The Warren County Commissioners approved an agreement with National Bond and Collection Associates to collect debt from county residents who owe court fines and fees.
Carl McKee, Adult Probation director, said specific cases will be selected to be handled by National Bond and Collection Associates.
"We believe we can collect additional monies via this system, that will cost us nothing. So that's why we're proposing it," McKee said.
"What we're proposing to do, is National Bond will take over accounts we've been unable to collect, that we've issued warrants, we can't find them or responded, and they will use their credit system to track those people and try to obtain money," he said.
"Initially we're going to look at cases where we have issued warrants," McKee said, "or we have them on absconder status. We just don't know where they're at and they're making no payments and we've actually issued a warrant and the warrant has been outstanding for some time."
"I think we need a uniform time," Commission Stephen Vanco said.
Return of fine and cost court is held four times a year, and "that's probably when we would make a referral to National Bond agency," McKee said.
Adult Probation programs in other counties have used to the program with some success, McKee said.
"Not a lot, but it doesn't cost us anything, as whatever collection funds they collect, they get a portion of it, but that portion doesn't come off the total amount that is still owed the county," McKee said. "In essence it doesn't cost us anything, and they're willing to do it based on the fees they will generate themselves.
"For purposes of discussion, the fines that are collected, where do those monies ultimately end up?" asked Commissioner John Bortz.
McKee said nearly 50 to 60 percent of fines and fees go to the county, with nearly 30 percent to the state, 15 to 20 percent to victims of offenses and the remainder to other categories.
"The collections office collects about $1 million dollars a year, and of that probably somewhere around $600,000 will eventually come to the county," he said.
McKee estimated the county received nearly $38,000 in fines and fees over the last month from the collections office.
The commissioners also approved the use of Community Development Block Grant funds for the demolition of two buildings during their Wednesday morning meeting.
The Commissioners awarded bids for two Warren County Redevelopment Authority demolition projects to HH Rauh Paving of Lakewood, N.Y., for $11,700 to demolish properties at 3 Railroad Street in Clarendon and 10105 Rt. 6 in Mead Township.
Municipal officials brought the properties to the attention of the blighted property committee, and passed it on the Redevelopment Authority, which is now ready to take action, Warren County Grants Administrator Lorri Dunlap said.
"We're going to use Community Development Block Grant funds to demolish these two structures," Dunlap said. "They were both dwellings; they're both in bad shape."
A higher bid for $16,680 was received from Keith White Excavating because an inspector found asbestos at one of the sites, Dunlap said.
"I did call Rauh and make sure they were also aware that there was asbestos and that they would remove it properly. they consented to do so and they sent it to me in writing," she said. "It will be in our contract."
A resolution for a federally funded DUI Enforcement Program was also unanimously passed.
McKee said the county applied for $15,000 in funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, a considerable cut from prior years to pay for the salary of the enhanced DUI patrols.
"Four years ago it was $50,000, three years ago it was $35,000, last year it was $20,000," McKee said. "It's federal dollars, the cuts have really been on the federal level. They've just been cutting each of the various programs. I think there are 67 programs across the state, so each one has been getting a like cut. So it's just been a dwindling program. However, we don't know what the future of that may hold."
The commissioners also agreed to hire the law firm Knox McLaughlin Gornall & Sennett of Erie for employee contract negotiations taking place next year.
"We will be going into new negotiations here shortly, and this is certainly something we need to have," Bortz said.