Bedford County officials are still uncertain about when and how they will pay for new voting machines prior to next year’s primary elections.
The county commissioners during a budget meeting on Tuesday spoke about the requirement for the county to replace its voting machines to be in compliance with a mandate by Gov. Tom Wolf.
“We’re waiting to see when the state is going to make a decision about how they are going to assist the counties in paying for the machines,” Commissioner Barry Dallara said. “They haven’t come to any approved process to have us reimbursed for the $600,000 to $700,000 expenditure we’re going to have.”
Wolf ordered counties to upgrade their voting machines by the end of 2019 so that they have paper backups ready for the 2020 primary elections.
“We’ll need to have them before the primary next year,” Dallara said. “The old machines were de-certified by the government, so you have to get different machines that have been certified.”
Commissioner Josh Lang said some federal money has been allocated to help pay for the new machines, but the state has not made a decision about how it will handle to process.
“The state has their mechanism. They should be releasing how that procurement process is going to be handled in the near future,” he said.
The budget for the elections office did not include funding for the machines. Dallara said the county’s expense would be through the capital fund.
The elections budget meeting was held without Deb Brown, director of elections, who is out of the office.
Brown had requested her $1,000 raise for her stipend, raising it from $8,500 to $9,500. That money is additional to Brown’s base salary as the county’s chief clerk.
Brown also requested a $1 per hour raise for Angie Ferguson, administrative assistant in the office. Her salary was requested to be $22,568.
The elections office operated on a $137,384 budget in 2019. The requested 2020 budget also included $25,000 for maintenance and repairs, $40,000 for materials and supplies and $35,000 for poll workers wages.
In separate budget meetings, Debra Rose, director of Veterans Affairs, requested a 50-cent per hour raise for herself and Gretchen Martin, veterans service officer. Rose in her request said she has been doing all pension and disability compensation claims since former director Barbara Cheke retired in December. She said each claim can take between three to four hours to complete.
The director’s salary was budgeted at $32,752 for 2019. Martin, who has been in the office since April, is set to earn $19,300 this year.
Rose said the amount of claims the office processes will be considerably higher next year due to changes in laws regarding Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, these veterans may be eligible for presumption of herbicide exposure. They may also qualify for a presumption of service connection if they have a disease that is recognized as being associated with herbicide exposure.
The county’s veteran affairs budget was $81,258 in 2019.
Rose requested $12,000 for burial expenses and $7,500 for materials and supplies, which includes flags and burial markers.
Coroner Rusty Styer kept his budget request nearly identical to the $130,358 budget approved for 2019.
Styer requested a decrease in autopsy funding from what was approved in 2019, decreasing the figure from $85,000 to $75,000. He requested a $500 increase to maintenance costs with a total cost of $4,450.
Styer noted that he intends to apply for two $5,000 grants through the state Department of Health to cover expenses in his office.