George Halcovage Jr.

Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage Jr. said Wednesday that he plans to remain in office despite allegations of sexual harassment at the courthouse.

"I'm here to do my job for the taxpayers and the county," Halcovage said after a commissioners' meeting at the courthouse in Pottsville. He declined to comment on the allegations because they involve legal action and personnel issues.

Four female county employees filed suit last month against Halcovage, the courthouse and two county employees they claim did not rein in the alleged harassment.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro decided not to charge Halcovage after investigating claims of harassment.

The allegations were not on the commissioners' agenda Wednesday, but Clerk of the Courts Maria Casey raised the issue during the meeting. She said the Halcovage controversy creates a distraction in the courthouse.

"We're not getting business done in this county," Casey said. She described Halcovage as "an absolutely narcissistic commissioner who thinks only about himself."

Casey reiterated an earlier request that Halcovage be banned from the courthouse or at least be made to go through a security screening. Visitors to the courthouse walk through a metal detector upon entry. She said as long as he remains in office, the controversy and distraction will continue.

"It will not end until he's gone," Casey said.

Chairman Barron "Boots" Hetherington, Commissioner Gary Hess and Halcovage did not address Casey's comments during the meeting.

In other business, the commissioners approved unanimously a tax-abatement plan for 286 acres in the Highridge business park in Butler Township.

Frank Zukas, president of the Schuylkill Economic Development Corp., said the state Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program will make the land more attractive to a large business that will bring in jobs.

"It's looking more and more feasible that this site can be developed," he said. The tax reduction will apply not to the land, Zukas said, but only new development.

LERTA would provide a tax break on development at the land for the first 10 years. Butler and the North Schuylkill School District have already agreed to the tax break, Zukas said Wednesday. For the first five years, there would be no taxes due on improvements to the land, then gradually falling to a 20% reduction in the tenth and final year.

Hess said the tax-abatement deals work out in the long term. Hetherington agreed, saying in return for an early break on taxes to spur development, the town, school district and county will reap a greater return in the future.

The board also approved a list of building demolitions throughout the county, including three in Port Carbon and St. Clair, with others in Shenandoah and Palo Alto. The county is also pursuing demolitions in Orwigsburg and Tamaqua.

After the regular meeting, Schuylkill's retirement board met. Acting Controller Sharyn Yackenchick said the county's pension fund had a market value of $164.1 million on April 14. Halcovage said after the meeting that the county pension plan is nearly 100% fully funded.

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