Carbon County commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved an ordinance that will make it the guarantor of a $20 million bond series on behalf of Blue Mountain Health System to help cover a frozen pension fund at Lehighton’s Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital.

Hospital officials said last week the pension fund is underfunded by $16 million.

“We believe in the hospital and want to keep them as a top employer here in the county,” Commissioner William O’Gurek said. “Prior boards have done similar actions. We wanted to be a part of a solution to help preserve jobs at a hospital serves the medical needs of this county.”

The pension fund for the 600 Gnaden Huetten employees who were vested in it before the merger will be closed after it is fully funded. Employees in this fund will then have two options, either opt into an annuity to receive payments from the pension fund once they retire, or take a cash payout so that they can invest that money on their own.

“We’re all in this together,” Andrew Harris, president and CEO of Blue Mountain Health System, said. “Any profit we make goes to two things, capital to improve the hospital or to our employees.”

For Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein, the decision to assist the hospital hits home.

Within the past two months, two of his family members have used Gnaden Huetten’s emergency room services.

“The people were great to work with and we really need that type of care here in Carbon County so that we don’t have to go outside the area in that kind of situation,” he said.

Other business

Other items that the commissioners took action on included the approval of:

• Advertisements related to the 2016 county budget.

• Reappointment of Theresa “Terry” Warnagiris of Weatherly to a five-year term on the Parks and Recreation Commission.

• The Children and Youth Services fourth quarter fiscal year 2014-15 invoice/report.

• A change order increasing to the contract with Dirt Work Solutions by $2,820 for water and sewer improvements on Tamaqua Street in Beaver Meadows.

• Three change orders decreasing contracts with the Service Team for the home rehabilitation program by a total of $22,385.

• The annual service/maintenance agreement with Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Institute in support of the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification System in the county at a cost of $2,451.03. It is a $340.73 increase over the previous agreement.

• An extension of a professional services agreement with Delta Development Group related to the fire and emergency services training facility project from Nov. 2, 2015, through March 2, 2016.