By VIRGINIA ROSS
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County commissioners hired a recycling consultant they said in the past has had strained relationships with elected public officials in the county.
Commissioners agreed Tuesday to pay Michele Nestor of Nestor Resources Inc., Valencia, Pa., $4,760 to help county recycling director Amy Jo Labi-Carando prepare a grant application that must be submitted to the state by June 17.
"But [Nestor's] responsibilities will be limited to assisting with the preparation of the application," said Dan Vogler, commissioner chairman. "The scope of her responsibilities with this contract is very narrow."
Vogler, along with Commissioner Steve Craig, approved the agreement, though each said he was hesitant to do so. Vogler and Craig said they would like to have had more people to choose from, but felt it was necessary to hire Nestor because of time constraints. Commissioner Ed Fosnaught voted against the hiring but said he understands his colleagues' reasons for moving forward with the contract.
At their weekly caucus last Thursday, Labi-Carando asked the commissioners to hire Nestor so she could help develop the grant application. Money secured from the grant would be used to continue recycling programs and develop new ones. But Fosnaught said he could not vote to hire Nestor because he felt she had been out of line at several meetings a few years back, arguing with representatives from several municipalities throughout the county on procedures and protocol.
"I just felt that in the past she has handled herself unprofessionally and very inappropriately," he said. "Her actions strained the relationship this board has had with these elected officials and I think, considering how she treated them, it would be irresponsible for me to vote to hire her again."
Last year, the county recycling department applied for $400,000 through a state program, but received $35,000.
Commissioners said the state determines the amount each applicant is to receive. Once the amount is determined, the county can designate where the money is to go.
Commissioners said Labi-Carando has indicated that by enlisting Nestor's expertise, she is hopeful the county will be able to secure more funding. Commissioners said they have stipulated that Nestor's duties must be limited to assisting Labi-Carando with preparing the grant application and that she is not to speak on behalf of the county at public meetings.
"This is a reluctant vote on my part," Craig said. "I'm not wild about being in the position we are in. But the application is due in two weeks. In a perfect world we would have had more time. But we don't."
Commissioners held Tuesday's public in Slippery Rock Township as part of their summer night sessions program. They are meeting at a different municipality the last Tuesday of each month through October.