Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Greg Skrepenak- You Should Resgin Immediately

An article in today's Standard Speaker should spark a call for Greg Skrepenak to immediately resign his seat as a Luzerne County Commissioner. "Luzerne officials consider confiscation of juvenile facility"

Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 4:13 AM EDT
WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County officials said Monday they are looking into possible actions — including confiscating ownership of the private facility that detains juveniles in Pittston Township — to recover losses associated with a kickback scheme to defraud taxpayers.

Here is the part in this article that makes the case for Skrepenak to resign.

The property in Pittston Township is worth almost $8.7 million, according to the county’s 2008 assessed value.

County commissioners in 2003 agreed to pay daily rates to send juveniles to the Pittston Township facility but still planned to build a new county facility. In 2004, Todd Vonderheid and Greg Skrepenak became Democratic majority commissioners, and they approved a 20-year lease that would have cost more than $60 million.

Let's revisit a couple of old stories about the history of this juvenile detention mess.

County declares emergency, OKs pact with juvenile care center
By James Conmy , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

Luzerne County Commissioners Greg Skrepenak and Todd Vonderheid declared a state-of-emergency Thursday to ratify four short-term contracts with service providers for a Pittston Township juvenile care center. The county will begin a 20-year, $58 million lease for the facility with Pennsylvania Child Care on Jan. 1. All contracts with service providers at the facility expire Dec. 31.

An emergency was declared to bypass normal advertising requirements for services, Vonderheid said.

Why that statement alone doesn't have Skrepenak and Vonderheid in hot water with the AG or the Feds is somewhat mind boggling. The new Luzerne County Commissioners took office on January 1, 2004. At the end of the year they suddenly decide there is an “emergency” when in fact they had been paying PA ChildCare on a per diem basis for almost two years. On what grounds can they claim an emergency when they already were contracting with PA ChildCare and other facilities throughout the state.

Vonderheid justifies the lease cost based on prices paid for the last three years. Again, if they are doing it for the last three years where was the emergency? Other contracts approved at the same time were for food service, custodial and maintenance service, and health insurance. They were all for 120 days, except the custodial and maintenance contract, which is for 30 days.

Now to rewind the timemline tape a bit more.

County OKs design plans for new juvenile detention center
By Fred Ney , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

The new Luzerne County Juvenile Detention Center moved another step closer to reality Wednesday when the county commissioners approved spending $446,500 for design services.

Contract was awarded to Strach Associates, Plains Township.
Luzerne County Engineer Jim Brozena asked the commissioners to approve the proposal.

Commissioner Steve Urban questioned whether Brozena sought competitive bids for the work.

Brozena said he was not required to seek bids because engineering and architectural design are professional services and do not require bidding under the County Code.

So the taxpayers of Luzerne County paid $446,000.00 for engineering and architectural design on a building that never was built. Oh but there is more.

Makowski says county will build, not lease, juvenile detention center
By Fred Ney , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

Putting an end to speculation that Luzerne County might soon lease a new juvenile detention center in Pittston Township, Luzerne County Commissioner Chairman Tom Makowski said Tuesday that the county would build its own facility.

"It was an option that we did consider," Makowski said regarding the Pennsylvania Child Care LLC 48-bed project in the Vogelbacher Industrial Park. "We've considered a lot of things," he added.

"However, we're convinced that the best way to go is to build our own facility and we'll do that," he asserted. Makowski hinted that a site has been selected for the project but he said to reveal that now would be "premature."

"We'll be making an announcement soon," he promised.

The current county juvenile detention center on North River Street, Wilkes-Barre, is more than 60 years old and in deplorable condition.

Engineers and architects have calculated that it would cost about $2.5 million to repair it while a new facility would cost between $4 and $5 million.

Let us assume that the cost of the new facility would approach the assessment on the current facility. Now round that number to $9 million to be generous. This figure is also corroborated by Commissioner Steve Urban.

County expects subsidies will offset higher lease for juvenile center
By James Conmy , Staff Writer
Minority Commissioner Stephen Urban challenged the 20-year, $58.9 million lease with Pennsylvania ChildCare when Skrepenak and Commissioner Todd Vonderheid authorized it late in 2003. He believes the county can build its own center for about $9 million.

If you were to take the estimated $9 million price tag(02/07/2003
New juvenile facility ready for business By Fred Ney , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer
PA ChildCare:The facility is reported to cost $7.4 million for a new county facility) and plug that figure into a mortgage calculator you will get the following result:

Mortgage Information
Loan amount $9,000,000.00
Term 20 years
Interest rate 4.800%
Monthly payment $58,406.17
Total payments $14,017,481.66
Total interest $5,017,481.66

It is hard to understand why Sam Diaz, as finance and budget director, did not speak about the disparity between county financing and the total amount of the lease. The county was spending over $44 million more than it would cost for it to finance and construct its own facility.

The $58.1 million lease gave Zapalla and Powell more borrowing capacity overall in the general financing market since it funds the debt service created by the construction of the facility on the part of their company.

You must also look at what it would have cost Luzerne County to build its own facility which was the original game plan. At a projected cost of $9 million and assuming an interest rate on funds to finance the project of 4.8% for twenty years (the length of the lease) the cost to the county would have been $14,017,481.66 not $58.1 million.

In fact the $58.1 million figure is not a definite one. It was the minimum that will be charged to Luzerne County by Pa ChildCare during the term of the lease. A 4.8% interest rate was quoted by one of the Commissioners.

Then the Commissioners had the audacity to raise the rate paid to PA ChildCare in the wake of an audit that said they were paying too much.

County expects subsidies will offset higher lease for juvenile center
By James Conmy , Staff Writer

The cost of Luzerne County's lease of a Pittston Township juvenile care center will increase by approximately $1.35 million in 2006, a new expense that does not alarm most county officials.

The county had the opportunity to renegotiate the lease downward but they raised it upward.

Let us not forget what the County tried to do to the United Charities Home in West Hazleton. It was a blatant grab for those beds.

State investigates West Hazleton child care facility

“There was a recommendation (by the welfare agency) that, if possible, we systematically remove some of the children,” Kathy Bozinski said Wednesday.

Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman Stacey Ward disputes that, saying, “That recommendation was not made.”

It appears certain personnel in Luzerne County saw an opening to move kids from this facility to Pa ChildCare. The daily rate at United Charities was only $103.00 according to board member who is a friend of mine. The public outcry coupled with the fact that the investigation was blown up to be more than it was foiled this attempt. It is alleged that County officials contrived the need to move the kids to try to benefit PA ChildCare. The PA ChildCare facility was not at capacity. It needed to be to justify the lease. Only 44 beds of the 60 were occupied.

The Department of Welfare denies the created allegation made by county representatives. United Children’s Home was allowed an increase in the daily rate by the Department of Welfare to $110.00 per day. UCH has agreements with five counties to utilize its facility.

Audits find fraud but they do not find stupidity. When the public looks at all of this information collectively Skrep it is time to go.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I hope he goes, goes to JAIL and Vondy goes with him. These guys have stolen from the tax payer and must be held accountable.

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