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There was much news and a few surprises at the March 3 meeting of the New Milford Borough Council, where all members were present, except for Chris Allen who was unable to attend.
One of the biggest surprises were three plans provided by KBA Engineering for renovations to the building to accommodate the office of district justice Peter Janicelli. As discussed during council’s February meeting, the justice’s office is currently in New Milford, the justice and county are looking for new space, and the council would like to keep the office in the town. It approved the spending of about $2,500 to have KBA develop a feasibility study to include tentative plans and estimates. The first surprise was the plans themselves: At least one compromised the space in the borough building currently rented by the Council of Governments and which the borough considers a good and valued tenant. Council wants their space left alone and council member Teri Gulick reported that at an earlier work session, this was made clear to KBA.
Second, the proposed renovations were hugely expensive, with an estimate for one of the designs approaching $300,000. Council was willing to entertain the office, provided it was at no cost to the taxpayer. The cost to renovate the borough building could not exceed the total amount of the anticipated monthly lease payments made by the county for the district justice office; this was thought to be somewhere around $1,200 a month for approximately 2,000 square feet that would conform to building standards required of courtrooms. If the cost were greater to the borough than what it took in from rent on the office space, well, as council member Rick Ainey put it, “ We cannot afford it, but we gave it a good try.”
Gulick also reported that Todd Schmidt from KBA informed her that if council wanted to make any changes to the plans they delivered, it would be at an additional cost. This didn’t sit well with her, and while she didn’t want to spend any more on this “feasibility” stage, she wondered if it would be worthwhile to call the firm that worked with the borough council on renovating the building when the borough first acquired it and see what it might do and for what.
The best surprise as far as the justice’s office is concerned was saved for last. Elizabeth and Brian Parr were in the audience and waited until the public-input period that precedes the end of the meeting to let council know that they own the building at 204 Main Street that currently houses the district justice’s offices. They said they were working with the county and the justice on renovations to their space, and were willing to basically do whatever it took to keep what they consider a “great” tenant.
So, it was news to the Parrs to hear that the justice had spoken with the borough and with KBA as well as commissioner Mary Ann Warren about the possibility of moving into the borough building. Said the Parrs, “We are as committed to keeping the police presence in New Milford through the justice’s office as you are, but we believe we are competing for business with the borough.”
This, in turn, was news to council. Speaking on its behalf, council member Joe Carr said, “I don’t think our intention was ever to compete. We want to keep the justice in town, and this was the extent to which we would go. We’d prefer to have a building like yours, on which taxes are paid, do it. It’s to our advantage for you to keep the office.” Added Jonathan Parr, “We thought we were in the final stages of an estimate [on renovating the building] when the borough came in [to consider the justice office in its building]. I spoke with the commissioners, and they told me that they were working with you.” Council member Jane Zick wished that the Parrs had come to council earlier, and probably they and other council members did, too. Added Zick, “We don’t want to lose the justice’s office and we don’t want to lose you, too.”
Perhaps neither will house the justice’s offices, because Ainey also reported that it was pretty well known that the justice is also talking with Hallstead Borough. Reportedly, Hallstead is looking to accommodate the courtroom in the building vacated by Humbies restaurant on Route 11. So, there are a lot of potential brides, it seems, for this particular groom. Which one walks up the aisle could be anybody’s guess, but commissioner Warren reported that the ultimate decision resides with Judge Seamans.
In other news that could be a surprise or a disappointment, borough secretary Amy Hine obtained documents from the state auditor general’s office about the defunct police pension plan. Sandra Kazinetz, who volunteered to review the documents, briefly reported on their contents Council is attempting to determine the status of excess assets, if any, in the police pension fund to which it and other municipalities contributed, some longer than others. A review of the 2000 auditor general’s report sent to the borough indicated there were excess assets. There is one beneficiary of the plan, and the 2000 report indicated that the fund was overfunded.
The documents Kazinetz reviewed included ordinances passed by and signed by representatives of participating municipalities. These ordinances did not include any language on either plan termination or what happens to excess assets if the plan were terminated. They did include a resolution signed by the chair of the police commission, naming David Ayers of Prudential Securities the financial manager of the plan. It was reported earlier to Hine that Ayers says that any excess assets in the plan revert to the state, although this was not confirmed in any documents the state provided; it is not known if the forwarded documents are complete. (What is known is that expenses of $1,500 were paid in 2000 to a third party, for a police department that closed down at the end of 1995.) Included in the documents was a copy of the resolution closing down the department and which stated that “assets and/or liabilities are to be turned over to the appropriate municipalities.” It was not clear, Kazinetz reported, if the assets or liabilities were the monies contributed to the plan, or physical assets of the department. It was also not clear if the documents were complete. Hine will continue to contact the auditor general’s office as well as Ayres and others who may be able to fill in the blanks with documentation about the plan, any termination of it and the disposition of any excess assets in it upon termination.
In other business, the group was pleased with a thorough report by Mike Dopko, the borough’s new codes/zoning enforcement officer. They confirmed it by passing a resolution that will notify COG’s Codes Enforcement Committee that the borough will use Mike Dopko’s services to enforce the town’s zoning ordinance and other codes (including an ordinance about domestic animals), with the exception of the Uniform Construction Code (UCC), which the COG committee will enforce for Codes member New Milford Borough.
It was a grand moment when members voted to advertise for bids to pave the town’s streets. Council is expected to open the bids in April, restoration work on the streets and driveways by the sewage system contractor is scheduled to be completed by May, and soon after that, council member Joe Carr -- who has been working on a paving plan for a couple of years – along with council member Chris Allen who works with the road crew, are looking forward to starting to make the plan a reality for the town.
The town’s planning commission has also spent a lot of time looking at the borough’s streets and parking on them. Council member Teri Gulick, who also sits on the commission, reported on its recommendation. Basically, it includes repealing all ordinances that are now on the books (and there are many, some dating to the Fifties) and which pertain to parking be repealed and consolidated into one ordinance. This ordinance would clarify during what times parking would be allowed – or not – on various streets in the borough (and on no streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.), use signs in certain areas either to accommodate special parking (at the library and businesses, for example) or ensure a safer line-of-vision at certain intersections, and call for enforcement of the rules – including penalties – by enforcement officer Mike Dopko.
The commission’s recommendations were detailed and thorough and council members were impressed with the commissions work. As council member Rick Ainey put it, “Their intent is to try to clean up parking in areas where there has been a problem,” and that’s council’s intent, too. They wanted to review them further, however, but did not want to stop forward motion, so voted to advertise the ordinance, send it to the town’s solicitor for his review and discuss it further at its next meeting, before deciding to adopt some or all of the recommendations.
In economic development matters, Ainey, along with council member Jane Zick, reported on a positive meeting held recently in New Milford Township with representatives of area municipalities and the county’s Bob Templeton. The idea is to explore forming a local coalition to promote development in this part of the county through a comprehensive plan. In an area where many municipalities pride themselves on being independent, Ainey had a point when he noted that “progress doesn’t stop because of a borough or township line.” Economic development in any area municipality has a ripple effect throughout those surrounding it.
Council members also leafed through minutes they requested and received from the county Rail Authority, and were disturbed to read that its goal for 2005 is acquiring railroad-related properties and artifacts of historical interest.
Ainey asked county commissioner Mary Ann Warren, who was in the audience, whether the Authority’s goal was to work toward historic preservation or to economic development. Warren replied that while she sat in on a portion of a recent meeting of the Authority, she wasn’t sure that the direction the Authority appears to be taking is the route that the commissioners want it to take. She thought that the commissioners needed “to address the Authority and take them in the right direction as to why they were formed and as to how to represent the county.” New Milford will continue to keep its eye on the authority because, as Ainey said, “that railroad is important to both the town and to the area.”
Ainey also reported that the owners of Southern Tier Plastics have offered to donate its vacant building in the town to the borough. A nice gift. However, council’s concern is contamination and if there’s any in the building. Should testing prove that there is none, council would accept the property. If there were contamination, council would accept the building after it is cleaned up by the property owner.
The next regular meeting of the New Milford Borough Council is scheduled for April 7 at 7 p.m. in the borough building on Main Street.
HIT-AND-RUN TRAFFIC ACCIDENT
An unknown driver of a silver/gray Ford Econoline van with New York plates backed up in the parking lot of Maloney’s Bar in Hallstead on the night of March 1 and struck the left rear of a 1997 Toyota 4x4. State Police, acting on a top, positively identified Richard E. Winger III, 23, Cooperstown, PA, as the driver and charged him with the following violations: careless driving, immediate notice to police, accidents involving damage to unattended vehicle and driving under suspension. Charges were filed with district justice Janicelli in New Milford.
E. Grace Lamb, Susquehanna, was behind the wheel of a 2003 Suzuki car going south on snow-covered State Route 171 on the afternoon of March 1 when she lost control of the vehicle, went off the road and hit a large rock. Lamb was wearing a seat belt and was not injured.
On the afternoon of March 1, a 14-year-old juvenile was driving a 2000 Polaris snowmobile south on Township Road 458 in Harford Township when David L. Brainard, Union Dale, was in the middle of backing his 1992 Dodge pick-up across the road while plowing snow. The juvenile couldn’t stop in time and his snowmobile hit the rear end of Brainard’s Dodge. The juvenile received moderate injuries and was transported to Mercy Hospital in Scranton. He was cited for operating a snowmobile on an undesignated route. State Police at Gibson remind the public that it is illegal to operate a snowmobile on state and county roads, and that operators of these types of vehicles will be cited.
A 1992 BMW driven by Girard Pedley, Malvern, slid into a ditch while driving on township road 470 in Herrick Township early in the morning of February 27; Pedley left his vehicle. Jeanne Lawrence, 48, Union Dale, lost control of her 2002 Mercury, went off the road and hit Pedley’s car. Both vehicles were towed from the scene and Lawrence was cited for driving too fast for conditions, as per the Pennsylvania State Police Zero Tolerance Initiative.
HARASSMENT BY COMMUNICATION
Ted Brunell, New Milford Township, reported that he received three threatening phone calls between February 18 and 28.
Thomas Jones, Lathrop Township, reported that his mailbox was smashed some time between February 12 and 13.*
METHAMPHETAMINE LAB SEIZURE
Mark Shingler, 42, South Montrose, was charged with manufacture of methamphetamine and possession of anhydrous ammonia after state police when to his residence to investigate a strong chemical smell coming from his home and which originates when methamphetamine is being produced. Manpower, including a state police clandestine lab response team, was activated and a search warrant was obtained and served at around 1:30 on the morning of February 26. A lab and chemicals were discovered in the basement of Shingler’s home and he was arrested. Following evidence collection, a HAZMAT clean-up team responded to dispose of the hazardous chemicals.
A 1997 Jeep Cherokee driven by an unidentified person who fled the scene failed to make a left curve on State Road 374 in Herrick Township, struck a bridge and then rolled over on the night of February 24.
Ashley Pratt, 21, Harford, was driving her 2001 Pontiac Sunfire out of a private parking lot in Harford when her vision was obscured because of a pile of plowed snow at the edge of the lot. Pratt inched her car out of the lot, but its front end was struck by a 1993 Nissan Sentra heading east and driven by Kevin Bryden, 22, Hallstead. Pratt and a passenger in Bryden’s car received minor injuries; Pratt received none, and all were wearing seat belts during this accident that occurred shortly after 11 on the morning of February 25.
Jeffrey Beavers and Jason Rudock, Harford Township, reported the theft of their ATVs from the front of their home sometime between the night of February 18 and the following morning. One ATV is a yellow 2003 Honda TRX250EX with broken handlebars. The other is a forest green 2001 Yamaha 350CC Wolverine with rear rack. *
Merle Jennings, 54, Lenox Township is accused of sexual intercourse at his home with a 13-year-old girl in his residence during July-August, 2004.
Jason Penny, Shane Beamer and Joseph Eliott, all of Susquehanna, became involved in a fight at a home in Susquehanna. Penny was taken to Barnes-Kasson Hospital, treated and released. An investigation is continuing in this incident which occurred on the evening of February 20.
HIT AND RUN
A 2004 Mercury Sable owned by Paul Wood, Allentown, was parked at the Pump n Pantry in New Milford on the afternoon of February 20 when an unknown driver backed into its side and left the scene. Police report that the vehicle that fled the scene may be a tan S-10 Blazer from New Milford.
* Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the State Police at 465-3154.
Edward M. Pointek to Leon E. Pointek Sr., in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Ricardo C. Catalan to Richard H. Lane, in Susquehanna for $12,000.
Frances Puchnick (by attorney) to Albert F. Citarella and Jennifer A. Citarella, in Forest City for $33,000.
Joseph Slamas and Gertrude Slamas to Albert F. Citarella and Jennifer A. Citarella, in Forest City for $33,000.
Thomas J. Chamberlain and Christine Chamberlain to Trehab Center Inc., in Susquehanna for $14,000.
Steve Nayduch to Thomas Robinson and Mary Ann Robinson, in Susquehanna for $62,000.
Daniel Mark McNabb and Corrine R. McNabb to Daniel Mark McNabb, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
John Franck to Susan Franck, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Daniela Fox and Shaul Vaknin to Shaul Vaknin, in Susquehanna for one dollar.
James Farrell to Lawrence T. O’Reilly, Christine M. O’Reilly, and Thomas J. O’Reilly, in Oakland Township for $25,000.
Linda Tudisco to Emil Siegert, in Ararat Township for $38,900.
Charles Wells (aka) Charles R. Wells (by attorney) to Donald C. Bliss, in Great Bend Township for $30,000.
Arthur C. Holbrook and Eva Holbrook to Walter Holofchak Jr., in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Joyce A. Kocak to Ronald E. Kocak in Choconut Township for one dollar.
WNG Co., Margaret V. Rockey, John J. Lavelle Sr. (est), Susan Lavelle, William Gerber (est) and RALLG Associates to Joseph Pfluger and Sharon Pfluger, in Herrick Township for $21,000.
Margaret V. Rockey to Wescott Steel Inc., in Herrick Township for $23,500.
Randall I. Cole and Artina D. Cole to Hulda M. Cole, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Louis T. Tokos to Jessica Tokos Darrah and Charles Darrah, in Choconut Township for $135,000.
Helen Chudzinski to Helen J. Chudzinaki (Revocable Living Trust) in Forest City. (Cost not listed; additional municipal transfer tax due).
Jessd Naylor Jr. (by sheriff) and Kathleen J. Naylor (by sheriff) to Beneficial Consumer Discount Co., in Great Bend Borough for $4,110.
Donald R. Strope and Susan A. Strope (by attorney) to Ronald J. Trudel Jr. and Heather A. Trudel, in Silver Lake Township for $275,000.
Susan Kinney (nbm) Susan Gumble and Christopher Gumble to Susan Gumble and Christopher Gumble, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Mary M. Marrer, Ella M. Kelly, Leonard Kelly to Christopher T. McComb and Tracie M. McComb, in Silver Lake Township for $30,000.
Edward P. Friel Sr. and Cynthia E. Friel to Edward P. Friel Sr., in Liberty and Franklin townships for one dollar.
Margaret Buechner (aka) Margaret A. Buechner to Nancy E. Schiffer and Kirsten L. Schiffer, in Great Bend Township for $32,000.
Kurt Frey and Kimberly Frey to Linda Alvelo, in Silver Lake Township for $129,900.
Barbara G. Stich to Paul Kipar and Sue Kipar, in Auburn Township for $235,000.
Dennis P. O’Brien and Gladys M. O’Brien to Dennis P. O’Brien, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Dennis P. O’Brien and Gladys M. O’Brien to Dennis P. O’Brien, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
John M. Glover and Barbara A. Glover to Todd W. Glover, in Susquehanna for one dollar.
Michael Schmidt and Jennifer Schmidt to Richard E. Phipps and Karen P. Phipps, in Lenox Township for $150,000.
Paul Kurt Kipar and Sue Ann Kipar to Suzanne e. Beasley, in Dimock Township for $129,000.
Ingrid V. Lee (estate) to Stanley F. Hanlon and Delores Ann Hanlon, in Harford Township for $66,500.
Albert Warner to Dawn I. Douglas and Thomas Douglas, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Albert Jennings Warner to Lee A. Warner and Michelle Lee Warner, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Lawrence T. O’Reilly, Christine M. O’Reilly and Thomas J. O’Reilly to James E. Savage and Theresa A. Forys Savage, in Friendsville Borough for $43,000.
David Nelson and Denise Nelson to Denise Nelson, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
Anthony Napolitano (aka) Anthony L. Napolitano to Robert A. Partridge, in Susquehanna for $45,000.
WM Specialty Mortgage (by POA) to James G. Smith and Arden Martinez, in Oakland Borough for $14,500.
Donald L. Purtell (aka) Donald Purtell, Norene Purtell to Leo Purtell and Sandra Purtell, in Apolacon Township and Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau, Joseph E. Stankavage (by Tax Claim Bureau), Mary S. Stankavage (by Tax Claim Bureau) to Jan Vandenhengle and Hendrika K. Vandenhengle in Dimock Township for $1,000.
Michael Robert Cole and Brenda Joanne Lawton, both of Conklin, NY.
Stacy L. Bushong of Susquehanna vs. Jeffrey J. Bushong of Susquehanna.
Joann S. Henry of Montrose vs. Craig R. Henry of New Milford.
Anthony H. Starke of Ararat Township vs. Sandra Marie Starke of New Milford.
Layton W. Greene of Binghamton vs. Cheryl Lynn Greene of Great Bend.
At the Great Bend Borough Council meeting on March 3, Secretary Sheila Guinan read a letter from Mayor Nancy Hurley of Susquehanna Borough with the result of a 4-3 vote by the Susquehanna Borough Council to "set aside" Great Bend Borough's proposal to contract for some of Susquehanna's police resources. The vote was described in the Transcript last week in a report of the Susquehanna meeting.
The Great Bend Council was hopeful following an appearance by Chief Thomas Golka of the Susquehanna Police Department a few months ago. Although the Great Bend budget provided no funds for the purpose, council members were optimistic that better police coverage was on the way. Mayor Hurley's letter hinted that the idea might be revived at some time in the future. There was little further comment. An attempt to have a representative of the State Police attend a council meeting has been twice postponed.
This type of "multi-municipal" arrangement is being encouraged by the state through recent legislation and state municipal funding-support programs. Chief Golka remarked on this when he met with the Great Bend Borough Council in December. Council member Rick Franks, who is also a member of the Susquehanna County Planning Commission, suggested that his colleagues on council consider entering into a partnership with neighboring communities that could help everyone work on common issues together. Mike VanGordon, who attended the meeting to present the latest update to the borough emergency management plan, told Council that the Great Bend and Hallstead fire companies already cooperate by being toned out simultaneously, ensuring greater availability of volunteers. Mr. Franks said that joint planning could help to realize the potential of the area. With Interstate 81, U.S. Route 11, rail service and now a sewer system that joins New Milford, Great Bend Township, Hallstead Borough and Great Bend Borough, the area has it all. "No one else [in the county] has what we have," he said.
Another thing the area has is a rejuvenated ambulance service. The borough received a letter from the Broome Volunteer Ambulance Service requesting clarification of its status as a provider to Great Bend now that the ailing Great Bend-Hallstead Ambulance Service is back in business. With 14 certified emergency medical technicians, the local service is poised to regain its position as one of the mainstays in the region. The Broome volunteers, along with the Montrose Minute Men, provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) service to supplement the Basic Life Support (BLS) offered by the local service. The Bradford Susquehanna EMS Council, headquartered in Towanda, oversees emergency medical services for the state health department in this area. R. Brent Meadows, Executive Director of the EMS Council, told Secretary Guinan that it was his responsibility to coordinate between the 911 call center and the various services, including Broome, and that the proper arrangements are in place.
Snow plowing is still a responsibility of each municipality, and it is always a source of complaints throughout a long winter. Several council members, as well as borough employee Alan Grannis – who does the plowing – have received complaints, generally anonymous, in some cases about the plow working on clear, dry streets. Yet councilman Joe Collins, the designated streets supervisor, said, "All I've heard is good stuff, about the roads being done." Council agreed that the plowing this winter has been well done, and decided to allow Mr. Grannis to continue working with Mr. Collins to keep the streets clear "at his own discretion."
There is apparently concern of some kind in the streets department, however. At the very end of the meeting, Council President Ray Holtzman called an executive session to discuss the streets supervisor position. Without further details, he said that the executive session was covered under Section 708(a)(1) of the Sunshine Act, which allows organizations to conduct closed sessions to discuss matters concerning employees and officials.
The streets in Great Bend Borough are lighted by the electric company, and the Borough pays the bill. Council members Holtzman, Jerry MacConnell and Mike Wasko met with a representative of Penelec to discuss a number of issues and learned that the borough has some 70 street lights, most of which have 100-watt bulbs. Council agreed to try to have Penelec take over ownership of the light in Greenwood Park (which has been out for some time), and to move a light from an unnecessary location to the bridge on the south end of town.
Both ends of town sport signs announcing the borough, but the signs have deteriorated over the years, and the borough is feeling some pressure from neighboring communities that have recently spruced up their own. Ms. Guinan contacted a local scout leader who may send an Eagle Scout candidate to meet with council about designing and building new signs for Great Bend Borough.
The new signs may help athletes find the town when they arrive in the summer for the Tim Fancher Memorial 5K Walk and Run, usually scheduled for the 4th Sunday in July. Great Bend Borough Council sponsors an annual "Fun Day" for families, with games, food and entertainment, usually in May. In recent years, council member Bea Alesky has headed up the effort to organize Fun Day, but this year she has declined the honor, and suggested that the two events might be scheduled at the same time, to the benefit of both. Representatives of the group that runs the Fancher event attended the meeting and were encouraged about merging the festivities.
The next meeting of the Great Bend Borough Council will be on Thursday, April 7, beginning at 7:00 p.m., at the Borough Building.
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