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Schuylkill County News

Things Get Heated (And Weird) Between Boots and Halcovage

Boots accused Halcovage of doing what???

It appears Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage is trying to be a burr under a colleague’s saddle in the run-up to the General Election in less than a month.

Halcovage’s term as Commissioner is coming to an end at the close of 2023. But he probably wouldn’t mind playing spoiler to his fellow Republican Commissioner Boots Hetherington.

On Wednesday, the two had the latest of their numerous public blowouts. And this was a real doozy.

The Back Story

At last week’s Schuylkill County Commissioners Work Session meeting, the board voted to table a vote on 2 specific items on the regular Designee Approved Contracts list.

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The Commissioners review and typically approve these contracts on a monthly basis and often, not much attention is given to this particular part of the meeting. These are contracts that have been fulfilled by the contractor and the Commissioners must vote to approve paying the bill for the work.

However, last week, Commissioner George Halcovage seemed to have an interest in 2 of the contracts listed by the Land Preservation Board. The contracts were to Agrarian Associates Inc., Lebanon, in the amount of $1,500 each, a total of $3,000.

They were for appraisal reports on two parcels of land in the county, 01-04-0049.000 and 30-08-0033.000.

Halcovage asked County Administrator Gary Bender who owned the land. Bender said he didn’t know.

Halcovage then asked Solicitor Al Marshall if these contracts were related to the farmland preservation action the Commissioners previously took. Marshall didn’t know.

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Halcovage voted against the last round of farmland preservation money, namely because putting considerably more money into it would benefit Hetherington.

Hetherington’s farm was on the farmland preservation wait list and would benefit from the extra funding.

Halcovage said he wanted Solicitors Glenn Roth and Paul Datte to do an “ethics review” of the matter before he could vote on the issue.

Commissioner Gary Hess agreed to table voting on those contracts and the Commissioners eventually voted on it. There was a bit of a small squabble between Hetherington and Halcovage last week when Halcovage tried to clear up a little motion-vote confusion but was halted by Hetherington, who attempted to remind his rival colleague that he knew Robert’s Rules of Order for running the meeting.

“Would you please let me run the meeting, sir?” Hetherington said.

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And just for the record, we looked into the parcel numbers and discovered what Hetherington probably knew at the time and what Bender and Marshall, and the Commissioners for that matter, should have known before it was put on a public meeting agenda for a vote.

One of the parcels is, indeed, Hetherington’s.

Apparently, Halcovage Has a Trick …

That little spat last week led to the big blowout this week.

Halcovage says that Hetherington, after last week’s meeting, “admitted to Commissioner Hess that you knew that your property was one of them and that the suggestion made to you by Commissioner Hess was that you put off the vote on those until after the Election. Is that the reason why these are not on the agenda right now because we said we were going to have that researched and come back on those.”

“They’ll be on for November, OK?” Hetherington replied after a short pause.

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Then a rather lengthy pause followed his answer. In fact, the radio silence from the Commissioners lasted a total of 8 awkward seconds.

That’s when Hetherington brought in Administrator Gary Bender for an explanation.

Bender said these properties in question will be on the Designee list next month.

Halcovage arched his brows and said he didn’t know they were going to be tabled for a month.

Hetherington wondered what concern Halcovage has on this issue. He said these were bills that were originally approved to be paid and the Commissioners were voting to agree to pay them.

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That’s when the two started going at it. Well, it was more Hetherington going at Halcovage, while the presumably outgoing Commissioner sat with a wry grin listening.

“It appears you’re trying to embarrass me, which is what you’ve been trying to do for the last several weeks here,” Hetherington said. “I’m sorry you did not get elected to be on the Fall ballot but you’re trying to embarrass me. You tried to attempt to embarrass our Treasurer last week … what’s your goal here? What’s your intent?”

Halcovage replied, “I’m just asking a question as far as what should be on the agenda … which you control.”

The spat continued.

Hetherington came back and said, “They were tabled ’til next month, OK?”

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He added, in a deeply condescending tone, “Anything else you’d like to discuss this morning?”

Halcovage simply said, “That answered my question.”

Hetherington turned to Hess, on his right, and asked him if he had anything to add. Hess looked up from something on the bench in front of him and said he didn’t and said if that was protocol – to approve Designee Approved Contracts – then he had no problem with it. He said he’d vote on it sooner, too.

Hetherington didn’t want to let it die and started to say something as he shook his head disapprovingly at the whole conversation. But Halcovage interjected and addressed Hess.

“Your suggestion, Gary, was to put it off until next month,” Halcovage said.

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Hess replied and said, “I just said to table it.”

Halcovage answered that and said that Hess told Hetherington to put it off until after the election after last week’s meeting. He then said, indicating he was done with the conversation, “That’s fine, let’s just move on,” and tried to make a motion to adjourn the meeting.

However, Hetherington knows it’s not right to go to the locker room with a time out in your pocket and said, “Where di- … Time Out … Where did Mr. Hess make that … Show me what public comment, show me what evidence …”

Then, cupping his hand behind his ear, Hetherington said …

“Was your ear against the wall eavesdropping again, Mr. Halcovage? Is that what’s going on? One of your favorite tricks … put your ear against my door, put it against Mr. Hess’ wall?

Do you want to start embarrassing people, George? For God sakes.”

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Hess then said he has no problem bringing up the tabled item from last week for a vote next week but Hetherington said it’ll be brought back up in November.

You can watch the whole scene unfold right here …

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  1. Tammy Saltzman

    October 12, 2023 at 6:34 am

    Check into the law suit the county had against them in the 90s for sexual harassment. The women won the case .They were awarded $ . You would think they would have learned from that.

  2. Just saying

    October 12, 2023 at 7:15 am

    When are these old *** men gonna grow the heck up? It’s embarrassing!!! Let Rita and Mary jo in and this s*** will stop.

  3. PT Floridian

    October 12, 2023 at 7:17 am

    Bootsie is too stupid for his own good.
    Then he reaches to frame Georgie Boy for his own missteps and shady actions. It’s not even funny anymore, this blowhard is a deceitful, ignorant disgrace that uses his position, as a platform for everything that’s wrong with government.
    …what a schmendrick.

  4. insider

    October 12, 2023 at 10:21 am

    Dumb and Dumber at their best….outrageous that they have control of our county…Boot”Boots”out…

  5. Tootsie

    October 12, 2023 at 6:33 pm

    Gotta agree with Insider and PT. According to this article, it sounds like Commissioner Gary Hess would like to see Boots back in as commissioner, hence the statement to “just wait until next month” to vote on the questionable agenda item. The problem I see- as of next month George Halcovage will still be commissioner, as will Hess and Hetherington. Let’s assume George votes “Nay” or against the agenda item, Hess will likely (if past history repeats)vote “Yea” or in favor of the agenda item and Boots Hetherington should abstain from voting, since it involves his property and would be a conflict of interest. That means the motion would not pass. Let’s pay attention to this agenda item. They may try to bring it forward sooner now or much later, after Halcovage is off the Board of Commissioners.

    • Canary Commenter

      October 13, 2023 at 12:11 am

      Don’t see that happening; Boots won’t abstain. He didn’t do that when the vote came up to approve the $200K additional preservation funds at the beginning of the year. So, it’s unlikely he’ll abstain from a vote on a contract that’s already been fulfilled and they’re just agreeing to pay for the work.

      And honestly, it may not be right that Boots will benefit from this money but so will many other farmers. With farmland getting gobbled up so quickly across the country, it’s good to see some farmers in this County wanting to hold on to their land (well, at least we hope they hold on to it after waiting to preserve it as such) and keep it as farm.

      The gains on this move are actually very minimal for the landowner. In the current property market in Schuylkill County, he could make A LOT more money subdividing the property and selling it off as new housing lots.

  6. PT Floridian

    October 13, 2023 at 8:21 am

    …in the way Canary Commenter lays out the farm $ gripe, it seems as though its really not a big deal, and a noble deed by preservation of farmlands, but it’s simply the way that they’ve seemingly colluded to deceive the people by being nondescript and not entirely forthright, about the land deal, or anything else for that matter.

    • Canary Commenter

      October 13, 2023 at 8:36 am

      You know if we thought this was a shady deal, there’d be no hesitation in calling it out. We knew right away that land sale was shady and called it out right away.We knew something was sneaky about the airport money and came out with it right away. We’ll keep looking into the farmland preservation deal to see if there’s something we’re not missing but so far … can’t find it. The benefits of preserving farmland through this program just aren’t that monumental to warrant a hard reaction to it. Focus should go on the numerous other shady/concerning deals at the Courthouse, or the fact that (as we reported) he didn’t read an investigation report into the LexisNexis situation or that he just leans on Bender for all his advice instead of making up his own mind. There’s SO MUCH to focus on; this just isn’t the issue. And wait ’til you hear our thoughts on the biosolids issue 😉

      • Timmy

        October 13, 2023 at 3:31 pm

        Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the biosolids/sewage sludge/human waste issue. The commissioners sure don’t seem to have much to say about it. We are hearing one of the commissioners (can anyone guess which one?) has said, “Well, if they don’t like the smell, they should just sell their houses and move away.” Yep, that’s a solution to the problem. Let’s keep in mind, we’re not dealing with the brightest bulbs in the box.

      • PT Floridian

        October 13, 2023 at 8:00 pm

        Excellent reporting and commentary,as always.
        Thank you Canary.

    • Canary Commenter

      October 15, 2023 at 1:08 am

      That part of the deal is definitely true of this and pretty much any land/property deal that happens at the Courthouse. Well, that is true of anything that happens at the Courthouse. Transparency is not their bag, baby.

  7. It's me

    October 14, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    Entertainment at its best!

  8. Cheryl

    October 15, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    Yes, thank you Canary, for your reporting! We should all spread the word about Coal Region Canary. I recently became a “silver member” for $5 per month. (There seems to be some additional, exclusive content available.) Definitely worth five bucks a month, compared to what you pay for one copy of the local newspaper.

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