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The Susquehanna County Rail Committee agreed unanimously last week to ask the Board of County Commissioners to enact a resolution that would elevate the committee to a rail authority.
The action follows the first recommendation offered by Clough, Harbour & Associates in its feasibility study of rail options in the county.
"The county should pursue the formation of a Rail Authority to act as the focus of rail transportation development," the feasibility study states. "The cost associated with the formation and operation of the Rail Authority will need to be initially subsidized by the county or through grants. The authority will provide a vehicle to facilitate public/private partnering to develop rail projects."
Edward Tourje, a member of the Rail Committee, said it is time to find out how the county commissioners feel about a Rail Authority. Mr. Tourje said the commissioners should support it and should appropriate funding for it to get started.
Commissioner Lee Smith, who has attended most of the Rail Committee meetings, said he would support the recommendation.
"It started with a committee to do groundwork," Mr. Smith said. "Now I think you have convinced us we need an authority."
Rowland Sharp, chair of the Rail Committee, will pitch the idea of an authority to the commissioners. Mr. Sharp will use the feasibility study as the foundation for his presentation and will support it with information collected to date.
The second recommendation in the feasibility study suggests that the county consider planning for the construction of a transload facility at New Milford. Other long-range projects examined in the study include freight and passenger service at Kingsley, New Milford, Hallstead, Susquehanna, and at the SOLIDA Industrial Park in Oakland Twp. Freight service is also suggested for Brandt and Forest City.
The report states that the feasibility of passenger service is not conclusive. However, it also suggests that the county should monitor the progress of the Binghamton to New York City service and be prepared to present Susquehanna Countys request for a station in the early phases of the design process.
"Alternately," the report continues, "the county should monitor the rapidly changing housing and commuting trends after the start of the Scranton to New York City service to determine if there is a developing need for shuttle or service extension options."
In a related matter, Justin Taylor, director of the countys Economic Development Department, said there is a "serious client" looking for a site for a large distribution center that could bring 500 jobs to the county. Mr. Taylor said the firm might also be interested in shipping and receiving via rail.
Audience member Jeff Case addressed the Hallstead Boro council at their January 20 meeting, to request (official) permission to use the boros tax identification number for the BMX track his committee is putting in at the Route 11 park; a motion carried to approve.
Several people present related complaints about burning within the boro, particularly a noxious odor from burning plastic; it has not been determined where the odor is coming from. One possible origin is from a residence on William St. When more exact information is determined Mayor Canfield will address the matter.
It was not necessary to make the usual transfer funds from the money market account into the general fund for the months bills, as revenues are expected to be received from the tax collector by the end of the month.
There was a lengthy discussion as to whether the boro needs to hire a full-time employee. Council member Martin Brown reported that Jim Doloway, who has been plowing the boros streets as needed in the interim between the resignation of Dick Bigelow and the hiring of a full-time employee, has expressed interest in a part-time position with the boro. $22,000 has been budgeted for this position; Mr. Brown said that Mr. Doloway had suggested that he could work 20 hours per week, at an annual salary of $13,000. Mr. Doloway would see to plowing, mowing, drainage projects, and maintaining signs as well as the boros equipment. Mr. Brown suggested that Mr. Doloway could be hired on a "try it and see" basis, to see how it works, and the boro could save money.
The biggest question was, if Mr. Doloway were hired on a part-time basis, would the boro streets receive first priority during snowy conditions, or would they be attended to after Mr. Doloways private customers?
Council member David Callender presented council with four applications that had been received for a full-time position, along with the hiring committees recommendation as to which one was best qualified.
There was some discussion as to the merits of hiring part-time versus full-time, where such things as plowing would ostensibly be addressed in a more timely manner by an individual who only worked for the boro. Although all agreed that Mr. Doloway had done a good job, there had been numerous complaints to council members and Mr. Canfield from residents who apparently did not feel that plowing had been accomplished as soon as it could have been. After some discussion, it was agreed to proceed with councils original plan, to hire a full-time employee. It was agreed to hire the committees recommended (unnamed) candidate, to begin work on Monday, February 3, with a three-month probationary period. The applicants who were not chosen will be notified of councils decision, as will Mr. Doloway.
A motion carried to adopt the HallsteadGreat Bend Sewer Authority Act 537 sewage facilities plan update, which is to allow New Milford to be included in the plan.
Council has been notified that the PA American Water Co. has merged with Thames Water.
And, council has received a letter from PENNDOT approving the librarys request to put up two signs, directing motorists to the HallsteadGreat Bend Library.
The next meeting will be on Monday, February 17, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
Stone Retires As President
With nine out of its ten members present (the exception being Hop Bottom borough), COGs Codes Enforcement Committee met for its first regular session of the new year on January 21. President Ted Plevinsky notified members that a situation in Forest City Borough (which he was not at liberty to talk about, pending resolution of some issues) has arisen which required COG to use the services of solicitor Jason Legg.
Legg is already COG Sewage Committees solicitor. Because Codes has used Leggs services a couple of times recently, Plevinsky thought it might be a good idea to appoint him Codes solicitor as well. Although the Committee did not send out a request for a proposal from more than one solicitor, secretary Karen Trynoski said that when Sewage reviewed proposals two years ago, Legg was the most competitive. He requires no retainer, and his hourly fee is $100. This compared, noted Trynoski, with a $125 hourly fee quoted by one of the respondents to the Sewage Committees review. "Jason is good, and hes fast," she said, "getting back to us generally the next day, if not the same day."
This was enough testimonial for members to approve a motion to appoint Jason Legg as Codes solicitor. However, the group spent considerable discussion on how and whether to charge the fees of the solicitor to municipalities. New Milford boroughs Rick Ainey noted that when a solicitor puts in a bill, it can sometimes cost thousands. "Were in a situation [that requires a solicitor] now, and with new codes, were likely to get into more. For situations that require large fees, do we bear that as a group? Do we charge the municipality for that?," Ainey asked.
While acknowledging that "were in this [COG Codes] together, because you either hang alone or hang together; there is safety in numbers," Ainey also noted that one bill could wipe out the amount that COG budgets for legal counsel. Plus, he thought that perhaps municipalities that enforce their codes may have to pick up the cost for those who dont and find themselves in the midst of a legal situation because of it. He thought that the Committee should determine how it wants to handle large legal costs on the part of any municipality "before emotions come into play."
Plevinsky noted that every municipality has a solicitor whom they could use. "There are times when we [Codes] want to use one to protect our codes enforcement officer." Another member thought there would be times when the Committee wanted to get a solicitors opinion on a matter, noting, "I dont see a problem in sharing the cost of that. But when you get into more involved and costly matters, I think the municipalitys solicitor should take responsibility for going to court." Another added that the municipalities with less activity would be upset with paying for someplace else, when they didnt have a say in it. "Im not worried about 50 bucks; Im worried about $50,000," was how Ainey summarized it.
With the majority of members agreeing that the individual municipality should have its own solicitor handle the majority of legal issues that have the potential to result in large fees, and be informed by COG of any potential of that perhaps happening, the group next addressed how to work with Legg so it would best benefit Codes and its members.
Plevinsky noted that, in eight and a half years, Codes has only had to use a solicitor twice. Given that, the group voted to give Codes executive committee the leeway to access up to two hours of legal time, per incident regardless of which member municipality was involved, without consulting the general Codes membership. Above that amount, the Committee would go back to the group for a decision on how to proceed. The municipality will also be kept informed. "I think communications with municipalities is the key to using our solicitor," said Plevinsky.
This policy will be revisited as needed and based on the number of incidents that would require the solicitors input.
Next on the agenda was appointment of a nominating committee for the positions of president, vice president and executive secretary/treasurer. No one raised their hand, so Plevinsky said this will be done from the floor when the group meets in February. And with the Committees financial statement showing a nice balance, Plevinsky thought it a good idea to audit the books. Rick Ainey and Liberty Townships Bill Bayne volunteered to become the audit committee.
The group also approved the payment by Trynoski of recurring monthly bills, instead of waiting for its monthly meeting to vote on their payment.
In his monthly activity report, codes enforcement officer Shane Lewis reported a lot of phone activity throughout most of the municipalities, as well as issuing a permit for a driveway in Dimock Township, a building permit for a house in Gibson Township; and issuing permits for a sign and for occupancy and conducting two inspections in New Milford borough.
Trynoski reported that an application for a grant that would be used to hire a full-time CEO was received by the DCED, and would be acted upon on or before February 20. Members also discussed how to best inform non-Codes members about the benefits of joining, especially when new Codes do have an effective date. Some reported being asked about how to join or otherwise expressed an interest in doing so. The group will continue to address marketing itself at upcoming meetings.
Council of Governments
With president Harold Shay presiding, members listened to Street/Road Sign Committee chair Elliot Ross report on the large order ($7,000) for various street signage materials which he recently placed as the condition for using the grant for that amount and which was due to expire shortly. Ross makes up signage when such is requested by a member municipality. He noted that COG makes no money doing this. In fact, when Ross last priced signs, the average cost from outside providers was $30-$40. "We price ours at ten bucks," he said. (In fact, while the meeting was in progress, Ross made up two signs.)
Jerry Smyder, Thompson Township secretary/treasurer, was on hand to report on his progress since Decembers meeting, when he made a presentation to the group on some cost saving ideas. He has put together a short questionnaire which he hopes members will fill out by early February. It requests information on high-volume items which they purchase, soliciting such things as who theyre purchased from, for how much, and how they would rate the supplier.
"Perhaps we can save our municipalities some money," he said, adding that, "if enough are interested, I can put together a proposal to get a purchasing agreement for some high-ticket items, and get better pricing, including delivery, that members can take advantage of." Smyder will also screen state contract lists for members for the items they buy, but first he has to receive back the completed questionnaires, which members can mail or hand to him.
Karen Trynoski next reported that she inputted all the information on COG members onto a file, which could then be posted on a website that COG has been talking about developing. Liberty Townships Ted Plevinsky spoke with local website designer Phil Maywalt, and reported he is available to speak with members of COGs website committee about various options it has and the costs associated with them, once the committee decides the kind of information it would like on the site. Maywalt will meet with the committee, which will then report its findings to the group.
Unlike the Codes Committee, COG did have volunteers for its nominating committee, who will make its recommendations at COGs February meeting, where Dawn Watson, the countys EMA director, will speak with members.
Sewage Committee Meeting
President Donald Stone, after chairing the Committee since its inception, announced that hes retiring from the position. He asked for a nominating committee to fill his spot, and he got one, as well as volunteers to sit on the auditing committee.
And, like Codes, Sewage Committee members also voted to allow payment of recurring bills without secretary Karen Trynoski waiting until it formally met.
Trynoski reported that she recently received a phone call from solicitor Jason Legg to set up a hearing regarding a notice of proposed assessment of the Spencer property in Choconut Township. It seems that the property owner repaired a cesspool on his property without contacting Sewage. Cesspools, Trynoski noted, are non-regulated. Spencer refuses to abandon the cesspool, which sits very close to the Choconut Creek and watershed. Legg filed a proposed assessment against him because he did not want to do testing elsewhere on his property. Spencer claims his cesspool is grandfathered and he does not need a repair permit. Sewage Committee members Rick Ainey and Mike Greene volunteered to sit on the hearing board.
The Sewage Enforcement Officer reports were very brief: Frigid weather and frozen ground do not make for perc or soil testing, so there were none.
The next meeting of the Council of Governments is scheduled for February 18 at 7 p.m. in COG offices in the New Milford borough building on Main Street.
Corey Joseph Koch, 22, Fell Township, and Stacy A. Jennings, 26, Harford Township.
Gregory Stewart, 29, London UK, and Jennifer Lynn Jump, 30, Hallstead Borough.
Daryle Lawrence Clark, 27, Friendsville Borough, and Trinha Kay Shockey, 26, Friendsville Borough.
Michael S. Canfield, 28, Ararat Township, and Mindy Horn, 28, Ararat Township.
Normand J. Bennett, Jr. and Vivian R. Bennett and Normand J. Bennett, III and Theresa Bennett to Normand J. Bennett, Jr. and Vivian R. Bennett in Auburn Township for $1.
Edward Dubas and Elizabeth Dubas to Edward John Dubas and Lisa Ann Dubas in Clifford Township for $1.
Warren A. Setzer and Stella M. Setzer and Mary Ann Travis to Ann Marie Rhiel and John F. Heintz in Silver Lake Township for $55,000.
Christine Lewis to Salvatore J. Armetta and Lisa Armetta in New Milford Township for $265,000.
Jason J. Legg, Attorney in Fact for John J. Malloy, Trustee of the John J. Malloy Revocable Trust, Jason J. Legg, Attorney, in Fact for John J. Malloy, individually and Jason J. Legg, Attorney in Fact for Helen Malloy to Todd K. Hinkley and Cheryl L. Hinkley in Harford Township for $135,000.
Ronald Bercume and Irene Bercume to Shawn J. Cook, Sr. and Kimberly A. Cook in Middletown Township for $29,000.
Betty Lou Benedict to Mark L. Benedict in Hop Bottom Borough for $1 ogvc.
Patrick D. Healey and Joan C. Healey to William H. Sayre, Jr. in Clifford Township for $15,000.
John A. Hendrickson and Mark A. Hendrickson and Jennifer Lynn Hendrickson nbm Jennifer Lynn Grausgruber to Dolores R. Hendrickson in Susquehanna Depot Borough for $1.
Borough of Susquehanna Depot to Grace Brown in Susquehanna Borough for $200.
Maxine S. Fox to Fawn E. Fox in Brooklyn Township for $1.
Donald R. Bunney Jr. and Jacqueline M. Bunney to Jacqueline M. Bunney in Herrick Township for $1.
John Borakos and Dolores Borakos to James Penedos and Susan Penedos in Lathrop Township for $24,000.
John W. Jones to John W. Jones and Amy S. Jones in Montrose Borough for $1 (transfer tax paid on half the fair market value of $82,782).
Thomas J. Yarosh aka Tom Yarosh and Cheryl L. Yarosh aka Cheryl Yarosh to James M. Belcher and Irene C. Belcher in Harford Township for $50,000.
James D. Thomas, Jr. and Carrie A. Thomas to Carrie A. Thomas in Hallstead Borough for $1.
John Stopka and Stephanie Stopka to Gary W. Truckenbrod and Carol A. Truckenbrod in Bridgewater Township for $1.
Alice E. Lathrop to Lloyd R. Shaw and Jackie Shaw in Springville Township for $1 (transfer tax paid on fair market value of $18,354.39).
Alta Mae Hessert to Paul Christian Hessert, Judith Ann Broughton and Lynne Margaret Sanders in Bridgewater Township for $1.
Alta Mae Hessert to Paul Christian Hessert, Judith Ann Broughton and Lynne Margaret Sanders in Brooklyn Township for $1.
Bonita A. Mitrow to Bonita A. Mitrow in Bridgewater Township for $1 ogvc.
Carole J. Stanton to Thomas L. Weller and Sherry L. Weller in Bridgewater Township for $1.
Ronald DeMonte and Kathleen DeMonte to Diane Kilmer in Lenox Township for $14,500.
Emil F. Mikolon and Patricia Mikolon to Andrew Shamro in Herrick Township for $800.
Philip J. Pass, Sr. and Barbara Pass to James Moore and Karen J. Moore in Ararat Township for $165,000.
Wendy T. Wright, fka Wendy T. Slusser and Jeffrey E. Wright to Wendy T. Wright and Jeffrey E. Wright in Friendsville Borough for no consideration.
Ronald K. Smith, Executor of the Estate of Alberta P. Weingust aka Alberta J. Weingust to David A. Weingust in Springville Township for $1.
Federal National Mortgage Association aka Fannie Mae to Dale M. Smith in Ararat Township for $24,900.
George Smarz to Vickie Lane Conners Hofmaster in Herrick Township for $1.
Shirley J. Johnson fka Shirley J. Wood to Robert E. Garner in Liberty Township for $1 and love and affection.
Bart C. Jennings and Wendy L. Jennings to Ginger A. McCollum in Forest Lake Township for $64,900.
CRASH-ONE VEHICLE-NO INJURY
On January 10 at 3:00 p.m., Melinda Burnett, 18, lost control of her 1994 Chevy Cavalier while traveling through a patch of snow on State Route 492 at Bailey Rd., New Milford Township. The vehicle struck a snow bank and came to rest on its roof.
Sometime between December 24-25, someone punched a hole into a metal storage garage, belonging to Peter Kane, on State Route 167, Bridgewater Township.
Nancy Gerfin, Stone Road, Lenox Township, had a mailbox stolen on December 22.
Approximately $90 in cash and a "Keltic" 9 MM handgun were stolen from Joe Machachinis and William Cacioppo, State Route 2020, by Loomis Lake, Lenox Township, on December 28. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police at Gibson at 570-465-3154.
Sara Kuss, 18, Susquehanna, traveled off of State Route 1009, Harmony Township on January 17 at 4:05 p.m., and struck an embankment. No injury resulted, but her 1995 Subaru had to be towed.
ONE VEHICLE--NO INJURY
Joshua B. Houck, 18, South Montrose, was not injured when he lost control of his 1990 Chevy due to snow covered Interstate 81, Great Bend Township, on January 19 at 8:05 a.m. The vehicle traveled into the median where it rolled onto its roof.
Matthew Jones, 19, Montrose, was traveling on State Route 29, Bridgewater Township, and lost control of his 1993 Dodge, striking a pole. The vehicle then traveled down an embankment, striking a tree. Jones was taken to the Endless Mountains Health System by a passerby, after this December 3 accident which occurred at 8:05 a.m.
Placko: Well Loved, Well-Respected
I didnt really know Stephen Placko, principal at Choconut Valley Elementary School, very well at all on a personal level. In fact, what I know about him comes from my reporting for this newspaper on the Montrose Area School District board of directors meetings over the past year and a half. Principal Placko was at most of them.
So, I watched how he carried himself, which was with conviction and with pride on the accomplishments of his school and its students. I heard what he said, which was to always promote the education and well-being of those who attended or worked in the school he supervised. I saw how audience members easily approached him to talk about this and that, and the interest he showed in whatever they were saying.
Sitting around the board table, Principal Placko sometimes took a bit of heat. More often, he got kudos and compliments on behalf of his work and that of his co-workers at Choconut. In either case, he handled both with equanimity and professionalism. He openly engaged in discussion with other district principals, administrators, board members, and the public, without changing the demeanor in which he interacted with any of them.
He appeared comfortable both in a business suit which he wore to meetings when school was in session, and in a polo shirt and shorts when it wasnt. He just seemed to be comfortable in his own skin, with who he was, and the principles he lived by. I always thought this was a reflection of a full, solid, and loving home life, as well as satisfaction with the work he did outside of it.
Like all of the community, I was astonished when I heard that Principal Stephen Placko unexpectedly passed away, and so very, very sad. Most especially for his family. For the young children at his school who looked up to him. For a man who by all rights should be at work right now doing what he did best. We cant really ask why; nevertheless, we do.
To me, heres what sums up the Stephen Placko whom I barely knew outside of my contact with him at school board meetings: On January 17, the date Principal Placko had surgery, I was at the Choconut School to cover the Montrose Area board meeting. Because of a closed session, the board was running a bit late for its normal 6:30 start time. I took a seat to wait on a wide bench in the schools administrative area. The bench faces a big wall, and on this wall were white, paper "thought balloons," on which students apparently wrote how they would try to improve themselves during the New Year.
It gave me something to read, and the "resolutions" were charming. One young girls balloon noted that she would help her big sister more often. Another would be nicer to her baby brother. A young boy would try to listen more to his dad.
Off in the top right-hand side, another balloon contained the hope, "I will try not to cry so much," and was signed by a little girl. Right next to this one, in the very corner, was a thought balloon that also said, "I will try not to cry so much." The name beneath it? Mr. Placko.
I giggled out loud. I thought it was wonderful. And I have no idea if Stephen Placko put up his thought-balloon resolution himself, or if those he worked with put it up to surprise him. Either way, it says the same thing about the man: He was someone who showed all the charm, class, sense of humor and empathy I always sensed he brought to his job and to those fortunate to work with and know him well.
A memorial service for Principal Placko will be held on February 1 at 11 a.m. at the Choconut Valley Elementary School.
Lake & Dundaff Included
The Crystal Lake and Dundaff areas of Clifford Township may finally be sewered in the not too distant future.
Dave Klepadlo, whose engineering firm updated Cliffords Act 537 Sewer Program, said the best case scenario is that sewers could be installed in both areas within three years. Mr. Klepadlo said the worst case scenario would be that the project could take five to seven years to complete.
In any event, a few Crystal Lake residents who attended a public hearing last week on the updated township sewer plan applauded the news. Some of them have been campaigning for sewers at Crystal Lake for almost 10 years.
Mr. Klepadlo then put the icing on the cake when he told the small audience attending the meeting that the Rural Utilities Service of the US Department of Agriculture might arrange financing for the project including a grant of 75 percent of the cost and an interest rate of four-and-one-half percent on the balance.
The plan calls for the Crystal Lake and Dundaff areas to be connected to the Greenfield Township Sewer Authoritys collection lines and treatment facility off Route 247. Premature cost estimates for the project were set at $1.9 million, but Mr. Klepadlo said the cost could change dramatically between now and actual installation time.
The township would assess the estimated 150 units in the project area a one-time hookup fee of $1,000 that would be applied to the debt service. That would bring the cost down to $1.75 million. If the USDA comes across with 75 percent of the cost, the townships debt would be about $438,000. At four-and-one-half percent for 40 years, the townships debt service would be $23,807 a year.
Mr. Klepadlo said only the homeowners who are tied in to the sewer system would be assessed user fees. He said the annual user fee would be $488 or about $40 a month. He also said the project would be self-liquidating which means that no township funds will be required.
"The bottom line is that only the users are paying for it," John Regan, chair of the Board of Supervisors said. He also emphasized that the township would take a close look at the project "only if the funding is there."
"The bottom line is the funding," Mr. Regan said. "We are at poverty level now (which qualifies the township for the sizable grant and low interest). The money may never be available again."
Besides paying hookup fees to the township, users of the system will pay $5,200 hookup fees to the Greenfield Twp. Sewer Authority. The cost included the grinder pump, electrical panel, and fittings at the pump. Mr. Klepadlo said low income residents can get financial help from Susquehanna County.
Clifford users must also pay Greenfield user fees of $82.50 a quarter, that is the same rate that Greenfield Twp. users pay.
The Klepadlo Update also reveals that 80 well samples were taken through the township and that the wells are relatively clean. And it states that 12 stream samples were taken from various sections of the township and they all had high fecal and total coliform levels.
"All the streams failed," Mr. Klepadlo said, "but that can be expected because of whats going into them. A lot of the contamination can be contributed to other sources."
One township resident asked why the sewer project does not start in the "downtown" section of Clifford. "Why would we even consider Crystal Lake and Dundaff areas instead of downtown?," he asked.
"We did not find any serious problems in the downtown," Mr. Klepadlo replied. He also said the complete Act 537 update is included in the report to the township and that it addresses all sections of the township including downtown.
The township supervisors indicated they will approve the Act 537 update at their next meeting on February 11. The plan will then be submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection for its approval.
Saves County A Bundle
The Susquehanna County Commissioners made a move last week that could save the county as much as $100,000, thanks to a little nudging by PNC Capital Markets of Wilkes-Barre.
Raymond F. Lowery, managing director of PNC Capital Markets, contacted the county regarding a 1992 bond issue that was last refinanced in 1998. Mr. Lowery advised the county that the bond is once again eligible for refinancing and suggested a meeting to discuss the matter.
Last week, the commissioners listened to presentations from Henry Sallusti, of RBC Dain Rauscher of Scranton and then from Mr. Lowery. By unanimous vote, they opted for PNC Capital Markets, which has saved the county more than $300,000 in prior refinancing matters.
"We think the county should consider pulling the trigger on this project," Mr. Lowery said. "Interest rates are low now because the economy is showing no signs of improvement." Mr. Lowery said the countys new interest rate would be about 2.6 percent compared with the current rate of 4.27 percent.
The $2.8 million bond issue represents the balance of a $4.5 million loan the county obtained in 1992. The lions share of that loan was used to pay the construction costs of the new county jail.
Gary Marcho, chair of the Board of Commissioners, urged his colleagues to move on the issue. He said he felt very comfortable dealing with PNC. Mr. Marcho said the money the county saves will be applied to reduce the debt.
In another financial matter, the Retirement Board agreed to set the rate of interest to be credited to each participating members account in the Pension Fund at four percent. The number reflects a reduction from the 5.5. percent that had been in effect for a number of years.
County Treasurer Catherine Benedict, who sits on the Retirement Board, explained that it is a state law not a county law that provides elected county personnel with vested pension rights after eight years of service. Moreover, Mrs. Benedict said the eight-year pension eligibility law applies to all county employees and not just those who are elected to office.
"The entire pension plan is set by law," Mrs. Benedict said. She said there is a proposal in Harrisburg to reduce vested right from eight years to five and urged county residents to oppose the idea.
In response to a question, Mr. Marcho said he does not see any conflict if Justin Taylor, director of the countys Economic Development Department, is elected mayor of the City of Carbondale. In face, Mr. Marcho said he believes Mr. Taylor would do a good job and based it on Mr. Taylors work in Susquehanna County.
Motions passed by the commissioners completed the following actions:
- Appointed Michael Greene of Thompson and Carolyn Doolittle of Choconut to vacancies on the Planning Commission.
- Approved a resolution continuing the Public Safety Telephone Act which requires a monthly fee of $1.50 for each telephone subscriber in the county. The money is used to help finance the countys enhanced 911 emergency communication service.
- Accepted the retirement of Ted Batzel, Sr., a 911 dispatcher.
B. Supers Plan For Emergency
The January 21st meeting of the Great Bend Township came to order at 7 p.m. with the call to enter into an executive cession.
Vice-Chairman Banko, Supervisor Haskins, and Secretary/ Treasurer Sheldon were present during the roll call.
Brian Senior, Great Bend Townships representative to the Susquehanna County Emergency Management, was the only person requesting time on the schedule. Due to his busy schedule and the urgency of the information he was presenting, all other business was moved out of the way. Mr. Senior discussed the need for Great Bend Township to accept the county plan for emergency management or to adopt a revised addition as soon as possible. By resolution 01-21-03-01, the Great Bend Township Supervisors agreed to adopt the county plan for calendar year 2003, contingent on the receipt of the revised document. The township may back out of this plan at any time for any reason. Mr. Senior also discussed the countys plan to record the location and ownership of every piece of equipment in the county that they deemed usable for any type of emergency. Both the supervisors and Mr. Senior do not approve of "big government," so a list will be made of available items, without listing the location, and it will be retained as private information at a secure location. Mr. Senior ended his presentation by pleading with the public to donate any additional time and resources that they have to make the Emergency Management work.
With the conclusion of the presentation by Mr. Senior, the minutes and treasurers report were accepted as printed.
The Roadmasters Report dealt with the issue of broken cinder spreaders, frozen cinders, and winter maintenance that has been done over the last several weeks. During this time the supervisors explained that all of their spreaders are broken, due to the frozen cinders, and major repairs need to be done on some while others need to be replaced. It was decided that any repairs would be made by Pennypacker welding, and a new Airflow AF24 spreader would be purchased for $4,700 plus instillation.
The Great Bend Township Audit Committee reported that the township is in great financial shape and that the pay rate of $7.00 per hour will remain in affect for the supervisors.
Kenneth Tingley Trailer Park, Harmony Village Trailer Park, and the Summersville Land Development were marked as closed items and removed from the agenda at this meeting. Act 537 sewage facilities planning update for the Hallstead/ Great Bend Joint Sewer Authority (HGBJSA), Phase I special study, was discussed during this meeting. Phase I calls for the New Milford Municipal Sewer Authority to dump 175,000 gallons of sewage per day into the HGBJSA system at the cost of no less then $1.2 million per calendar year. Mike Fortuner sent a letter to the township inquiring about the position of SEO and where he stood. Secretary/ Treasurer Sheldon was informed to reply to the letter stating that the office is still open and he is required to finish all work that he has started, no new projects are to be started, and he is to notify the supervisors when all of his work is complete.
The township sent a letter to the Voter Registrar informing them that the position as auditors and constable are open for reelection during the primaries. The township received a letter form Frontier Adjuster regarding Joseph Kovitch, informing them that his site has been cleaned up and his taxes have been paid in full, fulfilling Act 98 requirements. The township also received a letter from the Department of Auditor General informing them that the audit reports for Liquid Fuel funds in 2000 and 2001 are in great shape.
The Hallstead/ Great Bend Township boundary line; the code violations against Hornish, Slocum, and Dixon; the clean-up at Interstate Burlap and Bag; and the Graham Hollow Road subsidence are all ongoing.
All new business was covered under the Roadmasters Report and the committee reports.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:57 p.m.
CORRECTION: In my last report on Great Bend Township I inadvertently referred to Dave Banko as chairman of the Great Bend Township vacancy board. In fact, David Sienko is chairman. I apologize for any inconvenience.
On the evening of January 18, the Susquehanna County Housing and Redevelopment Authority held their regular monthly meeting, combined with their yearly meeting, at the Starrucca House in Susquehanna.
Reports were given on county CDBG projects; several countywide housing rehab projects are still in progress; a micro-business program completed with 16 graduates in a wide array of fields; several demolitions have been completed in Susquehanna, with plans for more, possibly five, still in the works; two home rehab contracts are in progress.
Susquehannas sidewalk project, funded through a Communities of Opportunity/Transportation Enhancements grant, is currently in hiatus for the winter, with the project to resume in spring.
The board approved Resolution #01-18-03-01, authorizing the filing of an application for housing rehab funds through the Department of Community and Economic Developments Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program; families with children under age 18 will be targeted; eight to ten families are expected to qualify.
An ACCESS grant was funded in the amount of $154,000 for modifications to homes with owners having permanent disabilities; it is expected that 20-22 families will be helped. The program has been advertised, surveys have been sent out and applications currently on file are being reviewed to determine qualified homeowners.
Properties under Section 8, certificate and voucher program, were said to be 98% leased as of January.
Section 8 program participants have been sent information about home ownership options to determine their qualifications for a first-time home buyers program, in partnership with TREHAB, which has partnered with the Housing Authority to service low interest loans; it is possible that four or five first time home buyers may qualify.
Turnpike Terrace apartments currently have two vacancies, with no waiting list; one of these vacancies is expected to be filled shortly.
The William Penn Apartments currently have four vacancies; a new program has lowered the residency age to 55 for qualified applicants. Price quotes for a new snow blower were discussed, as the old one, purchased in 1995, has been acting up; the Authority is looking to upgrade, as more sidewalks have been added to the site since the last one was purchased. A motion carried to approve getting a new one as soon as possible; the old one has been sold for twice its trade-in value.
The Prospect Park Apartments currently have one two-bedroom vacancy; an applicant is being processed. Due to ice damage, a gutter on building A is under repair, estimated repair costs will be between $300 - $500. It was noted that the operating subsidy is currently being funded at 70% of funds received for 2002; until Congress approves appropriations, the annual amount of $99,016 is expected for 2003. The Authority will monitor funds accordingly until it is determined what allocations will be received; the total request was for $156,000, up $15,000 from 2002.
The Howard J. Emerson Apartments are 100% leased.
Harford Village Apartments currently have one vacancy.
In other business, the February board meeting date has been changed due to a scheduling conflict, to the 18th. A presentation will also be made at this meeting to address employee pension questions.
The meeting then adjourned to the annual meeting.
The only order of business was the election of officers. Board member Paul Lukus announced the findings of the nominating committee, which were accepted; election results were as follows: Chair, Joe Matis; Vice Chair, Paul Lukus; Treasurer, Bob Bartron; Secretary, Fred Kotz; board member, Jerry Cronk.
The meeting then adjourned to the annual dinner. Following the dinner, Mr. Matis welcomed all to the annual meeting. In his remarks, Mr. Matis said that it was nice to get together to review the past year, which had passed quickly, but had been very productive. The Authority had a "full menu," which covers a spectrum from rental assistance programs, to housing maintenance. "Weve done it all," he said. "I dont think a month has passed that we didnt drive a nail somewhere in our county." The Authority is looking ahead to 2003, with many programs underway, from the Susquehanna Boro sidewalk project, to sewer projects in Thompson, New Milford, and Forest City. Many infrastructure projects will open the door for new opportunities for our county. "The Authority is pleased to assist our countys residents in various ways." Mr. Matis then turned the floor over to Karen McBride, while congratulating her for completing her first year as executive director of the Authority.
Mrs. McBride first thanked the county commissioners for reappointing Jerry Cronk to another five-year term on the board. She reported that the Authority has been working closely with TREHAB, as many of their programs parallel so closely with the Authoritys.
She welcomed Prospect Park Apartments new maintenance worker, Tim Canfield, who had replaced Bill Kuiper after 15 years. Mr. Canfields carpentry skills, she said, are much needed in family units. She also commended Jack Haley for his ten years at Turnpike Terrace; he is, she said loyal, dedicated, and hard working. Also commended was Frank Ryan, who was instrumental in publishing the Authoritys annual report, "He did a wonderful job highlighting our projects."
In speaking of Susquehannas sidewalk replacement project, Mrs. McBride said that vaults under the existing sidewalks have been filled in, and that local quarry owner Butch Coleman has donated stone to complete the project.
During 2002, the Section 8 program had achieved a perfect 100 score, and as of October 1, requirements have been incorporated in residency applications to include criminal background checks to weed out undesirables.
A maintenance building has been completed at the Turnpike Terrace Apartments, ahead of schedule; a landscape project at the Prospect Park Apartments will be completed this spring.
The 2003 project list is very busy, including a $169,000 transportation enhancement grant to include one block of West Main St. in Susquehanna. And, Forest City is eligible for competitive CDBG funds. The Section 8 voucher program now includes options for a home ownership program; qualified program participants vouchers can be applied towards a mortgage. The county is looking to participate in a joint venture grant with Lackawanna County; two municipalities could join forces for codes enforcement and housing rehab. Business building owners in Susquehanna could receive low interest loans to upgrade the buildings facades. Partnering with other municipalities could stimulate and sustain county (programs).
2003 looks to be a busy year; with the national budget deficit, is to be expected that there will be decreases in (federal) funding, which would make it necessary to "broaden our approach to bring tax dollars back into our county."
In closing, Mr. Matis asked that all take time to reflect on national affairs, "By this time next year we could have gone to war; pray for our soldiers, and that they have a safe return home."
Despite the intense cold, a few members of the fledging Martins Creek Watershed Association went over their new by-Laws and gave it their stamp of approval on Thursday, January 23 at Grace Lutheran Church in Hop Bottom.
History of this association comes by way of Janice Webster. She shared that, originally Keystone College received a grant from Growing Greener which determined that in order to move through the process of accessing funds, two associations had to be started. They are identified as the Upper Tunkhannock Creek Association which approved its by-laws on Jan. 9, 2003. Procedures for application of grant money for assessment of Martins Creek are ready to go. This work could take two years and will cover 53 miles of the waterway.
The newest step, which did not have enough people present for a quorum vote the last time the group met, is the application for a grant that will cover the Stream Restoration Design. The needs involved with this newest grant are myriad and were explained in some detail by Rob Parker, coordinator for the Endless Mountain Rural Conservation and Development Council. He discussed at length the information that needed to be shared in order to be effective in this round of grant requests. This latest grant request has a deadline of 4:30 PM on February 3, 2003.
If this grant is completed and accepted by the proper environmental agency, Hop Bottom Borough would be considered the sponsor. However, the Watershed Association would be doing the work, and getting the contractors for what needs to be addressed. If the grant work that is now put together is not approved, the association will have to wait until February of next year to resubmit. The consensus of opinion leaned towards understanding that at the very least some experience will be gained from making an attempt at the grant this year.
Parker did note that some work done previously in Hop Bottom seems to be holding up fine. He also shared that his position seems to be heading in the direction of being an advisor, not just a coordinator of efforts in this work. However, some present seemed to want to know if the corrections in Hop Bottom had been sufficiently tested.
Mike Villanella, Watershed Specialist for Susquehanna County, contributed pertinent information to the members at the meeting. He can be reached at 278-4600, extension 289. He encouraged other members of the public to become active in this association offering his phone number as a contact point. In addition, Janice Webster can be reached at 289-4792.
The next meeting is scheduled for February 17, 7 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church in Hop Bottom. The public and those interested in joining in this effort are invited to attend.
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