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Approves Rail Authority
The Susquehanna County Board of Commissioners has set the wheels in motion for establishing a county rail authority. If all goes according to plan, the authority could be in place within the next three to six months.
At last weeks board meeting, the three commissioners voted unanimously to have the county solicitor take the necessary legal steps to put the county in compliance with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Municipality Authorities Act.
At its meeting the day after the commissioners meeting, the Susquehanna County Rail Committee passed a motion urging the county to move as quickly as possible so the authority can begin filing grant applications to finance four proposed rail projects.
Top priority on the list of projects is to work with New Milford Borough on an expansion program at the site of an existing transloading facility in the borough. Other sites on the list of projects include Kingsley, Hallstead, and the SOLIDA Industrial Park in Oakland Twp.
While the early attention will focus on providing facilities for importing and exporting materials, long range planning calls for the return of rail passenger service in the county.
The foundation for creating a rail authority is a feasibility study that was completed by Clough, Harbour and Associates (CHA) of Scranton. In its report, CHA said the county should pursue the formation of a rail authority to act as the focus of rail transportation development.
"The authority," the report states, "will provide a vehicle to facilitate public/private partnering to develop the rail projects."
After listening to reasons why a county authority should be created, the commissioners shrugged off an invite to become part of a joint rail authority under consideration by the Northern Tier Planning Commission.
"We are in a very unique position," said Gary Marcho, chair of the Board of Commissioners. "We would be selling ourselves short by going with another authority whos interests may be different than ours."
"The advantages outweigh the disadvantages," Commissioner Lee Smith said. "The county should pursue a rail authority."
"It is time to go forward," Commissioner Cal Dean concluded.
In another matter, the Commissioners agreed to refinance the countys 1998 bond issue, a move that will save the county about $110,000 in interest. Terms of the agreement provide for interest rates that will average out at 2.5 percent. The $2.7 million bond issue will mature in 2010.
And in still another finance matter, the commissioners agreed to obtain written proposals to float an $850,000 tax revenue anticipation note. Loans of this natured are generally obtained by a county when there is not enough money left in the general fund to pay the bills until real estate taxes begin flowing into the county treasury. The loans must be paid by the end of the year.
Derek Smith, coordinator of the countys West Nile Virus Surveillance Program, said he intends to move the countys scrap tire program to spring or early summer. Mr. Smith also told the commissioners that he may remove the cap on the number of tires an individual could bring and is considering accepting rim tires. Mr. Smith said some 30,000 scrap tires were removed from the county last year.
In a related matter, Kathleen A. McGinty, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, announced that Susquehanna County will receive a study grant in the amount of $113,826 for mosquito surveillance and control as part of Pennsylvanias battle against the West Nile Virus in 2003.
New county employees hired by unanimous votes include: Robin Evans, intake officer in Domestic Relations department at $8.36 an hour; and, Ryan Tater and John Nagy as full-time 911 dispatcher trainees, at $7.48 an hour.
At a pubic meeting held on February 26 in Susquehanna, members of the business community met with representatives from Harrisburg to discuss the possibility of Susquehanna entering into the states Main Street Community program, where grant funding could be available to revitalize buildings in the main business area.
Mayor Roberta Kelly welcomed all; while waiting for the guest speakers, she outlined several projects "on the drawing board" in Susquehanna. She related that Hal Lucius, a resident of Harpursville, NY, has volunteered to serve as tourism coordinator, working on getting the Rte. 92 corridor from Lenox into New York State declared a scenic byway. All municipalities involved have signed resolutions to participate, with the exception of Oakland Township.
Susquehanna Boro has approached River Bounty to discuss the possibility of obtaining 18 acres along the Susquehanna River from River Bounty; their solicitor has assured that the property will be going to sheriffs sale, and may be obtained by the boro; if the boro does obtain the land, it will ideally be developed for recreational use, such as walking trails. The Susquehanna Fire Company is interested in a section of this property, to be used as a training area, particularly for river rescue exercises. "Susquehanna has never been looking better as far as development goes," Mayor Kelly said, and turned the floor over to Nancy Hurley, a member of the Susquehanna Depot Restoration Committee. Mrs. Hurley relayed that the committee, comprised of volunteers, is working to get Susquehanna on the states historic register; the application process could cost from $10,000 to $20,000 to complete if someone were to be hired to go through the process. The application was submitted and subsequently rejected, which was expected, and is in the process of being resubmitted, hopefully within the next couple of months. If it is accepted, it will be approved at a public meeting, which will be held with a representative from Harrisburg in attendance. If the application is accepted, the boro would qualify for "a lot of grant money."
Audience member Myron DeWitt commented that, if the application were to be accepted, there would be advantages available to property owners, such as tax credits for improvements to those properties. Mayor Kelly agreed, and said, "Were sitting on a real jewel here; it just needs to be shined up a little bit. There are so many things here... once an application is accepted, the state takes you seriously; it makes it easier to get other funds."
Mayor Kelly went on to speak about an infrastructure project in progress, the revitalization of Main St., which includes sidewalk replacement, new lights, and trees.
Mr. DeWitt, a member of the Susquehanna Community Development Association, related that meetings are held on the fourth Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m. at the boro building. Anyone, he said is welcome to attend. The association is involved in the upcoming sesquicentennial celebration, and has been actively involved in raising money for projects to improve downtown.
Mayor Kelly said that she is extremely proud of what has been going on in the community, "Especially the sidewalks... its taken so long."
Mr. DeWitt also mentioned that a number of Main St. properties have been included in the KOZ program, which encourages new business by adding tax incentives to create new jobs and improve existing properties.
An audience member asked Mayor Kelly about the Persons building, at the intersection of Franklin and Main Streets. Mrs. Kelly said that PENNDOT had bought the building with the intention of demolishing it, but apparently has had second thoughts, due to its historical value. "It could be beautiful," she said, but unfortunately there has been damage and it is doubtful if it is sound. Elaine Andusko, former director of the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority, said that it was her understanding that the building has been "put on the back burner." Mrs. Kelly remarked that the building is an "eyesore." She added that several buildings on Main St. have been added to a list of properties within the boro that are being considered for demolition after condemnation proceedings. An audience member remarked that the Persons building would be astronomical in cost to restore. Once the new sidewalks are put in, what happens then if the building is demolished? The new walks would get ruined. "Its a real hazard."
Another question was regarding new sewage and water lines on Main St. Why were they not included in the renovation project? Mrs. Kelly said, at this point that is not an issue. The subject was addressed by the Tri-Boro Sewer Authority, but too much time had passed. The authority had had an opportunity to enter into the project; $450,000 had been designated by Congressman Sherwood, but the boro itself cant apply; the authority would need to apply. "Were limited on what we can do."
Another question was regarding the advantage of entering into the scenic byway program. Mrs. Kelly said that the initiative deals basically with tourism, to entice people to stop and patronize local businesses and restaurants and spend money in this area. "Obviously," Mrs. Kelly said, "this area is not going to be an industrial Mecca. The objective is to attract people here to spend money." Cal Arthur, a member of the Susquehanna Depot Area Historical Society, commented that 60% of the societys guests are from out of state.
Mrs. Kelly said that the aim is "to try to coordinate all of these programs together, to keep Susquehanna on track."
Another audience member remarked that there are "busloads of people" visiting the Mormon monument in Oakland Township. "What Id give to have a hot dog stand," he said, and asked, "What can we do to get them to go another mile into Susquehanna?" Mr. DeWitt, a member of SOLIDA, reported that the Mormons are willing to work with local people, "Theyre very business friendly."
Tom Hurley reported that the American Legion Post 86 has purchased Victory Park, 25 acres in Oakland. He said that although there have been some concerns about flooding, the Legion is working on a five year plan for the park. Among considerations is a pavilion, that could be rented out for weddings and parties. "It should be a large asset to the community," he said, and added that the Legion is researching a number of possibilities for the property. "Something will happen," he said.
Mayor Kelly introduced Justin Taylor, Director of the county Department of Economic Development. Mr. Taylor gave a brief overview of what has been going on in the county. As of October, 2001, when he assumed his position, there has been quite a bit of progress. That morning, his department had presented results of a rail feasibility study to the county commissioners. "Our mission statement is to enable businesses to grow and prosper in the county, to help start, retain, and expand existing businesses, to create new jobs." One project the department is currently involved in is working with a site selection committee, which is looking for a site for a distribution center, which would create about 500 jobs. His department is focusing on creating an infrastructure (water, sewer, natural gas), improvements, he said, that "will not be funded on the backs of the taxpayers." The department has been working with entities such as USDA and the Rural Utilities Commission to obtain funding. The department is presently recruiting a project, "luring" industry from New York State, with a potential of 200 jobs. One consideration in favor of Susquehanna County is that the type of property this particular business is looking for is geographically typical of this area. And, there would be a workforce available in this area, suited to the type of jobs that would be offered.
The department is also focusing on KOZ sites, and has initiated a "Welcome Back Downtown" program, similar to the Main St. Program. A meeting is scheduled for March 26, 7 p.m. at the Peoples Bank offices in Hallstead; Mr. Taylor urged any interested parties to attend.
Mayor Kelly then turned the floor over to Mike Moren and Cindy Campbell, of the Department of Economic Development, to discuss the Main St. program. Mr. Moren began by saying that the program is essentially a "new communities program". One component of the program had funded part of the boros sidewalk project. The program essentially deals with downtown areas and takes into consideration the economic, social, and cultural aspects of an area, as well as rebuilding. There are, he said, two types of programs. One, tailored to smaller communities, is a Main St. Affiliate program. A community wouldnt need to hire a coordinator if there is a limited objective. It would be a multi-year process and could include renovating building facades and economic restructuring. Mr. Moren cited the boro of Montrose, which is one of the first in the state to be included in the program.
Other components could involve physical improvements. The program, he said, helps communities, providing they have a plan and can get matching funds.
Another component would involve an "anchor building," provided it meets requirements; it would need to be significant to the communitys economic well-being. It would need to be a strong, private enterprise.
There is also a hybrid program, a combination of the Main St. program and an Enterprise Zone program, a brand new concept. "Were still trying to figure out how to get the right type of community that can utilize this type of program," he said; the program is targeted for communities with unique circumstances.
Ms. Campbell explained the Enterprise Zone program, which began to assist financially disadvantaged areas of a community. It was designed to assist business or industrial areas; its function is to assist businesses who export out of PA; a qualified area would receive funding for promotion, and aid in obtaining competing grants for machinery, etc. Its goal is job creation or retention; expansion is a factor. The program is primarily for communities who have an area that can be used for industrial or commercial use that can be targeted.
Mr. Moren said that the main objective is to tie to other programs, like the tourism program Susquehanna is currently working on.
Mayor Kelly reported that Susquehanna Boro has applied for a single application, revitalization grant, which will be used for banners and signs.
Mr. Moren said that facade grants could play a part in revitalization, but do require private capital.
In answer to a question, Mrs. Kelly said that the boro does have a comprehensive plan in place, completed in 1990; it has been updated since then, with current projects incorporated.
Mr. Moren said that planning would be a component in the boros qualification for the program. A group would visit the community, make an evaluation, and begin a "visioning process." In the initial phase, the department would provide funds for planning, after the visioning process is complete and a strategy is developed. The PA Downton Center, he said, does charge a nominal fee, mainly to cover expenses. But, the plan can be tailored to the boros individual needs. An evaluation would be the first step; the boro can do a "self evaluation" to get started; forms are provided by the department.
The results of the evaluation may show that the Main St. program is not appropriate for the boro, but, an affiliate program could be better. It could, he said, identify other sources of funding. "If youre in the program, it could open the community to an opportunity for funding from other sources." The municipality itself or a redevelopment authority can apply.
There was a question from the audience regarding facade restoration; would it require matching grants?
Mr. Moren said that restoration could be part of a basic grant, or it could be a separate program; it could also be independent, under another program. There could be a maximum grant to a qualifying property, with the balance coming from the property owner.
Mrs. Kelly asked about the possibility of the boro being placed on the national historic register; how could this affect the boros eligibility? Mr. Moren said that one of the programs goals is to preserve historic structures; the only difference would be if it is designated as such; there would be guidelines to follow, which could include design restrictions.
Mr. Arthur asked if the historical society could qualify for grant funding, as the society does not own the building where it is located. Mr. Moren said that if there was an agreement with the property owner, where the society would continue in existence for a designated number of years, it could qualify.
Mayor Kelly asked if it is going to be more challenging to get grant funding, given current economic conditions. Mr. Moren replied that, "We dont know what the budget will be this year. I think there will be some money in the budget next year." Ms. Campbell added that the new governors major priority is economic development and downtown revitalization, which looks hopeful for programs such as this. Mrs. Kelly noted that Governor Rendell has been invited to participate in the sesquicentennial parade in July.
"So," Mrs. Kelly asked, "When can we get started?"
Mr. Moren said that his department would work with the boro to start the evaluation process. Members of the Downtown Center, which is under contract with the state to aid in the process, would come to the boro, probably in the spring.
In one of the briefest meetings on record in Harford, two of the Supervisors covered two agenda items in 20 minutes on February 25 and called it quits for the night. Jim Ketterer was absent for the discussion of a tax penalty rollback for the fire company, and the purchase of new welding equipment.
The land purchased by the Harford Fire Company on Fair Hill Road for its new firehouse had been taxed under the state Clean & Green law at a lower rate than it might have been otherwise. When it was sold to the fire company, the land's tax status removed it from coverage under Clean & Green, and, because it was to be developed (for the new firehouse), it would be subject to a tax penalty, called a rollback. However, the Clean & Green law allows such penalties to be forgiven when the land is sold to a municipality or other similar entity - such as a volunteer fire company. In this case, the penalty would have been about $111 to the Township. The Supervisors had no difficulty forgoing that amount for the local firemen. (Supervisor Terry Van Gorden is an officer in the Harford Fire Company.)
The Township's maintenance employee, George Sansky, attended the meeting to request the purchase of a MIG (metal inert gas) welder for the shop. According to Mr. Sansky, the new welding equipment will help with many jobs unsuitable for the arc welder in the shop now. He got three prices for the new machine, a Millermatic package, and recommended the offer from ProGas Welding Supply of Vestal, NY. The ProGas price was slightly higher than the lowest quote, but Mr. Sansky said that ProGas services its own equipment, and a package of auxiliary items for the machine from the same supplier would make the total cost somewhat less. The Supervisors approved the purchase for a total of $1,699, and allowed Mr. Sansky to add in any safety equipment or clothing necessary to operate the equipment properly. Roadmaster Bob Simon was at the meeting, and approved the purchase as well.
This year the Harford Township Supervisors meet on the second Wednesday and fourth Tuesday of each month at the Township building on Route 547, beginning at 7:30 p.m. They're not all this short.
Frederick W. Schmidt Jr., 36, New Milford Township, and Elizabeth H. Depue, 38, New Milford Township.
Michael Thomas Schwartz, 20, Berlin Township, and Kristin Marina Langton, 17, Berlin Township.
Donald F. McGinn to Byron Sands and Renee Sands in New Milford Township for $55,000.
John J. Curry and Christina M. Curry to John J. Curry in Dimock Township or $1.
John J. Malloy, Trustee of the John J. Malloy Revocable Trust, by Jason J. Legg, Attorney-in-Fact, John J. Malloy, individually, by Jason J. Legg, Attorney-in-Fact, and Helen Malloy, by Jason J. Legg, Attorney-in-Fact, to Todd K. Hinkley & Cheryl L. Hinkley in Harford Township for $1.
Muriel Petrie, Linda Petrie, nbm Linda S. Landgraf and Steven M. Landgraf to Muriel Petrie, Linda S. Landgraf and Steven M. Landgraf in Ararat Township for $1.
Linda Petrie, nbm Linda S. Landgraf and Steven M. Landgraf to Linda S. Landgraf and Steven M. Landgraf in Ararat Township for $1.
PA DOT to Community Bank and Trust Co. in Clifford Township for highway occupancy permit.
Timeshare Transfer Company, to Stephen D. Reynolds and Rochelle L. Reynolds in Herrick Township for $232.50.
Lawrence Wilmarth Giles and Lou Ann Giles to Henry Hewson Giles, Jr. and Judith M. Giles in Gibson Township for $1 ogvc.
Grace Edwards and Keith Edwards to Richard V. Weida and Jill A. Weida in Lenox Township for $156,500.
Elizabeth A. Vanwormer to Elizabeth A. Vanwormer Living Trust in Silver Lake Township for $1 ogvc.
Byron D. Lesjack and Carol J. Lesjack to Kristian B. Lesjack and Kimberly M. Lesjack in Great Bend Township for $1 ogvc.
Homeside Lending, Inc. to The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Bridgewater Township for $1.
Walter Brown and Fern Brown to Mary E. Snyder and Charles E. Snyder in Thompson Township for $16,000.
Joseph J. Dooley and Joan Dooley to Joan Dooley in Susquehanna Depot Borough for $1.
Ralph Lee and Roslyn Lee to Scott W. Lee in Thompson Borough for $1.
Gloria M. Cook to Edward W. Harris in Forest Lake Township for $1 ogvc.
Philip J. Pass, Jr. and Lauri Pass to Philip J. Pass, Jr and Lauri Pass in Ararat Township for $1.
Philip J. Pass, Jr. and Lauri Pass to James C. Brownlow II and Sheryl D. Brownlow in Ararat Township for $78,000.
Carmelite Recollects of the Sacred Heart--Rev. John F. Dillenburg, Director/Superior/Prior to Carmelite Recollects of the Sacred Heart, Inc. --Rev. John F. Dillenburg, Director/Superior/Prior in Middletown Township for $1.
Donald Lee Groover and Lori Ann Groover to Federal National Mortgage Association in Brooklyn Township for $1 for Warranty Deed in Lieu of Mortgage Foreclosure.
James W. Zick and Carol Zick to Lee A. Wilbur, Jr. and Sharon Lee Wilbur in Harford Township for $18,000.
Ann M. Olsen to Michael Snyder in Franklin Township for $120,000.
Gordon Kellum,Jr. and Carol Kellum to Roy C. Landucci and Susan L. Landucci in Choconut Township for $99,000.
Shirley Brookes to Gregg D. Whitney and Faye I. Whitney in Little Meadows Borough for $1.
John H. Williams to Joann Williams, John Arthur Williams, II and Jamie Ann Williams in Auburn Township for $1.
Dawn J. Lacosta, Personal Representative of the Estate of Thelma J. Pickell to Dawn J. Lacosta in Lenox Township for no consideration.
Robert A. Johnson, Jr. and Mari E. Johnson to Robert A. Johnson, Jr. in Jessup Township for $1 ogvc.
Pennsylvania-American Water Company to Neil and Robin Hall in Susquehanna Borough for agreement for water service.
Robert Wedin and Dorothy Wedin to Robert Wedin and Dorothy Wedin and Dennis Wedin in Clifford Township for $1.
Susan M. French nbm Susan M. Petriello and Vincent Petriello to Edgar S. French and Phyllis L. French in Lanesboro Borough for $1.
Susan French nbm Susan Petriello and Vincent Petriello to Edgar S. French and Phyllis L. French in Thompson Township for $65,069.08.
Mary Ann Poole and Joseph W. Poole, III to Arden K. Swartley and Melissa A. Swartley in Clifford Township for $163,000.
Byron D. Lesjack and Kristian B. Lesjack to Byron D. Lesjack in Hallstead Borough for $1.
Byron D. Lesjack and Carol J. Lesjack to Robert J. Thatcher and Carol A. Thatcher in Hallstead Borough for $21,000.
Skip M. Tracy to Randy R. Robbins and Dianne N. Robbins in Jackson Township for $12,000.
EMC Mortgage Corporation to Samuel A. Beam in Harford Township for $18,000.
Elizabeth S. Foreman and Carl M. Foreman to Kathleen A. Swaha to Montrose Borough for $64,000.
Robert C. Case and Regina J. Case to Michael J. Case in Hallstead Borough for $1.
Michael J. Case to Cathleen C. Case in Hallstead Borough for $67,000.
Douglas G. Kilmer to Douglas G. Kilmer in Clifford Township for $1.
John Wasco, Trustee, for American Bankers of Florida, to Richard N. Evans and Doris Evans in Lathrop Township by court order.
William J. Baier and Susan E. Baier and Jonathan Baier to William J. Baier and Susan E. Baier in Bridgewater Township for $1 ogvc (two parcels).
Thomas J. Reilly, Executor of the Estate of Agnes M. Reilly, to Panzitta Stone Company, LLC, in Oakland Township for $40,000.
Russell E. Bitler and Jean M. Bitler to Julie A. Roberts in New Milford Township for $1.
Joseph Panzitta to Panzitta Stone Company Inc. in Oakland Township for bluestone mining operation.
Gerald Eckert, 33, New York, NY, lost control of his 2001 Jeep on State Route 374, Lenox Township on February 23 at 4:10 p.m., on icy roadway while negotiating a curve. After crossing both lanes, the vehicle left the roadway and flipped onto its left side. Eckert was not injured.
TWO VEHICLE CRASH
Melanie Dewitt, 17, Susquehanna, attempted a left turn at State Route 11 and State Route 171, Great Bend Township, in front of Joe Mann II, 31, Great Bend. Tracy Mann, 27, a passenger in Joe Mann's vehicle sustained the only injury which was minor. The incident occurred on February 22 at 7:10 p.m.
On February 10 at 3:25 p.m., Christine Marie Mancia, 20, Scranton, lost control of her vehicle on slick Interstate 81, Great Bend Township. The vehicle slid into the median, then flipped over, coming to rest in an upright position. Mancia was taken to Susquehanna Hospital to be checked.
An investigation continues of a theft which occurred on February 21 at 7:00 p.m. when someone entered a vehicle rented by Dan Wesley Weaver, 44, Great Bend. The theft occurred at the Great Bend Sunoco, Rt. 11, Great Bend Township. Entry was gained through an unlocked door and a 1.2 GHZ Celeron CPU was taken from the passenger's seat. Anyone with information is asked to call the Gibson Barracks at 570-465-3154.
On February 19 at 12:55 a.m. John Francis Brabson, 42, Lancaster, was stopped on Interstate 81, New Milford Township, for traffic violations, and subsequently arrested for DUI. He was taken to Barnes-Kasson, but refused to submit to a blood test. Charges were to be filed in District Court in New Milford.
ONE VEHICLE CRASH--NO INJURY
Su Lan Chen, 27, Arlington, VA, was traveling south on snowy Interstate 81, Harford Township, on February 17 at 4:00 p.m., and spun, striking guide rails.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
Linda Billiot, 40, Springville, lost control of her 1987 Dodge Caravan on a snow covered State Route 29, Dimock Township, and spun in the lane of travel. Rebecca Wallace, 30, Springville, was unable to stop and collided with Billiot's vehicle. Billiot was taken to Endless Mt. Hospital with minor injury, and Wallace was taken to Tyler Memorial Hospital, also with minor injury. The incident occurred on February 12 at 10:30 a.m.
Ronald J. Foster, 65, Montrose, driving a 1998 Chevy Suburban, was not injured when he attempted to pass a 1999 Mack truck (PENNDOT plow truck) driven by Robert Max Gregory, 50, Montrose, in a careless manner. Gregory was making a left turn when Foster struck the truck in the left rear. The incident occurred on State Route 29, half a mile south of Dimock. An investigation continues into this February 18 incident at 3:30 p.m. Michelle Foster-Doyle, 35, Montrose and James Doyle, 9, Montrose, passengers in Foster's vehicle, were taken to Montrose Hospital with unknown injuries. Neither operator was injured.
HIT & RUN COLLISION
Edward Craig Lathrop, 40, Montrose, left his 1996 Chevy Lumina unattended on State Route 3010, near the intersection with Lathrop Rd., Dimock Township, because he could not drive any further due to the snow. The vehicle was struck between February 17 at 5:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. the next morning, by someone who fled the scene. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Gibson Station.
CAR/SCHOOL BUS COLLISION
On February 12 at 3:15 p.m., Jamie Oakley, 19, Susquehanna, struck a 1995 International school bus in the left front tire. Driven by Cammie Slocum, 32, Susquehanna, the bus had 41 students aboard, none of which were injured. Oakley received minor injury. The incident occurred at the intersection of Jackson Ave. and Columbus Ave, Susquehanna Borough.
The Blue Ridge School Board workshop of February 24 was devoted almost entirely to considering a proposal to join the Susquehanna football program. Shortly after the new year, Blue Ridge received a formal offer from the Susquehanna Community School District that would give Blue Ridge athletes an opportunity to play football in Susquehanna, which has been struggling in recent years from a lack of players. The idea has caught fire among football fans in the Blue Ridge area, bringing parents out in record numbers to Board meetings to show their support. Two weeks ago, when the issue appeared on the business agenda, the Board decided to give its Activities Committee an opportunity to study the question further and tabled the question.
Lon Fisher, chair of the Activities Committee, gave a lot of eager football fans an opportunity to voice their support when he called his committee to order before the general workshop session. He first asked High School Principal Michael Thornton to report on his study of the issue, and on the results of a survey of parents and students. Mr. Thornton told the committee that the High School and Middle School had sent questionnaires to more than 200 families of students in grades 6 through 11 soliciting their interest in a cooperative football program with Susquehanna. Of some 56 responses, 48 were in favor of the proposal; only 6 were opposed. 39 families indicated that their boys would probably participate, of which 14 were in the Middle School, 25 in the High School; 14 responses said they would not participate, even though they might support the idea.
Mr. Thornton said that he had talked with coaches at Susquehanna and found that their ideas about the program closely corresponded with his own. Saying that "academics come first," Mr. Thornton told the committee that the goal is to stabilize the Susquehanna football program. But, he said, "It still has to be a good educational experience." He told the committee that the Susquehanna coaching staff is young, but thought to be fairly stable, and that their equipment is considered to be in good condition. He also contacted representatives of three other similar cooperative programs, some of which involve exchanges of sports programs between two schools. He said that he heard no serious concerns about the arrangements, and that the only important issue seemed to be that the cooperating schools keep communications open.
Blue Ridge comes up for reclassification by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) next Fall. Schools' athletic programs are classified by PIAA based on enrollment. Blue Ridge is currently a class AA school, but is close to class AAA. Mr. Thornton is attempting to get written agreement from PIAA that a cooperative football program will not affect the status of Blue Ridge's other sports programs.
Under the contract with Susquehanna, Blue Ridge would have no responsibility, financial or otherwise, for the football program. Mr. Thornton told the Board that the Blue Ridge student code of conduct is slightly stricter than the rules at Susquehanna. He would like to ensure that eligibility of students in the program will be subject to the Blue Ridge code as well as to all other applicable rules.
The proposed contract would run initially for three years. Under PIAA rules, such cooperative arrangements can be terminated only by mutual agreement between the cooperating districts. Blue Ridge Activities Director Jim Corse told the committee that a new program like this should be given at least three to four years to get under way. Yet some Blue Ridge School Board members, particularly Board President Alan Hall, are concerned that a mechanism be in place that would allow the contract to be terminated for serious issues at any time.
Asked how many players the Susquehanna team could accommodate, Mr. Thornton said "Too many football players hasn't been an issue for a couple of decades," at schools in Pennsylvania's northeast. According to Blue Ridge Superintendent Robert McNamara, a former High School Principal at Susquehanna, there are about 50 uniforms available. He said they would be unlikely to be able to use all of them even with an influx from Blue Ridge. That a football program might draw athletes from other Blue Ridge sports didn't seem to be a major concern, although Mr. Corse did mention that some students had asked to be dropped from wrestling and track so they could spend more time in the weight room in preparation for football. One observer reported that Blue Ridge soccer has already drawn players from the local peewee football program.
Several parents said that participation in other sports can contribute to preparation for football. One woman told the committee that her son had threatened to move to the Montrose district to live with his father so he could play football in Montrose, if the program with Susquehanna was not approved. "This is a big football area," said one father, noting that even without a local football program, many tune in to football on TV each Sunday during the season.
There seemed to be little concern of favoritism by Susquehanna coaches for Susquehanna players. A traditional rivalry between Blue Ridge and Susquehanna was downplayed when Mr. Corse said, "The rivalry between our schools is gone." Board member Denise Bloomer said that her nephew, who plays in Susquehanna, told her, "We want to win football games." One parent from Susquehanna who attended to lend support to Blue Ridge fans said that the Susquehanna program "can't get any worse." Others said that their player sons were eager to welcome the contribution of Blue Ridge to the Susquehanna program.
Football co-sponsorship with Susquehanna will probably come up for a vote by the Blue Ridge Board at its next business meeting on March 10. Expect a crowd.
In other matters, Mr. Hall reported on a conversation with Representative Sandra Major in which he asked her to intervene with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to expedite approval of the new sewer system. The school district is in danger of losing $85,000 in grant money to support a Blue Ridge connection to the system if the project is delayed too much longer.
Business Manager Loren Small reported that the milk vending machine installed recently by Crowley Foods is already very popular, selling out of chocolate and strawberry flavors very quickly. There was some amusement over the struggles of other nearby school districts to find a way to pay for the machines, when Crowley installed theirs at no cost to Blue Ridge.
No-cost football, no-cost vending machines. The Board is particularly pleased at any no-cost programs favoring the tastes of Blue Ridge students, in either sports or beverages. That's particularly important in this season as administrators begin to assemble their budgets for Board consideration in the near future.
The weather was not a factor for the February Mountain View board meeting. Absent from the meeting were Ordie Price, Bryce Beeman, Tom Salansky and School administrators Colin Furneaux and Eliza Vagni. Vagni was attending a school competition.
Board Secretary, Carolyn Price reported that there were no comments from the public in either the first or second hearing of visitors. Project plan costs were approved in the amounts of $41,979.65 and $13, 040.00.
A car lease was approved with Fuccillo Ford of Hallstead, Inc. Conference and field trip requests were approved for Arthur Chambers and nine board members for a board/superintendent workshop on February 27; Cheryl Kerr, Sharon Kinney, Cindy Reynolds, Brenda Warner, Linda Witney for a Reading Workshop, Mary Ann Tranovich, RaeBelle Albeck for a Mathematics Teachers Workshop, Mona Hoadley for a Spring Child Accounting Conference and Constance Schulte for the National Science Teachers Conference. According to Price, the nod was also given to Amy Getz and three students, for two field trips, Shirley Granger, Margaret Foster for a PASC Conference, Modonna Munley, George Barbolish, Eliza Vagni for special education galleries, Roger Thomas for various Envirothon Activities and Peter Gegeski and Jackie Bain for a PASC Leadership Conference.
Added to the substitute list is Matthew Donnelly and Rene Reynolds. Long term substitute approval went to Francine Fruend-Friendman. The resignation of Mary Hvezda was accepted from her position of "Acting Director of Special Education."
The School Calendar was once more amended. Graduation will take place on June 21. The calendar was not only impacted by a late start because of construction at the high school, but the bad winter weather which caused many snow days at the site. The first draft of the next school year calendar, reported Art Chambers, Superintendent, was presented. The work on the calendar will be ongoing for the present time.
Chambers and Margaret Foster, Principal at the Elementary School, shared that a parent survey at the elementary school level will be used with the current parent-teacher conferences scheduled. All are looking forward to the results.
An issue raised by Chambers, according to the board secretary, was the establishment of an alumni association that would raise money for future scholarships and other needs of the students. Chambers and board members John Halupke and John Beeman will be attending a meeting in Syracuse on this matter.
It was shared that kindergarten enrollment is already 95. This is in excess of the number of new students projected. A staffing plan will be discussed at the second board meeting in March.
Chambers shared there would be two strategic planning meetings on Wednesday and Thursday during the week of this board meeting. Learning targets for students will be set for students.
There was some discussion about a modified accrual system for bookkeeping for the school funds. In addition, according to Price, three expenditures were removed for supplies on the budget and freed up so that the schools can get the materials they require now.
Finally, John Beeman shard that the new milk machines discussed a few weeks ago are in and the milk is being enjoyed by the students and faculty. People are wearing various colored milk mustaches because of the variety of flavors offered.
The Mountain View School Board meets in the Elementary Board Room on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. The public is invited to attend.
Planning Director Robert Templeton made the presentation of the 2002 Annual Report to the Susquehanna County Commissioners on February 26, highlighting several areas of the report. It is the custom to summarize the years work in this report and present it to the Commissioners before the end of February.
The county is divided into nine geographical areas. In 2002 they were represented by Cyril Cowperthwait, Matt Curley, Joseph Franks, Nancy Harvatine, Frank Kwader, Paula Mattes, Ted Place, Rowland Sharp and Laurence Wilson. In 2003 Sharpe has been replaced by Michael Greene and Mattes by Carolyn Doolittle.
The report showed 147 subdivisions and land development plans, with 141 new lots. This was the lowest growth rate in nine years. 1995 peaked at 257 plans and 368 new lots. 2002 showed 1951 deed transfers with a price tag of $71,638,820. The total number of parcels assessed for the year was 27,544 with 7480 in Clean and Green.
A big focus for 2002 was the updating of the County Comprehensive Plan, which is nearing completion. Planning Director Templeton reported at the regular Planning Commission meeting that public hearings on the report will be scheduled most likely for April and May. It is his intent to submit the completed plan to the Commissioners in June. As reported last month, the County Planning Commission, when commenting on the Hallstead/New Milford Joint Sewer Collection Service, had pointed out to the municipalities that when the sewage system is in place, commercial growth in the Route 11 corridor will likely increase, and the townships and boroughs in that area need to be planning for this to happen. The Department of Environmental Protection, upon reviewing the plan, requested that the Planning Commission make a stronger statement to the municipalities regarding this issue. A letter was prepared and sent to the New Milford Township Supervisors with carbon copies to New Milford Borough Council, New Milford Municipal Authority, Great Bend Township Supervisors, Hallstead Borough Council and Hallstead/Great Bend Joint Sewer Authority, recommending the consideration of joint municipal ordinances for regulating development. Specifically, the County Planning Commission recommends that those municipalities consider a joint municipal zoning ordinance.
After much discussion about the updating of the Thompson Borough sewage system to clean up the creek, the Planning Commission recommended that Thompson Borough look into expanding their plan to include the Sunoco Station that has come under new management. The Planning Commission recommendation considered starting with the existing plan which covers only part of the Borough, but includes a vehicle for adding more properties to the system at a later date.
The report of the audit committee was accepted as presented, as were staff reports. The Commission members concurred with staff recommendations on several land use plans. Newly appointed member Michael Greene suggested that the pledge of allegiance be added to the agenda at future meetings.
Monthly bills in the amount of $1242.41 were approved. They included Epix Internet Service, Montrose House, Platt books, Carson Helfrich for services on Comprehensive Plan update, tuition for 20/20 Leadership Program which Secretary/Planner Amy Payne will be attending, and advertisement in the Harford Fair Book.
The next meeting will be held on March 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the County Office Building. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.
With a "skeleton crew" present at the February 25 meeting of the Susquehanna Boro Council, comprised of members Roy Williams, John Bronchella, Pat Frederick, Bill Kuiper, vice president Todd Glover presiding, the first order of business to be addressed was a presentation by West Main St. residents Andy Whitehead and Andy Francis regarding a proposed ordinance to ban on-street parking, from Fourth Ave. to the boro line (Center Lane) on West Main St.
Mr. Francis began by saying that he, Mr. Whitehead and other West Main St. residents were opposed to the ban, and would refute statements made by council at their last meeting. To begin, Mr. Francis said that the boro itself could not conduct a traffic study, unless certain criteria were met in conducting that study.
Mr. Whitehead addressed the fact that the boros biggest concern in this matter was its limit of liability; state code, he said is explicit regarding the liability of a municipality, particularly its streets. There are only two conditions where boro can be sued, and neither of those two elements are met in this situation.
Mr. Francis refuted a comment made at the last meeting, that a study would be a "waste of money." To support his position, Mr. Francis presented a map of W. Main St., showing the distances from the center line of the road in various areas, from the bridge to the end of the boro. The greatest distance, he said, is 15 and in fact, most are less. At Center Lane, there is only 9 from the center line; at the bridge, there is only 14. Taking this into consideration, all parking on Main St. would be illegal if widths were strictly considered. In the downtown area, there is 19 along the south side, but there is only 14 along the north side. This, he said, is not strictly legal according to the law; one solution would be to change angle parking on that side to parallel.
As for the area from Fourth Ave. on, the shoulder alongside the road is so soft, cars "drop right in." If a truck were to venture too close to the shoulder, it would most likely tip in and roll onto someones lawn.
Parking on side streets, one of two alternatives brought up at the last meeting, Mr. Francis said is not a practical solution. The side streets are at a very steep pitch; in winter weather, if it is slippery it would present a hazard.
Mr. Whitehead disagreed with councils contention that the boro has the authority to direct traffic control devices; he cited state code, which says that PENNDOT may enter into an agreement to allow the boro to erect these devices, provided a traffic and safety study has been conducted by a qualified engineer. The study must include accident analysis, capacity analysis, geometric review, sight distance and traffic volume. Referring to accident analysis, Mr. Whitehead pointed out that any accidents used as documentation must be directly related to parking. And, he said, it is not the case that anyone can do the study. The reason a study is required is to protect a boro from liability; if an individual states that a complete traffic study has been conducted, a boro could be liable in the event of an accident. But, he continued, speeders and heavy trucks are the real issue. "Right now, its PENNDOTs responsibility, but I dont see a single representative from PENNDOT (at these meetings), not once in the ten years this issue has been brought up. If theres a compelling reason why they want this, they should be here."
Mr. Francis said that council, as a responsible body of government should not only isolate the problem, but take a look at the bigger picture; if parking is illegal in this area, it has to be applied everywhere. "Then where does everyone park?" If the ban was to be equally applied along Main St. where the distance from the center of the line is insufficient, there would be many more homes involved, not just five, and a significantly larger number of people. "It would be responsible to come up with suggestions, as to possible solutions."
Mr. Whitehead said, that from his perspective, it is important that if the ban is enacted, those in power to enforce the ban should do so; at the present time, enforcement is "absolutely horrendous." To substantiate this statement, he showed photos of cars illegally parked at different sites, some of them completely covered with snow, indicating that they had been there for quite some time. These cars, he pointed out, had not been ticketed or towed away. One of the photos was of a car parked in front of a "no parking sign." "If you cant effectively enforce existing laws, how can you enforce more?" Mr. Francis agreed, and noted that there are always numerous vehicles parked on the sidewalks; pedestrians constantly have to go around them.
Todd Glover responded that the boros ordinance bans parking on sidewalks. "The police do have to enforce the law," he said. "We are trying to get them to do their job. In my opinion, theyre not doing the job they were hired to do. The council and the mayor are working on it."
Mr. Whitehead related that the boro of Dupont had secured funding, in an amount over $300,000 to widen a road in a similar situation. The grant had been obtained with help from their local legislators; why couldnt Susquehanna contact their legislators and take a look at grant funding, or at least find a better solution? He made reference to the grant funding the boro has received for replacing sidewalks on Main St.
"Wed like to find a reasonably acceptable solution for everyone involved," Mr. Francis said. Why couldnt council try to get grant funds. Mr. Kuiper responded that getting funding for the sidewalks took over six years. Mr. Francis noted that traffic has changed substantially in this area in the last decade; what, he asked, will happen if it changes again? The boro has been dealing with the situation for 20 years; "If it takes six years to get funding, lets go after it. The state has a responsibility. Widening is more reasonable than any alternative." He added that runoff from the hill above not only makes the shoulder soft, it creates a hazard in driveways when it freezes during the winter. "Why cant the road be widened. All of the utilities are on the opposite side of the street. The majority of walks are stone, they can be moved at no expense (for replacement). There are a maximum of ten trees involved from Second Ave. on; the trees are the only thing standing between us and widening the road. Some are in bad condition, and will need to come down eventually. Why cant we seek grant funding, and create a better solution not for us, but for those who come after us. You cant come in and selectively create parking..."
Pat Frederick asked for clarification; was the proposal to cut into properties to create parking areas? And, who do you propose to do this? Mr. Francis responded, "Why cant we contact PENNDOT? Its not exclusively our problem; theyre responsible... its not an unreasonable situation for all the people who will face hardship without parking. Some properties do not have room for a driveway. A study covers all of this criteria. With a proper study, we should qualify for a grant."
Mr. Whitehead added that the law mandates a study to put in a driveway. Some of these people couldnt put one in. There are sewer pipes, where it is prohibited to dig. Seven of the homes on that side dont have any place to put a driveway. A significant number of people will be adversely affected by a ban. Houses have been sold with on-street parking as a "selling point." What about them? Mr. Glover responded, "That goes back to the realtor; a written disclosure statement must be provided prior to the sale." To which Mr. Whitehead answered, there is a limit of liability to the boro; according to the law, (the boro) is not liable; a traffic study needs to be done by a qualified engineer. And, "Id like to see things remain consistent throughout the boro. We are more than willing to help find a better solution." Mr. Francis added, "Were willing to step up to the plate, to do whatever we can to find an equitable solution."
Mr. Glover responded that PENNDOT does not have any proposed plans to widen the road. "Its not as simple as you think." There are a number of factors to consider, such as utilities, and the states right of way. He said that the boros solicitor has reviewed available information, and has determined that the boro does have the right to conduct the study, provided basic criteria is met, based on information given by PENNDOT engineers. Mr. Whitehead asked, "Are they certified?" Mr. Glover answered, "I dont know... if youre this enthusiastic to get involved, meet with me, go to NTRPDC to be put on their list of potential projects." Mr. Francis responded, "Wed like to meet with PENNDOT." Mr. Whitehead added that NTRPDC might be interested in helping obtain money for improvements, considering at least some of the booming businesses in the area.
Streets commissioner Steve Glover had some questions regarding other situations throughout the boro. Todd Glover commented that there are boros without on-street parking. "We can regulate parking as we see appropriate. We regulate state roads within the boro boundaries." Mr. Francis replied that the responsible agency is the state. "They assume the liability that goes along with it. Were not looking to go after other situations. This is a main artery coming into town. PENNDOT needs to get involved."
Mr. Glover thanked Mr. Francis and Mr. Whitehead for their presentation. "If we contact NTRPDC, well see if theyll put us on the project list." Regarding parking problems elsewhere in the boro, Mr. Glover added, "We have been working on that with the police department. Theyre going to have to do their job or they will be terminated."
During public comment, several concerns were raised by residents. One is that, if parking is banned, this area will become a drag strip. One speaker related that while bike riding, her son uses parked cars as a shield from drivers who wont slow down. She noted that any accidents that occur are the responsibility of the driver, not the owner of a parked vehicle. She added that she would need to put in a retaining wall to put in a driveway. She cited an accident where a fuel truck refused to yield and took the front end of her parked car; in this instance the truck driver was held responsible. And, she is handicapped; walking two blocks would be a hardship. She asked council to take all information into consideration, especially situations where an elderly resident or visitor may need a vehicle readily available. Mr. Kuiper responded, "Its not councils obligation to provide parking. It is our obligation to provide safe driving on our boro streets. This has been going on for years." Mr. Glover added, "We will work with the people," and noted that there has never been so many residents in attendance at a council meeting. Mr. Kuiper reiterated, "We will work with you." The resident answered, "If you work with us, Ill do whatever I can to help." He added that if speeders were seen, a resident could take a plate number and make a complaint to the police. The resident responded that several complaints had been made, with no response. Mr. Glover stated that the resident should fill out a complaint form. "If its in writing and not addressed, we will look into it." Mr. Kuiper added, "Were going to bust our butts to make this town good, but we can use some help."
Another resident asked, "I use my driveway, but where is company going to park? And when I need work on my house, if the workers cant park, they wont work on my house. It doesnt make sense. People used to use courtesy, and move if there was approaching traffic..." She added that there has been racing, and "squealing" noises at all hours from speeders. "Before you ban (parking), can we sit down and think of something else? What are people going to do with their vehicles. If (a ban is) how you feel, buy me out." Mr. Glover replied that the state says the boro can offer a chance to apply for driveway permits. The resident asked, "Couldnt parking be banned during certain hours?"
Another resident asked, what about the fact that the terrain is too steep for elderly to walk to town to park their cars. And, what will visitors do? "Many streets in town, you cant drive two abreast... I dont see where there are all of these accidents." Mr. Glover responded that residents should call the boro police if they see speeding. "If they (police) dont respond, fill out a complaint form; the mayor and the council will look into it." The resident replied, "I dont hear anyone else complaining except council."
Another resident noted that some residents would not be able to put driveways in (because of geographic conditions). And others who have driveways cant use them because they are too steep to use during the winter.
Another resident commented, "Try and drive any street in this boro where theres parking; it is not just W. Main, its any street in town." Mr. Glover replied that he and Mr. Williams had gone out to investigate the need for excessive plowing hours. They had noted a number of illegally parked cars. "It reverts back to the police; were addressing the situation." The resident stated, "You have to take the majority of people into consideration, not do something for only a few."
A question was asked, why not make West Main. St. One way? Mr. Glover said that the state would not, as there is no alternative route, unless the state were to take over Front St., which they will not do.
Mr. Whitehead respectfully requested that action on enactment of this ordinance be tabled until council has sufficiently explored all options, and fully exhausted any other possibilities.
Proceeding with the agenda, under old business, Mr. Glover asked for a motion to enact ordinance 430; a question from the audience clarified that it is to prohibit parking on West Main St. from 4th Ave. to boro limit. A motion carried to adopt, with Mr. Bronchella the only council member voting no; all others present voted yes. Mr. glover reiterated to the residents present, "We are willing to work with you."
As a number of audience members began to leave the meeting, one resident commented, "Why did we come down here and talk? Nobody listens." Another, obviously upset, asked, "Will you buy my house?" The gentleman in question made several loud comments as he was leaving; Mr. Glover left the room to summon a police officer. Council member John Bronchella appeared to be visibly upset at the outcome of the meeting, and left the meeting immediately.
When the meeting resumed, a motion carried in favor of a resolution to allow council president Ron Whitehead and Todd Glover to sign a loan agreement for the boros new truck.
Under new business, Mr. Kuiper reported that the boros contract with Adams Cable states that, for Adams to make any changes in service offered to residents, Adams must present changes to a franchise committee, comprised of three council members and two non-elected citizens. Mr. Kuiper proposed that council get a committee together, and request a meeting with Adams to explain impending changes. A motion carried. Mr. Kuiper and Mrs. Frederick will serve on the committee; council will advertise for two volunteers to serve on the franchise committee.
During the streets report, Steve Glover reported that the boros new truck was finished, and was to be picked up the following day. At the last streets committee meeting, the budget had been discussed, preparatory to setting up a project list for the coming summer. A priority will be to look at drainage.
CEO Shane Lewis gave his monthly report; revisions to the international property maintenance codes should be available soon. He reported that he has received a number of complaints about cats behind Main St. businesses; there are probably more than eight stray cats. The complaints were that the cats have been getting into buildings, and spraying. He said that the county Humane Society has a "have a heart" trap available, at a $50 rental fee, which is refunded once the cats are trapped; once caught, the society will place the cats. Mr. Lewis suggested that council work on the boros sidewalk maintenance ordinance, as the old one is so outdated. He noted that 68 properties had not had their sidewalks shoveled of snow, some of them in main traffic areas; he expressed concern about kids going to and from the school bus. Mr. Glover suggested that the streets committee take a look at the ordinance during their meeting.
And, a motion carried to advertise for part-time police officers, preferably applicants who do not live in the boro.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, March 11, 7 p.m. in the boro building.
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