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Westmoreland officials lift residency requirement for some county departments |

Westmoreland officials lift residency requirement for some county departments

Gavin Jenkins
| Thursday, November 15, 2018 5:15 p.m
Barry Reeger | Trib Total Media
Westmoreland County Courthouse
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Carl Panko, 43, of Derry, takes calls during his shift at Westmoreland County 911 in Hempfield Township, on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Panko has worked for Westmoreland County 911 for 21 years.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Carl Panko, 43, of Derry, takes calls during his shift at Westmoreland County 911 in Hempfield Township, on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Panko has worked for Westmoreland County 911 for 21 years.

Westmoreland County needs workers.

A dearth of qualified candidates for specific open positions in four departments prompted the commissioners Thursday to waive a requirement that new employees move into Westmoreland County within 180 days.

“Unfortunately, we have open positions, and we don’t have enough applications to fill those positions,” Commissioner Gina Cerilli said.

The residency exemption will apply for open jobs in the following departments:

• Seven part-time corrections officers at the Westmore­land County Prison.

• 18 full-time telecommunications officers at the Department of Public Safety.

• Nine full-time caseworkers with the Children’s Bureau.

• One aging-care manager at the Area Agency on Aging.

“County government is not immune to the same workforce challenges that our local businesses are facing,” Commissioner Ted Kopas said.

Board members said they have waived the requirement in the past when hiring has been a challenge, but never for multiple departments.

“It’s never been across the board like this before,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said.

Qualified candidates for those open spots who live in Westmoreland County will be given preference over an out-of-county applicant, according to the commissioners and department heads. But until those applications start coming in, they’ll be able to fill positions that are integral to department operations by expanding options.

Most positions at the Children’s Bureau require applicants first take a civil service exam and then potential hires can be interviewed, director Shara Saveikis said. But this year, names of candidates who had applied to take the test were dropped, leaving the agency with no potential hires who lived in the county.

Officials there used to get eight to 12 names of in-county candidates to interview, but after the exam moved online, that hasn’t been the case, said Jason Slocenski, assistant bureau director. More recently, three candidates have been qualified, but none lived in the county.

“With the county residency requirement, it didn’t allow us to hire any of them unless they were willing to pick up their lives and move to Westmoreland County,” Slocenski said.

With the Allegheny County 911 operations center moving from Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood in the East End to Moon Township, Westmoreland Department of Public Safety officials think lifting the requirement might attract telecommunications officers from outside the county’s borders.

Of the last class of 61 applicants, five telecommunications officers made it through, deputy director Scott Stepanovich said.

“Right now, we thought this was a great solution to the short term,” he said.

The Westmoreland County Prison has been down corrections officers for months. Warden John Walton said the waiver could help increase hiring options. New hires start as part-time workers until a full-time spot opens up, but potential applicants might not want to move into the county for a part-time job, he said.

“There’s a lot of times when we get applications from out of county,” he said.

To see available county jobs and apply, visit the county’s website here .

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, or via Twitter @byrenatta.

Categories: Westmoreland
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