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Council member Jim Carr sat in for president Scott Smith, who, along with council member Rick Ainey, was unable to attend the November 3 meeting of the New Milford Borough Council. Member Chris Phillips had to leave at 7:45, but before he did, he and other members present – plus Mayor Joe Taylor – heard a presentation by the county Rail Authority and communications from Commissioner MaryAnn Warren.
Warren responded to a letter that borough council sent to the County commissioners requesting reimbursement of the funds the borough spent in good faith for preliminary engineering plans that would accommodate an office for district justice Janicelli, who would be moving from his Main Street, New Milford, location. Warren wrote that she was encouraged to work with the borough on the relocation, meeting repeatedly with borough officials, the architect and others at the county level in the belief she was being steered in the right direction by county personnel involved. Warren noted she wasn’t aware of either the county’s or the judge’s decision to drop the borough building as an option until some members at a council meeting said they heard about it through the proverbial grapevine. Knowing the limited resources of the town’s budget, Warren thought the county should pay for at least half – if not all – of the money the borough spent.
Warren, a New Milford resident, attended this meeting and was asked about the likelihood of the town’s getting reimbursed for the money it spent. “There is none,” she said, and added that the borough’s letter was passed around, dated, initialed and with comments added by each commissioner. She was the only one who agreed the borough should be reimbursed. In spite of the fact that Janicelli and others attended earlier council meetings expressing their desire to stay in New Milford, council has never been officially informed of the county’s decision.
Rail Authority chair Roland Sharp and member Ken Bondurant were present to provide what they called a broad overview of what the Authority is trying to do along the Route 11 corridor in New Milford Township. Sharp gave a snapshot history of the rail as it runs alongside the Route 11 corridor (once consisting of four tracks, then two, and now one) and noted that, with letters of support from some 40 people representing area businesses, the Authority obtained $2.5 million in reimbursable money (meaning the Authority must spend that amount first before it gets it back), which will be matched by 30 per cent – for a total of about $3.25 million available funds. Canadian Pacific owns the railroad along the corridor, and Sharp said it is very willing to work with the Authority to increase its capacity on the line. Currently, about 16 trains use the tracks every day, and Sharp reported this is two trains over capacity as it is.
Thus, the Authority is working with the railroad to bring a passing siding to the corridor. The siding would be located on railroad-owned property in New Milford Township (Summersville) that lies between the current track and Route 11. Sharp described a passing siding as a kind of 2-mile detour off the current track that can accommodate a mile-long train so one train can pass on the track while another waits on the siding. Cost for such a siding is more than $1 million a mile. Sharp said the Authority is working with Canadian Pacific to build the siding with part of the $2.5 million, that the railroad would match the 30 per cent, and that no local tax money is being used. He was asked by a resident if the local workforce would be hired to build the siding, and Sharp replied it would not; the railroad would use its own workforce.
The reason the township area was chosen and not New Milford is that the proposed siding is approximately equidistant from passing sidings in Hop Bottom and Conklin, as required by the railroad’s engineers. Availability of land for any future expansion is greater in the township where the property is also flat, and Sharp added the impact on residents was also taken into account, stating that if the current transloading station in the borough were expanded, “the traffic situation would go from bad to worse.”
Sharp noted that the idea is for the Authority to help local businesses by working in partnership with the railroad, and that a rail yard where material is stored in railcars is not part of its plan.
But a transloading facility – where material is loaded or taken off rail cars and onto trucks – is. Such a facility, said Sharp, would be funded by the Authority and the county and would hire from the local workforce. Businesses would pay for use of the facility and because they would see savings, they would have the ability to expand their businesses and hire more people. Sharp added that property would have to be obtained for such a facility, and that the Authority is presently in negotiation for the land. If it gets the land, it would then become Rail Authority property, with a Rail Authority facility on it that, said Sharp, could possibly be leased to people doing the transloading.
Asked about more trucks and traffic coming into the area and if a traffic study has been done, Sharp answered that a facility might increase traffic and that PENNDOT was aware of what the Authority is doing. He added that a realistic timeframe for the passing siding was 2007.
Other business borough council attended to included:
Issuing a letter of violation about garbage on a town road.
Being informed by the DEP of an oil leak on Main Street which the department is working to correct with the property owner.
Looking into a complaint about rainwater pooling on a resident’s sidewalk and which the resident thinks is caused by the recent street paving.
Agreeing to pay with paving contractor the amount withheld – the manhole covers inadvertently paved over now being unearthed.
Approving the town’s Planning Commission approval for a subdivision for Kielceski.
Discussing a trade-in or sale of the town’s plow truck (to follow through on its decision when the truck was purchased three years ago to have a vehicle in-warranty at all times) and deciding to revisit the topic in the spring/summer.
Reporting receipt of the remainder of FEMA payment for the approximately $90,000 repair of the Blue Ridge Park damaged by Ivan flooding; the payment was about $800-plus-interest short of the actual amount spent, and Council, acting on a suggestion that council member Teri Gulick passed along from the Parks Association, voted to split payment of this amount with the Association.
Establishing October 31, 2006, as the deadline by which everyone needs to be hooked up to the new sewer system; a municipal ordinance states that a lien can be put on a property if it is not hooked up to the sewer system by an established date; Amy Hine confirmed that both Hallstead and Great Bend indeed have an agreement with the American Water Company to shut off water for those who fail to pay their sewer bill.
The meeting ended with a quick overview of the proposed 2006 budget that delivered good news, which is that New Milford borough taxes will not go up. The budget will be advertised and members will review it more thoroughly before council meets to vote on it at its next regular meeting, scheduled for December 1 at 7 p.m. in the Borough Building on Main Street.
According to long-time observers, it has been 13 or 14 years since Great Bend Borough raised tax rates for its citizens. For all those years the Borough Council has scrimped and squeezed its budget, and now the budget is crying for relief.
The current property tax rate – the borough's major source of revenue – is $6.53 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Assessments have risen only gradually. Local property taxes now yield about $50,000 to the town budget. That comes to just over $7,500 per mill.
For some time Council has been struggling to find a way to provide better police protection. Once the local police force, operated jointly with neighboring municipalities, was disbanded some years ago, the borough fell back on the stretched resources of the State Police. Some, however, believe that the borough needs more and better policing, particularly to control speeding and vandalism.
Council began discussions several months ago with the borough of Susquehanna with an eye toward "renting" some time from their police force. A recent meeting sponsored by the Council of Governments (COG) explored the possibility of forming a regional policy agency. So far little has come of these efforts, and council is concerned that there is no money to support such a program in any case. Borough Secretary Sheila Guinan has frequently reminded Council that the budget does not provide for police services. She told Council that she has even cut her own office hours, "because you were running out of money."
The new budget developed by Ms. Guinan also provides no funds for police. But Jerry MacConnell believes it should, and forcefully urged his colleagues on Council to consider boosting taxes to provide at least some money for local police services of some kind. His proposal was presented at Council's November meeting on the 3rd. It was not received with enthusiasm.
Some on Council would do almost anything to avoid raising tax rates for already-strapped residents, many of whom are on fixed incomes. Rick Franks, for instance, has suggested several times that the borough consider selling one or more of its parks to raise funds. Joe Collins, however, said that the borough had little else to offer its citizens but the pleasure of its three parks.
Mr. MacConnell suggested raising the rate by only one mill, which he estimated would be worth about $5,000 to the budget. Bea Alesky pointed out that such a small sum would purchase very little time for police in the town. Mr. Franks responded that vandalism alone is costly; Ms. Alesky noted that most of the vandalism is covered by insurance, which the borough must pay for anyway.
Ms. Guinan told members that the fire company now receives about 11% of the borough's tax revenues "off the top." In 2005 they will receive over $11,200. Perhaps the fire company's share could be handled in some way to make increasing the millage a little more palatable?
The budget proposal presented by Ms. Guinan needs to be advertised soon so that council can formally adopt it before the end of the year as required by the state code that governs boroughs like Great Bend. All of these ideas were energetically debated, until at last council decided to advertise what they have. Mr. MacConnell later said that he was still inclined to offer changes that include a tax rate increase to provide more funding for needed services, particularly police protection.
The budget debate actually came at the tail end of the meeting, which covered a number of other topics.
The borough's maintenance employee, Alan Grannis, asked for authority to purchase a tarp for the truck. Regulations require that vehicles loaded with materials like the anti- skid stone used on winter roads must be covered to keep the material from spilling out. Council approved an expenditure of about $450 for the tarp. Mr. Grannis told members that some 80 tons of anti-skid have already been delivered.
There was a lengthy discussion about what the "Bridging Communities" project might be able to do for the borough. Debbie Dissinger attended the meeting with Dan Glezen to hear what Council might have in mind, since there was some consternation last month that only one side of one long block in the town would be incorporated into the plan given the amount of funding available. Mr. Glezen was concerned that the latest design would replace his sidewalk and give him a curb.
Council asked that sidewalks and curbs be installed on the west side of Main Street for one shorter block, and whatever money was left be spent on the east side beyond Mr. Glezen's store, as far as the post office, if possible. The idea is to improve the appearance as uniformly as possible. Ms. Dissinger said that she would ask the engineer to review the plan with these suggestions in mind.
The county's plan to rename streets and roads in anticipation of re-addressing every property to make emergency services more efficient is moving along. Ms. Guinan said that the county planners have suggested a few minor changes to road names in the borough to make them more consistent, and to keep within the overall plan guidelines. For one thing, a road that crosses municipal boundaries may have one name on one side and another on the other side of the line.
The Postal Service has requested that correspondents try to use the borough's correct official address, which is Box 745.
Former councilman and council president Ray Holtzman had been invited to the meeting but declined for scheduling conflicts. Council asked him to appear in order to present him with a plaque commending him for his outstanding service to the community.
The borough has received 10 American flags from the local American Legion, and are hoping for another 10 from the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The borough will acquire poles and hardware to mount the flags along Main Street, probably beginning next Memorial Day. Council is grateful for the donations.
A plea from the county library for a donation was turned aside. One council member remarked, "We can't donate any more. We don't have any money."
Council was especially grateful for a check presented by three members of the group that organizes the annual Tim Fancher Memorial footrace. This is the second year that proceeds from the race have been distributed to participating municipalities. The race is hosted at Great Bend's Greenwood park. The check, for $1,000, will be deposited to the parks fund.
A representative of the H.A. Thompson company offered a review of the borough's insurance coverage. He said that rates were not expected to increase, and that the borough might actually receive a small refund because of an adjustment in the value of borough equipment covered under the policy.
One major change is that the local ambulance service will no longer be covered under the borough's liability policy. Recent court decisions have placed volunteer ambulance organizations outside the protection of laws that limit the liability of municipal governments. These changes will make the ambulance corps much more vulnerable to legal attack and therefore much more expensive to cover. Council directed its secretary to send a letter to the ambulance service about these changes.
Money is indeed the problem, and Great Bend Borough can use all it can get just to keep its head above water. Next year's budget will be debated again at the December meeting, on the 1st. Whether or not council will seriously consider raising taxes will presumably be decided at that time.
Dorotha E. Handelong, Raymond Grant to Julies D. Burns, RR2, Susquehanna and Shawn R. Burns, in Thompson Borough for $46,000.
Lyle D. Very to Donna M. Fekette, PO Box 653, New Milford and Thomas J. Lopatofsky.
Dona Fekette and Thomas J. Lopatofsky Jr. to Michael J. Considine, 57 Jackson St., Montrose, in Montrose for $104,000.
Leonard and Beverly Russo to Kurt Schultz, PO Box 229, Union Dale, and Sandy Hum-Schultz, in Herrick Township for $59,900.
Tammac Corporation to Michael R. Cobb, 43 Pierson Road, Montrose, in Rush Township for $80,000.
Mildred Freeman to Christopher Freeman, PO Box 76, Great Bend, in Great Bend Borough for one dollar.
Washington Mutual Home Loans Inc. (fka) Washington Mutual Bank (sbm) PNC Mortgage Corp. of America to Mary E. Snyder, Riverside Street, Susquehanna, in Susquehanna for $32,000.
Edward H. Demaree, Marion A. Demaree to Charles E. Demaree, Endwell, NY, and Kenneth J. Demaree, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Anna Gelatt to Bondelyn Gelatt Creek, Louisburg, NC, and Kirk Norman Gelatt, in Thompson Borough for one dollar.
Paula A. Kelly, Pamela E. Kelly to Pamela E. Kelly of Montrose, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Brown Living Trust (by trustees) to Paul Gere, PO Box 2154, Montrose, and Mary Gere, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Gilbert J. Kohler, Darlene J. Kohler to Jack F. Fries, Laceyville, in Auburn Township for $83,85.
Edward P. Friel Sr. to Todd Wilcox, Equinunk, in Franklin and Liberty townships for $148,000.
Fred L. Socha to Annette M. Seber, 165 S. Main St., Forest City, in Forest City for $19,000.
Ellen M. Burns to Alice B. Walsh, RR1, Little Meadows, in Montrose for one dollar.
Kevin Stone to David G. Taylor, 7 Griffith St., Montrose, and Linda L. Taylor, in Montrose for one dollar.
Robert J. Horwath and Colleen Horwath to Donald Overfield Jr., RR1, Montrose, in Silver Lake Township for $169,900.
Scott R. Simmons to Scott R. Simmons, RR1, Hop Bottom, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Michael J. Connord to Richard M. Kasperitis, PO Box 72, South Montrose, and Lisa V. Kasperitis, in Montrose for $84,800.
Tammy M. Gibson (nka) Tammy M. Lynady to Tammy M. Lynady, RR3, Montrose, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
SUP Corporation to Kirk Matoushek, 862 Belmont Turnpike, Waymart, in Thompson Borough for $150,000.
Philip K. Titus and Joann Titus to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in Harford Township for one dollar.
Dolores Zaleski, Raymond Dick Jr., and Jeanette Dick, to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for one dollar.
Edwin Nordahl (estate), aka Edwin Nordall (estate), aka Edwin H. Nordahl II (estate), Cheryll E. Wilcox, Diane Nordhal, Elna M. Nordahl (aka) Elna Nordahl (aka) Elna Nordall to Cheryll E. Wilcox, Newmanstown, PA, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Lauma Steinert (nbm) Lauma S. Gallo to William E. Kyne, Seminole, FL, in Auburn Township for $205,000.
Kenneth V. Housen, Roberta Housen to Nathaniel M. Howell, RR2, Montrose, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
James W. Eden and Kathleen E. Eden to Thomas J. O’Donnell, Madison, NJ, and James W. O’Donnel, in Liberty Township for $224,000.
Nikolaos Nikolaidis and Heidi Nikolaidis to Michelle M. Stonier, PO Box 264m New Milford, in New Milford Borough for $88,500.
Paul McCarthy and Lucy J. McCarthy to James Barnes, Feasterville, PA, in Choconut Township for $90,000.
Susan Mary Blanchard and Johna Mary Smith to Dalton C. Conley, New York, NY, and Natalie Jeremijenko, in Herrick Township for $35,000.
Robert D. Manning (by attorney) and C. Loudon Manning to William James Humber, RR6, Montrose, and George Humber Jr., in Bridgewater Township for $144,500.
Paul A. Sargent and Ann Bauer-Sargent to Paul A. Sargent, RR3, Susquehanna, and Ann Bauer-Sargent, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
William Zitzow and Barbara Zitzow to Jorden P. Seamans, 20 Union St., New Milford, and Melissa S. Kovitch, in New Milford Borough for $69,937.
James D. Warner Sr. and Dona Lee Warner to James D. Warner Sr., Jermyn, and Dona Lee Warner, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
James D. Warner Sr., Dona Lee Warner to Alexander Pritchyk, Jermyn, and Kathleen Warner, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Thomas S. Auriemma and Susan Auriemma to Mary A. Keenan, RR1, Union Dale, in Herrick Township and Union Dale Borough for one dollar.
Mary A. Keenan to Jason F. Fuller, RR1, Union Dale, in Herrick Township and Union Dale Borough for $130,000.
Global Crossing North America Network Inc. (fka) RCI Corporation to Thomas Clough, RR2, Susquehanna, and Laverne Clough, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Julie A. Stillwell to David W. Montz, 1564 Bowbridge Rd., Little Meadows, in Apolacon Township for $110,000.
Jeffrey Hunter Smith to Richard B. Keogh, RR2, Kingsley and Kimberly A. Keogh, in Brooklyn Township for $23,000.
Brown Living Trust (by trustees) to Jacqueline M. Havriliak RR7, Montrose, in Bridgewater Township for $28,600.
Dennis Talbert (aka) Dennis H. Talbert, Linda M. Talbert to Dennis H. Talbert, RR3, Meshoppen, and Linda M. Talbert, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Gregg J. Miller to Jack A. Braunstein, Box 52, Gibson, in Gibson Township for $36,000.
Jade Brewer, Debra A. Brewer to Richard E. Bateman and Dawn Bateman, Southampton, in Brooklyn Township for $64,000.
Clyde E. Seamans and Catherine Lucille Cronkite, both of Union Dale.
Patrick Michael Mooney and Jennifer Marie Clark, both of Montrose.
Michael Clifford Sodan and Gabrielle Ferreri, both of Little Meadows.
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