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Oakland Boro Council began their December 9 meeting with their customary moment of silence in support of our troops, and in support of fellow member Leon Dubanowitz, who has been facing some serious health concerns (Mr. Dubanowitz was not present). All other council members were present, as well as secretary Flo Brush, mayor Art Towner, several residents and guests.
First on the agenda was visitor Ted Russell, who came at president Beavan’s invitation to discuss supplemental AFLAC insurance, available through a relationship with the PA State Association of Boroughs. Mr. Russell discussed several options, which could be paid for by municipalities for their employees and council members, or which could be obtained through voluntary payments by those individuals. Plans are available that can be tailored to each individual’s needs. He also had information available for major medical coverage plans.
A motion carried to retain auditor Joe Colura for both the boro and water company accounts, and to retain Myron DeWitt as the boro solicitor.
During public comment, a resident complimented improvements to the council meeting room (new paint and curtains). Mr. Beavan noted that Mrs. Brush had purchased the items needed out of her own pocket, and had done the work involved on her own time. She had also refurbished her office, for which boro funds were only used to purchase new carpeting and to take care of some wiring that needed to be repaired, and for subsequent repairs to the walls.
CEO Shane Lewis updated council on several codes violations. A hearing is scheduled for some time in February. A property owner has requested, in writing, that abandoned vehicles that do not belong to him be removed from his property; Police Chief Bob VanFleet will be authorized to proceed with having them towed. Tires had been put on a van that had been up on blocks; there had been concern about it possibly causing an injury if it were to fall. Another property has been cleaned up. And, Mr. Lewis is addressing complaints about dumping into Spring Creek.
Former council member Cynthia Beavan has agreed to again represent the boro on the boards of River Bounty and SOLIDA. A volunteer is still needed to process grant applications.
No bids were submitted to repair the retaining wall on River Road. A decision was made to shore up the wall as much as possible for the time being, which has been done, and to reopen bidding in the spring.
In response to a question from the audience, Mr. Beavan said that ditch work on upper State St., for which the boro received grant funding, had been postponed. Bids were to be administered through PENNDOT and had been delayed; the work is expected to be completed this coming spring.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session to discuss employee issues.
After the meeting reconvened, a motion carried to accept the proposed 2005 budget, which will increase taxes by one mill. A special meeting will be held on Friday, December 31, 7:00 p.m. to consider its adoption.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, January 13, 7 p.m. in the boro building.
Great Bend has been trying to resurrect its 50-year-old ambulance service since July, when it lost its license due to weak management and thin coverage from a dwindling number of active volunteers. In meeting after meeting since last Spring, leaders of the Great Bend-Hallstead Volunteer Ambulance (GBHVA), headed by current president John Brant, have remained optimistic, while ensuring emergency medical coverage through an arrangement with a larger operation out of Broome County, New York.
The latest episode took place at the Great Bend Borough Building on the evening of December 6. More than 60 people crowded the room to hear the latest proposals, and to voice their opinions. Those opinions were focused on the future by Steve Wirth, a lawyer with Page, Wolfberg and Wirth of Mechanicsburg, a firm that specializes in services for fire and ambulance organizations. An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) himself since 1975, Mr. Wirth (who is being paid by the ambulance service to help it through this turbulence) skillfully led the meeting through several minefields, emerging without a clear consensus on anything in particular, but with some general ideas about community support and sentiment.
The meeting was attended by a broad cross section of citizens, including members of the Great Bend Borough Council, the Montrose Minutemen, the Broome Volunteers, local fire companies, and watched over by Terry Gow of the GBHVA, and R. Brent Meadows. Mr. Meadows is Executive Director of the Bradford Susquehanna EMS Council, the organization that licenses emergency medical services in this part of Pennsylvania on behalf of the state Department of Health. Mr. Meadows was careful to say that, while he cannot impose, or even suggest, a way out of the difficulties the local service is experiencing, he is prepared to help in any way he can to ensure that area residents get the best possible emergency medical service.
All the players agree that the fundamental problem with the Hallstead-Great Bend ambulance program is lack of people: too few people in the local area are willing to commit time and effort to run their own ambulance service. "You need to have more people," said Mr. Wirth.
Mr. Wirth said that Great Bend's problems are not unique. There has been a decline in support for local volunteer emergency services statewide over recent decades.
From about 1,200 independent organizations and about 200,000 volunteers in 1970, the state now counts less than 1,000 operating volunteer emergency service groups with less than 100,000 active members. The GBHVA has a fairly long membership list; only 10-20 regularly participate in the organization, with only three or four active EMTs available to ride the service's two ambulances.
There were two primary options on the table for the meeting.
One possibility would be to pursue the current arrangement with the Broome Volunteers to a logical conclusion: merger. The Broome organization (not directly affiliated with Broome County) offered a plan that would eventually lead to the "integration" of assets. Under the Broome plan, the Great Bend-Hallstead ambulances would remain in Great Bend, and they would still carry the local service's name, with a line added saying something like "Operated by the Broome Volunteer Ambulance Service". A seat on Broome's board of directors would be opened for a Great Bend area representative. Although Broome does not now offer the "membership" benefit available to residents of the GBHVA area (until the end of this year), they said they would be willing to consider continuing that program in Susquehanna County. (The membership program ensures that listed donors have no out-of-pocket expense for ambulance service.) The asset transfer would take place only after a suitable trial period. It was estimated that the 2 local ambulances are worth approximately $85,000. The GBHVA owns the ambulance garage, but the Borough of Great Bend owns the land on which it sits. The Broome proposal would result in "virtually a consolidation of the 2 organizations," according to Mr. Wirth.
The Broome Volunteer service currently operates three ambulances and is a certified Advanced Life Support (ALS) operation, licensed in Pennsylvania and New York. One of their ambulances is located in Great Bend 7 days a week, from 7 in the morning until 7 in the evening. The rest of the time the ambulances are located at Kirkwood, "6 minutes away." Sixty percent of Broome's staff is paid; the rest are volunteers.
The other nearby ALS service is the Montrose Minutemen, who maintain an ambulance on Route 11 south of Hallstead. They say they can't afford to offer 24 x 7 service in the Hallstead-Great Bend area.
It was clear that sentiment in the room was not with this first option. One person even said, "They [the Broome Volunteers] are just in it for the money." Yet another defended the recent performance of the Broome service, saying that it has provided "some of the best care you've had in a long time." Mr. Wirth said, "they seem to have a good operation."
With a large part of the local population over the age of 60, many were concerned with the process Broome uses to collect fees. Broome's Steve Brown said that they send 2 letters requesting payment before passing collection decisions on to their board of directors. Mr. Wirth called their procedure a "soft collection process." In any case, according to Mr. Meadows, recent changes in Medicare prohibit EMS organizations from charging covered individuals more than the Medicare allowance.
"There's been no decision made" on any proposal yet, said Mr. Wirth.
The second option is to try to bring the Great Bend- Hallstead Volunteer Ambulance back to life on its own. According to Mr. Wirth, the first thing a local service needs is a "community-based board of directors," "a diverse group of people" including local government and business representatives and private citizens. He said that his firm could easily draw up a new set of bylaws to help start the process.
The GBHVA currently is a membership organization only, without a board of directors. Several months ago the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, which was instrumental in starting the ambulance service so long ago, offered to form a board of directors. They have since said that they were brushed aside by the membership. A VFW member told the meeting that it was never their intention to take over the service, but to support it in any way they could. A woman who was asked to solicit interest in membership on such a board from 20 people was rebuffed by all of them. One man who was approached said he turned down the idea because there was "a little bit too much confusion."
But a board of directors isn't enough. "You gotta have people who are ready to go on ambulance calls," said Mr. Wirth. Mr. Meadows outlined the licensing process, which he said "could be very quick." But he said that a licensing application must include a viable staffing plan. He said that, while there is no minimum number of people required for a license, "We know you can't do it with 2 or 3 people."
With that, Tony Conarton came forward with a detailed, written plan for "correcting" the local ambulance service, complete with target dates, lists of offices to be filled, and action plans to be accomplished, beginning next week and carrying through well into Fall of 2005.
Mr. Conarton read off a list of some 12 people who could be quickly certified as EMTs, another list of candidates for "first responders," and a third of people who might serve on a board of directors. He also presented a list of 170 signatures on a petition to rebuild the local service. The goal of the plan, he said, was to make "patient care the number 1 priority," and "to be the premiere ambulance service in Susquehanna County" once again.
There was clearly a difference of opinion at the meeting on the performance of the current leadership of the Great Bend-Hallstead Volunteer Ambulance. A VFW representative said that "one person has been operating this whole business." Another person said, "We need a new president." When someone asked where all the EMTs were that Mr. Conarton named, someone else said, "some have been pushed away." The obvious target for the antipathy was current ambulance service president John Brant, who sat in the back and said little during the session. His defenders in the room noted his long dedication and commitment to the ambulance service. Mr. Meadows encouraged the meeting to take a positive outlook. "We don't want anybody bashed," he said.
Some of the names on the list of EMTs read off by Mr. Conarton were questioned for their certification. Mr. Meadows said that anyone who had once been an EMT, no matter how long ago, could apply for reinstatement after completing 32 hours of continuing education. His organization offers courses for $65 (plus books), but certification itself costs nothing but a review of qualifications and a criminal background check. The Bradford Susquehanna EMS Council has some additional requirements for training in specific areas that have appeared in recent years.
The meeting's facilitators requested a show of hands for the various options presented during the evening. Ten or so supported the first option, to stay with the Broome Volunteers. Some 35 or more wanted to revive the local ambulance service.
Yet when asked how many in the room would be willing to ride in an ambulance and run the service, only 7 or 8 showed their hands. One long-time resident who said he used to be active with the ambulance in its early days asked, "Where's all the young people? There's no young people here." The great majority of those in attendance were clearly middle- aged or older.
Mr. Brant made his only comment toward the end of this session, saying, "I guarantee you it will come together." The only question was how. Mr. Wirth pointed out that the current ambulance group is still "the only entity in place." As the existing corporate body, it must take the decisions to change itself into what it must become to survive. And they began to do that the same evening, across town.
The GBHVA's regular December meeting was scheduled for this same evening. So, following the special session at the Borough Building, the membership and a few others adjourned to the ambulance garage, as Mr. Brant said, to continue the discussion.
Mr. Brant presided over the membership meeting, but Mr. Wirth helped to guide them through the process that they would be trying to undertake over the next several weeks. Mr. Meadows suggested that they take the time to do it right, not to rush. "It's okay if it takes another month," he said. But the members seemed eager to get a reorganization under way as soon as possible. The meeting agenda called for the election of new officers, but that was laid aside in favor of a plan to reorganize and form a board of directors.
As decided by the membership, the Great Bend-Hallstead Volunteer Ambulance will have another meeting on December 16 to draw up a new set of bylaws. On December 20 they will meet again to elect a board of directors. The Board of Directors will then select its own officers.
None of the details will be known until the membership agrees on a new set of bylaws. The consensus for now is that the Board of Directors will have 7 members. Two members will be active "on the street," one of whom is expected to be the service captain. One member will be chosen by each of the VFW and the American Legion. And there will be 3 "at-large" members, perhaps selected by the three major municipalities in the coverage area (Great Bend Borough, Great Bend Township and Hallstead Borough). The full membership would meet only quarterly; Board meetings would be held monthly. The Board of Directors will have primary responsibility for the operation of the service; the full membership will be asked to vote only on major expenditures.
Outgoing President John Brant closed the second session by describing the first, community meeting as "probably the most productive meeting we've ever had." Lawyer Wirth told participants that the turnout "shows you all really care." Overseer Meadows expressed hope that the process would "get this long-standing organization back where it once was." There are miles to go, but the evening was certainly one major milestone in the history of the Great Bend-Hallstead Volunteer Ambulance.
County Taxes Hike 24.5%?
The Susquehanna County Commissioners still have not made it official but Roberta Kelly, chair of the board, said the county will increase real estate taxes in 2005 by two-and-one-half mills. The increase, that amounts to about 24.5 percent, will pump an additional $1.6 million into the county coffers.
While the 2005 budget has been available for public inspection since December 1, the commissioners have yet to present it formally at a public meeting. And while the anticipated tax increase has grown from an estimated one-half mill a few weeks ago to five times that size, the commissioners have not voted to accept the budget or the accompanying tax rate needed to help finance it.
Final action on the budget and the real estate tax is now expected to take place at the commissioner’s final meeting of the year that is scheduled for December 29.
The Transcript has previously published explanations offered for the tax increase which basically is the result of increases in health insurance premiums, higher coal and fuel oil costs for the county buildings, union contracts that boosted employees’ hourly rates, a four percent pay increase for elected county officials, and the need to put $1 million in the county’s pension plan that is still recuperating from bad investments made a few years back.
“It’s a small tax increase,” Mrs. Kelly said, obviously comparing it with much larger tax hikes in some neighboring counties. “I feel we are holding the line and that we are doing a good job.”
“We are trying to fix things around here that are falling apart,” Commissioner Jeff Loomis added. Mr. Loomis also said the commissioners have some ideas on “making cuts for next year.”
In another matter, the commissioners accepted the lone bid submitted for alterations in the courthouse caused by the addition of an elevator that is expected to be operating before the end of next month. Jerry Ganz Company of Scranton, the firm that is installing the elevator, will be paid $23,945 to shore up some walls while making new offices for workers in the Records Department (deeds and wills) and the Prothonotary’s Office (criminal and civil court related activities).
The following resolutions were adopted by the commissioners:
˜ Appropriating $8,600 for a firm called Maximus to develop cost allocation plans for 2005 and 2006. The purpose of the plan, which is a requirement to qualify for federal funding, is to discover estimated square footage costs of operating the various county departments.
˜ Adopting a grant agreement that will provide the county with $72,660 in 2005 to continue the highly successful West Nile Virus Control Program.
˜ Applying through the Brownsfield Housing and Development Assistance program for $251,495 for the Susquehanna (Borough) Project containing a six-unit elderly facility and commercial space. The money will be administered through TREHAB.
˜ Filing for a grant in the amount of $79,900 through the Rural Business Enterprise Program for the development of a Business Incubator Program in the county. While a number of sites have been suggested, the commissioners said none has been selected to date.
Meeting as the Salary Board, the commissioners rejected a recommendation from President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans to provide a financial stipend for Jeff Shoemaker, chief probation officer, who has taken on additional duties as administrator of the county’s J-Net communications program.
Judge Seamans had requested that Mr. Shoemaker be paid an additional $1,500 for the added responsibility but a motion to that effect by Mr. Loomis died for the lack of a second.
The Salary Board did increase the salary of Patrick Daly, the judge’s law clerk, from $32,456 to $34,956 as compensation for additional responsibilities taken on by Mr. Daly.
A 1992 Plymouth belonging to Edward Gallagher, Montrose, was damaged while it was parked near the County Seat Lounge on Public Avenue between 1 a.m. and 3 p.m. on November 20.*
DRUG POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DELIVER
At the Pump & Pantry on Route 11 in New Milford, William James Bowie, 24, and a 16-year-old juvenile offender, both from the Bronx, NY, were found to be in possession of marijuana and crack cocaine packaged for distribution. Also found in their possession were drug paraphernalia and a scale used to measure contraband for distribution.
Scott Baldwin of New Milford Township reported that a tire machine was taken from Butterfield Road sometime between spring, 2003 and November of this year.
Between November 29 and 30, unknown person(s) arrived at the parking lot of Bingham’s Restaurant in Lenox Township and entered an unlocked Bolus Freight Systems trailer and took four boxes of Gatorade.*
Hilary Brewster, 42, Binghamton was wearing a seat-belt and received minor injuries when she swerved her car to miss what she thought was a bear on the side of Interstate 81 North in New Milford Township early in the morning of December 7. She lost control of her car, struck the guardrail and her came to rest in the median. She was transported to Binghamton General Hospital by New Milford Ambulance.
A little after seven on the morning of December 3, Amy Fischer, Hallstead, was traveling too fast in her 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee on State Route 29 in Liberty Township. She lost control of the Jeep and struck a tree stump. High Tech Auto towed the Jeep from the scene.
A tenant on the Kovolinsky property on Franklin Road reported that unknown persons were seen trespassing during hunting season. They were approached, and fled on a 4x4 John Deere Mule ATV.*
In the early evening of December 4, William Cokely, Montrose, was driving west on State Route 706 when he lost control of his vehicle and hit a utility pole. Cokely was not wearing a seat-belt and did receive injuries.
Norris Cobb, 46 was cited for harassment following an altercation with Laurie Cobb, 42, at the family residence in Brooklyn Township on the night of November 30.
* Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the State Police at 465-3154.
Jack T. Conroy, Cynthia R Rood (nbm) Cynthia R. Conroy to Jack T. Conroy and Cynthia R.Conroy, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Guardian LTC Management Inc. (sbm) Guardian Elder Care Inc., and Meadow View Senior Living Center LLC, to OHI Asset PA Trust, in Montrose for $10.
David Warner and Constance Warner to David Warner and Constance Warner, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
John w. Leonard Jr. and Helen R. Leonard to John M. Stahl Sr. and Diane T. Stahl, in Franklin, Bridgewater and New Milford townships for $33,000.
Duane A. Huttleston to Sharon A. Huttleston (nka) Sharon A. Travis, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Theresa B. Rockwell (by POA), Harold Rockwell, Lyle D. Rockwell, Joanne Rockwell, Lucille Stone, David Rockwell, Mary Rockwell, Shirley Allis, Michael Vinson, Donna Shaver, and Bernard Shaver to Society of The Annunciation of the Lord, in Middletown Township for $80,000.
Coy B. Gibson and Nancy J. Gibson to Thomas C. Diehl Jr. and Deborah A. Diehl, in Lenox Township for $210,600.
Richard A. Siegfried and Diane M. Siegfried to Steven Carnwath and Ronda J. Carnwath, in Jessup Township for $43,000.
Dale Howell Enterprises Inc. to Jeremy R. Consla and Shannon L. Martin, in Oakland Borough for $60,000.
Ralph H. Leber and Ann Marie Leber to Gary J. Massaro, in Thompson Township for $265,000.
Ronald Teets and Maria Teets to William D. Kieswer, in Liberty Township for $2,000.
Jeffrey R. Seligsohn and Lisa W. Seligsohn to Norman E. Nelson and Holly G. Nelson, in Herrick Township for $70,000.
Alan D. Prince and Elissa T. Palmer to Alan D. Prince, James Verboys and Joanne Verboys, in Forest City for one dollar.
Mary E. Beavan (fka) Mary W. Meagley to Marshall N. Meagley and Clara G. Meagley, in Oakland Township for $4,000.
Joseph M. Vibbard, Nicole Lynn Vibbard, Nicole Lynn Gusy (nbm) to Fernando G. Barton, in New Milford Township for $75,000.
Frank Durst and Margaret L. Durst to Bryan A. Mulholland and Arlene Mulholland, in Forest City for $74,000.
Richard K. MacDowall and Marilyn J. MacDowall to Robert Darby MacDowall and Julie MacDowall, in Gibson and Harford townships for one dollar.
Donald T. Purtell, Norene Purtell, Robert J. Purtell and Ethel Purtell to Michael Martin and Melissa Martin, in Apolacon Township for $13,571.
Wachovia Bank (fka) First Union National Bank to Jennifer R. Allen and Thomas R. Ehrie, in Franklin Township for $33,000.
Dale Howell Enterprises Inc. to James E. Oakley and Linda L. Oakley, in Lanesboro Borough for $63,500.
Ada C. Lathrop (estate) to Susan Fike, in Dimock Township for $79,000.
William R. Tilton and Valerie J. Tilton to Jeffery Moore and Tabitha Ruch, in Ararat and Gibson townships for $91,000.
Clara G. Meagley to William R. Tilton and Valerie J. Tilton, in Oakland Township for $41,000.
Joseph P. Conboy and Carolyn Conboy to Joseph P. Conboy and Marilyn Conboy, in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Richard L. Baker and Karen Baker to James R. Baker and Christine M. Baker, in Brooklyn Township for one dollar.
Nathan P. Lewis and Melanie L. Lewis to Richard C. Billig and Dianne Billig, in Apolacon Township for $95,000.
Larwrence T. O’Reilly, Christine M. O’Reilly, and Thomas J. O’Reilly, to Thomas E. Botzan and Mary S. A. Botzan, in Dimock Township for $42,000.
Antoinette Vitale to Joanne Sheruda and David D. Sitoski, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Rallg Associates, WGN Co., Margaret V. Rockey, Susane Lavelle, William Gerber (estate), and John J. Lavelle Sr. (estate) to David K. Moore and Suzanne C. Annand, in Herrick Township for $19,500.
Dick Richards and Joycelyn Richards to Todd W. Smith and Heather A. Smith, in Bridgewater Township for $5,000.
Douglas Decker to William McNeice, in Dimock and Bridgewater townships for $34,968.
Ralph Richards to Doris L. Szarek, Donald F. Todd, Cheryl L. Todd, Joseph Shane Szarek and Tracey Szarek, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Norman Kent Miller (estate) to Patricia C. Tyler, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Patricia C. Tyler to Richard A. Miller, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Nicholae Gelormini (aka) Nicholas Gelormini Sr. and Maria Gelormini to William Delia and Ursula Delia, in Lenox Township for $169,900.
Laura P. Shuta to Sally Moore and Linda Shuta, in Franklin and Silver Lake townships for one dollar.
Robert Hardy Nicholas, Fort Bragg, NC, and Kimberly N. Dotson, Binghamton, NY.
Kenneth William Merrit and Debra Lynn Morcom, both of Union Dale.
LeRoy C. Cottrell Jr. and Marsha Ann Smith, both of Jackson.
Vera Scroggins, RR1, Montrose vs. Christopher R. Dendy, El Paso, TX.
Michele L. Sterner, Friendsville vs. Douglas R. Sterner, Friendsville.
Corrine M. McNabb, RR1, Carbondale vs. Daniel M. McNabb, RR1, Carbondale.
Mary Lou Butts, Susquehanna vs. Edward C. Butts, Susquehanna.
Annette L. Gentelia, Kingsley vs. George Samuel Gentelia, Tunkhannock.
HARRISBURG - Rep. Sandra Major's bill making important changes to the state's Clean and Green law has been signed by Gov. Ed Rendell.
"Changes made to Clean and Green in 1998 created opportunities where it became advantageous for fundamentally residential properties to enroll in the program, shifting the tax burden to comparable, but smaller, residential properties that do not qualify for the program," said Major (R-Susquehanna/ Wayne/Wyoming).
Major's legislation removes the requirement to preferentially assess farmstead land from the "agricultural reserve" and "forest reserve" land use categories. The area of acreage comprising farmstead land will still be included when determining whether a property meets the minimum acreage requirements for enrollment in the program.
Farmstead land would continue to receive preferential assessment under the "agricultural use" land use category.
In August, 2003 the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee visited the
Shadowbrook Inn and Resort in Tunkhannock to hear testimony on House Bill 657, which is now Act 235 of 2004.
The bill passed the House, 194-3, and the Senate, 47-0, where it was amended. The House concurred and approved the bill, 178-18. It becomes effective in 60 days.
The Elk Lake school board meeting of December 6 was called to order at 7:14 p.m. Correspondence received by Mr. Mallery included a notice that Diane Ives is resigning.
Three students from grade six were selected by local Veterans as winners of the sixth grade Veterans Day Essay Contest. Joey Woolcock won first place, Chelsea Karibin second and Brad Moore third.
A presentation was made by Community Foundation of Susquehanna County member Earle Wooton stressing the need to leave charitable donations here in our community.
Each school has had a positive response. There have been many generous donors that continue to contribute to school foundations. Mr. Tewksbury asked, “Why would we put the money into your hands, when we already have our own scholarship programs? What do you gain by having all that money? And what do we gain?” Distributing almost $350,000 into Susquehanna County, Earl explained that there is no specific goal, they do have expenses, and that they do take 1% for administration expenses.
The school board would pick a small group amongst the board members to decide who gets the scholarship.
Election of officers
Mr. Tewksbury was elected the new President of the Elk Lake School Board. Mr. Emmerich leaves the seat as the President, but was elected the Vice President.
Mr. Pirone thanked Mrs. Woolcock for her work with the sixth grade essay contest. Mr. Pirone mentioned that student council elections would soon be taking place.
A Bully Prevention program is underway with money from a Federal grant.
A Fifth and Sixth grade Band and Chorus concert will be held on December 16, at 7:00 p.m.
Mara Kerr was approved by the board to continue at Elk Lake, even though her family moved out of Elk Lake district.
A five year permanent contract was approved for Mrs. Pamela Staats.
In school suspension coordinator, approved by the board, was Stephanie Molar, at a rate of $42.16 per half day with limited benefits. The Board approved Special Ed teacher Randy Fisher, at $30,000 per year.
On the Bus Communication Proposal, it was announced that Business Band Radio was 80-100% effective. Mr. Conboy, who lives on Irish Hill will let the school use his tower. Repeater for Middletown Township buses would go on Mr. Conboy’s tower. All 32 buses and vans will have radios in them. The district will advertise for them and get the ball rolling.
Regarding the Athletic Trainer Certified, from last month, the board put this item on the back burner. Dr. Bush stated it would be a budget issue and that they have not really had time to discuss it.
The Elk Lake School District and The Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center will have dismissal at noon on December 23, as per request by the Teachers Association.
Forest City Borough Council followed the will of its constituents last week in awarding a trash collection contract to Waste Management using the sticker per bag system. The council vote on the bag system was unanimous.
The council had a ballot printed in The Forest City News and residents responded by voting 164-59 in favor of the bag system. The other 59 votes were in support of a bulk rate system that would have cost about $154 a year per occupied dwelling unit.
Increases in sticker costs to the borough will force sticker prices up in 2005 from the current five for $11 to five for $14. However, the price will remain the same for the next three years.
The borough said extra money raised by the sticker sales will be used to maintain the weekly recycling pickup and for one annual cleanup a year for the next three years.
In another matter, council increased the municipal real estate taxes by two mills, bringing the 2005 tax rate to 13.8 mills.
A mill equals one dollar for every $1,000 of assessed valuation. The increased revenue will add about $40,000 to the borough’s share of the 2005 budget income raising the anticipated real estate revenue for municipal purposes to $299,000. In addition, the borough expects to use about $56,000 from the capital reserve account and $33,000 from the liquid fuels fund.
Paul J. Amadio, finance chairman, said the tax increase was necessitated by higher prices for gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil, increases in health insurance premiums for borough employees, and overall price hikes for equipment and building maintenance, materials and supplies.
“It is unfortunate that council must increase the taxes,” Mr. Amadio said, “but it is necessary to continue providing services to our residents.”
The new budget shows expenses estimated at $512,660 and income of $560,759. The borough will have an escrow account of some $49,000 for emergency purposes and will pump any unused funds from it into the 2006 budget. About $45,000 from the 2004 budget was put into the 2005 spending plan.
Council President Jim Lowry announced that there will be free meter parking in the borough from Dec. 20 through the 24th and that the garbage collection schedule will remain on Friday through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The recycling center will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
A report from the county Board of Assessment shows the borough with assessed real estate value totaling $22,029,000; assessed occupation value of $118,000; the number of occupation taxables at 260; and, the number of per capital taxables at 718.
The Great Bend Township Supervisors conducted a remarkably short meeting on Monday, December 6. A public meeting in Great Bend was scheduled for the same day and time, to discuss the local ambulance corps, and some supervisors wanted to try to get there, even if a bit late.
A considerable amount of discussion took place about whether to keep or reword the current employee manual to accommodate winter work hours. The board would like to see some hours from employees’ 40-hour work weeks saved for some weekend work, where possible, when the snow starts flying. The discussion was unresolved and supervisors will address it in the near future.
In his roadmaster’s report, supervisor George Haskins reported that a tremendous amount of work has been done in the last three weeks. He noted that all hard roads have been patched and potholes in the dirt ones have been filled in. With yet more rain in the week before the meeting, he said that some culvert problems were taken care of on McHugh Hill Road and, with winter coming on, that the trucks have been serviced and the salt storage shed pretty well finished off, with a load of salt already in it.
Approval was received, Haskins reported, from the county conservation district to the lower slide on Graham Hollow Road, and he believes that the DEP is ready to issue a permit for more durable correction of it.
With few exceptions, much of the rest of the meeting was dedicated to passing along information items. Board chair Bob Squier reported a request by COG to the supervisors to notify the Codes group if they saw any work being done for verification that a permit has been issued; that letters were sent to the township SEOs informing them that the township is considering joining COG Sewage (although no decision has been made on this so far); and that two subdivisions have received final sewage approval from the DEP and another has received subdivision approval from the county planning commission.
And while township funds are getting pretty low, the board voted to donate $100 to the Hallstead Library which is used by many township children and adults, and to approve the purchase of Quickbooks 2005 software which is used by township secretary Sheila Guinan to maintain township records and accounts. With Haskins abstaining, it voted to replace his drill motor which broke while Haskins was working on township equipment. The vote was taken in spite of Haskins protestations that replacement was not necessary.
Supervisor Walt Galloway reported that he and Guinan have received and gone over specifications, prints and information from Labor & Industry to submit as part of a grant that Guinan is working on to obtain funds for new/renovated township building.
Before adjourning, Guinan reported that the 2005 budget has been advertised and is ready for a vote at the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for December 20 at 7 p.m. in the township building.
The Lanesboro Borough Council met November 2, 2004.
Roll call: All present except President Chris Maby. Visitors: Sandy and Jerry Benson, Barb and Jim Bedford, Heather Martin, Jim Eggleston, Dennis Martel, as well as police officer Joe Canini.
Motion to accept minutes of previous meeting as written carried.
Visitors: Jim Bedford on flood repair - expected more, got less. Not happy with state for stopping repair but no problem with the boro. Barb Bedford responded to the recent newsletter and requested a streetlight near her property. Dennis Martel is requesting next step to get help with his property. He has contacted all avenues suggested, but has gotten nowhere. Sandra Major was supposed to get his well tested, but at meeting time it had not happened. FEMA called on him to investigate the property. He was given more names in Montrose to try to get help. Heather Martin received her fall newsletter and questioned the responsibility of the homeowner as to sidewalks. The sidewalk in front of her property has an ongoing water problem. It seems the manhole is plugged, causing a water overflow on her sidewalk and her property. The sidewalk seems to be undermined. She wants to address this problem now, before it gets worse. She was advised that PENNDOT may have to investigate the situation. She also questioned how long a resident has to complete a renovation once it has started. She stated that the property neighboring hers is in a rundown condition, repairs have not been completed, garbage is strewn around, and stagnant pools of water are causing rats to invade. She was advised that Shane Lewis will inspect the property.
Codes: Shane Lewis was not in attendance but left his report. He has been in contact with Ron Kelly regarding the bank behind his house. He needs some input as to the next step for property repair.
Officer Canini reported on thirteen traffic situations, two property damage reports, one DUI, two dog reports, and one abandoned truck.
No report from Jerry Gow. His mail has not been picked up but he advised the mayor that he has spoken with the district attorney and the magistrate.
Mayor’s Report: Tires have been ordered for the refuse truck. One extra trip was made with flood debris. VP Boughton spoke about the necessity of time sheets for refuse employees and police. Time sheets must be signed to get paid.
Community Center: The Halloween party was a success. The center was rented for two weekends in November and two in December.
Treasurer’s Report: Motion to accept report as written carried.
New Business: A budget meeting was scheduled for November 16. One snow plow bid received for 2004-05 season. A bid by Miller Bros. was accepted.
December 6, 2004
The Starrucca Borough Council met December 6, 2004. Council President, Andy Bennett, called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. Council members present were Brigitte D’Agati, Paul Everett, Lou Gurske, Helen Haynes, and Robert Weldy. Mayor Frank Mroczka was also present. The audience included Kristin Potter, Kirk Rhone, Patricia Schneyer, and Chris Murray.
The minutes of the November 1 regular meeting and of the November 18 special meeting were approved unanimously. A motion to approve the treasurer’s report and to pay the bills passed unanimously. The treasurer reported meeting with an auditor from the PA Department of the Auditor General to audit the Liquid Fuels funds for 2002 and 2003. The auditor stressed that council members who are related to bidders must abstain from voting on motions to award bids and the meeting minutes should reflect their actions. The treasurer mentioned that she would be meeting with a representative from PENNDOT to prepare the 2004 year-end Liquid Fuels report.
Correspondence included a bid from Como Construction for road repairs necessitated by storm Ivan in September; Mr. Everett will seek additional bids. Mr. Everett will also seek bids for repairs to a retaining wall near the new Shadigee Creek Bridge. The Borough received notification that an assessment team of Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel and a Wayne Conservation District agent would inspect the stream damage near that bridge in mid-November; several council members in fact discussed the damage with inspectors when they came. The Borough received a letter from PA Secretary of Transportation stating that they could not help Starrucca with the Buck Bridge, but could offer low-interest loans. The letter went on to say that bridge projects were set for the next three years and projects’ priorities depended in part on the amount of traffic carried on the bridges. Wayne County Board of Assessment informed the Borough that its 2005 taxable real estate base is $16,155,400. Information on Beaver/Human Conflicts, which was offered at the November 1 meeting, will be filed by the secretary for future reference. The Wayne Conservation District approved plans for an agricultural crossing on Jack Downton’s property. FEMA sent materials encouraging Council to pass a floodplain ordinance, restricting development in flood-prone areas. In return, residents would be able to purchase flood insurance. Council took no action. An e-mail from Judge of Elections, Bob Lunt, reminded Council that petitions to run in the May primary election are due to the county in mid- to late-February. Petitions should be requested of the Wayne County Board of Elections in mid-January.
Adam Choi of Jacobs Ladder Road will need to apply for a driveway permit.
Kristin Potter, representing the Starrucca Civic Association, asked for the status of electrical work on the Community Hall storage room. Mr. Gurske said the electrical work is nearly finished, with only ceiling lights left to be done. The Civic Association has offered to pay for the electrical work.
Kristin Potter, as a Girl Scout leader, requested the use of the Community Hall on Tuesday, January 11, 2005, from noon until evening as a drop-off for Girl Scout cookies. Council unanimously approved a motion to allow such use.
Kirk Rhone mentioned his interest in the council seat vacated by the resignation of Ms. DeBalko.
Pat Schneyer mentioned that she was interested in the secretary/treasurer position.
Old Business and Committees.
Council approved Mayor Mroczka and Council President Bennett as its representatives for Federal Surplus Property.
Audit. Auditor Kirk Rhone presented the between-secretaries audit. He and Auditor George DeBalko had prepared the audit covering April through September. Council accepted the audit. Council thanked the auditors; this was their second audit during 2004.
COG, Council of Governments. Mayor Mroczka reported on his conversation with Elliot Ross of the Susquehanna COG. Mr. Mroczka plans to attend their December meeting and will report back to council, which is considering a change in COG membership. The mayor noted that Starrucca is in the Susquehanna public school district.
Resignation. Kirk Rhone, resigning as auditor, presented a letter of resignation. A motion to accept the resignation passed unanimously.
Council Seat. Kirk Rhone was unanimously appointed to the council seat vacated October 31. Mayor Mroczka administered the oath of office to Mr. Rhone, who was then welcomed at the council table. Mr. Rhone’s term extends through December, 2005. Council directed that he be paid for this meeting.
Roads. Mr. Gurske resigned from the Road Committee. Mayor Mroczka voiced the opinion that the Road Committee was unnecessary, that fully half of Council’s expenses were road-related and the entire Council should participate in road decisions. Council agreed, unanimously passing a motion to abolish the Road Committee. Mayor Mroczka agreed to mark sluices with reflectors as needed.
Two council members, Kirk Rhone and Andy Bennett, were named as the primary contacts for snowplowing and cindering problems in the Borough. Citizens of Starrucca should contact either of these officials with their concerns about winter road conditions. If unable to reach these two people, then citizens are asked to contact any other Council member and that member would relay their concerns to Mr. Rhone and Mr. Bennett. Citizens of Starrucca Borough should NOT contact the contractors directly.
Council members expressed their sincere thanks to the work party which filled potholes during November.
Council agreed to not reorganize itself in January. Reorganizations are generally done once every two years, in January following municipal elections.
Council recognized the efforts of Mary Ann DeBalko and Peter Wynne in securing funds for the Borough and in re-establishing order in its records.
Budget. The Budget Committee presented the proposed budget. The millage rate was set at 0.89, which would provide real estate tax revenues of $14,375. The tax levy ordinance was passed unanimously. A motion to accept the budget reflecting the tax income was passed unanimously. A budget ordinance was then passed unanimously. Total revenues in the budget are expected to be $36,315, which includes $16,690 from Liquid Fuels allocation. Fire protection is paid out of the general fund, and is not collected as a separate tax item.
Storage Room. Mr. Gurske reported that the next step in constructing a storage room in the Community Hall is to apply plywood and sheet rock to the wall adjoining the stage. A work party is planned for January or later as conditions allow. The electrical work is complete except for ceiling lights. Doors will need locks and refitting so they will open and close readily.
Thompson Hose Company sent a contract for fire protection for 2005. The proposed cost was vastly different from the 2004 cost. Thompson Hose Co. had been alerted to this difference by the secretary/treasurer. Thompson Hose Co. advised her that they would re-work the contract proposal and re-submit it for the January 3 meeting and they would continue to provide coverage in the meantime. Mr. Rhone agreed to monitor their discussions. The cost difference stems from the recent Wayne County reassessment of real estate, which results in inappropriate costs when the same millage rate is applied across Wayne and Susquehanna Counties. Most of the towns served by the fire company are in Susquehanna County.
Executive Session. At 9:20 P.M. Council went into executive session. At 9:45 executive session ended.
Upon resuming the regular meeting, Council unanimously voted to hire Patricia Schneyer as Borough secretary/treasurer, effective Dec. 15, 2004. Council unanimously passed a motion setting the secretary/treasurer’s salary, with the December 2004 salary to be pro-rated at half to Mrs. Mroczka and half to Ms. Schneyer.
Council unanimously passed a motion to authorize Mayor Mroczka to discuss the Borough’s contract with Como Construction for snowplowing and cindering and if Como Construction were agreeable to not servicing Fairmont Road and Kellogg Road, then the mayor could contact Scott Township asking if Scott Township would plow and cinder Fairmont Road and Kellogg Road. The motion went on to authorize the mayor to contract with Scott Township if the township’s price were no more than a specified sum per road, per trip to plow and cinder Fairmont Road and Kellogg Road.
With the resignation of one auditor, there exists a vacant auditor position. Citizens of Starrucca Borough are invited to the January 3, 2005, meeting to indicate their interest in being named as an auditor to serve during 2005.
Council adjourned at 9:50. The next regular council meeting will be January 3, 2005 at 7 p.m. at the Community Hall.
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