Labor Department: Marcellus Shale Contractors Owe $4.5 Million In Back Wages

Contractors involved in natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania and West Virginia must pay nearly $4.5 million in back wages to more than 5,000 workers, following a two-year U.S. Department of Labor investigation.

“An ongoing multi-year enforcement initiative conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division offices in Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh from 2012 to 2014 found significant violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which resulted in employers agreeing to pay $4,498,547 in back wages to 5,310 employees,” read a Labor Department statement released on Tuesday.

“It’s part of an ongoing initiative, a multi-year initiative,” said Labor Department spokeswoman Leni Fortson of the Philadelphia office. “These are the findings from the first three years.”

A list of the violating companies can be found attached to this story at http://www.timesleader.com.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50834414/Labor-Department:-Contractors-owe-millions-in-back-wages

Manhunt Impacts State Police’s Future

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA — As the intensive manhunt for suspected cop killer Eric Matthew Frein ends its fourth week, Harrisburg is taking the first steps to address how this unprecedented event will affect the future operations of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Officials here discuss the topic with the caveat that the manhunt isn’t over yet. Considered armed and dangerous, Frein, 31, of 308 Seneca Lane, Canadensis, is the sole suspect in the Sept. 12 sniper attack at the Blooming Grove state police barracks in Pike County that killed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II of Dunmore and wounded Trooper Alex T. Douglass of Olyphant. Since then, authorities have been searching for Frein, a self-described survivalist, in the dense state forest that straddles Barrett and Price townships in Monroe County.

The estimate by a state police spokesman this week that the manhunt has cost several million dollars so far is one issue emerging on the radar screen of Corbett administration officials and lawmakers. Policy makers are starting to focus on related matters such as security at state police barracks, equipment needs of state troopers, impact on local governments and schools and assistance of local fire companies, 911 centers and the Red Cross with the manhunt.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, has requested a Senate committee hearing in Pike County once the manhunt is over to delve into these issues.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/manhunt-impacts-state-police-s-future-1.1769039

York Mayor Kim Bracey: 5 Game Changers That Could Save York (Column)

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the 2015 budget season approaches, it is my duty to talk straight about our city’s fiscal challenges and pension legacy costs that have been growing since before the turn of this century. While laying out the dire conditions, leadership requires us to hold out meaningful hope by advocating for bold measures. Long term fiscal game-changers can stabilize our property taxes while enabling us to continue providing quality public services and infrastructure that our people deserve and demand.

At times, I feel like a night watchman of earlier centuries who witnesses a spreading fire and vigorously shouts and rings the bell to alert citizens of the imminent crisis. During the last two city administrations, we’ve been warning of the growing fiscal crisis for 13 years, and we’ve done as much as we can internally to make our budget process transparent, to seek sound recommendations from outside experts, to cut costs, and to be fiscally responsible. The list is extensive.

• In 2003, under Mayor Brenner, our city initiated its first open budget hearings, an annual tradition that continues to this year.

• In 2006, our city was one of the very first in the state to enter the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Early Intervention Program, which provided an analysis of York’s finances by outside experts. Their analysis concluded that York’s financial controls and management were strong but that systemic constraints beyond its control were leading to out-of-control costs. Recommendations included implementing a parking tax, which was done.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/letters/ci_26165619/kim-bracey-5-game-changers-that-could-save

Easton Police Dominate 2013 List Of Highest-Paid City Employees

English: Skyline of Easton, PA from Lafayette ...

English: Skyline of Easton, PA from Lafayette College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eight of the 10 highest-paid Easton city employees last year work for the police department.

Much of their pay came through overtime, although the mayor said the city is doing much better with overtime budgeting.

Sgt. Sal Cucciuffo topped the list for the second year in a row, making $117,524 and topping his 2012 earnings by a little more than $6,800.

The city’s overtime fund has dropped significantly from $460,000 in 2008, down to $260,000 in 2013, Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said. Panto said the city came in under budget on overtime costs in 2013.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/easton/index.ssf/2014/03/third_party_soruces_help_with.html

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Reading Weighs Accepting Grant For More Firefighters

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  We can’t predict the future. Take the money, hire the people and hope for the best!

Spending a $4 million federal grant to the city is not as easy as it seems.

The problem is not what the grant would do – hire 30 new and badly needed firefighters for the next two years, adding more personnel to each truck – but what happens to those firefighters when the grant expires.

Fire Chief David Hollinger and City Council labored over the issues Monday night.

On the positive side, the grant does not require the city to keep the grant-paid firefighters after the grant runs out in March 2015.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=443754

Pottstown Halloween Parade Is Back On After Council Waives Half The Fee

Editor’s note:  Some of the council’s logic here is frightening.  The reason Pottstown is going broke can hardly be attributed to the costs associated with a couple of parades and fireworks. It’s the protuberant budget!  $38,000,000.00 for a town with 22,377 people is absurd.  Again, these few activities combined account for less than 1% of the budget.  The tax base can’t support a budget this size and cuts need to be made, but council is unwilling to do so (as they have demonstrated year after year).  Then, out of the blue they want to “tighten the purse strings” over a couple thousand lousy dollars that don’t make a hill of beans difference in the grand scheme of things.  I would be far more impressed with more substantive belt-tightening that would actually make a dent.

POTTSTOWN, PA — Borough council Tuesday night voted unanimously to waive half the fees for the annual Halloween parade, allowing the organizers to proclaim that they would raise the remaining $2,660 somehow and that the parade will go on as planned.

It is scheduled for Wed. Oct. 24, 7 p.m. on High Street.

“It’s such a good thing for Pottstown,” said Aram Ecker, speaking for the AMBUCS. “There are a lot of organizations involved and there is a lot of time put in for the costumes and floats. It’s been such a legacy and tradition in Pottstown, I don’t want to see it die.”

“The middle school marching band is so excited, they bought sweatshirts for the event. Their debut this year will be the Halloween parade and they’ve been practicing since the first day of school,” Ecker said.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121009/NEWS01/121009362/pottstown-halloween-parade-is-back-on-after-council-waives-half-the-fee

Pottstown Is Not The Only Municipality With Fire Department Budget Woes

A New York City fireman calls for 10 more resc...

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Pottstown has struggled with its Fire Department budget for some time.  The debate over merging fire companies to cut overhead has been suggested.  Currently Pottstown has four fire companies with paid drivers and administration.  The majority of the firefighters are volunteers.  The borough gives the four fire department money and pays the health insurance for the drivers.  Each fire company must then raise any additional funds themselves.

Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Allentown have obviously larger fire departments with more paid staff.  Volunteerism is down.  A huge problem these three cities have experienced is a drastic increase in overtime.  Scranton’s Fire Department racked up just under one million dollars in overtime for 2010 (more than double what was budgeted).  The Scranton Fire Department had a budget of $14.3 million for 2010.

Allentown’s Fire Department overtime budget was blown in 2010 when $1.4 million was spent on overtime.  Wilkes-Barre spent $322, 958 on overtime which was nearly double what was budgeted.

A big culprit is sick time.  Sick time use in Scranton has been rising for the last three years.  When one firefighter calls out sick, another firefighter is called in and paid overtime to cover the shift.  Scranton is changing their schedules, minimum manning requirements per shift and instituting fire company brownouts to save money this year.  Only $83,950 was included for Fire Department overtime in the city’s $74.9 budget for 2011.

The Scranton Fire Department blames being a 168 man department with only 150 firefighters on the payroll.  Overtime was being used to “make up the difference”.  Like Scranton, Allentown also has minimum manning requirement per shift which contributes greatly to their overtime.  Wilkes-Barre Mayor, Tom Leighton said his city experiences a 25-30 percent call off rate in every shift, which burns up overtime.

In Scranton, the average firefighter costs the city $84,000 in salary and benefits every year. This will increase substantially after the arbitration award kicks in.  Mayor Chris Doherty’s salary and benefits come to about $65,000 per year, as a point of reference.  Firefighters get 18 sick days per year, which can be accrued up to 120 days, 240 days or unlimited, depending on their hire date.  Firefighters get paid for unused sick days at the termination of their employment.  They are reimbursed anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent, depending on their date of hire.

I hope Pottstown Council carefully studies these issues before making the paid drivers employees of the borough.  If this comes to pass, we need to learn from these three cities to avoid a bill we cannot afford.