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HomeMain News ( December 12, 2018 )

New Milford Presents Awards

By Lillian Senko

Mayor Scott Smith presented to three young men working towards their Eagle Scout Badge Recognition of Service Awards during Council's meeting on December 6th. Mayor Smith stated, "These three fine individuals came to the Borough Council and offered their services in July of this year. They have completed the projects they each proposed and did a wonderful job."

Matthew J. Glatzel built three picnic tables, to be used by the pool area in Blue Ridge Park. Benjamin B. Gudykunst installed lights on the scoreboard, and built a planter around it. Thomas K. Gudykunst scraped and painted the pavilion, barbeques and stained the new picnic tables. These young men provided dedicated service and hard work. Mayor Smith and Council thanked the young men for thinking about how to improve their town and parks.

Benjamin and Thomas reported they both turned eighteen and have achieved their Eagle Scout status and all three young men thanked Council and the Mayor for the opportunity to work with them towards their Badge, and providing the funds to do the project.

Mayor Smith said he would like to thank Eleanor and Chuck Lempke for the Christmas decorations at the gazebo, the tree and the planter boxes. Eleanor said it was a community effort. Karin and Chuck Welch cut down the tree and put it up in the gazebo. Debbie and Tim Gardner hung up the wreath, and Judy from Flowers by Judy made the bows with the ribbon she gave her.

Amy Hine, Terri Gulick, Rick Ainey and the Men's Club were all recognized with special thanks from Mayor Smith for their contributions to the Santa in the Park event. Councilwoman Gulick said they had approximately 90 children in attendance.

Council President Rick Ainey reported he, along with Councilwoman Welch and Chuck Welch met with two representatives from the railroad, three PennDOT representatives, one representative from the Conservation District and one representative from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).  The Johnston Street Bridge and road need to be repaired and President Ainey happily reported the PUC representative made a directive. New Milford Borough would be responsible for repairing the road and the railroad would be responsible for the structure.

Borough Council unanimously approved Ordinance number 210 to repeal the Recreation Board Ordinance. It was becoming too difficult to achieve any headway at the meetings when they didn't have enough people attending to make a quorum. The Recreation Board members will now be known simply as a Recreation Committee.

Council unanimously adopted the 2019 Budget Ordinance number 209 of six hundred eleven thousand, three hundred forty dollars, setting the tax millage at zero; 1 millage for fire, and no property tax.

Councilman Dan Totten presented to Council a Resolution regarding billing for services that the Columbia Hose Company provides to car accidents or home fires. The resolution states Council authorizes the hose company to bill for services. Council members had questions on the rate schedule and Councilman Totten will ask the billing service to forward the information to Council. He said people with no insurance are not billed, they only bill the insurance companies directly. There is no charge for a false alarm, only for services dispatched through 911.

Council will not be holding a second meeting for the month of December. The next scheduled meeting will be January 3rd at 6:30pm.

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Blue Ridge Board Reorganizes (Not)

By Ted Brewster

The last meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board for 2018 on December 3rd might not have set a record for brevity, but it must have come close. Billed as a "reorganization" meeting, which school boards in Pennsylvania must do at the close of each calendar year, the agenda listed only 3 items: elect a temporary president (Christine Cosmello), then elect a new president and vice president. To no one's surprise, Chris Lewis was elected president again, with Ed Arnold his vice.

More interesting was the recognition given to the varsity volleyball squad, most of whom attended the meeting with their coaches. The high school girls won what is thought to be their 5th PIAA division championship in a row.

The Board also entertained Chris Caterson, representing the Montrose Lions Club, who presented a check for $1,260 to Director of Curriculum & Instruction Matthew Nebzydoski. The money will help to defray the cost of equipment that will be used to train staff and students in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Mr. Caterson said that his organization was proud to sponsor the Blue Ridge Leo Club, and claimed to "have a lot of money" to help them out in their various endeavors. Mr. Nebz tried to recite all of the activities to which Leo Club members devote their time, but said he just couldn't keep track.

Oh, there was one more item on the agenda: the schedule of board meetings for the coming year. The next public one will be on Monday, January 14, 2019 beginning at 7:00pm in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.

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Grants Awarded To SCSD

By Lillian Senko

On Wednesday, December 5th the Susquehanna Community School District started the meeting as their Annual Reorganization. After all was said and done, Steven Stanford will remain School Board President and Jamie Koziol as Vice President by unanimous decision. At 7:05 the reorganization meeting closed and the regular monthly meeting commenced.

Ellen Holdredge and John Manchester were in attendance to award grants from the Susquehanna Chapter of Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees. The two recipients of the grant were Karen Downton, who requested her grant to be used to help fund a family math night, and Travis Pregnar, to be used for a project in metal shop.

Superintendent Bronson Stone reported they are gearing up for the Title I federal programs audit and the Strategic plan, and a meeting concerning both will be held in January.

The Future Ready PA Index report consists of a bunch of colors and shows how the school district does in various areas, reported Superintendent Stone. He said they did very well but there is always room for improvement. The first area of improvement would be elementary math, and the second the special education sub group.

Principal Peter Supko reported ninety-three percent of the parents showed up for parent teacher conference. He also reported the sixth grade focus is increasing open-ended responses and they will track their progress throughout the school year, preparing for the Keystone Exams.

The Big Brother, Big Sister Program donated ornaments for the children to decorate during the Secret Santa Workshop.

Business Manager Gary Kiernan stated the current fund balance stands at five point four million dollars. There was a transfer of one hundred five thousand dollars to cover expenses for the cafeteria, mostly towards salaries and benefits.

Kevin Price, head of Maintenance reported they were conducting lead testing in both schools, and an air quality test in room 110 and the high school basement area. They made precautionary measures cleaning with diluted Clorox and water due to a higher fungal count in the HS basement area. The next scheduled testing for air quality is on December 6th.

A grant was submitted to replace doors at the Elementary school for two double doors by the playground, two at the high school for the gym exit, six exit doors in the high school corridor and perhaps one elementary school double door by the gym.

School Board members adopted a Resolution whereas the Susquehanna Community School District Board of Directors has made the decision it shall not raise the rate of any tax for the support of the school district for the 2019-2020 fiscal year by more than its index of 3.4%.

The following personnel were approved pending clearances: Bill Burge, Jr. High Boys Basketball Assistant Coach; Dan Maurer, Homework Club Substitute; Rachel Wargo, Special Education Teacher.

Remote Area Medicine (RAM) USA was approved to use the school district campus in June of 2020 to provide a free medical/dental service event for the community.

Chad Haley was appointed to serve on the Susquehanna Community School District Board of Education for Region II effective December 5, 2018 until December 3, 2019.

Ashlie Yoder was appointed to serve on the Susquehanna Community School District Board of Education for Region III, effective January 16, 2019 until December 3, 2019.

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Great Bend Wants To Hire

By Ted Brewster

Prior to the December meeting on the 6th, members of the Great Bend Borough Council gathered to interview a candidate for their workforce. The Borough can only afford one part-time maintenance worker, and right now they don't have even that, with Councilman Mike VanGorden and crews from the encircling township filling in to plow snow.

The name of the applicant wasn't made available, but during the interview he was found to be experienced, and, during the business meeting Council decided to make him an offer of $15.00 per hour for up to about 30 hours a week. With winter upon us, "We can't do without a town worker," said Councilman Jerry MacConnell. If he takes the job, he will be on probation for 3 months, and will have to make the Borough's needs a priority, particularly when it snows.

The problem arose when the town's maintenance worker stopped showing up. Calls for information yielded no response, so it was assumed that he had relinquished the position, and Council had been casting about for at least temporary help. The Borough's budget allocates only $23,000 for the position, which carries no benefits, and the offer will be slightly more than the town pays its police officers.

That budget was almost an afterthought at the meeting, when they gave formal approval to a new one for 2019. Council is extremely reluctant to increase tax rates for its tiny population, so taxes will remain level next year, with expenditures rising only modestly to a total of $230,500. Of that the police force consumes $42,500, some of which is offset by lending their services to New Milford.

Council is increasingly agitated about its relationship with the local Little League organization, which uses the ballfield at VFW Recreation Park in the warmer months. Council wants to nail down who is responsible for what at the park, but a "contract" they worked out with the Little League has languished for what is perceived to be a lack of cooperation. Council President Rick Franks told his colleagues that he would attend the next Little League meeting to see who's who, and to discover their intentions.

Council has been hashing out the details of what it would like to implement from the model International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). Now that they have decided on a preliminary subset of the code to implement in their jurisdiction, they will need to figure out "where to go from here," in the words of Mr. Franks. Mr. MacConnell, for one, does not want the county Council of Governments (COG) to be involved, although Borough Secretary Sheila Guinan has recommended that COG assume responsibility for enforcement of the regulations that will attempt to get property owners to keep their buildings and grounds in suitable repair. Mr. MacConnell has a couple of local people in mind, whom he hopes will accept the job on a volunteer basis.

Council received a pair of letters from the New Milford Municipal Authority (NMMA) in response to letters they were sent by Councilman Bret Jennings, who also serves on the board of the Hallstead-Great Bend Joint Sewer Authority (HGBJSA). NMMA contracts with the HGBJSA to handle its sewage, but the latter claims that NMMA has failed to live up to its financial obligations under the contract. The dispute has been languishing since at least 2008, and now the HGBJSA, through Mr. Jennings, is threatening to cut off access to the sewer system, and demands that NMMA cut off water supply to its own subscribers. Since Great Bend Borough has none of its own dogs in that fight, the letters were considered informational.

The Borough has also received a letter from the Northeastern Pennsylvania Telephone Company (NEP) offering to provide cable television and other services in the Borough. The Borough has an arrangement with Adams Cable under which the town receives a fee for access to its residents. NEP would have to do the same, and an NEP representative will attend the next Borough Council meeting to discuss their proposal.

That next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 3, 2018, at which time Council will organize itself for the coming year. The regular meeting schedule remains the same, the first Thursday of each month, beginning at 7:00pm in the Borough building at Franklin and Elizabeth Streets (the Blue Ridge Senior Center).

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Cabot Oil & Gas Supports Elk Lake

By Kelly Burke

On Tuesday December, 4th the Elk Lake School District Board convened their monthly meeting. First on the agenda were nominations for a new School Board President and Vice President. The Board takes nominations from an alphabetical list of current Board members. Board member Ann Teel replaced Chuck Place as President and Arden Tewksbury took the seat of Vice President, replacing Jack Sible.

"Food insecurity" was a main topic of discussion at the meeting. The program, "Backpack Week-end" was conceived and implemented last year by Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center (SCCTC) educator Lisa Smith. Money was raised through fundraisers and food was collected by students and faculty from SCCTC to be packed and handed out to students in the elementary school for week-ends and extended school breaks. According to SCCTC over 55% of students attending the Elk Lake elementary school are below the poverty line. Marc Weisgold, elementary Principal reports that SCCTC students are at the elementary school on a daily basis working to divide the non-perishable food items and pack them into bags to be placed into school backpacks by the elementary teachers. The Backpack Week-end Program gives students attending SCCTC the opportunity to organize and run a charitable program, while providing for families in the District. Superintendent Dr. Cuomo said he is proud of the programs in Elk Lake School District that give back to the community and focus on students. Monetary and non-perishable food donations can be dropped off at SCCTC on a daily basis.

Cabot Gas and Oil, a company headquartered in Texas has committed a million dollars for a ten year program in the Elk Lake elementary school. Area residents were instructed and guided by Cabot Gas and Oil to build six portable interactive "stations" for elementary students. The stations are an interactive tool to teach students about the gas and oil industry. Principal Weisgold said the students enjoy working with the six stations that are brought into the gymnasium.

Peoples Security Bank & Trust is again offering a $28,500 Community Foundation scholarship to dual enrollment students from the District. There are currently over 200 college courses high school students can take in the dual enrollment program.

John Warnero, Assistant Principal of the high school was present to thank the Board on behalf of the students who play sports for their continuous support. Warnero told the Board that the students were appreciative of the opportunities they received from all the sporting programs. Warnero also asked the Board, and was granted approval of several more coaching positions for the school year.

A revision to the Driver's Education graduation requirement was approved by the Board. If a student has a current valid driver's license he/she is no longer mandated to take the Driver's Education course as a graduation requirement. The student will get a passing grade without taking the course if he/she possesses a driver's license.

Also, approved by the Board was an additional 3 hour school delay option. The Elk Lake School District will now have the option of delaying school for three hours. The two hour delay will still be used, however the District may now delay school three hours due to inclement weather.

The Board was asked to approve a higher salary for substitute nurses. Currently, a substitute nurse is paid $90.00 per day by the District. The District has two nurses. The Board was asked and did approve of a salary increase for substitute nurses. Registered nurses will now receive $130.00, LPNs will be paid $115.00 and school certified nurses will be paid $140.00.

The School Budget was discussed by the Board members and the school administrators on-hand at the meeting. In particular, the $550,000 the District is required to pay for Cyber Charter Schools. Cyber Charter Schools are an option for Pennsylvania residents. The Elk Lake School District must allocate $550,000 of their school budget towards the Cyber Charter Schools. Questions were raised by Board members on ways to eliminate or lessen the amount. One option would be for the Elk Lake School District to create their own Cyber school. The exact cost of doing so is unknown, but may be looked into further by the administration and Board.

The next School Board meeting is scheduled for January 15th.

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Oakland Borough Ices Budget

By Ted Brewster

Four members of the Oakland Borough Council (Valerie Senese, Gary Boughton, Dave Dibble and Christine Deakin) assembled for a special meeting on December 7th, 2018 to adopt some kind of a budget for 2019 before the deadline passes, and they voted unanimously to "freeze" the budget – that is, to reuse the 2018 budget – and revisit it early next year.

Oakland Mayor Ron Beavan had developed a budget for the new year, but the newest council member, Valerie Senese, found a number of anomalies in the figures and recommended that it be set aside. Concluding her detailed analysis, Ms. Senese said that "the numbers don't add up." Mr. Beavan did not attend the meeting.

Mr. Beavan's draft budget proposed boosting property tax rates by more than 2 mills. Given the uncertainties in the borough's finances, council did not feel comfortable asking the taxpayers for more money.

The biggest, and perhaps most complicated, issue involves the borough's water authority. Nominally independent, the authority and the borough share the services of both a secretary and a streets worker; and it seems that the authority also shares a bank account with the borough. At the same time, according to Ms. Senese, the authority is significantly in arears in its payments to the borough. The authority claims that it is out of money, and has promised a payment of over $12,000 early next year. But the shortfall puts the borough's own budget in deficit, not to mention jeopardy, and no one seems to have a handle on what to do about it. Ms. Senese said that when she consulted the borough's auditor, he hung up on her.

(When the Oakland water authority was established and town water distributed to its 300-odd residents, meters were installed at each of its 230-some households, but apparently they didn't work, so the water authority now prices water at a flat rate. Council has talked about selling the water authority, perhaps to a private entity.)

In addition to freezing the budget, council agreed to give serious consideration to some changes in the new year. For one thing, they will probably cut the full health insurance coverage provided to the streets worker, a significant cost to the borough for what amounts to a part-time position. They also expect to cease honoring requests for donations to various causes. And there was talk of cutting the police budget, among other things.

Although it's a little hard to tell from the published budget for 2018, it seems that the borough expected revenues of $148,889 as against $144,719 in expenditures. Ms. Senese said that it looks like the little town will end the year nearly $30,000 short. (The mayor's proposed budget expected a deficit next year of about $62,000; thus the tax increase, which Ms. Senese said probably wouldn't cover the deficit anyway.)

The members present concurred with Ms. Senese that council should meet monthly on finances in order to better get the borough's house in order, and that bill lists should be available at each meeting so that everyone can see where the money is going.

Contact the borough office on Route 171 for information about meeting schedules.

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Lanesboro Adopts Budget

By Lillian Senko

Lanesboro Council members unanimously approved the 2019 budget of two hundred ninety-two thousand, eighty-four dollars during the regularly scheduled meeting held on December 4th. The advertised budget was available for viewing by residents for comments or questions before adoption.

Attorney Myron Dewitt has acted as Lanesboro Solicitor for the past twenty-eight years and submitted his 2019 professional rate for services of one hundred fifty-five dollars with a required monthly retainer fee of same amount. Attorney Dewitt stated it was a discounted price from his private clients and Council unanimously approved continuing with his services.

Mayor Chris Maby passed along a Fabcor Inc. request for permission to use the park as a staging area during the construction phase on the Rail to Trails project located by the Starrucca Creek. Council members discussed this request and suggested drawing up a written agreement to protect Lanesboro against any damages to the park, assuring the park would be in its natural state at the end of their use.

Chief Jim Smith provided the November Police Report to Mayor and Council, which consisted of sixteen traffic stops comprised of six citations issued, and ten warnings given. Officers also responded to calls for harassment, domestic dispute, dog bite, child abuse, theft, burglary alarm, parking complaint, motor vehicle accident, medical call, hospital lockdown, landlord tenant dispute, dead deer in roadway, assist motorist, serving sewer shut off notices, assist Sheriff and Susquehanna PD, and courtesy transport in Lanesboro and Harmony Township.

In Thompson Borough, Officers responded to a parking complaint, an unsecured house, and seven traffic stops consisting of five warnings and two citations.

Chief Smith reported the 2010 Ford Explorer sustained damage to a window by malicious vandalism, and the window was replaced. Council discussed purchasing cameras for the borough building, with no decision made at this meeting.

The gentleman who submitted the highest bid for the Chevrolet Impala police vehicle was in attendance to pay the six hundred dollars. The new police vehicle has been received and Council will now advertise to sell the Ford Crown Victoria by bid process.

Council President Dan Boughton informed Council he reported the runoff problem on Viaduct Street using the PennDOT Website. After he reported it he noticed the issue was resolved, but then reappeared. Snow has been melting since then and it's been raining, which may account for the reappearance of the problem. President Boughton stated PennDOT has been notified and they're aware of the problem.

Freddy's Refuse Removal informed Council, due to the holiday falling on a pickup day the refuse will be picked up early Monday, December 24th and Monday, December 31st. They suggested residents put out trash on Sunday night.

The next scheduled meeting is January 8, 2019.

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