"It was a dark and stormy night…" Most of the players showed up as the rains came down; one left early wondering if she could even get home. Some no doubt recalled the floods of June 2006, and indeed some may have run into trouble once the Mountain View School Board meeting on August 13th broke up about 9 o'clock. Three weeks of nearly continuous rains have delayed some parts of the $8 million renovation project at the schools, but the general contractor, Energy Systems Group (ESG), claims the work is mostly on schedule, within budget, and 80% complete.
Four representatives of ESG, Bill Slawter, John Manglaviti, Mike Bayasia and John Schmit offered a comprehensive report on the project so far, pledging that all work in the classrooms will be complete by the opening of school on September 4th. Some work will continue thereafter, with contractors generally committed to working after hours to minimize disruption, although Board President Michael Barhite cautioned that "this year everyone has to bite a little," putting up with some inconvenience as the schools are prepared for the future.
Most of the major systems are already in place, if some of them are not fully functioning quite yet. The new lobby and vestibule in the Elementary School is nearly complete. The historic "hump" in the floor is no more. The ESG people said that, after excavating down to bare dirt, they determined that the cause was "poor installation" originally.
Some of the items delayed include new windows in the High School library; and the new test water well, which is awaiting a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The engineers also presented lists of the items that were either eliminated or postponed due to cost or impracticability, asking which the Board might want to undertake next. These include new outer doors, metal detectors, and solar photo-voltaic (PV) systems. No firm decisions were taken at the meeting.
All involved in the project remarked on the level of cooperation and collaboration among the contractors, and between the contractors and Mountain View staff. Superintendent Karen Voight commented on the polite and courteous demeanor among all of the contractors and their workers. Mountain View Maintenance Supervisor Robert Taylor was especially pleased with ESG and its contractors, and the contractors appreciated some of the help offered by Mr. Taylor's staff. Interested students have followed the project since the beginning and ESG said that they are looking forward to showing them what has been done so far when they return in September.
The Board also welcomed two additions to the Mountain View "family," School Resource Officer (SRO) James Bernosky; and Michael Elia, who will become the new Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Mr. Elia did not have a seat at the table just yet, not yet officially on board. But he will don one of the hats worn for the past many months by Elementary School Principal Chris Lake. Mr. Lake was not at the meeting, but will receive an additional stipend for the extra duties he has been carrying.
Mr. Bernosky, a retired 25-year veteran of the State Police, occupies a position funded in part out of the county District Attorney's office, and in part by the state. All of his 4 children have been educated at Mountain View. The SRO is an armed security officer stationed in the schools and has become standard equipment since the recent spate of shootings in schools around the country.
The Board gave formal approval to two new policies covering "Weapons/Acts of Violence" and "Terroristic Threats/Terroristic Acts" that have been under discussion for the past few months. They also heard the first reading of modifications to the Board's policy covering truancy.
The truancy policy is to be updated to comply with the state's Act 138 of 2016 that sets out stricter guidelines for handling unexcused absences from school, yet attempts to define the preservation of family unity as a primary goal. A student under the age of 18 will be considered truant after 3 unexcused absences, and "chronically truant" after 6 such absences. Parents or guardians of a truant student will be offered a so-called Student Attendance Improvement Plan (SAIP) – formerly known as a Truancy Elimination Plan (TEP). Refusal to participate in such a plan can have legal consequences, as set forth in the policy.
The Board approved a revised school calendar for the upcoming year to accommodate modified "PSSA window" dates.
Members also approved lists of bus contractors and substitute bus drivers. They then gave a raise to operators of activity buses of about 2%, to $2.655 per mile. Similarly, bus contractor rates were increase by 2 cents per mile for each of cars, vans and wheelchair accessible vehicles.
High School Principal Robert Presley asked for guidance on a few issues as he prepares handbooks for the new school year. One that caused some discussion was the matter of letter awards in athletics. Some in the community have apparently complained that a "letter" award has become little more than a certificate of participation; some would like a letter to be awarded only to those with significant achievements in sports.
Other school districts present letters only to athletes who have competed for 3 years or more. Mountain View requires only 1 year on a varsity squad to earn a letter. On the other hand, what, exactly, is a "letter?" Mr. Presley suggested that the $260 jackets are no longer in fashion; perhaps a plaque instead?
The Board then proceeded to boost the ticket price to indoor events for outsiders by one dollar, to $3 for adults, $2 for others; senior citizens and military will still get in free. The "family pass" is the most popular option, and that remains at $20 for a season. The question remained, just who is covered by a "family" pass.
Ms. Voigt asked the Board to consider a 3-hour delay option for inclement weather, in addition to the currently standard 2-hour delay of school. A 3-hour delay would mean cutting a half day from school, but would offer administrators greater flexibility. The 2-hour delay would remain the default standard, however.
A parent asked the reasoning behind the $30-per-year insurance offered on the Chromebook computers distributed to students: for 4 years, that's $120. Ah, said Mr. Presley, but a new Chromebook costs about $270. Just to replace a screen unit costs about $90. The insurance is optional, but recommended, and helps to cover at least some of the cost of handling and maintaining the computers.
A former coach asked why she wasn't notified that her position had been given to someone else for the new year. All coaching positions are reopened each year. Mr. Presley said that his office does not handle hiring, but he conceded that a long-time coach probably should have received at least a phone call, and offered to discuss the particular situation in private.
And finally, a parent of a budding violist gave an extended and impassioned plea for the Board to support the intermediate string program offered through Marywood University. The Board has been considering subsidizing the program up to $5,000. But, according to Mr. Barhite, several possible objections have been raised, including the fact that Mountain View already offers a broad music program, and, after all, if the Board accedes to this request, perhaps the next would be, say, a dance program. Most Board members have said they support the proposal, but so far it has not come to a vote. Mr. Barhite promised to put in on the agenda again for the next meeting.
Which is scheduled for Monday, August 27, 2018, beginning at 7:00pm. It will probably be in the library in the High School, but it might be back in the refurbished conference room in the Elementary School. One must be flexible.
Lanesboro Council members unanimously adopted a Resolution to settle an outstanding matter with AWK Drilling for a settlement of three thousand dollars at their meeting on August 14th.
Police Chief Jim Smith presented the July, 2018 monthly report to Council members, which consisted of eighteen traffic stops, five citations, and thirteen warnings. The eighteen stops involved nine speeding violations, three inspection violations, one driving without a license, two careless driving violations, and three equipment violations in Lanesboro. There were five arrests made, one for Driving While Intoxicated, burglary, suspicious person, Protection From Abuse Order defied, and a suspicious vehicle. Officers also responded to assisting other communities, a burning violation, and a welfare check.
Thompson Boroughs' monthly Police Report consisted of ten traffic stops, four citations and six warnings. The ten stops involved five speeding violations, one stop sign violation, one-inspection violation, two careless driving violations and one equipment violation. Two charges were made for criminal mischief and trespassing. Officers responded to a medical call and a lost dog.
Chief Smith stated Officer Tillman Smith is scheduled for retirement and his last day was Thursday, August 16th. The newly hired officer, Dylan Amplo is working out very well and will be stationed at the school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays. Chief Smith said Officer John Creamer would be at the school on Mondays and Fridays.
The 2008 Chevrolet Impala has one hundred two thousand miles and is no longer under warranty. Chief Smith said he doesn't think they should put more money into the car since they are looking to purchase a newer model with fewer miles. After a few minutes of discussion, Council motioned to advertise to sell the vehicle, asking for sealed bids which will be opened at Council's next scheduled meeting on September 11th.
Mayor Chris Maby provided an update to the sidewalk project, reporting Penelec and the PA American Water Company are holding up the project. As reported by PennDOT they still have not received the required paperwork from those two companies.
The Mini Gym, which will be available for the Wrestling Club, Cheerleaders, and Boy Scouts, among others to use, will be approximately forty-eight by sixty feet. Mayor Maby suggested Council add another sixteen feet to the building to house the Police Vehicles. He said there would still be plenty of room for the sports using the field. Council agreed it would be an asset keeping the cars out of the elements. Mayor Maby will call and obtain a price and report back to Council at the next meeting.
Lanesboro is still seeking a Borough Secretary, if interested please call the office at 853-4781.
Ken Bondurant, New Milford Township's Emergency Management Coordinator, prepared a "Declaration of Disaster Emergency" for the Supervisors' signatures at their August meeting on the 15th. Thankful that the township experienced no major damage as a result of recent heavy rains, Mr. Bondurant said that the declaration simply puts the township on record in case something new comes up. He especially appreciated efforts by the county commissioners to keep the public informed, in particular about road closures, through the county website and Facebook pages.
The Supervisors were attended by their solicitor, Michael Briechle, presumably as a follow-on to an executive session prior to the public meeting. Supervisor Don Shibley said that the closed session covered litigation and personnel matters. Asked for elaboration about the litigation, Mr. Briechle would say only that it involved "inquiries," and that it did not involve the township suing or being sued.
Mr. Briechle also offered a sewage planning package he was given for the supervisors to review from Lackawanna College for their facility near the Flying J at the Gibson exit on the interstate. He also reported that discussions with a landman about renewing the township's gas lease with Southwestern Energy are on-going.
One of the usual run of documents from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was notice that DEP had sent back a plan revision for a truck washing operation at the Flying J truck stop, saying that it doesn't meet their requirements and recommending that no permits be issued for the project for now.
The township also received some documents from the state Auditor General and the state Office of the Budget. No one seemed to know what the former was about, so Mr. Briechle will study it and report back; it appears to be concerned with Act 204 of 1985, which relates to pensions for non-union police officers. Years ago the township, in cooperation with some of its neighboring municipalities, operated a joint police force. The force's pension accounts had been in dispute for a very long time, so perhaps the auditor is just clearing up some details. The letter from the budget office requires the township to name two individuals authorized to communicate with the office on a "validation process."
The Supervisors reviewed a pair of subdivision plans, one of them, a "non-residential" subdivision for CBH Investments, operators of the large diggings on the east side of the interstate at the Gibson exit. No one as yet seems to know what that development is all about, and the subdivision plan was not enlightening.
A couple appeared at the meeting to ask who might be responsible for the flooding of Beaver Creek that is causing them considerable grief, with several feet of water in their yard and basement. Apart from the almighty, the Supervisors and Mr. Briechle suggested approaching the county Conservation District. The Supervisors were sympathetic, and offered to help clear the creek if the proper permits could be obtained. According to Roadmaster Jack Conroy, a machine like a backhoe or excavator can be used to clean up a stream bed as long as the machine is not placed in the bed of the stream itself.
There were no financial reports available this month, and no township secretary attended to meeting.
The next public meeting of the New Milford Township Supervisors is scheduled for Wednesday, September 19, 2018, beginning at 7:30pm at the township offices on U.S. Route 11 north of the borough.