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Lake Changes With The Times
"Times have changed and we should probably change with the times," was Elementary Principal Chuck Pirone's comment on a request presented to the Elk Lake School Board on April 30 by Student Council member Robyn McMicken.
Robyn was asking that the shoe/dress code be changed. As of last fall sandals were allowed only if they included straps across the back, and no flip-flops were permitted, due to safety issues. With a trend in shoe wear to backless shoes, including clogs and sneakers, students were seeing their fashions limited.
Principal Kenneth Cuomo said the whole issue has been a learning experience, both for Council members and for others about dress trends. At the start Cuomo suggested that Robyn go to the procedures as outlined in the policy manual. This includes getting a teacher and student committee together to discuss the issue. Robyn was also asked what would happen with the younger children, for instance, during recreation time, so she got another committee together of people at the lower grade levels.
It was determined that there are already instances where kids need to bring special clothes/shoes/boots when they either go to gym classes or go outside to play, and this change wouldn't alter those guidelines.
After hearing Robyn's recommendations and several minutes of discussion by board members, a motion was passed unanimously which would allow the heel to be open if the whole front is covered, or would continue to allow sandals with a strap, but a clarification was added so that the strap must be part of the shoe, not some makeshift string used to make sandals legal.
Cuomo said the change could be easily implemented and enforced.
Pirone said, "They did a good job, and we need to change."
Board member Jack Sible was concerned with the height of heels, but no action was taken on that particular item. Another board member, Chuck Place asked about the policy in shops. Their policy says they must wear steel-toed shoes, so this new shoe code won't affect the shops.
Two other projects were presented to the board. The Robotics crew demonstrated their latest creation which took them to state competition.
Dairy Princess Rebecca Place presented a check for $3,000 to the school from Louis Hawley of the Susquehanna County Farm Bureau Milk Vending Committee. The $3,000 was more than the fifty percent they had promised to reimburse to the school if they purchased a machine. Rebecca thanked the school personally for getting involved in the program, and also read a letter from student and Dairy Ambassador Amanda Miner, thanking Elk Lake for securing the machine.
Staff member Sue Heed asked if there were any plans to update the kitchen in the cafeteria. Nothing has been done to upgrade the equipment since the school was built, and the one small cafeteria services all the school, including having to transport the meals down to the elementary school each noon.
Superintendent William Bush indicated that there may not be any funding available until 20 years after the last construction project, but that Gov. Rendell's plans may include some additional money for construction. Bush said he'd look into it.
Heed asked how long they needed to wait, saying she didn't know how the workers could stand to work in the "oven" in that area, as there isn't even any good ventilation. She noted that the board puts money into other things, such as tennis courts. No decisions were made, but the board will look at the cafeteria before the next board meeting scheduled for May 13, 7:00 p.m. Heed had suggested that they visit the area during the day while it was in use, but that didn't materialize.
The cost of caps and gowns was discussed briefly and will be revisited in the future, along with monies that the classes earn through fund raising, and what that money should/could cover.
Also discussed again, was the athletic letter program, which everyone thought was in place, since it was passed last fall. Middle School Principal Brian Mallery said that it was difficult to give letters this season as the students weren't aware of the new rules, and were expecting plaques. Apparently, there has been a lack of communication either between the board and the administration, and/or the administration and the students.
The Blue Ridge School Board concentrated its efforts at a workshop on April 28 on a new budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1. Board President Alan Hall grilled his administrators for two and a half hours on many of the fine points in the 13-million-dollar spending plan. A budget proposal will be formally adopted at the next business meeting, on May 12. The public will then have 30 days to comment before the Board makes its final decisions.
Business Manager Loren Small opened the discussion with a briefing on the revenue side, estimating state and federal support at about $7.5 million. He said that the state budget for education is essentially flat so far, not allowing for any increase at all; federal dollars are expected to be half of last year's contribution. There is apparently some wrangling in Harrisburg between the new Democrat Governor and the Republican-dominated legislature that may hold up final figures for some time, what with ongoing discussions over changes in the tax structure. Under current assumptions, the Blue Ridge budget as proposed will call for a two mill increase in local property taxes, and still leave an operational deficit of almost a quarter million dollars, to be made up out of the district's reserve fund balances. An increase of two mills comes out to a hike of some 4.65% for property owners in the Blue Ridge District.
On the expense side, the administration sacrificed its Activities and Transportation Director, Jim Corse, to field the opening salvos from Mr. Hall. Mr. Corse took it all with good grace and humor, but had to respond to repeated probes for additional information on what seemed to be some minor items, even though overall the budgets he supervises were projected to be lower next year, albeit by a small amount. Mr. Corse expects athletics to cost some $7,000 less next year; other activities will rise by about $4,000, for a net gain of about $3,000.
Mr. Hall seemed to focus on athletic uniforms, calling the situation "out of control," and claiming to speak for the Board and the taxpayers in calling for a detailed accounting. He said that he wanted more information about how the booster clubs spend their money, particularly to buy uniforms for the teams, complaining that some players had shown up wearing red and black, or white and black, instead of the school colors of red and white. He said that it seemed that there was no consistency in uniform policy when, for some sports, only shorts and a T-shirt are provided, for others the players are expected to supply their own shoes, socks and belts, and yet others are permitted to buy their own shirts. He demanded that any uniform items purchased by booster clubs be authorized through the administration. "Do we provide a basic uniform? And who makes the decision as to what these kids are going to wear?" he asked. "You tell them what color socks to wear... That's your job," he roared at Mr. Corse. Socks seemed to be a real problem for Mr. Hall.
Mr. Corse explained that in most cases, uniforms are purchased by the school every 4-5 years for the high school teams. Socks, belts and other small items are considered "accessories," and are usually the responsibility of the student. After that, the uniforms are passed down to the Middle School teams until they're worn out. At that, Board member Harold Empet exclaimed that he now understood why he had to field complaints from parents of seventh-graders that students had to wear belts with their shorts: the shorts were purchased for the much larger high-schoolers. Mr. Empet also asked why chorus members were expected to use their own white shirts, while athletes are provided shirts by the school.
Next up was Robert Dietz, Principal in the Elementary School. He was also questioned closely on many lines in his budget, even though he had already found ways to cut expenses some $25,000 from the current year. Next year the kindergarten will have at least five classes (and therefore five teachers), because enrollment may exceed 90. School policy limits kindergarten class sizes to 18. He reported that "special education numbers are significantly up," meaning much more intensive instruction and higher attendant costs. (Individual school expense budgets as presented by the principals do not include instructional salaries, the largest item in the budget and, along with bus transportation, fairly fixed by contractual agreement.) He noted that the funded Read-to-Succeed program will run out in June of this year, and that he would like the District to continue these worthwhile auxiliary reading-support services if possible, perhaps with a minimal tuition to encourage attendance.
Board member Priscinda Gaughan noted that the gifted program in the Elementary School was allocated only $135 for the year. Why so little? Mr. Dietz said that the teacher in the gifted program asked for only $394 overall for the year, to which Mr. Hall commented that the school spends "more than that on toilet paper." Everyone agreed that the teacher does a fine job, but that perhaps she has not been encouraged to request additional support if she feels the need.
Mr. Dietz told the Board that a larger proportion of incoming students are less prepared for school, which will put additional strain on the early grades to try to keep up performance against state standards. His bias is to focus on reading skills as the basis for everything else. Mr. Hall expressed some concern that concentrating on reading alone might leave the children even further behind in other areas in later grades.
By this time even Mr. Hall was visibly flagging. He nearly gave a pass to John Manchester, Principal in the Middle School, even though his proposed budget was modestly higher than the current year. Mr. Manchester said that he expects to purchase more than $12,000 worth of new books for the science and health classes.
Similarly, High School Principal Michael Thornton got by fairly easily with a modest increase, although he said that he expects an additional $15,000 of income from grants to help him to a net decrease for the year. The High School's major new expenses will be for some eight sets of new or additional textbooks.
The spending plan as proposed so far calls for drawing another quarter million dollars from reserves. Mr. Small said that the "fund balances" should remain just over $1 million, still within state guidelines. He told the Board that assessed valuations in the five municipalities served by the Blue Ridge School District had risen only 1.5% in the past year; in two of the municipalities, valuations actually dropped. Property tax increases in that environment are particularly difficult because each the value of each mill does not keep pace with the increasing cost of running the schools.
Mr. Hall cautioned everyone that the figures discussed so far are strictly preliminary, and asked his colleagues to study them carefully in preparation for a vote at the next business meeting, on May 12, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
A window was pried out of its casing at Michael Jeffrey Evans' (46, Collegeville) residence on Howard Hill Rd., Middletown Township, between April 23-25. Removed were three guns and a spotting scope.
TWO VEHICLE COLLISION
Richard Arnold, Montrose, turned left in front of Joan Regan, Montrose, on State Route 29 at State Route 3004, Springville Township, on April 24 at 5:05 p.m. John Bennett, Kingsley, a passenger in the Arnold vehicle, received moderate injuries.
Jeremy P. Hunsinger, 21, Meshoppen, was clocked traveling 100 mph from Dimock Corners to Springville Corners, on State Route 29 on April 26 at 5:32 p.m., according to the police report.
When a traffic stop was attempted at Springville Corners, Hunsinger failed to yield to police and a pursuit occurred.
After a short pursuit, Hunsinger collided with an embankment at the corner of Lynn Rd. and Shelden Hill Rd., then fled from the vehicle, and a foot pursuit was initiated by Trooper Jeffrey A. Winters. Hunsinger was taken into custody, in a field, adjacent to the scene.
Two passengers, a 16-year old male and a 14-year old female, fled the vehicle and were later located. The female was treated for minor injuries and released. No charges are to be filed against the passengers.
Hunsinger was on probation in Susquehanna County and was incarcerated in the Susquehanna County Jail by county probation, on the probation violation.
Charges to be filed, according to the police report include: DUI, Fleeing and Attempting to Elude Police, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Resisting Arrest and several traffic violations. Hunsinger is to be arraigned before District Justice Watson Dayton at a later date.
CORRUPTION OF MINORS/DUI
William Robert Snedaker, 21, Hallstead, was stopped for driving without headlights on April 13 at 2:30 a.m. Further investigation revealed that the operator was DUI and both juvenile passengers were intoxicated. The incident occurred on Main St., intersection of Pratt St., New Milford Borough.
Someone arrived at David Hartman's residence (State Route 2067, Gibson Township) between 1:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on April 26, and vandalized his 2002 Toyota pickup. If anyone has information, please contact the PA State Police, Gibson.
On April 23 between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., Agnes M. Williams, 97, resident of the Meadowview Senior Living Center, Bridgewater Township, claimed she was hit by a nurse aid. Administrator Susan Davis placed the nurse aid on suspension until the outcome of the investigation.
Someone broke into a seasonal residence at Township Route 480, Devine Ridge Rd., Rush Township, owned by Henry Chrysczaniacz, Harleysville, between December 3 and April 25. Stolen were two rifles, a small tv and three portable propane tanks. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police, Gibson.
Someone pried open the back door on a residence at Township Route 593, Williams Pond Rd., Bridgewater Township, which belongs to Sandra D. Meixwell, New Milford. Anyone with information in this April 23 incident which occurred between 5:30 p.m. and 10:10 p.m. is asked to contact the PA State Police, Gibson.
THEFT BY UNLAWFUL TAKING
Someone took a 1989 Polaris snowmobile, valued at $800, from a backyard at Township Route 846, Comfort Pond Rd., Harmony Township, belonging to Sherry Silvestre, Susquehanna. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police, Gibson.
Two white males pumped $19.02 worth of gasoline at the Pump and Pantry, State Route 171, Great Bend Township, then drove off in an east bound direction on State Route 171. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police, Gibson, at 570-465-3154.
Joseph S. Phelan, 53, Harford Township, and Mallory Rutherford, 46, Harford Township.
Joseph S. Manzek, Jr., 50, and Lynne T. Ashley, 42, Endicott, NY.
Pamela S. Joines, nmb Pamela S. Brant and Keith E. Brant to David Symons in New Milford Borough for $62,000.
Thomas F. Roeller to Thomas Roeller in Choconut/Forest Lake Township for surface mining operations.
Skip M. Tracy, Christopher Tracy and Cathleen A. Tracy and Marjorie L. Tracy to Robin Medovich and Catherine D. Medovich in New Milford Township for $105,000.
James P. McCarthy and Amy R. McCarthy to Ronald A. Dauro in Hallstead Borough for $66,000.
Lance M. Benedict, Sheriff, to LaSalle Bank, N.A. fka LaSalle National Bank in Auburn Township for $4,194.49.
Barry A. Havemann and Catherine A. Havemann to Edward J. Sweeney and Susan G. Sweeney in Middletown Township for $79,000.
David G. Palmer and Bessie Palmer to David G. Palmer and Bessie Palmer in Herrick Township for $1.
David G. Palmer and Bessie Palmer to David Palmer, Jr. in Herrick Township for $1.
Edmund S. Beautz and Carol S. Beautz and John G. Keating, Jr. and Amy W. Keating to Edmund S. Beautz and Carol S. Beautz, John G. Keating, Jr. and Amy W. Keating in Herrick Township for $1.
John Poloncic, Jr. to Terrance J. Meszler and Dorina M. Meszler in Forest City Borough for $5,000.
Edmund S. Beautz and Carol S. Beautz, John G. Keating, Jr. and Amy W. Keating to Edmund S. Beautz and Carol S. Beautz, John G. Keating, Jr. and Amy W. Keating in Herrick Township for $1.
Andrew Michael Nesevich and Brenda Lee Nesevich to Jenny L. Payne in Harford Township for $70,000.
Bernadette M. Slick to Bernadette M. Slick Irrevocable Trust in Forest City Borough for $1.
Marlene Stradley to Shelly L. Stradley in Choconut Township for $1.
Irene Bozzo to James Henry and Carlene Ann Bozzo Henry in Springville Township for $1.
Fern B. Ball, Mary C. Berg and Kendall R. Berg to Mary C. Berg and Kendall R. Berg in Dimock Township for $1.
John Brannock and Donna Sue Brannock to William Dittmar in Liberty Township for $400,000.
Hugh D. McCollum to Hugh D. McCollum in Bridgewater Township for $1 ogvc.
Michael J. Kwiatek and Rebecca S. Kwiatek to Russell E. Leichliter and Ruth H. Leichliter in Auburn Township for $55,000.
Loretta M. Capriotti 1993 Revocable Trust to Anthony F. Capriotti and Loretta M. Capriotti in Rush Township for $1.
Delores Obert to Delores Obert and Ann Marie Baldwin in Dimock Township for $1.
Arlene A. Wheaton and Lynda L. Peters to Robert S. Don Santos in Great Bend Township for $165,000.
Rose R. Martin to Anthony J. Martin, Jane H. Martin, Stephen J. Martin and Jean K. Martin, Peter R. Martin and Christine A. Martin in Clifford Township for $1.
Now that the snow and ice are gone, Great Bend Borough Council members are in the mood to get the town in shape for summer, and willing to spend at least a little money to do it. At their May meeting on the 1st, there was discussion of replacing signs throughout the Borough, sprucing up the toilet facilities in Recreation Park, Fun Day plans, resurfacing the tennis court, and collecting cinders accumulated over the winter.
Councilman Joe Collins recently took an inventory of signs in the Borough that need replacing, including street- name signs, snow-emergency signs, and no-parking signs. He got permission to order replacements for most of them, although there was some discussion of the need for some types of signs because the Borough has no way to enforce snow-emergency and parking rules anyway. The Borough's attorney, Frank O'Connor, told members that, since there are ordinances on the books covering most of these regulations, the signs help to limit liability in case of accident. Well, then, would it be cheaper to repeal the ordinances? In the end, they decided to go ahead and replace most of the signs. In some areas, notably John Street, which is close to the firehouse and sometimes clogged with parked cars that can cause problems with emergency vehicles, the Borough may undertake to contact residents individually to ask them to keep the street clear.
Council member Bea Alesky, for several years director of the annual Fun Day event, pleaded for more volunteers. This year the family-oriented day of games and food in Memorial Park will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on May 31 (rain date, June 7). Most work in Memorial Park, including moving the basketball goals, will be postponed until after Fun Day. A meeting for those working on the event is scheduled for May 29, 7:00 p.m. at Ms. Alesky's Country Lounge on Main Street.
Mr. Collins recently got a rough estimate that it would cost $3,500-$4,000 to resurface and renovate the tennis court in Recreation Park. Several Council members remembered making good use of the tennis courts as youngsters and lamented its current condition. Mr. Collins was asked to get bids for the work, without actually anticipating that the work would be done this year. There were some who expressed concern that a newly-refurbished tennis court would come in for abuse, but others noted that Council should provide recreation facilities and deal with the consequences.
Council suggested asking the Boy Scouts or other local youth to help repaint the toilet and concession facilities in Recreation Park.
Mr. Collins told his colleagues that he had contacted ProSeal for advice on removing cinders from Borough streets. Accumulations of cinders from the winter weather now dried out raise clouds of dust from passing traffic. Mr. Collins said that ProSeal would charge $45 per hour to bring a brushing machine and operator to the Borough. He was given authority by Council to bring in the contractor for about two days to clean up the streets. He indicated that he might also ask for the loan of a street sweeper from Susquehanna Borough, if that might be a cheaper and more effective alternative.
If all of this work gets done, the Borough will be considerably spiffed up for the summer, especially when Mr. Collins has also finished getting the flags replaced along Main Street. Mr. Collins and the rest of the Borough Council discuss these things on the first Thursday of each month, beginning at 7:00 p.m., at the Borough Building on Elizabeth Street.
At the April 29 meeting, the Susquehanna County Planning Commission recommended approval of the Act 537 Official Sewage Facilities Plan Update that would affect the areas of Heart Lake, Lake Chrisann, Lake Raylean and parts of Bridgewater and New Milford Townships. In those areas, including the Route 706 corridor connecting them to Montrose, sanitary surveys indicated that 29 percent of the sewage disposal systems inspected were malfunctioning and that 43 percent of the wells inspected tested positive for coliform contamination. The alternative chosen to provide for the long-term orderly development of sewage facilities in the study area is to construct a central sewage collection system consisting of low-pressure sewers and individual home grinder pump units. Wastewater will then be conveyed via force main to the Montrose Municipal Authority plant for treatment. The project will include a sewer extension to serve the remaining six homes on Lakeshore Drive, and an upgrade to the existing sewage pumping station. These improvements will also protect Lake Montrose, a public water supply.
Construction costs are estimated at $3,988,271, with annual operation and maintenance costs of $129,528. The project would be financed by an initial connection fee of $1,000 from each of the 257 EDUs to be served, and by a PENNVEST grant and loan. Annual sewer cost per user is expected to be $504.
There are many contingencies to be addressed before this plan can be implemented. This is a starting point, and the Planning Commission gave its approval so that the implementation schedule can move forward without delay.
The other big news was the proposal of the Military and Veterans Affairs to build a new Pennsylvania Army National Guard Readiness Center on SR 492 (across from Stump Pond) to replace the Armory in New Milford Borough. This Readiness and Military Training Center will include a 27,000 square foot office with a staff of three employees. On the weekend there will be 162 people for training sessions. The compound will include 140 parking spaces ( 7 handicapped), sidewalks, wetlands, wood pedestrian bridge, hazmat building, military vehicle storage compound, plus utilities. The Planning Commission voted to grant preliminary acceptance of the plan, contingent on several permits that are pending.
Commercial plans were also conditionally approved for Gilbo Enterprises, Inc. AKA Blue Ridge Motors for a used car lot on the property of Judy Kelly, High School Road in Bridgewater Township. Joseph and Debbie Stone have proposed a second commercial development of their lands off SR 171 in Thompson Township. A used car lot will join their convenience store and restaurant. Preliminary and final approval was granted. The same approval was given for further land development of LBC Storage Mall owned by Belford and Lee Burch on Route 29 just north of Montrose. They have proposed another 30x120 foot storage building. The proposal for the South New Milford Baptist congregation to build a new church on SR 2063 was accepted with contingencies of driveway permit, report from New Milford supervisors and review and comment by the Soil Conservation District.
A finalized draft of the County Comprehensive Plan will be sent to all municipalities in the County, as well as to neighboring counties. After a 45-day review period, a public meeting will be held, and then the document will be submitted to the County Commissioners for adoption sometime around July 1. With a few thousand dollars of the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) grant remaining, Templeton visited the idea of extending the grant time so that the excess money could be used to make brochures of the Comprehensive Plan. The Commission was in agreement.
The next regular meeting will be held on May 27 at 7:30 p.m.
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