Warren County takes steps to explore refugee options | News, Sports, Jobs

WARREN, Pennsylvania — There are many unanswered questions that need answers before it’s clear whether Warren County in neighboring Pennsylvania is able to support the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees.

County officials are taking steps to get some of those answers.

County commissioners are moving forward on a deal with a consultant who can answer some of those questions. It’s called a risk assessment, but Commissioner Tricia Durbin called it a “resource study” while Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said he would review “feasibility.”

The idea is to determine the capacity of the community to successfully resettle refugees.

The county has worked with MCM Consulting on several past projects, including the county’s risk mitigation plan and 911 services.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said on Monday that one of their aides is a retired military officer who carried out the resettlement of refugees in Bosnia. He warned that the assessment “does not require us to do anything other than a risk assessment…. They proved to me that it was their wheelhouse.

The deal is “very standard” with “reduced hourly rates” said Kafferlin, calling him “probably well worth it” a few hours of the consultant’s time.

County officials first publicly discussed exploring relocation earlier this month.

The team assembled to explore this possibility includes the office of Congressman Glenn Thompson, Warren County School Superintendent Amy Stewart, Warren General Hospital CEO Rick Allen, the office of Sen. State Scott Hutchinson, the Warren County Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and local employers and attorneys.

“There is an incredible unifying interest in doing this,” Kafferlin said at the April Council of Governments meeting. “(We) haven’t heard from anyone that we shouldn’t at least continue the review.”

Kafferlin said there is a “moral justice” to explore the possibility, but said the effort “could be mutually beneficial” citing the county’s declining population and an aging workforce. “Some businesses in the city are considering moving outside the area” due to labor shortages.

He described the Ukrainian refugees as a “Relatively educated population that is completely disturbed.”

Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes since the Russian invasion in late February.

“I think it’s a great opportunity that we need to look into,” said Kaferlin.

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