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The Susquehanna Boro Council met on January 25 with all members present as well as mayor Nancy Hurley, streets commissioner Steve Glover, and several members of the boro police department. Secretary Judy Collins was not present, as she was attending a seminar on the Main Street project.
The agenda was approved. The minutes of the last meeting were approved with one addition, including mention of council’s discussion of a request made by the Parks and Rec. Committee to “forgive” the little league for reimbursement of the electric bill at the Prospect Street park.
Mrs. Collins’ report was read. Some of the information included that the tax collector has been notified of occupational tax exonerations that were denied. An advertisement was placed in the County Transcript, reminding residents of snow parking regulations. Information has been sent to the Voter Registration office; seats open in the boro in the next election are: mayor, four years; tax collector, four years; three four-year council seats; and one two-year council seat. Three members of Boy Scout Troop 81 are requesting community service hours. After some discussion of possible projects, Mr. Matis agreed to look into it.
Requesting time on the agenda was retired police officer David Scales, who asked council to consider a cost of living increase (COLA) to the pension that he receives. He has been eligible for a COLA the last three years; his last request was denied by council due to a number of factors, including premature “draw” by another department retiree, and the amount being paid into the fund by the boro. As he is now the only officer receiving full pension benefits, he feels that his request is not unreasonable. And, he understands that the fund actuary will be contacted to his input on whether the COLA is feasible. After discussion, council agreed to ask Mrs. Collins to contact the actuary for information.
Mr. Williams was pleased to report that a recent meeting with a FEMA caseworker, which he and members of the Parks and Rec. Committee had attended, went well. All paperwork pertinent to applying for funds to address the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan had been reviewed, the three sites in question had been inspected and the outcome looks good. Council should receive word whether or not the funding will be approved in two or three weeks.
In response to a question from President Whitehead, Mr. Williams said that PENNDOT’s plans for this spring to replace the bridge on Main Street should not cause a problem with restoration of the collapsed wall at the Drinker Creek Park. If the FEMA funds are approved, the boro will have 18 months to complete restoration; if the bridge replacement does interfere with the wall project, FEMA will allow extensions if necessary.
All paperwork involved to prohibit right-hand turns by trucks from Main Street onto Erie Avenue have been submitted to PENNDOT; council should know by the end of February whether or not the proposal will receive final approval.
Three committees involved with the proposed ice skating rink in the boro have met to discuss details. Mr. Lewis said that although the rink might not happen this year, discussion is continuing for next year.
At last month’s meeting, council had discussed raising the amount of funds to be placed into an escrow account in the case of a structure being damaged by fire. The present ordinance allows for $1,000 of every $20,000 in insurance to be placed in escrow, to ensure that the building is repaired or demolished. Mr. Lewis reported that the amount allowable is regulated by the state, and it would not be possible to increase the escrow amount to 25% as had been discussed. A resolution would be needed to increase the amount to the level allowed by the state.
One item was tabled to allow obtaining additional price quotes; the secretary’s computer needs to be cleaned out and additional memory installed.
In the last few weeks, two claims for workmen’s compensation were filed; although they were filed within the 90 day period required, Mr. Williams said that any injury should be reported within 24 hours so that the claims can be expedited. Forms are available in the secretary’s office. Mr. Glover said that the members of the fire company would be made aware of this at their next meeting.
As there has been a reduction in the amount of CDBG funding to the county for the coming year, the boro has been notified that an application for grant money for storm sewer work has been denied. However, an application for funding to expand the sidewalk replacement along Main Street is expected to be approved.
Mr. Glover reported a busy month, especially with all the recent snow the area has seen. Some repairs were needed for the backhoe, which he expected to be completed within the next few days. After the repairs, his department would coordinate with the police department to schedule removal of accumulated snow from Main Street. This is usually done at night when there is less traffic, with the police aiding with traffic control.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session, to discuss a legal issue and a personnel issue.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, February 8, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
Last month, the Blue Ridge School Board decided to try getting along without individual committee meetings and discuss all issues together as a "committee of the whole." Some Board members had expressed concern that the committee approach was making it difficult for everyone to become informed on all issues that eventually come up for vote before the full Board. The meeting on January 24 was the first workshop bringing everything together again. The most difficult issue had been the province of the Transportation Committee, and this time the full Board had an opportunity to debate "single-tier busing".
The session actually opened with a 40-minute briefing by Careers Counselor Christine Whitney on what she called her "Comprehensive Career Development" initiative, with which she hopes to "tie up in one package" all the efforts at Blue Ridge that help students plan and develop post- secondary and career goals. The PowerPoint presentation broke the program down into phases.
Children in kindergarten and through grade 5 will be introduced to the idea of choosing a direction. Grades 6 through 8 will explore possibilities. Students in grades 9 through 12 will try to focus their goals through knowledge of their own skills and predilections, and an accumulated awareness of the opportunities. Ms. Whitney hopes to enlist the support and participation of the community in the program, whose mission seems to be to ensure that "100% of Blue Ridge's graduating class have been given the tools to be a success in 2-year, 4-year or technical schools, work or the military."
Ms. Whitney then made a pitch to purchase software for computer-aided guidance in these activities from a Canadian company, Bridges Transitions. The software would be loaded on the campus network and made available throughout the schools.
January is School Board Member Recognition Month, so Board President Alan Hall presented each of his colleagues with a plaque thanking them for their service.
Mr. Hall then called on administrators and committee chairs for reports. He specifically asked that another Media Night be scheduled for Elementary School children, and Denise Bloomer immediately responded that the next event will be on February 11, when the movie will be "Shark Tales." She also reported that as many as 55 children are participating in the new Elementary School dance program, but that the weather has interrupted plans for a recital.
District Superintendent Robert McNamara told the Board that a decision will be needed soon on the District's participation in the provisions of state "Act 72", which hopes to provide relief for property-tax payers through revenue generated by gambling as a result of state "Act 71." The only trouble is that Act 71 is currently under attack in court for improper legislative procedure, among other things. School districts in Pennsylvania have until May 30 to decide whether or not to "opt in" to the provisions of Act 72. If the district chooses to participate, the Board must impose a 0.1% employment tax (income tax), and agree to abide by provisions that allow for review of district budgets by voters. Since most property owners are anxious for whatever tax relief they can get, sentiment on the Board still seems to favor opting into the program, risking that gambling receipts will be directed to education, eventually.
Mr. Hall ran down a list of items for Facilities and Grounds. The New Milford sewer connection to the Hallstead- Great Bend sewer system is expected to be complete by Spring, which will give the district an opportunity to retire its own, aging sewage plant.
The running track was the major item on the list. Precision Sports Surfaces of Charlottesville, VA quoted a price of over $53,000 to resurface the 10-year-old high-tech track. There was some uncertainty about what would actually be done for that price, so the administration will clarify the details with the company before proceeding any further.
One of Mr. Hall's favorite issues is fund-raising. He distributed samples of new fund-raising forms to Board members, and outlined some of the rules that organizations will have to follow before their fund-raising activities will be allowed. For one thing, the forms must be submitted, and the activities approved by the Board, in advance. No organization will be permitted to operate more than three fund-raising activities in a year that would involve students selling products. Application forms must show that profit from the activity will be expected to top 40%. And organizations will be required to submit "post-fund-raising" forms to allow the Board to evaluate their effectiveness.
Board member Lon Fisher said the Board's prior policy had been to require that all fund-raising activities be submitted for approval before school starts in August of each year, but that these new rules do not seem to adhere to that policy.
Mr. Hall said that the Board should try to move toward the once-a-year policy, but it may become impractical. He did say that, "because of the nature of their operation," the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) will be given "special consideration" on some of the new rules.
Activities Director James Corse said that coach turnover during the school year would leave new coaches stuck with previously-approved fund-raising opportunities, and no flexibility to work with booster clubs to redesign their programs. Mr. Thornton noted also that many sports are becoming year-round programs that may need the additional flexibility.
Overall, however, the Board's goal is to minimize competition so that each of the organizations and their fund- raising activities are as effective as possible, without unduly interfering with the schools' educational objectives.
Mr. McNamara reported that the Community Foundation of Susquehanna County has agreed to become an "umbrella" for organizations that wish to participate, through a Blue Ridge School District Foundation. The Board requires that all fund-raising organizations at Blue Ridge be chartered under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code as non-profits. The arrangement with the Community Foundation should help to alleviate that burden for some of the smaller groups.
So-called "single-tier busing" was the major issue on the table at the meeting. Currently, most of the buses make two runs each morning and afternoon, one for the Elementary School, and one for the Middle and High Schools. Single- tier busing would reduce that to one run for each bus each way, and the idea was to save money. Ultimately, however, the savings were estimated to total only about $35,000 per year. And there has been significant opposition from teachers, bus drivers and operators, and parents.
Transportation Committee chair Joel Whitehead has argued that, using an average cost per mile, the savings would amount to over $200,000. Business Manager Loren Small, however, says that, because of complicated state reimbursement rules and formulas, the cost can't be calculated simply on a cost-per-mile basis.
An analysis provided by Mr. Hall lists a variety of additional costs that would be incurred by moving to a single-tier system, including hiring adults to ride the buses to maintain discipline, more staff in the cafeteria to handle a different flow during the breakfast period, not to mention the addition of as many as 6 more buses. There were also concerns over safety and discipline when younger children are mixed with the older grades, with larger groups of students at the bus stops, in addition to scheduling issues for tutoring and lunch periods.
Mr. Hall said that other options for saving on transportation costs might include hiring a single contractor for the whole system, or even having the district take over the operation of the transportation system itself. He said, however, that the current contractors and drivers are well-known and trusted. If the district were to hire its own drivers and buy its own buses, then salary costs would soar – and the district would still have to find a place to put the buses.
Since the Board already voted last year to pursue single-tier busing, Mr. Hall offered the Board the option of voting the program up or down, or simply dropping the matter entirely. At the suggestion of another Board member, the Board will take a vote on it at a future business meeting.
The next meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board – a business meeting – will take place on Monday, February 14, beginning at 7:30 p.m., in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
The Susquehanna County Commissioners abolished the county’s economic development department last week and replaced it with the Central Bradford Progress Authority (CBPA), a Bradford County firm that will focus some of its attention on securing industrial and commercial development along Interstate 81 as well as other parts of the county.
The move eliminates the position of county economic development director. Liz Janoski, who held the position for a year, has been furloughed as has Keris Smith, a clerk-typist in the department. Ms. Janoski was on a salary of $35,000 per annum while Ms. Smith was an hourly employee.
Besides moving in a new direction in a renewed attempt to foster economic growth, the commissioners cited the move as a money saver. Last year, the county spent $127,000 in a somewhat disappointing effort to bolster its tax base and secure more job opportunities. The commissioners say they expect the cost of the Central Bradford Progress Authority to be around $20,000.
Roberta Kelly, chair of the Board of Commissioners, predicted good things will come from the move. She said she believes county residents will be pleased with the efforts of the CBPA.
In addition to pumping new blood into the county’s economic development plans, the commissioners also said the move to CBPA removed any political stigma associated with the county’s abolished economic development department. The commissioners agreed to retain the county’s Economic Development Board and said the CBPA will work closely with the board.
The CBPA is a municipal authority that was created in 1993 and is comprised of four adjacent municipalities, Towanda Borough, Towanda Township, North Towanda Township, and Wysox Township.
Besides serving as a municipal authority, the CPBA is an Industrial Authority in Bradford County and is the agent for Central Bradford Industrial Development Corporation.
The following motions were approved by the commissioners:
– For the purchase a 2005 Ford Freestar Van from Spangler Motors Inc. of Milton at a cost of $14,489 with trade-in of 2000 Ford Windstar Van.
– To hire former recycling coordinator William Zick to fill the temporary part time specialist position in the Conservation District with no benefits and the cost to be absorbed by the Conservation District.
– Accepting with regret the resignation of Carole Smallcombe as full-time correction officer at the county jail.
– Appointing Patrick Ahearn of Susquehanna to fill a vacancy on the county Planning Commission, with his term ending Jan. 1, 2006. He replaces Cy Cowperthwait who resigned.
– To hire Stephen Barondeau to the temporary position of Watershed Specialist in the Conservation District on grant funding.
The Salary Board set the rate of pay for William Zick at $9.29 an hour and set the annual salary of Stephen Barondeau at $24,500 of which 80 percent is grant funded; and eliminated the positions of economic development director and economic development clerk/typist.
Robert I. Clayton Sr., James C. Strohl, Amy J. Strohl to Daniel Michael Trivett Jr. and Lori Jo Trivett, in Auburn Township for $30,000.
Anthony F. Tunis Jr. and Mary E. Tunis to James D. Sanderson, in Thompson Township for $40,000.
Pamela Herbert to James P. Madas and Terry L. Madas, in Harford Township for $92,000.
Dayton Eric Fisk and Rene Marie Fisk to Dayton Eric Fisk, in Lanesboro Borough for one dollar.
James W. Whitman and Reta M. Whitman to Daniel Martin Washburn and James Washburn, in Oakland Borough for $8,000.
Janet F. Ambrose to Gregory A. Connelly, in Hallstead Borough for $25,000.
Kenneth J. Wolanin and Leanora M Wolanin to Leanora M. Wolanin, in Friendsville Borough for one dollar.
Dorothy M. Hill, James N. Hill and Tammy M. Hill to James N. Hill and Tammy M. Hill, in Bridgewater and Franklin townships for one dollar.
RALLG Associates, WNG Co., Susan Lavelle, Margaret V. Rockey, and John J. Lavelle Sr. (estate) to Bradley Schwartz and Karen Schwartz, in Herrick Township for $17,000.
RALLG Associates, WNG Co., Susan Lavelle, Margaret V. Rockey, and John J. Lavelle Sr. (estate) to Philip E. Neary and Jacquelyn M. Neary, in Herrick Township for $18,000.
Lauretta A. Button (nbm) Lauretta A. Ralston to William A. Curry Jr., in Auburn Township for $90,000.
William P. Sholette and Margaret M. Sholette to Justin M. Taylor in Bridgewater Township for $29,000.
Rosaria M. Armetta to Frank A. Armetta (trust) and Salvatore J. Armetta, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
Dean R. Houck (by sheriff), Colleen M. Houck (aka) Colleen M. Pretto (by sheriff) to Washington Mutual Bank (sbm) Washington Mutual Home Loans Inc. (fka) PNC Mortgage Corp. of America, in Great Bend Township for $1,705.
Joseph S. Koziol (aka) Joseph Koziol Jr., Sandra Koziol, Joan A. Koziol (nka) Joan A. Hensel, and Gordon Hensel to Warren H. Rockwell and Sally A. Rockwell, in Silver Lake Township for $17,000.
Mary Ann Hickey to James B. Hickey, in Union Dale Borough for one dollar.
Zina Hill (nbm) Zina Tripp and Richard Tripp Jr. to Rosemary Costigan, in Hop Bottom Borough for $79,000.
Allan E. Elbrecht, Darlene A. Elbrecht, Christine A. Elbrecht, Steven F. Gordon, and Kathleen A. Gordon to John H. Sholtiss and Darleen Sholtiss, in Great Bend Township for $47,000.
Helen Boyarsky, Blanche Williams to Lawrence Boyarsky and Marie Boyarsky, in Clifford Township for $27,500.
Helen Boyarsky, Blanche Williams to Lawrence Boyarsky and Marie Boyarsky, in Clifford Township for $10,000.
Steve Mikolaichik and Roberta J. Mikolaichik to Helen Hrichuk, in Clifford Township for $3,000.
Donald S. Grandfield to Craig N. Nishiyama and Jane H. Nishiyama, in Harmony Township for $65,000.
Brian W. Very and Julie Very to John C. Bender and Mary F. Kaywork-Bender, in Rush Township for $89,900.
Kevin Conway to Cynthia Conway, in Forest Lake Township for one dollar.
David Faidiga and Suzan Tibus to David Faidiga, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Sophia Turoski (aka) Sophie Turoski (aka) Sophie R. Turoski (estate) to Leonard J. Zalepa and Ann M. Zalepa, in Silver Lake Township for $4,000.
Susquehanna Borough to Michael A. Vaccaro, in Susquehanna Borough for $200.
Brent D. Schisler, Cheryl B. Shisler (aka) Cheryl D. Wagner to Cheryl D. Wagner, in Jessup Township for one dollar.
RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT, DISORDERLY CONDUCT
On the afternoon of January 24, Jamie White, 29, Nicholson, got into a car in the parking lot of the Price Chopper in Montrose. Ginger Dennis, 26, Mehoopany, ran to the car and grabbed the driver’s side door before it could be closed. White backed the vehicle and then pulled out, with Dennis hanging onto the car. Dennis then fell, letting go of the car as White left the scene.
An unknown person entered the home of Mary Jayne Koes, 66, Harford Township, sometime between 9:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. on January 13 and stole some jewelry, including various yellow-gold necklaces, a Duryea and a Scranton class ring.*
Thomas O’Brien, 44, Vandling, was driving along State Route 171 in Herrick Township. When he came to its intersection with Fiddle Lake Road, he drove his pick-up truck off the east side of the road and crashed into a utility pole early in the evening of January 13. He was placed under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol and was assisted at the scene by Cottage Ambulance.
On the night of January 14, Shawn Taylor, 20, Taylor, PA, was speeding on Station Hill Road in Lenox Township when he lost control of his vehicle on an icy patch. The vehicle went into a ditch, flipped several times and came to rest on its side in the road. Taylor was not wearing a seat belt, and was thrown from the vehicle. He was severely injured and was assisted at the scene by the Factoryville EMS.
Donna Murphy, 40, Union Dale, was traveling at a high rate of speed on State Road 247 near Blueberry Hill in Clifford Township when she fell asleep. Her vehicle crossed the opposite lane of traffic and onto a snow-covered embankment, where it flipped onto its roof. She was wearing a seat belt and suffered minor injuries. Murphy faces a charge of careless driving as a result of this accident that occurred on the afternoon of January 22.
On the afternoon of January 19, Danielle L. Gaus, 29, Union Dale, was driving a 2000 Ford Explorer on State Road 0374 west when she failed to make a left curve, causing her to lose control and roll the Explorer onto its side. Gaus received minor injuries and her two passengers were uninjured. All were seat-belted or child-restrained.
On the morning of January 1, someone pumped $15.32 of fuel into a car at the Flying J Rest Stop in New Milford Township and drove away without paying for it. The vehicle is described as a blue compact with damage to the front fender on the driver side.*
A 2003 Ford Taurus was severely damaged when driver Sean Harsford, 34, Susquehanna, lost control of it on Interstate 81 South when it was snow-covered shortly after noon on January 22. Neither Harsford nor his passengers were injured (all were wearing seat belts).
Someone in a white Toyota SUV pumped $7.65 of gas at the Great Bend Pump and Pantry early in the evening of December 12 and drove off without paying. A counter-person at the gas station got the car’s registration. An investigation continues and charges were filed.*
Wells Rider, 20, Montrose, was not injured when he lost control of the 1993 Ford Taurus he was driving south on State Route 29 in Bridgewater Township. The car struck a telephone pole and came to rest on its roof in a private yard. This accident occurred on the morning of January 12.
* Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the State Police at 465-3154.
In last week’s report of the Bridgewater Township meeting we inadvertently announced PENNDOT was holding up progress on the renaming of streets. In fact, Susquehanna County Emergency Management is holding up progress with the project. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Even a lively question and answer session with the public couldn't prolong the meeting on January 25 of the Harford Township Supervisors. A total of four people attended the meeting – including Supervisors Rick Pisasik and Sue Furney – which lasted all of nine minutes, apparently a record for brevity.
The meeting might have been longer, but there was no news about the fate of the Odd Fellows Hall, except that the township's attorney is collecting documents in preparation for a petition to the court to have restrictive covenants removed from the deed.
The Supervisors quickly approved some driveway permits, and a list of per-capita tax exonerations (usually college students, some elderly residents, and others who cannot be located).
Ms. Furney reported that the chassis for the truck recently purchased has arrived. The two Supervisors then accepted a bid from Powell Sales and Service and decided to buy a nine-foot dump body for the truck for just about $5,000. Responding to a question from an observer, Mr. Pisasik said that the old truck being replaced will be stripped of whatever might be useful; the final disposition of the carcass is yet to be determined.
The next meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors is expected to begin at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 12, at the township office.
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