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Issue Is Challenged
Missouri may be the "Show-Me State" but Jim Jennings of Brooklyn Township is fast becoming known as Susquehanna Countys "Show-Me Guy."
Mr. Jennings, currently one of eight Republicans running for county commissioner in the May GOP Primaries, put the Board of Commissioners on the spot last week when he challenged the countys practice of allowing retired elected county officeholders to participate in the countys health insurance program.
"I have been researching this," Mr. Jennings told the commissioners, "and I have the minutes from 1992 and 1993 and 1996 that concern this. Nowhere can I find mention of elected county officials. What authorized elected officials to receive this benefit?"
"It was a Retirement Board decision," Commissioner Lee Smith said. "Check the minutes of the Retirement Board or the minutes of the Salary Board."
Mr. Jennings said he checked minutes and found reference supporting retirement benefits for elected county officials who serve eight years in office but no mention of health benefits.
"There is not a distinction made," Treasurer Cathy Benedict said. "We did not make a distinction. Everybody can retire and get benefits."
"Everywhere else," Mr. Jennings said, "it always distinguishes between employees and elected officials. I have the minutes here and nowhere does it say elected officials."
"Well," Mrs. Benedict replied, "it also doesnt say a retiree is an employee or a retiree is an elected official."
"It says retired county employees," Mr. Jennings said.
"Thats in the minutes," Mrs. Benedict shot back. "So we dont always use the proper terminology in the minutes."
"Elected officials are entitled to a pension after eight years of service which is ridiculous," Mr. Jennings said. "Employees cannot collect anything until they are 60 but elected officials can collect as soon as they leave office."
Commissioner Gary Marcho said he questioned the benefit program when he was named to a vacancy on the Board of Commissioners two years ago. He said he never did get a definitive answer and promised to present Mr. Jennings question to County Solicitor Michael Giangrieco to research and answer.
In another matter, the commissioners passed a motion authorizing Dawn Watson, director of the countys Emergency Management Agency, to proceed with a plan to award each county municipality $500 upon completion of a municipal emergency operations plan. Mrs. Watson said the money will be taken from a $47,000 planning grant awarded to the EMA.
The municipal emergency operations plan must be delivered to the county and the municipality must sign an agreement stipulating how the $500 will be spent. Mrs. Watson said that only four of the countys 40 municipalities have completed their emergency operations plans.
A Miscellaneous Compensation Schedule approved by the commissioners provides the following compensation as of Feb. 12, 2003:
Treasurers solicitor, $600; temporary clerical labor, $5.35 hour; tax collectors commission, $3.70 per bill; auditors solicitor, $600; Register of Willis solicitor, $600; Recorder of Deeds solicitor, $600; Sheriffs solicitor, $600; Prothonotary solicitor, $600; Clerk of Courts solicitor, $600; and, coroners solicitor, $600.
Also, witnesses, $5 a day; court stenographer, $67 a day; Tipstaff, $50 a day; viewers, $75 a day; chairman, Board of Viewers, $125 a day; Jurors, $9 a day; adult probation, on call, $150 a week; juvenile probation, on call, $150 a week; Memorial Day expenses, $400 each; services for Children & Youth, on call, $120 a week; Domestic Relations Service, professional legal help, $35 a case; witnesses, 7 cents a mile; jurors, 17 cents a mile; and, county officials and employees on county business, 36 cents a mile with a minimum of $2 a trip.
Election workers paid in increments according to number of votes case in their respective districts (up to 150, 151-500; 501-1,000): judge of elections, $65, $70, $75; inspector and clerks, $60, $65, $70; constable and deputy, $60, $65, $70; polling place rent, $50; Election Return Board (clerks computing returns) $40 a day; Election Night workers, $50 a day; outside assessors, $5.35 an hour (2400 hours maximum); prison inmate labor, 25 cents to $2 an hour; emergency burials, $675; also, off-day furnace maintenance, $35 a day.
And, professional services: arbitration chairman, $100 a case; arbitration associated, $75 a case; mental health hearing, $40 an hour; mental health hearing officer, $220 a case; and, court appointed counsel, $50 an hour.
In salary board matters, Thomas Button and Don Hawkins, and Joan Burman, field assessment appraisers, were given pay raises of $1.25 an hour after they were awarded state certifications. And, Phillip Crisp, probation/parole officer, was given an increase of 77 cents an hour after he completed one year of service as per union contract.
Most of the folks who turned out for the Blue Ridge School Board meeting on February 10 wanted to talk football. They'll have their say, but not quite yet. The business agenda included an item to consider "co-sponsorship" of a football program with the Susquehanna Community School District, but Board President Alan Hall referred the matter back to the Activities Committee and got a motion to table the question for another day. Mr. Hall encouraged anyone to speak with the Board and committee members after the meeting. He said that he would be looking for a Committee recommendation for consideration at the March business meeting. Activities Committee Chair Lon Fisher told the meeting that his group would take the matter up at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, February 24, when the Board next gathers for committee sessions and a general workshop. Susquehanna has offered to include Blue Ridge athletes in its football program at no cost or consequence to Blue Ridge.
Blue Ridge looks at all options to get things done without cost, and they got another opportunity from Crowley Foods. At the last meeting, the Susquehanna County Farm Bureau showed up to ask the District to place milk-product vending machines in the school. Under that proposal, the District would have had to pay nearly $5,000 for the machine, but would have had the flexibility to choose products from local suppliers to fill it. Then Crowley weighed in with an offer to place a machine at no cost to the school as long as it vends only Crowley-supplied products. According to a letter from Crowley, each plastic pint bottle would cost the District 78 cents. Presumably all profit above that would go to the District, although the letter did not so state. According to Superintendent Robert McNamara, this would be the first placement by Crowley in Pennsylvania, extending what appears to be a successful program in New York State. Mr. Hall said that, although Crowley is not strictly a local dairy (Blue Ridge currently buys dairy products almost exclusively from Hartt Dairy of New Milford), the agreement with Crowley will help to expand the sale of milk products and thus help local farmers as well as provide another healthy choice for Blue Ridge students. Business Manager Loren Small called the agreement with Crowley a "win-win situation" that will accomplish the goal of "selling milk." Since the machines will offer a perishable product, they will be the responsibility of the food-service staff to manage.
Among other things on the business agenda, the Board approved the annual contract with the NorthEastern Educational Intermediate Unit for special education services. NEIU 19, as it is called, offers a variety of services to member school districts that might find supporting such services uneconomical to do alone. According to Mr. McNamara, the cost of the contract varies with the number of students involved and the services purchased. He said that last year Blue Ridge paid the IU approximately $125,000 for all services.
The Board heard again from Brad Warren, High School student and Eagle Scout candidate about his plan to build a concession stand at the main soccer field. A few months ago Mr. Warren met with the Board's Facilities and Grounds Committee to sound them out on the idea. They suggested that he firm up his plan and come back with a design. He presented his design in a folder-bound booklet to each Board member and answered questions confidently. He said that his project must be completed by June 11, and asked the Board for approval to proceed. He said he expected the structure to cost between $2,000 and $3,000; he will be accepting community donations of money, materials and labor to complete the project under his own management "from start to finish," and at no cost to the school district. Mr. Hall asked that the Facilities and Grounds Committee oversee Mr. Warren's work. The District's maintenance staff will install electrical service to the building. Mr. McNamara noted that there was no particular hurry getting started on the ambitious project since the area is still covered with two feet of snow.
High School Principal Michael Thornton told the Board that the number of students needing consultation because their graduation is in jeopardy is the lowest since he has led the school. And he took special note of the achievements of Patrick Manchester, a musician of particular merit who is proficient on both French horn and violin, is WVIA's Artist of the Week, and who will be traveling to Boston to play with the Binghamton Youth Symphony. He placed high enough as a violinist at a District Orchestra event to move up to Regional Orchestra.
Patrick's proud father, Middle School Principal John Manchester, announced a Parents' Night for March 13. He said that representatives from county services for children and youth will make a presentation.
Elementary School Principal Robert Dietz handed out copies of a "Pride and Promise Nomination Form" that will be distributed throughout the schools and to local libraries. Anyone may nominate an individual or an organization to be recognized for "contributing to the betterment of our school/students/community."
Mr. Hall keeps up on legislation and state educational affairs for the Board, and he reported to his colleagues on his latest meetings with state officials. With the election of a new governor, Harrisburg is still waiting to see what he will do. Mr. Hall seemed to have a favorable initial impression of Dr. Vicki Phillips, Governor Rendell's appointment to head the state Department of Education. Mr. Hall implied that with the state budget shortfalls, both this year and another expected next year, the schools could not expect much out of Harrisburg. The new governor's budget is expected on March 3.
It will be April before Blue Ridge starts considering its own budget again. At least until then, football will be on the table, if not yet on the field.
The work session that immediately followed the Montrose Area School District regular Board meeting in Choconut last Friday night was highlighted by a tour-de-force presentation by District technology director Craig Owen about how the District put to use the $145,000 technology federal grant it received last year, beating out a lot of competition for the funds.
Owen had some of the goods on hand, and demonstrated them. This included a mobile computer cart that houses 24 wireless, laptop computers, and there are two such mobile labs one for wheeling into the classrooms at the Choconut Valley school, the other at the Lathrop Street school. A PowerPoint demonstration on one of those computers showed District elementary school children enjoying the laptops about as much as Owen did describing how the kids and teachers use them.
The grant also allowed the District to purchase two Smart Boards again, one for each of the elementary schools and the one demonstrated in Choconut was both amazing and wonderful to see. The Smart Board looks like a regular white board, but thats about where the comparison ends, since it is and electronic board linked to a computer. For there, on the board, were all the functions of a computer only bigger, for a whole class to see and be instructed, and only better.
Teachers and students can write on the board, and the technology captures the writing, turns it into type and computer language, for filing, sending, printing, and other functions. Teachers notes and illustrations can be shipped to the laptops in the carts, printed out for distribution to and lessons for children, and so very many more educational uses. Imagine a chemistry teacher taking an illustration of a molecule and, using his or her fingers on the board, turning it to see the molecule from a three-dimensional perspective. Smart Board can do it. It is truly something like magic to behold.
The Highland Associates needs-assessment report also arose at the meeting. For background, the District hired Highland, professional consultants to many school districts, for a number of reasons: assessing real market and replacement value for all the assets of the District (equipment, facilities, supplies, etc.), something that hadnt been done in a decade, and which makes a difference in terms of the Districts insurance needs and replacement due to any damage; and compiling this and other information that the state is now requiring be submitted along with requests for various funding. Another purpose is for Highland to look at the most efficient options and costs to accommodate a wish-list of such things as full-day kindergarten or delineation of a portion of the high school for a middle-school student population instead of having sixth-graders move directly into the junior-senior high school population. It came up with four such options. A fifth option includes doing nothing at all.
Students, staff, faculty, and administration at all three schools provided input to Highland, as did a community advisory board made up of District taxpayers. Their collective responses are expected to be included in the report as well, which will be presented to the public at a special meeting at 6:30 at the High School on March 28. Superintendent Mike Ognosky added that the only thing that needs to be done at this meeting is for the District to accept receipt of the report itself, and for the public to see it (a copy is also available in the Library). Subsequent discussion and debate will focus on what to do with the five options, aside from putting it to use for state funding and insurance purposes.
Since the report projects various items out for a number of years, Board member Jim Blachek asked if Highland took into account any sort of change in local demographics that might result when the high-speed rail line from Scranton to Hoboken starts up three years from now, and whose funding has already been approved. Ognosky didnt know, but will pass Blacheks query on to Highland.
A few Board members expressed some concern about a letter that has been circulating in some District communities about the needs assessment report, suggesting school taxes will rise because of it. As Board member Chris Caterson summed it up, "the letter is a fairly good representation of what the District is doing regarding the needs-assessment study. But it only lists four possibilities (in the options mentioned earlier). The letter didnt mention the fifth option, which is to do nothing." Caterson also said he thought there was a feeling that the Board "has given up our ability to make decisions and has ceded it to a consulting firm. This is not true," he said, since it is up to the Board to decide what do after reviewing the input it receives both in the detailed report, and from the public. Lastly, Caterson noted that the letter also didnt mention that a community advisory panel was consulted for their opinion as well.
In fact, at earlier Board meetings where Highland presented progress reports on the study, a spokesperson specifically noted that it received many comments from students, District staff, and the community advisory panel about their shared concern as to cost, in what is tender economic times for many.
Thus, the Board welcomes the public at the report meeting, and will advertise the March 28 meeting date and time, as well as post it on the District website.
In other discussion, the Board got to hear how the first Subway (sandwich) day worked out at the school. That fact that the 240 subs that were ordered sold out in less than 10 minutes indicates it was a hit. Of course, it was also a novelty, as many first-time things are. Nevertheless, more subs will be ordered for the next Subway day until cafeteria staff get a better handle on how much will be enough down the road.
During this discussion, Caterson noted that he heard several complaints about the school allowing Subway to come in. He pointed out that the subs cost the District no more or less than food provided by any other vendor. For his part, Blachek reported that someone asked how their business could provide food to the schools. He replied that the Subway program was part of a national program that had to follow national guidelines, and referred the person to the head of the cafeteria and food staff.
As an aside, Gould reported that his daughter, along with the daughter of Board member George Gow, and another co-ed, did the legwork and research to get Subway Day into the school. He wryly noted that the subs sold out before his daughter could buy one.
The Board next talked about a subject both difficult and necessary, and that was the process, proposed by Ognosky, of selecting a new elementary principal at the Choconut Valley school. He wanted the Boards input before taking the process to the faculty and community. This was to post the position in a host of papers, from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to the surrounding areas. Ognosky suggested that it not be posted in the Binghamton paper because he had a hard time interviewing people with New York State certifications when the District would have Pennsylvania-certified ones on file. The Board agreed.
To review applicants, Ognosky proposed that a review committee be formed and composed of faculty and staff members from Choconut, as well as Board members. This group would meet and discuss what it wants from a principal, develop interview questions, and do the initial vetting: reviewing the applications, whittling them down to a pool to invite for an initial interview, and, based on those interviews, further whittling the list down to a group of finalists. These would be invited to visit the Choconut building, meet with faculty and students and see if it is a good mix for them as an administrator, and have a final interview. Ognosky suggested that these finalist interviews be conducted by Board members, one Choconut support staff and one Choconut faculty member, and a member of the Choconut PTO. He thought that by starting the process early, there would be time enough to make a hiring decision at the Boards May meeting.
Board members were receptive to this process, and pleased that members of the Choconut community would have a vote and a say in the selection. Three Board members are from Region 3 (the region that includes Choconut) and they are Gould, Mary Homan and Celeste Ridler. Along with Board member Gow, they will represent the Board on the review committee.
The next work session of the Montrose Area School Board is scheduled to immediately follow its regular 6:30 p.m. meeting at Choconut Valley Elementary School on March 14.
John Thomas Megivern, 22, Clifford Township, and Jennifer Elizabeth Coombs, 23, Brooklyn Township.
Francisco J. Martinez, 44, Jackson Township, and Diane Miller, 47, Clinton Township.
Keybank USA, N. A. to Philip K. Titus and Joann Titus in Harford Township for $49,000.
Glenn G. Whitney and Grace Whitney to Ronald Whitney and Dennis Whitney in Great Bend Borough for $1.
Frederic R. Leber, Jr., Executor of the Estate of Frederic R. Leber to Jane Margerison and Nancy Graber in Thompson Township for $1 (three parcels).
Charlotte M. Kretzmer to Robert R. Brown and Susan A. Brown in Apolocon (sic) Township for $1.
Rolanda Port to Rolanda Port in Liberty Township for $1.
Isabel A. Meyer by her Attorney in Fact Joyce E. Hall to James Canini and Christine Canini in Harmony Township for $15,300.
Helena Maby and Marlene M. Ackley to Marlene M. Ackley in Oakland Township for $1.
Gary S. Paris to Michael J. Enos and Carol J. Enos in Gibson Township for $205,000.
Eileen E. Kingsbury and Ronald W. Kingsbury to Eileen E. Kingsbury in Oakland Township for $1.
Elizabeth A. Bour to Brian V. Paciotti in Lenox Township for $50,000.
Ronald A. Andrews dba RYVAMATT to John Andrew McNett in Great Bend Township for $1.
Marilynn C. Ksiazek and James Sciandra, Francis A. Ksiazek and Catherine Wilson-Ksiazek to Albert T. MacKarey and Maria G. MacKarey in Herrick Township for $41,500.
John Zasik to Frank Durst and Margaret L. Durst in Forest City Borough for $18,000.
Jeanne Elizabeth Suhadolnik to Jeanne Elizabeth Suhadolnik in Forest City Borough for $1.
Warren D. Long to Kenneth A. Tingley & Sandra J. Tingley in Great Bend Township for $430,000.
Luella Childress to Michael G. Childress and Kelly S. Childress in Auburn Township for $1 ogvc.
Pauline Nulton to Geraldine M. Reed in Bridgewater Township for $1 ogvc.
David T. Ormesher and Mary C. Ormesher to David Kwiatkowski and Stephen Kwiatkowski and Beverly Kwiatkowski in Harmony Township for $60,000.
Jeffrey R. Schuler and Martina R. Schuler to Jeffrey A. Kuchak and Shannon M. Kuchak in Lenox Township for $142,900.
Denise G. Redlear-Brown to Lexington National Insurance Corp. in Gibson for trust deed and note securing bail bond of $40,000.
Brian R. Hollenbeck & Lisa M. Hollenbeck to Robert Naramore in Forest Lake Township for $78,000.
James Gearhart to Joseph A. Welch and Heather A. Welch in Franklin Township for $68,000.
Bert N. Lewis and Paul Mulcahy in Great Bend Township for $12,000.
Manfred Fritsche and Claudia Fritsche to Scott F. Reinhart and Meredith L. Reinhart in Ararat Township for $192,500.
Annette M. Bloch, as Trustee of the Ames Trust to Montrose Partners of Albany, L. P. in Bridgewater Township for $1,650,000.
Ames Department Stores, Inc. to Montrose Partners of Albany, L. P. in Bridgewater Township for $700,000.
A crash occurred on February 10 at 3:30 p.m. when Peter Smoot Nibley, Edgewater, MD, driving a 1988 Ford truck, was traveling in the right lane of southbound Interstate 81, Great Bend Township, towing a large boat, at approximately 45 mph. David Crocket, Lockweed, NY, was in the left lane going about 55 mph in a 2001 Freightliner. Nibley lost control of his vehicle and began to jackknife. Nibley's trailer entered the left lane as Crocket was passing, causing an impact. Crockett swerved into the median and overturned. Nibley's truck came to rest in the right lane while the boat traveled about 300 feet as it became detached from the trailer, ending in the median. Neither driver was injured.
The Gibson Barracks is investigating a collision in which Christine Marie Mancia, 20, Scranton, lost control of her Subaru Legacy on a slick Interstate 81, Great Bend Township, on February 10 at 3:25 p.m. The vehicle slid into the median and flipped over, coming to rest in an upright position. Mancia was taken to Barnes Kasson Hospital to be checked.
THREE VEHICLE CRASH
On Interstate 81, Great Bend Township, on February 9 at 5:15 p.m., Eric Melnychuk, 21, Bloomsburg, was traveling south in a 1996 Toyota, when he lost control and rear-ended a 1996 Oldsmobile driven by Glenn James, 61, Susquehanna, then traveled into the median where he struck a 1997 Freightliner trailer disabled from a previous crash, operated by Rae Thompson, 60, Niagara Falls, ONT. No one suffered injuries.
A one-vehicle crash occurred when John Bowes, 44, Andalusia, driving a 2000 Kia Sportage, left the roadway, traveled into the median, hit a ditch then rolled over. The road was snow covered during this February 9 incident on Interstate 81, Great Bend Township.
James Michalski, 55, Syracuse, NY, was not injured when his 2001 Nissan Pathfinder traveled up an embankment on Interstate 81, Great Bend Township, and rolled over onto its roof. A passenger, Barbara Michalski, received minor injury during this incident on the snow covered road on February 9 at 4:50 p.m.
3 VEHICLE TRAFFIC ACCIDENT
On Interstate 81, Great Bend Township, on February 9 at 5:40 p.m., Satoko Yo, 23, Syracuse, NY, spun out of control and was struck by Melanie Simmons, 36, Sherburne, NY. As a result Yo then struck Laurie Sheltra, Laconia, 38, NY, who then struck Leslie Burrell, 30, Ithaca, NY. Yo and passenger and Simmons and passenger received minor injuries and were taken to Wilson Memorial Hospital. Yo was cited for driving at an unsafe speed.
HIT & RUN
A 2002 Dodge Neon was struck by an unknown vehicle as it was parked unattended along side the road on State Route 2024, in front of the Dimock Church, Dimock Township, on December 22 between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police at Gibson at 570-465-3154.
MOTOR VEHICLE COLLISION
James E. Dewitt, Kingsley, lost control of his 1995 Ford F250 pickup on Feb. 7 at 1:15 am on State Route 706, Bridgewater Township. The vehicle left the snow covered roadway causing the vehicle to roll over. Dewitt received minor injury.
Michael Haase, 18, Long Island, and Susan E. Dean, 38, New Milford, collided as they were traveling south on Interstate 81, Great Bend Township, on February 9 at 5:00 p.m.. Haase lost control of his vehicle, colliding with Dean, then striking a guide rail causing the vehicle to roll over several times. Haase and passenger Brian Snyder, 19, Long Island, both received moderate injuries. Dean and passenger were not injured.
At 5:00 p.m. on February 9, Eric Beausejour, 30, Ont. Canada, in a 2003 Freightliner was traveling south on Interstate 81, Great Bend Township, when a 1992 Plymouth van driven by Henry Eibes, Gouldsboro, 86, stopped in front of him due to another accident in front of him. Neither driver was injured.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
Wilma Trusky, 82, Forest City, lost control of her 1997 Ford pick-up on snow covered State Route 171, Herrick Township, on February 7 at 10:50 a.m. She received minor injury when her vehicle slid into a snowbank.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
On February 7 at 6:45 a.m., Patrick Dougherty, Dunmore, lost control of his 1999 Mack Tractor Trailer and struck the side of an unknown vehicle on Interstate 81, Lenox Township. After impact, the unknown vehicle traveled north without stopping. Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact the PA State Police.
The Gibson Barracks is investigating an incident which occurred as an unknown operator lost control of his/her vehicle and struck a utility pole on Vandermark Rd., Dimock Township. The operator then left the scene and the vehicle for several days. No date was given in the report.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
A 1992 Ford F150 overturned after striking an embankment on November 20 on State Route 858, Apolacon Township. An investigation is continuing.
STATUTORY SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RELATED OFFENSES
Joel Richard VanWert, 33, RR1, Hop Bottom, was accused, arrested and arraigned on February 4 for the following criminal charges that occurred on December 14-15: rape, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, furnishing alcohol to minors, corruption of minors. The accused was committed to the Susquehanna County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail.
Two people drove to the New Milford Market, New Milford Borough, and then broke into an exterior ice box. They removed assorted grocery items and placed them in the vehicle. After being disturbed by a neighbor, they fled the scene. Anyone with information please contact the PA State Police, Gibson, at 570-465-3154 regarding this February 4, 10:00 p.m. incident.
CRASH HIT & RUN
A driver and two passengers in a 1986 white Cadillac four-door, swerved off of State Route 11, Hallstead Borough, and struck a telephone pole, then fled on foot. Anyone with information is asked to contact Gibson Barracks at 570-465-3154.
Deidra L. Cleay, 25, Clifford, was traveling west on State Route 106, Lenox Township, and lost control of her 1995 Toyota 4Runner when she hit a large patch of ice on February 7 at 11:00 p.m. She then struck a guide rail causing the vehicle to roll onto its side. Cleay was not injured.
David L. Dygert, 23, Syracuse, NY, was not injured when he failed to maintain control of his 1997 International on Interstate 81, Lenox Township, on February 7 at 9:30 a.m. He struck a guide rail then jackknifed. The vehicle then slid across both lanes, went through the right guide rail and down the berm.
A 1998 Ford Explorer, driven by Tammy Topa, 39, Scranton, struck a snow bank when Topa lost control of the vehicle on snow covered State Route 29, near Woodbourne Rd., Dimock Township, and began to spin, striking a snow bank. It then overturned, coming to rest on its roof. Topa complained of neck pain, and a passenger had a minor head laceration but no note was made on the police report of treatment in this January 26 incident at 1:45 p.m.
HIT & RUN TRAFFIC COLLISION
Erica J. Major, RR 2, Thompson, was not injured when an unknown vehicle collided with her 1992 Ford Ranger (no date given) on State Route 2014, Clifford Township, then left the scene without giving any information. The unknown vehicle is a white van with damage to the driver's door, without a mirror and with a broken window. Anyone with information is asked to call the PA State Police, Gibson at 570-465-3154.
An investigation continues into some stolen checks from a checkbook belonging to Ryan Millard, Hallstead. According to the report, suspect Robert Burnett, Hallstead, cashed a check to himself for $200 in Vestal around January 21-22.
With the exception of Bob VanFleet and the late arrival of Chad Crawford, all council members were present at the February 13 meeting of the Oakland Boro Council; also present were mayor Art Towner, secretary Cindy Cordner, CEO Shane Lewis, and several audience members.
Mr. Lewis reported on the progress of several violations. On a visit to a home on State St., he and Mr. VanFleet observed six bags of household trash in front of the home, approximately 20 on the side porch, and anywhere from 30-40 in the back yard. As there was no one home and prior violation notices had not resulted in compliance, the matter was referred to the magistrate for further action. Mr. Lewis reported that two other property owners had made an attempt to clean up; he will check on them again in the spring when the weather eases up. A fourth property, he said, is at stage three of violation; the owner had been notified, in writing and did not comply. A subsequent certified warning, hand delivered by the boro police, has been ignored. The boros solicitor has sent a letter, giving 90 days for compliance. If no results are seen, the matter will be taken to county court. Mr. Lewis stated that this particular problem is a "serious issue" as there are propane tanks, several unregistered vehicles, and the house itself is "not in good shape."
Final figures for a water line break in the first two days of November showed that repair costs were in the amount of $3,485.41.
Based on information gathered by Mrs. Cordner, a motion carried to move the boros accounts to another bank. A comparison of interest rates showed that the boro could earn more interest in another local bank.
Continuing discussion about a neighbors dispute over a large snow bank near the road, council president Ron Beavan said that he had observed a number of areas that were nearly as bad as the one in question; if council were to take steps to enforce clearing this walk, there are a number of other situations that would need to be addressed as well. He has been researching the boros ordinances, to determine what regulations are on the books. Mr. Crawford added that there are some sidewalks in the boro that have been removed. "Before we enforce maintenance," he said, "we have to make them put them back." He noted that the state code does have a provision for maintenance of sidewalks. Council member Cynthia Beavan suggested that the boro could do what other municipalities have done when the walks are not cleared; the boro could have them cleaned and bill the property owner for the cost.
A motion carried to pay the boros auditors an hourly rate of $8. According to state regulations, auditors pay cannot exceed $1,000 per person, per audit, and can be at an hourly rate of between $5-10. Mrs. Cordner said that, so far, the auditors have put in about ten hours. Although it may "upset the budget," Mr. Beavan said, funds can be taken from other allocations to cover any possible increase.
Mr. Beavan reported that Janet Smith had withdrawn her resignation as collector of water fees. He felt that since Mrs. Smiths resignation had been approved by council, the vacancy had been advertised, and applications had been received, it should be up to council to consider reinstating her. A short executive session was called to discuss the matter further. After reconvening, it was agreed to allow Mrs. Smith to withdraw her resignation, with the proviso that additional evening collection hours could be agreed upon by both Mrs. Smith and council. Mrs. Beavan agreed to speak with Mrs. Smith and see what could be worked out.
In a related discussion, Mrs. Cordner related that, up until now, Mrs. Smith has been paid as an "independent contractor," with no deductions taken. Information from the water company auditor indicated that this position does not technically qualify as an independent contractor, and should be considered as a municipal employee. If deductions were to be taken, they would amount to approximately $17 per month. Mrs. Beavan agreed to also discuss this matter with Mrs. Smith.
Council approved three tax exonerations from 1999; two for residents who had since moved out of the area, and one who had moved and whose current address was unknown. A fourth exoneration, for an individual who had been unemployed during the time in question, was tabled pending information from the county tax office. It was thought that all residents are subject to the tax, although a lower rate would apply to a person who was unemployed.
The boro has been notified by their insurance carrier that rates will increase when the present policy expires in April, although no specific amount was given. It was agreed to meet with a representative from another company to see if a better package might be available; a committee consisting of Mrs. Cordner, Mrs. Beavan, Mr. Crawford and Leon Dubanowitz will review the information and make a recommendation to council. An information session was scheduled for February 20, at 7:00; it will be open to the public.
A motion carried to retain Myron DeWitt as the boros solicitor for the year 2003.
Mr. Beavan reported that a grant program, through NTRPDC might provide funding for office equipment; he suggested that council look into getting a new computer monitor for the office.
Mr. Beavan commended Mr. Crawford and council member Doug Arthur for their work putting in a skating rink at the boro park. It was, he said, "an awful lot of work" in very frigid temperatures. Council has received very positive comment from boro residents as well as from people outside the boro. Later in the meeting, Mr. Arthur said that council will take a look at the rink over the summer to see if it could be improved; he also thanked a number of individuals, some of them children, who had helped with the project.
Council discussed an offer received, to sell the boro a parcel of land with a trailer on it, adjacent to the park, tentative price $10,000. Mr. Arthur thought that it might be a good investment for the boro, as the trailer could be used as a concession stand as well as for restroom facilities. Mr. Dubanowitz said the land would be ideal for additional parking for the park; he agreed to speak with the owner and get more information.
Mr. Dubanowitz has been working on an emergency management plan for the boro; copies of a preliminary plan will be made available to council members for review. The plan will be discussed further at the meeting on February 20, when putting committees in place will be considered. He added that information on chemical and biological situations is available on the Red Cross website at www.redcross.org. This, he said, is a serious threat that could greatly affect all of us. In the meantime, he will contact the local school district, hospital and fire department to establish links in the event an emergency does occur. Mr. Beavan pointed out that the emergency plan is not just for a threat of war, but to outline action that should be taken when any disaster occurs.
Council reviewed grant application information from USDA; Mr. Beavan suggested that it is something council should look into to fund installing water meters at boro residences.
Council also reviewed information received from Susquehanna Boro, for a shared municipal service grant requiring two municipalities to apply jointly; funds could possibly be used for demolition of condemned structures.
Correspondence received from Thompson Boro president Dennis Price was discussed, regarding impending increases in cable fees that will be implemented this spring. Mrs. Beavan had spoken with Mr. Price; both had agreed that there were a number of residents who were not happy with the coming changes. Mr. Beavan concluded, "Well just stay abreast of whats happening."
Council discussed an outstanding USDA loan, taken by the water company in 1983, in the amount of $408,000, at an interest rate of 5%, with the final payment to be made in 2023. As of the date of the meeting, the boro has been paying $24,000 per year, in two installments; $16,000 goes towards interest, with $7,800 being applied to the principal. Would it be more advantageous to refinance the loan, and possibly pay it off sooner? Comparisons from two local banks were discussed. Both would offer lower interest rates for the first five years, and readjusted to 60% of the prime rate after five years. Although it would result in fewer years payment on the loan, yearly installments would increase by about $4,000. Mrs. Beavan suggested that, if the loan were to be refinanced, some of the $25,000 that USDA requires be kept in a savings account could be kept aside, with a portion of it used to pay off some of the principal. Mr. Towner did not agree; this fund, he said, was set aside for any emergency repair costs that might arise. Mr. Beavan felt that more information should be obtained; his fear is that an additional loan would need to be obtained in the event a serious situation arose. "Its a lot of money," he said. "I want to go about it right." Mrs. Beavan added that, once the loan is paid off, capital could be built up for future improvements.
A motion carried to approve the ordinance required to impose an increase in boro taxes, as determined by the 2003 budget.
Mrs. Cordner reported that a state audit of the boros liquid fuels funds had received an "excellent" report.
At the meeting on February 20, council will also review proposals to determine if the services of a new auditor should be retained for the water company.
Mr. Beavan reported that figures show an increase in water usage in the last few months, some of which could be attributed to people leaving their water on to prevent pipes from freezing, and for the water needed for the ice skating rink. He said that some of this could be from leakage; the water company plans to hire an expert to locate any leaks, which will be repaired when the weather permits, most likely in the spring.
During public comment, one question concerned old propane tanks; what could be done to dispose of them? Council member Jack Agler suggested that a local dealer be contacted for information; he added that new (required) safety valves could be obtained and put on the tanks so that they could be used.
Another topic brought up concerned making the boro building handicap accessible; instead of trying to find a way to put in a ramp, couldnt a motorized lift chair be put in at one of the two entrances? Mr. Crawford agreed to get more information on the costs involved. He added that, if the back stairway were to be used, it would also require that sidewalks be put in.
The next regular meeting will be on Thursday, March 13, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
Lathrop Township Supervisors Dennis Phelps, Elwood Phelps, and Nick Sabuachek met on Thursday, February 12, at their new time of 7:00 p.m. The agenda was small, but the meeting had some interesting discussions, reported Ann Marie Shevchek.
According to Shevchek, she reported that Lathrop received revenues of $3,496.37.
Information was sent from the Susquehanna Planning Commission regarding a subdivision for Walt and Eleanor Jagger. It was given the supervisors approval.
The secretary noted the road report was given by Elwood Phelps covering the plowing and cindering of roads after the last few snowfalls. He commented the equipment had some mechanical problems but finished this report indicating that all the repairs have been made and the road crew is ready to go.
There was some discussion about having two men in a truck at all times for safety reasons. One of the people at the meeting noted it may go beyond a judgment call. The intimation of all the talking is that the Township is considering action in this area. However, no final decision was made at the meeting.
Sabuachek reported that there should be heavier cindering of hilly roads.
Citizens comments included an announcement given that rocket launches will take place on Memorial Day weekend in the township. It will be a three day event commencing Memorial Day afternoon. More details will be given in the future. The supervisors were interested in this event. Dennis Phelps, supervisor chairperson, offered the opportunity to make a sign announcing the days of the launches that could be displayed on voting day this coming May.
Jimmy Galvin noted that this might be a good time to look at replacing the tractor and the supervisors are now in the process of addressing that. The purchase of a backhoe may be desirable. He said that the backhoe can be used in circumstances where the trucks could not handle the amount of snow or a truck breakdown. Comments were made that there are no complaints about road conditions.
The meeting was adjourned around 7:45 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for the second Tuesday of March, 7:00 p.m. at the Grange Hall in Lathrop.
All members were present during the February 11 meeting of the Susquehanna Boro Council, as well as Mayor Roberta Kelly, Secretary Margaret Biegert, CEO Shane Lewis, boro solicitor Myron DeWitt and a number of audience members.
During public comment, two West Main St. residents, Andy Whitehead and Andy Francis, wished to address an impending parking ban from Fourth Ave. to the boro line. Mr. Whitehead said that he had researched PENNDOT regulations concerning such a ban; his interpretation of the requirements indicated that an in-depth analysis of eight different requirements should be conducted, by a qualified engineer. Enacting such a ban without due process would be out of councils reign of authority; any action taken could be null and void. He felt that the boros liability in this situation has been over-exaggerated. He added that he did not think there is a compelling reason to enact the ban; it will devalue property in the area and discourage visitors. Where, he asked, would a visitor to one of the homes in this area park? In some cases, these people are elderly, and it would present a hardship if they had to park some distance away from the home they were visiting. His main concern, he said, is about the safety of children at bus stops, mainly with truck traffic; he stressed that an engineers study should address this problem. "We should work with PENNDOT," he said, and consider alternatives such as one side of the street parking, or widening the road.
Council member Todd Glover responded that he had contacted several PENNDOT officials in the district traffic division. Information he received indicated that the boro or the streets commissioner does have the ability to conduct a traffic study and complete required data sheets, to regulate stopping and standing. The boro could have an engineer conduct the study, he said; while only one condition must be shown to exist to enact the ban, the boro has met several of these conditions. "We can waste our money," he said, "but an engineer will tell us the same thing."
Mr. Whitehead responded that the law is very clear; a municipality must retain the services of a certified engineer to conduct a study. He suggested that council should consult with the boros solicitor to determine if the boro has the authority to impose the ban. "I wouldnt want you to do something thats going to be null and void from the get-go," he said. "I sincerely hope you take truck traffic into consideration if you do the study."
Mr. Glover replied that some of the criteria outlined by PENNDOT included the fact that this portion of West Main St. is less than 18 feet in width from the center of the road. Council has received correspondence from the school district, citing problems reported by bus drivers. The width of the shoulder of the road is insufficient to allow parking completely off the roadway. And, more than the required number of State Police accident reports were available to substantiate that there is a problem. If the ban is enacted, he said, the boro police should increase traffic control in this area; this is, he said, a concern council would have to address with the boro police. The previous Saturday, he added, he and streets commissioner Steve Glover had observed five cars parked illegally in this area.
Council president Ron Whitehead noted that there are only five homes in this area that do not have driveways, as well as one abandoned building. Why, he asked, are there so many cars parked along the roads, when most of these homes do have their own driveways?
Mr. Francis responded that there has been a continuing problem with water runoff, which freezes on driveways in winter, making it an "absolute hazard" to use some of these driveways. And, he said, there are undoubtedly some homes where there are more vehicles than will fit in the driveway, as well as several rental units which increases the number of vehicles at some of those homes. He agreed that there are some individuals who do not use their driveways, and wont even move their vehicles off the street in a snow emergency; it is, he said, "abhorrent" that they refuse to comply. If these vehicles do remain parked on the road during an emergency, they should be towed. But, what happens when there are a number of visitors to one of these residences; where do they park? Some of the boros other streets are also too narrow, not just West Main St.
Council member Roy Williams replied that councils concern is the congestion from Fourth Ave., "Its a terrible hazard, thats what were concerned with."
Mr. (Andy) Whitehead responded, "I cant argue; thats a legitimate problem. But (the ban) is going to be a concern with realtors, trying to sell properties."
Mr. Francis added, "We have the same concerns as you. This is not a new issue. We should work out positive alternatives if we take away parking. If the boro were to address the drainage problem, more people would use their driveways. There are no reasonable alternatives. Parking in town is not reasonable. Parking bans always come up in winter. It puts an undue burden on the people who have no alternatives." There are 20-30 homes in this area that would be affected by a ban. Council should address situations where people dont use their driveways, for themselves or their visitors. The overall structure of the area hasnt changed, he said, except for heavy truck traffic. He added that his research showed that it would be extremely unlikely for an individual to successfully challenge a municipality in a situation where there is a liability. His major concern was with heavy trucks, entering the boro around a curve where the speed limit is 40 mph. "If (parking) is taken away, will they slow down? What about the school bus turn at Center Lane? If you remove all (parked) cars, will the trucks pick up speed? If we can work together, come up with a solution to allow reasonable, accessible parking... Wouldnt it be a wise choice to implement the ban in summer, giving people who needed to, ample time to put in driveways?"
Mr. Glover asked Mr. DeWitt if it would be feasible for council to conduct a traffic study; Mr. DeWitt agreed to look over Mr. Glovers documentation, as well as written concerns given to council by Mr. (Andy) Whitehead.
In other business, Mayor Kelly extended an open invitation to all council members and boro business owners to attend a meeting on February 26, 1:00 p.m. at the boro building, to discuss a presentation on Susquehannas eligibility for a business district revitalization program. The executive director of the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Karen McBride would be present, as well as a representative from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. There is a good chance, she said, that the boro could qualify for this program. The boros sidewalk renovation is expected to resume in early spring, most likely in March if the weather cooperates. A request to River Bounty, to donate 18 acres of land along the river, will be addressed by River Bountys attorney. And information received about forming a Salary Board is that the board would have to be comprised of council members.
Tom Kelly reported that the Parks and Rec. committee has met with members of the Terpstra family; donations have been made to the boro for the upkeep of the memorial garden at the Washington St. park; Mr. Kelly said that the family has agreed to take care of the memorial area. And, the committee will be taking a look at the sidewalks adjacent to the Drinker Creek Park, to assess damage to the bluestone walks.
Council will be considering implementing an amendment to ordinance 397, concerning fines imposed as well as financial responsibility for repair costs for damage caused to boro roads. Mr. Williams explained that there have been incidents where damage has been caused to boro streets by vehicles too heavy for the roads to accommodate. The ordinance, he said, is rather vague and council should look into amending it and updating the fines involved.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session, to discuss a personnel matter. When the meeting reconvened, a motion carried against making a probationary part-time employee permanent.
A meeting of the Codes Appeal Board had been scheduled to take place immediately following the meeting. As the complainant did not show up, the meeting was canceled.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, February 25, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
Susquehanna County Dairy Princess, Rebecca Place, Auburn Township, and Dairy Ambassador Amanda Miner, Springville Township, spoke at the latest Elk Lake School Board meeting to help persuade the board to order a milk vending machine for use in the school.
At the last regular meeting, Louis Hawley had asked Elk Lake to purchase a machine with the understanding that his committee from the Susquehanna County Farm Bureau would come up with 50 percent of the cost through grants and/or fund-raising. The board had suggested that their contract with Pepsi might preclude them from having milk vending machines, but apparently, their investigation into the contract revealed that milk was not considered a competing beverage.
Place, who is the daughter of Board member Chuck Place, discussed the benefits of milk versus soda, bringing up data about the amount of calcium available as well as the need for school children to consume more calcium. Miner related what the Dairy court responsibilities include, like talking to people about why they need milk. Both girls then passed out flavored milk to the board.
Hawley praised the Dairy Princess program, saying they have traveled 4,000 miles in the last year. He then asked the board to place an order for a milk vending machine, telling them that at Dairy Day, held at Elk Lake School each year, with this year's event scheduled for March 7, Farm Bureau would have a machine there, and hoped it would be Elk's. If not, then the Farm Bureau would have to purchase it at an additional cost of $250 for the sales tax. If the school bought it directly, they would be exempt from the tax.
The machine will cost $4250 including delivery. According to Hawley, Mountain View and Blue Ridge Schools have both given very positive feedback on this pilot project, but neither has committed by board vote yet.
Discussion arose about timers used on other vending machines so that they are available only when classes are not in session. Hawley said he had checked and USDA (that subsidizes school meals) does not have a problem with selling milk during lunch time. Questions about warrantee were answered that the compressor and evaporator had a five year one, while the coin and control board was three.
Chuck Place said he'd "like to see this fly," and was only concerned with the administrative responsibility of the machine.
Eric Emmerich said, "me, too," to Place's wanting to see it fly, adding, "We're in a dairy producing area." He too saw a lot of things that needed working out.
Jack Sible finally made the motion to buy the machine with the idea of a 50 percent reimbursement. A unanimous vote was cast by those in attendance. Only Kevin Pierson was absent from the meeting.
The machine will be ordered and delivered so that it can be shown on Dairy Day, then put in a more permanent location.
Chuck Place said he'd donate the first 100 units of milk.
A policy for TB testing that would supercede the current one of having all kindergartners, ninth graders, employees and volunteers getting the test will now be done only for high risk populations according to information that has been recommended from various agencies. The new policy was passed with only Jean Swire voting against it.
During the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center meeting, two awards were made to Gary Darrow Excavating, one for $7900 for the first phase to get the site ready for the new building, plus a second phase at the end of the project which will not be until the 2003-4 school year, for excavation work to complete the job, amounting to $6600.
A driver's education car which was totaled will need replacement, but the board will revisit this idea next time. Insurance will cover $3600, and there was talk of purchasing a used vehicle.
The next board meeting is scheduled for March 24.
The Forest City Regional Board of Education is not sure if it wants to continue as a participant in a lawsuit against charter schools. The sudden indecision came on the heels of a report from School Superintendent Bernice Lukus that changes in the school code limits the issues with respect to charter schools.
"Do we still want to pursue litigation?" Mrs. Lukus asked the board.
"If they wont let us do anything," said Director Henry Nebzydoski, "what is the sense of wasting our money."
After more discussion on the subject, Board President Joseph Lucchesi said the matter will be taken up at the boards next work session in March.
In another matter, the board agreed to purchase a dozen child booster seats that will be installed in vans that transport students. The move is in compliance with a recently enacted state law that requires any person who transports a child four years of age or older but under eight years to fasten such child securely in a safety seat belt system and in a child booster seat that is defined in the law.
While the booster seats will be used primarily in private contracted vans, the school board agreed to pay for them. Mrs. Lukus told the board the seats will cost approximately $12.76 each.
Director Robert Trusky suggested that if the school district buys the seats, it should be the responsibility of the drivers to learn how to install and use them.
The board adopted a policy relating to public records. It provides for making all public records available for inspection and duplication to any state resident. The public may inspect and obtain copies of the public records during regular office h ours (8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.) subject to management directives (holidays and closings due to severe weather.)
Requests must be submitted in writing to the board secretary and must include name and address of the person seeking to view any public records and a phone number where the individual can be reached. Mrs. Lukus said the current charge for copies of public records is 25 cents a page.
The board approved a contract with NEIU 19 for special education services during the 2003-2004 school year in the amount of $234,353. The amount is some $98,000 higher than the current contract.
"This is for special services that we cannot provide ourselves," Director Nebzydoski said.
The board entered into an agreement with Commercial Utility Consultants (CUC) to analyze the rates, tariffs, discounts and total charges that apply to the district utility billings.
President Lucchesi said the agreement is at no cost to the district and that any money recovered by CUC is divided equally between the district and CUC.
Motions passed by the board completed the following business-
-Added Anthony Caudullo, Jessica Hemeza and Ellen Wolf to the substitute teachers list for the current school year.
-Appointed Amy Orasin as mentor teacher for new hiree, Joan Borosky, as per the districts Teacher Induction Plan. Ms. Orasins compensation will be $500.
-Appointed Nicole J. Sweeney as substitute van driver for the 2002-2003 school year.
High School Principal Anthony Rusnak said the Principal Award Winners for January were Kathryn Skarbez, John Weaver, David Shollock, Ashley Moser, Amanda White, and Mary Scheller.
The Harford Township Supervisors opened bids at their meeting on February 12. Some were bids to sell stuff to the Township, some were bids to buy stuff from the Township. Maybe not as efficient as eBay, but the process got the job done in the course of a superbly organized session.
The meeting opened with an executive session, announced last month, to discuss pay for the Township's employees. When the Supervisors emerged from the garage, Rick Pisasik reported that they had agreed to increase the workers' pay by 50 cents an hour (an average of about 4 percent). He said the increase was warranted in part because the Township last year asked the workers to contribute more toward rising health insurance costs. Agreement wasn't unanimous. Jim Ketterer voted against the motion to increase wages.
According to Mr. Pisasik, discussion during the executive session also covered a letter received from Heath Brewer, the current owner of the old Chamberlain property in the village. As a potential legal issue, Mr. Pisasik would not elaborate.
One long-standing legal tangle has finally been resolved. A couple of years ago, at an event informally sponsored by the Township, a citizen was hurt by a piece of equipment on Township property. Mr. Pisasik announced to the meeting that the resulting claim against the Township has been resolved, and that, although he did not describe the terms of the settlement, the Township was fully insured for all costs involved.
The Township's insurance carrier recently demanded that something be done to ensure the safety of the public at meetings in the Odd Fellows Hall in the village. The Supervisors' immediate response was to close the building to all public access, and to shut off electrical power except to the furnace. Now Mr. Pisasik has arranged for a loss-control representative for the insurance company to pay a visit to the Township to provide more detailed recommendations for improving conditions at the old town hall.
The Supervisors accepted a letter of intent from the firm of Johnson, Lauder & Savidge, LLP to provide auditing services, for no more than $4,000. This is an increase of $300 over last year's fee, but the Supervisors seem satisfied with the firm's work auditing the books for the sewer system.
The main event of the evening was consideration of bids received to supply the Township with road-maintenance materials, and other bids to purchase surplus Township equipment. Winning supplier bids were as follows (all prices are as delivered):
* Tolerico Trucking will supply up to 300 tons of washed black cinders at $11.50 per ton.
* State Aggregates will supply stone materials: 6,000 tons of 2RC at $5.48, 200 tons of 2A at $6.35, 200 tons of 3A at $7.75, and 1,000 tons of anti-skid at $8.40.
* Vestal Asphalt will supply up to 50,000 gallons of 34% calcium chloride solution, for dust control, at 58.7 cents per gallon.
* Agway offered up to 4,500 gallons of number 2 diesel fuel at $1.2715 per gallon.
There were only two bidders in most of the categories. State Aggregates was the only bidder on anti-skid stone used with cinders for traction on roads. Although their bid for 2RC stone was slightly higher than the other bidder, the cost of their bid package overall was lower, and all Supervisors expressed satisfaction with the company's performance and service in the past. Agway was the only bidder for diesel fuel, and the price is always subject to fluctuation anyway.
The Township offered to sell two trucks, and the Supervisors were happy to get $250 for the 30-year-old Ford 750 cinder truck. The 1985 Ford 350 dump truck with plow attracted three bids; the winner will pay $1,585 to take it away.
The meeting's agenda was expeditiously disposed of, in order. Most things in Harford are a little messier and take a little longer. Take, for example, the sewer connection to the Brainard property on Route 547. Mr. Brainard has been waiting patiently to have the connection completed for seven years. It's been almost done for the last many months, but according to Supervisor Terry Van Gorden, it has been difficult to find a qualified electrician to finish installing the control panel. The sewer plant's maintenance employee has been asked to finish the work, but has yet to do so.
Patience is a virtue in Harford. Come try yours on the second Wednesday or the fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The regular monthly meeting of the Montrose Area School District took place last Friday night at the Choconut Valley Elementary School where, just a few Saturdays before, a memorial service was held for its much-loved and much-missed principal Stephen Placko. He was so in the thoughts of everyone in attendance, and kind remembrances about him book-ended this meeting.
At its beginning and after the Pledge to the Flag, Board president Ken Gould requested a moment of prayer from everyone, to remember Mr. Placko in their own way. Afterwards, the first item on the agenda was about the Risk Watch program that superintendent Mike Ognosky described as one "very near and dear to Mr. Plackos heart." In fact, he added, the item was taken off the agenda in January because of Mr. Plackos surgery, and postponed to the February meeting when he would be able to attend. "This was not to be," Ognosky added, making the telling of the success of the program especially poignant at a place where "it was so fitting to tell it."
The Choconut school was one of only a handful across the state selected to participate in the Risk Watch program. It teaches students safety measures during times of crisis. As Ognosky described it, "The program took a lot of dedication from Mr. Placko as well as the local volunteer fire and emergency personnel who took training in the program last summer, and a strong commitment by them to the kids."
Part of the curriculum is to teach fire safety, and this training was never put to better use than when the home of the Dixon family caught fire while they were in the house. Their children Whitman and Samantha attend Choconut and participated in Risk Watch. Ognosky then continued the story as it was told to him by Mr. Placko: That in the course of the fire, Whitman and Samantha did everything that they were supposed to do, everything that they learned, to get the family out safely. Their actions, Mr. Placko told Ognosky, were a tribute to both the program and the Dixon children.
Whitman and Samantha were at the meeting, and given a well-deserved certificate of appreciation and round of applause for their actions. It also very much conveyed the appreciation to Mr. Placko as well as to the first-responders who spearheaded the program.
Three of the latter were in the audience retired Silver Lake fire chief John McNamara, current fire chief Brian Young, and Phyllis McNamara, a commander of the Silver Lake rescue squad. Speaking on their behalf, John McNamara noted that when the State fire commissioner attended the fire prevention and safety program at Choconut earlier this year, "he said it was one of the best he had seem. We dont have a lot of money," McNamara added, "but we make it go far." He thanked the school board, Choconut staff and children, and Steve Placko especially for taking the lead in making the program the success that it is.
Other business the Board attended to was paying the bills (for the usual and recurring salary, benefits, food supplies, special ed, and so forth, as well as for various repairs to, or purchase of, already-approved equipment and facilities), as well as approving two budget transfer requests related to special ed. Gould noted there have been a total of seven such requests over the past fiscal year, whereas this number sometimes used to run into the hundreds in years past. "They are lower now because of the professionalism with which things are handled now in the business office and by business manager Lewis Plauney," he said.
The Board also voted to advertise for bids for art, athletic, custodial, general and health supplies; number 2 fuel oil; propane gas; and refuse removal for the 2003-2004 fiscal year. It unanimously accepted the resignation of Sarah Warriner as assistant softball coach; Ognosky noted the position was posted and applications for it have been received. By a vote of 8-1 (Gould being the "1"), it approved Robert Davis as assistant track coach and Anne Mory as assistant softball coach, both at annual salaries of $1,540. All voted to hire Wendy Sivers as a part-time food service worker at the high school at the hourly rate of $6.50, no fringe benefits; and Sarah Zukoski as substitute elementary guidance counselor at Choconut from February 12 to approximately May 7, at the approved substitute teacher pay scale.
It approved Kandi Kane and Rebecca Zawisky as support staff substitutes, and the following as substitute teachers: Gregory Wright, Amy Proof, Mary Allen, Casey Michielini, Robin Arnold, John Siedlecki, Megan Engle, and Katy Rosenkrans. Board member Mary Homan noted that she saw the names of "a lot of kids on this list who graduated from MASD, and I think thats great."
Board members voted to increase the hourly pay of the peer tutoring after-school supervisor to that of other teaching staff who do similar work supervising students, and per the current collective bargaining agreement.
And, in the last of personnel decisions for the evening, the Board voted to hire retired high school assistant principal Jackie Shaw to temporarily fill, until the end of the 2003 school year at the rate of $300 a day, the very large shoes left by Mr. Placko at Choconut Valley. Board member Linda LaBarbera said that she spoke with some Choconut children about Mrs. Shaw, and the comments she received were along the lines of, "Shes great. Her dogs are great."
Another personnel issue of a sort arose, and was voiced by audience member Tammy Payne of Silver Lake Township. It concerned the bus contract for the parochial school run. Paine said that she wrote Ognosky requesting that the Board add to the February agenda a discussion about this contract. The Board declined this request, and Gould explained that, except for community and student recognitions, an item is not on the agenda for a Board meeting unless it is to be voted upon. The Board voted on this particular bus contract at a meeting late last year, and the contract was signed in December, 2002.
On behalf of these bus drivers, Payne said, "Mr. Clapper told us we would receive a copy of the signed contract, and we havent received anything." Ognosky said that he, too, hadnt gotten a copy of the contract, and would make sure that she had one on Monday (February 17). Payne then said to Ognosky "you recently told someone that you ripped up that contract." To which Ognosky replied that what he ripped up was a contract that was not approved by the Board. He did not rip up the one that was approved.
Another bus contractor present asked if anybody in the room would drive without a contract. Gould answered that, since the contract was approved in December, he is driving with a contract. "If someone made a mistake and did not give you a piece of paper (the contract) with three signatures on it, that will be taken care of on Monday." When Payne noted that she didnt see the vote to approve the contract in the condensed minutes of the meeting at which the vote was taken, Gould said they would get out the tape of that meeting and get a copy of the full minutes to her.
In other public comment at the end of the meeting, discussion came back to Mr. Placko, from audience member and former Board president Dennis Stephens of Apolocan Township. He noted that Mr. Placko had an endearing love for the children of Choconut, their parents, and the school building. "It seemed that whenever I was here for school, sports, social or other functions, I saw Steve Placko," said Stephens. "Why Im here tonight," he added, "is to make a simple request in light of recent events. I ask that you take some time and think about renaming this building after Mr. Placko. Because of his career here, what he contributed to this district, his unique personality, and what he did for the school and the community, it at least warrants consideration, of course taking into account the considerations of his family." Should the Board think it a good idea, Stephens thought that the Spring, and particularly Arbor Day a favorite of Mr. Plackos when he would have all the students outside would be a fitting time.
Gould noted that Stephens wasnt the first such request Board members received to rename the school or ball fields or another facility after Mr. Placko. Both he and Board member Chris Caterson thought that the Choconut community could best advise on how to honor Mr. Placko, and to consider all requests. Gould reported that Board member Homan and Mrs. Quinn have agreed to sit on a committee and get the community the students, staff, teachers and parents to look at what would be the best and fairest way to memorialize Mr. Placko. Anyone with a suggestion is encouraged to get in touch with Homan or Quinn. Additionally, Ognosky will ask Choconut acting principal Mrs. Shaw to put together a letter to the Choconut community to see who would also be interested in sitting on the Committee.
The next regular meeting of the Montrose Area School District is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on March 14 at the Choconut Valley Elementary School.
The (two) Oakland Township Supervisors met for their regular monthly meeting on February 8. Requesting time on the agenda was Paula Greene, whose school bus route includes township roads. Mrs. Greene related that she has three stops on Columbus Ave., and is very concerned about three particular areas that are very slippery. She is, she said, not the only driver who has had a problem. She had previously contacted Supervisor Cowperthwait several times and asked if more anti-skid could be applied to these areas, but it has not seemed to help, as she is still experiencing problems.
Mr. Cowperthwait responded that he had checked the road every time Mrs. Greene had contacted him, and extra anti-skid had been applied; he agreed that there were slippery areas, but they appeared to be normal winter driving conditions. He had observed one spot where there was no remaining anti skid, and believed it was removed by vehicles being driven down the slope with their brakes on. "Were doing the best we can," he said, "but this is winter driving." He said that the road crew goes out twice a day whenever the weather is inclement, and suggested that Mrs. Greene should contact Ray Testa, the school districts business manager.
Roadmaster Richard Norris added that the township has been applying a lot of anti skid, and agreed with Mr. Cowperthwait that downhill traffic does take the anti skid off the road. On one occasion, he said, he had underestimated weather conditions and hadnt gone out; he apologized for the error.
Mr. Cowperthwait commented that the school should reconsider the routes used if there was a question of safety. Although the township has limited resources, Columbus, Erie, and Jackson Avenues are a prime concern every morning when there are winter weather conditions. "We have a responsibility to keep the road salted, to keep anti skid on," he said. "We will do that. But, the school is totally responsible for safety; the system has got to make some judgments as to which routes to use. The ultimate responsibility for safety is the bus operators. If you use the road (in these conditions), you do so at your own risk."
Supervisor Gorton asked, "Why is that route used?"
Mrs. Greene responded that there are a lot of children on that route, three stops on Columbus Ave. are in the township. There was further discussion as to whether the section in question is actually in the township, or Susquehanna Boro.
Mr. Cowperthwait concluded by saying, "Call when you have a problem. I will go out and check. Call me when you have a problem," he said. "Ill try to help you. But, if you think youre in danger of an accident, the responsibility lies with you. I think were doing our job. Well try to do it better. I have to question the districts judgment with (using) some of these routes."
In other business, a subdivision was approved for the Mess property. SEO Tom Button reviewed a map of the proposed subdivision with the supervisors. Driveway permits from PENNDOT do exist for one of the propertys lots, but another will be needed for the lot on Cookish Road. A motion carried to approve the driveway permit.
The road activity report included a concern with a shortage of winter materials, which many municipalities have been experiencing due to the harsh weather so far. More will be ordered soon, and the plows cutting edge is in need of sharpening again.
There were no reports on SOLIDA, the amusement tax, or codes violations.
Communications received included a notice from Adams Cable, that the township will be receiving new service in the spring. Mr. Gorton said that there is some confusion as to projected monthly usage charges, whether the charge for expanded service will only be $23.50, or if it is in addition to the $11.50 basic monthly charge. He has gotten lots of questions from residents; more information is needed.
The supervisors reviewed literature about upcoming workshops available to municipalities, particularly on the new state construction codes and a presentation being given by COG on readdressing of roads.
Under unfinished business, the supervisors carried a motion to execute a Form B waiver for the Riley Estate subdivision.
A response was received from the Game Commission, in answer to a letter the supervisors had sent outlining concerns and problems encountered by residents adjacent to the boat launch area in the township. Mr. Cowperthwait summarized the letter, saying that the Commission stated that they are doing the best they can; their maintenance staff took action to prevent vehicular traffic from ruining grass (a fence had been erected). But, he said, the letter does not address complaints about incidents of defecation on neighbors properties. Mr. Gorton said, as it is a recreational area, it seems the Commission would be required to have some sort of facilities, even an outhouse. Mr. Cowperthwait observed that usage of the area has escalated to the point where it has become a problem. The matter was tabled for further consideration.
Discussing state requirements for an open records policy, the supervisors reviewed the townships current policy on supplying copies of township records. Copies are supplied by appointment, and must be prepaid at a fee of $5 for the first ten pages, 50¢ each thereafter. There was some discussion as to whether these fees were reasonable; it was agreed not to change them.
Under new business, an executive session was called to discuss filling the vacancy left by the resignation of supervisor Nancy Glasgow. When the meeting resumed, a motion carried to appoint Tim Ross to complete her term.
The next meeting will be on Saturday, March 8, 9:00 a.m. in the township building.
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