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Lake Passes Budget
Elk Lake School Board passed its preliminary budget at a Tuesday, May 13 budget meeting, calling for an 8.4 mill increase for its Wyoming County residents and a .4 (point 4) mill decrease for Susquehanna County residents. The budget is now ready for public inspection, before a final budget is passed.
Market values are set by the State Tax Equalization Board when more than one county is involved, and these figures are reportedly two years behind. However, Board member Bruce Marshall of Meshoppen Borough asked why tax rates increase when there is an increased assessed value of properties which should make taxes go down.
No direct answer was given, although the proposed budget did note that in 2000-01 Wyoming County was at 37.2 mills and that decreased for the 2001-02 year to 29.8 for a 7.4 mill decrease. Over a two-year period the millage for Wyoming County decreased 14.8 mills.
The total budget is $13,371,653, with a total local effort in real estate taxes of $3,644,723. The main items of difference between the current year's budget and the one coming up is the increase in rate of retirement funding which went from 1.15 to 3.77 percent, technology expenses of a computer lab in the library plus wiring secondary classroom so teachers have access to computers, and the unusual number of books that will be purchased for the 2003-04 school year.
When asked to look at the budget for things that made it change or had been eliminated, it was said that the majority of the budget is for instruction, or salaries.
Last year's adjustment in state funding was credited back to taxpayers as part of the balancing act.
The Career & Technology Center passed its final budget. Total figures are $1,887,836. Tuition for sending schools for an anticipated 100 students is $4,616.02 each, which will be adjusted at the end of the school year depending on how many total students enrolled. Elk Lake will contribute $624,280, based on a total capacity of 265 students for the school, which total is not usually met.
In other business, the Elk Lake Board received a letter from the Acting Secretary of Health acknowledging the board's decision to not test school age children for tuberculosis, but the district must continue to test employees.
Girls soccer was discussed to determine if a younger team could be formed to "feed" experienced players to the high school group of about 25. Since there aren't junior level teams organized in the area, intramural soccer was suggested, and the whole idea was put on hold until the next meeting while more information is gathered.
Graduation is set for June 14 at 10:00 am the gymnasium. One hundred eleven students are expected to get their diplomas. The Career & Technology Center will hold its graduation on May 29, starting at 6:00 p.m. in the cafeteria for refreshments, then people will move to the auditorium at 7:00 for the awards and graduation ceremony.
On June 2 there will be a special board meeting beginning at 8:00 p.m., with a tour of the cafeteria starting at 7:30 p.m.
The Blue Ridge Board of School Directors had a busy evening on May 12, and the 37-point business agenda was only an outline of what they had to consider. The key issues, as usual, concerned money, in this case, where's it going to come from? There was a plea from the County for tax abatement, while at the same time the Board was considering a modest property tax increase, and nobody knows yet how much the state will contribute.
Former Board President Alan Wilmarth kicked off the meeting on a positive note, however, in his recent capacity as Vice President of Creative Adventures For Education (C.A.F.E.) the locally sponsored, non-profit corporation whose sole purpose is to organize and support the annual student visit to Washington, DC. Mr. Wilmarth reported on the latest excursion just ended, that included a side trip to the Gettysburg battlefield. Mr. Wilmarth said that the Washington experience has "changed dramatically" with the increased security in that city. He said that the group accomplished virtually all they set out to do, but that they could not get inside the Capitol building without a congressional escort, and Congress was not in session during their visit. He told Board members that the group had completed research covering all of the Civil War regiments from Susquehanna County that participated in the battle at Gettysburg in 1863, and hoped to include some of that material in future trips to the historic site. He said that a highlight of the trip for many of the students was a cruise down the Potomac River, from the city to George Washington's home at Mount Vernon. He concluded by presenting Middle School Principal John Manchester with some materials for the library collected on the trip. Mr. Wilmarth also noted that C.A.F.E. has been accepted as an agency of the county United Way.
The meeting's agenda included a list of staff exercising their retirement options. They are: Walton Dahlander (Title One teacher), Michele Thomas (26 years service), Diana Osborn (15 years, Food Service), Andrew Snitzer (Social Studies, 35 years service), Walter Monks (27 years service), Jerome Thomson (Health and Physical Education), and Barbara Mackachinas (Elementary School faculty).
The Board went on to approve the summer school session scheduled for June 16 through July 17, and the summer driver education program. There will be a tuition charge of $125 per course for students from outside the Blue Ridge School District for summer school registration. Tuition for driver's education was set at $75. Board member Harold Empett asked administrators when they might expect driver education to be added to the regular school-year schedule, to help minimize the cost of the extra summer program. (Superintendent McNamara said that tuition covers most, but not all, of the program's cost.) The District has considered this idea, and High School Principal Michael Thornton said that the classroom part of the course was expected to be offered during the next school year. But, he added, on-road driver training would be difficult to schedule during the school year. The administration will be looking to hire a new Physical Education teacher soon, preferably with certification for driver education.
Among other personnel actions:
* Kristen Hinkley was awarded tenure.
* Summer school staff will include Richard Mackrell (Mathematics), Jane McNamara (Science), Alicia Ross (Social Studies) and Lisa Pedro (English).
* Brian Hinkley was approved as girls' basketball head coach for next year.
* Pam Collins and William Arthur were accepted as long- term substitutes in health and physical education. Mr. Arthur was present to accept his welcome from the Board.
* Stephanie Ojeka was approved as a long-term substitute in the Elementary School.
* The Board agreed to continue its support of the Summer Adventure program offered by the Blue Ridge Recreation organization with the use of facilities and a grant of $1,200.
* A Teen Health textbook, and a Physical Science textbook were approved for purchase for the 8th grade. According to Mr. Manchester, the science book "meets the requirements of our curriculum," and "our 8th-grade curriculum is based on the [state] standards."
* Since Board member Tom Phillips has announced his intention to give up his seat, and therefore his position as Board Treasurer, the Board voted to give the Treasurer's job to Harold Empett. They approved a bond of $15,000 for the position, asking, as always, is it enough? Board President Alan Hall pointed out that "the answer is always `yes,' because [the Treasurer] doesn't handle any money."
* The Board reappointed its current depositories, Peoples National Bank, Pennstar Bank, and Salomon Smith Barney; and its current solicitors, Sweet, Stevens, Tucker and Katz. District Superintendent Robert McNamara told the board that the attorneys had been "very cooperative ... very responsive."
* Barnes-Kasson Hospital was reappointed "school physician" for the next school year.
* The Board approved the operation of something called the Blue Ridge Occupational Readiness Program for the coming school year. Offered to high-schoolers between the ages of 14 and 21, the program will give participants paid experience in building and grounds management around the campus, along with classroom instruction in workplace social skills and practical and personal finance and budgeting. The program is funded and operated almost completely through the county TREHAB organization.
But it was taxes, in one way or another, that drew the focus of most discussion at the meeting. To start with, the Board approved a refund of overpaid property taxes. Through an error at the County, property taxes had been billed twice on the same property for some years past, and those taxes had been paid. Now that the error has been discovered, one of the taxpayers has appealed for relief, and will receive a refund of some $773 covering the years 1997-2001.
At the last workshop, the Board developed a budget for the next fiscal year, to begin July 1. It called for expenditures totaling just over $13 million. It also anticipated an increase of two mills in property taxes (4.65 percent). The District must give taxpayers at least 30 days to comment before publishing a final version, so this time they approved a "final preliminary" budget of $13,176,262. The final figure is some $46,500 more than discussed at the workshop, accounted for, according to Business Manager Loren Small, by additional retirement expenses and anticipated sabbaticals. Other "nuisance" taxes (occupational tax, per-capita taxes, and transfer taxes) will remain the same.
Mr. Hall told colleagues that, because the state budget is still in limbo between the Republican legislature and the new Democrat Governor, revenue support from the state is still up in the air. He said that state subsidies are not expected to be less than last year, but may not be enough more to make up for increased costs, including a 300-percent increase in required pension contributions, only part of which is reimbursable from state funds. Mr. Hall reported that the state has lowered its guidelines for local district reserves to 8 percent of budget totals (from 10 percent). This budget will draw on Blue Ridge reserves to minimize the additional tax burden, and will leave reserves at about 7.4 percent.
Harold Empett and Joel Whitehead voted against the proposed budget. Mr. Whitehead said that he thought at least two mills could be saved in transportation costs. Mr. Small was directed to explore that possibility. In the past the Blue Ridge Board has discussed the option of increasing taxes in small increments as necessary in order to avoid the pattern of holding the line for several years only to have to impose large increases eventually in order to catch up. Mr. Hall said that some Districts were looking at maximum tax increases of as much as 30 percent.
As if that wasn't enough, the Board next heard from Justin Taylor, the County's young Director of Economic Development. Mr. Taylor gave a brief on his accomplishments during his 18-month tenure so far. But his real purpose in appearing before the Board was to ask for tax abatements on three properties in the district under the state's Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program, now reincarnated as Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zones (KOIZ) or Keystone Opportunity Enhancement Zones (KOEZ). Either way, this School Board is notably suspicious of these things, perceiving themselves burned by their approval of abatements for a 122-acre tract in New Milford Township a few years ago under the original KOZ program. Nothing has ever been done on that property, which includes 40 acres of wetlands. In fact, Mr. Taylor said that he was approaching the School Board first as the toughest nut to crack, not to mention the most affected. The Board was visibly scornful of the whole idea, and Mr. Taylor had to field a number of sardonic questions couched in sarcasm. But he did get what he wanted, in a way.
What he wanted was to take off the tax rolls for 10 years the old Hallstead Foundry property, a tract of some 17 acres adjoining the Foundry, as well as the old Southern Tier Plastics (STP) plant in New Milford Borough. Together, the three parcels account for over $5,700 in school district tax revenues annually. Mr. Taylor's focus was on the STP property, which he said would cost close to $1 million to make useable again. He said that the County is currently applying for a grant to fund a feasibility study that might lead to the County itself acquiring the property in some way, perhaps to become what he called an "incubator" for local small business. He said that in negotiations with the property's owner, the County had brought the asking price down from $250,000 to about $100,000. He conceded that if the County were to take possession, the property would come off the tax rolls anyway. But he pointed out that under the new KOIZ/KOEZ program, any property whose structures were not considered "compliant" with some codes (whatever those might be), would not be eligible for tax abatement until brought up to snuff. The 17-acre parcel in Great Bend Township (next to the Foundry) is bare land, and would not therefore be subject to that consideration.
Disparaging the efforts of his predecessor, Mr. Taylor boasted of some 50 new business "startups" in the County since he took office. Yet, when asked how many of those, and of what types, were located in the Blue Ridge District, he could not name them. Mr. Hall asked him to describe his efforts to attract large businesses with good-paying jobs to the area. Mr. Taylor listed brochures, mailings, a Web site, and a few visits from some Pennsylvania businesses. Mr. Hall clearly expected that he would make some personal telephone calls to sell these properties to "Fortune 500" businesses.
Rick Ainey, a Council member in New Milford Borough, attended the meeting to express his concern for the STP property, whose roof, he said, was "on the verge of collapsing." Mr. Taylor responded that just to pair the roof of the structure might cost over $170,000. He called the property "deteriorated, underdeveloped, blighted." Yet it was also clear that Mr. Ainey, himself a businessman in New Milford Borough, was not supportive of the KOZ initiative.
And there certainly wasn't much real support for the proposal on the Blue Ridge Board as a whole. Said Mr. Empett, "I can't see it for us." He was concerned that 10 years from now the communities would still have about 30 acres of derelict properties and nothing to show for it all. When Mr. Hall finally put it up for a vote, Mr. Empett and Cindy Gillespie remained opposed.
The early vote was necessary, said Mr. Taylor, because he would need approval by all interested municipalities by June 1 in order to finish enrollment in the new program. He wasn't really clear in his response to Mr. Hall's impatience that the proposal had been brought to the school district so late. Nevertheless, Mr. Hall asked his board for a motion to approve the measure in order, he said, to let the townships and the boroughs "make the final decision." Since Hallstead Borough, New Milford Borough and Great Bend Township have yet to be formally presented with the proposal, the Blue Ridge School Board took the opportunity to pass the buck, assuming as they appeared to do, that those municipalities would turn it down. In fact, Mr. Hall directed the district's administrators to contact each of the affected municipalities on the matter.
As an afterthought, the Board voted to table a measure to direct tax collectors to issue notices, since the budget won't be final yet for another month.
And finally, the Board awarded its thanks in the form of a certificate under the Pride & Promise program, to Jane MacNamara, for effort beyond the call of duty. High School Principal Michael Thornton said that one of her outstanding contributions was in the school's recycling program. Moreover, Ms. MacNamara's daughter, Allison, took a particularly important role in the pre-Prom portrayal of a crash victim to warn youngsters of the dangers of drinking and driving.
The Blue Ridge School Board is expected to revisit the budget throughout the summer, beginning with its next workshop, on May 19, and again at its next business meeting on June 9. All meetings are held in the cafeteria in the Elementary School, and begin at 7:30 p.m.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
On May 11, at 7:20 a.m., Florence Green, 33, Hallstead, received minor injuries when she fell asleep while driving on State Route 1033, Liberty Park Rd., Liberty Township, and traveled off the roadway. Her 1995 Ford struck a culvert. She was transported to Lourdes Hospital and released.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
Minoy Orourke, Montrose, in a Pontiac, struck Heidi Sisson, Friendsville, in a Dodge truck, at a traffic light on State Route 267 at State Route 4016, Choconut Township on May 9 at 5:17 p.m. Minor injury was noted, but not who sustained it.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
Kevin Regan, Vestal, NY, lost control of his 1997 Mercury on May 7 at 6:30 p.m., for unknown reasons, causing his vehicle to collide with a guide rail on State Route 11, New Milford Township. Regan was not injured.
ONE CAR CRASH MINOR INJURY
Debra Bailey, RR3, Hallstead, lost control of her 1994 Honda Accord while negotiating a curve on State Route 706, Bridgewater Township. She struck an embankment, then flipped the vehicle onto its roof in this May 8 incident at 9:00 p.m.
A 17-year old juvenile male is accused of shooting at Richard Allen Shepherd, 37, RR4, Montrose, in front of Cavalaro's store, State Route 706, Rush Township. He shot with a BB gun from a vehicle. The juvenile was charged with Simple Assault and Sale or Use of Air Rifles, according to the police report, in this April 29 incident which occurred between noon and 1:00 p.m.
Donna M. Friar, driving a 1986 Lincoln, lost control of her vehicle while avoiding a deer in the roadway, while traveling on State Route 167, Brooklyn Township. The vehicle then left the east berm of the roadway and struck a tree with its front end. No injuries occurred in this May 6 incident at 3:50 a.m.
THEFT BY DECEPTION
Someone apparently passed a bogus cashier's check in an attempt to purchase a 1989 Chevy van from Francis Harold Young, Brackney. The incident occurred on May 7 at State Route 4002 at Township Route 717 (Donovan Rd.), Silver Lake Township.
HIT & RUN COLLISION
A parked 2001 Saturn, owned by Jessica A. Tomcykoski, So. Gibson, was struck by an unknown vehicle, smashing the passenger side mirror on April 21 at 5:00 a.m. This incident occurred at State Route 92, Gibson Township.
On Saturday April 19, someone arrived on State Route 3001, Auburn Township, approximately 1.5 miles north of State Route 267, and removed a 16-foot Sylan boat and trailer, belonging to Steve Paskiatis, Meshoppen. The boat is white with a blue stripe down its side. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police at 570-465-3154.
Mark Louis Gallagher, 33, Baltimore, MD, and Julie Maureen Sienko, 27, Baltimore, MD.
Joca Paunkovic, 55, Jackson Township, and Aurelija Stosic, 47, Jackson Township.
Seth Michael White, 46, Silver Lake Township, and Shelly Marie Scheffer, 32, Silver Lake Township.
Thomas Alan Page, 49, Jackson Township, and Lois Elizabeth Dimeo, 45, Jackson Township.
James Theobald, 20, Susquehanna Borough, and Sandy Mary Gelineau, 23, Lanesboro Borough.
Ramon A. Vega, 31, Brooklyn Township, and Denise K. Townser, 23, Brooklyn Township.
Normale M. Hodgson to Normale M. Hodgson, Trustee of the Normale M. Hodgson Trust, in Thompson Township for no monetary consideration.
Joan F. Weber to Joan F. Weber in Jackson Township for $1.
Harold L. Gilg and Carol A. Gilg to Bart C. Jennings and Wendy L. Jennings in Choconut Township for $103,500.
Peter Pokalsky and Leonard Pokalsky, Executors of the Estate of Magdalena Pokalsky, to Magdalena "Margaret" Pokalsky Family Trust in Lenox Township for no consideration.
Linda M. Brooks, Executrix of the Estate of Juanita E. Willerton to James Willerton in Silver Lake Township for $1.
Bank of New York to Mike Ainey in Hop Bottom Borough for $18,000.
Bruce Ross & Nancy Ross, Raymond Swingle & Lulu Swingle, Jerilee Turner, James T. O'Brien & Kathleen D. O'Brien, Barbara Campbell, Clarence Fleming & Anne B. Fleming, Judd Roberts & Marilyn Roberts, through Power of Attorney granted Nancy Ross "or" Jerilee Turner to Kenneth R. Ward, Jr. and Georgia M. Ward in Herrick Township for $20,000.
Sophie Frederick to Ralph A. Bell and Donna M. Bell and Carl M. Richline and Sara E. Richline in Auburn Township for $1.
Daniel A. Cure and Karin M. Cure to Dawn M. Brigandi in Harford Township for $94,330.
Daniel Roloff to Household Finance Consumer Discount Company in Forest City Borough for $1.
Jay Birtch, Jr. and Sandra Birtch to Jerry Johnson in Franklin Township for articles of agreement and quarry lease.
Daniel Stankiewicz and Carol A. Stankiewicz to Daniel Stankiewicz and Carol A. Stankiewicz in Brooklyn Township for $1 & love and affection.
Ann E. Birtch to Ray W. Wellman, Jr. and Cheryl Wellman in Bridgewater Township for $1 ogvc (transfer tax paid fair market value of $400).
Ray W. Wellman, Jr. and Cheryl Wellman to Maurice Birtch and Pamela Birtch in Bridgewater Township for $1 ogvc (transfer tax paid on fair market value of $9,417).
Vita S. Catanzaro & Yanina M. Catanzaro to Alfonso Troianello in Liberty Township for $15,000.
Charles T. McCann and Patricia A. McCann to Gerald T. McCann and Judith A. McCann in Lathrop Township for $1.
John J. Bohlinger and Maryanne S. Bohlinger to William L. Dittmar in Liberty Township for $135,000.
Mark R. Wilmot to Mark R. Wilmot and Sandra Wilmot in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Veronica J. Lockett to Lisa M. Fike in Silver Lake Township for $46,000.
Byron D. Lesjack, Kristian B. Lesjack and Kimberly M. Gable-Lesjack to Byron D. Lesjack in Great Bend Township for $1.
Byron D. Lesjack and Carol J. Lesjack to Edwin A. Potter and Karen M. Potter in Great Bend Township for $66,030.
Charles Warner to Gary Matusavige in Rush Township for bluestone mining operation.
Charles E. Vanerson, Sr. and Dorothy L. Vanerson to Walter G. Macon and Susanne C. Macon in Bridgewater Township for $69,000.
George Minckler to Alice Tiffany in Susquehanna Borough for $1 (transfer tax paid on fair market value of $438).
Willard H. Robinson Trust to Alma W. Robinson in Harford Township for $1.
Thomas J. Shields and Jennie P. Shields to Thomas J. Shields in Liberty Township for surface mining activities.
Dorothea E. Creel to William W. Creel in Jackson Township for $1.
William V. Creel and Elaine G. Creel to William J. Perry in Jackson Township for $28,000.
Amber Patton, nbm Amber L. Peacock and Robert D. Peacock to Amber L. Peacock and Robert D. Peacock in Springville Township for$1.
Walter D. Allen and Sandra A. Babuka to Sandra A. Babuka in Brooklyn Township for $29,432.
Anthony T. Potis and Lee Ann Potis to Frank Kroner and Kashmira Kroner in Lenox Township for $183,000.
HZL Corporation of South Abington Township to Joseph F. Longo in Ararat Township for $7,000.
Guy Vandermark to Guy E. Vandermark in Dimock Township for surface mining activities.
Joseph LaRue aka Joseph L. LaRue and Gemini LaRue to Larry D. Beasley and Ann T. Beasley in Liberty Township for $19,500.
Marion Lewis to Bruce C. Stanley in Rush Township for surface mining operations.
William S. Mead and Jodi L. Mead to Walter E. Pratt, Jr. and Marsha L. Pratt in Bridgewater Township for $92,000.
Lawrence T. O'Reilly and Christine M. O'Reilly to William T. McNeice and Shawn L. McNeice in New Milford Township for $16,000.
Bertha LeBorgne to Thomas G. Yasosky in Forest Lake Township for $1.
EMC Mortgage Corporation to David T. Baker and Eva G. Baker-Schwartz in Susquehanna Borough for $14,000.
Alfred P. Muck, Eric J. Muck and Kathleen A. Muck to Alfred P. Muck and Eric J. Muck in New Milford Township for $1.
Robert E. Lee, Jr. and Beverly B. Lee to Robert E. Lee, Jr. in Franklin Township for $1.
Robert E. Lee, Jr. to Robert E. Lee, Jr. and Dawn M. Mervine, Trustees of the Robert E. Lee, Jr., Personal Residence Trust, in Franklin Township for $1.
Robert J. Ralston to Karen C. O'Grady and Edward J. Smith in Franklin Township for $31,500.
Mark F. Oakley and Terrie A. Oakley to Richard A. Boezi and Lorie A. Boezi in Harford Township for $87,000.
Christopher G. Bronson to Borough of Susquehanna Depot in Susquehanna Depot Borough for $100 (two parcels).
John C. Brown and Mary E. Brown to Borough of Susquehanna Depot in Susquehanna Depot Borough for $175.
James & Margaret Spolar to ABC Bail Bonds, Inc. for trust deed and note securing bail bond for defendant Luke & Olivia Spolar for $30,000.
Leo Czarkowski and Veronica Czarkowski to Chad Yakoski and Stacey Yakoski in Dimock Township for $28,000.
Graham Anthony and Dorothy Anthony to Martin E. Wharton in Brooklyn Township for $3,000.
Diane L. Jablonski and Robert J. Jablonski to Dan T. Coyle in Liberty Township for $121,000.
Katharine Z. Okie to John D. Hoholick in Clifford Township for $22,500.
Clarence Gable to Henry R. Stanke and Dorothea Stanke in Ararat Township for $190,000.
Sybille Kupitz Smith to Darren Boysha and Sandy McCarthy in Harford Township for $92,700.
Olin F. Miller and Eleanor B. Miller to Jason D. Miller in Harford Township for $1.
Edward Garrison and Frances Garrison and Kevin Nagle to Edward Garrison and Frances Garrison in Jackson Township for $1.
Edward Garrison and Frances Garrison and Kevin Nagle to Kevin Nagle in Jackson Township for $1.
Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. fka America's Wholesale Lender, Inc. to Holly Lloyd in Jessup Township for $54,659.
Lance M. Benedict, Sheriff, to Dunmore Properties, Inc. in Lenox Township for $124,500.
Joanne Pompey to Richard C. Pompey in Lenox Township for $1.
Joanne Pompey to Joanne Pompey and Beverly J. Rivenburg in Lenox Townshhip for $1.
Joanne Pompey to Charles Pompey and Barbara Pompey and Glenn J. Pompey and Carol L. Pompey in Lenox Township for $1.
Citimortgage, Inc., dba Citicorp Mortgage, Inc. to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Middletown Township for $1 ogvc.
Township. Approves Plan
Oakland Township resident Bob McNamara, who has consented to act as the townships emergency management coordinator, addressed the supervisors at their regular meeting, held on Saturday, May 10. Mr. McNamara presented a local emergency plan he had put together, which included hypothetical situations and assumptions, and explains the biggest situations the township could (possibly) deal with. The worst situation, he said, would most likely be a weather disaster. The plan outlines the duties and responsibilities of individuals and officials, and names a public information officer. Municipalities are required to have a plan of record, as required by the department of Homeland Security. The plan submitted by Mr. McNamara was, Supervisor Cowperthwait said, more detailed than the townships previous plan. A unanimous motion carried to accept the plan as presented.
Mr. Cowperthwait commented that there would be $500 available for municipalities who submit a plan; the usage of these funds will be determined by county emergency management; most likely, local first responders will receive the money.
Mr. Cowperthwait reported that a delinquent amusement tax has been paid; however, it was four months delinquent. Since there is a 1% (compounded) penalty, there is a balance of approximately $.75 owed, which can be rounded off to the nearest dollar. Should this amount be ignored, or should the supervisors send a letter he asked. "If the tax is challenged, we need to have all our is dotted and ts crossed." Supervisor Gorton said, "For the sake of accuracy, for the auditors, we should have a record of it." It was agreed to send a letter to the owner of the business in question.
Discussing codes violations, Mr. Cowperthwait noted that there is one situation where there is a dispute between two parties; on the advice of the townships legal counsel, no action will be taken until this situation is resolved. Supervisor Ross has been looking into another violation; the property owner has assured that it will be taken care of. "Ill take him at his word," Mr. Ross said, and added that he expects it will be completed within 30 days. A third violation does appear to be in the process of being cleaned up. Mr. Ross agreed to keep an eye on it. And, Mr. Cowperthwait reported that there has been a complaint about two trailers on Oak Hill; a camper apparently has a sewer line emptying in the open, which is illegal. Legally, he said, you cant even dump "gray water" in the open; the townships SEO is going to take a look.
Continuing discussion about a county plan to readdress (rename) roads, Mr. Cowperthwait said that COG is still addressing the requirements. His own preference, he said, is to see a consistent method of numbering; on roads where a route number is required on street signs, why not put its given name in smaller type, underneath the route number? Mr. Ross agreed, saying that some names have historical significance; it would be nice to keep them.
The subject is still under discussion, and will be further discussed at next months COG meeting.
Under the land development item on the agenda, two permits were approved; a roof over a deck for the Sullivan property and a garage for the Sowden property.
It was noted that proposed rate increases from the PA American Water Co. include a raise in fees for fire hydrants.
Roadmaster Richard Norris reported that ditching on Skinner Road is nearly complete. Some of the work had to be re-done, due to damage caused by a utility company putting in a cable. His department has been grading as well as cleaning ditches and filling holes on dirt roads. Addressing complaints about potholes on High St. and Erie Ave., he has obtained prices for cutting, patching, and sealing; some of these areas, he said, are "pretty bad." The estimate for both areas is $2,550; it was agreed to proceed. The work has been scheduled by the contractor for June, when the ground is warmer.
Discussing the access road at the SOLIDA industrial park, Mr. Cowperthwait noted that the supervisors have not yet received a response from other municipalities, requesting a resolution for shared financial responsibility if the township were to take over the road. A yearly maintenance fee of approximately $11,000 per year for the railroad crossing is the main point of contention. As Mr. McNamara sits on SOLIDAs board, a lengthy discussion ensued. Mr. Cowperthwaits main concern is that there is no impact on township residents tax base if the township were to take responsibility for the road.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has made an offer, to set up an escrow account for a period of ten years to cover the maintenance fees. Mr. Cowperthwait feels that a longer time period should be involved. Where, he asked, are the other municipalities? SOLIDA is a joint endeavor, involving five municipalities. Oakland Township should not have to bear the entire financial responsibility. The lack of interest from the other member municipalities, Mr. Cowperthwait stated, shows that there is no interest (from other municipalities) to develop the park.
Any resolutions passed by the supervisors regarding SOLIDA and the park, Mr. Cowperthwait said, have been open to negotiation. The only item not open to negotiation is that the township would not maintain any fences erected at the site.
Mr. McNamara asked, under what conditions would the township take responsibility for the road? Mr. Cowperthwait said that all five municipalities would have to be equally responsible for any expenses incurred, to share the risks. If the PUC declares the railroad crossing "public," the township would be responsible; there would need to be a joint, municipal effort. Any revenues from the site, such as liquid fuels funds or real estate taxes, would go into a separate account. The township would administer the account, as the property is in Oakland Township.
And, Mr. Cowperthwait noted that he would not agree to a request to expand SOLIDAs powers, without a thorough legal review.
Correspondence received included a report that three PA municipalities are pushing for legislation to force smaller municipalities to merge with larger boros or cities. The Clean & Green laws may be revamped; property owners may have to prove that they are realizing minimum revenues from properties enrolled as Clean & Green, or they will be disqualified. Many municipalities have lost tax revenue through this program.
Mr. Cowperthwait gave a run-down of topics discussed at a PSATS meeting he had attended; among them, Clean & Green; disposal of hazardous material; PAs new tax structure; reducing supervisors terms to four years; and, open records. And, the Choconut supervisors won an award for a monthly newsletter, which is funded through sponsors donations. The Oakland supervisors had discussed putting together a newsletter to send to residents, perhaps quarterly.
Signs at the township building had been taken down when the building was painted last summer; it was agreed to look into getting new ones.
Under new business, the county has requested that the townships occupation assessor pick up the necessary materials. Since the township does not currently have an assessor, it is the usual practice for the secretary to perform the duties involved. But, in the townships case, Mr. Cowperthwait is both secretary/treasurer and supervisor, and is legally disqualified from also acting as assessor. It was noted that the township does not have an occupation tax or a per capita tax. No action was taken.
Some time ago, the township had gone through the required procedure to vacate a portion of Hillborn/Kookish Rd., with the intent to reduce traffic. Due to the number of complaints received, traffic has not diminished. After some discussion, a motion carried to begin the procedure to repeal the ordinance to vacate.
In a related discussion, Mr. Ross said that he had received complaints about the lack of guard rails on a bridge in that area. Mr. Cowperthwait responded, "Travel is at your own risk. Proper maintenance does not include guard rails." He added that signs posted at the bridge are always vandalized. Mr. Ross suggested curbing along the sides.
The final topic of discussion was the meeting schedule; Mr. Cowperthwait relayed that a township employee had requested two paydays per month instead of one. As all checks are signed at the meetings, he asked if the other supervisors would like to change the meeting schedule. The supervisors agreed not to make any changes, to keep the monthly meetings on the second Saturday of the month, 9 a.m. in the township building.
Vice president Todd Glover presided at the May 13 meeting of the Susquehanna Boro Council, in the absence of president Ron Whitehead. Also present were council members Roy Williams, Pat Frederick, John Bronchella and Bill Kuiper, and secretary Margaret Biegert.
When the floor was opened to public comment, resident Mike Whitmore commented on the deplorable condition of the Washington Street Park. It looks, he said, like a shambles. He had tended to the park for 22 years; last year, its care had been contracted out through the Parks and Rec. committee. This year, however, the grass has not been mowed and some of the playground equipment is in disrepair. Mrs. Biegert said that maintenance of the equipment has been scheduled.
Mr. Whitmore asked if there had been any more discussion about turning the park into a parking lot. Mrs. Biegert replied that the committee would not be upgrading the equipment if the park were going to be removed. Mr. Glover added that it had probably just been an oversight that the park had not been mowed; he said that he would contact members of the committee to let them know of Mr. whitmores concerns.
Under the correspondence item on the agenda, Mrs. Biegert reported that Mr. Whitehead had received a letter of resignation from police officer Phil McDonald; a motion carried to accept. Mr. Bronchella stated that he thought a letter should be sent to Mr. McDonald, stating the boros gratitude for all his years of service.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session, to discuss an employee policy manual. When the meeting reconvened, it was agreed to set up a meeting with council members and boro employees so that all could discuss their concerns. The meeting was scheduled for the morning of May 19.
Under old business, a motion carried to proceed with an amendment of a current ordinance, regulating weight restrictions of vehicles. The amendment will prohibit use of any vehicle with metal cleats or tracks on boro roads.
Under new business, Chris Herbert was reappointed to the board of the Tri-Boro Sewer Authority.
Under the finance portion of committee reports, Mrs. Biegert reviewed a year-to-date report of the boros special accounts, which have been incorporated into the general fund. The finance committee, she said, feels that there is enough of a comfortable margin in these accounts to allow purchase of a certificate of deposit; proceeds will be applied to major equipment purchase. Through careful spending and monitoring of the fund, the boro should be able to save additional funds for this purpose.
And, the police department expenditures have decreased as some contributions, such as the pension fund, are no longer needed. She recommended adjustments to the departments budget to allow additional part-time hours, court time, and call-outs. These changes will not affect the departments overall budget. Her recommendation was approved.
Increased revenues to the codes department will be applied towards demolition of condemned structures. There are currently three such structures slated for demolition, through grant funding.
Funds realized from the sale of the old boro building have been deposited into the capital reserve fund, out of which the boros portion of yearly maintenance fees for the new building have been paid.
Codes enforcement officer Shane Lewis reported that he has met with representatives from the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Environmental testing was conducted at the three buildings slated to be demolished through grant funding. If results are good, the demolition should be going out to bid within three weeks.
Mr. Kuiper asked about the progress of two complaints, one on West Main St., another on First Ave. Mr. Lewis is keeping apprised of these situations.
Mr. Williams reported that the streets committee had met to discuss the streets departments project list; a motion carried to approve. Drainage and road conditions had been discussed, with the most immediate problems taking priority on the list. The committee discussed the boros sidewalk ordinance; with new walks in progress on Main St. and Franklin Ave., the ordinance will need to be updated soon. At the committees recommendation, no parking signs will be put up on West Main St.s intersections. It is, he said, quite a problem as illegal parking has severely limited sight distance, creating a hazard. A motion carried to approve purchase of curb forms. Several price quotes had been obtained; the purchase will be paid out of the streets improvement fund. The streets department has been notified that they will be receiving the services of one summer TREHAB worker, possibly more after interviews have been completed.
Mr. Glover recommended that the boro police resume submitting activity reports to local newspapers for publication; a motion carried to approve.
As there were no park and rec. committee members present, Mrs. Biegert reported that an updated report had been made available, listing equipment that has been purchased, mostly for the Washington Street Park.
At the suggestion of the boros insurance carrier, barriers will be put around the air conditioning unit at the boro garage; it will be done by the streets department. The insurance company also recommended that the sidewalks and steps at the Drinker Creek Park should be maintained in winter.
Mr. Williams reported that PENNDOT had conducted an inspection of the bridge at the Drinker Creek Park. The beams, he said are in very poor condition. Work had been scheduled by PENNDOT for 2005, but, after the inspection results were known there is a strong possibility that the work will be done sooner. He will keep council apprised of any developments.
Councils final action of the evening was to adopt a resolution changing the deputy emergency management coordinator; it had been council member Pat Frederick, but will now be Mr. Lewis.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, June 10, 7 p.m. in the boro building.
Borough Council Minutes
The Lanesboro Borough council met April 1, with the following members present: President Roland Salamon, Dan Boughton, Regina Dilello, Paul Corse, Bob Page, and Vice President Chris Maby. Also present: Mayor Slater, Officers VanFleet and Canini. Visitors: Ray Barnes, Jerry Benson, Sandy Benson, and Gail Hanrahan.
President Salamon called meeting to order.
Motion to pass March minutes carried.
Visitors: Visitor Ray Barnes stated he had not yet received a 2003 sewer bill. Mayor Slater replied there was a problem with the computer. It is fixed now. Councilman Page stated that he too, had not received a 2003 sewer bill. Council replied that Aileen would investigate, send appropriate bills, and provide update at the May meeting. No penalties will be assessed on those accounts that were not billed properly.
Correspondence: PAWC sent a letter and authorization form discussing shut-off procedures for delinquent accounts. The authorization needs to be signed by Vice President Maby and Secretary, and then returned to PAWC. After discussion, motion to sign, after Solicitor DeWitt completes a review of the authorization, carried.
Letter from Helen Calabro stated that Marion Klym has been living with her children since mid 2002 (and not moving back), and asked for exoneration of 2003 garbage bill. As no one has lived in the house this year, exoneration is appropriate. Motion to exonerate carried.
PENNDOT Vice President Maby had some e-mail correspondence with Norman Oravec regarding the Jail Hill project. The original sidewalk project has been expanded to include correcting a drainage problem at the intersection of TR 171 and SR 1009. This addition requires additional design time and acquisition of right-of-way for the drainage as well as for the sidewalk portion of the project. PENNDOT anticipates bidding this project early in calendar year 2004. As soon as landowners affected by right-of-way acquisition have been contacted, the Borough will receive an updated set of plans.
Liquid Fuels Seminar A one-day seminar is being hosted at the PENNDOT district office in Dunmore on May 15. Council feels it is a good idea to have someone attend. Council will ask Aileen if she would be interested in going at the next meeting.
Letters from Myron DeWitt Regarding update to 1988 resolution creating SOLIDA. Copies of letter, suggested changes to 1988 resolution, and original 1988 resolution to be mailed to all council members at least one week in advance of May meeting for review. Signed copy of passing/no passing resolution needs to be mailed back after the next meeting.
President Salamon spoke to Sheri Zimmerman of the Bureau of Municipal Services for PENNDOT regarding the audit of the Liquid Fuels Tax Fund. Based on their conversation, PENNDOT has withdrawn their request for reimbursement for funds allocated from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2001. A copy of the withdrawal was faxed to the Borough for our records.
Police Report: Officer VanFleet stated there were eight vehicle arrests and two crimes codes arrests.
Mayors Report: Mayor Slater asked how the council would like to handle spring road maintenance such as patching potholes, grading Mountain Road, etc. After discussion, motion was made to request bids on the grading of Mountain Road. Vice President Maby to write a draft of bid and circulate to council prior to placing the ad.
Mayor Slater also feels it is appropriate to identify a street commissioner. State Borough Code indicates that council is responsible for appointing this individual. After discussion, council consensus is to advertise for a borough employee for routine maintenance tasks. The advertisement will be placed after appointment of street commissioner. Further discussion regarding both matters is on the May agenda.
Mayor Slater would like to put plywood on the windows that are broken on the bus that holds the recyclables. Council agreed this is a good idea. Labor and materials for the project should come out of the garbage fund.
Mayor Slater wanted to thank Councilwoman Dilello for all of her work in collecting cans for the Community Center fund. Council agrees she is doing an outstanding job. Also, Borough to provide a receipt for her donations for income tax purposes.
Solicitor DeWitt did not get the County Street Numbering Ordinance that was mailed to him. Mayor to get another copy from Dawn Watson, and hand deliver to him.
Mrs. Biesecker (tenant of the old Perrine Building) expressed an interest in potentially renting some space from the Borough for a short time while repairs are made, but is no longer interested.
Asked about Luciana Park mowing/maintenance. Costs involved do not require any advertising or bidding for the work to be performed. After discussion, decision made to have Dan Boughton mow the grass.
A citizen who is not always in town on Saturday mornings asked for, and was granted permission to place his garbage directly into the garbage truck. This will eliminate any garbage left at curbside for an extended period.
The grass near the monument across from the Jefferson St. intersection has been torn up from snow plowing from the neighboring properties. Aileen to send letter to the Bourens and Balmers to ask that grass area be cleaned up, leveled to original condition, and seeded by May 6.
Treasurers Report: President Salamon contacted and acquired the services of Mindi Carr to audit the borough books. Mindi audits Liberty Truckstop and New Milford Borough books, among others.
A motion to pay bills as presented carried.
Unfinished Business: President Salamon addressed the council about the discussion he had with Solicitor Myron DeWitt regarding the copier lease. Myron is still investigating where the copier should be sent. Additionally, President Salamon will discuss what Solicitor DeWitt feels is an appropriate action regarding their request for reimbursement.
Last fall, PAWC stated the sidewalks disrupted by the hydrant relocation would be taken care of in the spring. A reminder letter will be sent, asking for a reply by the May meeting of their intent.
Bob Page will do some investigating and provide a report concerning the UCC and COGs knowledge of such.
Jefferson St. Intersection Vice President Maby spoke with Dale Rockwell about the location of the sidewalk along Jefferson St. in front of his house. Dale was working with the quarry owners on repairing it. Dale said he didnt have a problem with moving the sidewalk about two feet closer to his house to help facilitate truck movements. Dale also stated he wanted a concrete walk put back. Additionally, VP Maby has spoken to Herman Maffatt about connecting a new catch basin to the drainage pipe running across the front of his property on the corner of Jefferson St. As the road right-of-way is only as wide as the street, some sort of easement or written agreement will need to be developed for any work outside of the right-of-way. Councilman Corse thinks that Gene Hobart may still own the Rockwell house, and will need to be involved in any decision if true. General discussion about how/what to do and costs involved led to suggestion that VP Maby come up with some alternatives and expected costs associated with the alternatives by the May meeting. Council will discuss at the meeting, and then schedule a meeting with Mr. Maffatt, Mr. Rockwell/Mr. Hobart, and the quarry owners.
Delinquent tax collection Tax Collector Gail Hanrahan said that she had been in contact with Burkheimer. Burkheimer stated that the Borough has a contract with them for collecting back taxes. Therefore, Gail is forwarding the remaining delinquent accounts to them. She requested a copy of the contract, and will provide an update regarding this at the May meeting.
Aileen contacted Penelec about the cost for updating the bulbs in the streetlights. Penelec told her that all of the utility poles along Main St. will be relocated to behind the sidewalk, and the bulbs will be updated on these at no cost to the borough. However, there are other lights in the borough that council still needs a cost for. Additionally, the borough would like a plan showing where the poles are going so that light locations can be evaluated and possibly moved. Decision was to have Aileen contact Penelec for a plan and cost of bulb upgrades on poles not affected by the relocations downtown.
President Salamon spoke to George about putting the ceiling in the Community Center. Mayor Slater and Councilwoman Dilello provided George keys to the building. George is planning to start working on the ceiling as soon as his current project is finished. Expect to see much activity before the May meeting.
Rails to Trails listed as reminder to VP Maby he needs to get a copy of the deed for Lynn Conrad for appraisal purposes.
Capital Improvement Committee (CIP) VP Maby suggested the formation of a committee, including a few citizens. The purpose of the committee would be to take a long-range look at what needs to be done regarding maintenance, etc. Additionally, the committee could look at improvements such as additional street lighting, tree plantings, sidewalks, etc., and what direction the borough is headed for long-term. VP Maby asked the visitors if they would be interested in participating. Mr. Barnes expressed some interest, and the Bensons will think about it. Council agreed that this is a good idea, and should be discussed in further detail at the May meeting.
Sale of property to Viaduct Inn and Consla no word back from Solicitor DeWitt regarding this. Councilman Corse will speak to Solicitor DeWitt and provide update at the next meeting.
New Business: Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) Borough needs to endorse county plan, or provide the county with a copy of councils plan. As there is no plan in place, decision made to use county plan. Party of the plan requires identifying an EOP coordinator. General discussion led to suggestion of having two EOP coordinators, in case someone is out of town. Councilman Page and VP Maby suggested Ellis Lair and Dave Glidden seem like good candidates, given their affiliation with police/rescue activities. President Salamon to speak to the candidates to determine their interest and provide an update at the May meeting.
Councilman Corse has received several thanks regarding the cleanup of animal droppings on the sidewalks.
President Salamon suggested inventorying the upstairs of the borough building and placing items of potential value for bid on eBay. Council agreed; President Salamon to provide an inventory at the May meeting.
Councilwoman Dilello knows someone who has some cabinets for sale that may be of use in the Community Center kitchen. She is going to investigate further regarding price, quantity, and condition, and provide update at the next meeting.
Councilman Boughton would like to evaluate light locations and possibly add some additional lights where appropriate. Council agreed, to be discussed further when the pole relocation plan arrives.
VP Maby recently attended a Hard Hat Convention in Syracuse. He brought back some literature regarding a trailer-mounted speed detection machine (SMART system). A speed limit sign is posted on the trailer. Enclosed electronics record vehicle speed and post it to a sign stating, "Your speed is XX." Although this cannot be used for speed law enforcement, he feels this may be a good deterrent for speeders. The trailer does not have vehicle recognition electronics, so no individual type of vehicle or person could be targeted with it. The cost is $350/month. Council thought this was a good idea, and will discuss renting it at the May meeting.
Board Denies Disability
An executive session by the Susquehanna County Retirement Board was held to review the information on the request for retroactive disability retirement pay for Carol Scales. At the last meeting, Scale's husband, David, presented information and asked that his wife's disability retirement which was granted effective November 2002 be made retroactive to November 1999, the date he said the original paperwork was submitted.
Since they accepted the findings in her case, he said that they should go back to the time when the request was made. He noted at the last meeting that her documentation had been submitted in a timely fashion, but had not been forwarded to the commissioners' office and her personnel file, but had been kept in the probation department where she worked.
When the retirement board (commissioners, treasurer Cathy Benedict, and Chief Clerk Suzanne Brainard) returned from their executive session, a motion was made to take no action on her case, thereby refusing the retroactive pay. Asked to explain the decision, they would only say that after review of all the files, they didn't agree that there was documentation to support the dates that the Scales were claiming.
During Salary Board, Margaret Barnum was given a promotion from Range 10 to Range 11. She moved from a 2nd Deputy Clerk of Courts to a 2nd Deputy Prothonotary/Clerk of Courts Court Liaison Officer, explaining the change in salary range due to increased duties and responsibilities. The question arose why the change was retroactive to February 6. Apparently, it took that long for the change to go through the union process. The approval means that Barnum will get a salary increase from $10.26 to $10.45 an hour.
Two other salaries were also approved. Grant Harter and Steven Barondeau were both hired at $10 an hour, no benefits, as seasonal employees in the West Nile Virus Program. This year the West Nile Department will take over work that had cost the county over $100,000 for contracted services. Program Director Derek Smith said that they will be able to perform the same functions at a lower cost.
In another matter for the West Nile Virus Program, there were no bids submitted for a used vehicle for the program.
The Register & Recorders office hired Jane Tompkins as a part time temporary clerk effective May 14, at $7.50 an hour without benefits. The additional workload makes additional help necessary. More deed transfers are going through due to re-financing.
At the commissioners meeting, approval was given for the Montrose Farmers' Market to once again use the Green. The market will open on May 23 at 10:00 am, and is scheduled for each Friday. The approval given was for use of the Green along Maple Street, with added permission to use the lower green if the upper one has been previously booked by other groups, and/or if loading and/or parking becomes a problem.
May was proclaimed Older Pennsylvanians Month by the commissioners. Representatives from the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) were present. The proclamation noted that of Pennsylvania's senior population has approximately 2.4 million people over the age of 60, and that one in five seniors live in or near poverty. The AAA strives to provide assistance to seniors of all income levels.
Appointments made during the meeting included William Iveson, Beverly Griffiths, Carolyn Warner and Barbara McNamara to the Susquehanna County Drug & Alcohol Commission Board. Jim Wolf will be the newest member of the Ag Land Preservation Board, completing the position held by Rob Strait. These two qualify as contractors, a necessary part of the board's composition.
Short On Crew
The regular monthly meeting of Brooklyn Township supervisors took place in the municipal building, which is the former Brooklyn School, on Maple St. and Route #167 on Thursday evening, May 15. Present were supervisors Graham Anthony and Dan Anthony. Jack Thomas was unable to be present.
Secretary/Treasurer Linda Spinola reported $110,702.00 as the total in all township accounts after the minutes were approved from the previous meeting.
Among the items of discussion was the 22 loads picked up during last week's annual clean-up.
John Kinney had been hired temporarily to help with road repairs. However, with Kinney no longer being available and no one taking the bite among locals for the position available to help Jack Bishop, the supervisors had no choice except to announce the position requirements publicly.
It was shared that 1800 tons of material are being used on repairs for Potter Road. The road is being resurfaced. While on the subject of roadwork, it was noted that PENNDOT had indicated that it will be another month before the Brooklyn-Kingsley Road, which has been closed for many weeks since wet conditions opened a huge crater on that road, will be repaired.
In a related matter, one of the township's dump trucks still needs to be replaced. Dan Anthony noted that while looking for a dump truck, he found a grader that the township might consider purchasing.
The Brooklyn Township supervisors meet on the third Thursday of every month at 7:00 p.m.
Sewer In Harford?
It was back to bickering as usual at the Harford Township Supervisors' meeting on May 14th. Jim Ketterer and Rick Pisasik went at each other in time-honored fashion, this time over a proposal to move a piece of the sewer line to make way for a new bridge.
The meeting started off with an executive session, as Rick Pisasik called it, to discuss "an on-going wage issue." To hearers in the office meeting room, the discussion in the garage must have thrown off some heat, but no word came out of the session to explain the fracas, and the three gentlemen filed back to resume consideration of what looked to be a routine agenda. Being Springtime, there were a list of building permits to examine. And the Supervisors opened quotes from two bidders for lawn care services. They chose Grof's Lawn Service to mow the grass at the Township building, the Odd Fellows Hall, and the sewer plant, for $75 per cutting. Rich Grof, who lives in the village and had the contract last year, told the Supervisors that his work to maintain the flower boxes in the center of town was donated; other residents donated supplies and materials. Asked why the Township's employees could not do these jobs, Mr. Pisasik said that one or more of them would have to be taken off the roads to do it. "I think it's more cost effective for us to hire it out," he said.
The engineering company that maintains the sewer system, David Klepadlo & Associates, asked for, and got, an increase in its fee, from $1,300 to $1,500 per month. This is the first increase since the system was installed some 7 years ago.
The Klepadlo company also submitted some paperwork constituting a proposal to move a portion of the main sewer line in the village to make way for a state project to replace the small bridge on Route 547 in the middle of town. According to the proposal, the engineering work might cost as much as $28,000, just for planning the move of the sewer pipe. According to Mr. Pisasik, the state requires the movement of the pipe for the bridge project, and for that reason, grant money would be available to cover 50 percent or more of the cost to the Township.
Mr. Ketterer wondered: if the state approved the location of the sewer line originally, and is now requiring that it be moved, why can't the state pick up the tab? Mr. Pisasik said that the issue on the table was the proposal from Klepadlo, and that the project is in the "very early stages" and not likely to be carried out this year anyway. He was surprised at Mr. Ketterer's objections, particularly since Mr. Ketterer didn't seem to have read the document.
The proposal document needs a Township signature so that the project can be submitted to a long list of agencies that have oversight in such matters. According to Mr. Pisasik, the $28,000 figure is just a preliminary estimate, and, the paperwork not constituting a contract, the Township is not being obligated by signing the proposal letter. Nevertheless, he seemed to think that the Township had no choice but to proceed. Mr. Ketterer derisively invited Mr. Pisasik to put it to a vote, to sign the document, and to take the responsibility on himself. He, Mr. Ketterer, would continue to question it. In the end, Mr. Pisasik tabled the question for another month, as he said, to give Mr. Ketterer time to do whatever he thinks necessary to have his questions answered.
Once that debate had died away, another sprang up between a couple of observers, one who had come to complain about dogs in the village, and another her neighbor and a dog owner. The latter admitted that his dog was allowed to wander, apologized for the problem, and promised to do better. The former asked the Supervisors to publish information about dog laws. In the state of Pennsylvania, dogs not on their owners' property must be under the control of their owners.
The meeting closed with a question about the status of the Odd Fellows Hall in the village. Mr. Pisasik conceded that there was nothing to report, but asked the Secretary to contact the Township's insurers to try to get an inspector out to take a closer look at the property.
The Harford Township Supervisors meet on the second Wednesday and the fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m., at the Township Building on Route 547.
Cant Decide On Budget
Most of the Blue Ridge School Board, some representatives from Elk Lake and Montrose, a lobbyist, and a state legislator got together in the cafeteria at Blue Ridge on the evening of May 15 to hear about what's not happening in Harrisburg on school funding and the state budget. It was the Spring legislative meeting for Susquehanna and Wyoming county school boards, and it was all about the logjam created by the "bi-partisan" struggle between a new Democrat Governor and a Republican legislature. They can't agree on a budget, everybody's got an idea, and there's no "language" from anybody to put the ideas into law, and fund the schools in the state for another year. Does this sound like New York State?
Representative Sandra Major was the only legislator - or politician of any sort - who risked the tough questions of a skeptical audience to try to explain what's happening at the state capital. Ms. Major said that the legislature has about 4 more weeks before adjournment to finish its work, and she was confident that it could be done.
Pennsylvania is in the same bind as most of the rest of the states: after September 11, 2001, and the decline of the stock market and the economy generally, revenues to the state budget have fallen off dramatically. Two years ago the state had a "rainy-day" fund of over $1 billion, accumulated during the fat years. So far, Pennsylvania "is in a much better position" than other states because resources had been set aside before. Now it's raining, said Ms. Major, and the fund is all but used up. There are dozens of proposals for new revenue sources, or "enhancing" existing sources, but few of them have so far been drawn up in legislation that will define how it's all going to work. Moreover, from the perspective of the state's public schools, how will the pie - however big or small it might be - be divided up?
The public schools used to be subsidized from state funds at 50 percent or more. In recent years, state sources of funds for local school districts have fallen below 35 percent in many cases. Governor Rendell would like to bring that back up. He would also like to help support full-day kindergarten state-wide, start a pre-kindergarten initiative, and work to reduce class sizes overall. That's what he would like to do, but where would the money come from?
Proposals range from the extreme of eliminating property taxes altogether, in favor of a hefty increase in the personal income tax, to cutting the sales tax rate while broadening it to cover everything (including purchases of clothing and food, which are not currently subject to sales tax). Other ideas include allowing slot machines at race tracks, allowing casinos, increasing the beer tax and the cell phone tax, even increasing the state tax on a pack of cigarettes to as much as $4.00. In a rural area like Susquehanna County, if property taxes are cut dramatically, how would that affect the Clean & Green program, which gives property owners a tax incentive to withhold open land from development?
These meetings are sponsored in part by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), a lobbying group that represents public school boards statewide, including both urban and rural, large and small, rich and poor. The PSBA's focus right now is on a movement in the legislature to increase voter control over local school boards - in particular, their budgets - by some type of referendum. This idea has been around for a long time, but the PSBA seems to think that there is a lot of support for it in the legislature right now. The PSBA, and local school boards, are fighting the referendum movement. Their fear is that property-tax payers only want to keep taxes down, and have no idea what it takes to run a modern public school system.
Some participants tried to get more information on related topics, like continued funding for incentives in the PSSA program, the state standard test series that has awarded high-performing schools with bonuses in dollars. But it all comes down to the shape of the budget. The Governor's budget calls for a 50% cut in support for libraries statewide. How would this affect, for example, home-schoolers, who depend more on public libraries?
Most public school districts operate on a fiscal year that runs from July 1 through June 30, and now is the time when they must decide on their own budgets for the next year. Without a state budget to depend on, most local districts are assuming no changes in state subsidies, which can mean cuts in some areas because of rising costs, particularly in teachers' contracts. A lot of this wrangling seems familiar from the problems our neighbors in New York State have had for years. And the last thing the folks in Harrisburg want to hear is comparisons with New York.
Bottom Plans Clean-Up
Members of the Hop Bottom Borough Council had their regularly scheduled monthly meeting on May 6, 2003.
Secretary Bonnie Lippart read the minutes from the last meeting which were approved by the Borough Members present. She shared the Borough newsletter had been distributed. It contains two important items: information on the Hop Bottom Clean-Up Day, which is free for the people of the Borough; and a form that needs to be completed for the new Emergency Management Plan.
Borough President, Janice Webster, noted that the new plastic garbage cans are out but that Molenko's Paint Shop could not paint any signage on them because of a release agent that is on the barrels. The only remedy may be to have signs riveted onto them.
There was some discussion again on the need for proper paperwork to be completed on the rental that is presently on John Koshinski's property on Main Street.
Koshinski was asked if he could help with getting the proper individuals to obtain engineering and design information for catch basins desired for Adams Street.
Settlement has been made with Bill Stout who owned the property purchased by the Borough on S. Center Street in the Borough. Mr. Stout, however, needs to complete and sign a release of liability drawn up to protect the Borough when he comes in to clean out the house. He has been granted an extension until May 31, as he is to be hospitalized and cannot clear out the house by the May 15 deadline.
The work on the culvert needs to be started soon as the Army Corps. of Engineering will conduct the annual inspection in August.
There was much discussion about a demolition permit on a local property. The issue was addressed by the Borough after a misunderstanding was corrected.
The public is invited to the Borough meetings that take place on the first Tuesday of each month at the Borough building on Forest Street.
The Susquehanna Community School District Board met on May 14 with all members present.
During the report of district personnel, high school principal Michael Lisowski was pleased to report that two district students had placed among the top five winners in an essay contest; three others had received honorable mention. 52 state schools had students entered. The contest, sponsored by the PA Society of Biomedical Research, offered cash prizes to the top winners. The theme of the contest was, "Why are animals used in biomedical research?"
And, Mr. Lisowski noted that last year at this time there had been a total of 15 students signing up for football. This year, since the merger with Blue Ridge for the football program, that number is 40.
Elementary principal Robert Keyes was pleased to announce that the winner of this years county Elementary Principals Scholar Citizen award is Jessica Hubal. Each elementary principal in the county nominates one student, with an overall winner announced at a dinner held in honor of the students.
Mr. Keyes also wished to recognize art teacher, Barbara Gallagher for being chosen to be featured in the Teacher K-8 Magazine. Ms. Gallaghers art class will also be holding a Whimsical Art Chair Silent Auction on May 30. Her students have created works of art, using chairs which will be auctioned; proceeds will be used to purchase computer drawing tablets.
During public comment, scoutmaster Steve Stanford, thanked the board on behalf of Cub Pack 81 for being allowed to use the schools facilities throughout the year. The pack had held den meetings, award ceremonies and their annual pinewood derby at the facilities.
The tentative budget of $10,872,917.08 for the 2003-04 school year was, Superintendent Stracka said, a "very conservative budget," primarily because the governors proposed budget has not yet been considered by the legislature. "Were flying at the lowest level that we can." The budget includes a $5.00 per capita tax under Act 511 and a $5.00 per capita tax under Act 679, setting the district millage at 35.75 in Susquehanna County and 172.4 in Wayne County for the 2003-04 school year. This reflects no increase to millage for the year, due to a real estate tax credit of 2.9 mills in Susquehanna County and 13.9 mills in Wayne County, a result of Act 88 of 2002. Business manager Ray Testa explained that the tax credit was to be used to restore cut programs or to reduce debt or taxes; the board chose to reduce taxes. When district residents receive their tax bills, the credit will be reflected. A motion to accept the budget carried, with six votes in favor (Carpenter, Kosko, McMahon, Stewart, Cottrell, Bucci), one against (Downton); two abstained (Barnes, Wescott).
The board approved a non-instructional, six-year contract (2003-09) as proposed. A management team plan/policy for a six-year term (2003-09) was approved, seven in favor, two (Barnes, Wescott) opposed. An English as a Second Language K-12 (mandated) curriculum framework was approved. A motion carried approving bids for supplies for the 2003-04 school year as submitted by the business office, and giving the business office permission to order supplies.
A motion to elect Michael Kosko as treasurer for the district for the 2003-04 school year carried, with five in favor, three opposed (Downton, Stewart, Wescott) and one abstaining (Barnes). Mr. Downton asked if it was proper for Mr. Kosko to vote for himself, as this vote concerns a salaried position. Mr. Bucci responded, "Hes a board member; I cant see why he cant vote." Mr. Kosko and Mr. McMahon agreed, with Mr. Kosko joking, "Congress does it."
The board approved the following for the 2003-04 school year: Peoples National Bank as the depository for district funds; the appointment of Attorney James A. Kelly as the district solicitor; the appointment of Parente Randolph, PC Accountants as district auditors; the appointment of G.H. Harris Associates, Inc., Dallas, PA, as the delinquent tax collector for the district; an agreement with Thomas P. Theobald, Honesdale, for the printing of tax duplicates for Starrucca Boro; an agreement win Infocon Corporation, Ebensburg, PA (used by the county) for the printing of tax duplicates for the district; an agreement with DeHey McAndrew Consultants, Scranton, for information services; the school calendar; the Title I Parent Involvement Policy; and permission for Attorney James A. Kelly, district solicitor, to bid a tax anticipation note in the amount of $1,000,000.00.
The board approved the hiring of Mary Hubal, boys basketball cheerleader advisor; the vote (by show of hands) was five in favor, four against. When this item came up, an audience member asked if questions were allowed. Mr. Bucci responded that the meeting was in progress, public comment period had passed; he added that he did ask, during public comment, if anyone else wanted to address the board. Mr. Downton asked if questions could be allowed, as the board has allowed it on other occasions. Mr. Bucci responded that this had only been allowed a few times, and refusing to hear comment elsewhere in the meeting was well within guidelines.
The board approved eight bus contract changes, and hiring teachers for the summer school program: English, Sherry Tortual; Math, Joe Zabielski; Learning Disabilities, Carmen Maby. One position, Social Studies, remained to be filled. Mr. Stracka said that every effort would be made to fill it before the next board meeting.
The board approved released time instruction for students in grades 1-6 with Child Evangelism Fellowship of Susquehanna County for the 2003-04 school year, and a list of requests for activities, workshops and fundraising events.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 18, 7:30 p.m. in the administration offices in the elementary building.
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