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Supervisors Cowperthwait, Ross and Gorton were all present at the January 13 Oakland Township board meeting, as well as roadmaster Richard Norris.
Also present was Dermot OHare, proprietor of P. J. Ohares Irish Pub. Mr. Cowperthwait reported that he and Mr. OHare had met earlier in the month to discuss the townships amusement tax, to clarify any questions on either partys part.
A representative from Susquehanna Boro had requested time on the agenda to discuss the Route 92 scenic byway, but did not attend the meeting.
Mr. OHare asked why the township was reluctant to participate in this project; Mr. Cowperthwait said that he had seen "sales" literature about the program that tells a lot of great things it could do, but, he asked, "What are the gotchas?" From past experience, he would be very reluctant to commit the township to anything without a thorough review of all that is entailed. As the supervisors have not seen the agreement the township would have to enter into, "Weve got to be very careful."
There are some questions that are pending, such as how the byway would affect Rte. 92 within the township, and what are the municipalities responsibilities? According to Mr. Cowperthwait, "If it brings more business, great... but, there are different sides of the coin and weve got to understand them."
One purported benefit would be the widening of Rte. 92; another would be increased chances of getting grants for such items as streetlights or sidewalks. But, Mr. Cowperthwait said, he hasnt had the time to get into it (the program) in depth. He noted that the county commissioners have passed a resolution in support of the program.
Mr. OHare commented that there would seem to be a lack of communication between the parties involved, commenting, "I would suggest you meet, and discuss all relevant information."
In a related subject, Mr. Cowperthwait has been concerned about increased truck traffic on Rte. 92; would the byway program add to that increase? He thinks that the road is used by truckers looking to avoid weigh stations. And, there is a problem with truck drivers using "jake" brakes, disturbing residents along the road. Could we ban them, he asked, or restrict truck traffic to deliveries or township residents? PENNDOT has installed new guardrails along a portion of the road, so that pedestrians cannot walk safely. Would participating in the program result in more traffic? There are a lot of questions involved, he said, such as whether participation could result in the roads getting widened or improved. Increased river usage is also a concern, as the area used to be "very quiet."
Mr. OHare commented, "Theres nothing you can do until you meet, and address all those questions." Mr. Cowperthwait responded that he would like to see the legislation involved. The program would result in increased tourism, Mr. OHare answered. His future plans for his property include holding an Irish festival in a year or so. There is a possibility that as many as 3,000 to 5,000 people could visit the township over a three or four day period. Local vendors would benefit, as their services would be used for the festival; he is planning to bring in "big names" for entertainment. The byway program would certainly aid many local businesses, he said.
In other business, during review of the bills payable, there was some discussion regarding the township being billed for unauthorized legal fees, such as when other parties contact the townships solicitor to set up appointments, etc.
Discussing the townships amusement tax, Mr. Cowperthwait reported that he had discovered a discrepancy between two forms used by businesses to report applicable income; one related to the number of admissions to an event, and the other is for race track admissions, other than regular gate charges. The ordinance, he said, states that any charges in whatever form for amusement are taxable, which had been generally interpreted as admissions fees. He has drafted a new, third form, where the tax is based on the cost of entertainment.
Discussing codes violations, the status of one ongoing situation is unchanged; another property owner has been notified of a violation, with the township requesting a plan to resolve the situation, which must be completed by March 16. A third property owner has been notified of a violation, and was requested to respond within ten days. The supervisors also reviewed the CEOs monthly activity report.
Mr. Cowperthwait has a question regarding the International Property Maintenance Code, "If we enact it, are we really going to enforce it? The question is, if we put another law on the books..."
Discussing sewage permits, Mr. Cowperthwait noted that an engineer had sent the supervisors a letter, stating that a plan had been submitted to DEP for the Gordon property. But, the supervisors were notified that the application has not yet been filed. The situation was, he said, very frustrating; so far, it has taken five years trying to resolve it.
Discussing road activity, PENNDOT has contacted the supervisors regarding a water problem on Barrett Road; PENNDOT will be conducting further investigation. And, Mr. Norris planned to take the plow blade in for sharpening later in the week.
Mr. Cowperthwait has requested a copy of the countys highway maintenance agreement (with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) for the SOLIDA access road, but the agreement will have to be ratified by the county courts before it is finalized.
The supervisors and Mr. Norris discussed the availability of a frequency for the township truck radio; it was agreed to find out what frequencies would be available for use from both the county and Susquehanna Boro.
Continuing a discussion on a strategic plan for roads, it was agreed to set up a work session to go over a plan to pave township roads. The supervisors will decide what should be included in the plan, and what approach should be taken, such as paved road versus gravel; who is being served by the particular roads will be taken into consideration as well as the cost. Estimates are that to pave all township roads would cost between $150,000 and $160,000 , which does not include the cost of replacing sluiceways.
One item of note under new business was "unauthorized police activity." Mr. Cowperthwait reported that he had been contacted by the state police and asked to look into an incident that occurred within the township involving the Susquehanna Boro police. It is his understanding that a charge of police harassment will be filed by a township resident. "We need to have a clear understanding of authorized and unauthorized activity," he said. "We may have a simple case here of an overzealous officer."
Because the state police had contacted a supervisor, "We had to look into it further," he said. The officer in question had crossed a municipal boundary, and had been out of his jurisdiction. "There are rules and regulations as to when they can do that... do we have something going on that we should know about?" When Mr. Cowperthwait contacted a (unspecified) Susquehanna boro official, "I got an absolute answer; its none of your business." There were some questions as to whether the township would be held liable for any incidents that occur within the township; would the officers primary jurisdiction insurance cover it, or would the situation be dealt with as a "secondary jurisdiction," such as a neighboring municipality. And, the officer involved in this particular incident had reportedly been seen, in the boro police car, in the parking lot of a township business, apparently waiting for the other involved party. Mr. Cowperthwait noted that the township does not have a reciprocal agreement with Susquehanna Boro for police services. It was agreed to table the matter pending further developments.
The last item of discussion was a letter from the county commissioners, requesting that a two-year tax assessor be appointed. It was noted that the township does not have an occupational or per capita tax; the assessors primary duty would be to gather information for both of these. And, the commissioners requested that a constable be appointed, for six years. But, there would be costs involved for the township, such as insurance and training. Since there are no candidates available for either position, no action was taken.
The Oakland Township supervisors meet on the second Tuesday of the month, 6:00 p.m. in the township hall.
The Forest City Regional School District is looking for a new superintendent in the wake of last weeks Board of Education vote not to renew the contract of current Superintendent Bernice Lukus when it expires in June.
On recommendation of Board President Tom Baileys, the board agreed to engage the services of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to assist the district in the search for a replacement for Lukus at a fee of $6,000 plus $700 postage.
While the move to oust Lukus had been rumored for some time, the unanimous vote not to renew her contract was surprising. In November, a motion by Director Tom Heller to award Lukus a second five year contract received four yes votes but lacked a fifth vote required to carry the motion. Since then, two directors who supported Lukus, Robert Trusky and James Kilker are no longer on the board, Heller reversed his vote, and Director Hank Nebzydoski was absent.
Four new directors who were successful in last Novembers election supported Director Michael Sterchaks motion to notify the Superintendent of Schools that "the Board of Education does not intend to renew her commission upon its expiration on June 30, 2004, and that the Board of Education intends to seek other candidates for the position."
Besides Sterchak, other new directors who supported the motion included Mary Emmett, Al Dyno, and Margery Schwartz. Also voting yes on the motion were directors Baileys, Heller, Joseph Lucchesi and Fred Garm.
The decision to let Lukus go apparently was settled behind closed doors. Board President Tom Baileys said the matter was discussed at length in an executive session and there was no need to talk about it at the public meeting.
Lukus, who would not comment on her dismissal except to say that she was disappointed, has been superintendent for five years and is the first resident of the school district to hold the position since the late Julius Kerl. She has devoted 33 years to education as a teacher and an administrator.
"I enjoy working with the children and the teachers," she said. "I have always been an advocate for children."
Lukus reported that she had attended a meeting in Harrisburg earlier in the day and was able to secure $31,000 that will be used for summer tutoring July 1. She said a similar grant can be expected for the district in 2005.
In response to a question from Jim Zefran of Browndale concerning state tests, Lukus said there will be meetings that will focus on ways to improve test scores.
Zefran suggested that the board ask teachers to donate some time to "advance the educational level in our schools." He further suggested that there may be some retired teachers who would volunteer to assist.
Danielle ONeill of Pleasant Mount asked the board if it has given any thought to installing seat belts on school buses.
Director Joseph Lucchesi said the move would require a reduction in the number of seats on a bus and added that there are a "lot of other issues involved."
Baileys said the board could look into it but he cautioned that such a move without state sanction could impact on the transportation allotment from the state.
"It could play a part at budget time," Baileys said.
Motions approved by the board:
-Appoint Mary Barna as long term substitute Spanish teacher for the remainder of the 2003-2004 school year at a prorated salary of $32,000 and benefits.
-Add the following to the 2003-2004 substitute list: Nancy Wallis, school nurse; Ray Osburn, guest teacher; Jacob Erdmann, guest teacher; and, Kathleen McGorwn, Spanish/English teacher.
-Appoint Sherrie Durko as part-time cafeteria worker effective Jan. 12 at an hourly rate of $7.02.
-And, adjusted the mileage rate from 36 cents to 37.5 cents retroactive to January 1.
High School Principal Anthony Rusnak reported a student population of 436 and Elementary Principal Ken Swartz reported there are 456 students in grade school.
The ax officially fell on Justin Taylor, director of Susquehanna Countys Economic Development Department.
After hemming and hawing about Taylors status at the reorganization meeting on January 5, majority commissioners Roberta Kelly and Jeffrey Loomis terminated Taylor at last weeks first regular meeting of the new Board of Commissioners. Minority Commissioner Mary Ann Warren opposed the motion.
Kelly and Loomis stood their ground under pressure from some people in the audience and went on to name Elizabeth Janoski as Taylors replacement at an annual salary of $34,000. Janoski had been serving as Taylors assistant.
Kelly said she was not dissatisfied with Taylor but she said it is an administrative appointment and the majority commissioners have the discretion to appoint whomever they want.
"Our ability is to come in here and make changes," Kelly said.
Former Commissioner Lee Smith said the Economic Development Committee is comprised of some outstanding volunteers who helped to get the department started. He asked if they were in agreement with firing Taylor.
"We are elected officials," said Kelly. "and we have to make decisions and we made a decision here."
"You were a commissioner, Lee" Loomis added. "You know that appointments do not have to be discussed in public."
Warren said she opposed Taylors dismissal because he was moving the county forward. She also said that she talked to members of the Economic Development Committee.
"They disagreed and then finally agreed to go along with it," she said. "Why, I do not know."
"We are not going to discuss it and that is all there is to it," Loomis said.
In another matter, the commissioners approved a motion to reopen the 2004 budget because the outgoing commissioners who prepared the budget reduced appropriations in some departments.
Loomis said adjustments must be made in the maintenance budget, which was cut by some $200,000 and the county jail budget, where overtime allowances were scratched. He said money for required seminars was not appropriated in some departments; some $35,000 was taken out of the court budget; and a 20-year old debt amounting to some $125,000 surfaced recently and must be paid.
Loomis said early budget figures indicate a shortage of $335,000 and there are more department budgets to be scrutinized. A mill generates about $650,000 in revenue indicating the proposed tax increase to meet budget needs is already over the one-half mill mark.
The commissioners apparently have not determined how much 2003 money the state owes the county for Children and Youth Services and Domestic Relations. That money should be paid to the county in 2004 and it is believed the amount is somewhere in the six-figure range.
In another money matter, the commissioners agreed to borrow $850,000 from the Community Bank & Trust Co. at an interest rate of 1.39 percent. The money will be used to finance the county until tax revenues begin flowing in to the treasury sometime in April. The loan, which must be paid back by December 31, 2004, is known as a Tax Revenue Anticipation Note (TRAN) and is common in county and local governments.
The commissioners accepted the resignation of Marion OMalley as solicitor for Domestic Relations and appointed Jodi Ellis Cordner to replace her. OMalley was then hired as a part time district attorney. The Salary Board agreed to pay Cordner $17,173 plus health benefit. OMalley will get $26,500 as part time district attorney and $26,500 plus a benefit package as attorney for Children & Youth Services.
Four percent pay raises were approved for all full time non-union hourly workers, and for union probation officers and Children and Youth caseworkers.
Presentations were made by Dawn Watson, director of Emergency Management, to Larry Overfield of Auburn Township; James Carpenetti of New Milford Borough; and, Linda Spinola of Bridgewater Township for attaining their basic certifications as local emergency management coordinators.
Jerry L. Wood, Jr. and Carron A. Wood to Michael A. Crowley and Kimberly Crowley in Brooklyn Township for $84,800 on Dec. 23.
Unisite, Inc. to AT&T Wireless in New Milford Township for Memorandum of Lease on Sept. 23.
William Sczesny and Donna Sczesny to Paul E. Kovich, Jr. in Liberty Township for $43,696 on Dec. 29.
Stateline Quarries, Ltd. to Stateline Quarry, LLC in Apolacon Township and Little Meadows Borough for $365,000 on Dec. 15.
Jean Karp aka Jeanne Karp to Jason Karp and Serena Gene Bitler in Lenox Township for $60,000 on Dec. 23.
Rebecca Peck Peterson to Harries-Clichy Peterson, Jr., Mark Hazard Peterson and Rebecca Peterson Clark in Lenox Township for $1 on Nov. 25.
Rosemary McCarthy to Sean McCarthy, Kevin P. McCarthy, Sally A. O'Connell, Ellen McCarthy and Patrick McCarthy in Middletown Township for $1 on Dec. 18.
Kimberly D. Gerrity and Robert K. Gerrity to Leroy Cottrell, Jr. in Clifford Township for $1 on Dec. 23.
John D. Pelick and Marcia Pelick to John A. Pelick in Clifford Township for $1 on Dec. 18.
Harold Barwicke and Leticia B. Barwicke Living Trust to Harold Barwicke and Leticia B. Barwicke Living Trust in Rush and Jessup Townships for $1 on Dec. 24.
Charles M. Davis and Claudia Davis to Scogic, Inc. LLC in Forest City Borough for $37,000 on Dec. 15.
William L. Dittmar and Frederick R. Kulikowski to North Branch Land Trust in Silver Lake Township for conservation easement on Dec. 30.
Frank H. Holtsmaster and Kaye E. Holtsmaster to Auburn D. Lyons and Janet L. Watson in Gibson Township for $195,000 on Dec. 26.
John N. Butts to Habitat for Humanity of Susquehanna County, PA, Inc. in Susquehanna Borough for $5,000 on Dec. 30.
Ayres-Stone Post No. 5642, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Home and Club Association aka VFW Ayres Stone Post 5642 Club and Home Association to Ayres-Stone Post NO. 5642, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Home and Club Association in Bridgewater Township for $1 ogvc on Dec. 29.
Shawn R. Aukema and Andrea S. Aukema to Lorna G. Hall in Rush Township for $61,800 on Dec. 24.
Melissa Demcevski to Scogic Inc., LLC in Harmony Township for $1,000 on Dec. 29.
Frank H. Holtsmaster and Kaye E. Holtsmaster to Robert G. Watson and Jerilynn M. Watson in Gibson Township for $20,000 on Dec. 26.
Cora MacGeorge aka Cora Sterling and Arden L. MacGeorge and Timothy Masters and Jaime L. Masters to Sidney Slody on Bridgewater Township for $18,000 on Dec. 30.
Deer Park Lumber, Inc. to Theta Land Corp. in Gibson Township for release as to timbering on May 9 for $1.
Allen J. Davis & Lynda J. Davis to Christina Whitney & Glenn Whitney in New Milford Township for $1 on Dec. 30.
PennDOT to Robert Purtell and Donald Purtell in Apolacon Township for highway Occupancy Permit on Dec. 29.
Roger Gagnon to James D. Reynolds in Jessup Township for bluestone mining operation on Oct .29.
Paul Perry and Roberta M. Perry to Kevin S. Phillips in Liberty Township for $120,000 on Dec. 24.
Alan Bigelo to Alan Bigelo in Lathrop Township for $10 for quitclaim deed on Dec. 23.
Pennsylvania Electric Company to Mark D. Carmody and Rubin A. Carmody in Thompson Borough for easement on Dec. 29.
Patricia Elizabeth Johnson to Patricia Elizabeth Johnson and Mary Elizabeth Johnson in Choconut Township for $1 on May 20.
Joseph Yakoski, Jr. and Diane C. Yakoski to Marcie A. Henderson in Springville Township for $15,000 on Aug. 22.
William N. MacDonald and Young Ja MacDonald to William F. Addresso and Maureen A. Addresso in Jackson Township for $15,000 on Jan. 2.
Kevin W. Schmidt and Rebecca A. Schmidt to Michael Bohr in Hop Bottom Borough for $86,000 on Dec. 18.
Carol Ann Lewis, fka Carol Ann Cook to Mark Lewis and Carol Ann Lewis in Dimock Township for $1 on Oct. 17.
Beatrice Morgan to Richard Morgan and David Morgan and Bonnie Jean Hedrick in Thompson Township for $1 on Jan. 3.
George F. Carpenter and Deatte L. Carpenter to George F. Carpenter in New Milford Township for $1 on Nov. 18.
Charles Crain and Janice Crain to John P. Summa in Harford Township for $72,100 on Dec. 22.
Lorraine Belcher, Alteha Granick, Ervin D. Belcher, John Abner Granick, Joann Horn, Gerald Horn, Carol Tiffany, Carol Mayorowski, and Francis Mayorowski to John Abner Granick in Clifford Township for $80,000 on Jan. 29, 2003.
Richard Cleave, Barbara Cleave, James M. Cleave, and Sharon Cleave to Richard Cleave III and Barbara Cleave in Herrick Township for $1 on Dec. 29.
Richard Cleave III and Barbara Cleave to Daniel C. Richardson and Theresa A. Richardson in Herrick Township for $92,500 on Dec. 29.
Henry Barnaby Jr., and Martine R. Barnaby to Roger E. Charbonneau in Little Meadows Borough for $115,000 on Jan. 2.
Peoples National Bank to Trehab in Oakland Township for $1 on Dec. 31.
Darryl W. Lock and Patricia Kubus Lock to Darryl W. Lock in Lenox Township for $1 on Jan. 6.
Brenda W. Bianco to Joseph J. Dolce and Lorraine M. Dolce in Ararat Township for $65,000 on Jan. 2.
Hilda Williams and Edward J. Williams to Richard Eric Gould in Great Bend Township for $130,000 on Jan. 6.
Patricia A Gardner Estate, Brian Gardner, Jodi M. Daniels, Scott Daniels, Mary J. Butler, John Butler, Francis Murphy, Suzanne S. Murphy, Dennis J. Murphy and Stephanie Murphy to L. John Wilderson in Silver Lake Township for $101,720 on Nov. 28.
Thomas J. Lopatofsky to Theodore Kazmierczak in New Milford Township for $15,000 on Jan. 5.
Bernice M. Decker to Sandra Overfield, Ronald G. Decker, Ward H. Decker and Patricia Franks in Rush Township for $1 on Dec. 20.
Herbert Yost Estate aka Herbert E. Yost Estate to Robert C. Pierson and Sally E. Pierson in Dimock Township for $1 on Dec. 29.
Jason E. Sodon, Betsy J. Sodon and Edward Sodon to Joseph M. Sodon and Cassandra Sodon in Silver Lake Township for $1 on Jan. 6.
Byron L. Pickering Estate to William G. Pickering Jr. in New Milford Borough for $1 on Oct. 20.
June C. Kinney to William A. Mugno and Donna-Marie Mugno in Franklin Township for $65,000 on Jan. 5.
Joseph Curcio and Geraldine Curcio to Jeffrey A. Gray and Amy M. Gray in Clifford Township for $120,000 on Jan. 7.
Brian V. Paciotti to Brian V. Paciotti in Lenox Township for $1 on Jan. 6.
Nicklos M. Darde Estate to Susan Brzozowski in Dimock Township for $35,000 on Jan. 8.
Joseph Baron aka Joseph F. Baron to Joseph C. Baron in Forest City for $1 on Dec. 24.
Raymond C. Cooley Estate, James W. Kildare Sr and Emma Jane Kildare to Dene P. Rounds and Marianne J. Rounds in Silver Lake Township for $80,000 on Jan. 7.
Irene Rose Naylor and Jesse Naylor to Rose M. Corbin in New Milford Township for $1 on Nov. 10.
MBC Properties to Singh Realty LLC in New Milford Township for $125,000 on Dec. 29.
Paul R. Hoffmann and Marleah M. Hoffmann to Pamela A. Hampton in Choconut Township for $12,500 on Jan. 8.
Ralph C. Arnold and Ruth E. Arnold (by guardian) to Irena Gutkowski and Eva Olszewski in Bridgewater Township for $114,000 for Oct. 22.
John A. Pelick to Norman M. Campbell and Sharon A. Campbell in Clifford Township for $135,000 for Dec. 18.
John J. Daniels to Harold Ort and Gloria Ort in Clifford Township for $4,500 on Dec. 31.
Charles E. Morrison and Doris B. Morrison to John Zemkoski in Harford Township for $270,000 on Jan. 9.
Sally A. Melnick and Joseph A. Melnick to Joseph A. Melnick in Lathrop Township for $1 on Oct. 27.
Sally Tholander Melnick aka Sally A. Melnick to Joseph A. Melnick in Lathrop Townsip for $1 on Oct. 27.
Janice M. Biggs and Robert C. Biggs to Kenneth J. Taugher in Lenox Township for $1 on Sept. 9.
Earl K. Hall and Vivian D. Hall to Lawrence M .Grasso Revocable Trust in New Milford Township for $37,500 on Jan. 12.
Donald G. Oakley to Raymond Petts Jr. and Patty Tallman Petts in Lenox Township for $1 on Jan. 12.
Raymond Underwood to Dorothy Maher in Silver Lake Township for no consideration on Nov. 10.
Donald G. Oakley to Donald G. Oakley in Lenox Township for $1 on Jan. 12.
Richard C. Armondi and Betty Armondi to Arlyn Colwell and Shirly Colwell in Great Bend Township for $95,000 on Dec. 31.
Charles H. Snyder and Michelle L. Fox-Snyder to Mary E. Snyder in Thompson Township for $25,000 on Jan. 9.
Raymond K. Swingle and Lulu Swingle to Raymond K. Swingle, Lulu Swingle, Patrica Ann White and Joan Marie Mahoney in Herrick Township for $1 on Dec. 5.
Arthur Empet aka Arthur T. Empet, Jane Empet aka Jane A. Empet to Dale G. Empet and Margaret W. Empet in Harford Township for $1 on Jan. 6.
Lawrence T. O'Reilly and Christine M. O'Reilly to Final Phase in Middletown Township for $45,900 on Jan. 10.
Theta Land Corp. to Rural Investment LLC in Ararat Township for $2500 on Sept 30.
Theta Land Corp. to Rural Investment LLC in Ararat Township for $30,000 on Sept. 30.
Raymond K. Swingle and Lulu Swingle to Gilbert R. Depew and Yvonne Depew in Herrick Township for $1 on Jan .6.
Frank Colombo and Sue Colombo to Stefan Stas and Loretta Stas in Lenox Township for $172,000 on Jan. 9.
Tammy D. Kipp nbm Tammy D. Belcher to Colin Landrigan in Clifford Township for $299,000 on Jan. 7.
Richard N. Lewis and Mary Lewis to William Owens and Machelle Owens in Clifford Township for $153,000 on Dec. 23.
Richard Michael Cordes, 19, Bridgewater Township, and Stacy Jo Sautner,18, Bridgewater Township.
Anthony Albert Manno, 54, Bridgewater Township, and Phyllis B. Walsh, 54, Bridgewater Township.
John Bruce Eidenier, 62, Montrose Borough, and Joan Marie Zelkowitz, 60, Montrose Borough.
The first Blue Ridge School Board meeting of the new year on January 12 opened and closed with recognition of good works. Many student extracurricular activities recently have been directed outward, into the community, a trend noted enthusiastically by administrators at the schools. This meeting started off with presentation of a check for over $2,500 to Mrs. Roxanne Connelly by James Corse, Blue Ridge Activities Director, to benefit the Don Connelly Scholarship Fund. Over the holidays, students from Elementary through High School applied effort and cash to bring cheer to the less fortunate by "adopting" families, participating in the Feed A Friend program, and several other community-based activities.
One community activity is service on the school board, recognized by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) especially during the month of January. Superintendent Robert McNamara presented each Board member with a PSBA certificate of recognition. And Board President Alan Hall presented a special certificate to colleague Joel Whitehead recognizing Mr. Whitehead's 20 years of service on the Board of School Directors at Blue Ridge.
Judy Kelly, President of the Blue Ridge Education Association (BREA), the local teachers' union, added her own appreciation for the Board's efforts to bring financial stability to the district, mentioning in particular the budget surplus carried over from the fiscal year that ended last June. It was that surplus that allowed Blue Ridge to weather so successfully the budget impasse in Harrisburg that has deprived public schools of state funding for six months. The Board did sign up for a $2 million line of credit in anticipation of a long siege between the governor and legislature, but, now that the state budget is official and funds are flowing again, the Board was able to allocate $500,000 of that surplus to a Capital Reserve Fund that will be used to ensure that funds are available for major projects and emergency needs.
Mr. Hall, Mr. McNamara and Business Manager Loren Small reported that the new state budget restores all funds to the district that had been expected, plus small increases for both general and special education programs. In addition, a small amount was received to cover the district's lost revenue from the missing funds over the last six months. The district will also be able to bill the state for the cost of debt incurred to bridge the budget problems.
Two who will benefit from continued availability of funds are Casey Hitchcock, hired as a learning support teacher, and Jaclyn Lynch, hired to replace Diane Valentine as seventh-grade English teacher. Both were present at the meeting to accept the Board's welcome.
High School Principal Michael Thornton would like to use some of that money for a new tenth-grade course in "career education." Mr. Thornton said that the class will be a mandatory introduction to what lies beyond high school, and will help to fulfill a state requirement under the tightening state standards movement. More details will be forthcoming over the next month or so.
Mr. Thornton also asked the Board to consider a proposal for an international trip. Noting that there hasn't been such a trip for Blue Ridge students during his tenure, he offered an outline for a 4-5 day trip to France, primarily for high school students studying the French language. The excursion would be managed through a commercial outfit called EFTours and should cost about $1,000 per student for four nights in Paris and tours of many landmarks. The trip as proposed would be scheduled for the Easter period in the Spring of 2005, allowing plenty of time to raise funds and class preparation.
The Board had to make some adjustments to the school calendar, and are hoping they won't have to make any more. According to Mr. McNamara, one day for a hurricane early in the school year, and two snow days so far, will push back graduation to June 12. The last day of classes would be Monday, June 7. That leaves four days available in that week; the Presidents Day and Easter holidays could also be pre-empted if more snow closes the schools too often. He said he does not want to have to move graduation later into June. By state law, students must get 180 days of instruction per year, no matter what.
Robert Dietz, Principal in the Elementary School, reported that a new Head Start pre-school facility has received funding and should be opening in Montrose as the second such program in the county. He said he hoped that some children from the Montrose area that now use the facility in New Milford will take slots in the new program closer to home, opening up the local facility for more Blue Ridge students. Mr. Dietz also recognized the contribution of the Hallstead American Legion, which donated a number of calculators and clocks to the Elementary School. He said the calculators will be made available to the older students to take home. He then held up a page from the Montrose Independent showing a color photograph of Dede Tersteeg, who is providing publicity for the Blue Ridge elementary program through her contributions to that publication.
Mr. Hall finished up the meeting by declaring his "disappointment" that the legislature did not enact a tax reform package that was supposed to have increased gambling and other state revenues - presumably for education - thereby allowing local districts to hold the line on property taxes. He also reminded his colleagues that Harrisburg is still considering a referendum measure that will allow voters to directly express themselves on school budget issues, an idea most local school directors vehemently oppose.
Mr. Hall then made appointments to Board committees and announced that the committees will meet before or after the next Board workshop, scheduled for Monday, January 26.
Almost a hundred turned out for the annual meeting of the PA Bluestone Association on Jan. 10, with William Young of Thompson as the featured speaker.
Young described the first boom in bluestone as occurring about a hundred years ago, which was followed by a period of time when "there wasn't much going on... but... the industry never died out entirely." But after the Second World War, the industry started a second boom which continues to this day.
Young recently toured the Endless Mountain Stone plant and "was amazed by the machinery... I'm sure the old quarrymen from 100 years ago would be bug-eyed" if they could see it. He discussed the primitive equipment use in the 19th century to move large stones, and then the larger companies went to steam engines.
Pay for a quarry foreman was about $2.50 a day in 1890, while laborers earned less than $1.50. Accidents occurred often. Back then, as today, it is a volatile business for various reasons. Earlier, prices were fixed and production was limited by unscrupulous operators who would probably be put in jail now, according to Young.
Many men entered the business and failed. Some became dealers, buying stone and selling it elsewhere. In Montrose a quarry site off Lake Avenue was used to produce stone for two county jails, and later (1916) "crushed stone for the first paved highway from Montrose to New Milford. Some sites, like that at Stevens Point where material was quarried for the Starrucca Viaduct, has recently reopened.
Young who has written a book, Bridge of Stone Starrucca Viaduct, said that the first idea to build a railway in that location was to fill in the valley with dirt, but a bridge was determined to be cheaper. A contract was given, but after a year little had been accomplished. With a deadline to complete the bridge in 1848, over 800 men were hired and completed the bridge in seven months. "Today we would still be fooling around with an environmental impact statement," Young concluded.
Butch Coleman explained that a contract has been given for the Welcome Center on Interstate 81, which should be more than a year long project, starting this spring. The PA Bluestone Association is donating bluestone for work in the foyer, lobby and walkway of the facility. Stone has been selected and is being stored inside and will be cut as soon as measurements are received.
Coleman discussed global competition for the stone industry, saying that good cut stone gets the markets. Stone that is "not so good, sits." He spoke of 400 containers coming into this country with a slate type material from Brazil that is being delivered for less than bluestone quarry prices. "Global competition will have more impact on the industry. It's scary," he said, "to see the amount of stone coming in." To keep the market share stone workers need to produce a "quality good stone at a good price."
Plaques were given to two equipment dealers for their support in the industry event called the Bluestone Expo, held at the Harford Fairgrounds. Neil Rhodes of Stone Supply Co., Harford, and Bob Powers of N.E.D. (New England Diamond), Hop Bottom, were given these five-year recognitions for participating in all of the Expos.
Craftsmanship Awards are presented annually by stone dealers to acknowledge stone cutters who do a good job consistently. This year awards were presented to Vern Wells by Johnson Quarries of Wyalusing, to Tim Empett by the Diaz Pallet & Stone Company of Kingsley, to John Martin by the Endless Mountain Stone Co. of Susquehanna, and to Chad Hollenbeck by Tompkins Bluestone of Hancock, NY.
Courtland Birchard, well-known for his artistry in bluestone, presented a bluestone stone-hammer to the Association to be displayed at meetings, and also to be used possibly as an item depicting the history of bluestone in a museum that the Association hopes to establish eventually.
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