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A 34-year-old Pennsylvania State Trooper faces a number of charges in the wake of an early morning incident on January 15 in a private home in New Milford.
Trooper Glen J. Whitney of New Milford, who is assigned to the Gibson State Police Substation, has been charged with simple assault, criminal trespass, burglary, harassment and criminal mischief. He has been suspended without pay pending an internal investigation.
Also arrested was Clifford H. Grosvenor, 34, also of New Milford. He faces charges of simple assault, criminal trespass, burglary, harassment, criminal mischief and criminal conspiracy.
Both suspects have been freed on their own recognizance while awaiting a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled for last Thursday before District Magistrate Peter Janicelli but was postponed until a later date.
An affidavit of probable cause alleges that Trooper Whitney and Mr. Grosvenor went to the home of John Haggerty at 25 Cobb Street in New Milford and assaulted him.
Mr. Haggerty told authorities that Trooper Whitney and Mr. Grosvenor kicked open the door to his home, entered the residence and proceeded to punch him with closed fists. He said the suspects then left his home but Mr. Grosvenor returned and knocked his computer to the ground and struck him with the computer keyboard.
State Police said when Mr. Haggerty visited the Gibson Substation he had swelling and bruises in the facial area and abrasions on his neck. Mr. Haggerty said he knew Trooper Whitney and Mr. Grosvenor and identified them as the individuals responsible for his injuries. No explanation was given for the alleged assault.
The scheduled preliminary hearing was postponed to allow Mr. Grosvenor time to obtain legal counsel. Trooper Whitney was represented at the hearing by Attorney Michael Giangrieco.
First Assistant District Attorney Marion O’Malley is prosecuting the case for the state.
The temperature outside was minus one degree when the Montrose Area School District board of directors meeting began in Choconut the evening of January 18. While all directors but one (Shawn Brown was unable to attend) were there, there wasn’t much of an audience to hear them.
There were plenty of good things happening in the District that superintendent Mike Ognosky wanted to talk about, and they involved various community and school organizations. With this meeting a carryover from the prior week when it was postponed because of a snowstorm, the good things continue to be postponed as well, and will be addressed at upcoming meetings when the weather will hopefully be less nasty.
The directors were seated behind laptop computers, recently provided to them for district business. This innovation means that instead of each director getting mailed a three-ring-binder full of papers, reports, 10-12 pages of bills to be paid and so forth for review prior to a meeting, this otherwise bulky information is now sent to them electronically. They can view and print it as needed from their homes. The process saves both time (for staff who used to do the copying, collation and mailing) and money (eliminating significant postage and paper costs).
All thanked technology director Craig Owens for implementing the system, using a no-cost software program that allows the information to be securely disseminated to directors and other school administrators, and which tracks its receipt, among other functions. Owens also received credit from board president Ken Gould for researching the cost of district cell phones (primarily as a way for school bus drivers to communicate with schools about conditions or delays) and recommending a provider change that will save the district a few hundred dollars a month from the current plan.
The group quickly went through its agenda items, most of which were about personnel. It accepted the resignation of Jeffrey D. Norris as freshmen boys’ basketball coach effective December 31, 2004, and appointed in his stead Ellen Mulligan, effective January 7, for the remainder of the 2004-2005 winter sports season. The board also accepted with regret the resignation of Janie Smith as assistant baseball coach, effective January 4.
It voted to make the full-year position of Junior-Senior High School assistant principal’s secretary a 210-day position and named JoAnne McCain to it, effective December 22, 2004. Previously, McCain was an office aide at the high school. The district has posted the office aide position, as well as the position of payroll and benefits clerk/board treasurer from which the board accepted with regret Tara Mowbray’s resignation. The board also approved hiring Cynthia Schneider as support staff substitute.
In other selections, it hired Katherine Green as a daily substitute English teacher and as half-time English teacher at the high school, with half benefits and half pay, prorated to the date in January she began working. Approved as daily substitute teachers were Andrew Axworthy and Hilary Walsh (elementary), and Terri Jadwin (emergency).
Appointed as graduation project coordinator was Eric Powers. The Pennsylvania State Board regulations now require each student in the state to finish a project in one or more areas of concentrated study in order to graduate from high school. Powers will oversee the project, which begins with this year’s juniors in anticipation of their senior year, and coordinate students, faculty advisers, resource people/mentors and parents/guardians in meeting the timetable and requirements.
Board members were also notified of (and e-mailed) policies that have been changed or added in line with Pennsylvania School Board Association guidelines, for their review. These policies affect: extracurricular participation by charter/cyber students; eligibility of nonresident students’ electronic devices; child/student abuse; opening exercises; and community engagement.
The next regular meeting of the Montrose Area School Board is scheduled for 6:30 on February 9 at the Choconut Valley Elementary School.
A change of attorney for the defendant and the appointment of a new judge to preside over the second trial of Dr. Stephen B. Scher may cause a delay in the beginning date of the trial.
Jury selection was to begin on February 7 but it is now believed that Joshua D. Lock of Harrisburg, Dr. Scher’s new attorney, may request additional time for consultations with his client and a review of volumes of transcript pages from the first trial.
Dr. Scher is currently serving a life sentence for the 1976 shooting death of Attorney Martin Dillon of Montrose but was granted a new trial when the State Supreme Court refused to grant the state Attorney General’s office request to argue against the court’s decision to grant the trial. The court cited a number of questionable actions that took place during the first trial and the fact that Dr. Scher was not arrested and tried until 20 years after Mr. Dillon’s death. Some key figures in the initial investigation of the shooting had passed away and were unable to provide testimony or be cross-examined on some of their written reports concerning the shooting and events that led to it.
In the meantime, Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans requested that another judge be assigned to hear the trial. Judge Seamans said spending full time on the trial could impact on an already crowded county court calendar. The Commonwealth responded with the appointment of Clinton W. Smith, Senior Judge of Lycoming County, to preside over the trial.
Then, too, there remains the possibility of a change in venue which could move the trial to another county or a change in venire which could result in importing jurors from another county. Both moves were included in the appeal for a new trial by Dr. Scher’s attorney, John P. Moses of Wilkes-Barre. Mr. Moses repeatedly emphasized that Dr. Scher could not get a trial free from prejudice in Susquehanna County because of the popularity of Martin Dillon and the treatment Dr. Scher was accorded in newspapers that circulate in Susquehanna County.
Mr. Moses, who had been chairman of the Board of Directors at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN for many years, has retired from practicing law and will become the new chief executive officer at the hospital that gained worldwide recognition through the efforts of the late comedian/actor, Danny Thomas.
As happened in the first trial, the state Attorney General’s office will provide the prosecuting attorney in the second trial. Patrick J. Blessington, senior deputy attorney general, has been assigned as the trial lawyer.
At the first trial, much of the testimony focused on an alleged romance between Dr. Scher and Mr. Dillon’s wife. Two years after Mr. Dillon’s death, Dr. Scher married the shooting victim’s widow, Patricia Dillon.
The scheduled January 19 meeting of the Susquehanna Community School Board was postponed to the following evening due to inclement weather. Board members present at Thursday’s meeting were Terry Carpenter, Johnine Barnes, James Bucci, Mike Kosko and Evelyn Cottrell.
Minutes of the December 1 meeting were approved, as were filing of the treasurer’s report, the general fund bills, the food service report, filing of the activity fund and athletic fund reports. There was no correspondence.
Under reports of Title I, Title VI, Vocational Education and the Strategic Plan, Superintendent Stone reported that, through Title VI (for rural and low-income districts), the district has received a grant of $36,000 which will be used to purchase a portable computer lab for the elementary school, additional “smart boards” and new projectors.
District personnel reports included an invitation from Mr. Stone for all district residents and staff to attend an Act 72 information session on Wednesday, January 26 at 7 p.m. in the high school. Subjects to be covered include an overview of what the act entails, and how opting in or out would impact the district.
Mr. Stone congratulated the boys’ basketball team for their recent championship win. And, he noted that Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 21 will be used as a snow make-up day.
Mr. Keyes praised students for their work on the most recent Title I newsletter, which includes information on an accelerated reader program and observations by students on what they think is the best thing about school this year. The elementary staff has been meeting on individual grade levels with an emphasis on meeting state curriculum standards. And, preliminary work is being completed for an after school tutoring program, targeted for students in grades 3, 5, 8 and 11.
Mr. Lisowski’s report noted the resignation of music teacher Maria Arneil, who has accepted a position in another district. Pending the board’s approval, Sandra Schell will complete the school year in that position.
An information night had been hosted by guidance counselor George Moore to provide information on the O’Neil scholarship, which provides funding to a student who “upgrades” his/her college choice. The (qualified) winner would receive a four-year scholarship to a school that he or she might not have chosen, due to financial concerns or location. Some of the schools mentioned that students might not have previously considered attending were the Rochester Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, Texas A & M, and Georgia Tech. This year’s O’Neil scholarship winner will be announced in April or May.
The district’s annual Science Fair has been changed somewhat this year, and will be an “All Curriculum Fair” with students being allowed the opportunity to participate in a more interactive format. This year’s activities could include demonstrations, explanations, performances, and art displays.
And, as January is School Board Directors’ month, Mr. Lisowski stated that those boards are the single most important factor in how a school is run; a board’s decisions have a “trickle down” effect, from the board, on to the faculty and staff, and to the students themselves, who ultimately benefit from those decisions. He noted that there will be four board seats open in the next election and expressed the hope that prospective candidates understand team work, mutual respect and collaboration.
Dean of students Mark Gerchman has been working with staff members, to train them in the use of “video streaming,” where teachers will have access to 26,000 video clips, organized by subject matter, available at a moment’s notice. He promised a demonstration for the board at the next meeting.
Special ed. coordinator Joni Miller reported that everything is moving along well, with child study teams underway, and staff working on Individual Education Plans (IEPs).
In keeping with School Board Directors’ Month, a motion carried to approve a proclamation in recognition of their contributions. Several staff members present at the meeting expressed their appreciation of the board’s efforts on behalf of the district, and Mr. Stone presented each with a certificate of appreciation.
The board approved filing of the 2003-04 audit report as submitted by auditors Parente Randolph. A representative of Parente Randolph was present to answer any questions, and to give an overview of what is included in the audit report. Both the PA School Code and the federal government requires that an opinion be given on a district’s financial statements and how federal awards are used. On both of these subjects, the district was given an unqualified “clean” report. No problems were found with the district’s reporting or accounting standards.
Several policies or changes to existing policies were approved. A volunteer policy, which was created to give faculty members and advisors procedures for the proper use of volunteers for extra curricular activities. A building key policy is to keep a running record of where keys are, to avoid duplication or loaning of keys, and to streamline record keeping. An inhaler/self administration and possession policy was implemented under state law, to put guidelines in place for students who need to keep asthma medications at hand, rather than in the nurse’s office. An Internet/computer acceptable use policy, already in existence in keeping with federal law, was slightly modified to comply with state requirements. A home school/home education policy, which will go into effect next year, allows participation in extracurricular programs but not academic programs. A student record review policy will help convert students’ records into electronic storage, which will allow easier access to records, which by law must be kept for 100 years after a student’s 21st birthday. And, a revision to the SCSD policy manual was approved.
The board approved a request to create an after-school computer club under the direction of Joe Zabielski and John Ord. Mr. Stone noted that a number of students have expressed an interest in joining, with more and more taking an interest in modern technology.
The board gave their approval for the Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau to sell two properties from the County Repository at any price negotiated by the bureau in order for the properties to be put back on the tax rolls; one is in Oakland Township, the other in Thompson Township.
The following additions to the substitute list were approved: Theresa Price, DeAnn Yannone, and Sharon Milewski, all emergency certified; Terri Jadwin, Secondary General Science; and Jodi Villasana, non-instructional.
Five bus contract changes were approved, as were the resignations of Steve Felter, elementary boys’ basketball and Steve Hendrickson, elementary personal care aide.
Hiring of the following was approved: Kenneth Travis, Sr., elementary boys basketball; Sandra Schell, instrumental music; Pete Downton and Steve Felter, co-advisors, junior high boys’ baseball; and Kristin Stanford, assistant drama advisor.
The following volunteers were approved: Jamie Smith, baseball coach; Lee Conklin, varsity basketball cheerleader advisor; Bob Hilling, elementary wrestling; Tom Shanley, elementary wrestling.
The customary lists of activities and fundraising requests were approved.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session, to discuss a personnel issue.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, February 16, 7:30 p.m. in the administration offices in the elementary building.
Thomas Edward Price Jr., 23, Montrose, and George Joseph Dzwiak III, 18, South Montrose, were arrested and charged with damaging approximately $210,000 worth of heavy equipment between August 28-29 at the Bear’s Den Quarry owned by Paul McGavin of Meshoppen. Both were arraigned before a district magistrate and remanded to jail. Price was incarcerated on $200,00 bail, and Dzwiak on $20,000.
Beverly M. MacRae, 65, Hallstead, was driving a 2002 Toyota Camry on State Route 706 in Bridgewater Township and failed to negotiate a left curve and hit a tree. Both she and her passenger were wearing seat belts in this accident that happened a bit before noon on January 19; MacRae received minor injuries; her 17-year-old passenger was not injured.
Someone broke into the Checkered Express Convenience Mart in Springville Township between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m. on the morning of January 18 by breaking its front window. Stolen were Pennsylvania lottery tickets; $160 in change; $200 in cash; and an undetermined amount of cigarettes.*
Shortly before 5 on the morning of January 14, someone went into the Great Bend Sunoco on Route 11 and demanded money from the clerk at knife-point. The robber fled without further incident.*
Colleen Callahan, Susquehanna, was accused of and confessed to stealing money from the safe of her employer, Peoples National Bank, Susquehanna, during the morning hours on December 23.
FATAL TRAFFIC COLLISION
Emergency ambulance squads from Hallstead, New Milford, Montrose and Broome County, as well as PENNDOT, responded to a fatal traffic collision that occurred shortly after nine on the evening of January 16. Jesse Cataldi, 27, Reading, lost control of the 2001 Ford Explorer Sport he was driving in the left lane on a snow-covered Interstate 81 south in Great Bend Township. The Explorer started to rotate clockwise, crossed the right southbound lane, continued over and across the berm sliding sideways up an embankment. The vehicle then rolled onto its left side, ejecting Cataldi, who was not wearing a seat belt. The vehicle continued to roll several times through trees and brush, coming to rest on its left side. Two passengers were able to free themselves of the seat belts they were wearing and called 911. The passengers received moderate injuries; Cataldi died as a result of his.
This collision happened when Wendi Henneman, 34, Nicholson, lost control of the vehicle she was driving south on a slippery State Route 106 in Lenox Township in the late afternoon of January 14. Her vehicle left the road and went onto the west berm of it. Clifford Fire and Ambulance assisted at the scene where Henneman received minor injuries and her two passengers did not. All were wearing seat belts.
Three females from Montrose left the Price Chopper there and entered a car. A male approached and yelled at the driver and attempted to open the car door but was resisted by the driver. The male then fled the scene on foot in this incident that happened late in the afternoon of January 13.*
Sometime between January 9 and 10, someone entered the home of Nicholas DeMorato, 41, Lenox Township, while he wasn’t there and took an 8x11-inch picture frame with assorted US currency and a 12-inch black onyx panther with a black stand.*
Elizabeth J. Fenton, New Milford, was not wearing a seat belt when she lost control of her 1995 Chevy Corsica while making a curve on the snow-covered Route 706 in New Milford Township. The car slid across both lanes, went off the road and struck a ditch with its right side in this accident that happened in the late morning of January 17.
James Michael Duffy, 58, was driving his 1991 Pontiac Grand Prix east on State Route 106 in Clifford Township when he drifted into the opposite lane and hit a 1999 Plymouth Voyager driven by Dorothy Ann Leach, 45, Lenoxville on the afternoon of January 16. Both drivers received minor injuries and both were wearing seat belts. NOTE: Although this report was listed as a DUI, police did not identify which driver was charged.
An unknown person(s) went to the home of George Arnold in Bridgewater Township and took a Sears Craftsman 25-gallon air compressor, black with gold letters, along with 50 feet of air hose sometime between the night of January 6 and the following morning.*
The seasonal residence of Stanislaus Kedzierski, Staten Island, in Harford Township was broken into sometime between November 21 and January 16. Approximately six wine coolers were taken from the refrigerator.
John Ward, Great Bend Township, told state police that he is missing outdoor electrical equipment and claims it was taken off his property sometime over the last two months.
An unknown person(s), possibly in a Toyota Solara with NY plates, pumped gas at the Liberty Travel Plaza in Harford Township shortly before ten on the morning of January 2 and left without paying for it. The car was last seen traveling north on Interstate 81 from Exit 217.
Daniel B. Marshman, 41, received minor injuries when he drove his 1994 Ford F-150 truck off state road 1037 west, went down an embankment and hit a tree on the night of January 14.
* Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the State Police at 465-3154.
Joseph P. Deacon III and Hilda M. Deacon to Joseph P. Deacon III and Hilda M. Deacon, in Rush Township for one dollar (corrective deed).
Jessica Louderback and James P. Louderback to Jesse W. Manzer and Minerva M. Manzer, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Anthony W. Konchar to Leonard S. Schwartz and Margery B. Schwartz in Forest City for $100,000.
Charles H. Snyder and Michelle L. Fox-Snyder to Bion Konya, in Jackson Township for $19,000.
Temple I. Smith and Ann Marie Smith to Gail M. Spence-Henry, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
Michael Gombita, Kelly A. Gombita, and Alan Rutledge to Armando J. Reo and Patricia J. Reo, in Herrick Township for $15,000.
James J. Moran and Rose L. Moran to Ronald Whitiak and Rose Marie Whitiak, in Forest City for $86,000.
Carl Tross, Rebecca Hinkley, Brooke Hinkley, Danelle O’Neil, Kelsley O’Neil, and Taryn Tross to Carl Tross, Rebecca Hinkley, Brooke Hinkley, Danelle O’Neil, Kelsey O’Neil, Taryn Tross and Kevin Carl Tross, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
John A. Humphry and Lori J. Humphry to Lori J. Humphry aka Lori J. DeWitt, in Susquehanna for one dollar.
John P. O’Keefe and Maureen E. O’Keefe to Laurie D. Davailus, in Jackson Township for $85,000.
James D. Thomas (by sheriff) and Carrie A. Thomas (by sheriff) to Peoples National Bank, in Silver Lake Township and Hallstead Borough for $9,601.
Lawrence T. O’Reilly and Christine M. O’Reilly to Lawrence D. Sumner Sr. and Lisa M. Sumner, in Friendsville Borough for $48,900.
John F. Dougherty to William Brown and Gayle Brown, in Middletown Township for $127,500.
Keith B. McCauley and Tammy K. McCauley to Todd Greenwood and Rebekah Greenwood, in Dimock Township for $118,600.
Susquehanna County Land Sales Inc. to Floyd F. Manzer, Margaret L. Manzer and Floyd E. Manzer, in Lenox Township for $1,000.
Francis Gerald Kane, Catharine Taggart Kane (aka) Katharine Taggart Kane to F. Gerald Kane (trust) and Catharine T. Kane (trust), in Harmony Township for one dollar.
Diane Marie Ives to Diane Marie Ives and James Douglas Ives, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Martin J. Parise and Lorraine Kay Parise to Martin J . Parise and Lorraine Kay Parise, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Anthony Sorgi and Linda K. Sorgi to William E. Specht, in Hallstead Borough for $175,000.
Birdie-Belle Davis to Colonial Land Trust, in Lenox Township for $112,000.
Frank M. Kozlevcar, Geraldine Kozlevcar and William Kozlevcar to Anthony Gelormini in Forest City for $22,000.
Bruce Ross (by atty.), Nancy Ross, Raymond Swingle (by atty.), Lulu Swingle (by atty.), Jerilee Turner (by atty.), James T. O’Brien (by atty.), Kathleen D. O’Brien (by atty.), Barbara Campbell (by atty.), Clarence Fleming (by atty.), Anne B. Fleming (by atty.), Judd Roberts (by atty.), Marilyn Roberts (by atty.) to C and D 1204 Limited Liability Company in Herrick Township for $39,900.
Ann-Marie Dooley (nbm) Anne-Marie Muehl, and Alex L. Muehl to Josa Paunkovic and Aaurelija Stosic, in Susquehanna for $32,000.
Paul S. Lukus and Christine Lukus to Jennifer A. Lukus, in Forest City for one dollar.
Karen McBride (nka) Karen Allen and Matthew Dale Allen to Karen Allen and Matthew Dale Allen, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Timothy Cavanaugh and Debra Cavanaugh to Timothy Cavanaugh, in Oakland Borough for one dollar.
Associates First Capital Corp (sbm) Associaters Financial Services Co. Inc. to Paul E. Belch and Debra Ann Belch, in Gibson Township for $50,000.
David E. Harvey to Daniel E. Ross Jr. and Christina M. Ross, in Harford Township for $81,090.
Managed Assests Corporation to Allan Kazmierski and Paula Kazmierski, in Ararat Township for $1,000.
Donald E. Gaster and Julia A. Gaster to Robert Barnikow and Denive Barniko in Bridgewater Township for $187,000.
Duane Jay Anderson and Loretta Marie Sanders, both of Susquehanna.
Brian L. Allis vs. Rita C. Allis, both of Brackney.
Craig S. Arcuri, Susquehanna, vs. Krystal Ann Arcuri, Montrose.
Brian Frank Pritchard vs. Sharon Elizabeth Pritchard, both of Meshoppen.
An 18-year-old Montrose man was remanded to the Susquehanna County Jail last Thursday when he appeared before Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans on a number of violations.
Korey Dean Sorensen will spend two and one-half months to 23 months in jail for recklessly endangering another person on Nov. 22, 2004. He will also pay a $500 fine, perform 25 hours of community service, continue with drug and alcohol counseling, and observe a 10 p.m. curfew.
In addition, Mr. Sorensen received a suspended jail term of one month to three years and was fined $300 for theft by unlawful taking in Springville on May 4, 2004. He was fined an additional $300, had another 25 hours of community service tacked on to a previous 25 hours, and will be on state probation for three years. Finally, Mr. Sorensen received one month to 23 1/2 months in the county jail to run concurrent with the previous jail term. and pay an additional $300 fine on a charge of flight to avoid apprehension on Nov. 22, 2004.
Others sentenced by Judge Seamans included:
William Emerson Norton, 24, of Eynon, one month to 12 months suspended jail term and 12 months probation for theft by unlawful taking in Lenox Township on Dec. 8, 2001.
Nocholas J. Tomeo, 19, of Great Bend, one month to 23 1/2 months in the county jail with credit for time served for delivery of a controlled substance in Great Bend Borough on Mar. 3, 2004. He was also fined $500 and must undergo drug and alcohol counseling.
Ronnie James Fisher, 38, of Susquehanna, 30 days to 12 months in the county jail with credit for time served, $500 fine, and drug and alcohol counseling for drunk driving in Lanesboro Borough on Dec. 13, 2003.
David Dwayne Hine, 35, of Waymart, 90 days to 15 months in the county jail with credit for time served, $500 fine and 50 hours of community service for drunk driving in Lenox Township on Aug. 26, 2004.
Warren Neil Peterson, 40, of Union Dale, 48 hours to 15 months in the county jail, $500 fine, and must complete highway safe driving school program, for drunk driving in Forest City Borough on Jan. 27, 2004.
Kevin Harold Hawm, 26, of Union Dale, one month to 12 months in county jail, suspended, 12 months state probation, $300 fine and 25 hours community service for possession of drug paraphernalia in Forest City Borough on March 17, 2004.
Casey J. Lawton, 28, of Montrose, 45 days to 15 months in the county jail, $400 fine for simple assault in Montrose Borough on Mar. 24, 2004.
Michael Clary, 22, of Clifford, 23 1/2 months state probation, 25 hours of community service, $250 fine for theft by deception in Clifford Township on Oct. 4, 2003. Also 23 1/2 months in jail to run concurrent with previous sentence, $250 fine, 25 hours of community service for theft by deception in Clifford Township on Dec. 23, 2003.
Robert William Staff, 35, of Meshoppen, 90 days to 15 months in county jail with credit for time served, $1,500 fine and 25 hours of community service for drunk driving in Forest Lake Township on Mar. 27, 2004.
Glen Bruce Huntsman, 54, of Montrose, one month to 15 months in county jail, $300 fine for recklessly endangering another person in Bridgewater Township on July 8, 2003.
The work sessions of the Montrose Area School District, while following an agenda of sorts, are often a free-flowing discussion on a wide range of topics, and its session on a frigid January 18 was no exception.
It opened with administrative reports from both elementary school principals. Choconut’s Chris McComb noted that while the session was going on, about 75 children and their parents were watching a movie in the gym that was sponsored by the PTO. A concession stand was raising money that would be applied to the “6th grade send off,” when they’d go on to the Junior-Senior High School. He also notified board members that work was (just that day) completed on the walkway connecting the new pods with the school. Glass to enclose it is not due to be delivered until February 13, so district buildings and safety director Rick Clapper will start putting up heavy plastic to shelter the walkways until the glass arrives, both in Choconut and at Lathrop Street. Superintendent Mike Ognosky added that Choconut is in the process of hiring a teacher for the second semester, to fill in for one who will be out with surgery.
For his part, Lathrop principal Greg Adams reported that 85 students are participating in after-school remediation, and their parents are very excited about it. “Hopefully,” said Adams, “this will bring good things for our PSSA’s in April.”
Several board members and superintendent Ognosky also briefly discussed Ognosky’s decision to not close the schools when rain suddenly turned to snow at around 6:30 the previous Friday morning. At least one director got a few calls about the decision, although all was well in the getting–to school and home from it.
Considerable discussion preceded the decision to advertise for a new, full-year position at the school, that of network manager. The district has gotten increasingly technologically savvy over the last five years as per its technology plan. Today, around 700 desktop systems are active among the schools, and they use 20 servers to handle their capacity. Like most businesses today, the district relies on these computers as a kind of “backbone,” as board president Ken Gould called it, for education and administration, and a breakdown or glitch could be catastrophic and put the kibosh on day-to-day school and planning for quite a while.
To avoid major problems down the road that would be costly and take time to fix, the system needs to be regularly maintained for efficiency, effectiveness and security. That is why the network manager position has been created, with a pay range from low- to mid-40s, plus benefits.
Ognosky also reviewed with the board his thinking about reimbursement of expenses incurred by directors, teachers and other administrators when they are attending district-related meetings and other school business. He will present the board with a report at its next meeting, but said that reimbursement for meals and other district-related travel expenses would be tied to expense allotments that are updated annually by the federal General Services Administration for various locations throughout the country to take into account the different costs of living by region. Guidelines for employees, directors and administrators would be identical. Credit cards are expected to be obtained for board members when they are on district business; the cards will be kept in the business office, and checked out by directors when they leave for district-related travel.
Board members also heard a preliminary report by director Chris Caterson, who did some research in response to an e-mail forwarded to him by board secretary Lewis Plauny. The e-mail was from, and believed to be on behalf of, all district tax collectors, asking about a raise in pay. Caterson wanted to make it clear that he was in no way questioning the value of tax collectors to the district. The last time tax collectors received a raise was in 2000 and Caterson hoped to find out whether granting them a pay raise over the next four years would be appropriate. His quick research showed that the $2.82 taxpayers receive as compensation for each tax bill they touch is about in line with what others pay – not as high as some, nor as low as others. What did the board want to do?
Discussion that followed made clear that one check made out by a taxpayer to cover school, county and municipal taxes in one transaction translated into $8.46 for the collector. Others noted that some tax collectors make between $20,000 and close to $30,000 a year – some of them in municipalities or districts where their pay scale is not as high as MASD. Acknowledged as well was the unseen time a collector spent balancing the payments for their timely recording and depositing. Nevertheless, the board appeared to decide that it would leave the tax collection rate as is; those who choose to run for tax collector office this year will know the rate the district pays, which is $2.82 per bill.
Director Celeste Ridler asked other board members if they had heard anything new about Act 72 and education. Just recently, Act 71, which would finance Act 72 education funding, has come under attack in certain parts of the state legislature. Plauny was scheduled to attend a conference the following day on the subject and will report back to the board once more is learned about which way the state may swing.
Plauny also reported that he has negotiated a copier-management contract that is expected to save the district $3,000 a year, along with providing it with some equipment for its use. Caterson responded to director Jim Blachek about where the county library and historical society stood on accepting and using the district’s land for the site of its new facilities. He reported that the library board has agreed to accept the land, and it would be hiring a surveyor to determine if the piece of property is large enough.
An evening of meetings that began when the outside temperature was minus-1 ended with it 10 degrees colder.
The next work session of the Montrose Area School Board is set to immediately follow the regular board meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on February 9 at the Choconut Elementary School.
The Susquehanna County Housing and Redevelopment Authority met January 14, hosting their annual dinner meeting at the Starrucca House in Susquehanna.
After approval of minutes of the December 14 meeting and the bill list for the month, a status report was distributed listing SCP and CDBG housing rehabilitation projects from 2002, 2003 and 2004 that are currently in progress.
A storm sewer project on State Street in Oakland is in progress; bids are being prepared, with the project expected to commence this spring. Supplementary funding has been applied for, for a sewer project in Forest City. Interviews are in progress for 2004 housing rehabilitation projects. Demolition of the Lawsville Store has been completed. A Jackson Avenue drainage project in Susquehanna has been completed. A drainage project in New Milford, on Peck Hill is to be completed this spring. A micro-business project, in conjunction with TREHAB will be starting a new fiscal cycle. A demolition project in Forest City is in the bid phase. A project in Clifford Township, to make the municipal building handicap accessible is in the bid phase. And, applications are being prepared for 2005 CDBG grants. The total amount available has been reduced from the amount received in 2004, by $20,800, with the allocation for 2005 at $305,199.
A status report was also distributed regarding home contracts. One rehab project is in progress and on schedule, and another is in the start-up phase with interviews being conducted.
Supplementary funding in the amount of $388,000 for Phase III of the sidewalk project in Susquehanna is being awaited, through a Communities of Opportunity/Transportation Enhancement (T21) grant with word expected at any time. This phase is to extend new sidewalks along West Main St. to Center Lane.
A representative of the Housing Authority will be present at a meeting in Susquehanna in February, with a representative of the PA Downtown Center as well as boro officials.
Other projects in progress include an Access Grant, and handicap accessibility for homes with children under the age of 18 with disabilities. A decision is pending regarding CDBG funds for a sewer project in Forest City.
The Authority is presently working with the DCED on obtaining funding for a road improvement project in Gibson, near the I-81 exit. DCED has agreed that improvements are needed and has encouraged submission of an application for funding. An engineering cost estimate is pending, after which an application will be submitted.
Resolutions carried to enter into a cooperative agreement with Montrose Boro for grant administration, and to authorize filing of an application for sidewalks in that boro, in the amount of $156,000.
The Authority has been working with Silver Lake for improvements to the Wilkes-Barre Turnpike Road; engineers are currently working on specs, with the project expected to go out to bid in March or April.
Commissioner Jeff Loomis updated the board on efforts a county quarry owner has been making to obtain funding for road improvements, working in conjunction with various agencies and entities. The PA Bluestone Association has also been assisting, and has expressed an interest in helping to obtain funding to address other roads.
Funding for 2005 for Section 8, Certificate and Voucher programs will be reduced for the coming year. These programs are funded through US Housing and Urban Development; this year’s funding for administration fees will be reduced by $16,181. The authority has contacted HUD to request an explanation for the reduction; a reply is expected by the end of the month.
Turnpike Terrace apartments are presently 100% leased, with a waiting list of applicants for upcoming vacancies. A problem with one of the complex’s furnaces was scheduled for repairs the following Monday; the complex has two furnaces, with either being capable of providing necessary services to the entire building.
The William Penn apartments show eight vacancies; an interview is being processed for one by the end of the month, and two more candidates were scheduled for interviews. This year’s insurance premiums for this facility will increase by about $500. And, to make the units more marketable, an application has been submitted to HUD to allow converting three one-bedroom apartments into two two-bedroom apartments, and to install a hair salon and exercise room. If approved, these changes will not involve any major renovations. There are already a number of applicants interested in two-bedroom apartments. It is expected that HUD will approve the changes.
Prospect Park apartments currently have three vacancies, with interviews with prospective tenants in progress. Federal funding for this complex is expected to be somewhat reduced for the coming year, although final figures will not be available until some time in August.
The Emerson Apartments are currently 100% leased and have a considerable waiting list, and Harford Village apartments have one vacancy. An application has been submitted to HUD for an over-income waiver, and there is currently a waiting list of clients for this facility.
The February meeting has been rescheduled to February 15, as the original date, February 8, presents a conflict for several of the Authority staff.
Approval was given for staff attendance at a legislative conference, and a PAHRA conference.
The regular meeting adjourned, and the annual meeting was called to order for election of officers for the coming year. The slate of candidates was approved and subsequently elected as follows: Chairman, Joseph Matis; Vice Chair, Paul Lukus; Treasurer, Robert Bartron; Secretary, Jerry Cronk; Board Member, Ken Adams. Mr. Adams replaces longtime member Fred Kotz, who passed away earlier this year.
After dinner, Mr. Matis welcomed all and expressed the board’s appreciation of all the hard work and long hours dedicated to the Authority by its staff. He thanked them for their dedication, imagination and efforts to deliver another great year. He thanked County Commissioners Roberta Kelly and Jeff Loomis, who were in attendance, for their support as well as Commissioner MaryAnn Warren. He welcomed the Authority’s two newest employees, Theresa Hillard, Housing Redevelopment Clerk and Darlene Kostelac, Harford Village Apartment Manager.
Staying “on top,” he said is not easy; there is competition for grant funding, and a lot of red tape to manage in what is a very challenging, competitive business. In the next few years, new, harder competition can be expected. But, “we can be as good as anyone, in providing good housing in Susquehanna County. We’re up to the challenge.” He commended the Authority for a great record of setting targets, and meeting them. “Our people are great, our reputation is solid. The board has total faith in you. The upcoming year will be challenging... thank you for all the effort that has brought us here tonight.”
The floor was opened to Executive Director Karen Allen, who thanked the commissioners for their continued support. She in turn introduced Doug Evans, who manages maintenance for the Emerson and Harford Village apartments.
She noted the passing of Mr. Kotz, who was a dedicated member of the board for many years. In his memory, the community room at the Turnpike Terrace apartments have been named in his honor. He was, she said, responsible for many good, sound business decisions on behalf of the Authority.
She welcomed Mr. Adams (who was not present) to the board; he has been involved in various Authority undertakings over the years and has had experience in local government.
She outlined a number of programs the Authority is active in and expressed confidence that the same level of service can be provided despite numerous cuts in funding.
The county’s housing complexes have seen many improvements over the years, with more still to come. Among them, computers will be made available at senior housing complex community rooms, with Internet access and computer labs for tenants. As part of their senior projects, high school students will be enlisted to help tenants learn computer skills.
Mrs. Allen introduced Section 8 Coordinator Marlea Hoffman, one of the Authority’s first employees, who was recognized for her 25 years of service. Also recognized was Mr. Lukus, for his 20 years on the Authority’s board, as well as solicitor Sam Lewis and Gene Beautz, who has served as architect on many of the Authority’s projects over the years.
Mrs. Allen closed by wishing all a healthy, happy 2005.
Mrs. Kelly wrapped up the evenings remarks by expressing the commissioners’ pleasure in being affiliated with those involved with the Authority, because of their excellent record of success. “We have some challenges coming up,” she said, “with funding sources drying up. But, we have had some great successes. We look forward to a good, solid three years of working with you.”
The Elk Lake School Board held a public workshop on ACT 72, Monday evening January 17 in the high school auditorium. Timothy Allwein, Assistant Executive Director of Governmental & Member Relations of the PSBA (PA School Board Association) gave an informative power point presentation on the highlights of ACT 72.
Elk Lake Superintendent Dr. William Bush was present and made available literature to the public to facilitate open discussion. Similar discussions will be held throughout the state as each of the 501 school districts weigh-in on whether to accept possible projected gambling revenues in exchange for property tax relief.
ACT 72 provides for property tax relief and imposes referendum on school districts. The act contains new provisions on the adoption of preliminary budgets, timelines for implementing the property tax relief that will – or rather may – be funded by gambling revenues, and which can be supplemented by local income taxes, front end and back end referendum requirements according to a booklet provided by the PSBA.
Districts have until May 30, 2005 to opt in to ACT 72. A requirement to participating in ACT 72 is for the district to adopt a resolution to levy a 0.1% EIT (earned income tax) and net profits tax. Districts must also agree to resolve to place a referendum question on the fall election ballot in November, 2005. “The referendum question shall state the rate of the proposed earned income and net profits tax or PIT (personal income tax) to be levied, the reason for the tax, the estimated per homestead tax reduction and the current rate of earned income and net profits or PIT levied by the school district. The question shall be clear and in the language that is readily understandable by a layperson and shall be framed in (a predetermined form.)” (Section 332 b 3)
Districts must contribute locally to offset the relief.
The county assessors determine property eligibility and issue a report listing qualified applicants to the district, also by May 1, 2005. The Board must calculate the amount of the homestead/farmstead exclusion each year they impose the authorized tax and they receive state property tax reduction allocations. The amount of exclusion will depend on gaming revenues, revenues from additional income taxes and the number of properties in the district that are eligible. The state is currently examining methods to help districts make these estimates.
During the presentation Allwein cautioned, “If I don’t make anything else clear tonight, I want to make this clear tonight. This tax does not give school districts more money – in that any dollar we talk about tonight can not be used for more teachers, more books, more computers or to build schools. But they’re all dollars that have to relieve property taxes.” He added a historical perspective: in 1997 four districts adopted ACT 50 which is similar to ACT 72 and saw no significant relief of property taxes. If a district says no to ACT 72 there will not be any tax changes. Later. Allwein discussed the fact that there is “no guarantee” that ACT 71 will be accepted. If ACT 71 fails to pass there will not be gambling and the revenue hoped for. Basically accepting ACT 72 is taking a gamble that ACT 71 will pass. Allwein suggested that a contingency clause be inserted into districts opting into ACT 72 contingent upon the passage of ACT 71. The property relief anticipated in ACT 72 will not have the gambling revenue if ACT 71 is not passed. Therefore, if ACT 72 passes alone then the property tax reduction will be instituted without a source of revenue to fund the loss. Property tax relief seen by Allwein in other districts “was only $125-$290 – and that dollar amount is offset by the (increased) EIT.”
There are three option methods available to districts to obtain the hoped for state gaming funds. The options involve increasing the EIT levy by 0.1% and being subjected to a required back-end referendum. This is a referendum or question usually held at the primary election to ask voters to approve school tax rates. ACT 72 encourages participation in a back-end referendum which, Allwein noted, will ultimately make Pennsylvania’s elections more important on national level, garnering much public interest vital to presidential elections. To solicit voter approval (of a back end referendum) districts would not be able to raise any tax above index without voter approval. Also districts cannot impose a tax they do not currently levy without voter approval again. Out-of state tax credits will not be allocated towards property tax relief of ACT 72.
A member of the public questioned, “How much is this going to cost the school district?” There was no definitive answer provided by Allwein. However just to place the referendum question on the ballot will cost the usual fees. i.e.: solicitor writing fee, non-legal statement fee, county fees, etc. according to Allwein.
In summary there must be three conditions met prior to a district obtaining any gaming money.
Tax payers must apply to assessors and be approved for relief.
The school board must opt-in to ACT 72.
$900,000,000 (nine hundred million dollars) must be available in the gaming allocation fund.
And of course ACT 71 must pass.
A condition is also written in the ACT that mandates a minimum $400 million must be held in a reserve fund.
Laughter drifted over the approximately 30 people in attendance as the $900 million was considered unattainable. The words of Allwein earlier in the program dampened the spirits of obtaining gaming money as well.
He commented, “But if you look at other states and most other states have some kind of back-end referendum (BER).There are potential effects on the school districts because people don’t vote for BER. They may find themselves in a situation where they will have to cut programs – not mandated by law. i.e.: library hours, construction and football (some one noted Elk Lake does not have football) and gifted programs, etc.”
There will be meetings held in other districts which will shed light onto the benefits or draw backs of ACT 72. Allwein thanked the public for being so involved and noted that good communication between the Board and the people is vital. Allwein spoke directly to the people saying, “Board members have to be deliberate with their decisions. You elected these folks to make tough decisions and this is one of the toughest! But one of the things that can help them is to hear from you all.”
The presentation ended with Dr. Bush thanking everyone who came out despite the weather.
Retraction from last article published: The Roadmaster, William Gorkski’s salary will be adjusted pending approval from the auditors.
The Bridgewater Township meeting on January 17 started timely at 7:00 p.m. with Supervisors Chuck Mead, Beverly Way and Secretary Connie Ely attending. Municipal Emergency Management Coordinator, Jack Lasher and his assistant Doug Lotten also were in attendance. The meeting began with questions from the community-involved gentlemen who are concerned volunteers.
Jack Lasher asked about the flooding problem in South Montrose. Chuck Mead reported that PENNDOT had been there three times trying to solve the problem. They said the 24 inch sluice pipe under the road appeared to be clear. There seems to be a problem with drainage on the ball park property and may be the property owner’s responsibility. Chuck Mead said PENNDOT mentioned that they may be able to install a camera in the spring to determine where the water is coming from. Chuck said he will also check with Jim Garner from the Soil Conservation organization of Bradford County to see if they could provide some additional assistance.
Jack Lasher brought up the need for a letter of approval from the township for the Recycling Center to start a waste oil and battery collection program. Chuck said that they would have to meet certain safety stipulations, like a spill containment site and he would include the stipulations in the letter.
Jack and Chuck also discussed the need for a traffic signal on Rte. 706. They agreed that the 706 rebuild would have to include a traffic signal and that the township should be active in any discussions concerning the rebuild. Beverly Way suggested eliminating some exits from Montrose High, such as the one behind the restaurant. Other traffic concerns that were brought up include a dawn to dusk light at Tiffany Corners. There were three accidents there last year, with one major one where people had to be cut out of their cars.
Jack and Doug reported their attendance to two classes focusing on Biological and Chemical terrorism. They will be attending more in the future. Mr. Lasher asked Mr. Mead for an updated map of the township roads. Doug and Bill Gorkski have been changing some signs to update name changes. The plan is to have roads which run across different townships and boroughs keep the same name. The name changes were submitted to PENNDOT in July, 2003 but there has been no progress since then. It appears that the plan has stalled at the county supervisor level.
Mr. Lasher complimented the Bridgewater Township road crews for doing a good job. A Thank You card was received from citizens thanking the township for the two School Bus Stop Ahead signs on Turnpike Road and the stop sign at Hillendale Road.
The Supervisors approved the resolution for the Emergency Management Plan for Bridgewater Township presented by Jack Lasher and signed 17 checks totaling $7,262.18 to be paid from the general fund and one check for $323.50 for stone from the Hay Aid Fund. The meeting was adjourned at 8:10 p.m.
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