Accuweather & Meteorologist: Should Taxpayers Pay for Both?

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HARRISBURG -- We have a follow-up to a Newswatch 16 investigation on the hiring of a state meteorologist during a budget crisis.

Many viewers were critical of the move, others say if state officials hire a meteorologist, they should make cuts someplace else.

State meteorologist Jeff Jumper starts next week and when that happens, one state agency will be paying his $62,000 a year contract. At the same time, another state agency will be paying a private weather service almost twice that amount for regular forecasts.

The state meteorologist will be employed by the state's emergency management agency (PEMA). But agency director Richard Flinn says the meteorologist will provide forecasts and emergency planning for any other state agency that needs the expertise.

"Governor Wolf is very big about having the state organizations working collaboratively together and we're doing that in a lot of different areas," Flinn said.

When Flinn pitched the idea of a state meteorologist to the governor, PEMA's director knew Pennsylvania's budget was tight. So Flinn says the governor's plea for collaboration led him to ask other state agencies if they could also benefit from a meteorologist on PEMA's staff.

"'If I pursue this, would you see value to it? Would you be able to put into it?' And they all agreed, the folks I asked," said Flinn.

At the same time, PennDOT is paying the private weather service Accuweather $116,000 a year for regular forecasts.

We asked the governor's office if this is a duplication of services and today a spokesmen emailed Newswatch 16 a statement saying the state now has a meteorologist and Accuweather.

"...To prepare for future weather incidents, we are going to utilize resources like Accuweather and the hiring of a trained meteorologist by PEMA. Each agency has its own unique needs when it comes to weather."

The governor's office and PennDOT confirmed that PennDOT's $116,000 contract with Accuweather doesn't expire until September 2017 and both agencies say that contract won't be reviewed until then, meaning the state will be paying both its own meteorologist and Accuweather for the next 22 months.

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