 in the amount of $1.17 million.
“Most of these contracts are carryovers of providers we are contracted with in the current year,” said Davies. “In these contracts, with some of our service providers, we are requesting a 5.3 cost of living increase.”
The budget presented total revenues and expenditures of nearly $4.18 million for FY 2022-23, according to Davies. “That’s just a 1.81 percent increase over what our current budget was for the 2021-22 year,” Davies added.
Davies said that with an increase in Regular Aging Block Grant, available monies through the Department of Aging via the America Rescue Plan Act, and other funding sources, her agency will not require any additional support from the county’s general fund for fiscal year 2022-23.
James Donmoyer, executive director of the Lebanon County Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, presented FY 2022-23 contracts and the department’s budget for the coming fiscal year.
Donmoyer said 37 providers cover 62 programs, and added that they provide a full continuum of care for commission clients who request services.
Total revenue and expenditures for 2022-23 equal $2.25 million, which is $82,285 higher than the 2021-22 budget and represents an increase of 3.8 percent.
“This increase is due mostly to an increase in D & A’s contribution to the County Crisis program and increases in the Pennsylvania Counseling case management program,” noted Donmoyer.
However, other funding sources will not require any support from the county’s general fund for FY 2022-23, Donmoyer added.
Other action items not related to county agencies included:
- Approval of 23 private drivers for the Medical Assistance Program and also granting the Medical Assistance Transportation Program Participation Grant Agreement. The medical transportation program is administered by Lebanon County Community Action Partnership.
- Acceptance of a contract amendment for the provider of the computer system in the county’s tax assessment office.
- Agreeing to real estate tax exemptions for five disabled veterans.
- Approval of the minutes from their June 2 meeting.
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Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of John Shott. We sincerely regret the error.