New Milford Township Supervisors held two special meetings on June 1st and September 11th, and an executive session during their scheduled September meeting on the 19th, that have resulted in some administrative and staff changes. Many details were not forthcoming, but appear to have involved some bookkeeping issues.
On June 1, the Supervisors placed long-time township Secretary Julene Graham on paid leave and appointed Nancy Tyler interim township Treasurer. Ms. Tyler also acted as township Secretary at meetings over the summer. At that same meeting the Supervisors appointed a special solicitor, Philip Gelso, on a retainer of $25,000, and retained Yukanin & Zabriski, CPAs "to provide accounting services" at an initial fee of $3,000.
On September 11, in an executive session, the Supervisors terminated Ms. Graham's employment with the township. They also discussed "litigation issues involving tax investigation."
Following the executive session on September 19, the Supervisors appointed Angelo Ventresca Associates of Fairdale as the township's Treasurer, and Mary Jo Weston as the township's new Secretary. Ms. Weston accepted her new position with a chair at the table.
Financial statements (Treasurer's reports, bill lists) have not been available for two months, but the Supervisors (and their solicitor, Michael Briechle) hope that will be corrected with the changes in administration.
Most of the rest of the official meeting on the 19th was routine for New Milford Township: a series of notices from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and various natural gas companies about well pads and other related activities.
A fuel oil spill on East Shore Drive at Pages Lake is expected to be fixed, according to a DEP report. A representative of the lake association said that a boom installed at the property seemed to indicate that the spill leaked into the lake, but most of the problems were in the soil surrounding the property.
Mr. Briechle presented agreements for one of his clients regarding a sewage holding tank escrow account. The escrow requirement is nearly unique to New Milford Township, and is intended to indemnify the township in case such an installation requires remediation by the township.
The Supervisors approved a subdivision behind the State Police barracks where a new county 911 center is to be built on 15.8 acres. The subdivision was allowed pending approval of acceptable sewage provisions.
Township Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Bondurant reported that "we were very lucky" compared to the township's neighbors during recent flooding. He commended the township's crew for keeping the roads open, and said that Roadmaster Jack Conroy had acted quickly to get emergency permits from DEP to clear 2 creeks. DEP does not generally allow direct dredging of waterways, but does issue permits for emergency situations like this.
Mr. Bondurant said that there had been no "presidential declaration" so far for the most recent floods, but that thresholds for Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance had been met for municipal expenditures; individual assistance is still not assured.
Two representatives of the Pages Lake area appeared at the meeting to complain of "blighted" properties that they think should be dealt with…somehow. New Milford Township does not appear to have a "nuisance" ordinance, so it was unclear what could be done about structures that seem to be abandoned and potentially dangerous.
Mr. Briechle recited a long list of impediments to such regulation, not least of which might be how to enforce it. He said that some communities, including Susquehanna Depot, have implemented parts of the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) to try to deal with such situations. But the process can be expensive and complicated to manage. Mr. Bondurant suggested that an escrow requirement be applied by ordinance in such cases, analogous to the one used for on-lot sewage installations.
One of those representatives, Bill Friedah, then opened a lengthy discussion about his campaign to connect the Pages Lake area to the New Milford and Hallstead-Great Bend sewer system. Supervisor Don Shibley said he has been dealing with this issue for at least 12 years, with changes to the faces but no real resolution. And once again he stated emphatically, "the township does not want to be in the sewer business."
The lake community is suffering from the age of its collection of on-lot septic systems. Property owners are desperate for a solution, and seek the support of the surrounding community. They assert that they will pay all of the costs associated with such a project – which could cost upwards of $4 million – but that they need a relationship with a municipal authority of some sort so that they can apply for grants and loans. Yet the township doesn't want to become a resource of last resort in case the project falls through, either at the outset or in the future.
The lake association has already hired JHA Companies, engineers based in Montrose, to develop a high-level plan. They argue that development of the Route 492 corridor is in the interest of the township, and that a sewer system offers an incentive to such development. JHA has assigned Travis Long to work on the plan; Mr. Long is project overseer for a major upgrade to the Harford Township Sewer System and has extensive expertise in the area.
Mr. Briechle outlined the potential complexity of a plan to connect that corridor to the New Milford Borough system, one that could lead to the system ultimately being declared a "public utility." The Supervisors and their solicitor are urging the property owners and their engineers to come up with a solution that does not involve the participation of New Milford Township, perhaps even a private sewage "corporation" with its own processing plant.
And finally, the Supervisors agreed to donate $100 to the Great Bend Hose Company for a fire prevention and safety demonstration at the Blue Ridge schools.
The New Milford Township Supervisors are expected to meet next in public session on Wednesday, October 17, 2018, beginning at 7:30pm at the township office on US Route 11 north of the borough.
Harford Township Supervisors met half an hour earlier than usual on September 18th to select a replacement for Sue Furney, who resigned her seat on the board abruptly last month. Between the two applicants, Supervisors Dustin Walker and Kyle Payne chose Jim Phelps as the most knowledgeable and experienced. Mr. Phelps took a seat at the table, but is ineligible to vote until he takes the oath of office before a notary public. He will have to stand for election in November, 2019.
Mr. Phelps was the Harford's Road-master until he was released last year; the reason(s) for his release have not been disclosed. Mr. Phelps's brother, Doug, yielded his seat on the board to Mr. Payne following the election last November.
Once the business meeting got under way, the assembly heard from Joe Hunt and Travis Long of JHA Companies, the township's engineers, about the status and condition of the sewer system. They reported that all of the work to replace older pumps had been completed, and all of the spare pumps have already been installed. A major problem in the sewer line hear Sherwood Hill Road was also corrected. According to the bill list, nearly $13,000 was spent on the sewer system over the past few weeks.
Mr. Long will be heading up the project to refurbish the sewer plant, under a low-interest loan guarantee from the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development program. He said that he has worked with the USDA and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to rework the original plan, that he said included some work that is not necessary, and omitted some elements that should have been included. The USDA guarantee on the $2 million project is good for 5 years, and Mr. Long is confident that the deadline can be met. He also said that the original plan probably would have cost more than the original estimate, but that his modified plan should remain well within budget. He offered some paperwork for the Supervisors to review.
He also presented a large pile of paperwork to township Secretary Carolyn Jennings that must be submitted to DEP by early October for a 5-year renewal of the sewer plant's operating permit. Back in 2005 the township paid a hefty fine for submitting the renewal application late.
Otherwise, Mr. Hunt and Mr. Long both assured the Supervisors that the number of pump failures is decreasing, the system is working well in general, and that the plant itself is in good shape. Mr. Long will be developing a plan for the continued financing of the system.
Financing major elements of the sewer system from Act 13 "impact fee" money is questioned by some, since the sewer system benefits only some residents of the township. Mr. Walker said that the township's solicitor has determined that such expenditures are legal, but agreed that perhaps the Supervisors could be more transparent about them.
On the other end of the water system, Jacob Rosen reported on potential problems with the domestic water supply in the village of Harford following the recent rains that gouged out Leslie Creek at Decker Court, exposing a vulnerable section of the 70-year-old cast iron water main. Decker Court is a private driveway that has been undermined by the flood-waters. Mr. Rosen said that according to one estimate, the cost to protect the water main and shore up the driveway could exceed $40,000. He said that, while the water authority is financially solvent, it could not afford such an expense alone.
Mr. Walker reported that assistance for damage to private property from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is already available, but that fortunately few if any residents of Harford were directly affected by recent rains that caused so much damage elsewhere in the area. On the other hand, the township is still awaiting word about support for municipal works affected by the water. More than $20,000 on the bill list was attributed to work on washed-out roads.
The township is beginning to prepare for winter. Road-master Kyle Payne said that all township roads are now open, and that he is looking to replace one or both of the old Mack trucks. One of the Macks will not survive another inspection, and both of them are showing their age. The township will solicit bids for a used tandem-axle dump truck outfitted with plow and spreader. He said such a vehicle would probably cost up to $100,000. Mr. Walker would also like to solicit bids for snow plowing services to supplement the township's own resources as necessary.
With another year quickly passing, the Supervisors are considering a new budget. They scheduled 2 work sessions to develop a budget for 2019 on successive Tuesday evenings, October 2 and 9, 2018, beginning at 7:00pm.
The Mountain View School District has asked the township to waive the substantial permit fees assessed during the renovation project at the schools. Last month the Supervisors generally agreed to waive the fees, but needed clarification from the engineers before formally proceeding. This time they formally agreed to waive a total of $38,000 in fees, reserving only $2,500 for each building to cover unanticipated expenses related to inspections.
The township received only one bid to repair the office building following the damage caused by hail in May. Jeffrey Katchmore of Garvin Construction made a repeat performance and the Supervisors accepted his company's bid of $57,964. He said that, while the insurance company estimated the cost at only $50,000, he said his company was confident that it could work out the difference with the insurer and was willing to accept that risk at no cost to the township. He said that the work would commence within 30 days, and would require only a 10% down payment.
Mr. Katchmore also repeated his pitch to fix the facilities at the ball-field, including a steel roof to replace the shingles and a color scheme to match that of the Mountain View Eagles, the extra cost to be a donation by his company. Since the ballplayers' organization has a say in the matter, a decision on the ball-field repairs is deferred. The township is still considering the creation of a parks and recreation committee that would also cover the ball-field.
The next general meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors is scheduled for Tuesday, October 16, 2018, beginning at 7:00pm at the township office on Route 547. The budget work sessions are also open to the public.
During the Susquehanna Area School Board meeting held on September 19th, a resounding claim from all was what a great start it was to the new school year. Superintendent Bronson Stone said it was wonderful everything was going so well with two new principals.
Superintendent Stone reported a grant was submitted for Title VI, which would provide funds to purchase Ti 84 Calculators, Chromebook Cart, and Math Software for the high school.
The Strategic Plan Survey yielded seventy-five responses, which was very positive stated Superintendent Stone. Eighty percent felt the graduating students were readily prepared for college, jobs and/or the military. Answering questions included in the survey, people responded they would like to see increased student engagement and increased safety and security measures.
Friday, September 14th the annual football game was held and Superintendent Stone said it was probably the most enjoyable football game he's attended and a great evening. He thanked Monteforte Fireworks for an outstanding show, and Freddy's Refuse for their donation.
Principal Brent Soden reported he challenged the students to take the "Academic Honesty" Pledge, promising they will do their own work. He also reported Friday, October 5th Homecoming will start with a Parade starting at 5:00, a little earlier than previous years to be able to fit the Powder Puff game before the traditional bon fire.
September 19th was International Talk Like a Pirate Day and Jordan King came to school dressed and remained dressed all day as a Pirate. Principal Soden said Jordan made it a very entertaining day for students and teachers.
Principal Peter Supko during his report stated birthdays would be celebrated the first Monday of the month.
Business Manager Gary Kiernan agreed it was a great start to the school year, and he will be submitting the 2017-2018 paperwork for approximately eight hundred thousand dollars in reimbursement.
Kevin Price, head of Maintenance said several projects have been completed which included installation of a generator, emergency lighting, parking lot project and fencing with gates. Mr. Price said the LED lights in the parking lot are expected to achieve a reduction of twenty-eight thousand kilowatt hours, which translates into significant savings.
Susquehanna Community Education Association (SCEA) representative Mr. Tompkins said SCEA would like to increase the amount of money available for scholarships. The association believes the senior class has many talented students that would benefit from the scholarship funds. To raise funds they chose to hold a golf tournament, unfortunately Saturday, October 6th was the only available date, and people will be missing the Boys Varsity Football Homecoming game, which starts at 2:30pm.
The Memorandum of Understanding between Commission on Economic Opportunity and the Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank and Susquehanna Community School District was approved. Superintendent Stone said there are currently sixty-five families on distribution, and school board members expressed pleasure in having the opportunity to help so many families.
Jennifer Rockwell was granted permission by the school board to create and supervise an Interact Club (Rotary International) in the junior, senior High School. Superintendent Stone said the Club would meet two times per month and would conduct one Community Project and one International Project each year. He said it would be providing a great opportunity for students.
Superintendent Stone will be taking on additional responsibilities as the School Safety and Security Coordinator for the SCSD as approved by the school board.
The following teachers were approved for after school tutoring at the high school; Matt Misiura, Stacy Donahue, and Tom Adoranto. The following were approved for after school tutoring at the elementary school; Jennifer Rockwell, Debbie Stone, Jeannye Glidden, Sue Stanley and Bridgette McKennas.
Next school board meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 17th at 7:00pm.