TRR photo by David Hulse

Wayne County Commissioner Joseph Adams

Adams has fit into the job in Wayne

HONESDALE, PA — The Wayne County Commissioners began their January 25 meeting with something different: a resident’s complaint.

Milanville Road property owner Richard Miller appeared before the panel questioning why his tax bill had increased $12,500, when there had been no improvements on the land and “nothing in years.”

Miller said he’d gotten a $10,000 reduction after visiting the county tax office. “Then I asked them what the $2,500 increase was for,” he said.

Miller said he got no further response and the impression that the officials were “intent in getting me out of the office.”

Chairman Brian Smith said he’d ask some questions of tax office. “We’ll talk to them and look into it,” Smith said.

The complaint was unusual for the commissioners and a first for Joseph Adams, who was appointed to the office last January to fill the vacancy after Jonathan Fritz was elected to the state legislature. Looking back at his first year, in the job, Adams said he found there was a lot more required of him than he had expected. “It’s a very, very large area of responsibilities,” he said, highlighting human services, the drug and alcohol commission and the district attorney’s office.

Adams’ background is based in finance and this will be his first run for elected office when he seeks re-election in 2019. The Wayne County native has worked in government, serving 15 years on the Palmyra (Wayne) Planning Commission, and has dealt with school politics in serving 12 years as business manager at Wallenpaupack Area School District and the two years prior to coming to the county as superintendent at Western Wayne.

However, while he’s found the commissioners’ responsibilities are extensive, he said the support of the county staff has eased his transition. “I’ve been most impressed by the department heads’ diligence and caring, what they do for the county and our citizens.”

Adams also felt that the makeup of the commissioners’ panel, including a lawyer (Wendell Kay), an entrepreneur and dairyman (Brian Smith) and a financial manager, was a strong combination. Their collegial efforts contrast with other PA counties. “especially out west, where commissioners are suing one another. That eats time, money and effort. I’ve witnessed tremendous cooperation. We’re conservative with taxpayers’ money. It’s part of the culture,” he said.

He said Wayne has excellent financial staff in chief clerk Vicky Botjer, who is also a CPA, and 35-year veteran business manager John Haggerty. Adams plans to use his financial acumen for the county’s benefit, and has already contributed his expertise in the recent re-bonding effort, which provided funding for county infrastructure work, the ongoing energy audit of county facilities, which is expected to save on energy costs.

Financial management is going to continue to be crucial for Wayne, he said. The county’s static property values contributed to the decision to contract for tax-anticipation note again this year. “We’ve got a lot of inventory and the only new money comes from tax increases,” he said.


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