Wayne Tomorrow discussed

 - All three Wayne County Commissioners visited Lakewood Tuesday night on their State of the County Tour.

The tour focuses on the issues facing the county today, and what constituents and elected officials alike can do help make the county better for future generations.

The hour-long presentation, that took place at the Preston Elementary School, was opened with Commissioner Brian Smith providing an overview of what function the county government serves.

The idea for the tour came about after a mandatory update to the Wayne County Comprehensive Plan occurred in 2010.

Smith provided the five in attendance an overview of what the county does, along with facts about the county.

One point he was sure to emphasize was the importance of the 911 addressing plaques.

"The 911 plaques are oh so important," he said. "It used to be in an emergency, the fire chief or someone would know where you lived. It's not that way anymore."

Those responding in an emergency situation need to have the 911 addressing numbers visible to be able to respond quickly.

Smith went on to say that the county has 475 full time and 90 part time employees to "deliver required and mandated services to citizens of all ages."

He continued on to say that 60 percent of the general fund budget revenues are generated from real estate taxes.

"This is the only tax available to counties of the sixth class to fund the general fund," he said.

In a comparison to the neighboring counties of Pike, Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Monroe, Wayne County has the lowest millage rate at .00371.

"A lot of people say that school taxes are too high," Smith said. "Out of 500 public schools in Pennsylvania, Wayne Highlands School District is ranked at 475. That means 475 school districts are more expensive than Wayne Highlands."

Smith continued that while the millage rates were raised, "for a lot of years, we've been able to balance the budget without raising millage."

He also explained what the debt tax line item, found on the county tax bill, is for.

"The debt tax is to pay back the remodeling of the Park Street Complex and the building of the Wayne County Correctional Facility. It is dedicated to paying back those projects."

Wayne Tomorrow

Commissioner Wendell Kay detailed the formation of an initiative titled Wayne Tomorrow.

This program is meant to function as an extension of the 2010 Comprehensive Plan update.

"We wanted to work off of that and reach out to the community to find out thoughts and ideas," Kay said.

He continued on by reading the mission statement of the initiative: "An inclusive process for on-going dialogue and creating a shared vision, building our community and guiding development of Wayne County."

To accomplish this, five different work groups were formed to focus on five different topics. Those work groups are Agriculture, Human Resources and Education, Quality of Life, Sustainable Communities, and Business and Economic Development.

"In forming these groups, we purposely put people on the committee that were diametrically opposed to one another, but could work together," he said.

The groups were asked to be consider all populations, incorporate the concept of health throughout the initiate and foster tolerant relationships.

"We didn't want any finger-pointing. The groups needed to listen and respect one another," Kay said.

With the work sessions completed, the findings of the groups were presented.

Even with no communication between the groups, they did arrive at common themes they felt would better the county.

One of those needs is a career and technology center.

"Out of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, we are one of three that do not have a career and technology center," Kay said. "We need to create opportunities for people to learn here."

Job growth

Commissioner Jonathan Fritz provided insight into the economic situation of the county, and how to improve the outlook in the county.

"The top two industries in Wayne County are tourism and retail," he said. "These are also the two lowest paying industries."

Fritz said that he feels that one way to help boost the economy is to have a "shift in the mindset" of consumers.

"We need to expand our job diversity, but we also need to be purchasing from local, small businesses," he said.

He also said that "we are approaching a time where a blue collar worker can make as much as a white collar worker. We need people who are willing to work with their hands."

Fritz also commented on the situation surrounding gas drilling in Wayne County and the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).

"We don't need DEP or the DRBC to tell us how to protect our natural resources. We don't need outside folks with outside agendas telling us how to be stewards of our land," he said.

Smith also said that the commissioners "push every day" against the DRBC regulations. Kay said that he feels the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) "passed common-sense regulations" for drilling, and that he had hoped the DRBC would do the same.

The State of the County Tour still has four dates left for those who wish to attend. Those dates are: Sunday, Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. at the Ledgedale Fire Hall; Monday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Hawley Senior Center and Thursday, Sept. 26 at the Newfoundland South Elementary School at 7 p.m.

Complete copies of the presentation can be obtained by visiting www.co.wayne.pa.us/features. The commissioners can be reached for comment by calling the commissioners office at 570-253-5970 ext. 4050.