Category: Armstrong County Court House

Digital Records Would Improve County, Taxpayer Efficiency, Committee Says

County Commissioners (L-R) Richard Fink, David Battaglia and Bob Bower acknowledged an agreement made among county leaders that would digitize records from various departments into one system during last week’s public meeting.

By Jonathan Weaver

There are more than 45,000 parcels of land in Armstrong County that need to be organized for public view.

But, don’t forget about the 9,000 different tax claim accounts during the past century that could take into effect or the constantly-updated maps or edited-parcel numbers.

That whole process will get much easier for County Tax Claim Bureau Director Jeannie Englert and other departments in years to come after the County administration offices begin a digital scanning project hopefully next week.

“The scanning project is taking all the paper we have stored in various places either in the departments themselves or at the Records Management department and putting them in to one place,” Englert said.

“Right now, we have them in Tax Claim, Mapping, Assessment – they’re in a minimum of three different places, maybe more. What this is going to do is pull all that information into one place so if somebody had a question – we have attorneys and surveyors and abstractors and the public (inquiring about a property) – they’ll be able to type in a name, a map number or a control number and get all of the information in one place.”

Englert said the move will reduce storage space needed (since all documents will be digital) and save a lot of time (both inquisitive taxpayers and County staff members).

“Paper has dwindled due to digital media, so that’s what we’re working towards,” Englert said.

With training provided by IMR Digital of Camp Hill, Pa., staff members will be trained to scan in all the data, starting with the most-current documents – rather than the ones more than 150 years old.

Different information is so spread out, Englert said the process will be everlasting and continuous.

“It’s going to take quite-a-long-time just to get what’s’ in our offices right now done. Once that’s done, the records in the Records Management department will be able to be scanned in by property number. This will be an ongoing (process).

“All the paper that is currently being stored and taking up space will be all in basically one area,” Englert said.

No new hires are to be made to assist with the scanning project.

Englert said the scans would have assisted her office particularly recently with a property tax sale in the middle of February.

In the future, the system is to be web-based and also assist other County department leaders, such as in the probation department.

Funds for the IMR Digital hardware and software are from the Records Improvement Committee fund.

The committee is made up of Prothonatary Brenda George, Sheriff Bill Rupert, Treasurer Amanda Hiles, Register and Recorder Marianne Hileman and Commissioners David Battaglia, Richard Fink and Bob Bower, among others.

No new hires will be made for this project.

For safety concerns, all information will also be stored off-site.

Committee members also know of other county departments statewide that utilize the system to help troubleshoot and get maximum efficiency.

“I intend to use this program to its fullest capacity – as much as we can do with it. Because we’re running out of storage,” Englert said. “We’re in a new age now and you have to look at the technology.”

“I’m very very happy to get it started,” Englert said.

Battaglia said he appreciated the work staffers have put into the project so far, and is looking forward to the results.

“The whole idea is just for efficiency, period. (Those individual departments) are seeing efficiency in cost-savings,” Battaglia said.

Guilty Plea Accepted in Parks Township Burglary

Justin McMasters plead guilty to the felony burglary charge as part of a plea deal.

by Jonathan Weaver

One of the Vandergrift residents accused of of stealing about $2,600 worth of plumbing equipment from a Parks Township business in September has pled guilty to one of the charges.

Justin McMasters, 24 of Vandergrift, was arrested by State Police troopers November 6 in Westmoreland County on charges of burglary, criminal trespass and receiving stolen property, among others in the theft from Lawrence Plumbing LLC.

McMasters pled guilty to the second-degree felony burglary charge, which recommends up to 10 years of incarceration in the Armstrong County Jail and/or a $25,000 fine.

However, as per a plea agreement with District Attorney Scott Andreassi, McMasters and his attorney James Wray, Andreassi recommended anywhere from three months to two years of incarceration in the Armstrong County Jail.
McMasters would also be eligible for house arrest and the work release program if found eligible by Court of Common Pleas Judge James Panchik.

Panchik accepted McMasters’ guilty plea, but cautioned him that Andreassi’s recommendation is only a recommendation, and that a final sentence will not be determined until the appropriate hearing April 24.
McMasters told Judge James Panchik he used to work at Lawrence Plumbing

A second man was also arraigned on similar charges because of his involvement a week later.

Brian McKean, 27, was already incarcerated in the Armstrong County Jail on a probation violation, but charges were added.

McKean waived a preliminary court hearing before District Magisterial Judge James Andring and was ordered to be finger printed. McMasters waived his preliminary court hearing November 13.

According to the original state police information report, McMasters and McKean arrived at the Parks Township business at about 9:30AM September 14 in a green Ford Ranger truck. The men entered the secured rear steel side door by pulling on the outside handle and lifting the door off its frame.

Once inside, the men then opened the receiving/garage door and pulled the vehicle within the warehouse and closed it behind them.

The men then are accused of stealing a 100-foot copper roll valued at about $400, four 60-foot copper rolls valued at about $400 each and two additional 60-foot copper rolls valued at approximately $300 each.
The pair proceeded to Tomson’s Scrap Yard in Brackenridge to cash in nearly-300 pounds of copper, valued at more than $820. Each man received half of the money.

Four days later – at about 8:50PM September 18 – the men gained entry into the warehouse in the same fashion. However, McMasters looked directly at a newly-placed security camera before fleeing the scene.

Two counts of criminal conspiracy were added on to the charges against McMasters, and his monetary bond was reduced $20,000 to $30,000.

McMasters was later released on bond, but it was revoked in February

McKean is being held in the Armstrong County Jail on $25,000 bond.

Both men were initially charged with burglary, criminal trespass, a misdemeanor count of theft by unlawful taking and another misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property, and now, the criminal conspiracy.
Pleas have not yet been heard from McKean.