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The Susquehanna County commissioners finally did what they have been talking about for weeks – raised taxes. The increase was inevitable, what with spiraling costs of day-do-day needs, health insurance, pay raises and, as always when dealing with any political subdivision – some eyebrow-raising expenditures.
The commissioners settled for a 23 percent hike which takes the real estate tax rate from the current 10.255 mills to 12.543 mills next year. The move should pump an additional $2 million into the county coffers.
The new tax rate was set in conjunction with the passage of the record-setting 2005 county budget that totals $18.4 million dollars. About $11.1 million is in the general fund which is the money required to run the county the next year. The majority of the difference comes from state and federal sources and is applied toward programs such as Children & Youth Services, Domestic Relations, Juvenile and Adult Probation, Court, 911, EMA, Forestry and Soil Conservation.
“We cannot afford it,” Richard Niederberger of Franklin Township said about the tax increase. “Any further increases become unbearable for the taxpayers of the county.” Mr. Niederberger said many homes in the county are in ill repair but people will not fix them because it would raise their taxes.
Roberta Kelly, chair of the Board of Commissioners, said the county’s need of a tax increase is in line with almost every county in the state. She pointed out tax increases in area counties and said Wayne County’s increase was the lowest because the county did a reassessment program.
“Why can’t we be the odd ball and cut the taxes?” Mr. Niederberger suggested.
“We are asked to do more,” Mrs. Kelly said, “and we are being conservative in our thoughts and in our actions. The next step would be to cut services and we are trying very hard not to do that.”
Mr. Niederberger suggested that the county cut salaries but Commissioner Jeff Loomis said that cannot be done because of union contracts.
Mr. Loomis also pointed out that the county has to subsidize it pension fund because of poor investments by previous administrators of the fund.
“We are mandated by law,” said Mr. Loomis, “to have an actuarial firm tell us what we need to put into the budget (for the pension program). Four years ago, the county pension fund went from $12 million to $5 million and now we have to put $1 million a year into the account.”
A bit of good news did surface at the meeting when Commissioners Kelly and Loomis pointed out a state law allowing base acres in Clean and Green to be placed back on the tax rolls has been signed by Gov. Ed Rendell. The base acre is the acre of land in the Clean and Green Program on which the home is situated. The commissioners said of some 7,000 clean and green parcels in the county two-thirds of them will be taxed for the home acre, a move that should raise an additional $300,000 for the county.
Mr. Niederberger and a number of others in the county questioned the county practice of paying 100 percent of the health insurance premiums for its employees. “I have never worked anyplace where the employer paid the full hospitalization insurance,” Mr. Niederberger said, but Mr. Loomis responded that the coverage is included in the six union employee contracts.
In another financial matter, the commissioners agreed to secure a Tax Revenue Anticipation Note in the amount of $1.6 million from Community Bank and Trust at an interest rate of 2.07 percent. It was pointed out that CBT had the lowest interest rate and was also willing to do the necessary paper work at no charge. The money will be used to finance the county until tax revenue begins pouring in next April.
In other matters, the commissioners:
– appointed Kenneth Bondurant of New Milford and reappointed Joseph White of Oakland to the Susquehanna County Rail Authority for five-year terms. Mr. Bondurant replaces Rick Ainey.
– adopted a resolution authorizing an application for a grant through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency for funds for the county’s EMA coordinator and the clerk/typist.
– passed a motion to advertise the Board of Commissioners’ meetings in 2005 will continue to be held the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 10 a.m. in the Emergency Management Conference Room on Public Avenue. Salary Board and Retirement Board meetings will follow the commissioners’ meetings when needed, and the Prison Board will meet the first Tuesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. at the county jail.
– agreed to lease a 2005 Ford Explorer for the sheriff’s department at a cost of $7,900 a year for four years after which the county has the option of purchasing the vehicle for one dollar.
– adopted a resolution authorizing the county to be the lead agency for a grant application through Northern Tier Coalition for grant funding of various projects including one in Silver Lake Township.
Meeting as the Salary Board along with Treasurer Cathy, the board:
– voted 3-2 to increase Jeff Shoemaker’s annual salary from $48,683 to $50,183 for additional responsibilities as the administrator of the Susquehanna County J-Net Program. At the last Salary Board meeting, the motion by Jeff Loomis died for lack of a second but at this session, President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans was present and made the motion. Mr. Loomis seconded it and along with Mrs. Benedict, it passed over the no votes of Commissioners Kelly and Mary Ann Warren.
– adopted the Opt Out Plan giving all county employees and elected officials who are not enrolled in the health insurance plan an opportunity to receive 20 percent of the monthly premium that would have been paid for them had they been enrolled in the plan.
The Mountain View School District Board of Education public meeting held on December 20 was called to order and roll call taken. Those present were Bryce Beeman, President, John Halupke, First Vice President, Kevin Griffiths, Second Vice President, John Beeman, Susan Christensen, Ronald Phillips, Sondra Stine, James Zick, and Carolyn Price, Secretary. Absent was Ordie Price, Treasurer. 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.
First on the agenda was completion of appointments to standing committees as follows. Financial Services: Kevin Griffiths (chair), James Zick, and Susan Christensen. Human Resources, Policy and Labor: John Halupke (chair), Kevin Griffiths, Ronald Phillips. Building & Facilities Management: John Beeman (chair), John Halupke, and Ordie Price. Education: Susan Christensen (chair), Sondra Stine, and John Beeman.
Following approval of the December 6 board of education meeting minutes, John Beeman gave the treasurer report on behalf of Ordie Price, who was absent. The report was accepted as corrected by an adjustment to a disbursement amount. Kevin Griffiths gave the report of the financial services committee. All board members present voted to confirm payment of the General Fund Bill List, Cafeteria Fund Bill List, payroll, transportation contracts, fringe benefits, and fund transfers except for Mr. Halupke. The remainder of bill lists and budget transfers were unanimously approved. Award quotes were approved to Sheridan bus line of Wyalusing, Pa for the fifth grade class trip. Mr. Furneaux commented that it is increasingly difficult to obtain bids for bus trips. Bus companies are possibly not realizing profits on these trips due to increased expenses such as insurance and fuel.
Discussion of how to pay for the classroom re-tiling project for asbestos abatement ensued. It was agreed that the best alternative presented was to use monies from the Capital Projects Reserve Fund, although this had not been budgeted for such.
Citing possible citations by the health department, it was made clear that there is an urgent need to replace equipment for the food service program, specifically, a food slicer and warming containers for transport of food from the high school to the elementary school. The board agreed to purchase the required equipment, although there were no funds earmarked in the Cafeteria Fund for such equipment.
Significant discussion ensued regarding possible work sessions by the board in anticipation of Act 72 (The Homeowner Tax Relief Act). Seeking a common level of understanding of the potential impact of the act for the school district, Mr. Chambers presented several options to consider. They included having the board gather its own information in researching the act and holding discussions for decision making, or teaming up with neighboring school boards to share the cost of holding a work session by the PA School Board Association, or obtaining available software packages for self education and discussion in order to make informed decisions about whether to participate. A lengthy dissertation on Act 72 as the “worst piece of legislation ever written, a boondoggle, and a tragedy for public education” by Mr. Halupke followed. Further, he objected to the suggestion that the board spend money on an educational or work session on Act 72, when the booklets and information already made available to the board were clear and understandable. He opined that participation should not only be rejected by Mountain View, but that all school boards across the state should join together to lobby against it. In the end, there was agreement to set a date in January, 2005 for the board to discuss the act.
Note to readers: School districts are not required to participate in Act 72, but must choose by May 30, 2005, whether to accept its provisions. To participate and receive state gaming funds (which will be allocated to districts through a state Property Tax Relief Fund [not yet established]), they must make a “qualifying contribution” by raising their local income tax (or levying it, if they currently do not) by 0.1 percent.
Next, Mr. Ernest Skiadas, representing Vieria, Skiadas & Co., LLP, the accounting firm that performed the school district’s 2003-2004 financial audit, provided an overview of the audit report (already reviewed by the board.) Mr. Skiadas said that the district improved both financially and management-wise over the previous year, ending with revenues exceeding expenses by $615,000 and revenues exceeded overall expectations by $1.6 million. This positive stance was attributed to the receipt of unexpected state funding as well as increased property tax collections and collections of delinquent taxes. He supported the board’s judicious use of the unreserved fund balance to absorb unexpected increases in expenditures when needed. He suggested that because the state may cap amounts being held in such funds in the future, consideration should be given to moving or using some of these funds. He concluded by saying that in the firm’s unqualified “clean” opinion the district’s accounting system had improved significantly, as did its compliance activities.
Mr. Halupke vehemently disagreed with the audit report, calling it a huge cover up of major budget deficits for the 2003-2004 year. Objecting to the board’s November, 2004 resolution to accept the over-budget expenditures, Mr. Halupke went on to point out a $8,083 difference in the allocation of expenditures, that when added to other over-budget allocations, amounted in reality to $282,208. These “delayed appropriations”, he said were not an appropriate use of Section 609 of the School Code (which allows expenditures over budget when the state subsidy amount is unknown at the time of budget approval.) Mr. Skiadas’ rebuttal focused on the fact that additional revenues needed to be recorded even when the budget had already been approved and that there was a note indicating that in the audit report. Mr. Halupke disagreed with this methodology and said that when reported in this way, the audit was misleading to the public. He said if this was the best way to report over-budget expenditures, then why not go the extra $8,083 and just balance the budget? Mrs. Christensen interjected and said that the board worked very hard to come up with a budget based on the information it had available at the time. She countered that the audit report was very clear, and that it presented the district in a positive light. Mr. Chambers thanked Mr. Skiadas and the accounting team for their assistance in showing the school district as healthy. With seven votes to accept the audit report, one not to accept it, and one absent, the audit report was accepted.
Mr. Halupke gave the report of the Human Resources, Policy and Labor Relations Committee, and the board accepted the resignations of two custodial/maintenance employees due to retirement, and one resignation of a lunch room monitor. Advertising for the monitor position was approved. Tenure was approved for Katie Naegele, elementary school teacher for 3 years of satisfactory service.
First policy readings of revised district policies were reviewed. Many were amended to indicate that in the future, the policies would be reviewed by the education committee, prior to going before the full school board.
Negotiations were held with the support staff.
There was no report of the Building & Facilities Committee but a meeting was set for 12/29/04.
Mrs. Christensen gave the report of the Education Committee, and reviewed the goals of the committee for the coming year. The first is to tie PSSA achievements to student responsibilities and graduation requirements. Second is to simplify the dress code and look at a “uniform” clothing policy. The third is to evaluate blended schools, adding more cyber school options. Lastly, the special education department is looking into adding an autism class and increasing life skills education.
All conference attendance and field trip attendance motions were approved as presented. Mrs. Christensen noted enthusiastically that the district’s special Olympic ski team (Area P) had recently received all new ski equipment, donated by Mount Tone Ski Area. Also, Idlewild Ski Shop had offered to adjust the equipment for the team for a nominal fee. In addition, community donations would enable the purchase of team ski jackets.
In response to a question during the second hearing of visitors, Mr. Chambers indicated that the school board meeting minutes would be available on the district’s Web site in a few weeks.
The meeting was then adjourned.
G.B. Ambulance Chooses a Board
At a free-wheeling meeting attended by all of ten people on December 21, a bare quorum of the membership of the Great Bend-Hallstead Volunteer Ambulance service selected a board of directors that is hoped will drag the struggling organization back from the brink of oblivion. A new set of bylaws adopted last week by the members calls for a seven-member board to direct the operations of the service. There were just enough candidates to choose from, and they were duly chosen.
Tony Conarton presided at a meeting that focused on "going forward" quickly to resuscitate the operation that was shutdown last summer when its license-renewal application was denied. The approach to reorganization most favored seemed to be, "deal with it later." Mr. Conarton set a target of February 1 to get the ambulances "out the door" once more, and at least the small group gathered for this meeting, however skeptical of the target, supported the approach. Everyone agreed that "it's going to be a learning experience."
Seven people, self-nominated, were deemed eligible for board membership. The new bylaws call for two members drawn from active EMTs, one of which should be the service captain; one seat is allotted to each of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion; and three seats are considered at large, to be drawn from the general public.
Tom Lacey and Eddie Arnold of the VFW have been voting members of the ambulance service for several months, in recognition of their organization's role in starting the service some 50 years ago. Mr. Lacey was also a founding member. Mr. Lacey has strenuously argued that the VFW deserves two seats on the new board, and in the end he got them. Since the service does not have a captain yet, there was no one to take that slot. Like a lot of details, how a captain was to be selected has yet to be decided. Since the prevailing attitude seemed to be that the organization's structure and its bylaws could be changed at any time, expanding the board to nine (or more) members to allow for these arrangements shouldn't be a problem.
Once the board was decided on, the members chose a president for the ambulance service. A reluctant Tony Conarton accepted the office, which, according to the bylaws, presides over meetings of the board of directors. Mr. Conarton is not on the board himself. Then the group decided to schedule its first board of directors meeting on December 30, to which they invited everyone with an interest in the ambulance service.
The new board of directors of the Great Bend-Hallstead Volunteer Ambulance includes: Cheryl Buchta, an active EMT; Tom Lacey and Eddie Arnold of the VFW; Richard Rood of the American Legion; and at-large members Del Austin, Janet Haulton, and Dennis Maloney. Mr. Rood and Mr. Maloney were not present at the meeting.
Of course the purpose of the ambulance corps is to provide emergency medical service. To do that, they need qualified, certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), some "first responders," and possibly some additional drivers. Mr. Conarton said that he had a list of as many as 17 qualified people that are ready to come forward. He conceded that only some of those would be "truly active." The greatest difficulty the service faces, according to Mr. Conarton, is lack of "commitment from the public." He said, "People are afraid to be involved because they don't know where this thing is going."
Which, of course, is what they're trying to fix. "We've got to think positive. We've got to go forward."
Ruth M. Camp, 48, New Milford, was found dead inside her apartment shortly before 7 on the evening of December 21. The police report notes that “there does not appear to be anything equivocal” about her death.
Erica White, Forest City, wearing a seat belt, was not injured when she pulled her 2001 Chrysler van onto State Road 2008 in Clifford Township and into the path of a 1989 Ford Bronco driven by Albert White, Greenfield Township, who was also seat belted and not injured. The right side of the Jeep hit the front end of the Chrysler on this accident that occurred just before noon on December 16. Ms. White was cited for “vehicles entering or crossing roadways.”
Andrew Lindsey, Hallstead, was driving a 2004 Suzuki ATV south on Stone Crop Road in Liberty Township when he lost control of it on an icy roadway and spun into the path of a 2004 Chevy Express Van driven by Mark Mower, Hallstead. Neither Mower nor his passenger were injured in this accident that took place on the afternoon of December 15, although the van received moderate damage. Lindsey, the driver of the ATV, received moderate injuries and his ATV was moderately damaged.
Jaime Morse, 23, Great Bend, reported that she and Paul Barlow, 29, Montrose, were involved in a domestic argument on the evening of November 16 when Barlow grabbed and pushed her. Harassment charges were filed against him.
A 1999 Dodge Intrepid driven by Elizabeth Smith, Montrose, just before 6 p.m. on December 16 went off State Route 29 in Springville Township, struck a guardrail and a phone pole, and then rolled down an embankment. Smith was transported to Tyler Memorial Hospital for minor injuries; the Springville Volunteer Fire Department assisted state police at the scene.
Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to call the State Police at 465-3154.
Donald E. Goertel and Elaine F. Goertel to Robert R. Fagan and Julia A. Fagan, in Liberty Township for $75,000.
Frank W. Dawson (trust by trustee) to Samuel Cicon, in Brooklyn Township for $46,640.
Lloyd M. Hall and Marie Hall to Dwight C. Nunemacher and Joan E. Nunemacher, in Dimock Township for $174,900.
John Butts to Steven R. Glover and Mary Jo Glover, in Susquehanna for $5,000.
Deborah E. Patton to Francisco J. Martinez and Diane Martinez, in Jackson Township for $10,000.
Jack Beamer and Christen Roe (nka) Christen Brady to Scott A. Megivern, in Susquehanna for $52,000.
Harold J. Fehlberg and Evelyn U. Fehlberg to Harold J. Fehlberg and Evelyn U. Fehlberg, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Doris Florance (aka by attorney) Doris Florence (by atty) to Calamari Farms Inc., in Hallstead Borough for $18,000.
Jennie Brink to Daniel R. Brink and Susan L. Mariani, in Hallstead Borough for one dollar.
Lawrence O’Reilly, Christine M. O’Reilly and Thomas J. O’Reilly to Edward V. Griffin and Michelle L. Griffin, in Oakland Township for $61,000.
Helen Konrad and Joseph Konrad (estate) to Jeffrey Gargiulo and Laura Gargiulo, in Forest Lake Township for $105,000.
William E. Hand and Marilyn H. Hand to Donald E. Sherrod and Delores V. Sherrod, in Oakland Borough for $80,000.
Montrose Restoration Committee Inc. to Robert C. Wert and Grace E. Wert, in Montrose for $135,000.
Gene Hobart and Libbie Hobart to Dale Rockwell Sr., in Lanesboro Borough for $45,000.
David T. Baker and Wendy D. Baker to Shane Lewis, in Susquehanna for $1,000.
Francis J . Pinkowski to John R. Dean, in Bridgewater Township for $12,000.
Jon A. Sorber (by sheriff) and Joanne L. Sorber (aka) Joanne L. Bartkus (by sheriff) to Peoples National Bank for $7,907.
Milo David Douglas (by trustee) to Sean B. Rafferty and Kimberly Rafferty, in New Milford Township for $85,000.
Timothy Kowalsky to Rodney L. Davis, in Clifford Township for $55,000.
Anthony Molinaro to Byrd Pressley and Patricia L. Caprio, in Forest City for $39,000.
Frank Trauger to Charles H. Brensinger Jr., in Rush Township for $85,000.
Robert L. Conklin to Michael Rutter and Kelly Rutter, in Great Bend Township for $91,160.
Samuel R. Long, Linda Lee Long (nka) Linda Lee Glenwright to William Weightman and Bonnie Weightman, in Herrick Township for $225,000.
Catherine J. Kawczyinski and Daniel T. Sinnott to Daniel T. Sinnott and Catherine J. Sinnnott, in Thompson Borough for one dollar.
2004-EQRI to Dwayne A. Robbins and Cortney B. Robbins, in Lathrop Township for $60,000.
Richard J. Nichols and Margaret Nichols to Richard J. Nichols, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Gerald M. Williams and Alice M. Williams to Gery Kozlansky and Suzan Kozlansky, in Lathrop Township for $70,000.
Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota to Paul A. Bredbener, in Hallstead Borough, for $29,000.
Roy Williams and Diane Williams to Shane T. Lewis, in Susquehanna for $1,250.
Roy Williams and Diana Williams to Shane T. Lewis, in Susquehanna for $1,250.
Mark E. French and Aubrey M. French to Mark E. French and Aubrey M. French, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
George L. Capwell (estate) to John Wahl, in Silver Lake Township for $86,500.
Stanley Olters and Miriam Olters to Raymond Kilmer and Sandy Kilmer, in Ararat Township for $3,500.
Brenda J. Henry (nbm) Brenda J. Sailer to Rodney A. Henry, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
Buffi Ladue and Michael Ladue to Keith A. Goodwick and Christine T. Goodwick, in Lenox Township for $225,000.
Thomas H., Patrick and Patricia L. Patrick to Ronald L. Smith and Ellen A. Smith, in Bridgewater Township for $245,000.
Jill Shreck to Christopher A. Piercy, in Ararat Township for $34,000.
Ralph P. Darienzo (estate) to Lori Ann Bellairs and Dawn Andrea Dougherty, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Frances P. Allen (nbm) Frances P. Lyman and Kevin G. Lyman to Tina M. Theriot, in Montrose for $86,250.
Richard C. Lyman and Susan L. Lyman to Kevin Lyman and Frances Lyman, in Springville Township for $88,000.
Jason M. Jemmott of Friendsville and Samantha Marie Jacoby of Montrose.
William A. Cudney of Vestal, NY and Rhonda Lee Rosenkrens of Montrose.
Lee A. Wiegand and Jessica L. Madison, both of Great Bend.
Gerard Michael Washack and Christine Danette Rudy, both of LeRaysville.
Justin Lee Birtch and Aretha M. Pickering, both of South Montrose.
Jason L. Faigle of Springville vs. Mary K. Faigle of Meshoppen.
Harrisburg – The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Helpline hours of operation have changed.
The Helpline (1-800-621-FEMA (3362) will now operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
The toll-free Helpline number is available for residents of Pennsylvania’s 58 disaster-declared counties who suffered damage during the tropical storms of September. Those with speech or hearing impairments should call TTY 1-800-462-7585.
“This phone number is available for people who have registered and want to update or check on the status of their applications,” said David M. Sanko, state coordinating officer.
“The Helpline will continue to be a valuable resource for those who have registered for disaster assistance,” added according to Nick Russo, federal coordinating officer.
Two guests asked to be added to the agenda for the December 20 meeting of the Great Bend Township board of supervisors. The first was Charles (Rick) Woldt, president of Plan B Consulting and Engineering in Hallstead; he wanted to find out where the Bridging Committee, of which the township – along with Great Bend and Hallstead – is part, stands on design and other work that must be done before a grant runs out that would create sidewalks pretty much all the way from the new bridge to the (under-construction) welcome center.
Representatives of the Bridging Committee recently met with Woldt to find out more about him and his firm. Woldt told the three township supervisors that he is interested in pursuing the project and is ready to “jump on it right away.” Before that could happen, however, he wanted to know if the KBA Engineering, a firm the township has used in the past, was already selected for the project and, basically, what its status was regarding it.
Supervisor George Haskins said the township will find out. It will get in touch with KBA to see if it is still interested, and, if so, require it to establish a date by which it will absolutely be completed. In the past, KBA has, at times, been late on township work. Haskins said, “We won’t accept a late delivery. We need a quick turnaround. If we don’t take action soon, we lose the grant, and lose the money that would be paid to local people we expect to work on the project.”
The other visitor was Steve Brown, representing the Broome Volunteer Ambulance Company which provides advanced life support (ALS); other companies may provide ALS as well, but some are certified for only basic life support (BLS). Brown “wanted to stop by and touch base where were are.” His presentation took into account that, at a recent meeting in Great Bend dedicated to the local ambulance situation, there were concerns about his group’s billing. He reported that up to this point, there have been no problems in the time it has been assisting local residents with ambulance service.
Brown noted that the Broome group has been “pushed out” and no longer sits in the ambulance station in Great Bend; that it is in town and is trying to find another place to stay. After noting that the township chose to use the “nearest/closest ambulance” for its service, he apprised the board of a particular concern. This was the communications center to which 911 calls are made and which typically dispatches an ambulance, and sometimes it is not an ALS one. As an example, Brown cited listening in on emergency communications that resulted in a 50-minute wait to get an ALS ambulance from Thompson to the town of Susquehanna – “while we were here, sitting 10 minutes away just off the Interstate.” He regretted that sometimes the “over-the-border thing” could run interference, but he was adamant about touting the fast and professional service of the Broome group’s members. Noting that with his group and the Montrose Minutemen – both ALS services – ready to respond in the township, that it had probably the best service in the county. Brown reported that a two-year degree is required to be part of an ALS crew.
Haskins told Brown that he has not heard any concern about the services of the Broome group. “All I’ve heard is how quick you are to respond.” Squier echoed Haskins’ comments.
In the meantime, the municipalities that used to be serviced by the now-reorganizing Great Bend-Hallstead ambulance company will wait and see what happens down the road, and continue to consider themselves fortunate to have another service to quickly respond to life-threatening and emergency situations.
The supervisors passed several motions. One was to adopt the proposed budget for 2005. A small tax increase of less than a mil was included and which will hopefully put to rest at least some of the major equipment woes of the township. Repairs on a Ford truck earlier this year were huge, and it just needed a $1,500 brake job. The township is looking to get a new dump truck to replace what Haskins described as the rusted-out, rotted-out Ford. “It can’t go on hills without chains; it can’t completely dump materials because the back won’t go all the way up” and the road crew ends up shoveling materials out. So, supervisors will keep an eye out for a newer model with a grader and wing plow, and will pay attention to any upcoming PENNDOT auctions and other places where a reliable workhorse may be available.
Supervisor Walt Galloway made a motion to join the Sewage Enforcement Committee of the Council of Governments; the township is a member of its construction codes committee. Before Haskins seconded Galloway’s motions, he wanted it on record that he didn’t necessarily want to go with COG. However, with the township having struggled for the past few year “to get sewage done effectively and efficiently and with the proper response.”
So, while he had concerns about it, Haskins thought it was the best solution for the time being: “They have a system and they are ready to go, and we can withdraw at any time.” Squier concurred with Haskins and all three cast their votes to join the sewage organizations.
In other permitting matters, it approved a driveway permit for Larry French, as well as subdivision for French and for the Coombs. Communications matters included receipt of a letter from PEMA recognizing Dixie Russell as the township’s emergency management coordinator, along with a notification from the county that the township’s emergency plan will need to be updated. It received a copy of an Order to Comply letter sent to Lee Allard Trucking Inc. from the Department of Environmental Protection about cleaning up/preventing stone materials leaching into a creek close to the business. The county also wrote the township about on-site, ongoing waste oil collection at the recycling center.
Galloway reported on his and township secretary Sheila Guinan’s continuing work on getting all the materials together required to be submitted for a grant that would be dedicated to renovations to the township building. Galloway reported that he’s already spoken with the UCC coordinators at COG, and they are available to handle required review of architectural designs and other design paperwork. Guinan noted that the grant application and accompanying exhibits and designs would be on their way the day after the meeting. Going forward, Galloway asked the other two supervisors if they wanted him to coordinate the project. “If you do, I will get it done.” They did, and Galloway will.
In his roadmasters report, Haskins noted that the road crew has cindered a couple of times – most recently, the evening before the meeting. He said there were “real big problems with the anti-skid freezing up on the trucks and freezing up in the boxes.” This, explained Haskins, is because our big rains also went into the anti-skid. He wants to look into a pole barn next year that would protect the anti-skid from the elements – like the new salt barn is now doing for the salt.
The board’s last piece of business before adjourning was to apply the remainder of an office-equipment grant (lost, if not used) towards a new computer for Margot Merritt, the township’s tax collector, to assist in her township work.
The next meeting of the Great Bend Township board of supervisors is scheduled for January 3 at 7 p.m. in the township building.
The unrelenting efforts of state representatives Sandra Major and Tina Pickett brought good news from Harrisburg, when Governor Rendell signed into law an amendment to the Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974, commonly referred to as the Clean and Green Act. This amendment gives County Commissioners the option of taxing the base acre (where the home would be located) at a regular rate, rather than the reduced rate of Clean and Green that now includes the entire property. If the Susquehanna County Commissioners decide to take advantage of this amendment, it will realize a significant amount of revenue for the county.
As seen by this reporter throughout the year, Susquehanna County, through its various boards, committees and agencies, is striving to identify who we are, what resources we have, how to use these resources to the best advantage and to keep the county progressing without losing the country heritage and character. In relation to this pursuit, the term "branding" is being used in the sense that we determine who and what we offer as a county, and use this as a brand that can be marketed.
Planning Commission Director Robert Templeton says, "Once a brand is determined, it should be consistently promoted and supported by all ‘stakeholders’ and kept in mind when individual agencies and departments perform their duties, whether it’s land use, transportation, environmental protection, community development, grants, sewer and water, infrastructure, historic preservation, economic development, workforce development or advertising and promotion."
The regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting became a discussion-only meeting and no official business transpired because only four members were present at this meeting that was held a week earlier than usual because of the holidays. Without a quorum, acting president Frank Kwader presided over these discussions.
The meeting schedule for 2005 will continue to be the last Tuesday of each month, with the exception of December, when they will again meet one week earlier, which is their custom. As always, the public is welcome to attend all their meetings. Public input is encouraged.
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