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Harford was first settled in 1790, and it's a shame that none of the original cabins still stand in the historic little village. There remain, however, several houses dating from 1840 and before, and Bronson Pinchot is determined to restore them to their original appearance and function, or as nearly as possible 165 years hence. In the process, he hopes to also restore some of the town's more recent vitality. In a long telephone interview, Mr. Pinchot described some of his current work and future plans for his new home in Harford.
Mr. Pinchot first saw Harford some five years ago, and fell in love with it immediately, a vision from his mother's lifelong remembrances of visits to small towns in Pennsylvania. "My mother put this passion into my head for Pennsylvania," he says. His immediate attraction was to the large Greek Revival mansion at the center of the village built in 1839-1840 by Joab Tyler, subsequently owned by the town's renowned (state) Senator Edward E. Jones, and since known variously as the Tyler House or the Senator's House, and by some as the Aton House.
A TV, film and stage actor (most widely known from his co-starring role as Balki Bartokamous in the long-running sitcom, Perfect Strangers), Mr. Pinchot has been collecting "architectural fragments" all his adult life. Living in a New York city loft several years ago, he began looking at Greek Revival houses, first in the Carolinas. But he couldn't imagine himself living in a house built by slave labor, so when he found a reference to a similar house in Harford, Pennsylvania, he drove out to take a look. "I turned the corner, and there's Harford!" When he saw the house, he told the agent, who was about to describe its minor deficiencies, that he didn't care about any of that, and bought it on the spot. His many far-flung projects notwithstanding, he is at pains to stress that Harford is now his home. Until he feels that his projects in Harford are substantially complete, he said, "I have to stay close to home." He said he made a commitment a year ago to be there as much as possible.
The house most recently had been the headquarters of an environmental organization called Ecologia, used for offices, and to house visiting delegations from abroad.
He said that he wanted the house to know that it was "a home again." "[Old houses] have souls," he said. "I feel terrible when they're neglected." So the first Christmas after Mr. Pinchot moved in, he placed decorated trees in the front windows on both the upper and lower floors, shining out between the large white pillars that distinguish the mansion along the village's main street. And then he set about restoring the noble place to its former grandeur.
"I'm not doing this house as much as undoing the house," he says. "I'm not big on adding." For example, he has removed all overhead lighting from the house. He doesn't plan it all out in advance, however. He says that it's important to just "stand back and see what the house tells you."
The four large Ionic columns that front the house are each carved from a single log. Cracks in the wood had set the deep flutes askew, so he had them painstakingly recarved. He has found an "enormous amount of period detail" in old Harford houses, reclaiming original flooring, window frames and other details. He pays extravagant attention to those details, extending to shades of color in the various layers of paint that cover walls and window frames, which he tries to reproduce during restoration. He has even insisted that some of the flooring be replaced with hand-forged, square-headed nails; and he has used "milk paint" from a manufacturer in Lancaster to reproduce original interior finishes.
Nevertheless, Mr. Pinchot says that he wants to be responsive to the comments of Harford residents as he proceeds. At one point, after the exterior of the mansion had been painted in a shade he thought more "period correct" (a "custard white" he called it), a long-time resident told him that it was always remembered as whiter than that. So he had it repainted in a different, "super-white" shade.
In the 1970's, the house was "written up" by the Atons for listing with the National Register of Historic Places. Mr. Pinchot says that the Park Service (which runs the Register) is still interested in the house, and in Harford, as "a group of buildings in an early context."
But "it's not about a bronze plaque." It is, after all, his home. He wanted a private garden, so he made a stone wall magically appear in the side yard. The original wall belonged to Cooper Van Cott, his landscaper. Mr. Pinchot subsequently discovered a cupola from a school in Camden, New Jersey with a green copper dome that he "just had to have." So he bought it and installed it in the curved crook of the garden wall.
He tried to get along with the radiators he found in the house. But when one of them exploded, endangering other irreplaceable elements, he installed a more efficient – and safer – modern heating plant. And, since he likes fireplaces, there are more now than the two that originally served the grand house.
While he was restoring his own house, he became concerned with the view from his windows. He describes his own house as the "focal point residence," surrounded by smaller homes, "all in the vocabulary of Greek Revival". And he described the town as it might be pictured in a snow-globe: a small village in winter with children laughing in the quietly falling snow. The dark, stucco Odd Fellows Hall next door, dating from 1917, is owned by Harford Township. Mr. Pinchot has made his position on that issue very clear: he recently had images made to show what the village (and his house) would look like from two directions with the old Town Hall removed. What he could do himself was to try to improve the condition of some of the other surrounding properties.
He purchased a house across the street that had belonged to the late Jim Chamberlain, and that had stood vacant for nearly 20 years after a fire. A lawsuit involving that property and the one next door "went poof" when he purchased that one, too. He first removed the ruined back wing of the Chamberlain building, in the process revealing the trees in the back yard. Restoration is currently under way on the remaining section, fronting the street, which also dates from about 1840. Mr. Pinchot said that when it is finished, he will just enjoy it for a while, and then perhaps put a retired couple in it, "to look after me, while I look after them," he said.
The other house (adjacent to the Post Office) he describes as "a particularly pretty house," "a lovely little federal house." Once restored, he plans to put it at his mother's disposal, however she might choose to use it. "That's basically her house," he says.
The post office building itself, a matter of no small importance in the village, will also undergo restoration. For example, the metal roof will be replaced with cedar shakes; and the attic vent in the false front of the little building will be removed. Mr. Pinchot hopes, however, to move the functions of the village Post Office, to the other building he has acquired, the late Deli Llama, the last store in Harford.
In early discussions the Postal Service was assuming that Mr. Pinchot wanted funding assistance for the move. When he assured them that he would "foot the bill," their attitude changed dramatically. He recently received word that the Postal Service has approved the move, should he ultimately choose to take that direction. Specifically, they have condoned the concept of the move, and the idea of the post office being under the same roof as a grocery store/coffee shop. They have said that they intend to move toward a final resolution in 2005, beginning with a visit by Postal Service officials. Mr. Pinchot said that it appeared that they had been weighing the possibility of closing the Harford P.O. entirely. The move effectively avoids that unhappy conclusion.
With a pair of local partners, Debbie Smith and Holly Robinson, Mr. Pinchot intends to renovate the store building (he doesn't like vinyl, so "off comes the siding," he said), yet maintain it as a store and small cafe, much as it was under previous owners. Asked if he really expects such a store to make a profit in a village that has had difficulty keeping a store in business in recent years, he said he wasn't concerned with that. The operation of the store will be up to his partners. What it will be, and how it will operate, will be the "brainchild of my partners," who he hopes will listen to customers and neighbors for ideas. But, if it doesn't work out, he pledged to "carry" it himself. He has cautioned his partners not to place the tables and chairs just yet, however, since a final configuration including a post office hasn't been decided.
His own concern is with "how things look and feel." Harford "has a specific sort of voice." He has no immediate plans for the old post office building once it is restored. "If it's fixed up, and looks pretty ." He vows to "maintain it just as it is forever." But he does have a name for the new store. It will be called "Minnie Tinker's," after a woman who taught piano to local youngsters at her home there, including Eloise Masters, who has been "so kind and supportive" of his efforts in Harford.
None of this comes cheap. Mr. Pinchot sold a substantial library and some other treasured items to finance his projects in Harford. He has also received generous support from Community Bank in Clarks Summit, which he says has accepted his vision and been very accommodating in providing supplemental financing for these projects.
What else has he in mind for Harford? He said he would be done, "when there aren't any more eyesores in Harford." He said that District Justice Gene Franklin has said he needs a new courtroom; perhaps it could move to the second floor of Minnie Tinker's. He is particularly pained by the appearance of the old country store in the center of the village. He asks, "What is it that the town needs" that money can fix? He concedes that there aren't enough "crazy actors" to go around, but he wants to make at least Harford live again.
So the history of Harford takes yet another turn about the large old mansion on Main Street that has been known by so many names. It may soon become the Pinchot House, but echoes of its former residents live on. During the restoration, Mr. Pinchot found a letter in the attic, perfectly preserved, from the children of Joab and Abigail Tyler. The children were visiting kin in Attleborough, Massachusetts while the house was under construction. According to Mr. Pinchot, the letter began, "Dear Respected and Beloved Parents."
The Blue Ridge School Board had a workshop on November 22 at 7:30 p.m., but if you arrived for that, you missed the part that many had come to hear about. Three of the Board's committees had their own meetings before the general session, including the Transportation Committee, which has been studying a plan to switch to "single-tier" busing.
The Facilities and Grounds Committee met first, however, to review current projects and the condition of the schools' physical plant. The major expansion plan proposed earlier this year has been on hold for several months, but there are always things to do around the campus to keep it healthy. Committee chair Harold Empett had pictures of the stairway behind the Elementary School that lead up to the playground, and declared that they would be removed this week. The wooden stairs have been there at least since 1990, according to Principal Robert Dietz. Mr. Dietz acknowledged that the rickety stairs have been a "headache" for years, yet he strongly objected to removing the stairs without a plan to replace them immediately. He said that children using the playground during the lunch periods would cause serious disruption elsewhere in the schools if they could not use the stairs. He pledged to inspect the stairs daily himself to ensure that they remain safe, until a permanent solution can be found. Business Manager Loren Small has been trying to get an architect's plan (necessary for major projects like this that depend on state funding) for a replacement staircase. He estimated that a permanent replacement could cost as much as $50,000.
Mr. Empett reported that he and Alan Hall, Mike Bloomer and a Mr. Stone had collaborated to do some preventive maintenance on the bleachers in the gym, refurbishing and replacing some of the wheels, and cleaning and lubricating the mechanisms of the 20-year-old seating system, which was upgraded about 10 years ago to allow the bleachers to be moved electrically. Mr. Small told the committee that, although parts can still be found, replacement bleachers of the same type are no longer available. There was also some discussion about recent changes in PIAA rules that require coaches to stay three feet from the playing floor during a game, meaning that they will have to use the first row of bleachers.
Mr. Empett also suggested that a full survey of the campus be done, perhaps to aid in the purchase of an additional strip of land on the lower athletic field that is privately owned but currently used by some track and field athletes. At the general session, Board President Alan Hall said that a full survey had been done as recently as 1994, and asked the administration to locate those materials in order to avoid the cost of a new survey.
The Transportation Committee drew the most attention at the workshop, as it continued discussions about switching to a "single-tier" busing plan. About 10 years ago Blue Ridge changed from the single-tier system to the current schedule, which now has most of the buses making two trips morning and afternoon. That move cost the District over $300,000 and caused changes in schedules throughout the schools. Now Committee chair Joel Whitehead is hoping to recoup some of that money by switching back. Unfortunately, the administration now says that the savings would probably be only about $32,000 per year, tops. Committee members, parents, and bus drivers seem almost unanimously opposed to the proposal to change back to a system that would have the buses making only one trip each, morning and afternoon. Board member Priscinda Gaughan asked, why "work so hard to fix something that's not broken?" since the savings are relatively modest compared to the overall budget, safety might not be noticeably improved, and school schedules would have to be shuffled to accommodate the change.
Although a switch to single-tier busing would save approximately 300 total miles per day, and possibly reduce the potential for accidents, participants in the discussion found many more reasons not to make the move: each bus ride would be longer; younger and older students would be mixed on the same bus; more children of mixed ages would spend more time unsupervised at bus stops; if there is an accident, more students would be at risk because the buses would be full; a fuller load is more distracting to the drivers.
Mr. Empett noted that there has been one accident each of the past three years. Fortunately, none was very serious. One driver said that his empty bus was hit by a teenage driver. It was suggested that the risk to the children would not be greater, since each still makes only one trip each way per day.
Some suggested that the change wouldn't actually save money either. At least six more buses would be required from contractors, and Superintendent Robert McNamara reported that the food service manager estimated a need for two more part-time employees to accommodate the greater concentration of students for the breakfast meal.
So, although Mr. Hall declared some months ago that "there will be single-tier busing" next year, opposition to the plan is strong; even faculty and administrators seem to lack enthusiasm for it.
When the full Board gathered for the general session, Mr. Hall started off by presenting each of the principals with a Keystone Achievement Award, a large blue and gold "plaque" in the shape of the Pennsylvania keystone. The awards recognized the schools' achievement of "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind guidelines for the past two years. Schools are expected to continuously improve performance in reading/language arts, mathematics, and graduation and attendance rates.
The two newest programs in the Elementary School are quickly gaining popularity. Movie night, which last presented "Shrek 2", will come up again on December 17, an opportunity for families to enjoy an inexpensive evening together watching the move "Elf".
And the after-school dance program is under way, directed by Helene Yelverton of Conklin. The dance classes, proposed by a parent based on a similar program in Montrose, are funded by parents. Some 55 children are already enrolled.
The next meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board, a business session, will take place on Monday, December 6, beginning at 7:30 p.m., in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
Harford Supers Are Acting On Vote
The official part of the Harford Supervisors' meeting on November 23 was very short. The agenda consisted of just one item: the Odd Fellows Hall. With the recent vote favoring removal of the restrictive covenants from the deed, the Supervisors are proceeding to have it done through the courts.
At the last meeting the Supervisors decided to request a letter from the Fire Company, the prior owners of the property, clarifying their support for removing the restrictions from the deed. They also decided to ask the township's attorney to make the necessary preparations for taking the matter before a judge.
Rick Pisasik reported that the solicitor is now suggesting that the Fire Company be asked "to join in a petition to the court." That is, instead of simply providing a letter supporting the action, they would become a partner in the action. The attorney said that, while joint action isn't strictly necessary, it might assist the proceeding.
Pressed for more information about what might be done with the property once the covenants are removed, Mr. Pisasik was not willing to venture a position. "I want the covenants removed," he said. Taking the process step by step, the Supervisors would then move to solicit input from the community about possible further action. General consensus seems to be to demolish the old building. But Supervisor Sue Furney said she has heard from several residents that would prefer to keep it. And Ms. Furney herself repeated the position she took before she was elected that she would prefer to renovate the building and make it available once again for public use. In any case, Mr. Pisasik said that he wants to hear all points of view before moving forward.
There was also no news on when the project to replace the bridge in the village might begin. Ms. Furney said she was told that it would probably be next year.
The next meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 11, at the township building.
Susquehanna Boro Council’s November 23 meeting began with a moment of silence in memory of past council member/president Mary Ann Ayres, who had passed away the previous Saturday.
Present at the meeting were council members John Bronchella, Shane Lewis, Mike Matis, president Ron Whitehead, secretary Judy Collins, mayor Nancy Hurley.
The secretary’s report included an update on the boro employee/council members’ annual Christmas party, and an invitation for all to attend the annual tree lighting ceremony on December 3, 7:00 p.m. at the boro building. There will be entertainment and refreshments immediately following at the fire hall. On December 4, there will be a breakfast with Santa from 8:30 to 10:30 at the fire Hall. Mrs. Collins updated council on information that has been added to the boro’s new website.
A representative from the Downtown Center will be visiting the boro on December 14 to meet with council members and the Susquehanna Community Development Association on the Main Street project.
The mayor’s report included an update on the Garden Club’s activities. Mayor Hurley relayed that a concerned citizen had suggested that residents keep their porch lights on to deter vandalism. And, she thanked the members of the community’s Crime Watch for their hard work in helping the police department the past year.
At president Ron Whitehead’s request, Clay Martin (MartinWorks) was present to answer some questions regarding the boro’s website and to show how council members can access forum pages.
A representative of LTAP will be meeting with Mr. Lewis on December 14 to look over the intersection of Main St. and Erie Ave.; council has been looking into banning right-hand turns by trucks from Main onto Erie.
Mr. Matis reported that yet more paperwork had to be submitted to FEMA regarding damage from the storms following Hurricane Ivan; Mr. Williams had completed it and submitted it. FEMA will assign a caseworker to help with the process. In the meantime, Mr. Lewis met with a contractor to discuss possible remedies to repair the collapsed wall at the Drinker Creek Park. He noted that the estimate for repairs to the wall itself will not include permit fees, engineer’s fees, or replacement of footing.
Council has been notified by PENNDOT that the boro will be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of catch basins; PENNDOT had been contacted in regard to two on Franklin Ave. that are in need of repair. Mr. Lewis noted that streets commissioner Steve Glover estimated that the cost of repairs that need to be done soon are about $20,000. The streets committee had requested that a member of PENNDOT attend a council meeting to discuss the matter further, but PENNDOT declined to do so. The streets committee will contact PENNDOT for further information.
At a previous meeting, council had discussed an impending rate increase by Adams Cable and had requested a representative to attend a meeting to discuss it, in keeping with the boro’s agreement with Adams. A representative had been scheduled to attend this evening’s meeting, but had notified council that she was unable to do so. Council did receive a letter explaining that the increase was to cover additional programming costs, rising fuel costs and increases to employee health benefits. The increase to Adams customers will be about 50¢ per month.
Mr. Lewis gave council reports on his monthly activities in both Susquehanna and Oakland, as these two boros have a combined codes program. The grant funding obtained for the program has enabled both boros to increase their codes enforcement without increasing costs to the boros.
Mrs. Hurley commented that a resident had contacted her with questions about the police department’s budget; the department’s budget in 2003 was approximately $36,000 and approximately $46,000 for 2004.
Correspondence received was a letter of resignation from police officer Brian Rhodes, who has obtained a position as a corrections officer in Waymart. A motion carried to accept, with regret.
A motion carried to accept a contract with the Teamsters Union, which represents the boro police, for the coming year.
And, several council members expressed dissatisfaction with the service provided by Zavada and Associates, the accounting firm that has been the boro’s auditors for some years. Complaints included phone calls that were not returned, and a bill that had been submitted at a higher rate than the cost initially discussed with Zavada. It was agreed that council should begin looking into finding another auditor.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, December 14, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
Bremer Hof Owners Inc. to Jill A. Oliveria and Janice A. Oliveria, in Herrick Township for $199.
Juergen Schroeter to Michele Marie Murray, in Thompson Township for one dollar.
Amy D. Skurski (nka) Amy D. Plutino to Amy D. Plutino, in Susquehanna for one dollar.
Sidney D. Owen to Sandra F. Ehret, in Bridgewater Township for $299,000.
Donald Webster (by sheriff) to Household Finance Corp., in Harford Township for $3,984 (corrective deed).
Brian F. Wheeler and Barbara Wheeler to Brian F. Wheeler, in Oakland Borough for one dollar.
Allen R. Strawn and Violet Strawn to Bonnie Smith, in Springville Township for $65,000.
Rebecca Snedeker (estate) to Eric Radman, in New Milford Township for $104,000.
Daniel S. Warner and Gretchen M. Warner to Aldona Gooding and Ward L. Barber Jr., in Bridgewater Township for $38,000.
Joy Jackson (by sheriff) and Brian S. Jackson (by sheriff) to National City Bank of Pennsylvania, in Lenox Township for $2,215.
Mary Toman and John Racine to John Racine, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Mary Toman and John Racine to Mary Toman, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
Mary Toman to Toman Family Irrevocable Trust, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
David G. Palmer and Bessie Palmer to Keith Gehm and Valerie Gehm, in Gibson Township for $22,200.
Brian C. Sheldon and Tammy L. Sheldon to Richard L. Klock, in Oakland Borough for one dollar.
Walter Campbell (estate) aka Walter L. Campbell (estate) to Kenneth B. Pittman and Janice Pittman, in Rush Township for $55,000.
Penny L. Lamont and David B. Lamont to Penny L. Kamensky and George J. Kamensky Jr., in Brooklyn Township for zero dollars.
Reid Folger, Stacey G. Folger, Kristin Lee Millson, and Scott Millson to David H. Clemens and Carol J. Clemens, in Franklin Township for $178,100.
Frederick C. Vierling Jr. and Lucy Vierling to Richard G. Vance, in Lenox Township for $36,500.
Potts Living Trust (by trustees) to Donald Potts and Pearl Mary Potts, in Forest Lake Township for $72,000.
Patrick F. Santore and Gladys Santore to Ordie E. Price and Aline J. Price, in Lenox Township for $32,000.
Joseph M. Speicher and Erin Speicher to James Christian and Laurey Christian, in Montrose for $17,500.
Iner Michael Nielson (aka) Iner Michael Nielsen, and Bernadette Nielson (aka) Bernadette Nielsen to Iner Michael Nielsen and Bernadette Nielsen, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Lawrence M. Grasso (trust by trustee) to Jessica L. Glover and Christopher D. Bishop, in Oakland Borough for $25,000.
Carol M. Masters to Daniel Diaco and John Schake, in Brooklyn and Harford townships for $25,000.
Michael Rychlewski and Terry L. Rychlewski to Bruce Eelman and Kathryn Eelman, in New Milford Township for $232,500.
Allan E. Elbrecht, Darlene Elbrecht and Christine A. Elbrecht to Janelle J. Stone, in Hallstead Borough for $62,000.
JP Morgan Chase Bank (sbm) Bank One to George C. Stone Jr., in Bridgewater Township for $31,500.
Charles F. Strickland III, Dawn A. Strickland, Sara Lee Strickland, and Charles F. Strickland Jr. to Monica Laura Marta, in Montrose for $160,000.
Dana M. Mastronardi, Daniel D. Mastronardi, and Darlynn Mastronardi to Silver Lake Presbyterian Church, in Silver Lake Township for $51,500.
Alice Tiffany to James Olivo Sr. and Joanne Olivo, in Brooklyn Township for $1,500.
Roger D. Bennett and Elizabeth S. Bennett to Merton R. Kilpatrick and Judy A. Kilpatrick, in Lenox Township for $95,000.
Mary E. Berman to James Kochick and Mary T. Kochick, in Auburn Township for $177,500.
Carol Suponcic, Andrew Suponcic, Rose O‚Brien and Warren O‚Brien to Micola Iaffaldano, in Forest City for $110,000.
Elias Lucylle to John J. Westshore, in Herrick Township for $18,000.
James Mitchell and Jurrena Mitchell to Gregory E. Distad and Elaine S. Distad, in Franklin Township for $152,500.
John Paul Tarbox and Penny Ann Slocum, both of Susquehanna.
Robert Siegers, Apalchin and Jennifer Lynn Jellick, Vestal, NY.
Clinton A. Myers and Amyu M. Hannon, both of Mehoopany.
Sometime between 8 p.m. on the evening of November 14 and 10 a.m. the following morning, someone entered the office of the Country Living Assisted Care Home in Bridgewater Township and took $176 in cash and a silver wedding ring from a file cabinet. These items belonged to two residents of the Home.*
Unknown person(s) removed a black aluminum mailbox belonging to Joan Harvey, Springville Township, which was mounted on a post at the end of her driveway, sometime between October 7 and 8.*
Unknown person(s) arrived at the home of Ronald Puall, Lathrop Township, entered through an open window and removed several pieces of jewelry from inside. This incident took place between October 15 and 16.*
Someone threw eggs on the hood of a 1991 Chevy Lumina belonging to Nelson Carter, Oakland, while it was parked outside a residence between October 16 and 11 a.m. the following day.*
Melinda Atkins, Nicholson, received minor injuries when she swerved to avoid a deer on Airport Road in Clifford Township, lost control of her 1997 Volkswagen Jetta, traveled off the road and along the berm, struck a tree and rolled over. State Police were assisted by the Clifford Volunteer Fire Company. The Jetta was severely damaged in this accident that occurred on the evening of November 3.
CAR FIRE, CRASH
On the evening of November 22, a 1996 GMC Yukon driven by Carmine Nepa, 60, Carbondale, caught fire while it was traveling on Tewksberry Road in Brooklyn Township. Neither Carmine nor his passenger – both of whom were seat-belted – were injured, but his vehicle was severely damaged.
TRAFFIC COLLISION, HIT AND RUN
A 1998 Plymouth Acclaim with a juvenile behind the wheel was stopped on the wrong side of New York Avenue in Great Bend Township early in the morning of October 19. Edward Eckenrod, no address given, brought his Chevy Blazer to a stop to avoid a collision with the Plymouth, which then sped up and tried to go around the Blazer. The Plymouth struck the Blazer and continued north on New York Avenue, fleeing the scene. The juvenile and vehicle were discovered a short time later, and several charges were filed in district court.
On the evening of October 18, Clarence Pifcho, Jr., Springville Township, was seen driving a 1989 Toyota Corolla through a stop sign. The Toyota was stopped and Pifcho was subsequently arrested for DUI, with charges filed in district court.
This crime happened on October 14 when unknown person(s) traveled through a wooded area next to the home of Dale Webber, Great Bend Township, kicked in the door of his home and removed several items, including a mustard-colored couch and recliner. Also taken were a microwave oven, a VCR and two BB guns.*
On the morning of November 17 at the Montrose Area Junior-Senior High School, a 15-year-old male student was found to have a small amount of marijuana on his person. Charges were filed through the county juvenile probation office for possession.
Someone broke into the soda machine at the front of Russ’ Garage in Jackson Township sometime between the evening of November 19 and the following morning.*
This accident happened when a 1997 Chevy Blazer driven by Stewart Moyer, 23, Tunkhannock, was traveling south on State Route 29 in Springville Township at around 2:30 in the morning of November 21. The Blazer left the road, struck an embankment and rolled over, ejecting Moyer from the vehicle. The Blazer then went back on the road and stopped in the middle of it. The extent of Moyer’s injuries was not reported, but he was transported to Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock.
As Moyer’s Blazer was stopped in the middle of the road, it was struck by a 1995 Ford Escort driven by Michael Lewis Kamansky, 24, Brooklyn. He received minor injuries and was also transported to Tyler.
State Police were assisted at the scene by the Springville Fire Department, Montrose Fire Department, Springville Ambulance and the Montrose Minutemen Ambulance. Both the Ford and the Blazer were severely damaged and removed from the scene by County Line Towing.
A 1997 Toyota Tercel driven by Richard J. Kurasky was severely damaged when Kurasky lost control of it while driving south on State Route 267 in Choconut on the night of November 7. The car left the road, struck a guardrail and a telephone pole, and traveled down an embankment, causing it to roll end-over-end. The Toyota next went up an embankment into a pond where it became completely submerged. Both Kurasky and his passenger, who were wearing seat-belts, managed to leave the vehicle and swim to safety. They were both injured and transported to Wilson Hospital by Silver Lake Ambulance Company. The Vestal Dive Team assisted with getting the Tercel out of the pond.
Late on the night of November 19, Keith George Harms, Montrose, lost control of his 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis while driving north on State Route 267 in Choconut Township. The car veered off the road and up an embankment, where it rolled over onto its roof. Silver Lake Township Police Department assisted in the investigation, in which Harms was uncooperative and resisted arrest. He is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance, and the investigation will continue. Harms was not hurt when his car rolled over.*
Mary Joan Hollenback, New Milford Township, reported to police that sometime between November 1 and 3, someone stole her Nokia cell phone from her home.*
* Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the State Police at 465-3154.
There is a good likelihood that Susquehanna County taxes will increase in 2005, but the county commissioners are working overtime to keep any tax hike to the bare minimum.
Roberta Kelly, chair of the Board of Commissioners, said the commissioners are hoping they can escape without the increase but Commissioner Jeff Loomis said he believes the county is going to need it.
Mr. Loomis said any tax increase can be traced to pay increases of four percent in four recently settled union contracts, a seven percent increase in health insurance that the county pays the full premium on for all employees, and the need to pump $1 million in cash in the county pension fund in 2005.
“It won’t be 50 percent or 35 percent,” Mr. Loomis said, obviously referring to a proposed 48 percent tax increase in neighboring Lackawanna County. He indicated it may be one half mill or possibly one full mill.
The 2005 county budget can be reviewed at the commissioners’ office beginning today (Dec. 1). Efforts to obtain some information about the budget for an article in this edition that would coincide the public debut of the budget were rejected by Chief Clerk Suzanne Brainard.
The four union contracts approved at last week’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting included employees in court related and court appointed positions, correctional officers at the county jail, and residual employees. All contracts are for four years, beginning January 1, 2004 and ending December 31, 2007. Union employees who worked this year without a contract have already received their retroactive pay dating back to January 1 reflecting a four percent increase in keeping with terms of the new contract. In 2005, the increase will be 3.5 percent and two percent in each of the last two years of the contract.
The union contracts of Children & Youth Services and the Probation Department will expire at the end of this year, setting the stage for more bargaining talks in 2005.
The new union contracts provide the employees and their families with full health insurance coverage at county expense for at least four more years. Employees who do not take the coverage will be paid 20 percent of the lowest health insurance premium annually, a move the commissioners termed as a “money saver.”
“If they don’t take the coverage,” said Mr. Loomis, “we are saving 80 percent.”
In a related detail, the commissioners revealed that during the contract negotiations, they were successful in holding back on providing new employees with health insurance coverage until they completed a six-month probationary period. The change will apply to all new employees whether or not they are in the union.
The commissioners also managed to increase the employees’ medical deductibles and co pay for a doctor’s visit, moves that lowered the premium payments a bit and saved the county a few more dollars. Mrs. Kelly said she feels comfortable with the new union contracts. She said in the long run, the contracts will save the county some money. “I believe we did the best we could without having to go into arbitration,” Mrs. Kelly said. “I feel comfortable that we are serving the taxpayers well.”
Asked if there would ever come a time when the county employees would contribute to their health insurance plans, Mrs. Kelly responded, “I think ultimately it is going to have to happen.” She said rising costs of premiums for the health insurance will force the county into making the employees pay a portion of the insurance.
The contracts commit the county to provide 100 percent coverage for the next four years. But she added that “four years from now we may be asking the employees to contribute to their health insurance.”
At the present time, non-union county employees share the same benefits and salary increments as the union members and it appears the commissioners intend to keep it that way.
“I think it is only fair,” said Mr. Loomis. “If the non-union workers are doing the same type of work as the union workers, they should get the same money and benefits as the union workers.”
Concerning the $1 million the county must put into the pension fund in 2005, the commissioners said it is the result of improper investing in the stock market during a period in the late 1990’s when there was a bear market for a couple of years. The commissioners said it takes five years to recover from the losses suffered when a previous firm that was administering the pension funds put too much money in the stock market. The commissioners have since adopted a policy that no more than 65 percent of the pension fund be invested in the stock market.
In other business at the commissioners’ meeting, the following motions were passed:
-Adopting a resolution authorizing the county to file documents for the purpose of obtaining financial assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act for two county bridges damaged by storms on September 21.
-Accepting with regret the resignation of Bonnie Ely Gulbin as a caseworker in Children and Youth Services.
-Employing Christopher Harris and Matthew Orner as part time correction officers in the county jail. The Salary Board set their hourly rate at $10.96 as per union contract.
-And, as the Salary Board, changing the status of Darcy Vogel from part time correction officer to full time correction officer.
In last week’s County Transcript the Bridgewater Township Supervisors relayed information at their meeting that Hinds Oil Company would no longer be able to deliver fuel oil and diesel fuel in the near future. In fact, Hinds Oil Company will no longer be able to deliver gasoline in the near future. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
The Mountain View School District Board of Education public meeting on November 22 was called to order and roll call taken. Those present were Bryce Beeman, President, John Halupke, First Vice President, Kevin Griffiths, Second Vice President, Ordie Price, Treasurer, John Beeman, Susan Christensen, Ronald Phillips, Sondra Stine, James Zick, and Carolyn Price, Secretary. Also attending the meeting were Arthur Chambers, Superintendent, Colin Furneaux, High School Principal, Eliza Bagni, High School Assistant Principal, Margaret Foster, Elementary School Principal, and Mary Hvezda, Director of Special Services.
Following approval of the November 8, 2004 board of education meeting minutes, Kevin Griffiths gave the report of the financial services committee. An approval for change in the contract for bus # 7, adding two (2) additional miles per day, was approved by a 7-2 vote. Other award approvals included that to the low qualified quotes for the sixth grade trip to Baltimore/Washington, and for computer/fixtures for the 2004-2005 school year and to Abington Excavating in the amount of $5,240.00 for demolition of the Annex Building. Mr. Beeman commented that actual start of the demolition of the annex building would not commence until alternate storage was secured for the equipment currently in the building.
The Human Resources, Policy and Labor Relations Committee solicited the board’s approval for additions to the teacher substitute list, the appointment of supplemental salary positions for girls soft ball and junior high wrestling coaches, acceptance of a temporary clerk job description, authorization of advertising positions, appointment of a temporary clerk, and acceptance of resignations by the individuals serving as national junior honor society and SADD advisors. All motions were seconded and approved. Mr. Chambers commented that it was hoped that faculty members would fill the vacated advisor positions.
A second policy reading for Interscholastic Athletics (IA) and first reading of several other policies were noted. Mr. Halupke said there was nothing to report with regards to negotiations.
The report of the building and facilities management committee by John Beeman centered on asbestos replacement in the high school. It was noted that 13 rooms still needed to have asbestos tile removed and replaced – with one room especially in need of attention due to an exposed area, although it was reported that the exposed area was covered and safe for the time being. The committee set up a meeting for December 1 to plan for the safe removal of remaining asbestos using an approved abatement company.
The report of the superintendent of schools consisted of a power point presentation by David Beard, high school Information Technology teacher on the redesign of the Mt. View School District Web site. Numerous enhancements are anticipated for release by the Christmas holiday. Along with security features, some of the enhancements will include revised content, access to faculty e-mail, a “happenings” link, a links to the athletic and activities calendar, and many other subject-specific improvements. It was anticipated that teachers would be able to post homework and other classroom assignments and ultimately increase interactive features of the Web site. The possibility of using an outside service to manage interactive “on-line” assignments was discussed. An updated report on the Web site was requested by the board for April, 2005.
Mr. Chambers displayed an achievement award received by the Elementary School from the state department of education for sustained achievement over 2 years, based on PSSA results in reading and math. Miss Foster was complimented for the achievement and it was pointed out that the high school is also poised for this achievement award next year.
Mrs. Vagni provided a brief report on behalf of the student leadership council, and congratulated their work on the Feed a Friend campaign. The students collected over 6,000 canned good items and raised $3,000.00 in cash for this charity project. Also, some of the responsibilities of the former SADD advisor were picked up by the students. These included the “Angel Tree” project by the Future Educators of America, an anti-smoking presentation to the 7th grade class, and various other service projects such as cards for nursing home residents.
Mr. Chambers concluded the report by noting that the next issue of the school newspaper, the Eagle Eye would be dedicated to attainments by the school and individual student achievements.
With regards to the education committee, the board approved numerous conferences for employees and teachers, and field trips for students and teachers. In addition, a new professional staff induction plan was approved.
During the second hearing of visitors, a public member questioned why advertisements for open positions in the district were popping up in church newsletters and other private places, and did not always correspond to public advertisements for these positions such as those placed in newspapers. Mrs. Price responded by saying that ads place prior to public advertisements were used mainly for recruitment purposes, and that all approved positions were officially posted in public advertising media.
The meeting was then adjourned.
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