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Facilitates Public Comment
Oakland Boro Council members Bob VanFleet, Chad Crawford, Ron Beavan, Cynthia Beavan, Leon Dubanowitz and Jack Agler were present for the May 8 meeting, as well as mayor Art Towner and several audience members.
Under old business, president Ron Beavan reported that information is still in the process of being compiled towards refinancing the boros water company loan.
A codes violation on State St. is scheduled for a hearing on May 16; it had been postponed from an earlier date.
Oakland Township has been contacted about potholes on High St.; they are scheduled to be repaired.
The boros CEO has checked into a complaint brought up at a prior meeting. The property owner was given two weeks to show progress; some refuse has been removed, but more still remains. The CEO also looked at the Beamer property, where there has been concern about a retaining wall. One concern is that the wall has been constructed within the boros right-of-way. The situation was said to be hazardous, which may require that a portion of the road be closed.
All boro departments have completed equipment inventories or are in the process of doing so.
Mr. Beavan reported that he had attended a meeting regarding having the Route 92 corridor designated as a scenic byway. Only one municipality, Oakland Township, has declined to participate. Some options to address this issue had been discussed.
Time sheets, in a new format, have been made available to all boro employees; Mr. Beavan was happy to report that they are easier to read than the old ones.
Mr. Beavan said that he had been asked if the public comment period could be moved up, and allowed after old business, rather than held at the end of the meeting. It had been moved to the end, he said, because often items brought up were scheduled to be discussed, but opinion indicated that it was not fair to make residents wait three hours until the end of the meeting. If public comment were to be moved up, residents could discuss their concerns and have the option of not staying through the entire meeting. So, for this meeting, public comment was opened to the floor directly after old business.
One resident commented that all boro employees should be present at the meetings to give reports, or to answer questions. He pointed out that former streets worker Bob Andersen had attended every meeting. Mrs. Beavan asked if this included all employees; not just the secretary and streets department worker, but auditors, collectors, etc. If so, where was the money going to come from; they should be paid if it were mandatory to attend. The resident responded that, if employees attended meetings, they could not only give reports of their activities, but it would eliminate the number of phone calls council members receive during the month. Mr. Beavan explained that, in some instances, employees have questions in areas where they do not have the authority to determine what procedure should be followed; it is councils responsibility do so.
Another question concerned records the boro secretary has been sorting through; what exactly are these records, and is it necessary to keep them? Mrs. Beavan explained that they are minutes and financial records from a former secretary, and that they need to be filed properly.
Under new business, Mr. Beavan noted that former streets worker Leo Fisk had done some work for the boro without compensation, and had charged a nominal fee for use of his personal equipment for a particular project.
Reporters note: at a prior, special meeting, Jeff Wayman had been hired as the new streets/water worker.
The boros emergency management plan had also been discussed at a special meeting. Resident George Smith has consented to be emergency management coordinator, with Paul Dudley as his alternate. Mr. Beavan reported that Mr. Smith has compiled a packet of information, but the cost to make sufficient copies, one for every residence, would be rather high. Full copies of the report will be posted at the boro building; copies of a more condensed report, listing websites and pertinent phone numbers will be available to any who desire to have one. Mr. Smith is also in need of volunteers to be "callers" in the case of an emergency. Each will be given a specific area, with phone numbers of residents in those areas to be called in the event of a catastrophe.
Mr. Dubanowitz reminded council that the annual Memorial Day parade will be lining up in Oakland, as it was last year. This year, he said, the number of participants should be significantly higher than last years.
Mr. Dubanowitz asked council to consider purchasing an American flag, to be displayed in the meeting room, so that meetings could begin with the Pledge of Allegiance. He had prices for a flag, pole and stand; after some discussion he agreed to get prices for something smaller.
Mr. Dubanowitz reported that Mr. Wayman had put up a "welcome to Oakland" sign near the Veterans Memorial Bridge, but apparently the owner of the property where it was put up had some objections. It was taken down and is being stored in the boro building. There was some discussion about where the sign could be put up, such as on a utility pole, above a stop sign, or attached to a retaining wall. It was agreed to contact PENNDOT for more information about right-of-way regulations before a permanent place is found for it.
Mr. VanFleet asked if there was a final tally for the cost of a drainage project on Second Ave. Mr. Beavan reported that the total was $6,200, $4,000 of which was taken from the streets budget; the remainder from highway funds.
Mr. VanFleet asked about plans for Oakland Days (yard sales, etc.); wouldnt it be better, he asked, to hold off for this year, or to plan it for after Susquehannas Sesquicentennial celebration? Mr. Beavan said that council member Doug Arthur should be addressed with this question; Mr. Arthur was reportedly delayed and was expected to arrive later, although the meeting ended before he could get there.
Mr. Wayman will be asked to check a water spigot at the park that was said to be leaking.
There was a lengthy discussion regarding enacting a new ordinance to further curtail burning within the boro. Proposed changes would allow for outdoor barbecues, and burning of leaves, branches, and brush. Burn barrels would be prohibited. There have been complaints about residents burning household trash and other items, such as tires, creating a nuisance, as well as creating a hazard to anyone with respiratory problems. The proposed ordinance also included substantially higher fines for violations. A motion carried to proceed with enacting the new ordinance; a vote resulted in a tie, four in favor, four opposed. Mayor Towner was called on to cast the deciding vote; he voted against.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, June 12, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
At the May 5 meeting, Thompson Boro council discussed upcoming plans for a town fair, to be held June 21. If successful, it will be an annual event. Mayor Delaney reported that many local businesses have agreed to sponsor the fair; response has been so positive that boro funds may not be necessary. Council had discussed using money from a certificate of deposit to pay some of the costs involved. But, Mr. Delaney said, the majority of planned festivities are paid for, with other donations still coming. Council president Dennis Price suggested that a community account be opened so that donations could be deposited, and paid out when needed. A motion carried to approve; Mr. Delaney and treasurer Marge Whitney will be signators for the account.
In response to a question, it was noted that an old community fund had been closed out; the $81 balance was used for Christmas lights.
In other business, it was noted that Aprils bill for plowing was $160, not a usual expense at this time of year.
Continuing work on Act 537, the sewage plan, council president Dennis Price reported that council has been busy getting the loan papers for the project in order. A public, informational meeting was scheduled for May 13 to answer any questions and to keep residents apprised of each of the projects stages, so that they will know what to expect. The construction contract was to "officially" be awarded at a special meeting the morning of May 13.
The boros SEO will investigate a possible sewage problem; the property owner has given permission for an inspection.
In a related discussion, the boro has been looking for an alternate SEO. There were some questions as to whether fees charged by a SEO are regulated by the county, as there is a disparity in some charges, such as mileage. On average, the boro only requires the services of a SEO twice a year; it would not be financially feasible to keep a SEO on a retainer. There was some discussion as to whether it would be advantageous to re-join the COG Sewage Enforcement Committee. Council member Andy Gardner agreed to get more information, such as what their current fees are.
In response to an inquiry from a property owners insurance carrier, documentation was compiled to show that the property in question is not in a flood plain; although the property itself is partially in the flood plain, the house is well away. The information will be sent to the property owner.
There was some discussion regarding potholes on Water St. Streets committee member Allen Lloyd noted that funds intended for road maintenance are limited, due to the unusually high cost of winter plowing this past winter. After discussion, it was agreed that Mr. Lloyd should obtain prices from several entities, and proceed with repairs.
Freddys Refuse has notified council that collection stickers will no longer available at Curtis service station; they can be bought at the Carpet Catalog during regular business hours, directly from driver on collection days, or at Shops Plaza in Susquehanna on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. And, all refuse must be at the curb by 8 a.m.
All are invited to a Memorial Day ceremony, to be held Sunday, May 25, 2 p.m. at the veterans memorial on Water St.
Council received notification that PAWC has filed with PUC for a rate increase of 18.2%, or approximately $5.41 per month per residence.
Letters had been sent out in February to those property owners with unpaid sewer bills; there was discussion as to what steps should be taken to address those that were still outstanding. A motion carried to follow the boros standard procedure; delinquents will be sent a notice that accounts not brought up to date by the June 2 meeting will be forwarded to the boros solicitor to proceed with legal action.
In a related discussion, Mr. Price related that he had been asked, by a boro resident, whether there would be any refunds of sewage fees (from the old system) if the new one were to be operational within the time period covered by current fees. No refunds will be given; any account balances will be "rolled" into the new system. Mr. Price noted that the boro had paid $700 for a recent repair to the existing system, plus $400 to pump out the lines. "Funds can be depleted with just one break," he said. "The (old) lines have to be maintained until new system is operational."
Mr. Lloyd is concerned that, once the sewer project is completed, there will be new sidewalks; what happens when they are damaged from plowing or crushed by heavy equipment? "Thats when we have to get back into sidewalk maintenance," Mr. Price said. "People dont like it, but..."
In response to a request from a Water St. resident, council will look into what the cost would be to have a street light installed. One had been at the location in question, but it had been privately installed. A tree that had been an obstacle has since been removed.
Council discussed purchasing a new(er) police car. Police Chief Rivenburgh has looked at a used car in Silver Lake. It is, he said, in good shape; it is a fully equipped, 92 Caprice, selling price $850. He has already received an offer for the old car of $300, from someone interested in using it for parts. Mr. Price commented that Mr. Rivenburgh saves the boro a lot of money by doing repairs/maintenance on the car himself, but it is in bad shape. Council had discussed using funds from a certificate of deposit for the town fair; since it would not be necessary to use it for the fair, wouldnt it be a good investment to use the funds for a better car? "As far as Im concerned," Mr. Lloyd said, "its a liability not to get (a better car)." A motion carried to approve.
The boro had submitted an application for grant funding, to be used to buy a newer police car. Mr. Price reported that he had made further inquiries about the application and had learned that the boro had been put in round four, but should have been in round two. "Wed be lucky to see something by fall," he said.
Mayor Delaney asked about cinders still on boro roads; many older residents are unable to sweep them up, he said, and asked if council could look into getting a sweeper. He agreed to check costs to rent one, and will also check with the department of corrections to see if it is possible to get inmates to clean the streets as a community service.
During public comment, there was a complaint about loose cows "menacing" traffic in the road; the cows have reportedly been wandering about due to a fence in disrepair. One question asked if the owners are aware that they will be held liable for any damage done to a vehicle if a cow were to be hit. Council member Diane Sabatelli agreed to contact the owners to apprise them of the situation. If there is no action taken to keep the cows contained, the animal control office will be called.
Mayor Delaney requested that council find out why Ararat has not yet paid for their portion of 2002 police services; Ararat contracts to pay a portion of Mr. Rivenburghs salary as well as some of the expenses related to the police department. Mrs. Whitney will contact the township secretary; a motion carried for council to follow up with a letter if nothing happens. The motion included authorizing Mrs. Whitney to pay Mr. Rivenburgh the salary portion of the funds once they are received.
The next meeting will be on Monday, June 2, 7:30 p.m. in the fire hall on Water Street.
Donna M. Friar, 41, Brooklyn, operating a 1986 Lincoln sedan, lost control of her vehicle while avoiding a deer in the roadway, while traveling south on State Route 167, Brooklyn Township. The vehicle then left the east berm and struck a tree. No injuries were reported in this May 6 accident at 3:50 a.m.
Robert Lytle, Jr., Elkton, MD, failed to yield the right-of-way with his 2002 Ford Explorer, when pulling away from a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp of Interstate 81, at State Route 171, Great Bend Township. He struck a 1999 Honda, driven by Kenneth Tinklepaugh, Susquehanna, who was driving south on State Route 171. A passenger, Doreen Tinklepaugh, received minor injuries in this May 3 incident.
Someone smashed a window on a 1999 Nissan belonging to Desiree Jantzen, Sherburne, NY, as the car was parked at the Shuler residence, Irish Hill Rd., Middletown Township, between 9:00 p.m. on May 3 and 9:30 the next morning.
Someone in a red passenger vehicle with New Jersey tags pumped fuel at the Pump & Pantry, Montrose, and fled without paying for it on April 30 at 5:05 p.m. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police, Gibson, at 570-465-3154.
Two seasonal residents of Fiddle Lake, Ararat Township, Judy Saunders and Kathy Gross, no addresses given, had their homes broken into between April 12-29. According to the police report, the suspects apparently had an interest in the alcohol that was stored at the homes. Anyone with information is asked to notify the PA State Police, Gibson, at 570-465-3154.
With a pellet gun, someone shot out a windshield of a vehicle belonging to Shager Mulch Business on Route 92, South Gibson on April 18-19.
THEFT MOTOR VEHICLE
Someone stole a 1990 yellow Toyota pick-up from Jonathan Gardner, 23, New Milford, as the car was parked on Lackawanna St. (lot across from Tub's Bar, New Milford Borough) on April 18-19. The vehicle was recovered two days later at the Pump & Pantry, New Milford. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police at 570-465-3154.
A juvenile student at Elk Lake Secondary School, Dimock Township, brought a small baggie containing several marijuana seeds onto the school property. The incident occurred on April 8.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
Robert Seibel, 56, was traveling north on Interstate 81, Great Bend Township, in a 2003 Jetta Volkswagen when the vehicle traveled off the roadway and onto the east berm and hit a tree. The driver was not hurt in this April 25 incident.
Someone smashed the rear window of a 1985 Chevy Celebrity belonging to Patricia Bentler, 43, Susquehanna, on May 2 between 1:30-2:00 p.m. The vehicle had broken down and was parked at Bear Swamp Rd., near State Route 171, Harmony Township.
CRASH PSP VEHICLE/DEER
Trooper George Scochin, PA State Police, Dunmore, was not injured when his vehicle struck a deer on State Route 706, two miles west of Montrose Borough, Bridgewater Township, on May 1 at 2:15 a.m.
Someone smashed four sections of glass in front of the Basil Leaf Restaurant, State Route 706, Bridgewater Township, between 10:00 p.m. on April 29 and 8:00 a.m. the next morning. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police at 570-465-3154.
Genieve W. Shields, Gary A. Shields and Gail M. Shields to James A. Bunnell and Ruth Ann Bunnell in Dimock Township for $1 ogvc.
Louis W. Hawley and Natalie Hawley to Karen Van de Griek in Montrose Borough for $89,900.
Henry W. Beecher, Jr. and Iva M. Beecher to Henry W. Beecher, III, and Edward Matthew Hance, and Mildred F. Mann in Great Bend Township for $1 ogvc.
Scott W. Haley and Karen Cantone nbm Karen M. Haley to Donald G. Cavanaugh in Jackson Township for $113,000.
Irena Gaile Durko, Executrix of the Estate of Elizabeth A. Foster to Charles W. Foster and Richard A. Foster in Gibson Township for no consideration.
Henry Hewson Giles, Jr. and Judith M. Giles to Lawrence W. Giles and Louanne M. Giles in Gibson Township for $1 ogvc.
Charlotte Mason and Joseph C. Mason, Jr. to Edward L. Kelley and Sandra L. Kelley and Fred Mack and Paula J. Mack in Friendsville Borough for $19,000.
Frank J. DeBartola III, Executor of the Estate of Frank J. DeBartola, Jr. to Frank J. DeBartola III and John A. DeBartola in Forest Lake Township for no consideration.
Borough of Susquehanna Depot to John H. Sholtiss in Susquehanna Depot Borough for $5,126.
Raymond H. Mayerzak and Joanne Mayerzak to Timothy M. Burgh and Connie M. Burgh in Bridgewater Township for $100,000.
Frank Perera to Karl F. Laude and Sharon M. Laude in New Milford Township for $73,000.
Ernest J. Alcaro and Joan S. Alcaro to John B. Wyber in Jackson Township for $21,000.
Warren L. Stone and Dolores A. Stone to Arnold H. Patterson and Sheryl L. Patterson in Jackson and Thompson Townships for $230,000.
Claudia A. Liebre nka Claudia Tedesco to Elk Enterprises Limited Partnership in Herrick Township for $1.
Don M. Burdick and Nancy J. Burdick to Don M. Burdick and Nancy J. Burdick in Herrick Township for $1 (two parcels).
Lora L. Haberle, nbm Lora L. Urbas and Brian C. Urbas to Daniel J. Nebzydoski in Forest City Borough for $56,000.
Donna L. Williams to Mark W. Williams and Mary A. Williams in Brooklyn Township for one dollar and love and affection.
Robert Curley & Mary L. Curley to Robert David Curley in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Grace Edwards and Keith Edwards to Stephen B. Skurnowicz and Denise L. Skurnowicz in Lenox Township for $4,000.
Erick A. Cobourn to Aimee Jay and William Andrews in Ararat Township for $72,000.
Stuart E. Ely to Gary H. Ely, Duane S. Ely, Merilys K. Hehaghan and Melvin R. Ely in Brooklyn Township for $1 ogvc.
J. Voss McGuire and Edith S. McGuire to Snake Creek Lodge, LLC in Franklin Township for $160,000.
Virginia Finch and Michael David Walser to Bankers Trust Company of California, N. A. in Oakland Borough for $1.
Joseph H. Sega and Sherri K. Sega to John J. Abbott and Susan J. Abbott in New Milford Borough for $146,000.
Norma Ashcraft to Norma Ashcraft in Little Meadows Borough for $1.
Norma Ashcraft to Richard L. Layton in Little Meadows Borough for $13,000.
Estate of Edwin A. Bloxham aka Edwin Bloxham, by Dorothea M. Bloxham, Executrix, and Dorothea M. Bloxham, individually, to Thomas M. Susco, Mark F. Susco, David M. Susco and Joel C. Susco in Forest City Borough for $1.
Wachovia Bank, National Association (F/K/A First Union National Bank) to Charles A. Damm and Frances L. Damm in Montrose Borough for $47,900.
Harry L. Sands to Jonathan J. Baier in Silver Lake Township for $57,500.
William E. Shager and Rowena J. Shager to Tower Asset Sub, Inc. in New Milford Township for memorandum of agreement.
Dawn R. Williams, nbm Dawn R. Brhel and Francis Brhel to Ted Y. Nickel and Dora B. Nickel in Silver Lake Township for $19,000.
Ivan Fras and Inge M. Fras to Paul T. Titus in Silver Lake Township for $218,125.
Mary Belle Shear and Roy W. Shear, Attorneys-in-fact for Vera W. McGinty, Trustee of McGinty Living Trust to Vera W. McGinty in Bridgewater Township for $1.
William A. Szili and Tracie L. Szili to Norma Chacona in Harmony Township for $1.
Lawrence T. O'Reilly and Christine M. O'Reilly to Rodney T. Ellinger and Patrice M. Davis in Jessup Township for $30,500.
Anmarie Donlin-Fields, Attorney-in-fact for Robert L. Donlin, Executor of the Estate of Ann Dewitt Donlin, aka Ann R. Donlin, aka Anna R. Donlin to Hugh B. Gallagher and Joanne M. Gallagher in Auburn Township for $105,000.
Cynthia White to Cynthia White and Margaret A. Horner in Springville Township for $1.
Gregory John to Gregory John and Heidi L. John in Auburn Township for $1.
Tax Increase In Great Bend?
The May 5 meeting of the Great Bend Township came to order at 7:00 p.m. The meeting commenced with Supervisor Haskins asking for permission to withdraw his letter of resignation, which was submitted during the previous meeting.
The agenda for the evening was approved with several additions, which included increased compensation for township supervisors, increased taxes for capital projects, and the letter sent to Dickson regarding code violations.
Chairman Robert Squier, Vice-Chairman James Banko, Supervisor George Haskins, and Secretary-Treasurer Beverly Sheldon were all present for the roll call.
Acceptance of the bills payable and approval of the minutes from the previous meeting were the next items on the agenda.
Under the roadmasters report, Chairman Squier gave a detailed description of all work that needs to be performed by the road repair crew this summer. After touring the roads for six hours, and writing a detailed summary on each road, the supervisors were highly impressed with the small amount of damage that occurred to the roads this winter. The regular application of calcium, the ability to control flood water, and the new engineering work done on the roadbeds has begun to pay off for citizens of Great Bend Township.
For the Bridging Communities project, leaders from the three local governments involved met with several key persons from the state level. During this meeting, representatives from the state government showed favorable impressions with the work that is being done with the grant money issued earlier this year.
Donna Fekettes commercial permit for her sign along Interstate 81 is still ongoing. Douglas Parker II was present to plead his case regarding his lack of a building permit after applying for it over one month ago. During this time the Supervisors informed Mr. Parker that if he could find someone that is a Sewage Enforcement Officer (SEO) or an engineer that was willing to test his system, they would accept a detailed report from that person as credible information regarding his waste water management system. They also informed him that if any changes need to be made to the system, the person writing the repair order needs to be a certified SEO. The permit for Richard Chamberlin to connect an addition to his existing garage was granted, contingent to the fact that the addition does not exceed the footprint already created by the north side of the house and the east side of the garage. The permit for Lonnie Fishers in-ground pool was granted after supervisors investigated the effects that the pool would have on natural water flow in the area.
Great Bend Township is still looking for someone to fill the positions of Primary SEO and Alternate SEO. During discussions concerning storm and waste water control, the Supervisors reviewed the MS4 waiver sent from DEP concerning the National Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to discharge storm waters from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. Due to the fact that Great Bend Township does not have facilities to handle storm waters, they are exempt from this legislation. It was determined that the best way to allow this to pass is to send the form MS4 waiver back with the section where the system is to be described filled in with the words, "no system exists."
The Great Bend Township received correspondence from the Assessment office regarding additions and exonerations, the change in notice listings, and the need for an assessor. The township board accepted the changes made to the tax base and advertised the open position to the audience present. During this period letters were opened concerning Envirocycles application for a Residual Waste General Permit, and the audit report for the January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2002, fiscal year of the Hallstead Volunteer Firefighters Relief Association.
Under the auspices of unfinished business, the Hallstead/ Great Bend Township boundary line is ongoing. Hornish, Slocum, and Dixon were sent final letters regarding their code violations, and all three will be processed at once if they do not meet the mandates set by the letter during the specified period. A letter was sent to DEP and Senator Madigans office concerning the clean-up project that is ongoing at Interstate Burlap and Bag. Township Road # 747, Graham Hollow Road, the Emergency Operations Plan, and repairs to the storage barn roof are all ongoing. A bid was found from Agway Energy Products that was not opened during the previous meeting, but Mirabito Oil still took the contract with the lowest fixed rate. Township Route 828, Haley Road, needs to be extended several hundred feet in the next seven weeks. A letter was sent to Setzer concerning Township Route 821, Old Route 11 or Old Lackawanna Trail. Information concerning the salt storage structure that the township will be investing in was reviewed. Blueprints for the new township building were reviewed with several changes being discussed.
Under new business, Supervisor Haskins submitted an ordinance setting the annual compensation for supervisors to the state maximum, $1,875. This ordinance will not go into effect until the next term for supervisors and will continue to increase as the state maximum increases. During this time period Supervisor Banko delivered a speech concerning capital projects that need to be done in the township, and what funding may be available for these projects. The biggest concern with capital projects is who will pay the bill. Should only the people benefited by the project be responsible for all cost or should all tax payers add to the financial burden? The largest capital project that is under need of development in Great Bend Township is the resurfacing of Township Route 821, a $180,000 project. Should every member of the township see their taxes rise 22%, or should people with road footage on this route pay for the improvements? Should capital projects even include road repair, which will probably guarantee that all future capital projects will be roads, or should it be used to add parks, recreation facilities, and other family friendly attractions to the township?
Officials Host Meet
No one quite explained what happened, but apparently some representatives from the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) got a real taste of what living in our rural county is all about. The County Township Officials Association had talked PSATS into coming early in the day before the county's dinner meeting so they could tour the county to see how different this area is from more populated sections of the Commonwealth. They even planned to stay overnight for an extended session with supervisors the next day. This would be a first for the area, to have the state association spend so much time, with a half dozen of its staff, in such a "remote" location.
No one could have thought it would be a first in another way. A mini bus carrying part of the group and some local officials got stuck on a county dirt road, and needed to be rescued by a large piece of township machinery. Every thing appeared to have ended fine, as many good-humored references were made during the evening meeting at the Montrose Bible Conference. They aren't likely to forget the county in the near future.
About 160 people attended the dinner and meeting. Representative Sandra Major spoke first, discussing budget hearings in progress. Personal income taxes are proposed to be raised from 2.8 to 3.75 percent to offset some of the real estate taxes. This is a key issue with Governor Rendell's proposed budget, expected to generate $2.5 billion additional funds in the year 2004-5. It would give property tax relief through a shifting of taxes, but the final proposals aren't in yet.
Major also discussed her House Bill 657 which would modify the Clean & Green Act by removing the farmstead land on the tract from the reduced assessments. A hearing is expected on July 31, and might be held in Susquehanna County IF the legislature isn't in session. Major said that the issue of Clean & Green is finally getting more attention across Pennsylvania.
Representative Tina Pickett also thought that there may finally be some action on Clean & Green, but talked more about the Fish and Water Commission and hearings on whether it should be combined with the PA Game Commission to make one agency. She said the legislators want to hear from people regarding this idea. A mid-July meeting will be held in the Towanda/Wyalusing area.
Pickett discussed the rumors circulating about bears and how people can't feed birds any longer. The problem is not in feeding birds. The Game Commission has said they will work with people over this bear problem, and perhaps if a bird feeder becomes an attractant, they can agree to stop the bird feeding until the bears move on. But Pickett also said that if the Game Commission is not working with people, they should let their representatives know.
Bad news, perhaps, on the half-completed Welcome Center. Pickett said they thought they had the problem solved, but one more shift in money has put the project back on hold again.
Certificates of appreciation were given to Cliff Tinklepaugh by the county Township Officials Association. Keith Hite, Executive Director of PSATS, gave two awards for excellence to the group producing the newsletter connected with the coalition that is putting together a multi-municipal comprehensive plan in the northwest corner of the county.
Hite also presented a power point presentation outlining some of the legislation which has been enacted, or is being looked at that may affect the county. These included the Statewide Building Code. Townships can participate directly by having their own inspectors. They can opt not to be involved and have third party inspections. Pros and cons were given for each instance.
The Open Records Law was addressed. A policy must be developed about securing records, and then the records, if public, must be released within 5 business days, or a written explanation given in five days about the specific reason for not giving them.
One thing Hite noticed in the tour of the county was the amount of rubbish. He said that House Bill 16 about scattering rubbish may be of interest to the county. If passed, it would require the forfeiture and seizure of vehicles used in illegal dumping, along with penalties.
Senate Bill 321/House Bill 278 would limit what local governments can do if they are competing with private enterprises. They would need to bid out any services that could be performed by the private sector, including things like snow plowing, food service in schools, etc.
Another issue brought to the attention of officials was an attempt by some city officials to mandate that smaller municipalities merge with larger boroughs or cities. This could include, as a hypothetical example, Bridgewater Township mandated to merge with Montrose Borough. Hite said this is just an attempt by cities/boroughs to increase their tax base. PSATS is apparently working against this proposal.
The day-long fall meeting has been scheduled for Sept. 25 at the Montrose Bible Conference.
Slated In Montrose
A full agenda awaited the full complement of Montrose Borough Council members at their regular monthly meeting on May 5.
After approving the minutes, the agenda, and the payment of bills, they heard street foreman Ken DiPhillips progress report, which included that, last month, he started sweeping the streets (state roads first, as part of the Agility program, in exchange for salt received over the winter), cleaning the catch basins and ditches and rebuilding some, repairing signs, and doing pipe working on Beech Street. In short, hes doing a lot.
Hes also looking into ways of saving the Borough money, via using a heavy-duty plastic catch basin with a cast-iron hinged grate, instead of labor-intensive masonry. DiPhillips told Council that each of the plastic assemblies cost $190 apiece, compared to an average cost of $400 going the masonry/more labor route, adding that he didnt think hed have to repair the plastic ones every three years or so as he did the masonry catch basins. With DiPhillips expecting to see about ten catch basins over the next few weeks, that adds up to a lot of savings.
He asked Council to give the plastic catch basins a shot, and Council agreed. And when DiPhillips requested that the Borough purchase a diamond saw blade (around $400) that would be more work-effective and cost-efficient over the long term, they said okay to that, too, along with his request to purchase geo textile fabric for the park equipment.
With only so much time to do so many things, looking ahead, DiPhillips said he expected to finish up the sweeping, paint crosswalks, correct drainage problems on Griffis Street, and start working on the park equipment. However, with schools being let out soon, and the parks being open and used more, Council asked DiPhillips to see to the park before he started painting the crosswalks.
After DiPhillips report, much of the rest of the first part of the meeting focused on presentations by Jim Arnold and John Hickman about a proposed housing development project planned on land owned by Arnold and which used to be part of the Arnold Farm beyond Bank Street. Called Ponds Edge, the subdivision would lay out housing in a cluster approach, and Arnold was at the meeting to inform Council and get their feedback regarding minimum lot sizes and maximum number of lots permitted for single-family swellings per the Boroughs zoning ordinance, before they go make their case before the Montrose Planning Commission.
Arnold himself would not build the houses; rather, he seeks to prepare the site for a builder/developer who would do that part, if zoned for it. He wants to lay out the development in a cluster approach with smaller-sized lots. All told, hes got 33 lots on nine acres in his current plan. Hed also like a waiver to go with a street width of 24 feet, rather than 30, saying that the homeowners association (who would, he thought, be assessed $150-$200 a month for services) planned for the development would prohibit parking on the street. Thus, he didnt see any problem with emergency vehicles being able to get through when they needed to.
The housing would be clustered around a watershed that includes a pond with two streams running into it. The housing would be set up on the hillsides surrounding the watershed, and about 47 per cent of the development tract would be open space. He explained that sewer hook-ups would be in place and in conformance with codes.
Of the buildings he expects to go into the development, nine of them would be multi-tenant housing, with a total of 63 units. Arnold thought these would be rentals or condominiums ranging from 1,00 to 1,500 square feet. Condos would cost about $125,000. About 90-100 houses with an average square feet of 1,800 are being talked about for the site, and Arnold said they would range from $150,000-$200,000. He expected these kinds of housing would appeal to older people looking to take care of less space in a new home, and young adults.
For his part, Council member Jack Yaeger thought hed have trouble selling those kinds of residences in town, and took exception to the idea of the small lot size. Arnold didnt see a problem with selling the homes, because he thought people in big houses would prefer to move into ones like those planned for the site because they require less maintenance both inside and out. "Thats the best way to go today 8,000, 9,000 square feet," said Arnold, adding, "Theyre very marketable." To which Yaeger replied, "You hope theyre very marketable here."
For his part, Arnold noted that he didnt have to sell anything now, but that once the plans are approved, theyre worth money. "Whether I build them or my kids build them, the land has been in my family since 1928 and it hasnt cost me any money yet. One has to do business when the markets ready."
Yaeger said that he was all for the concept; it was the specifics he didnt like, and specifically, that was the small lot sizes for land that is in town.
Arnold thought that the borough needed new housing, adding that hes seen it degenerate over the last 50 years. Council member Elmer Taylor noted that a lot of older homes are for sale for a reason, with DiPhillips adding that the borough is generally populated with a lot of older people, some of which are looking to downsize their space.
On behalf of Council, president Craig Reimel thanked Arnold for his presentation. "Now," he said, "We have to let our planning commission do its thing."
The next item that got a lot of attention was a copy of a proposed ordinance for renters. New buildings code enforcement officer Shane Lewis suggested to Council that they might want to adopt something similar to what Susquehanna Depot recently adopted, and provided members with a copy of a proposed ordinance. Council members reviewed it and had a lot of questions, as did a Montrose landlord who attended the meeting.
This landlord was concerned about a lot of things asking if there was a current list of rental properties in the borough; if there were not list, and no budget for enforcement, then enforcement would be sporadic at best. With no list, there would be no estimated costs of revenue from such an ordinance.
The proposed ordinance would also cover business and commercial property. He was concerned about this, primarily because he thought that many of the businesses in town did not have a Labor and Industry occupancy permit, and the ordinance could cause a lot of problems for business owners. Since parking spaces were mentioned in the proposal, he asked if the borough really wanted to regulate rented parking spaces, and how would one go about inspecting them. Then theres the question of whether having a dwelling declared uninhabitable meant an emergency removal of the tenants, and who would pay for where a person lives if he or she is expelled from the building.
What he also strongly objected to was a section that would require tenants to provide identification and make known to where they are moving if they leave. This landlord didnt want to give his tenants names and forwarding addresses to anyone. He also didnt want tenants getting bills for things he thought were landlords responsibilities, and objected to annual inspection fees and how the proposed ones were arrived at for multi-tenant buildings and on an annual and ongoing basis.
In short, there was just too much about the proposed ordinance that was unclear and potentially messy. This landlord also noted he was with CEO Lewis when he did a "test-run inspection" of one of his buildings should an ordinance be in order. While he complimented Lewis on his work, the landlord did not think the whole ordinance thing a good idea. In essence, he thought that a few landlords who caused Council headaches because of shoddy practices would punish the group as a whole.
At the end of his comments, Reimel said, "It would appear there is significant work to be done on our ordinance on landlords and renters." A motion to table it was made and approved.
In other business, there is still disagreement over who has to pay for repairs made to the backhoe by Goodrich and traded to Goodrich when the borough purchased a new backhoe from Goodrich. Council believes that Goodrich cannot charge for these repairs. According to council member Fred Peckins, the bill was delivered to the borough after Goodrich got the backhoe and received a check from the borough for the new one. To which Council member Randy Shuster added, "The deal was, as is. Not, well take the machine, fix it, and then well bill you. You made the deal on the machine as is. The deal was not on the machine as fixed by you."
For his part, the Goodrich representative noted that Goodrich brought the cost of the new hoe to under $10,000 to make the deal with the Borough. He offered to split the difference in the cost of repairing the old backhoe, but Council really wasnt interested in it. "The $2,000 it would have cost to repair the old one was what prompted us to get the new one," said member Todd Chamberlain, "and then our old one was fixed for $700-something (roughly, the cost of the bill the Borough received)."
Reimel added that, aside from the fact that the feeling is that Goodrich repaired the backhoe after it was its property, there was a real problem. If, in fact, the cost of the new hoe (with the cost of the repair bill added in) comes to more than $10,000, then the purchase needs to be put out to bid.
The Goodrich representative said that the only thing he would do was to take Councils position back to the company.
After this dialogue, Council convened into an executive session that was expected to last 45 minutes.
The next regular meeting of the Montrose Borough Council is scheduled for June 2, in the Borough Building.
The almost-last item on the agenda of the regular monthly meeting of the Montrose Area School Board of Directors held last Friday evening was perhaps the most anticipated. It was a motion to hire a principal at Choconut Valley Elementary School. The motion was passed, and the new principal will be Christopher McComb, whose annual salary will be $60,000 with fringe benefits.
McComb, who is married, has spent the last eight years as an education technology specialist in the Sharon School District in the western part of the state. His responsibilities include grades 1-6, each of which he has also taught. For the past two years, hes been an acting principal of both elementary school building in the Sharon district, and comes equipped with affiliations with various leadership consortiums, national associations of elementary school principals, and other credentials.
The process that led to McCombs selection was a very democratic one, with input from Choconut Valley faculty and support staff, Choconut community members, the schools PTO, and District administrators and board members. Eighteen people applied for the position, and these were vetted by an initial review committee, headed by Board member Mary Homan, which narrowed the list to eight semifinalists. The eight were interviewed by a committee comprised of equal parts of District administrators, Board members, Choconut Valley faculty, staff and community, who then narrowed the list down to four. After re-interviewing this quartet, two were selected for an interview by the full board of directors, after each spent a full day meeting the Choconut staff at all grade levels, and community members as well.
The way directors described it, the vetting committee gave them two outstanding candidates, either of which they thought would fit the bill. Superintendent Mike Ognosky told the audience, "We are very happy especially when you remember our apprehension of four months ago."
For his part, Gould thought that the selection process and involvement by so many different members of the District and its community would dispel any doubts that some may have as to "how things take place in the District." As Homan said, this took place with taking into account the opinions of everyone involved in the process. (For a sneak peak at what Principal McComb looks like, visit the District website, where his picture and information about him will soon be uploaded.)
Most monthly meetings recognize the good things that have recently happened within the District, and this meeting was no exception. Student Melinda Zosh was present to receive the Ray Kroc Youth Achievement Award, presented to her by Mr. And Mrs. Doug Lattner of McDonalds restaurant. The annual award recognized students who put, according to Lattner, "110 percent into everything they do. They are honest, friendly, self-motivated, and contribute to the community." Within the District, that student is Zosh. She received a certificate, a medallion, her name and achievement on a plaque, and one share of McDonalds stock (the last personally contributed by the Lattners).
Other recognition went to members of the staff of the Meteor Chronicle, who had an excellent showing at a recent student newspaper competition and seminar at Wilkes University. In only its second year of participation in the competition, the Chronicle was ranked as the number one student newspaper in northeastern Pennsylvania. Some staff members were at the meeting, and they received accolades from the competition for their individual contributions to the paper.
They include Krystle Loomis, co-editor along with Sarah MacNeil, for excellence in page layout and design; Elizabeth Zappe, excellence in news writing; Larry Lundy, excellence in sports writing; Sierra Robinson, excellence in news features photography; Sara McNeil, excellence in feature writing and layout; Nick Harasymscuk, sports; and Steven Bluhm, commentary.
Speaking on behalf of the newspaper staff, and reading a message from co-editor MacNeil who was unable to attend, Loomis thanked the Board and administration for their support and particularly advisor Mrs. Sandy Kaub, "the stitching that holds us together."
For the administrations part, Ognosky told these students, "You carry the weight of the District on your shoulders. Youve taken and idea and expanded it. The Board and administration put a lot of faith in you, and youve returned it back 6,000 times."
Three other extraordinary students Doug DeBoer, Josh Abbott, and Richard Coy were also recognized after they were suggested for this honor by Mr. Connor. Since they were in 7th grade, the young men have given a lot of time, care and concern to the Special Olympics program. According to Connor, "They give back to the program more than they receive. They instinctively know what needs to be done, and make younger children so at ease that they dont even know they left home when they participate in away sports. They struggle with our beginners, and accomplish a difficult job."
In the nuts-and-bolts of Board business, it approved the usual and customary bills, awarded bids for athletic, health, custodial, and general supplies and refuse removal.
In additional, it approved a preliminary, $20,638,000 budget for the 2003-2004 school year an action that is required by the State in order to have the budget available for public review for 30 days. Ognosky noted that the state has not finalized its budget and what it includes for aid to schools, and said that adjustments to the preliminary one will probably have to be made, and that there would be at least one more budget meeting before a final budget is adopted.
Board Finance Committee chairman Chris Caterson pointed out that the preliminary budget does not assume any increase in state funding (normally, it assumes a 2 percent increase), which is probably a realistic approach to take considering the financial bind that many states find themselves in, with federal cuts in funds to states. The budget may have to be reopened once the state does adopt its budget to take into account any effects that budget has on the local one.
Gould wanted to impress that the Board attacked the budget process with an eye to a 0% tax increase, and thats how it now stands. "We will not raise taxes," he said. "Well leave the expenditures where they are, and allocate the previously unallocated $400,000 thats typically left over at the end of the year [from departments that did not spend their budgeted amount], and assume that money will be available at the end of this school year."
In matters regarding curriculum, the Board approved a contract with Student Assistance Services for behavioral support services to a student with special needs; approved an agreement for services with Bethesda Day Treatment Center in South Montrose for alternative education for disruptive youth services; and a School Outreach Agreement with Tri-County Human Services Center for services to at-risk students at a maximum cost of $8,400 (a service that assists students on mental health, alcohol and other issues)
It also approved an agreement with the county Juvenile Probation Department for a school-based probation program for a maximum cost of $9,335.
It also approved the purchase of some very nifty math textbooks for grades 1-12 (workbooks for kindergarten), at a budgeted cost of $129,465. The textbooks have a shelf life of six years, and what makes them neat is that, once purchased, the books are also available online for parents and students to see and access on a PC.
Regarding professional selection in addition to Choconut Valley Principal McComb the Board voted to approve an employment agreement with Lewis Plauny, District director of financial affairs. In other action, it reappointed Tara Mowbray as treasurer of the district for the forthcoming school year, at the same salary as this year, which is nothing.
Before adjourning, High School vice principal Sweeney noted that changes have been made to the Student Parity handbook (to the dress code and violations of it, allowing school-purchased water bottles in classrooms for students, penalties for traffic violations). The Board once again noted that it plans to take no action on proposals put forth in the Highland Associates needs assessment report, other than to take care of certain housekeeping/infrastructure items that the Board recognized needed the fixing even before the report process started. As Caterson noted, the Board budgeted $200,000 for specific projects that it would have done anyway and not because Highland said so. These projects are part of a four-year plan the District put together, and include replacing student lockers in the old section of the high school, redoing the first alarm system in Choconut, and changing playground equipment, which were also included in the Highland list of things that needed to be done.
This meeting began with a moment of silence to remember Dr. Harold Klein, described by Gould as someone who generously gave many years of service to the District.
The next regular meeting of the Montrose Area School District is scheduled for June 20, 6:30 p.m., at the Junior-Senior High School.
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