Please visit our kind sponsors
In some instances, tax collectors in Susquehanna County are being paid more to collect a tax than the tax they collect. Jim Jennings of Brooklyn Township told the county commissioners that this practice just doesnt make sense.
Mr. Jennings first brought the matter to the attention of the commissioners a couple of months ago. Specifically, he was referring to the occupation tax where the fee for some individuals is set at $3.40 but the tax collector is paid $3.70 for collecting it.
Last week Mr. Jennings asked the commissioners if they had a chance to look into the issue.
"Not yet," Commissioner Jeff Loomis replied.
"So for another year," Mr. Jennings said, "we are going to be paying tax collectors more to collect the tax than the tax they are collecting. As a business man, Commissioner Loomis how can you do that?"
"First of all," Mr. Loomis replied, "we have to check into the legality of the whole thing." When Mr. Jennings suggested that the tax be adjusted or eliminated, Mr. Loomis said it was "easier said than done."
"You have dealt with attorneys and lawyers," Mr. Loomis told Mr. Jennings. "We are going to investigate it but there is only so much we can do. This is one thing we have not had a chance to do."
The commissioners approved resolutions allowing two buildings in Forest City to be placed in the boroughs Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ). The move comes on the heels of similar action by the Forest City Borough Council and the Forest City Regional Board of Education.
The two buildings are the Wayne Building at Main and Center Streets and the former ABC Market in the 400 block of Main Street. Both buildings are presently empty.
Liz Janoski, director of the countys Economic Development Department, said the buildings must be brought up to code specifications before they can qualify for tax breaks allowable in KOZ.
In another matter, the commissioners set the wheels in motion for the elevator that will be installed in the courthouse. They passed a resolution that allows the county to seek offers from financial institutions on a loan of $220,000 for the elevator project. The commissioners said they expect the elevator to be operating by the end of this year.
Motions passed by the commissioners include-
-Appointing Loren Stone to the Industrial Development Authority Board to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Jack Norris.
-Accepting the resignations of Jeffrey Zerechak, drug and alcohol program administrator, effective May 14; Harold Lee, retirement, effective April 30; and Liza Balascsak, custodian, retroactive to April 8.
-Hired the following new employees: Michael Steel to a part time custodial position in the courthouse effective April 28 at $5.79 an hour; Matt Oleniacz to a part time position in the West Nile Virus protection program at $10 an hour; Steve Barondeau, West Nile Virus program at $10.40 an hour.
-Appointed Margaret Biegert of Susquehanna to the Susquehanna County Planning Commission. She replaces Cyril Cowperthwait, who resigned.
-Reappointed Dr. Kenneth Latimore and District Attorney Jason Legg to the Susquehanna County Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board for three-year terms.
And finally, meeting as the Retirement Board, adopted a resolution entering the county into an agreement with Marshall & Isley Trust Company to replace Smith Barney as consultants for the retirement fund at a cost of $10,000. The amount reflects a savings of some $14,000 less than the previous firm charged.
Harrisburg Attorney General Jerry Pappert asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear his appeal of a Pennsylvania Superior Courts opinion that reversed Dr. Stephen Schers first-degree murder conviction for the 1976 killing of his girlfriends husband, Martin Dillon.
On March 26, 2004, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed Schers 1997 first-degree murder conviction and ordered a new trial. The three-judge Superior Court panel wrote that the Susquehanna County trial judge improperly dismissed a distressed juror after deliberations had begun without an on-the-record examination by the trial judge.
In his petition to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Pappert states that the court should hear his appeal because the case presents an issue of first impression, which means that the court has not ruled on this issue in prior opinions.
The attorney general asserts in the petition that this matter affords the Court the opportunity not only to clarify the law as it applies to the replacement of jurors and to thereby give guidance to the lower Pennsylvania courts, but most importantly, to once again rectify an erroneous ruling in this case.
In the brief, Pappert explains that the replacement of a juror after deliberations have begun is a matter that has never been addressed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The case cited by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Commonwealth vs. Saunders, did not address directly or indirectly the question of whether there must be an on-the-record examination of an incapacitated juror by the court and/or the lawyers.
The petition states that the manner in which the Superior Court resolved the issue with the incapacitated juror was seriously flawed and ultimately caused the court to improperly award Scher a new trial.
The petition also states that the requirement to presume that a change in a jurys composition is, in every instance, disadvantageous to a defendant is simply inappropriate and inequitable.
The petition states where there is no evidence to show that the dismissed juror was leaning in the defendants favor and there was none here it is equally possible to conclude that the Commonwealth has been harmed by the jurors departure. In other words, where there is no evidence of a removed jurors views, the change in the jurys make-up must logically, and in all fairness, be seen as neutral.
Pappert noted that the petition was written by Chief Deputy Attorney General Amy Zapp and Senior Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina of his Appeals and Legal Services Section.
And Land Development Discussion
When the Susquehanna County Planning Commission met on April 27, the updating of the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance was the main item on the agenda.
For several months the Susquehanna County Comprehensive Plan (SCCP) had been the primary topic of business. After years in the process, the SCCP is basically finished, with the printing of brochures underway. Carson Helfrich, who was the consultant on this project, has again signed on to help with the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance. The first draft of sections 1 through 4 of this proposed ordinance has been completed and these sections were distributed at the meeting.
Planning Director Robert Templeton said, "The major difference between our current ordinance and the proposed ordinance in the first four articles is the plan processing. The proposed ordinance contains separate requirements for the processing of each type of subdivision and land development. Helfrich suggested this method and after considerable discussion, all three office personnel agreed to the new system.
In the eastern part of the county, six municipalities have joined forces to work on their comprehensive plan. Representatives from the townships of Ararat, Thompson, Gibson and Herrick as well as from Thompson and Uniondale Boroughs toured their areas on April 13 as a kick-off to their planning project. Gannett Fleming, who will be their consultant, got a first hand look at the issues facing this Eastern Susquehanna County Partnership. Also concerning this Plan, Dave Bubniak of the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission has offered to lead a pilot project to digitize the tax maps for these municipalities.
With planning in the forefront, Templeton announced that the next public forum will be to encourage citizens and municipal officials to begin the comprehensive planning process at the local level. The forum is intended to show the historic patterns of development, discuss past and present state and federal programs that have caused sprawl, talk about how to control development, and the consequences of not planning for the future. People are encouraged to attend this forum which will be held on Wednesday, May 19, 7:00 p.m. in the County Office Building conference room.
The Planning Commission voted affirmative to a one-year extension of the preliminary plan for the commercial development of Andre and Son, Inc. in Bridgewater Township where development is underway.
A one-year-extension was also granted for the preliminary building plan of the South New Milford Baptist Church.
In other business, the resignation of Planning Commission member Cy Cowperthwait was accepted with regret. He represented the Oakland, Susquehanna, Harmony, Lanesboro and Jackson area. County Commissioner Mary Ann Warren, who was in attendance, asked if the Planning Commission had a recommendation to replace Cowperthwait, as the County Commissioners make the appointment. The Planning Commission had no suggestion at this time.
The Planning Commission said, "Yes", to a $15,000 revolving loan from TREHAB for the Childrens Palace Child Care Center owned by Lynette Ryman and located in the Hallstead Borough Building, stating that it was in compliance with the County Comprehensive Plan.
The Planning Commission is looking for someone to do an internship this summer, as interns have proven to be valuable in the past. The County Commissioners have given their approval.
The next regular meeting of the Planning Commission will be held on May 25, 7:30 p.m. in the County Office Building. A workshop meeting will begin at 6:30 in the Montrose House. The public is encouraged to attend both meetings.
On the afternoon of April 28, John Edward Simpson got into an argument with Tawana Simpson, both of Lenox Township, at a neighbors house and struck her in the face. He was pushed out of the neighbors house but returned later with a gun and pointed it Tawana Simpson and said he was going to kill her. He returned to Weidas Trailer Park in the Township several hours later and was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, terroristic threats, recklessly endangerment and harassment, arraigned before District Justice Janicelli and is being held in the county jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Allen Vantassel, 48, Brackney reported he had received several harassing phone calls in a two-hour period on April 14.
Paul E. Goldy, 72, Laceyville, was not injured and was wearing a seat belt when he lost control on April 24 of the 2001 Ford F-150 truck he was driving on SR 367 in Auburn Township. He failed to negotiate a curve and his vehicle struck several guide rail posts before coming to rest. A subsequent interview revealed he was operating the truck while under the influence of alcohol. Charges are expected to be filed when the results of blood alcohol testing are received.
Clifford Fire and Ambulance crews responded to the scene of an accident on the evening of April 4 on northbound Interstate 81 in Lenox Township, when Darren Boysha of Kingsley lost control of his 1994 Jeep Cherokee when it cam across sudden and unexpected ice on the road. The Jeep hit the guardrail, overturned and came to rest on its roof. Boysha was wearing a seat belt, and was not injured. The Jeep sustained major damage.
Both Diana Flanagan, 40, Susquehanna, and Teresa Stinavage, 18, Thompson, received minor injuries when the 1995 Ford Escort that Flanagan was driving pulled out from a private driveway and into the path of a 2000 Nissan Altima that was traveling north on SR 171 and driven by Stinavage. Both vehicles were towed from the scene of the crash, which occurred on April 20.
THEFT OF MOTOR VEHICLE
State Police are investigating the theft of a gray 1990 Chevrolet Corsica sedan from the parking lot of the Parkview Hotel in New Milford on the evening of April 26. Frances Straub, New Milford, owns the car and its registration is EMN0819. Anyone with information, please call the State Police at 465-3154.
All four tires on a 1993 Ford Explorer owned by Renny Robert Travis were punctured sometime between 9 p.m. on April 20 and 2:30 a.m. on April 21 on Creek Road in Harford Township.
The intersection of the exit ramp of Interstate 81 and SR 374 in Lenox Township was the site of a three-vehicle crash at 10:30 in the morning on April 17. Daniel Rettbert, 18, Kingsley, was driving a 1994 Ford Ranger and traveling west on SR 374 when he attempted to make left turn. In so doing, he traveled into the path of Warren Tavernia, 59, Nicholson, who was traveling east on SR 374 in his 2004 Chevrolet Silverado. Tavernias Silverado struck Rebberts vehicle, which then struck a 1988 Chevy van being driven off the exit ramp by Dominick Caswell, 42, Scranton. Both Rettbert and Tavernia were taken to CMC Hospital in Scranton with minor injuries, and their vehicles towed from the scene. There was no damage to either Caswell or his vehicle.
Both Nancy OBrien, Hallstead, and Joyce Jerauld, Montrose, received minor injuries when the cars they were driving collided on SR 29 in Bridgewater Township while OBrien was waiting for oncoming traffic to pass a street sweeper. The Montrose and Silver Lake Township Ambulance Companies assisted the State Police in this April 20 incident.
THEFT BY UNLAWFUL TAKING
Between 1 a.m.-7:15 a.m. on April 26, someone took a Dewalt Air Compressor and Honda generator from the rear of a truck belonging to Richard John Kumrow while it was parked on Donovan Road in Silver Lake Township. The items are valued at $3,189.
SIMPLE ASSAULT, HARASSMENT
Blaine E. Teetsel, 32, appeared at the residence of Shawn Freeman, 27, Rush Township, on the evening of April 24 to obtain their son for visitation. When Freeman refused to relinquish the child, Teetsel punched and fractured her nose. Freeman was treated and released from Tyler Memorial Hospital.
Sean Burke, 21, Susquehanna, faces several vehicle code charges after he fell asleep at the wheel. The vehicle then when went out of control and struck a utility pole on Main Street in Great Bend. Burke was not wearing a seat belt, and received a head injury in the crash.
HARASSMENT AND DISORDERLY CONDUCT
Noelle Marie Priest arrived at the home of Karen Ann White on the evening of April 22 and got into an argument with her. Priest used foul language while yelling at White, and charges were filed against her in Harford. Both live in Clifford Township.
PROHIBITED OFFENSIVE WEAPONS
Three male juveniles are suspected of experimenting with building pipe bombs and other incendiary devices in the winter months of 2004 at Pops Hobby Lake Road in Silver Lake Township. State Police continue to investigate.
Auburn Township officials reported that over the last two months, street and road signs have been stolen.
When Patricia Barnes, Hallstead, returned to Robs Market in Great Bend Township to retrieve her purse that she inadvertently left in the shopping cart in the late morning on April 24, she discovered that someone has stolen money from it.
DISORDERLY CONDUCT-PUBLIC DRUNKENNESS
Police responded to an April 21 disturbance at a residence on Main Street in Susquehanna. There, they cited James William Donahue III, 26, for disorderly conduct and public drunkenness and also found he was wanted on an outstanding bench warrant.
A plastic bag containing a package that the post office left hanging off a mailbox on Glenwood Road in Lenox Township was removed by a passer-by on April 15.
Sometime between January and March, someone entered a garage on School Street, Harford, belonging to Michael C. Bailey and removed a KBC helmet (while, blue and yellow), Scott goggles, a Craftsman 132-piece tool set in a black case, and an ignition to a 1987 Yamaha Warrior ATV.
Dino F. Campitello, Nicholson, reported that sometime between the evening of April 6 and the next morning, someone entered the office area of Serenity Lodge on SR 374, Lenox Township, and stole cash from an unlocked safe.
Around 9:30 p.m., on April 3, Harold (William) Dibble arrived at the residence of Dennis Robinson on Pine Street, Hallstead, knocked Robinson to the ground and then kicked him in the head. Charges will be filed at District Court.
FURNISHING ALCOHOL TO MINORS
On December 12, a fatal traffic collision occurred on SR 29 in Franklin Forks which involved a minor. The investigation revealed alcohol was involved and consumed by a minor. As a result, the state police are investigating the origin of the alcohol. Anyone with information is asked by call them at 465-3154 and refer to incident number R0529392.
Oleitha M. Travis (aka) Oleita M. Travis to Gary L. Travis and Kimberly Travis, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
Thomas S. Beitelto Thomas S. Beitel and Susan K. Beitel, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Kenneth E. Thatcher and Bernita J. Thatcher to Harry Thatcher and Mary Thatcher, in Gibson, Jackson, and New Milford townships for one dollar.
US Secetary of Housing & Urban Development to Charles Joseph Albert Jr. and Marguerite Albert, in Hallstead Borough for $41,500.
Lawrence Grasso (aka) Lawrence M. Grasso to Laura A. Elllis and Shannon A. Conklin, in New Milford Township for $59,000.
Maryann T. Titko to Steven R. Hertzog and Joan Snyder Hertzog, in Clifford Township for $85,500.
Beatrice W. Luciana (Estate) to Lanesboro Borough, in Lanesboro Borough for one dollar.
James W. Mock (by sheriff) to Ace Securities Corp. Home Equity Loan Trust (by trustee), in Montrose for $5,292.
Robert Fitzsimmons and Lorry Fitzsimmons to Michael T. Goskowski and Josephine A. Goskowski, in Forest City for one dollar (conveying interest in land agreement back to owner).
Colleen Dougherty (nbm) Colleen J. Turkowski, and Jeffrey Turkowski to Irene S. Lopez and Willliam F. Miller, in Rush Township for $111,000.
Craig R. Reeves and Lisa L. Reeves to Santafer M. Wilson and Craig R. Reeves, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Robert J. Swingle and Jill W. Swingle to Roy E. Cole Jr. and Kariann Cole, in Montrose for $70,040.
Donna Fekette to Gary Wilson, in Great Bend Township for $54,500.
Carol Cottrell and Arnold Cottrell to Mark Bunnell, in Harmony Township for $78,000.
Susquehanna County Land Sales Inc. to Joseph Calamari, in Harford Township for $19,000.
Donald W. Brink (by sheriff) to WM Specialty Mortgage, in Great Bend Township for $1,688.
Brian T. Rockefeller and Monica S. Rockefeller to Willard R. Rockefeller and Gordon Rockefeller, in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Andrew R. Bednarz Jr. to Curtis I. Hinkle and Darlene G. Hinkle, in New Milford Township for $33,500.
Jack S. Otto and Roberta E. Otto to Konstantinos Konstas and Sophie Konstas, in Montrose for one dollar (release of first refusal).
Glynn Shifler to Mark Anderson, in Lenox Township for $45,000.
Ordie E. Price, Aline J. Price, Stephen G. Selige, Carol R. Selige, Ted Neubert and Lucinda W. Neubert to Lucinda W. Neubert in Clifford and Lenox townships for one dollar.
Amy Whitbeck (nbm) Amy Parry and Robert Parry to Joseph R. Rybnick Jr., in Lenox Township for $57,000.
Marian S. Burr (trustee), Melvin O. Burr, Donna A. Burr (aka), Donna M. Burr to Michael E. Merritt and Barbara J. Merritt, in Silver Lake Township for $98,000.
Deutsche Bank National Trust Company (fka) Bankers Trust Co. of CA to Jeffrey E. Wright, in Friendsville Borough for $12,500.
Keith Gunn and Maxine Gunn to Jeffrey A. Gunn, in New Milford Township, for one dollar.
Manzek Land Co. Inc. to Paul J. Knotek and Susan E. Knotek, in Rush Township, for $47,900.
Twenty-two municipalities belong to both COG Sewage and COG Codes Enforcement Committees. Thats a lot, and they account for about half of the municipalities in the county. The new state Uniform Construction Codes account for much of the Codes Committees recent growth in membership, and its Sewage Committee makes for timely and efficient enforcement of municipality and state regulations over what can and cant be done.
Elected officials representing many member municipalities attended the regular COG meetings on the last Tuesday of last month.
Rick Pisasik presided over the Sewage Enforcement Committee meeting and, after housekeeping items were taken care of, notified members that the group has received a reimbursement check for $130,900 from the state Department of Environmental Protection. So, there is money.
He also brought to members attention a request by a couple of county residents to sponsor them for SEO coursework. One request was made by a fellow from Forest Lake Township, whos been working for free with SEO Duane Wood. The other request comes from a Clifford woman who is a water test technician in the private sector, has taken engineering courses, done soil testing, and the company shes currently working for is being sold. Both individuals would like to be SEOs, and courses are set for August and November.
Wood explained that if COG sponsors these people, it costs the group nothing, but it does save the individuals taking the test a few hundred dollars.
Considerable discussion took place about the pros and cons of sponsoring people for the SEO coursework. No one wanted to make it appear as though, in so doing, that people sponsored would have employment with COG although Pisasik thought there was a good possibility that another one would need to be hired next year. Then it was bandied about what kind, and if reimbursement for an individuals cost of the course would or could be reimbursed, should they later be hired by COG, and after how long a time of employment.
So, it was decided to develop a policy for a situation like this and present it at the groups next regular meeting, where it will be once more discussed.
Wood also reported to members on sewage enforcement or lack of it when a structure has a change of use that results in different, and oftentimes more, sewage use, and issues that need to be addressed. By example, he described a home in a local township that is legally limited, sewage-wise, to three people, yet its being turned into a personal care home. Of people who turn a portion of their home, say, into a hair salon and, thus, change the flow. Of a single-family home being turned into a two-family one. Of a garage being turned into a residence. "Its a change of flow, and for some, its a change of use," he says, "Its land development for some and thats changing residential use into commercial use." Wood said that owners of places such as this should be going through the county Planning agency.
The SEOs at the meeting agreed that the county usually doesnt respond to things like this, and they should. Some members thought the county group wanted input from municipalities and their ordinances, but Pisasik noted that the subdivision and land-use ordinance in the county include definitions that would apply in some of the situations Wood described.
SEO Jim Tracy told members that the strongest thing their municipalities had in situations like those described above were their local municipal ordinances on sewage. They should notify him or Wood, and handle what to do on a case-by-case basis.
Following up on some business discussed in February, Wood mentioned that several members had spoken with him about certain new sewage treatment systems. The DEP requires that a general ordinance be adopted before COG can request bonding and require a maintenance agreement with the owner of such a system. A sample of the ordinance was distributed at the groups February meeting. Secretary Karen Trynoski reported that Springville, Silver Lake and Franklin Township have passed it, and the committee would like the group to adopt it as well over the next few months so that when SEOs go into member municipalities, they know what they are working with regarding the new systems. Pisasik suggested sending a copy of the ordinance directly to the municipal offices for their consideration at upcoming meetings, and for a vote on whether to advertise it or not under the COG umbrella as Codes members are doing with the UCC.
After the group decided not to take any action on requiring a permit for chemical or portable toilets, the meeting was adjourned.
COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS
Charlie Fahringer sat in for COG president Elliot Ross and introduced a guest speaker, Sergeant Bryce from the State Police Barracks at Gibson, who was invited by Bill Bayne.
The state police have primary police responsibility for much of the county, and the officer reported that many townships have become victims of crime, stealing and defacing road signs, breaking into municipal buildings and taking power tools and other equipment, and causing damage. And this costs residents tax dollars. In Auburn Township, more than 42 signs have been stolen, and the officer said "that gets to be a terrible expense and burden on taxpayers."
He explained that the State Police have Target-Hardening programs available for municipal buildings which include recommendations on how to make them more secure and unattractive to those who would like to do damage. They would arrange to present the program to any municipality that requests it. "We are anxious to serve you as well as we can," he said.
One thing he suggested off that bat was that members write down the serial number that appears on any piece of equipment their municipalities buy, especially common items such as steel chain or reciprocating saws and the like, in addition to marking on the equipment that it is the property of the particular municipality. That way, the number can be entered into a database and that will help the police.
He took questions from the floor. One member asked if the police would be willing to come out and target speeders on certain roads. Yes. The officer replied that they recently did that it Dimock and it was successful. Mike Greene of Thompson Township said the police did the same for his municipality and that it acts as a deterrent.
What about radar enforcement on dirt roads? If they had a speed limit where radar could be enforced (and it cant, on 25 mph roads), and signs were posted that the speed limit was radar enforced, sure, the police would come and help. "We cant work radar in 25 mph zones," said Bryce, "but we can make our presence known and enforce such things as going too fast for safe driving. Believe me," he added, "even a traffic check can make a difference." He said checks were recently conducted in the Great Bend-Hallstead area, and the data coming in show that it has helped slow some speeders down.
Four wheelers? "They are terribly difficult to enforce," said Bryce. "Its a Ford versus a Kawasaki, and were not going to win that. There is an inherent danger in a chase with a highly mobile vehicle, and troopers have to make a decision." What he did suggest was that perhaps landowners could help the state police in identifying those who drive the four-wheelers or get an identification number for it. This could be a neighbor whose peace or property is disturbed when the person whose land adjoins theirs invites some four-wheeling buddies over. "Weve had successful prosecutions this way, and we will continue to have them when were provided these kinds of information."
What about work zone areas? The State Police would be happy to partner with municipalities to help them.
Randy Decker from PENNDOT was up next, and he passed along an on-line/800-number auction that the department is conducting, making available to municipalities prior to public sale surplus PENNDOT heavy equipment. Some of the equipment up for sale is in Clarks Summit (the rest in Indiantown Gap), and includes 170 items, from backhoes to police cruisers, dump trucks, tractors, tar kettles, and lots of other stuff. Decker passed around information sheets on the auction, but ran short there being such a full house with so many new members and would drop off more at COG offices during the week.
Bill Bayne reported on efforts to modify the current Clean and Green laws that have caused the loss of so much tax revenue to just about every municipality in the county. He said that a bill introduced by Rep. Sandra Major was passed by the state House of Representatives, but is now stalled in the Senate. Simply put, the Major bill would allow a base acre to be charged on agricultural and forest reserve, but not on active reserve. "Since 90 percent of the land in the county in Clean and Green is not on active reserve," said Bayne, "it would help our tax base considerably."
He urged members to contact state Senators Madigan and Lemmond and encourage them to vigorously back the house bill.
Harfords Rick Pisasik reported to members on the status of the grant for new laptops for field for use by SEOs and CEOs, computers for the office and their interconnectivity, and networking for efficient communications. The group has sent in a requisition for funding and received several quotes on the equipment (office PCs, laptops and a server) and is all set to go.
There was considerable discussion about back-up hard drives and servers and gigabytes, but the net result was that the group approved the purchase of some pretty sophisticated equipment that will do all it wants and needs it to do, for around $19,000 of the grant money. After speaking with the company that is doing extensive work in county offices, the group was pleased with its recommendations and decided to use its services, without going out to bid, to install and configure the computers and the network and, perhaps, maintain them. The consulting firms hourly fee was reported to be $85 $60 when it accesses and updates the network from its own office instead of traveling to COGs in New Milford, and it does extensive work in county offices as well.
Before this meeting of COG adjourned, it welcomed new member Great Bend Township to it and its Codes Enforcement Committee. Township supervisors Walt Galloway and George Haskins were there for the welcoming.
CODES ENFORCEMENT COMMITTEE MEETING
Codes Committee president Ted Plevinsky also welcomed Great Bend Township, as well as Brooklyn, to the group. Then he read a letter from Lanesboro Borough notifying the Committee that it has decided to leave the group, opting out of using its services as of March 2.
A good deal of time in this meeting was dedicated to letting members know that, in order to advertise their municipality under the COG umbrella, they absolutely had to pass their resolution to advertise with the group and letting their constituencies know that they would be discussing the ordinances to opt in or out of UCC at their next meetings. COG members also have the option of advertising and adopting, as part of the group, what is being called by the group an "assessment ordinance," and this would cover structures (garages, sheds, gazebos, and so forth) that are not addressed by the state UCC, but would still be assessable for municipal tax purposes.
All members but five had provided secretary Karen Trynoski with the appropriate resolutions, and she will work hard with them to make the deadline for advertising. The deadline was the day after the meeting, but shed see if she could find another couple of days. If these municipalities dont make the deadline, they will need to advertise on their own and pay the costs of advertisement on their own, too.
Once advertised, member municipalities will need to decide at their June meetings whether to opt in, pass the ordinance stating such and send it to the state. Effective date for all COG members will be July 1.
They will also have to adopt the same fee schedule for UCC inspections; the builder/contractor/property owner pays the fees, not the municipality. Suggested fees were distributed should a municipality also decide to adopt the non-UCC or assessment ordinance; however, they can determine their own fees for inspections on these structures.
Mike Greene from Thompson Township put together a nifty chart for members that illustrated their options when it comes to Codes enforcement and COG. It can choose to handle building permits for UCC or non-UCC ("assessment") or both, to enforce one or the other or both or neither.
Plevinsky brought up some sticky items in House Bill 2149 which has been passed by that legislature and which, it seems is attempting to change certain parts of the UCC as it relates to recreational cabins. Plevinsky said that it "wants us to make sure they have insurance, carbon dioxide detectors, fire alarms, ensure that a business is not being run in one," and other similar tasks. "We know there are problems in areas like ours with a lot of recreational cabins that sometimes become full-time residences." Trynoski mentioned the sewage side of things, too, where sometimes theres no place to site the sewage if a cabin is turned into a residence because of misuse or lack of sewage facilities earlier.
So, this is another thing that members were urged to take up with their state representatives and senators.
In other preparation for the onset of UCC, the group expects to have a toll-free number set up by June 1 for use by municipalities where the New Milford exchange is not a local call for them. It will also begin setting up an appeals board; two members have already volunteered for what is expected to be a three-person board with several alternates in case one of the sitting members needs to recuse himself or herself.
Before adjourning for the evening, one member suggested that perhaps several pots of coffee could be available for the drinking during the meeting. It was a long night.
The next regular meeting of the Council of Governments is scheduled for May 18, 7 p.m. in COG office in the New Milford Borough Building on Main Street.
The Blue Ridge School Board's workshop on April 26 was devoted almost exclusively to consideration of a new budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. Final revenue figures aren't available yet because the state legislature and governor haven't finished wrangling over their contributions. But expenses next year are expected to exceed $14 million, and with no increase in tax rates.
Before they dove into the budget details, Board members were taken on a tour of the facility by their leader, Board President Alan Hall. He wanted to point out a few specific areas of interest, and began with another look at the completed fitness room, which has become an integral part of the High School physical education program; Middle School students have just begun participating as well. Sparkling clean, with its brand new equipment distributed in a neat and orderly configuration, the fitness facility was in stark contrast to the next stop on the tour, the storage area behind the band room. Mr. Hall pointed out scattered piles of unfiled sheet music, and three large cardboard boxes on a top shelf containing nearly new band uniforms. Up some stairs and down some halls brought the tour to the art room in the Elementary School, a warren of paper scraps and unfinished projects, where Mr. Hall pointed out the general disorder and open containers of paint. The point of the tour, he said, was to demonstrate some areas that have an impact on the budget that his colleagues were about to consider.
Budget presentations began with the Principals, who assemble their submissions from the requests of their department heads. The Elementary School budget is slightly larger than last year, but smaller than the year before. According to Principal Robert Dietz, the library will get more money to start bringing it up to the level of similar facilities in neighboring districts. Mr. Dietz did not ask for any new textbooks, but will be purchasing additional components of series materials already in use.
Middle School Principal John Manchester's submission includes more than $33,000 in new texts in science, social studies and history, and typing. Most textbooks these days come with additional items that may include special teacher materials and CDs and software. At that, Mr. Manchester's budget request was barely $10,000 higher than last year.
The High School also expects to acquire some new texts and instructional materials, primarily to support two new course offerings. One will be a mandatory class in career planning. The other is a new initiative to begin development of a vocational/technology curriculum. Blue Ridge recently joined the Northern Tier Tech Prep Consortium and hopes to bring vo-tech training back to the campus, beginning with a course in computer repair and support under the direction of the district's Technology Coordinator, John Ketchur. The course hopes to prepare students for A+ certification. Along the way they will be able to help Mr. Ketchur support the many computers in the school. According to High School Principal Michael Thornton, 30 Blue Ridge students have been attending classes at the Elk Lake center this year, and 45 have already expressed interest for next year. So far the new program at Blue Ridge is not expected to require additional staff. Money has also been added to the High School budget for additional staff development and "student experiences," field trips and other excursions to acquaint students with the world outside Blue Ridge. The High School budget as presented will actually be about $13,000 less than this year. That savings could have been absorbed by a suggestion from a couple of Board members to purchase robes for the entire chorus. The Board as a whole decided instead to purchase only enough robes (20-25) for chorus members who perform off campus, reasoning that the additional cost could not be justified for so few performances.
Substantial funds are allocated in the new budget for supporting technology. $40,000 will be spent to replace aging computers throughout the schools, along with 25 computer tables. Some 173 student desks will be replaced, as well as 12 more teacher desks. According to Business Manager Loren Small, no "major" facilities projects are planned for the new year. The floors in both gyms will be resurfaced, as will some of the parking lots. Calibrating thermostats throughout will cost about $11,000. And the new municipal sewer system is expected to connect to the campus before the end of this summer. The biggest cost increases will be for insurance, especially medical insurance for the staff and faculty. Overall the budget is projected to be 9.5% higher than last year, but federal, and especially state, subsidies are expected to rise enough to cover that, so the budget does not anticipate an increase in taxes.
The budget will probably be formally presented at the next business meeting, scheduled for May 10. The community will have 30 days for review before the Board adopts it in June.
The Blue Ridge School Board generally meets twice a month, on the second and fourth Mondays, beginning at 7:30 p.m., in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
The Clifford Township Board of Supervisors has agreed to move forward with a sewer system for the Dundaff/Crystal Lake areas of the township. However, a final decision remains on hold unless or until the townships grant application to finance the project is approved.
"It is all contingent upon the grant," said John Regan, chair of the board. "If we dont get the grant, wheres the money going to come from?"
The decision to proceed with the second phase of the plan was made at a special meeting that attracted some 40 township residents. Most of them appeared satisfied with the information offered by David Klepadlo whose engineering firm updated Cliffords Act 537 Plan.
A motion approved by the supervisors authorizes the township to ask the Rural Development Department of the US Department of Agriculture to arrange financing for the project including a grant of 75 percent of the cost and an interest rate under five percent on a township loan to finance the remainder of the construction costs. It calls for the Crystal Lake and Dundaff areas to be connected to the Greenfield Township Sewer Authoritys collection lines and treatment facility off Route 247. Premature cost estimates for the project were set at slightly less than $2 million.
Approximately 150 units in the project area will be hooked into the Greenfield Sewer Authority Plant on Route 247. They will be assessed a one-time hookup fee that is expected to reduce the overall cost to $1.75 million.
If the USDA comes across with 75 percent of the cost, unofficial estimates put the townships final cost at about $450,000. The plan calls for homeowners who are tied into the sewer system to be assessed user fees; the project is expected to be self-liquidating, which means that no township funds will be required.
In another matter, the township received one bid for road work and it was enough to satisfy the supervisors who awarded a contract to Barhite Excavating. Barhite will grade and re-crown the township roads at a cost of $16,500 which the supervisors believe is less than what it would be if the township did the work.
And in a related matter, the supervisors agreed to rent a roller from Barhite for 30 days at a cost of $1,800. The price does not include fuel or an operator, which was bid as an alternate at $55 an hour.
Harford Township Supervisors met on Saturday, April 24, to avoid a conflict with the primary election on Tuesday, April 27, when the township building will be a polling place. It was a pleasant meeting on a pleasant Spring morning, and covered a number of miscellaneous topics, beginning with the Odd Fellows Hall.
Supervisor Rick Pisasik reported no additional responses to the Supervisors' solicitation of opinion about what to do with the old building in the center of the village. He had asked for ideas about what the building might be used for if it was kept and renovated. So far, however, according to Mr. Pisasik, responses have been "overwhelmingly to take it down." Asked what the decision point might be, Mr. Pisasik wouldn't be pinned down to numbers, but he allowed that the trend seems to be toward a referendum in November that would give the Supervisors the authority to eventually demolish the structure. He was also asked about the deadline for getting a question on the ballot. He didn't know, but said that July certainly would be soon enough for the Supervisors to come to a decision. He did ask colleague and Township Secretary Sue Furney to contact the county for more information.
The Supervisors accepted a bid from Garry Foltz to proceed with more repairs to the Township office building for $2,230, as part of a multi-phase project outlined by Mr. Foltz some time ago. Asked if the township shouldn't solicit bids for such projects, Mr. Pisasik said that expenditures over $4,000 require at least multiple telephone estimates, but that, in this case, each phase of the project has been handled as a separate item. He also said that the township has had trouble finding contractors - especially licensed electrical contractors - for such small jobs, and that the township had established a satisfactory relationship with Mr. Foltz.
The work that was approved will be confined so far to the office area of the building. Assistant Roadmaster George Sansky asked for approval to fix the floor in the shop as well. He said that work to install a floor drain was begun some years ago and never completed. The Supervisors allowed him $300 to finish the installation, including concrete to close the open area in the floor.
Mr. Sansky also reported that the brakes on the township's backhoe are beginning to fail, leaking brake fluid that is damaging other parts. He said that repairs could cost as much as $5,000, but suggested that trading in the backhoe for a new model might be more cost effective. He was directed to bring more detailed information to the Supervisors at their next meeting.
Mr. Sansky and his road crew should be donning brightly colored visibility outer wear when on the job, but so far the Supervisors haven't been able to locate a vendor for the clothing that was recommended by the township's insurance carrier. It is thought that the township already owns some older-style clothing for this purpose, but no one recalls it being used, and, according to Terry VanGorden, "we don't know where they're at."
The local Fire Company knows about safety, and the township's current Emergency Management Coordinator, Ted Batzel, has asked for a deputy. The Supervisors selected Charlene Moser as the most qualified.
Visitors will soon be able to find the Mountain View school campus more easily. As they did for Blue Ridge a few years ago, the state Department of Transportation will be installing signs at well-traveled intersections pointing to the schools, in this case at both ends of state Route 106. Harford was asked to approve about 8 pages of paperwork that will allow PENNDOT to install the signs on U.S. Route 11 in the Kingsley area.
The Harford Township Supervisors meet in public session twice a month, on the second Saturday at 10:00 a.m., and on the fourth Tuesday, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
On March 26, the Starrucca Borough Council conducted a special meeting at the Starrucca Community Hall to authorize the payment of a bill.
Present for the meeting were Council President Pete Downton and members Mary Ann Debalko, Paul Everett, Lou Gurske, Helen Haynes and Robert Weldy.
At the March 1 council meeting, Dave Hobart, who was under contract to plow and cinder borough roads during the 2003-2004 winter, had presented a bill of $2,147.50 to the council for services rendered between February 2 and February 22, 2004.
At 7:01 P.M., Mr. Downton called the special meeting to order observing that Mr. Hobart had requested the borough pay the bill or some portion of it as soon as possible and that this March 26 meeting had been called for that purpose.
The borough treasurer reported that at this moment, the borough had $1,120.94 in the checking account holding monies from the state Liquid Fuels Tax Fund and $665.55 in the Liquid Fuels savings account.
A brief discussion of what to do followed: Mr. Hobart's bill exceeded the amount of Liquid Fuels money available. However, PENNDOT had promised to make new moneys available to the borough in early April.
Mr. Weldy moved that $500.00 be transferred from the Liquid Fuels savings account to the Liquid Fuels checking account, that $1,500.00 be paid to Mr. Hobart immediately and that a decision on when and how to pay the balance of the bill be put off until the April meeting. Mrs. Haynes voted no on the motion; all others voted yes.
There being no further business, meeting adjourned.
News | Living | Sports | Schools | Churches | Ads | Events
Military | Columns | Ed/Op | Obits | Archive | Subscribe