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The Susquehanna County Commissioners unanimously approved a motion last week to advertise that they would hold work sessions Mondays through Fridays at 9 a.m.
But will they be there?
If the commissioners have a prearranged agenda to meet with someone or to discuss an issue, there is a good chance that they will be there at 9 a.m. as advertised. However, if there is nothing scheduled for 9 a.m., the work session may not be held that day. On the other hand, if the commissioners made an appointment to meet with someone at 1 p.m., the work session could begin at that time.
The Sunshine Law requires the commissioners to advertise their work sessions on a specific day, time and place. However, the commissioners apparently believe that they are exempt from the law.
"I dont even have a problem with five days a week at 9 a.m.," a New Milford Twp. taxpayer told the commissioners. "But I do have a problem if I called up at 4 p.m. and you said you have nothing the next day because then, in effect, you have told me there is no work session and then I find out the day after that someone walked in at 9:05 and decided that they wanted to talk to the commissioners so you held a work session.
"There is no need for the Sunshine Law because you have to advertise when the meetings are and where they will be held."
"This is when and where," Commissioner Cal Dean said.
"It is not," the taxpayer said. "This says we can have work sessions any time we feel like it."
The commissioners were asked if they checked with Michael Giangrieco, the county solicitor, concerning the legality of their thinking. Chairman Gary Marcho said he had and that Mr. Giangrieco approved it.
"You must advertise a specific time and place," another person said. "If you call this specific, you better change dictionaries."
The motion passed unanimously.
In other business, the commissioners:
hired William Early as the assistant processing manager at the recycling center and then, meeting as the Salary Board, agreed to pay Mr. Early $8.50 an hour.
ratified the payroll register dated Nov. 16 authorizing payment of $8,474 for retroactive union pay increases. Chief Clerk Phil OMalley said 28 employees shared the amount.
Meeting as the Salary Board along with Treasurer Cathy Benedict, the commissioners created the position of temporary deputy sheriff and said sheriff-elect Lance Benedict will fill it. Mr. Benedict, who had been employed as a part-time security guard at the courthouse, will be paid $9.51 an hour until he is sworn in as sheriff next month.
Susquehanna Boro Council met for a special meeting on November 27 with all members present, with the exception of Ron Crawford. Also present were Mayor Roberta Kelly and Secretary/Treasurer Margaret Biegert.
During reading of correspondence, a thank you was read from Elaine Andusko, director of the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority, thanking council for their best wishes on her retirement.
A motion carried to purchase a Christmas tree from the merchants association, which will be placed outside the boro building for the planned celebration in December.
Motions carried to approve changes to existing ordinances; one will abolish a committee to oversee the police pension fund. Council itself will act in this capacity. The other will regulate the number of inoperative or uninspected motor vehicles allowed to be kept on a property; it also prohibits painting of vehicles except in an approved spray booth.
One bid was received for purchase of the old boro building, in the amount of $4,259.00, from Kathleen Reddon. The bid was accepted, contingent upon the buyer being responsible for all closing costs.
The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing the proposed budget for 2002, which initially included an increase of .6 mil (slightly above a half-mil). Special accounts, which include streets, lighting, fire protection and debt service, would remain at the same millage. Also remaining the same would be the millage for maintenance of the boro building; it is expected that those costs would be greatly reduced in the new building. During discussion, council member John Bronchella suggested that taxes be raised a full mil. "Costs will go up," he said. "Wed only have to do it next year."
There was some discussion regarding the high amounts spent on professional services during 2001 (legal fees, etc.). Although these expenditures were said to be "quite high" during the present year, particularly for the police department, it is expected that they will be considerably lower in the coming year.
It was suggested that the budget include an allocation for (professional) cleaning services for the new building, such as (part-time) cleaning personnel and for floor maintenance, of the boros portion of the building. (Council offices and the meeting room, as well as the police office.)
One allocation, for heat and maintenance for the old building, was eliminated as it is expected that the building will be sold shortly.
Also discussed was a request from the Sesquicentennial committee, for council to allocate a total of $6,000 for fireworks for the celebration planned in 2003.
The streets department employees will receive a 2.5% pay increase in 2002, which accounts for a large part of the millage increase.
It was noted that the codes department has been operating under budget.
After discussion, it was agreed to raise taxes by one mil; the increase will allow an allocation for the week-long Sesquicentennial celebration, the cost of living increase for streets department employees, and to allow a "cushion" for expected increases in insurance premiums.
It was noted that negotiations are still underway for the police department contract.
The meeting adjourned to discuss a personnel issue.
Upon reconvening, a motion carried to pay police officer Phil McDonald for two weeks accrued vacation time.
The next meeting of the Susquehanna Boro Council will be on Tuesday, December 11, 7:00 p.m. in the (new) boro building.
The Susquehanna County Planning Commission meeting on November 27 prepared for the approaching year-end business by naming members for two committees. Chairman Ted Place presented the names of Nancy Harvatine, Paula Mattes, and Matt Curley for the nominating committee and Frank Kwader, Cy Cowperthwait and Jim Banko as auditing committee. Planning Commission members in attendance accepted these persons by a unanimous vote. Curley and Cowperthwait were absent.
A bit of a surprise was the request from the recently formed Northern Tier Coalition for funds to help pay for the services of students from Cornell University who have been mapping and inventorying the natural resources of the eleven (now twelve) municipalities that make up the Coalition. While the municipalities knew that there was a fee involved, the Planning Commission office and Commission thought that the Cornell students were doing this as a pro bono school project. The price tag was $3140. The Planning Commission voted to pay $300 of that amount. Cornell University will present study findings in a presentation before the Northern Tier Coalition on December 13 at 7:00 PM in the Choconut Elementary School.
Planning Director Robert Templeton reported that Carson Helfrich, who was hired to update the County Comprehensive Plan, will be at the regular Planning Commission meeting on December 18 to discuss the Plan. The December 18 meeting will replace the regular last Tuesday of the month meeting, which falls on Christmas this year.
Templeton also had potentially exciting news from the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Committee meeting regarding possible rail service in the county. He said, and I quote, "At the last NTRPDC Transportation Committee meeting, Rick Biery mentioned some discussions that have taken place regarding rail service in our area. Apparently the port of New York/New Jersey will soon be handling larger amounts of containers because of new ships being built. These ships are capable of carrying more than twice the amount of containers (12,000) as they do now; 4,000 to 6,000 containers on one ship. The current thinking is to transfer these containers to rail and move them to a distribution point within 300 miles of the port where they will then be loaded on to trucks, rather than loading them on to trucks at the NY/NJ terminal. One location being discussed is the Binghamton area since there is an existing rail line from the port area to Binghamton. Also, a terminal in the Binghamton area could serve the New England states as well as Midwest. The line to be used would be that which comes through the Borough of Susquehanna Depot. This is all very preliminary and Im sure other areas would compete for this distribution center. However, it is something to keep in mind, especially when considering a county rail authority."
The report of Deputy Director Eleanor Kurosky highlighted six meetings/events she had attended. The department meeting, moderated by Gerald Ely of USDA, was aimed at determining what several county offices are doing, to make sure that their offices arent duplicating services. It was also a way to familiarize the new Economic Development Director Justin Taylor and Assistant Elizabeth Janoski with the work and personnel of other departments.
In regular land use business, the Ted Wells two-lot development that was tabled at the October meeting due to lack of sewer planning was put back on the table and given final approval conditioned on sewer planning being completed in accordance with county ordinances. Wells had obtained the driveway permit that had been missing from the original plan and was making headway on the sewer planning.
On all other land development issues, the Planning Commission voted to concur with action already taken by the Planning staff.
A bare quorum of the Great Bend Borough Council met in the dust and demolition of the Community Center on November 26 to devise a budget for 2002. The Center is undergoing renovations and the few Council members present had to dust off some chairs for one of the hardest jobs they've had in a long time nearly 15 years, by some estimates. As well as anyone can remember, it's been that long since the Borough last increased the property tax rate, and now the town is out of money.
Just how much money they're out of is still in question. The County is responsible for providing real estate revenue figures, and they're not available yet. So Council was deliberating in the dark, as well as in the dust. What is clear, however, is that whatever the town gets at the current rate of 5.63 mills isn't enough. The County has decreed that the per-capita levy will be cut in half, and assessments are generally agreed to be down. So, even at the current rate, revenues would be lower.
Councilman Mike Wasko took on the job of working up the expense figures for his colleagues. The bare-bones budget he came up with anticipates spending some $3,100 lower than for the current year, 2001, but only by cutting park and street maintenance drastically. "We could live with this this year," he said. "We could survive with this . If nothing happens.. [But] if we have a disaster, we don't have any money," he warned. So, he recommended increasing the property tax rate in the Borough by one mill. While that amounts to over 17 percent, it really represents less than $7,000, which Mr. Wasko proposed be saved for emergencies in a "contingency" fund. Property taxes actually make up only about half of the Borough's annual budget of about $80,000.
At first, Mr. Wasko suggested that the proposed expense budget be published with the assumption that the rate would go up by one mill but might have to go up two mills. Other members, however, weren't comfortable with that. Council Chair Louise Lonzinski insisted, "I can't approve that until I know what we actually have to work with." So, they decided to stick with a one-mill increase, and hope for the best.
The public will have 30 days to evaluate the new budget, which will be passed formally shortly before the end of the year if the County can get the revenue figures out in time.
Sometime on November 5-6, the following items were taken from the Kilmer Quarry, State Route 3010, Dimock Township: propane tanks, stone chisels, stone hammers, an ammo box with assorted elbows and unions, and stone product consisting of 1 inch brown and 1.5 inch brown, 18 X 30. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police at Gibson at 570-465-3154.
HIT & RUN ACCIDENT, NO INJURY
Lloyd E. Remington, Springville, reported that on November 25 at about 1:30 a.m., he returned to his 1999 Ford F-250 which was in the parking lot of the "Class Act" Gentlemen's Club, Lenox, and found that his vehicle had been damaged. The make and model of the vehicle causing the damage is unknown, but the report indicated that it had a damaged tail light.
TWO VEHICLE ACCIDENT WITH INJURY
A 1987 Dodge pick-up, driven by R. J. Nanius, 64, Uniondale, pulled out from Halsey Rd. onto State Route 2067, Clifford Township, and into the path of a 1987 Chevy Cavalier, driven by M. L. Brewer, 28, Clifford, on November 21 at 4:40 p.m. Brewer's vehicle then struck Nanius'. Nanius was not injured, but Brewer suffered moderate injuries and was taken to CMC Hospital, Scranton.
Christin Ann Gunning, 36, Susquehanna, was stopped on East Lake Rd., New Milford Township, for a traffic violation and subsequently arrested for DUI on November 30 at 4:15 a.m. A breath test administered at the Gibson Barracks resulted in a BAC of .139%, according to the report. Charges were filed in district court for DUI and traffic violations.
Jason Robert Sterling, 28, Montrose, has been charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children, according to a police public information release report. It was reported to the PA State Police, Gibson, that a three-year old male had been taken to Endless Mountains Health Systems, Montrose, for various injuries and bruising that were unexplained and non-accidental. Sterling was arraigned by the on-call district justice (unnamed) and committed to the Susquehanna County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail. The incident, according to the report, occurred at 67 Cherry St., Montrose Borough.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
On November 28 at 10:30 a.m., Timmie Ott, 53, Clarks Summit, was traveling north on State Route 29 and was stopped waiting to turn left into the post office in the village of South Montrose. Brenda Charles, 62, Factoryville, in a 1994 Plymouth Sundance, failed to recognize the vehicle was stopped in time to avoid a collision and struck Ott's 1994 Toyota Corolla in the rear. Charles received unknown minor injuries, and Ott received a back injury. Both were taken to Endless Mountains Hospital.
Scott Alan Lonzinski, 21, Great Bend Borough, and Alyssa Nicole Frederici, 17, Forest City Borough.
Bernard W. Ryan, 65, Vestal, NY, and Margaret M. Byrnes, 63, Prebble, NY.
Floyd C. Marvin Jr., 54, Hallstead Borough, and Doris Robin Rockwell, 46, Hallstead Borough.
Donna Fekette, Paul A. Kelly and Pamela E. Kelly, Lawrence T. O'Reilly and Christine O'Reilly to Keller Kids Cabin in New Milford and Great Bend Townships for $55,000.
Manzek Land Co., Inc. to Christopher F. Simone and Sally J. Simone in Brooklyn Township for $15,900.
Edith L. Williams to John J. Nugent and Lynda A. Nugent in Jackson and New Milford Townships for $12,500.
Robert Stark and Colleen McCarthy to Mary Ann Quinn in Uniondale Borough for $85,000.
Denise O'Donnell to Leo Dooley and Donnamarie Dooley in Herrick Township for $114,000.
Carol A. Elliott and Robert H. Elliott to Carol A. Elliott and Robert J. Elliott and Raymond L. Shultz and Rebecca R. Shultz in Silver Lake Township for $1.
Richard C. Entrot to Robert J. Galonsky in New Milford Township for $16,000.
Helen M. Bloomer, nbm Helen M. Semko and Stanley J. Semko to Stanley J. Semko and Helen M. Semko in Jackson Township for $1.
Richard C. Klock to Brian C. Sheldon and Tammy L. Sheldon in Oakland Township (now Borough) for $24,900.
Larry R. Larue to Chris J. Calby in Jessup Township for $82,000.
Gobblers Knob Rod & Gun Club to Larry L. Decker in Harmony Township for bluestone mining operation.
Linda Bennett to Tracy Wayne Bennett in Rush Township for $1 ogvc.
Julian B. Foster, Sr. and Mildred J. Foster to Julian B. Foster, Sr. and Aaron J. Foster in Dimock Township for $1 ogvc.
Thomas J. Shepard to Dave Wilson in Herrick Township for $100.
Barbara Fields and Robert J. Fields and Carol Chesnick and Thomas M. Chesnick to Paul F. Saturnas and Susan M. Saturnas in Clifford Township for $80,000.
Paul Tomazic, Administrator of the Estate of Shirley A. Skubic to Michelle L. Davis in Forest City Borough for $45,000.
Robert K. Bretzger aka Robert Bretzger and Eleanor M. Bretzger to Robert K. Bretzger and Eleanor M. Bretzger in Liberty Township for $1.
Douglas G. Fraser and Beverly S. Fraser to Joseph Raimondi and Debra Overstreet Raimondi in New Milford Borough for $99,000.
John F. Duncan and Margaret H. Duncan to John P. Mokychic and Betty J. Mokychic in Apolacon Township for $36,000.
Gary R. Horn and Donna M. Horn to Angelo Scarfalloto and Jacqueline Scarfalloto in Montrose Borough for $46,000.
Bernice E. Kressler by her Power of Attorney Bernice K. Calhoun to Linda Kilmer in Lenox Township for $40,000.
Richard Dobrosielski and Arlene Dobrosielski to Kendra L. Chotkowski in Springville Township for $63,860.
William Shaughnessy and Ann Shaughnessy to Angelo Scarfalloto and Jacqueline Scarfalloto in Lenox Township for $5,000.
Jean Eryavec, Executrix of the Estate of John Eryavec and Jean Eryavec and Joanne Lopez to Kevin M. Lesjack in Forest City Borough for $20,000.
George E. Rice and Irma P. Rice fka Irma E. Rice to Linda R. Sleeper in Clifford Township for $1.
The Estate of Barbara Jessup Palmer by Jane J. Heekin, Administratrix, to Jane J. Heekin in Dimock Township for $1 and distribution of estate.
Annette Martin to Harold Jeffrey Smith in Middletown Township for $40,000.
Kathryn D. Pacifici to Vincent G. DeLong and Melinda S. Whitmore in Susquehanna Borough for $42,500.
Jay E. Crowder and Laura E. Crowder to Paul G. Kindermann and Linda J. Kindermann in Ararat Township for $100,000.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has upheld the conviction and sentence of Anil Homily for the murder of Elizabeth Korenka of Montrose.
The decision was handed down late last month after arguments before the court on October 16. Jason L. Legg, first assistant district attorney of Susquehanna County, defended the conviction on behalf of the Commonwealth, while two prominent New York defense lawyers, Michael P. Joseph and Michael D. Stalonas represented Mr. Homily.
In May of 2000, a Susquehanna County jury deliberated for almost 10 hours before it found Mr. Homily guilty of third degree murder for the 1991 death of Mrs. Korenka.
On June 22, 2000, Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans sentenced Mr. Homily to serve not less than 10 or more than 20 years in a state prison, the maximum sentence allowed for third degree murder. He also fined Mr. Homily $5,000 plus prosecution costs and ordered him to make restitution to the victims family.
In their appeal, attorneys for Mr. Homily raised five issues for review. The Superior Court ruled on them as follows:
"First, appellant argues that the lower court abused its discretion by permitting 11 witnesses to testify to hearsay statements. We disagree.
"Second, appellant contends that the expert testimony was not sufficient to establish that Korenkas death was a homicide. This argument is without merit.
"Next, appellant alleges a due process violation based on the delay of eight years between Korenkas death and the police charging him. We find no violation.
"Fourth, appellant contends that the lower court erred when it instructed the jury that flight may establish consciousness of guilt. We find this argument without merit.
"Lastly, appellant argues that the lower court erred by sentencing under the aggravated range to a sentence of 10 to 20 years. As appellant challenges a discretionary aspect of his sentence. We decline to reach this issue."
Besides arguing the case before the Superior Court, Mr. Legg prepared and filed a 40-page brief responding to the appeal. He filed chapter and verse of previous court decisions in response to issues raised in the appeal as well as reasons why the defendants challenge to the medical testimony offered in the trial should be rejected.
Mrs. Korenka disappeared from her Montrose home in August 1991. Her badly beaten body was discovered on an abandoned farm in West Virginia on Sept. 15, 1991. It was not identified until 1994 when Dr. James L. Frost, deputy chief medical examiner for the State of West Virginia, performed an autopsy on Mrs. Korenkas body and identified her through dental records.
A dogged investigation involving local, county, state and federal authorities continued for almost eight years before Mr. Homily, who was also a resident of Montrose at the time of the alleged slaying, was finally arrested and charged with Mrs. Korenkas murder.
District Attorney Charles Aliano was the number one chair for the Commonwealth at Mr. Homilys murder trial. He stood his grounds on such issues as allowing witnesses to testify about conversations they had with Mrs. Korenka relevant to her fear that Mr. Homily would kill her and the physical beatings and verbal abuse she received from him.
"We fought tooth and nail," Mr. Aliano said after the trial, "just to get all the evidence in with regard to the prior abuse of the victim. We worked late every night during the trial preparing for the next day in court."
Despite the heavy volume of testimony from witnesses for the prosecution, Mr. Alianos closing remarks to the jury may have been the proverbial icing on the cake. Throughout the trial he pushed for a first degree murder conviction claiming that Elizabeth Korenkas death was premeditated to keep her from testifying against Mr. Homily on an assault charge.
"Hes guilty of murder in the first degree because he intended to do it," Aliano said in his closing. He said Homily kicked Elizabeth Korenka to death and watched her die slowly.
But the piece de resistance may have been when Mr. Aliano told the jury, "This is a slam dunk murder three case."
After the verdict came in, Mr. Aliano said he was satisfied with the verdict and that from the beginning he felt it was murder three.
"I would have preferred murder one," he said at the time, "but it is obvious the jury worked long and hard and came in with guilty of murder in the third degree."
Concerning the Superior Court decision upholding the conviction, Mr. Aliano said he was happy with it.
"This clears the way for future cases where prior abuse incidents can come into play," he said.
Mr. Aliano thanked everyone involved with the case.
"A lot of people worked their tails off to make sure this guy didnt get away," he said.
With the exception of Tom Salansky, all members of the Mountain View Board and Margaret Foster, Elementary Principal and Colin Furneaux, High School Principal, were present at the November 26, 2001 School Board Meeting. Ron Phillips acted as secretary pro tempore for the meeting in the absence of Loren Small, Business Manager/Board Secretary.
A presentation regarding audit issues was given by Michael Dougherty of Murphy, Dougherty and Company. The report was very positive. He noted that the District "is on firm financial ground." He furthered with the business office was very prepared when auditors presented themselves. Dougherty closed with "Hats off to Mr. Rizzo and Mr. Small." He did feel one item needed to be addressed regarding the board action. In a management letter, he suggested they vote on the distribution of any assets.
One member of the public, Mrs. Miller, had a few questions regarding the cafeteria funds, government grants and taxation matters, which were answered knowledgeably by the auditor.
Following his presentation, there was a short executive session for personnel matters. Additions to the substitute list are Mary Columbo, Hop Bottom, and Lori Feduchak of Carbondale. Mary Columbo was added to the Mountain View School District Security list effective November 27, 2001. Mary Hvezda was appointed as Direction of Special Education/Coordinator. Additional temporary hours were increased from 300 to 600.
The board approved a project payment request for project costs for construction services in the amount of $660,828.36 as well as one for construction management services, architectural services and miscellaneous in the amount $23,029.12. Furneaux noted, among positive comments concerning the work, he was pleased with the masonry progress at the school site.
There were no reports from the Transportation, Legislative, Negotiations and Policy Committee chairs on the Board.
Educators conference attendance was approved for RaeBelle Albeck, Mary Ann Tranovich, and David H. Schulte, Jr. Approval was given for Administrator Conferences to Margaret Foster and Eliza Vagni. Field trip requests were granted to George Barbolish and Pam Burt. Regarding the last trip, it was announced that the students raised the money.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Vincent Rizzo, Superintendent, shared that the School District enjoyed almost double percentage of reimbursement from the Dept. of Education. There was some discussion about making a donation to the Harford Fire Co. However, it would conflict with past procedures regarding donations made to any of the three fire companies that serve the school. The newest edition of the school news letter was positively received. It was noted that two more may be sent during the remainder of this school year.
The High School Principal closed remarks by talking about the successful Homecoming, which was celebrated recently.
The Mountain View School Board meets on the second and fourth Mondays at 8:00 p.m. in the Board room at the Elementary School.
If all went according to some agreed upon thinking at last weeks work session, the Forest City Regional School District should have a financial planner and an architect on board as it moves toward a refinancing/remodeling project that could exceed $7.5 million.
While no vote was taken at last weeks work session, members of the Board of Education were leaning toward The Palumbo Group of Scranton as the architect for the upcoming project. That appointment may have been made at the boards reorganization meeting on Monday night.
Regarding the financial end of the project, the board listened to presentations from Henry J. Sallusti, senior vice president of Tucker Anthony of Scranton, and Gerald L. Stanvitch and Mark Silver, vice presidents of Janney Montgomery Scott of Moosic. There was no indication as to which firm would be hired to handle the financial aspects of the project.
In a money-saving move resulting from reduced interest rates, the board plans to refinance approximately $6.5 million the district owes on its last building project. And while there have been no cost estimates pending some homework by the architect, renovation costs could be more than $1 million.
At last Mondays work session, the board whittled away at a list of 15 long-range needs in the school district and selected five of them for immediate attention.
"Our first priority," said Director Joseph Farrell, "should be the garage so we can get our equipment out of the elements."
The scaled-down priority lists includes: kitchen/cafeteria renovations; construction of a maintenance garage; new fixtures, plumbing, lighting and ventilation in the locker rooms of the high school gym; security systems at both entrances of the school; and, a kindergarten program for four-year-olds.
Shelved, for the time being anyway, were: re-roofing projects on two sections of the sprawling K-12 school complex; paving the parking area near the elementary school; installing concrete paths to the elementary playground and fencing the playground area; installing a filter system in the wood shop; and, upgrading the bathroom facilities near the 7th and 8th grade classrooms.
Other projects placed on the back burner include: security systems in the high school and elementary libraries; additional personnel teachers, including adding another high school counselor; adoption of new math and reading series in the elementary school and new social studies texts in high school; replacement of maintenance equipment; and, upgrade internal wiring for the Internet system.
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