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Issue Home February 17, 2004 Site Home

Referendum Coming To Blue Ridge?
Susky Boro Police Respond To Report
Commissioners Demote Kamansky
Gibson Barracks Report
Court House Report
Bluestone Industry Put On Alert
Clifford Will Replace Roof
Forest City Wants More Info
Forest City Board Opposes Referenda
Harford Gets New Pension Plan
Is Expansion Needed At Mountain View?
Oakland Boro Council Discusses Emergencies
Montrose School Gets Building Updates
Choconut Gets New Art Teacher

Referendum Coming To Blue Ridge?

News of recent activity in Harrisburg overshadowed the business meeting of the Blue School Board on February 9. With the state budget for the current year only a month old, and the governor's next budget already on the table, the legislature and the state executive are wrangling over ways to pay for it, while trying to ensure that everyone in the political arena gets something they want.

"Tax reform" is something everybody seems to be for. Board President Alan Hall reported on a weekend legislative conference he attended that included a dinner with the governor. Mr. Hall said that the governor hoped to keep a lid on the property taxes that fund public schools by increasing revenue from "gaming" (gambling) in Pennsylvania. The whole package of measures now working its way through the legislative mill, also includes a proposal to cover all public school employees in a statewide health-care system. For local school directors, however, the most sensitive part of the package that seems to be coming together would subject local school budgets to voter approval by referendum. Some 36 states already require school boards to submit their budgets to the voters. Pennsylvania law now provides for a public vote only in certain situations. Under the proposed legislation, every budget by every school district would be put before local voters. School boards generally oppose this measure because it would "remove [their] ability as locally elected officials to effectively govern" the school district.

When the legislature passed the governor's last budget, it also increased the state income tax from 2.8% to 3.07%, but none of the new money was designated for public schools. Hence the package of additional legislation to cover that gap, provide for some kind of tax reform, while also providing for the political preferences of everyone involved. Mr. Hall said that he expects the referendum measure to become part of Blue Ridge's future, and expressed his confidence that the public will back its school board if kept fully informed.

Mr. Hall gave Aaron Survilla the first word at the meeting, as student representative, so that he could attend a basketball game. Mr. Survilla reported on the activities of the Student Council, noting that a basketball tournament was being planned as a benefit to raise funds for Easter baskets for a needy family.

Continuing with consideration of current bills, Board Member Lon Fisher questioned the high cost of cell phone service from multiple vendors. Business Manager Loren Small responded that the service will soon be consolidated under the Nextel system, and hoped that the change will result in lower costs.

Four faculty announced their intention to retire under the current incentive program. They are Edmund Jones, Brenda Nichols, Dorothy Hine, and Cordelia Herbert.

The Board approved a resolution that authorizes the refinancing of a 1999 series of bonds, a measure that was outlined at a work session two weeks ago. Representatives of the underwriters were present to answer questions. The new series will have the same 2017 maturity date as the old bonds, but will carry a reduced interest rate that is expected to realize over $288,000 in savings for the District after all costs, fees and state reimbursements. The new bonds will be AAA rated at about 3.49% and will be callable after five years.

Middle School Principal John Manchester offered two new text books for the Board's review, one for sixth-grade science, the other for 8th-grade history. He expects to request the purchase of the new books, and two others, for next year, and said that the new texts will help to bring the curriculum further in line with state standards. Mr. Manchester also reported on a project his school is beginning to try to "engage" the help of parents of students who are struggling in the core subjects.

Robert Dietz, Principal of the Elementary School, described a program proposed by Suzanne Seamans that he expects to present formally to the Board at a future meeting. Ms. Seamans, director of the Blue Ridge program for gifted students, hopes to create an after-school math club for students in grades four and five who have a special interest in math and are already achieving at 87% or above. The club will be open to all who meet the requirements, whether in the gifted program or not. Ms. Seamans will be assisted by a local volunteer. According to Mr. Dietz, the program would also need to be added to Schedule B, a list of extracurricular activities for which faculty can be paid under the teacher contract.

Superintendent Robert McNamara closed the meeting with the hope that, with somewhat better weather, the schools "may get five days of school in."

The Blue Ridge School Board generally meets on the second and fourth Mondays of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria in the Elementary School. The next public meeting, a work session, will be on February 23.

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Susky Boro Police Respond To Report

Susquehanna Boro council met on February 10; with president Roy Williams and Ron Whitehead absent.

A motion carried to approve a resolution to combine the street lighting, street improvement, police pension and fire protection accounts into the general fund. Secretary Margaret Biegert explained that line items would be established to keep track of the individual accounts and reduce the number of checkbooks for the boro’s accounts.

Mrs. Biegert gave an update on the proposed scenic byway; resolutions to be included in the designation are required from Herrick, Ararat and Thompson Townships. Herrick Township has submitted a resolution. Ararat and Thompson Township supervisors had some questions regarding liabilities and code restriction. Mrs. Biegert explained that the byway designation is very unrestrictive and individual township or boro codes programs are not affected. The program is designed to attract tourists; it also makes federal funds available for modest improvements to enhance the route to make it more attractive to visitors who might ordinarily stay on the interstate. Her conversations with the supervisors, she said, were very encouraging.

Mrs. Biegert added that the byway coordinator in Harrisburg has sent additional information on the program directly to the Oakland Township supervisors, and would be happy to attend a supervisors’ meeting to answer any questions or concerns that they may have about the program.

Finally, Mrs. Biegert reported that an application has been prepared for a CDBG grant for drainage; the application/grant is being administered through the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Council will be notified when the application has been submitted.

Police Chief Tom Golka made a statement in response to an article that appeared in the January 21 issue of the County Transcript, a report of an Oakland Township supervisors’ meeting where "unauthorized police activity" in the township had been discussed. Mr. Golka said that the incident discussed had stemmed from a township resident creating a situation within the boro where the police were called to investigate. The investigation took the officer into the township to conduct an interview with the suspect; under PA law, this type of investigation is authorized. He had spoken with the commander of the State Police Barracks and had been assured that the State Police were not investigating the boro department or any of its officers, and had not requested any township supervisors to look into any incident. And, a police car that had been seen at a township establishment was there in response to information received regarding an accident that had occurred in the boro, which was a separate incident from the first one. He ended by stating that an officer would not contact a township supervisor if it were necessary for an officer to enter the township; they would contact the law enforcement agency responsible for that area, the PA State Police.

Council then went into an executive session to discuss a personnel issue.

When the meeting reconvened, a motion carried to add a third regular meeting, to be held on the third Wednesday of the month.

Council discussed a request from former police officer David Scales for a (pension) cost of living increase. The pertinent ordinance does allow for such increases at council’s discretion, but it was unclear how often the increases are required by state law, or if there are any state requirements for the amount of increases. The matter was tabled pending further information.

President Williams was authorized to sign the police pension valuation report.

The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing changes to several of the boro’s existing ordinances, and possibly implementing a new one regarding the business area of town.

The matter of vehicles parked on boro streets during snow has been discussed often; one concern with the existing ordinance is with the amount of fines to be levied for noncompliance. The fine allowed in the ordinance is $50; there is some concern that that amount would not be upheld in court, would change a ticket’s classification and possibly result in the loss of the offender’s license. And, several officers have encountered situations where a vehicle’s owner has been away from town during a snowstorm. After a lengthy discussion, it was agreed to lower the fine amount to $15, with all other provisions unchanged. Once two inches or more of snow has accumulated, all vehicles must be removed from snow emergency routes within two hours and from all other streets within 24 hours. Snow emergency routes include West Main, Main St., Washington St., Prospect St., Broad Ave., Jackson Ave., and Franklin Ave.

Another problem encountered during the winter weather are individuals who deposit snow from sidewalks or driveways into the boro streets; the boro’s ordinance does allow for a $50 fine for each occurrence.

It was agreed to change the curfew ordinance, to allow for a uniform time for minors to be off the streets, rather than different times for weekdays and weekends. Once the changes are in place, all minors under the age of 18 must be off the streets by 11 p.m. Chief Golka added that there would be an exception if a state of emergency were to be declared, in which case the time could be earlier if circumstances warrant it.

After discussion, no changes were decided for the sidewalk ordinance as there are some questions, such as how much time should be allowed for snow clearance; the matter was tabled for further discussion at the next meeting.

Council will consider enacting an ordinance pertaining to the business area; such items to be considered are how long windows can be left boarded up and prohibiting first-floor residences in commercial buildings.

The last item discussed was damage to the new sidewalks on Erie Ave., reportedly caused by tractor trailers. Council will look into what avenues of recourse can be taken.

The next meeting will be February 18, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.

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Commissioners Demote Kamansky

Rick Kamansky was not at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Susquehanna County Board of Commissioners. But then, he attended very few of them during his 46 years as a county employee. He didn’t even come to work that day, probably because he knew what was going to happen and did not want to be hassled by reporters or comforted by friends.

Rick Kamansky’s name has become synonymous with the county assessment program. He has been the county’s chief assessor for more years than he probably cares to remember. Whether he was right or wrong on some decisions he made in the top seat becomes somewhat of a moot point now.

In another of their sudden and unexplainable ways, the commissioners demoted Kamansky to the second chair. He will now be deputy chief assessor and will answer to the new chief assessor, Jennifer Pisasik. Ironically, she was his deputy chief assessor before she accepted a position elsewhere. She returns with a starting salary of $40,000 and the commissioners cut Kamansky’s salary from $46,000 to $36,000.

It wasn’t too many years ago that Kamansky’s wife, Joan, was terminated from her position as the county’s chief clerk, after more than 30 years of service with the county. That move was made by a prior administration but, again, without explanation.

"It was just a matter of us wanting a change," said Roberta Kelly, chair of the board. "We were put here by the voters to make changes and that is what we are going to do."

Asked if it would have been easier for Kamansky if the commissioners simply terminated him rather than have him work for a former employee, Commissioner Jeff Loomis said Kamansky told the commissioners he would like to stay on for one year to train new employees. The assessment office has lost two assessors, Don Hawkins, who accepted another job elsewhere, and Jerry Lathrup, who retired.

In another matter, it will cost an additional $12 to record mortgages and deeds in county. The amount, up from the previous one dollar, goes into effect March 1.

The commissioners made the move under the provisions of Act 137 which mandates that 85 percent of the $13 fee must be applied to help low income county residents and senior citizens. The increase is expected to raise an additional $72,000 for that cause.

The full amount for recording mortgages and deeds was set at $40.50.

Another former county employee has returned. He is Ray Osburn who was hired as a caseworker in Children & Youth Services at $14.79 an hour.

Osburn worked in C&Y Services and then left to pursue a Master’s Degree. He obtained that and is now back in the fold.

Julie Fair, who has been working in the commissioners office on a part-time basis was elevated to full-time effective Feb. 26. The Salary Board set her rate at $7.90 an hour plus benefits for the non-union, 35-hour a week position.

Keris Smith joins the Economic Development Department as a full-time secretary at $8.50 an hour plus benefits.

Patrick Castiglione was also elevated from part-time to full-time in the maintenance department. He will work 40 hours a week at $7.19 an hour plus benefits.

Robert Hollister, a former assistant district attorney, was appointed to the new part-time position of Conflict Counsel at $20,000 a year plus benefits.

The Retirement Board set the interest rate for the annuities reserve at four percent.

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Gibson Barracks Report


Jenelee Onuska, Hallstead, reported that her vehicle was damaged while parked at the B & D Auto Parking lot, Hallstead Plaza, over the weekend of Jan. 30-Feb. 2.


Brian Dickinson, Robesonia, was traveling on Interstate 81 on Feb. 2 when a suspected electrical problem occurred. He pulled off the road in time to exit the vehicle safely. The vehicle interior quickly became engulfed in flames which were extinguished by the New Milford Volunteer Fire Department.


Earl Collins, New Milford, reported that his wallet was stolen from an office room at Flying J, New Milford Township, when he went into the establishment to apply for a job. He forgot his wallet on the desk and called the manager an hour later when he remembered where he left it. The only thing found by the staff was his driver's licence. The incident occurred on Feb. 1. Call 570-465-3156 with any information.


Patricia Laughlin, Susquehanna, reported that her mailbox on Brushville Rd. was smashed sometime overnight on Feb. 1.


A burned vehicle was recovered on State Route 3023, about a half mile from State Route 3001, Dimock Township, on Jan. 31. An investigation continues and any information can be called in to 570-465-3156.


An argument between Maureen Stephens, 44, Thompson, and Paul Melvin Stephens, 33, New Milford, occurred when he went to Maureen Stephens' residence on Fiddle Lake, Ararat Township, to retrieve personal items. The argument turned physical when Maureen Stephens was shoved to the ground while the two of them were struggling over a piece of disputed property. Paul Stephens was cited for harassment at District Justice Gene Franklin's office following this Feb. 2 incident at 9:20 a.m.


Eric J. Conklin, 33, no address given, was traveling north on State Route 1033 (New York Ave), Great Bend Township, on Jan. 31 at 3:05 a.m. when his 1988 Buick LeSabre crossed the center dividing double yellow line and the southbound lane. The car then struck a steel roadside reflector, a tree, uprooted a second tree, then struck a dirt embankment, spun and rolled onto its roof, causing Conklin to be ejected. He was flown to Wilson Memorial Regional Medical Center, Johnson City, with severe injuries.


On Jan. 30 between 8:15 and 9:05 a.m., seven male juveniles, aged 14-15, who are 9th grade students at Mountain View High School, Harford Township, had been either selling or giving away prescription medicines (Darvocet and Clozapine) within the school confines. All will be charged with Act 64 violations.


Someone knocked down a hemlock tree sometime in mid-January at the Josephine Gear residence, State Route 547, Harford.


Someone stole a "Stanley Bostitch" brand air nailer, yellow and black in color, model # N64C-1 from Stone's Hardware, Great Bend Borough. The incident occurred on Jan. 30 at about 4:00 p.m.


Someone contacted Shirley Ann Travis at Summit Hill Farms, Gibson Township, via telephone and threatened bodily harm on Jan. 29 between 11:31- 11:35 a.m.


Someone pumped $20.05 in gas from the Checkered Express Convenience Store, Springville Township, and drove off without paying on Jan. 27.


Someone struck a mailbox with a blunt object between Jan. 26--29 on Township Route 689, New Milford Township. The mailbox belongs to Bernard and Shirley Kleiter, New Milford.


A 1997 Ford Aerostar van, driven by Joanne Wisniewski, 43, Hop Bottom, was traveling south on State Route 11, one mile north of the Wyoming County line (Nicholson) when it ran off the roadway and struck a guide rail, then rolled over onto the driver side, finally hitting a telephone pole with its roof. Wisniewski suffered minor injury and was taken to Tyler Memorial Hospital.


On July 12 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Raymond S. Dibble, Jr., 33, Hallstead; Dawn Marie Williams, 32, Hallstead; Richard A. Estabrook, 73, Montrose; and Betty Estabrook, 75, Montrose, were involved in selling and buying a vehicle from each other. They swore before a notary to a receipt they had written that the sale was for $2,000. All four again swore before a notary that the vehicle was sold for $1,000 on the MV-4ST. All four are charged with one count of false swearing.


On October 29, John William Pardue, 31, Clarks Summit, rented a pig cooker from William Stepniak, Stepniak Meat, State Route 167, Brooklyn Township, and failed to return same to the owner. A criminal complaint was filed with District Justice Gene Franklin charging Pardue with theft by unlawful taking or disposition.


Conrad John Zebrowski Jr., Thompson, was westbound on Township Route 708, Jackson Township, on Feb. 9 at 12:40 p.m., when his truck skid backward on ice. The trailer went off the road, and struck an embankment and rolled over, while the tractor stayed upright. As the tanker was loaded with milk, the Dept. of Agriculture was notified. Zebrowski was not injured.


Someone "keyed" the passenger side door and fenders of a 2003 Chevy Impala belonging to Joseph Purcell, Phoenixville, while he was at the Village of 4 Seasons, Herrick Township at his vacation rental. The incident occurred between Jan. 30 and Feb. 1, and damage was estimated at $500.


Bill Rizzo, 55, Tobyhanna, was traveling north on Interstate 81, New Milford Township, when he lost control of his 2004 Jeep Liberty due to the sudden unexpected ice covered roadway caused by blowing snow. The vehicle left the roadway and overturned. Minor injuries were sustained in this Feb. 8 incident.


Linda Higgins, 35, Montrose, attempted to commit suicide at her residence in Forest Lake Township, on Feb. 7 at 10:30 a.m. by taking over the counter medication.


Linda L. Bucksbee, 23, Great Bend, reported on Feb. 7 between 3:00 and 4:00 am. that she was assaulted by her live-in boyfriend, Jeffrey Baker, 38, Great Bend. Baker was arrested at the scene for domestic assault and arraigned before District Justice Watson Dayton.


Linda Higgins, Forest Lake Township, reported to police that her husband physically assaulted her. After obtaining an emergency PFA, it was learned that she had perjured her testimony to obtain the PFA. Charges are pending regarding this Feb. 6 incident.


A PENNDOT, 1999 Mack truck, operated by Kevin Pierson, Montrose, was plowing the intersection of State Routes 3023 and 3027, Rush Township, when it was hit from behind by a red Ford, possibly a Tempo, on Feb. 6 at 3:30 p.m. The Ford then left the scene. The Ford should have damage to its right front grill and fender assemblies. The driver was a white male, in his late 20s or early 30s. Contact 570-465-3154 with any information.


On Feb. 6 between 3:00 and 7:00 a.m., the Forest City Police Department, located on the second floor of the Borough Building, was the scene of a burglary. Entry was made through a side door of the building which was left unlocked. Suspects went to the second floor and opened a door to the Police Headquarters, removing an unspecified amount of money and jewelry as well as weapons and two Forest City badges. The incident is under investigation. Anyone with information can call Forest City Police at 570-785-3453 or State Police at 570-465-3154.


Joan Lewis, Kingsley, called the Gibson Barracks on Feb. 4 to report she was the victim of an identity theft. An investigation continues.


A known suspect apparently gained access to Virginia Crissell (Oakland Township)'s credit card and made several unauthorized purchases. Charges are pending. The incident occurred on Feb. 5.


Doug Lattner, owner of McDonald's Restaurant, New Milford Township, reported that a theft had occurred from his restaurant, located at the Gibson exit of Interstate 81, on Feb. 4 at 11:30 a.m. An investigation continues.


A female in a blue, late 1980s Buick with a broken tail light and lighter fender, pumped $15.01 worth of gas from the Pump & Pantry, Bridgewater Township, on Feb. 2 at 3:25 p.m., then left without paying for it. The theft was reported to police on Feb. 3.


A female in a blue 1980s vehicle with a tail light out, pumped $17.45 of gas at the Bridgewater Township Pump & Pantry, then fled the scene without paying for the fuel on Jan. 25 at 3:02 p.m. The incident was reported to police on Feb. 3.


Timothy Priest, 31, Forest City, struck a PPL ground base transformer while plowing a driveway at White's Trailer Park, Airport Rd., Clifford Township, then fled the scene prior to the arrival of State Police. According to the police report, charges will be filed for leaving the scene, careless driving and failure to give immediate notice to police. The incident occurred on Feb. 3 at 10:45 p.m.


Melissa Wilcox, 29, and Christopher Lee Wilcox, 31, Clifford Township, engaged in a loud verbal domestic dispute on Feb. 2 at about 9:00 p.m. He made verbal threats of physical harm to his wife. Mrs. Wilcox refused to cooperate with criminal prosecution of her husband for his statements. Mr. Wilcox was charged with disorderly conduct, disrupting the neighborhood with his loud, obscene language.


Shane Goodwin, 24, Great Bend, was traveling south on State Route 11, Great Bend Borough, when he lost control of his vehicle during a snow event. His vehicle struck the rear of a utility van which was legally parked with its operator working in a bucket (cherry picker) on a cable line (Adams CATV van). No serious injuries were reported. Goodwin faces vehicle code charges, according to the police report of this Feb. 3 incident at 2:40 p.m.


Daniel Bargar, 32, Willowick, OH, mailed sexually explicit photos and letters to two juvenile females in Brooklyn Township on Oct. 16, 2003. Bargar is currently in jail in Ohio on similar charges.


Charges were filed against Kent Diebolt, Freeville, NY, for allegedly pumping $16.12 worth of gas at the Pump & Pantry, Great Bend Township, on Feb. 1 at 10:35 a.m., then leaving the scene without paying.

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Court House Report


David B. Moser, 34, Liberty Township, and Wendy L. Wines, 35, Liberty Township.

Franklin W. Sceranka, 23, Lanesboro Borough, and Christina Marie French, 22, Lanesboro Borough.

Kurt Jason Sherwood, 26, New Milford Borough, and Holly Jean Mead, 22, New Milford Borough.

Gary Allen Marvin, 42, Jackson Township, and Teresa Priscilla Munson, 42, Hallstead Borough.


John Bennett and Raymond Bennett, Co-Executors of the Estate of Ida A. Bennett to Steven J. Larue in Dimock Township for $59,500 on Feb. 4.

Christopher D. Jones to Stephanie A. Jones in Clifford Township for $1 on Dec. 22.

Christopher B. Anderson, William Burnett III, Curtis Burnett, John Burnett, and Beverly Stowell, individually and as Executrix of the Estate of William Stowell, Jr. to Katy Munger in Silver Lake Township for $1 on Sept. 30.

Katy Munger to Andrew F. Colman and Judy B. Colman in Silver Lake Township for $10,000 on Jan. 30.

Leon E. Jones and N. Althea Jones to Ralph E. Bailets and Jeanne M. Bailets in Silver Lake Township for $58,500 on Jan. 26.

Joyce Spenard to Joyce Lynn Ontl in Forest City Borough for $1 on Feb. 5.

Carl Remus to Carl Remus and Joseph Remus in Herrick Township for $1 on Feb. 5.

David J. Dunn, Administrator of the Estate of Joseph G. Dunn to Kimberly Barna in Auburn Township for $12,000 on Dec. 26.

Robert J. Purtell & Ethel Purtell to Donald L. Purtell and Norene Purtell in Apolacon Township for $1 on Jan. 30.

Susan L. Zerfoss nbm Susan L. Nardone and Frank A. Nardone to Frank A. Nardone and Susan L. Nardone in Lenox Township for $1 on Jan. 30.

Virginia L. Himka to Lisa Diliberto in Lathrop Township for $1 and love and affection on Jan. 15.

Haether E. Connery to Kevin L. Connery in Choconut Township for $1 on Sept. 26.

David C. Brown and Marshall H. Andrews, III to David C. Brown and Christine J. Brown in Silver Lake Township for no dollars on Jan. 29.

Peter J. Handl and Nance A. Handl to James O'Hara and Deana M. Diprinzio in Auburn Township for $69,000 on Feb. 9.

Robert C. Kleinbauer, Jr. and Catherine Kleinbauer aka Kathleen Kleinbauer to Mary A. Payne and Paul Payne in Herrick Township for $1 on Jan. 30.

Betty Jane Gross and Guy W. Gross to Kimberly Ann Crawford in Clifford Township for $1 on Jan. 26.

Austin H. Kutscher, Jr. and Janet P. McMahon to Thomas A. Capewell and Helen M. Capewell in Franklin Township for $60,000 on Jan. 30.

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Bluestone Industry Put On Alert

The bluestone industry was put on notice at its Thursday night membership meeting. They had better get their ducks in order if they hope to survive in the not-so-distant future.

Carson Helfrich, a planning consultant who has worked in Susquehanna County helping municipalities come up with both the county and a multi-municipal comprehensive plan, warned that if these municipalities decide to implement zoning ordinances, quarrymen may be squeezed out unless their quarries are legally permitted. This extends to getting permits on parcels that stone workers own or have contracts on, but are holding in their "back pocket" for possible future work sites.

Comprehensive plans are not ordinances or regulations, Helfrich said, only guidelines for the future growth of an area. But they can lead eventually to zoning ordinances which can affect the quarry industry, especially since the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code was amended the last few years to include mineral extraction which includes bluestone quarrying.

Butch Coleman, recently elected President of the PA Bluestone Association, said before introducing Helfrich, "Zoning is not a big factor today, but will be in 5, 10, 20 years."

Helfrich agreed. "I don't see zoning in the Northern Tier Coalition for a couple of years, then individual municipalities will make their own decisions." The Northern Tier Coalition is a group of twelve municipalities, ten townships and two boroughs, in the northwest quadrant of the county, which has worked with Helfrich to adopt a comprehensive plan. Before it is adopted, which might take another 9 months, the plan must go before the county for comment, to two school districts and to all surrounding municipalities of the affected area. He doesn't see all those municipalities graduating to zoning right away, but some may, taking an extra 18 months to two years to implement once they begin the process.

Current supervisors Tom Swan of Silver Lake Township and Tom Curley of Middletown Township, whose municipalities are part of the Northern Tier Coalition that has been working on the multi-municipal comprehensive plan, offered their support to stone workers, saying they understand the importance of the bluestone industry to the economy of the county, but also indicated that quarry people should make their presence known during municipal or multi-municipal meetings dealing with the subject. This would enable the industry to give input to the process if and when zoning were to be considered.

Helfrich said that bluestone is an important economic factor and "vital to Susquehanna County and the Northern Tier area," and expects that local lawmakers will strike a balance. He noted, however, that if the industry isn't doing a good job, it can affect the community, implying that poor work sites might bring more stringent zoning.

Like all zoning, uses must be allowed within each zoned municipality, and the state rules do not say what parts of a municipality would be designated for quarrying. A municipality could say that agricultural or rural districts would allow for quarries, but not residential districts. Helfrich said that mountainside areas would probably not be good for residential due to septic considerations, which might be the exact locations that would be best for quarrying. "I think local officials are going to be reasonable."

County Commissioners Jeff Loomis and Mary Ann Warren, along with Planning Director Bob Templeton were also on hand. One concern of the bluestone membership was that if all property currently held by quarrymen was permitted but not used immediately, it would lose its Clean & Green status, and create additional taxes on land that wasn't actually being quarried. Loomis explained that Clean & Green is a commonwealth law, and would have to be addressed at that level.

Another question concerned down-the-road problems with a "new guard" set of local officials, especially if that new guard came in the form of people from outside the area who were uninformed of the importance of quarrying to the local economy or to the whole process of quarrying. "Get yourself elected to the boards," was the solution. "It is also why your association is important." The mantra for the rest of the evening was that bluestone people and the association should keep on top of local politics, become part of it, and be involved in the process so they can influence future ordinances.

Loomis said that stone people "need to attend Coalition meetings. The Comprehensive Plan is only a plan, but zoning springs from it. Make your concerns knows, as the squeaky wheel" gets attention.

Grandfathering or non-conforming use would be used if a zoning ordinance is adopted in a municipality, but only if it is a legally existing use, meaning only if it was legally permitted prior to zoning. Grandfathering runs with the land, so a parcel that is grandfathered can be sold and still retain the grandfathered status.

"You have the opportunity and should take advantage of it (by being part of the process) to decide how the county should go," said Curley.

Adam Diaz, Vice President of the PA Bluestone Association said, "We need to go to meetings and get involved. It makes a big difference."

Swan told the group to send people to their Northern Tier Coalition meetings on the third Thursday of every month which changes location within the coalition area. The Feb. 19 meeting is in Franklin Township at 7:00 p.m.

"We can do things better in numbers," said Coleman, plugging for more stone workers to join so they'd have more influence when trying to keep laws and regulations that are reasonable for the industry. "If we don't show up at future zoning meetings, they could put in something to not allow quarrying."

Fabrication shops are also under more pressure with a new DEP water management program. They all got fines, Coleman said, "for water running into ‘U.S. land,’" even if it was the fabrication shop's own land. He said his business was the first hit and has since spent $15,000 in engineering fees, paperwork and has still received no permits under the new program, and he's been in business 20 years. He warned that once the water team from DEP is done with fabrication shops, they may go to quarries. A future workshop for fabrication shops will be held on March 9 in the county office building beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Coleman said the next big issue to come along will deal with silica, which is already an issue on the west coast with some of their mining. Since bluestone is 85 percent silica, he expects it to come east soon.

Other problems noted by stone workers was the inspectors who know the laws, but little about actual quarrying. One quarry owner said that one inspector told him of a problem with his saws, but when asked to demonstrate its proper use, had no knowledge how to use a saw himself. Coleman said the top enforcement officials are willing to work with the industry, and encouraged those in attendance to bring problems to the attention of those agencies, either directly or through the association.

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Clifford Will Replace Roof

Clifford Township Supervisors expect to put a new roof on the township building and believe much of the financing will be provided by a state grant.

While bids are not due in for a couple of weeks, township officials estimated the roof will cost about $70,000. The supervisors indicated they will hold a special meeting when the bids are in.

John Regan, chair of the Board of Supervisors also said the township is hopeful that it will receive two more grants. He said additional grant applications have been filed for playground improvements and for the installation of new bathrooms in the township building.

Regarding the new roof on the building, John Regan, chair of the Board of Supervisors, said the new roof will be a "hip roof" and it will replace the present flat roof that is on the building. The township acquired the building a few years ago from the Mountain View School District. It was once an elementary school.

Regan said the township has been in touch with State Representative Sandy Major and she has been encouraging. He does not know how much the state grant will be but he said every dollar helps.

In another matter, the township will issue a warning to a Crystal Lake-area family to clean up their property. Regan said there are four or five buildings on the site that are deteriorating. He said the code enforcement officer will give the family time to spruce up the property before any citations are issued.

The township also has a clean-up problem at a Lake Idlewild site where some barns are collapsing and a lot of debris is scattered around. Regan said the owners are repeat offenders and indicated they will be cited if nothing is done following a final warning.

The township’s Alliance Committee, which is responsible for a number of worthwhile projects in the community, is planning a Spring Clean-up and is also perusing through grant information to see if the township can get some financial help with a plan to install flags along Main Street (Route 106).

Police Chief Tom Munley inquired about the doctor that the insurance company wants to examine him before he can return to duty. Mr. Munley has been off for three years with an injury he sustained in a fall while he was on duty.

Township Solicitor Paul Peterson said he should have the name of the doctor in a few days.

Township Tax Collector Harry Phillips reported tax collections of $66,390 for 2003. He said the amount is equivalent to about 95 percent of the real estate taxes due to the township.

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Due to a glitch with our word processing program, Lenox Township was inadvertently referred to as Lenoxville in a report published in our February 11 issue. We apologize for the error.

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Forest City Wants More Info

At a special meeting last week, the Forest City Borough Council decided to seek more information on the Uniform Construction Code enacted by the state before it makes a decision on whether to opt in or opt out of the code.

However, the council agreed not to stall any longer in taking action on rundown buildings in the borough. Council President Jim Lowry told Borough Solicitor Paul Peterson and Code Enforcement Office Keith Esbensen to get together and map out a workable plan to address the problem.

Regarding the Uniform Construction Code, council will have from April 9 to August 7 to decide whether to opt in or opt out of the code. There seems to be some confusion over the definitions of opting in and opting out and council wants a state official to visit the borough and explain the options in detail.

Esbensen said the code is voluminous and contains strict rules and regulations regarding new construction, additions, and any electrical or plumbing work that might be done in conjunction with the construction. He said the new law, which is a code that has been widely adopted in municipalities throughout the Commonwealth, is a uniform, modern construction code which will insure safety, health and sanitary construction.

Some council members expressed concern that borough residents may be inundated with rules and regulations for a simple addition or alteration to their homes.

"I would not want to see our people intimidated by two or three inspectors," Councilman Paul J. Amadio said. He pointed out that Forest City is a small borough with very little room for expansion and doesn’t need to be governed by massive volumes of building and construction codes.

Another point of concern among council members are the ramifications that might follow any decision not to adopt the code. Peterson said one penalty could be that the borough would be stopped from issuing building permits if it decides to ignore the code.

Peterson also responded to council’s request concerning enforcement of municipal ordinances. He said most of the ordinances spell out who is the enforcing agency and that the mayor and police force are responsible for enforcing local ordinances that do not spell out the enforcement agency. He also said the mayor is responsible for issuing street permits and for enforcement of the borough’s Tree Ordinance.

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Forest City Board Opposes Referenda

Forest City Regional School Directors took a dim view of a proposed state law that would require school districts to sponsor referenda for certain spending plans and tax changes.

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 100 would require a referendum on increasing the wage tax to cut school property taxes. And a back-end referendum in the same bill would require voter approval of any future increases in property taxes. In effect, part two would allow district voters to approve or disapprove school budgets.

Board President Tom Baileys urged his colleagues to write letters to their state legislators opposing the referendum bill. He pointed out that the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is sponsoring a stop-the-referendum campaign and he said that he personally is opposed to the bill.

Baileys said the legislators want to pass the responsibility to school boards rather than increase state taxes to get more money for education. He said that it has been proven in neighboring New York State that referenda do not work very well and cited Hancock as an example.

"No one wants to raise taxes," Baileys said, adding that no matter how the problem is approached, the bills have to be paid. And he blamed unfunded and partially funded state mandates for rising school costs that ultimately impact on taxes.

Director Al Dyno said the legislation would tie the hands of the board. He said every budget could become an item for the ballot and could force school boards to furlough teachers and make other cuts in order to present the voters with a budget they will approve.

"I always like to see things in the hand of the voters," Dyno said. "But I don’t about this. It is a tough issue."

"I would certainly support this," said Director Fred Garm, "if the (state) legislature would have the same rule (and give us their budget to vote on)."

In a sample letter for school directors to sign and forward to their legislators, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association said a back-end referendum could prevent school boards from adopting educational programs needed to improve the achievement of every student and to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act.

Proponents of the legislation suggest that the school boards should be forced to make the case as to why new building expenditures are needed. They say letting the people make the final decision on long-term expenses gives the people the credibility, accountability and respect they deserve.

As the law now reads, school districts must either hold a public hearing or a ballot referendum before undertaking a school construction project, renovation or contract lease. Most boards choose to have a hearing. New legislation would require voter approval for all school construction plans exceeding $5 million or 50 percent of the district’s annual revenue, whichever is greater.

Motions passed by the board appointed the following long-term substitute teachers: Peter Supko, physical science/general science; Amie Baumber, business education; Sean Hagan, grades 5/6 mathematics; Tina Tasselmyer, elementary learning support; and, Jason Pantzar, grade three.

Other motions, all of which passed unanimously, included:

A contract with NEIU 19 for special education programs and services for the 2004-2005 school year in the amount of $181,457. The amount is some $53,000 lower than last year because of a drop in special education enrollments.

Appointments of Lisa DeMark and Paul Fife, Jr. as substitute van drivers for the school year.

Increasing the daily substitute rate of $75 effective immediately. In the past the $75 rate did not kick in until a teacher had substituted for 10 days in the district. School Superintendent Bernice Lukus pointed out that it is difficult to get substitute teachers at a lower rate than $75 a day.

Appointed Karen Forsette as a volunteer assistant basketball coach in grades 5 and 6.

Appointed Ann Marie DeArmond to the head cook position in the cafeteria effective February 10.

And, appointed James McElwain (guest teacher) and Mark Durkin to the substitute teacher list.

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Harford Gets New Pension Plan

The Harford Township Supervisors has adopted a new schedule for their meetings, moving one of the twice-monthly sessions to the second Saturday, beginning at 10:00 in the morning. The unprecedented shift to the weekend was suggested so that Terry VanGorden, who works an evening shift, can attend at least one meeting a month. The second meeting of each month will remain on the evening of the fourth Tuesday, beginning at 7:30 p.m. In April, however, both meetings will be on Saturdays, to allow the Township building to be used as a polling place for the primary election on the 27th. Mr. VanGorden, who wasn't present for the schedule change, is said to be eager to continue his active participation in township affairs.

At the request of Rick Pisasik, the agenda for each of the Supervisors meetings will include discussion of the Odd Fellows Hall in the village, an issue whose time is coming, and whose resolution Mr. Pisasik is hoping may appear before the year is out. Saying, "I am not committed in any way" on what might become of the building and property, Mr. Pisasik added, "The people of Harford will tell us, by either their action or their inaction" what is to be done. He said that he has had no more feedback on the question since a meeting last month heard a proposal from Scott Muller to remove the structure and create a town "commons." Mr. Pisasik has indicated that community input is solicited, and that a decision should be made by mid-summer so that preparations can be made for a ballot measure in November, if necessary.

With three of the township's employees in attendance, the Supervisors considered and adopted a new pension program for the small workforce as presented by Norman Button of SmithBarney of Binghamton. The plan was the only one solicited or considered by the Supervisors to replace a township-created IRA program with one that will offer the workers more flexibility as well as require from them a contribution.

Described as a "simple IRA" plan, designed for small employers like Harford Township, and much less costly than a comparable 401K program, the new pension system will allow each employee to contribute from 1% to 3% of his or her wages (up to $9,000 per year), which will be matched by the township. Under the simple IRA plan, deposited funds are "vested" immediately, although funds in the existing IRA accounts cannot be "rolled over" into the new program. A so-called "self-directed" IRA, this plan will allow each participant to determine how the funds are invested, and will carry a $40 annual fee for each employee. Last month the Supervisors agreed to pay each employee an additional 3% in wages this year to induce cooperation for the changeover. The workers who heard the presentation seemed enthusiastic about it. Sue Furney, the township's secretary and therefore a plan participant, saw no conflict in her vote as a Supervisor to approve the package, saying that the township's auditors had no objection.

Assistant Roadmaster George Sansky reported the roads "not so bad right now" after about 10 days of constant labor to control the snow and ice. His colleague, Wayne Frederici, asked that residents use some care when clearing their own driveways. In particular, he asked that snow from driveways not be dumped into the roads, and that residents consider plowing driveway entrances to the right so that when township plows come along they are not forced to close in the driveway again.

The next meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors should be on Tuesday, February 24, beginning at 7:30 p.m., at the township building. But it might be on Saturday, February 28, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

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Is Expansion Needed At Mountain View?
By Maria Gulbin-Suhadolnik

The Mountain View Board of Education met on Monday, February 9, with all nine members in attendance. The majority of meeting time was devoted to discussion of portions of the 2004-2005 operating budget and the proposed building project for the elementary cafeteria and auditorium.

Carolyn Price (Business Manager) began budget discussion by drawing members’ attention to the transportation budget. She explained that there were three parts to the budget and it is a substantial portion of the overall budget, as the district covers over 200 square miles of area. The three parts are the public portion with 23 bus contracts, three shuttle bus contracts and a few cars. The second part is the non-public portion which covers two buses and several car and van contracts while the final part is for special education services and includes several car and van contracts and a small portion of direct parent reimbursement. She was very clear in stating that the figure for the upcoming year was conservative in nature at $1,304,053.00; unknown variables such as the expected rise in fuel costs were not, and could not, be factored in at the current time. This proposed transportation budget is fairly close to that of the current year which is at $$1,258,403.00.

Mr. Michael Stewart, Technology Coordinator, continued on by discussing the proposed technology budget. He explained that with the assistance of Mrs. Price he allocated the money differently in the proposed budget. The overall figure was the same as the current year but he had been more exact as to specific line items. No specific dollar amounts were provided. Mr. Phillips (Board) did ask how the faculty was able to keep up with all the changes in technology. Mr. Stewart answered he felt the newer, younger teachers were already well-versed as they had grown up using technology and an E2 T2 grant had helped some of the seasoned teachers. The grant is a two-year grant to help train teachers in the use of technology. The Board has committed to use District funds to continue this training and equipment grant into a third year. Mr. Zick (Board) did ask about adult computer education classes in the evenings, stating there had been none offered in the fall and it was a shame that the district did not get the most use out of the equipment. Ms. Foster (Elementary Principal) stated she was unaware of this and would look into it. Mr. Halupke (Board) did ask about the MCI bill and it was explained that was for the internet connection. Mr. Stewart explained the competitive bid process, but added that he was unsure if MCI was the best provider at the lowest cost. He would be looking at this more carefully when the current contract was near completion.

The meeting moved on to discuss the Needs Assessment for the Elementary Building Cafeteria and Auditorium, requested from the administration by the Board’s Building and Facilities Management Committee. Mr. Zick immediately stated he felt "his rights" as a Board member had been taken away when the committee had met behind closed doors to discuss the project. He further stated as a veteran of three major building projects he may have had some expertise to lend. Mr. Bryce Beeman (President) quickly added the committee structure was not to usurp anybody’s authority but to just begin outlining some of the major issues in the various areas. Mrs. Stine (Board) bluntly asked, "How are we paying for this project?" Mr. Bryce Beeman added that the District did have approximately 1.9 million dollars in a capital reserve account and that raising taxes or borrowing were not options at this point. Many members added they did not want to see the reserve fund depleted.

Ms. Foster continued by discussing the preliminary needs assessment. It clearly favors a building project and caused a lengthy discussion about the current problems with the cafeteria system. These include cold food, running out of popular food items and a lack of fresh produce. It was decided that these issues needed to be resolved immediately and independent of the proposed building project. Different ways to use the current space were discussed and a decision on the project was put on hold; the Board directed the administration to come back with a detailed list of needs and wants as the immediate next step in researching the feasibility of the building expansion.

Mr. Chambers (Superintendent) continued by discussing the formation of two distinct task forces to look at gifted education and experience-based education within the District. These task forces will include parents and community members as well as teachers and administrators.

Mrs. Karen Voigt (Coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction) and teachers Teri Edwards and Chris Conrad went on to discuss the new math curriculum submitted to the Board for approval. Mrs. Voigt stated it was the product of a three-year process and had included some drastic changes to the high school math department. All three voiced satisfaction as to where it was at, but were sure to include that it was not a static process but would need to be revisited frequently, especially with the state adding different standards.

Board members Susan Christiansen and John Beeman went on to discuss and praise a two-day seminar on Choice Theory. They were impressed with what they saw and heard while joining some of the teachers during the training.

Mr. Bryce Beeman asked about how the new committee structure was progressing and received predominantly positive comments from members.

Meeting closed with audience member Maria Diaz advising the Board not to jump the gun on a building project, and to outline their wants and needs before progressing. She referenced a study done 10 years ago while she was on the Board when presenting this advice.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 23, in the elementary boardroom. The public is encouraged to attend. There are two public/audience comment opportunities at each session.

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Oakland Boro Council Discusses Emergencies

Oakland Boro Council began their February 12 meeting with an update by Emergency Management Coordinator George Smith. Some information is still needed to complete the paperwork that must be submitted to the county, such as designated officers for specific tasks and their deputies (alternates), whether there are any hearing impaired residents who may need special notification in case of an emergency, a list of businesses within the boros, and what equipment is available such as a PA system and radios. Once the report is complete a copy will be kept in the boro office, with additional copies kept with Mr. Smith and council president Ron Beavan; it is required that at least two copies be kept in locations other than the boro building.

Mr. Beavan explained that, although the local fire and ambulance departments would be the first responders in an emergency, ultimately it is council’s responsibility to see that residents are taken care of should the situation arise. And, there are many factors to consider that could possibly be the cause of an emergency, such as the chlorine at the boro’s water treatment plant, proximity to the train tracks where cars could be transporting chemicals, an airplane crash, oil or propane truck accidents, weather calamities such as tornado or flooding, the loss of utilities such as water or electricity. It would be the appointed officers’ responsibility to respond and see to it that any affected services are restored or necessary supplies obtained.

PENNDOT has audited the boro’s highway aid fund, and the boro and water company accounts are in the process their year-end audit.

Council is in the process of applying for CDBG grant funding to address the collapsing retaining wall on River Rd., but, if the grant is approved there are stipulations. The boro would need to hire an engineer for a cost analysis, with the engineer’s fees to be reimbursed out of the grant. At the same time, council is also looking into a loan to finance the project, which is expected to cost approximately $20,000. If council opts to proceed with the loan, there was a question; would such work within the boro still require an engineer? In the meantime, research is being done to find out if the deed from an adjacent property includes a provision for responsibility for the wall. After discussion, it was agreed to prepare specs for replacement of the wall and put the project out to bid while proceeding with the loan application. Since it would be spring before any work could be done, it was agreed that this would allow time to decide how much should be borrowed as there are some funds available in a savings account that could cover a portion of the project.

Mr. Beavan will send a letter to the Medlars to let them know that council will address a water problem on their property. A codes violation hearing for the Foote property has been postponed until May; the hearing will proceed if cleanup is not complete by that time. There was considerable discussion regarding the Smith property on State St.; there have been numerous complaints from neighbors that the house is infested with rats, and that the rats have become a problem at nearby homes. The house has not been condemned, but has been declared an uninhabitable health hazard due to an accumulation of household trash. There is a question of whether council has the legal right to enter the home to address the rat problem; once it is clear that it is permissible, Mr. Beavan agreed to place rat poison wherever necessary. Three court hearings with the owners had been scheduled, but they have only shown up for one and fines levied have not been paid. Police Chief VanFleet noted that active warrants against them are still in effect; he agreed to contact the magistrate to discuss what steps should be taken next, after which the matter will be further discussed at the next council meeting.

Mr. Beavan reported that grants are not available for the water company to install meters at boro residences; funding for other improvements would require a survey of residents to determine if the boro is eligible based on residents’ economic status.

Some time ago, the boro building had been entered into the KOZ program. Councilman Chad Crawford reported that he had accompanied a prospective buyer on an inspection of the building, but this individual had decided that he was not interested in purchasing it. There was some discussion as to what options are available for the building, whether to pursue grant funding for improvements and then to sell it or keep it, and whether the building should be kept in the KOZ program. If the building is sold, a new site would need to be found for a boro building; possibly the land could be subdivided and a new building erected, or council could rent office space from the new landlord. And, there were questions regarding what grant funding would be available that would not require that the boro retain ownership of the building for a specified time or whether such funding would need to be repaid if the building is sold. It was agreed to get more information.

In a related subject, there was discussion regarding an old, underground 3,000 gallon fuel tank next to the building. Council will look into obtaining grant funding to have the tank removed, as well as any contaminated soil that may be at the site.

In keeping with the change of council personnel as of the first of the year, council reviewed a list committees and their members, such as park, boro building, garage, and streets.

Mr. Crawford has requested the necessary paperwork to file for a reimbursement of federal gasoline taxes the boro has paid for the past year, which could be around $300.

The meeting adjourned to an executive session.

The next meeting will be on Thursday, March 11, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.

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Montrose School Gets Building Updates

There weren’t a lot of discussion items on the agenda at the work session held last Friday by the Montrose Area School District board of directors, but the ones that were, were sure interesting and enlightening.

Highland Associates consultant Jonathan Loiselle was on hand to distribute plans for the reconfiguration of the entry area of the Choconut school for safety and security concerns, and report on progress. With school in session, not much can be done, but the group is poised to begin bidding the project and starting in on it, once students take off for their summer vacation. Work will be phased in and around other classes, events, and district office work during the recess, and is expected to be finished in time for the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year.

The plans show an entry protected from the elements, as well as a secure, electric-latch entry and waiting area for visitors and the monitoring of the entry, waiting area and hallways. A former classroom has been turned into a new security area, mailroom, copy room and principal’s office. New bathrooms will be installed and current ones reconfigured for handicap access.

Loiselle was also pleased to hear that the Garden Club is volunteering to help move and relocate the shrubs at the entry while construction goes on, and will do the replanting of them once it is over. Director Chris Caterson asked whether some of the different reconfigurations were expected to increase the cost of the project. Loiselle responded that, while costs did increase because of the nurse’s station, the group concurrently made cost-saving changes to other parts of the project, which results in a wash.

Superintendent Mike Ognosky reported on various art projects going on at the junior-senior high school. For those who haven’t been in the building lately, some good and creative work is going on. A mural in the cafeteria is half-way finished; students will be helping complete the other half, in conjunction with the muralist who has received input from the student liaison committee. Artwork in the gym was expected to start last weekend, with the project due to be completed within two weeks or so.

The superintendent also brought the board up to date on the artist-in-residence program that is planned for the district and available through a $15,000 matching grant program, for a total of $30,000 when matched by the district. The six-to-nine-month program would see various artists working with students at the high school, under the supervision of artist Earl Layman and, at the suggestion of the student council, faculty member Eric Powers. Ognosky will keep the board apprised of progress on this program, and he noted that the group (including students) working on the project thought it would be real nice to have an open house at the school so the public could see the results of the grant.

Directors and Ognosky also hope to meet with 2003 high school graduates on May 24 to get their assessments of how the district prepared them for life after high school. The feedback Sean Brown has received from recent grads is that they weren’t prepared for the amount and level of reading that was expected of them in college. Director Mary Homan wanted to get an idea of the return the district is receiving by way of prepared students, from its commitment to technology over the last few years. The board will use this feedback in discussing the district’s academic goals going forward.

Next up to present to the board was technology director Craig Owens. Using the district’s nifty smart board, he told members about progress toward an administrative goal, which is to allow parents access to their children’s grades and progress on-line. Owens demonstrated a secure, password-protected program through which parents could have access only to their own child’s grades and progress. This would include quizzes, homework assignments, and other progress, updated weekly by teachers. The program requires a bit of training for teachers, and just a log-in and password by parents for their access to it. The system would be implemented for the junior-senior high school and, possibly, sixth grade. Other primary grades would not be affected, since measurements and grade-reporting systems are very different at those younger educational levels.

Director Sean Brown asked what the ultimate goal of this particular administrative goal was. Ognosky responded that parents could sit down with their children at home, log-on and get a better feel for and knowledge about where the child stands on a regular and continuing basis, in addition to the long-term such as end-of-term status. Attesting to greater use of technology by the district, director Chris Caterson pointed out that the e-mails parents received about early or school-closings were very helpful and immediate. Similarly, board vice president Celeste Ridler noted that many parents have told her how helpful the district website is.

Still, there was concern about technology being available to every home and parent or guardian. Ognosky cited a study done more than two years ago that showed that the majority of students and parents/guardians had access to a computer and the Internet. He thought that perhaps it was time to revisit these statistics and see how they’ve changed, adding that on-line grade availability would still not replace paper reports that are sent to a student’s home. Both Ognosky and Owens will continue to update the board on this project.

In other updates, Ognosky reported that the county commissioners, via communications from EMA director Dawn Watson, have approved giving the district access to its government bandwidth. Now, he said, the district can move forward to provide district school drivers with the equipment they need to be able to report emergency and other need-to-know information while they are doing district work. Ridler thought that a new cell tower expected to go up in the Choconut area would help communications a lot, although there would probably still be some dead spots, though far fewer of them.

Ognosky also passed along conversations that came from a few phone calls he’s received from parents who would like to resurrect a junior high baseball team on a kind of informal basis, with games held on Saturdays. From discussions with these parents, he thought that any cost involved would be related to transportation. Ognosky has asked Joe Gilhool to look into both costs and scheduling, and will report his results to the board.

Ognosky also informed the board that he and other administrators would be visiting the Manheim and Doylestown school districts to take a look at their kindergarten modules. "Full-day kindergarten is one of the things we don’t want to give up on. We’ve got a quarter of a million dollars from the state this year, and full-time kindergarten is at the top of our list for these funds." Ognosky, again, will report back to the board on their findings.

In the last report of the evening, director Jim Blachek reported on his attendance at a legislative conference for PA school district administrators recently held in Hershey. The upshot of the conference was that both political parties appear to be in favor of having school-budget allocations (budget and cost-of-living and other increases) put on a referendum for voters. The legislator thinking, it seems, is that school districts spend money needlessly and recklessly. However, Blachek and most other administrators view this as simply passing the buck and are not in favor of it. He though it important to contact legislators and let them know that it’s not a good idea, and would only make it that much more difficult to educate children in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The next work session of the Montrose Area School District is scheduled to immediately follow its regular meeting, scheduled for March 12, 6:30 p.m. at the Choconut Valley Elementary School.

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Choconut Gets New Art Teacher

All directors of the Montrose Area School District board gathered at the Choconut Valley Elementary School last Friday evening for their regular monthly meeting and efficiently went through an agenda that included the usual and customary (approval of regular and recurring bills) as well as the much-awaited, like an elementary art teacher at the Choconut school.

The Board approved the hiring of Shannon Fulmer Maynard, who attended the meeting, as the new, full-time, contracted art instructor at a salary of $36,850. One of 24 applicants (as well as others whose resumes were already on-file in the District) to apply for the position, she was chosen after a rigorous screening and interview process that involved faculty, administration and board members. Superintendent Mike Ognosky was especially pleased in Maynard’s enthusiastic response and ideas to director Mary Homan’s question about public and community art. The district is looking forward to the effects Maynard and her students will have on art in the community.

The group also addressed the making up of school days because of implement weather. As of last Friday, seven snow days were called, with two of them made up. The board voted to make up another day on Monday, Washington’s Birthday, when it would otherwise be closed. Ognosky reported that there were still enough days and ways to provide the wiggle room needed to make up the remaining snow days and have seniors graduate on their scheduled date, which is the objective of the group.

Other motions made and approved by the board were to:

– Adopt a resolution to enter into a contract with Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit (more familiarly called IU) for special ed programs and services for 2004-2005 at an estimated cost of $273,744.

– Advertise for bids for school supplies, heating oil and refuse removal for the next school year.

– Appoint Jennifer Clark as both the junior high head field hockey coach (for $1,312.50) and assistant track coach ($1,540).

– Hired Rebecca Jenner as a lunchroom/playground aide at the Lathrop Street school ($6.50 an hour).

– Accept with regret the resignation of Roger DeGroat as a night custodian at the high school.

– Appoint Robert Tiffany and Douglas Cook as substitute custodians.

– Appoint Daniel Kelly and Thomas Evans, Jr. as full-time night custodians at the high school ($7.50 an hour plus benefits).

– Grant tenure to Alice Palmiter and Michael Dooley.

– Appoint Kristin Potter as a substitute special ed teacher at the county prison at the supplemental contract rate of $22 an hour to a maximum of five hours a week.

–Appoint as substitute teachers: Eliza Fuhrey, Christopher Robinson and Matthew Donnelley (social studies); Nicole Chidester, Richard Firestine and Joyce Stone (elementary); DeDra Wolfe (music); and Joseph Conigliaro (mathematics).

The next regular meeting of the Montrose Area School Board is scheduled for March 12, 6:30 p.m. at the Choconut Valley Elementary School.

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