Thursday, December 02, 2021

NorCo Council To Beef Up Contingency Fund for Pay Study, Gracedale Operating Study and IT Review

At its final budget hearing on Wednesday, Northampton County Council voted 8-0 to beef up its contingency fund to a whopping $400,000 in next year's budget. The money will come from the stabilization fund and by reducing funding for IT. 

Council member Peg Ferraro was absent. 

Historically, Council's contingency fund is little more than huge slush fund from which it hands out money at the end of the year to make itself look good. Not this time. Council member Lori Vargo Heffner, who drafted a budget amendment increasing the contingency fund from $150,000 to $400,000, wants to do so to study three things. First, she'd like to get a long overdue pay study for the county workforce. Second, Council is concerned about whether its time for its own internal IT department. Third, she'd like to study what the hell is going on at Gracedale. 

Council members Tara Zrinski and Kevin Lott amazingly expressed doubt whether Council has the authority to study Gracedale. "I don't know whether it's our job on Council to be studying Gracedale," worried Lott. "I just went down there the other day," said Zrinski. They should read the Home Rule Charter. Council is the governing body and has all residual powers. Gracedale administrators appear before Council once every month to discuss the nursing home for precisely that reason.

The rest of Council disagreed sharply. Kerry Myers stated, "Sometimes you have to spend a loittle bit to learn a little bit." A Gracedale presentation a few months ago was dismissed by Council member Ron Heckman as "popsickles and lollipops." "Smiling faces aren't always telling the truth," agreed Myers. He reminded everyone that, just a few weeks ago, a dark picture of the home was painted by some former employees.   

Council member John Cusick said his main concerns at Gracedale are financial and its level of care. He pointed out that, even at the height of the pandemic, four residents were crammed into one room. He also noted that Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King has only ever worked at one nursing home, and might benefit from an independent study.

Zrinski eventually backtracked, stating her main concern was that the contingency fund would be a source of walking around money. She  was satisfied by the explanations of intended use. 


Anonymous said...

Zirinski and Lott are pawns of the Administration. They are known to carry their water on council. It would appear they feel council has no real powers. so why are they there? Everyone knows Zirinski is a self-promoter who does little work. Have never heard a bad word about Mr. Lott. What does Mr. McClure heave on Zirinski to get her to always do his dirty work on council?

Yes, Gracedale has some serious problems and families are sacred because they are fed a company line. If she really cares about Geacedale she should welcome any study even if McClure wants her to block it.

Anonymous said...

Zirinski and Lott are pawns of the Administration

said by an anonymous cry baby

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, I've noticed that as well. Zrinski and Lott appear to be his biggest allies while Cusick, Heckman and now, Vargo-Heffner and Myers, appear to be the least willing to act as rubber stamps. This is actually good for the county and McClure. I much prefer a Council that asks questions and raises concern. It is better government and will make McClure a better Exec. It is very clear that something is going on at Gracedale. I personally think it is the burnout we see at nursing homes everywhere but do not know that for sure. I also am convinced that, across the board, county workers are receiving too little. I do not know that for sure either. Finally, I do think the county might benefit from some kind of internal IT department. The current setup has been problematic as nearly every employee can tell you. I'd like a performance review at C&Y and Area Agency on Aging as well. We are responsible for the safety of our children and elderly. I'd like to review the feasibility or remote work. Perhaps with training, some county employees could work productively from home.

Anonymous said...

Dont worry Lori great idea is to cut OT at the jail.... Does she even know that OT isn't someone's
hey let's get some OT this pay. It is state regulation that set the number of officers . Not hey let's get some extra money. officers are mandated . Not everyone volunteers so good luck. But once again works in favor of Lamont. Contract time comes up and they cut the OT budget he can go into arbitration saying how there's no money for steps because they went over on OT. Once again not everyone is that stupid or foolish. The old quid pro quo!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, why not cut an OT budget that is padded? And you can use that money to pay higher salaries. This works in favor of the employee, no matter what department. You are making stupid arguments. The county only rarely goes over its OT budget, and it has abundant cash reserves when it does. .

Anonymous said...

Why is everyone including council afraid pf McClure? What is up with that?

Carl said...

What classifies as walking around money?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Why is everyone including council afraid pf McClure? What is up with that?"

What County Council is doing is flexing and demonstrating the exact opposite of what you suggest. But you would not know that because you're such a pussy you don't sign your name while accusing others of being cowards.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What classifies as walking around money?"

It's the kind of grant council would give at the end of the year with no real justification.

Anonymous said...

Lol. You are funny. Rarely goes over OT Budget, 911 Center hold my headset.