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Indiana County officials continue to extend the opportunities for county residents to cast their ballots in advance of the Nov. 3 Presidential Election.

With unprecedented numbers of voters having requested absentee or mail-in ballots for the election and with thousands of ballots having already been turned in to the county voter registration office, the county commissioners said Wednesday that Saturday voting will be in the works this weekend.

With the county courthouse otherwise closed and dark for the weekend, two sheriff’s deputies will be stationed at the front doors of the courthouse to keep secure a drop box for residents to deliver ballots from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

In other business at the commissioners’ semi-monthly business session Wednesday, the board:

• Named Robin Maryai, Debra Streams and Matthew Budash as members of the Resolution Board charged with resolving disputes that may arise during the election on Nov. 3, and appointed Maryai and Streams as the Official Return Board to oversee the count of absentee and mail-in votes for the election.

• Extended the county’s contract with the State College law firm Babst Calland Clements and Zomnir for defense against lawsuits filed in federal and state courts against the boards of elections in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in protest over policies and practices enacted for the Nov. 3 election.

Leaders of Indiana and 15 other counties jointly retained BCCZ in July to fight the initial lawsuits filed by the Donald J. Trump for President campaign and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. The firm has three partners, two associates and one law clerk working on the lawsuits at rates ranging from $185 to $305 an hour.

• Approved the distribution of about $625,000 from the county’s recent award of funds from the CARES Act.

At the recommendation of the county planning office, the commissioners approved assistance of $500,000 to Citizens’ Ambulance Service, $25,000 to Indiana Free Library, $52,700 to Evergreen After School Club, $30,000 to Spirit Life Inc in Cherryhill Township and $23,160 to Community Guidance Center in White Township.

• Approved an agreement with the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials for installation and providing for annual service costs of $9,000 to create digital records from the hand-written sets of index cards that Indiana County 911 Center dispatchers rely on for additional information on emergency calls.

“This would allow us to build a software-based pre-arrival instructions package including fire, police and EMS pre-arrival instructions and it would become part of our Computer-Aided Dispatch System that’s used daily by the dispatch staff,” said Indiana County Emergency Management Agency Director Thomas Stutzman. “Currently we use a hard card system that requires the dispatchers to use three different types of lookup information on paper. This would integrate those guidelines that we’re already using and have developed directly into a format in CAD.”

• Agreed to accept a grant of $34,000 from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency through the “CJAB Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Fund” to the Indiana County district attorney’s office for the purchase of air purifiers for court offices, FAX machines and other supplies for the jury-selection and court systems in the courthouse.

• Approved a contract with Advent for installation of network equipment and a telephone system in the future North Fourth Street home of Indiana District Court at a cost of $15,450. The provisions of the contract would connect the communication features with the Salsgiver fiber line connected to the courthouse.

• Approved a proposed 2 percent increase in monthly rates for residents of Communities at Indian Haven, the county-owned nursing home. Indian Haven Administrator Kim Cobaugh announced the Jan. 1 rate increase, providing the required 60-day notice of the change, after comparing rates at other personal care and long-term care facilities throughout the county.

• Authorized the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development to file a competitive application to the state for additional funds from the Community Development Block Grant program to assist Central Indiana County Water Authority with the Metz Road Water Service Extension Project to provide service to 13 more residents in that area.

• Directed ICOPAD to apply to Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) for up to $300,000 of Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) funds to pay for replacement of roofs or furnaces on homes owned by qualifying county residents age 55 and over.

• Approved the additional expense of $11,227 for stormwater control measures in connection with the Indiana County Conservation District headquarters building construction project at the Indiana County Technology Center campus in White Township. ICOPAD Executive Director Byron Stauffer said that and other change orders are being completed within the project budget and in compliance with project designs that were not included in original bidding.

• Joined with ICOPAD to enact a stormwater management agreement in compliance with White Township requirements regarding the Indiana County Education & Technology Center project on the ICTC campus.

• Ratified agreements with Franklin County and Lehigh County to house jail inmates from those counties at the Indiana County Jail on an as-needed basis, at rates of $65 a day for inmates from Franklin County and $150 a day for juvenile offenders from Lehigh County.

• Adopted proclamations in recognition of October as the 50th anniversary of service of Visiting Nurse Association of Indiana County; in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month at the urging of Alice Paul House; and to declare Dec. 12 as Honoring Our Indiana County Veterans Day, when area churches will be asked to ring their bells at noon as volunteers throughout the county place wreaths at the entrances of the cemeteries where fallen servicemen and woman are buried.

Officials estimated that 12,000 deceased military men and woman are at rest in 77 graveyards in the county. The fifth annual bell-ringing and wreath placement event is jointly sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1989, American Legion Post No. 141, the Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana County Tourist Bureau and the Indiana County Christmas Tree Growers Association.

• Reported that the two meetings scheduled next month on Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) and Nov. 25 (the day before Thanksgiving) will be replaced with a single business session at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 18 in the commissioners’ hearing room.

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the county courthouse; Indiana Area and Homer-Center schools; Blairsville, Homer City, Clymer, Center and Burrell; and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.