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Westmoreland may hire human services director by end of year

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County officials said that hiring a human services director will improve efficiency in human service programs, which account for more than half of the county's $315 million operating budget.

To that end, commissioners expect to hire someone by the end of the year to oversee departments such as the Children's Bureau, the local Area Agency on Aging and behavioral health and developmental services.

“We believe a human services director will assist the county in coordinating redundant services,” said Commissioner Tyler Courtney.

The director will oversee about seven human service departments, which now operate as separate entities directly under county commissioners, he said.

Commissioners received about 30 applications and interviewed 13 candidates. Four finalists were brought in last month for a second round of interviews.

Courtney said commissioners have reached a decision on who will be offered the job, but no formal action is planned until salary negotiations are completed.

Commissioners will have to officially establish the job and set the pay during a salary board meeting. The board next meets on Nov. 8.

“We pretty much nailed down the candidate. Now we have to figure out the salary,” Courtney said.

Commissioner Ted Kopas, who has opposed the plan, said early discussions called for the job to pay more than $100,000 annually.

“I don't think bloating government or adding another layer of bureaucracy is ever the answer,” Kopas said. “It's an unnecessary expense the county cannot afford.”

The county has budgeted more than $165 million for human service programs this year, funded mostly through state and federal grants. State funding was cut by 10 percent for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Courtney said the lack of a human services director played a role in the state's decision last month to exclude Westmoreland from a pilot program addressing the disbursement of human services grant money.

Westmoreland was one of 30 counties that applied to participate in a block grant program, with counties receiving a lump sum for all programs. Local governments would then divide the money among individual human service programs.

Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Greene counties were selected for program. Westmoreland and Washington counties were rejected.

Courtney said the selected counties have human service directors.

“We're addressing that,” he said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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