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Tom Baileys, president of the Forest City Regional Board of Education, sidestepped a lot of questions last week concerning the departure of School Superintendent Bernice Lukus and the subsequent decision granting her a sabbatical leave until the end of the school year.
"Things have been a little unclear to me," said Donna Tedesco of Union Dale, "and I want to know, did someone contact Mrs. Lukus and was told you fired her?"
"Thats the first I am hearing this and I have no comment," Mr. Baileys replied.
"There are a lot of rumors around town," Attorney Dave Bianco of Pleasant Mount, said. "I just think the taxpayers deserve the truth. If there was a problem with Mrs. Lukus, the board should come out and address it and tell us what the problem was.
"You are politicians. You have been elected and as politicians you have an elective duty and a moral duty to tell us whats going on. If there is a problem, tell us. We are adults, and while I realize you may be under some legal constraints with regards to executive sessions, like it or not you are politicians and as such you owe it to the community to tell us what is going on.
"You are spending $19,000 ( the salary William Stracka is being paid as interim superintendent until June 30) and we get no explanation other than she requested a sabbatical." Mr. Bianco said the voters made a substantial change in the board to wipe out 15 years of board secrecy. He said the people were hoping for a more open forum from the board but, "we are not getting it. Did anybody have a problem with her performance?"
"If the board members say anything," Mr. Baileys cautioned, "they run a risk of jeopardizing the districts position with regards to Mrs. Lukus personal life. I am going to advise the board members not to say anything."
Director Hank Nebzydoski, who is the senior member of the board, said that from his point of view, Mrs. Lukus did not to anything wrong. He said the majority of the board wanted a change and this was their prerogative.
"In my opinion she did nothing wrong," Dr. Nebzydoski said, "but I am not sure everybody on the board feels the same way. We have to move on. What was done is done. I had no problem with her at all."
Mr. Baileys denied a published report by this writer that he had telephoned Mrs. Lukus at the school on March 9 or 10 and advised her to pack up her belongings and leave the building.
"As long as he (this writer) is here I would like to say are you calling him a liar?" Mrs. MaryAnn Logar of Browndale, asked. "Did you call Mrs. Lukus and tell her she must leave immediately."
"No," Mr. Baileys responded.
"You are absolutely saying," Mrs. Logar continued, "that no one called her and told her to leave the building immediately. Then he (this writer) is a liar?"
"He did not write what you said he did," Mr. Bailey responded. "If you read the article you would know that." He told Mrs. Logar that if he had phoned Mrs. Lukus and ordered her out of the building she would have grounds for legal action and suggested that Mrs. Logar talk to Mrs. Lukus about it.
"Look at the money the taxpayers are spending," Mrs. Logar said. "Paying her, pay him (Mr. Stracka). I think the taxpayers should know."
"She is on sabbatical leave (until the end of the school year)," Mr. Baileys said. The board approved the sabbatical at a special meeting on April 5 but made it retroactive to March 22. On June 30 her contract expires and the board already agreed not to renew it.
"What I wrote was true," this writer said.
"Your article was not true," Mr. Baileys said. "No one ever told Mrs. Lukus to pack up her stuff and get out."
"Did you call Mrs. Lukus?" this writer asked.
"I am not discussing that. Its a personnel matter," Mr. Baileys replied.
"Did you call other board members and discuss Mrs. Lukus with them," this writer asked. "Yes I did. Thats my job," Mr. Baileys replied.
"But you did not tell Mrs. Lukus that it would be in her best interest to leave the building?" this writer asked.
"Thats not what you wrote," Mr. Baileys replied.
"Did you call every school board member or just a select few?" a member of the audience asked
"I called the number I needed to determine a majority," Mr. Baileys responded.
"You said you called some board members. But you did not call them all, just enough to get a majority. A majority to do what?" this writer asked.
"Again, I am not going to respond," Mr. Baileys answered.
In another matter, the board expressed concern over the number of drop-outs in the district during the 2003-2004 school year. The board set the number at 17 or 18 and said it is looking into ideas that might reduce the number in future school years.
While some fault was blamed on the districts need to update its curricula, relaxed state laws were also put on the carpet. Interim Superintendent William Stracka said if a 16-year-old student is employed and his parents will allow it, he or she can quit school.
Mr. Baileys said he checked with other school districts and Forest City Regional is not unique. He said every student that has left met with the high school principal and the guidance counselor prior to his or her departure.
The board announced it will have a budget deliberation meeting on Thursday, April 22, at 7 p.m. in the high school library. The public is invited.
Motions passed by the board completed the following business-
-Accepted the resignation of Geraldine Swierczek, library assistant.
-Added Heather Ryder and Frances Romanoski to the substitute teacher list.
-Approved the proposed school calendar for 2004-2005 that does not include the traditional day off for the first day of deer hunting.
Resolutions passed by the board approved placing the Wayne Building and the ABC Building, both located on Main Street in Forest City, in the Keystone Opportunity Zone.
Hallstead Borough will be receiving a donation in the near future; a tree will be donated for a boro park by the Step by Step rehabitilation program in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month in May. At the April 15 meeting, representatives of the program approached council with their idea, which was received with approval. Step by Step will donate the tree and a small plaque, which will be planted by the boro at a location of councils choice.
Lynette Ryman updated council on her plans to operate a day care center in the boro building; council had approved renting space to her at a prior meeting. An inspection has been conducted by the department of Labor and Industry; several items of concern were found that need to be addressed. The smoke detectors throughout the building, on both levels, need to be interconnected; emergency lighting needs to be installed in several locations; the stairway door from the second floor needs to be replaced with a metal door, complete with panic bar; and the walls in the stairway need to be fireproofed with sheet rock. Once these items have been addressed (at her expense), L & I will conduct an additional inspection and issue a certificate allowing her to proceed with opening the day care center. A motion carried to approve, pending the answer to several questions from the boros insurance carrier. In the meantime, council will contact the boro solicitor to draw up a rental agreement.
Jim Mulligan, one of the owners of the foundry property was present to give a status report of the cleanup going on at the site. The buildings are in the process of being taken down, with completion anticipated for the end of June. Mr. Mulligan said that the demolition was started from the backside of the building, to minimize the sight of debris from the road. Asbestos has been removed and properly disposed of, according to DEP regulations. The next step, after demolition, is to take care of some environmental issues that were found when an environmental study of the site was completed some time ago. Although nothing serious had been found, some remediation is needed, such as underground tanks, all of which must be addressed properly. "It (demolition) is here," he said. "I know its been a long time coming, but it is here." He has been meeting with developers interested in the site, although nothing definite has been decided. Whether the site would be developed for industry or a retail business, he said that his goal would be to bring jobs to the area. The process of preparing the site for development has taken longer than had been expected, but he assured that everything is being done properly. He noted that the site is seven-tenths of a mile from I-81; there is a lot of traffic in the area, with great possibilities for development. "We will go nonstop until we get (the buildings) down," he said, "and get it cleaned up." In response to a question from council, he said that any salvageable materials from the site, such as steel, will be salvaged and sold; all other material is being disposed of at a landfill.
While the demolition is ongoing, Mr. Mulligan is planning a meeting with the Industrial Development Authority to pursue funding for remedial work, and to gather more leads for commercial development. He plans to have a definitive survey of the property, to establish the exact boundaries. Final development plans for the site will include the sites existing natural resources.
John Brant, president of the Great Bend/Hallstead Ambulance Company, addressed council to answer any questions they might have, specifically those that were raised at a meeting held on April 7 in Montrose. He acknowledged that the company is facing a lot of problems, largely due to a lack of qualified volunteers. The company has been in existence for a lot of years, he said, and is in excellent financial condition. The problems arise from state requirements; for an ambulance to transport a patient, there must be a minimum of two certified crew members on board. One, the driver, must be EVOC certified and must also be a certified first responder. The second crew member must be a certified EMT. Even if a paramedic were to be on board, a patient could not be transported as the paramedic is not on the companys roster and is not covered by its insurance.
The company has actively tried to recruit new members, but response has been poor. At a meeting hosted by the company about a year and a half ago, which had been well publicized, only four members of the public attended. No elected officials had attended; the audience had largely consisted of ambulance personnel. One problem with recruiting new members could be the training time involved, 120 hours. And, especially with a small roster, existing personnel find that a lot of time must be devoted to the service, limiting family time and other activities. "Were trying to keep it together," he said, but state requirements are finding a lot of companies, not just this one, short of crews. At the meeting in Montrose, Mr. Brant said, it had been suggested to implement a board of directors, who could help recruit members and serve in an advisory capacity; but, board members would not be going on ambulance calls.
Mr. Brant said that the company had explored several options, such as merging with other local companies. The Montrose Minutemen already serve a "huge" area; they would find it difficult to find enough personnel to cover two companies 24/7. Other companies in New Milford and Susquehanna are experiencing the same lack of personnel.
The company has looked into a merger with the Broome County Volunteer company, which has an extensive roster of qualified personnel, and is in the process of obtaining PA certification. But, this idea had been met with resistance from those who do not want to see the local companys name change. One member of council asked, "If youre having a heart attack, are you really going to care what name is on the ambulance when it shows up?" Another commented that, in that situation, "I wouldnt care if it said Scooby Doo on it!"
Mr. Brant conceded that a solution needs to be found soon. Council has been notified that Great Bend Boro will be hosting a meeting on Monday, April 26, 7:00 p.m. at their boro building, to discuss the situation. At least two representatives of council, Joe Franks and Mayor Canfield, plan to attend.
Council approved two building permits, for a trailer on the Ketcher property, and a porch and new garage for the Furch property.
Elizabeth Janoski, director of the county Department of Economic Development, was present to resume discussion about entering the foundry property into the KOZ program. She gave a summary of the program, which for properties currently enrolled is scheduled to end on December 31, 2010. Her department supports KOZ, as it is a good incentive to attract businesses to KOZ properties. There are requirements that must be met to keep a property in KOZ; it must be kept up to code and provide jobs. The incentives would not go into effect until a business was physically located on the property and was providing employment. The Blue Ridge School District has approved entering the site into KOZ, and it is very likely that the county commissioners would also approve, if council were to vote in favor of the KOZ designation. As the parcel in question lies in both the boro and Great Bend Township, both municipalities would not have to agree to the designation; one portion could be entered into the program, while the other is not. Mrs. Janoski said that the Great Bend supervisors had raised some questions as to what type of business would locate at the property. She said that there could be no guarantees by her department; such decisions would need to be directed by a municipalitys zoning ordinances.
Councilman John Giangrieco cited problems with another parcel in the county that had been accepted into KOZ, which had subsequently changed ownership. Mrs. Janoski said that the property itself is enrolled in the program, regardless of ownership. The owner(s) would need to apply for renewal on a yearly basis, and must meet requirements to qualify for tax benefits. She added that the current owner of the property cited by Mr. Giangrieco is considering several options for further developing it.
Several council members stated that they were not in favor of the KOZ designation, which, until the property is developed would mean a loss of tax revenue of about $500 per year. Mr. Mulligan interjected that although he has never sought KOZ status for this property, he has seen it and similar programs work successfully and attract businesses in other areas. Mr. Giangrieco responded that the property has been an "albatross" around the boros neck for years. "We ought to get something out of it." He added that his opposition to the KOZ designation was not just the prospect of lost tax revenue, but a matter of principal; it has taken many years to see the property cleaned up and council has experienced a lack of cooperation in the process.
As no motion was made to approve the KOZ designation, the matter was dropped.
Continuing discussion on the states Uniform Construction Code from prior meetings, council president Michelle Giangrieco reported on a meeting she had attended in Montrose to discuss the options available to municipalities to designate building inspectors. Basically, there are three options; to join an organization such as COG, to contract with a certified, private inspector, or to allow Labor & Industry to conduct inspections. The pros and cons of these options were discussed; it was agreed that council member James Gillespie, who has been researching the matter, would continue to gather information from both COG and a private inspector, and bring his findings to the next council meeting.
Council made their customary donation of $200 to the Blue Ridge Recreation program.
PENNDOT will be contacted for further information on "no parking" signs for several areas on Main Street.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, May 20, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
Seamans Sentences Six
A 62-year-old man will spend some time in the Susquehanna County Jail on two counts of furnishing alcoholic beverages to minors in Liberty Township on May 5, 2001.
President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans ordered James William Eden of Hallstead to serve 30 days to 12 months behind bars and fined him a total of $2000. Mr. Eden must also do 50 hours of community service.
Randy Decker, 49, of Susquehanna was given a suspended jail sentence and placed on probation for 23 1/2 months for theft by deception in Thompson Township on Nov. 1, 2000.
Jeremiah Jerome Burns, 20, of Johnson City, NY, will spend one month to 18 months in the county jail and pay $750 in fines on separate counts of corruption of minors in Choconut Township on April 8 and April 20, 2003. Mr. Burns must also perform 50 hours of community service.
Gary Rotherforth, 59, of Forest City, was sentenced to serve 30 days to 15 months in the county jail and was fined $710 for drunken driving in Forest City on Nov. 1, 2003. He was also fined $500, plus court costs and must attend safe driving school.
Peter A. Swawola, 50, of New Milford will spend one month to 15 months in the county jail for drunk driving in New Milford on Aug. 22, 2003. He was also fined $500 plus court costs and must attend a safe driving school.
A Montrose man will be busy performing 100 hours of community service following his guilty plea to an assortment of charges including theft by deception, and recklessly endangering another person.
Jeremy Travis Degraw, 24, did luck out however because all of his jail time ended up as suspended and was replaced by similar time on probation.
Mr. Degraw was cited for theft by deception in Montrose on July 4, 2003; theft by deception in Bridgewater Twp. on October 11, 2003; recklessly endangering another person in Montrose on Dec. 27, 2003; and a second count of theft by deception in Bridgewater Twp. on Oct. 11, 2003. He was also fined $800 and court costs, and was ordered to make restitution.
Between March 29 and April 4, someone damaged the locks on two sheds on a property in Auburn Township owned by Edna Thomas, Meshoppen.
Someone broke into the Jessup Township building on April 4 and stole various tools and shop supplies. Anyone with information is asked to contact the State Police.
THEFT OF MOTOR VEHICLE
Richard Ainey of New Milford reported that someone went to his home on April 3 and stole a 1997 red and black Yamaha Blaster from his garage. Anyone with information is asked to contact the State Police.
Beth Ann Croasdale, age 38, was an inmate at the Susquehanna County Prison. On April 4, she notified prison staff she was having trouble breathing and an ambulance was summoned. Croasdale was taken to the Endless Mountains Medical Center where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy is scheduled; no foul play is suspected.
The seasonal residence in Bridgewater Township belonging to Philip Dechard of North Plainfield, NJ was broken into and damaged sometime between last November and March 26.
A person stopped at the Pump-n-Pantry in Bridgewater Township on April 2, pumped $4.19 of gas, and left without paying.
Joseph Paratore of Montrose reported that between March 30 and April 1, someone stole his 14-foot-long yellow kayak from a location in Forest Lake Township.
Someone entered the home of Willard Hurley in Thompson on March 27 and removed two semi-automatic pistols an Inter-Tech tech9 9mm and an Iver-Johnson 22-caliber pistol. Anyone with information is asked to contact the state police at 570-465-3154.
While the unlocked truck belonging to Steven Marter of Susquehanna was parked on Washington Street in New Milford on March 29, someone entered the cab and removed a Craftsman toolbox.
Robert Dominick Baker, New Milford, was arrested on March 30 for two counts of rape, two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, two counts of aggravated indecent assault, two counts of indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and related offenses committed during 1998-2002.
Someone stole a propane tank from Coops Cones on Route 11 in Hallstead on March 20.
Donna Friar of Brooklyn, PA reported that someone entered her home between March 4-8 and stole some Percoset and Soma prescription tablets valued at $70.
On March 26, a 2001 Ford Focus driven by Sean McAndrew, 30, of Vandling was traveling north on SR 171. The car veered left, crossed the southbound lane, and went off the roadway. It struck a dirt embankment and came to rest against the dirt mound. McAndrew was found sleeping behind the wheel and arrested for suspected DUI.
A 1992 Eagle Talon received major damage when it went off SR 2002 March 19 in Lathrop Township, onto the berm and down a 25-foot embankment where it landed on its roof in a creek. Its driver, John Greenfield, 24, of Kingsley, was not injured and was wearing a seat belt.
On April 9, Joshua Bennett, Montrose, received moderate injury when the vehicle he was driving struck a tree at the intersection of Scher Road and SR 7806, Jessup Township.
Sometime between April 9 and 12, someone threw a rock through the garage door of the Liberty Township maintenance building.
Someone stole several thousand dollars in cash and valuables from the safe at the St. Francis Church Rectory in Friendsville on April 5. Call the State Police at 465-3154 if you have any information about this theft.
An argument between Erin Kasten, 22, Hallstead, and Michael Bednarchik, 19, New Milford, in the parking lot of Precision Glass in New Milford Township escalated and Bednarchik threw Kasten to the hood of her car, then to the ground, and she sustained an injury to her lip.
Between April 8 and 9, a mailbox on SR 2067 belonging to Kenneth Stanton, Susquehanna, was damaged.
On April 5, the Harford Township mailboxes along Tyler Lake Road belonging to George Bleck and Joseph Hefele were damaged, as was a mailbox owned by Larry Biesecker, Rose Road New Milford Township.
Someone tried to enter PJs Café in Bridgewater Township on April 5. The individual fled the scene when the burglar alarm went off and nothing was taken.
On April 3, Louis Vilella, 17, failed to negotiate a left curve and left the roadway in Great Bend Borough. His 1991 Plymouth Voyager then struck three vehicles parked in the driveway of the Robinson residence on Main Street. Two of the vehicles are owned by Mary Jane Robinson and the other by Frederick Holle. Vilellas car also struck the residence, damaging the siding, as well as the sidewalk and the lawn. Vilella was taken to Wilson Memorial Hospital by the Great Bend-Hallstead Ambulance Service. Members of the Great Bend Fire Department assisted at the scene. Three of the vehicles were severely damaged.
Merrill Lynch Mortgage Capital, to Homecomings Financial Network Inc. in Thompson Township for one dollar.
Donald W. Diehl, aka Donald Diehl, and Heather M. Diehl, to Gerald R. Pennay Jr., in Brooklyn Township for $240,000.
Rallg Associates Wng Co., Margaret W. Rockey, John J. Lavelle Sr. (Est), John J. Lavelle Jr., Susan Lavelle, to Shirley Harinec, in Herrick Township for $12,500.
Rallg Associated Wng Co., Margaret V. Roekcy, John J. Lavelle Sr. (Est), John J. Lavelle Jr., Susan Lavelle, to Edward J. Pleczynski and Suzanne J. Pleczynski, in Herrick Township for $13,000.
Emil F. Mikolon and Patricia Mikolon, to Heather F. Matisoff, in Union Dale, for $155,000.
Mary R. ONeil to Patricia Decker, Kevin ONeil, Mike Williams, Kelly White, Nancy Loomis, and Deborah Ann Ucci, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Estate of Paul J. Enrico to Larry E. Rockhill and Katherine Rockhill in Herrick and Clifford townships, for $49,000.
Richard Bidwell and Diane Bidwell to Richard Bidwell and Diane Bidwell, in Clifford Township, for one dollar.
Bonnie Stafford to Bonnie Stafford George in Montrose, for $10.
James M. Selitto and Deborah L. Sellitto to James M. Sellitto, in Thompson Borough for one dollar.
Joseph G. Grublauskas and Dawn Grublauskas to Stanley E. Grublauskas and Sonia Grublauskas, in New Milford Township, for one dollar
George Yaskowiak (by Sheriff) to Federal National Mortgage Association (dba) as Fannie Mae, in New Milford Township, for $7,465.
Mary V. Proppe to James Fedorko and Elizabeth M. Fedorko, in Clifford Township, for $172,000.
United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to Dale M. Gerfin and Nancy G. Kman Gerfin, in Lenox Township, for $18,152.
James M. Sellitto and Deborah L. Sellitto to Deborah L. Sellitto, in Susquehanna, for one dollar.
Estate of Patricia Gardner to Brian Gardner, Jodi Marie Gardner (nbm) and Jodi Gardner, in Silver Lake Township, for one dollar.
Debra L. Gruber-Travis and Bernhard M. Gruber to Edson J. Sinclair and Barbara A. Sinclair in Gibson Townshhip, for $167,500.
Homecomings Financial Network Inc. to Lawrence M. Ligas, in Thompson Township, for $41,500.
Norman Bender and Dawn M. Bender to Frank A. Mulligan, in Bridgewater Township, for $156,500,
Frank Bracken and Barbara A. Bracken to Jerry Lee Bracken, in Silver Lake Township, for one dollar.
Marilynn A. Hughes, Raymond E. Whaite, and Suzanne Brant to Brian S. Bianchi and Nicole Henderson, in Hallstead, for $74,000.
Monroe A. Bertsch (by attorney in fact) and Sarah S. Bertsch to Davidson Perry-Miller, in Montrose, for $210,000.
Leonard Lyle and Nelda Lyle to Leonard Trust, in Lenox Township, for no consideration.
Richard Bidwell and Diane Bidwell to David M. Zigon and Janelle Zigon, in Clifford Township, for $185,000
Ordie E. Price, Aline J. Price, Stephen Selige, Carol R. Selige, Lucinda W. Neubert and Ted Neubert to Ordie E. Price and Aline J. Price, in Clifford and Lenox townships, for one dollar.
Manuel Diaz and Maria F. Diaz to Dale E. Albert and Linda C. Albert, in Brooklyn Township, for $30,000.
Madeline G. Maynard (Rev Trust) and Ralph S. Maynard (Rev Trust) to Luther Giordano and Nancy Jean Edgington, in Montrose, for $92,500.
Santafer Wilson to Frank E. Montalvo, in Bridgewater Township, for $87,500.
Estate of Alice B. Taylor to Thomas J. OReilly, in Springville Township, for $243,000.
James H. Brady and Alieph F. Brady to Debra L. Gruber and Bernard M. Gruber, in Lanesboro, for $36,000.
Lawrence T. OReilly, Christine m. OReilly and Thomas J. OReilly to Robert W. Diehl Sr. and Duque Diehl, in Oakland Township, for $33,400.
Richard J. Bembas Sr. to Charles D. Gorton and Shannon L. Gorton in Gibson Township, for $136,900.
Taisa Tuttle and Ginadi Dubiago Jr. to Joan M. Koeppel and John J. Koeppel, in Jessup Township, for $181,000.
David G. Werner, Michelle A. Werner, Kenneth G. Shino and Laurie A. Shino to Joshua T. Astleford, in Forest City, for $69,000.
Endless Mountains Enterprises Inc. to Estate of Francis Lockburner, in Auburn Township, for one dollar.
Leon C. Button and Barbara L. Button to Norman Button and Lois Button Gonzalez, in Great Bend Township, for one dollar.
Leon C. Button and Barbara L. Button to Button Family Partnership, in New Milford Township, for one dollar.
Theodore C. Hirsch and Jeans S. Hirsch to Theodore C. Hirsch and Jeans S. Hirsch in New Milford Borough, for one dollar.
Jeffrey J. Piparo, Dawn L. Trumper (nbm) and Dawn L. Pipari to Jeffrey J. Piparo and Dawn L. Piparo, in Harford Townshp, for one dollar.
James E. Dewitt (by US Marshal) and Valerie A. Dewitt (by US Marshal) to J. Randall Houser, in Montrose, for $42,500.
Robert A. Carara and Beth J. Carara to Scott Fargnoli and Linda Fargnoli, in Forest Lake Township, for $132,500
Gerald S. Smith and Shirley P. Smith to Jeremy Harris and James Harris, in Harford and New Milford townships, for $35,000.
Ramon E. Tingley and Linda M. Tingley to Randolph E. Tingley, in Harford and New Milford townships for one dollar
Rallg Associates Wng Co., John J. Lavelle Sr (Est), William Gerber (Est), John J. Lavelle Jr., Susan Lavelle, Margaret V. Rockey, to Deborah Stover in Herrick Township, for $17,000.
Thomas M. Chesnick and Carol Chesnick to JPF Enterprises in Ararat Township for $500.
Dominick Franceski (Estate) to JPF Enterprises, in Ararat Township, for $500.
Dominick Franceski (Estate) to Thomas M. Chesnick and Carol Chesnick in Ararat Township, for $500.
Robert R. Lindsey, Roseann Lindsey, Andrea A. Wilk, Anthony Wilk to Waltrer Welch and Joyce Welch, in Oakland Township, for $47,000.
John H. Warner, Dorothy Warner aka Mary Ann Warner to Albert B Timinski and Maureen P. Timinski in Silver Lake Twp., for $38,000.
LaSalle Bank (fka by atty) and Lasalle National Bank (by atty) to Dominic Larusso, in Herrick Township, for $65,000.
James E. Sheffler and Peggy M. Sheffler to Roger L. Rosenau and Holly M. Rosenau, in Montrose, for $90,000.
A breezy yet businesslike meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors on Saturday morning, April 10, covered a wide range of items, very few of them having anything to do with the Odd Fellows Hall. At the outset, Rick Pisasik did report having received a few more responses to his solicitation about the old building in the village. According to Mr. Pisasik, only one correspondent so far has asked to preserve the building. The "vast majority want to tear it down," he said.
A suggestion last month by Terry Van Gorden to erect a flagpole at the township building has led to some uncharacteristically expeditious action. The Supervisors voted to purchase a 25-foot aluminum flagpole with internal halyard (that is, an automated flagpole) for $1,200 from a local supplier, plus a pair of poles for use inside the township office for $185 each. They hope to acquire national and state flags from legislators at little or no cost, and the township crew will be responsible for erecting the pole and installing lighting.
The township's insurance carrier had suggested that the road crew be outfitted with the latest in "slime green" attire for safety. Mr. Van Gorden is still researching suppliers and prices, remarking that the crew will be required to wear the high-visibility clothing for their own safety. The measure was tabled again for further investigation. When asked if the crew are currently wearing the day-glo orange outfits they are thought to have already, Mr. Van Gorden said no, and conceded that he wasn't even sure where the garments are stored. He also said that hard hats are not a current requirement, but that may yet come to pass.
With the improving weather, like everyone else, the township is considering home repairs. Last year Garry Foltz submitted a list of recommended maintenance and improvements to the township building. The Supervisors have been working their way through the items and are considering a group of miscellaneous repairs pending receipt of an updated estimate from Mr. Foltz.
Like many local municipalities facing a response to the state's imposition of standard building codes, Harford Township has joined the county Council of Governments (COG) to help administer the requirements. At this session, the Supervisors passed a set of ordinances and resolutions that give COG building inspection authority in the township and provide some additional specifics for the work it will undertake on behalf of the township. Mr. Pisasik has been the township's representative at the COG Sewage Committee for some time, and is now appointed representative to what is known as "COG Codes."
Toward the end of the meeting, a resident asked the Supervisors to do something about a neighbor on Orphan School Road who she claimed was throwing household trash into the yard, some of which was drifting over onto her own property. The Supervisors recalled a similar situation some time ago, and agreed to draft a letter to the alleged miscreant.
Whether it's trash, sewage, flags, codes, or even Odd Fellows, you can see and hear it all at the Harford Township Supervisors meetings on the second Saturday of each month, beginning at 10:00 a.m., or on the fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m. All meetings are at the township building on Route 547, half a mile south of the Interstate.
Those who attended the regular meeting of the Montrose Area School District last Friday evening had the feeling they were sitting in a piazza and a villa in Italy, overlooking the Mediterranean on a warm and balmy day. For thats the feeling absolutely conveyed by the cafeteria, in which the meeting was held. As part of a matching arts grant, the district invited various artists to come into the schools and, working with students, transformed the ordinary into something wonderful. Murals evoking an Italian plaza cover the cafeteria walls. (The gym AKA The Crater has also benefited from art that will inspire the Montrose Meteors who play there as well as their fans.)
Much discussion at the meeting surrounded an agenda item asking for a motion to authorize advertisement for bids for the Choconut school entrance that has been discussed at several recent meetings. The reason for this discussion is the estimated cost of the planned reconfiguration for both security reasons as well as to more efficiently use current space, and for which engineering works has been completed turns out to be twice as much as originally anticipated. Board president Ken Gould wanted to know why.
Jonathan Loiselle, a consultant with Highland Associates which performed the engineering work, was present to answer Goulds questions and those of others. The reasons he gave for the increase were the change in the scope of the project, which included relocating the nurses area. Unexpected as well were certain mechanical updates (such as the need for an additional air unit above where the reconfigured administration area would be) that were unknown until the engineers got knee-deep into their exploratory work in the building. Lastly, Loiselle reported that the current bidding market is quite unfavorable; two other projects the consulting firm is working on came back with bids that were 25 per cent and 50 per cent greater than estimated. Loiselle noted that, while he thought the project would be bid at about 10 per cent more than the original estimate (minus the proposed art room and new corridor), he also wanted to provide the district with an absolute worst-case scenario. Its also one affected by the fact that the Choconut project is considered by many contractors, a small project and Loiselle noted that the smaller the project, the greater the volatility in pricing it.
With this reality, Gould then told the administrative team that the unanticipated increase in cost was going to "kill something." He asked what their priority was: the project or full-day kindergarten.
For their parts, both elementary school principals would prefer the perfect world of being able to have both. However, given a choice, they would opt for full-day kindergarten. Superintendent Mike Ognosky pointed out that the changes to the entry at Choconut are part of a five-year safety plan. In fact, he said, renovating the Choconut entrance is the only part of the long-range plan that has not yet been attended to and one slated to be addressed in the 2006-2007 school year. Last December appeared to be a good time to see how much the reconfiguration would cost. With the latest figures, however, he suggested that perhaps it be postponed until there was a more favorable bidding climate.
Gould noted that the diesel fuel tank still had to come out of the Choconut building, and Ognosky noted that building a garage to house the fuel and other materials was another, separate project in the $20,000-$25,000 range.
On the same subject, talk was bounced around about the going ahead with the bidding process even if the project were postponed, to see what would come back. Another was seeing if Highland could scale the project back and then go out to bid with it. With time becoming critical, Loiselle didnt think there would be time to fully scale back the specifications in time for a bid process that would see construction started and completed by the time the next school year rolls around; he thought he might be able to work out other alternatives in a week or so.
What Gould thought was that, as a school district, it needed to come up with a 20- or 30-year plan as to where it wanted it to be with its buildings. "It doesnt make sense," he said, "to basically put band-aids on them," especially when the numbers get larger and larger. "We need to look at a building plan, period."
Loiselle added that the Choconut project would be kind of like a band-aid for a systemic problem that the district might want to address down the road.
And while she knew of the district parents desire for full-day kindergarten, board director Linda LaBarbera was uncomfortable in not doing anything [about the Choconut building plan] if it in any way jeopardized the safety of the students. She asked Ognosky if he was comfortable with the buildings safety.
He replied that, in the two years since a security camera and buzzer system was put into the building, "there hasnt been a single instance that has caused us alarm." Two staff members from Choconut who were in the audience said that, while the current system was not the best, they were comfortable with it.
LaBarbera then asked Choconut principal Chris McComb how he felt about the safety of the building. "Do I think the safety is where it should be? No, I dont," he replied, "But I do think its safe."
Gould felt that security is a priority of his, and other board members. But he thought it would be spinning the districts wheels to "go off and spend that kind of money." Because someone, he said, "will ask somewhere down the road, what do we do about our buildings? And weve got these band-aids on."
What he did think was that a group of board, community and administration members needed to really hunker in and see what needed to be done with the facilities. "This building [the high school] is going to need to be replaced at some point, and changes to the others. And Choconut would probably be the easiest because they have the most land. It may cost $30 million. We may not ever get reelected again," he said, "but thats okay with me." The buildings, he said, needed the addressing, for the long term and not on a piecemeal, band-aid approach.
Thus, Gould didnt see the need to advertise for bids on the Choconut project, nor did the majority of directors (directors Chris Caterson and Sean Brown were unable to attend), and the motion to advertise failed.
The remainder of the meeting addressed more familiar matters. The board approved curriculum changes to high school courses for the 2004-2005 school year, something it does at this time every year, so that school principal Wilcox and other administrators can start pre-scheduling the classes. Changes principally involve computer-oriented courses, as well as adding an advanced metal technology course. The latter would also benefit the school, since some of the curriculum would involve tool repair and manufacturing of parts that are used in the schools. Also added is a Family and Consumer Science course that the state requires all ninth-graders to take.
The board also approved changes to the Student/Parent Handbook for the upcoming school year, and assistant principal Beamish explained that these included eliminating a number of things students could not do on a school bus, addressed canine searches of the parking lot, and spelled out when and what kind of flip-flops could be worn to school this last a hot topic, apparently. Beamish consulted with members of the student council on input for the edits to the handbook.
Accepted with regret was the resignation of Rebecca Jenner as a lunchroom/playground aide at the Lathrop school, and of Kristin Potter as a substitute special ed teacher at the county correctional facility. Hired to replace Potter was Joyce Kocak. In addition, Deborah Link was appointed as a daily, emergency substitute elementary teacher.
The Board approved the payment of the usual and customary bills, as well as others, such as the last payment for replacing the Lathrop Street boiler and for new playground equipment for both the Lathrop Street and Choconut Valley elementary schools and which director of grounds and security Rick Clapper expected to start installing right away.
It also approved the 2004-2005 school calendar. The next school year will begin on a Monday, so the first week of school will also be a full week of school. Ognosky informed board members that the first day of the 2004-2005 school year is the same for all other schools in the county.
The next meeting of the Montrose Area School District board of directors is scheduled for May 14, at 6:30 p.m. in the Junior-Senior High School.
After an especially long regular board meeting that immediately preceded it, and with a Budget Committee meeting scheduled for 8 the following morning, the board of directors of the Montrose Area School District made short work of its monthly work session agenda.
It heard a request from County economic development director Liz Janoski to approve the designation of the Dean #2 plant on Route 706 west of Montrose as a KOZ property through 2010. A plastics manufacturer is leasing the property with an option to buy and could consider purchase if it is designated part of the KOZ program. Janoski explained that the owner of the business would very much like to expand it here, and anticipates creating up to 15 jobs.
For a property to participate in the KOZ program, it must have the blessing of the county, the school district, and the municipality in which it resides. The county has given it, but Bridgewater Township voted against it at its last meeting although it can revisit it at its next meeting which falls within the time frames that the approvals must be obtained.
The board was interested. Director Linda LaBarbera noted that, while the district did not want to lose about $3,000 a year in taxes if the property were to go KOZ, she also thought that the county needs jobs and their creation has to be encouraged.
But with two board members unable to attend, and one recusing himself, not enough directors were on hand for a vote on a resolution on the KOZ-proposed property. Many would be meeting the following morning for a budget committee meeting, and district superintendent Mike Ognosky would poll others by phone and get back to Janoski with the results by early in the week.
Director Mary Homan passed around a drawing of the rendition of the memorial to Steve Placko, the late and much loved principal of the Choconut Valley school. Its an all-purpose building rendered like an old-fashioned schoolhouse that will sit in the oval in front of the school and be used for many functions. It is lovely. Homan reported that the lumber to build it is bought and paid for, but she requested help in transporting it from the high school where it was delivered to Choconut, as well as help in delivering stone. She reported that Randy Miller and some students in his high school class have volunteered to build the structure. Mrs. Rita Gahring, speaking on behalf of the Choconut community very much involved in making the memorial a reality, also reported that Rick Clapper, director of grounds and security, has offered to help transport the material. And after Homan reported that the money the group raised was pretty well spent, Gahring noted that a $500 donation would be coming from the PTO.
Homan also commended the great job and well orchestrated efforts of the memorial committee, and the administration was not going to make things difficult for it. The group would like to have the building in place before school is out, and that is likely what will happen.
Assistant high school principal Mike Beamish and teacher Suzanne Bennici next addressed the board on their progress in seniors Graduation Project. Going forward, and starting in the next school year with this years sophomores, the graduation project will change dramatically. Beamish, Bennici and a committee of teachers they are working with have laid out a process for graduation projects that conform to state requirements. It involves forming 36 committees of two teachers. Each committee will work with 4-5 students on their projects, which will begin in their junior year and run throughout their senior year, culminating in a presentation before committee members. The plan includes not just formation of the committees, but also some pretty intense scheduling of not only the presentations at the end of the projects, but mentoring the students throughout them.
The board listened, will review the full report Beamish and Bennici presented, and will address it later on.
Next up on the agenda was a report from superintendent Mike Ognosky, updating members on the Student Forum. Ognosky stated that close to half an hour would be needed to go through the report. It was already late, and he knew board members would be returning to the school early the following morning. So, his idea that his report be postponed was greeted with relief.
With no other business, the group gave itself leave, at least overnight.
The next work session of the Montrose Area School District board of directors will immediately follow its regular monthly meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on May 14, at the high school.
Gets Grant $$
On April 13, the Susquehanna Boro council met for their regular meeting with vice president Mike Matis presiding in the absence of president Roy Williams.
The first item of business was a letter of resignation from council member Chad Haley; a letter sent to council stated that Mr. Haley would be unable to continue to serve as he had changed his residence and no longer lives within the boro limits. He thanked the boro voters for giving him the opportunity to serve on council. A motion carried to accept his resignation.
Secretary Margaret Biegerts report included positive news from Harrisburg, regarding a Main Street designation for the business district. A resolution is needed from council, requesting $25,000 in grant funds for facade restoration. Once the designation is granted and a design committee has completed their recommendations, the money will be made available to property owners in the business district as a one-to-one match for facade restoration. The design committee was scheduled to begin meeting in the next week.
"Working with the PA Downtown Center and the Main Street process has been very exciting," Mrs. Biegert said. "The committee is using a national, four-point approach to organization, which has proved invaluable. The committees objectives have been clarified, while members are targeting their individual strengths and talents to achieve the common goal of economic development, downtown beautification, job creation, increasing real estate valuations and a better quality of life for our residents. This new strategy has not only brought new focus and strength to the Main Street committee, but many new members as well."
With the help of boro resident Lori Martin, the committee will be developing a website to promote the area and will be completing design guidelines, conducting business traffic studies, establishing revolving funds and memorial accounts for beautification projects, developing a business district data resource directory, and recruitment and marketing plans. They will also be collecting event information from area organizations for scheduling and promotion purposes.
There was more good news from Harrisburg; a Joint Municipal Codes grant with Oakland Boro has been approved. Mrs. Biegert noted that the boros codes program has been doing well for the past three years, although Shane Lewis, the CEO is only working part-time. Mr. Lewis has actively gone after some serious code offenders and a number of houses have been cleaned up. There have been fourteen demolitions of dangerous structures, without using taxpayers money. Home values are increasing and new investors have been buying and renovating homes. The grant will allow both Susquehanna and Oakland to expand their codes programs, which in turn will expedite the process of reclaiming neighborhoods, she said.
Next item of discussion was a request from the fire department to move the fire hydrant on Main Street (near Franklin Ave.) and to install "no parking" signs at intersections. Council will contact the PA American Water Co. for information on the hydrant request, and Streets Commissioner Steve Glover with the sign request.
Although no definite date has been set, council is looking into holding another scrap metal pickup this year. The county will be sponsoring its annual tire pickup, with a drop off site in Great Bend.
Requesting time on the agenda was Lanesboro Councilman Dan Boughton. As part of Susquehannas Agility agreement with PENNDOT, some street sweeping was to have been done in Lanesboro last year but had not. Mr. Boughton asked if Lanesboros streets could be swept twice this year, once in the spring and again in the fall. This topic had been discussed at Susquehannas last meeting; Mr. Glover had noted that Lanesboro had been shortchanged due to the number of projects going on in Susquehanna, and plans to get the sweeper to Lanesboro after it has been repaired. Susquehannas obligation through the Agility program is a yearly total of forty hours of sweeping, so it is not certain whether Mr. Boughtons request for two trips to Lanesboro will be feasible.
During public comment, an audience member spoke on behalf of his son, who owns a rental property on Prospect St. He noted that a rental permit had been obtained and the property inspected. The gist of a very lengthy discussion seemed to be that he feels that property owners should have access to a copy of the codes that are used for these inspections, and that an additional inspection should be conducted after six months (at the tenants expense) to ensure that the property is being kept up. Problems cited at this particular property included a tenant who was (allegedly) growing marijuana plants, another who did not buy fuel oil and subsequently lodged a complaint about a malfunctioning furnace, and yet a third who allowed in excess of two hundred bags of household trash to accumulate. Several council members noted that it is the property owners responsibility to "screen" tenants and to ensure that the home is being taken care of.
In answer to the question raised about the codes involved in the inspections, Mr. Lewis said that they are comprised of fourteen separate volumes, which cost about $280. Copies could be made available, but the individual requesting them would be responsible for the cost of photocopies. If the code were to be strictly adhered to, he said, most likely many of the homes in the boro would not be in compliance. "Thats how technical it is." But, the boros position is that they are willing to work with property owners; the rental inspections involve issues of basic health and safety, common sense issues such as the location of electrical outlets; proper removal of garbage; chimneys; and possible hazards. In cases where violations are found, a second inspection is conducted thirty days later. The application fee, $50, covers the cost of two inspections; if no violations are found and a second inspection is not needed, half of that amount is refunded. Mr. Lewis noted that public meetings had been held two years ago, when the application requirements were first put into effect, and every (known) owner of rental property was sent a letter, explaining what the inspections would involve. And, Mr. Lewis is in the process of preparing a notice for publication that would further explain what the inspections involve.
At their next meeting, council will review proposed changes to the boros snow and curfew ordinances, as well as a proposed change to the police pension ordinance regarding changes to the disability clause.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session to discuss a legal issue.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, April 21, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
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