Commissioners are also looking for the best way to hand over $43,000 to the county airport authority.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County commissioners are considering a pay raise for attorneys appointed to represent indigent people who face charges in criminal court.
Philip Boudewyns, court administrator, asked commissioners to consider upping the annual salary from $17,000 to $20,000. He said the county is in danger of losing three of the four attorneys it has doing this work if the pay is not increased.
Boudewyns said one attorney has not renewed his contract with the county and two others are considering leaving because of the low pay.
The attorneys are appointed to represent a defendant when the public defender's office has a conflict of interest.
Boudewyns said he contacted all attorneys in Lawrence and Mercer counties and could not attract anyone to the position at $17,000 per year. Three have agreed to work as appointed council for $20,000 per year, he said.
Commissioners are unsure if they will grant the pay raise.
Recent salary increase
Commissioner Roger DeCarbo said he is against the raise because they recently upped the annual salary of juvenile court-appointed attorneys from $12,000 to $17,000 per year to make them equal to those handling adult criminal cases.
Boudewyns pointed out that if no attorneys are hired by the county, the courts can appoint attorneys to handle criminal cases at a rate of $40 per hour with no limits. He estimates it could cost the county about $80,000 per year if attorneys are paid on an hourly basis, rather than an annual sum.
Commissioner Ed Fosnaught said he would consider the pay increase to help keep costs down. Commissioner Brian Burick was not present at Thursday's caucus meeting. They expect to make a decision at Tuesday's meeting.
Airport authority money
In other business, commissioners are looking at the best way to hand over about $43,000 to the Lawrence County Airport Authority.
The money originated about 10 years ago as a revolving loan fund when the airport was owned by the city of New Castle. That loan fund has since ceased, and the funds were turned over to the county which took over the airport in the 1990s.
County commissioners said they are prepared to hand over the full amount to the airport authority but are also considering reviving the revolving loan fund.
Lou Perotta, a member of the airport authority, had asked that the loan fund be revived but also agreed to take it as a lump sum if the commissioners agreed to hand it over.
DeCarbo said he would agree to hand over the money in either form but would like to see the abandoned army barracks on the airport property razed as a condition of receiving the money.
Perotta said the authority board is talking about demolishing the building and is waiting to hear if it will receive a state grant to pay for demolition.