Lebanon County entered into an agreement Thursday with an Arizona-based vendor to provide mail-in ballot services for 2023 during a meeting of the county commissioners.

The next day, however, Sean Drasher, director, Bureau of Elections and Voter Registration notified LebTown via email that the original deal was off and the county was selecting the other vendor instead. 

A follow-up telephone call and an email to Drasher Monday morning to ascertain whether a contract came through from Phoenix Graphics were not returned as of publication time.

The two companies to meet a list of 10 desired criteria for mail-in ballot services and whose bids are considered the front runners to be awarded the contract are Runbeck Election Services of Phoenix, AZ, the business that was selected Thursday, and Phoenix Graphics of Rochester, NY, which was chosen Friday. 

Drasher said on Thursday at the commissioners meeting and reiterated on Friday during a telephone interview that both vendor’s bids were nearly identical and that he would be satisfied with either one serving Lebanon County’s voter bureau in the coming year. The contract is for one year, according to Drasher. 

“Both are excellent choices, within pennies, cost-wise, and they both have a list of impressive references from other customers,” Drasher said during Thursday’s meeting. “Runbeck is a more holistic provider with whom we already have an established relationship while Phoenix is family-owned and regionally based.”

It’s somewhat unclear why the county switched providers one day after the commissioners had approved the first vendor. When asked what happened, Drasher said that “Runbeck didn’t come through.” 

“Until we hear back from Phoenix, I am taking a wait and see approach here. I am waiting to get the contract in my hand because the other one never showed up,” Drasher told LebTown in a late Friday afternoon telephone interview. “I’m happy either way, though, because Phoenix is fantastic.” 

When asked via phone if he meant that Runbeck did not come through with a signed contract, Drasher answered no. 

“I am not literally saying that, I’m saying the contract is not coming through and it’s frustrating that it didn’t,” said Drasher. “But the contract from Phoenix looks like it will come through, and they’re going to make all the requests that we made of them and it’s going to be here. We are told that the contract will come through from Phoenix with all of the expectations that the county wants, so that’s what we’re going to go with.”

Drasher added that the change in vendors is not a big issue.

“I would prefer not to go on the record as to why this change happened,” said Drasher. “It’s really a minor thing and not that big of a deal. While I am frustrated about this, they (Runebck) are really unhappy because they are leaving money on the table.”

To keep the process moving forward before the next public meeting of the commissioners, Drasher said he filed a letter with them on Friday as a notification of the change in vendor his department was making. 

County Administrator Jamie Wolgemuth wrote LebTown in an email stating that, “It’ll have to be put to another vote on January 19th, for the Commissioners to approve the contract, since it’s a different company.” 

In the meantime, the commissioners did give verbal approval that will have to be put to a formal vote in a public setting at its next meeting, noted Drasher. 

Even with a new vendor, pricing will not change since both proposals were within “pennies of each other.” The new one-year agreement with Phoenix Graphics will cost the county about $1.50 for every mail-in ballot that’s requested by Lebanon County voters for the upcoming primary election in May and the municipal election in November. 

“When we were doing it ourselves, it cost the county about $2.00 per mailing,” said Drasher to the county commissioners during what was their first public meeting of 2023, which is also the reorganization meeting for the board of commissioners and the county’s salary, assessment and election boards.

During the recent midterm elections, about 10,600 mail-in ballots were returned of the just over 12,000 that were sent to voters who requested them, according to Drasher. 

In other county business, the commissioners reorganized for 2023 with Commissioner Robert Phillips being named chairman, Commissioner Mike Kuhn as Vice Chairman and Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz, Secretary, for the board of commissioners. 

The commissioners also unanimously voted to name Jamie Wolgemuth as chief clerk/administrator and David Warner Jr. as county solicitor for the board of commissioners. 

The commissioners set their monthly meeting schedule for the first and third Thursdays of the month with a special meeting on Dec. 28 to approve the 2024 general fund budget, which is open for 20 days for public review before being voted on for adoption. 

Other county board appointments include:

Salary Board

  • Chairman – Phillips
  • Vice Chairman – Kuhn
  • Secretary – Litz
  • Solicitor – Warner

Assessment Board

  • Chairman – Litz
  • Vice Chairman – Phillips
  • Secretary – Kuhn
  • Administrator – Wolgemuth
  • Chief County Assessor – Daniel L. Seaman
  • Solicitor – Warner

Election Board

  • Chairman – Phillips
  • Vice Chairman – Kuhn
  • Secretary – Litz
  • Chief Administrator – Drasher
  • Solicitor – Warner

The commissioners also voted to:

  • Appoint Jan Morrisey and Emily Longenecker to the board of directors for Visit Lebanon Valley.  
  • Purchase two pairs of Generated Low Output Voltage Emitter gloves for use at the county prison at a cost of $3,990. The cost will be paid at no cost to county taxpayers through an annual grant provided by the county’s liability insurance carrier. 
  • Grant two real estate property tax exemptions to fully disabled veterans.
  • Approve the minutes of its Dec. 22 meeting and the treasurer’s report.
  • Give approval to a number of personnel transactions, including the hiring of nine full-time correctional officers (CO) at the county prison at a rate of $21.84 per hour and one casual part-time CO at the rate of $21.53 per hour. Phillips made note of the new hirings at the prison and Wolgemuth told LebTown after the meeting that there are now only three full-time CO vacancies out of 75 positions. The prison CO staff being nearly at full capacity is quite a contrast from this time last year when the CO staffing levels were at an all-time low. The commissioners took steps last year to increase the pay rate for COs to be competitive with nearby counties.
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using this contact form and we’ll do our best to get back to you.

Do you want to see more from LebTown?

Support local news. Cancel anytime.

Already a member? Login here

Free news isn’t cheap. If you value the journalism LebTown provides to the community, then help us make it sustainable by becoming a champion of local news. You can unlock additional coverage for the community by supporting our work with a one-time contribution, or joining as a monthly or annual member. You can cancel anytime.

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...


LebTown membership required to comment.

Already a member? Login here

Leave a comment

Kindly keep your comments brief and respectful. We will remove comments that do not abide by these simple rules.