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In spite of a very cold night and a malfunctioning furnace, the Thompson Boro Council met for their regular meeting on December 5 with a full council and a number of residents present.
Bills reviewed included one from engineering firm Nassaux-Hemsley, for attendance at the hearing in Harrisburg regarding the Curtis Sunoco property, in the amount of $2,210. The boro had not yet received a bill for the solicitor’s attendance at the same hearing. Also added to the bill list was one for cold-patching, in the amount of $479.
Ararat resident Lester Zimmerman addressed council, seeking support for Thompson Toddlers, a project he founded three years ago to serve Thompson and the surrounding area. Toys are collected for needy children, as well as gift certificates for food, and food baskets. Mr. Zimmerman expects that the number of folks who benefit from the program will increase this year and has been visiting local governments to solicit support and community involvement. Local business owners have been involved, as well as Mayor Delaney, the fire company, local churches, and Barnes-Kasson Hospital. Mr. Zimmerman has been contacting concerns based outside of the boro, but who do business in the area, seeking additional support. An annual Christmas dinner is hosted, with 160 in attendance at last year’s. He anticipates that 200 or more will attend this year. The dinner is free, but donations of toys are welcome. Thompson Toddlers will also see that Santa Claus visits any child who is in Barnes-Kasson on Christmas. Council agreed that it would be worthwhile to make a donation on behalf of the boro, the amount to be decided after review of the current budget, as well as personal donations.
Council reviewed Larry Travis’ monthly sewer system report for November. A total of 300,000 gallons were treated, with an average of about 12000 per day. During a power outage on November 19, the emergency generators ran as expected.
After a lengthy discussion as to whether an ordinance is needed to change PAWC’s billing of sewage fees (to separate billing from water), president Andy Gardner said that he had checked with both the solicitor and PAWC; the ordinance that already exists allows for changes in billing to be made by resolution. A motion carried to increase the monthly billing fee to a flat $46, and to authorize PAWC to send out separate billing for the sewage fees.
A motion carried to approve a standing agreement with Thompson Township for snow removal and for maintenance of the unpaved portion of Water St., to remain in effect until either party requests to dissolve it.
Minor changes were made to the 2006 budget, due to the county’s lowering of the assessed occupation tax (expected revenues). The budget includes millage as follows: real estate, six mills; fire protection, one mill; occupation tax, 19 mils. A motion carried to accept the budget.
Under new business, council discussed situations where a property owner has been cited by the CEO for accumulation of junk that is disposed of through means other than the boro’s refuse hauler, with the question being, where is it disposed of? Was it being burned, or was it being taken out of the boro, which is not legal? By ordinance, when a property owner is cited, he/she should be asked to furnish proof that the items have been disposed of by a licensed hauler. Council will make CEO Shane Lewis aware that residents should be notified of this when they are cited in future.
During public comment, a resident noted that there had been additional problems during a recent water emergency. The pump burned out at one of the two reservoirs that serve the boro, and the pump at the second has reportedly not worked for two years. During the emergency, a water buffalo that was supposed to be delivered to the fire company by PAWC for use by boro residents in need was instead parked at a private residence, and a second one could not be obtained for residents’ use. During the emergency, residents were asked to conserve usage until the pump could be repaired, but water was not made available for residents who needed it. Council was asked to contact PAWC to discuss this situation, and to find out if the second pump is working; council agreed to do so.
One of the boro’s manhole covers sits too high, and the snow plow catches it. As it cannot be fixed until the spring, the site will be marked for future attention and the regular plow drivers will raise their plows in that area.
A motion carried to approve payment to CEO Lewis for 27 1/2 hours, total $385.
Information from COG, regarding a feasibility study on forming a regional police force was reviewed. If the boro is interested in participating in the study, there would be no cost to the boro but a letter of intent would need to be submitted by December 16. Mr. Shontz agreed to look over the information and complete the accompanying questionnaire.
CDBG grant applications are due by December 31. Mr. Sheldon agreed to look over the relevant packet of information supplied by the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and come up with a “wish list” of possible projects to apply for.
As the boro’s tax assessor has resigned and there are no interested candidates to fill the position, the matter will be turned over to the county.
At their last meeting, council had discussed the possibility of using a collection agency for delinquent sewage fees; one such concern will be sending an information package for council to review at their next meeting.
Mayor Delaney reported that Christmas flags have been put up in the boro. The Baptist Church was broken into and a safe, which was later recovered, was stolen. At the request of the State Police, the mayor accompanied officers to talk to several juveniles who may have been involved. And, a Christmas tree lighting ceremony had been held the previous week.
Former council member Dennis Price has some no trespassing signs that may be posted at the treatment plant. Mr. Price requested council to notify PAWC of the change of ownership of his former residence.
And, council has been looking at how to divest the boro of the police car, one of which may be to put it up for auction. As there is no rush, council is exploring several options.
The Susquehanna Community School Board began their December 7 meeting with their annual reorganization. Newly elected members Lori Canfield and Carol Jackson were sworn in, as were reelected members Johnine Barnes and Mary Wescott. After voting, president Terry Carpenter and vice president James Bucci both retained their positions.
When the regular meeting began immediately following, with all members present, Superintendent Stone reported that the Strategic Plan committee has been meeting continuously since September, and will continue to do so throughout the year to work on a six-year action plan, drafting a mission statement that will include goals and objectives and will encompass plans for new faculty, special ed and technology. It has been an interesting year, he said, complying with state mandated initiatives.
The faculty is keeping an eye on the outcome of the legislature’s voting on HB1968, which would compel districts to begin the school year after Labor Day. A later start to the school year would undoubtedly impact the preparation time for PSSA testing.
Property tax reform will also have a serious impact on school districts throughout the state. There are currently two bills under consideration, one in the House and one in the Senate, that present very different proposals.
Teachers Mike Catalano and George Overmeyer and their students were thanked for completing two projects that have enhanced the campus, new entrance gates, safer than the ones they replaced and a new fence outside the elementary building addition.
The high school has received a Keystone Achievement Award, in recognition of meeting No Child Left Behind requirements for the second year in a row. Principal Lisowski commended the faculty, students and their families for their cooperative efforts in this achievement.
Mr. Lisowski also extended an invitation to attend a dedication ceremony on December 20, at 10 a.m. at the high school. A memorial has been created to honor the soldiers from Susquehanna County who have given their lives during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The ceremony will be an opportunity for students, faculty and support staff to show appreciation for their sacrifice. A luncheon will follow at the American Legion Post 86. Those interested in attending should contact Sue Crawford at 853–4921, ext. 2344.
Principal Keyes reported that the elementary after school tutoring program has been going very well. Funded through Title I, the program is available to students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades. A total of 57 students applied to take part, and an average of 40 students attend every Tuesday and Thursday. In its third year, the mentor program is up and running, with 31 staff members signed up and 21 students assigned. It is a one-on-one program that provides students with an adult to talk to, or to provide help. And, for the third year in a row, the elementary school has received Keystone Achievement Award in recognition of meeting educational mandates.
Business manager Gary Kiernan reported that the audit report for the 2004-05 year is nearly complete; results will be made available for public inspection once it is finalized.
Kathleen Hinkley, President of the Susquehanna Community Education Association and past president Mike Catalano were on hand to share some good news; the association has received recognition from the PA State Education Association, a Higher Achievement award for outstanding efforts in contract negotiations. The association continuously strives to work with the board and administrators, Mrs. Hinkley said, and credited the win to a great rapport with the board. SCSD’s was the only association in the northeast region to be granted the award.
Teresa Marino, the district’s instrumental and high school choral teacher introduced student Amanda Depew, a member of the marching band, to report on a recent trip to the University of Massachusetts and West Point. Invited by Blue Ridge to accompany their band, SCSD students played with over 4,000 students from 65 schools for the university’s annual Band Day. Miss Depew said that it was a great experience and an opportunity that was deeply appreciated. She then introduced Ellen Matis, who had created a tape of the experience and shared it with the board. And, Mrs. Marino was pleased to report that the band had made a good showing in the Scranton Jaycees Santa parade competition, despite only nine students participating.
Meeting dates for regular meetings for 2006 were approved as follows: January 18, February 15, March 15, April 19, May 17, June 21, July 19, August 16, September 20, October 18, and December 6. Meetings are held in the administration office in the elementary school, 7:30 p.m. The board also approved designated dates for its information and deliberation sessions, on the Tuesdays preceding the regular meetings, 7:30 in the administration office.
The following additions to the substitute list were approved: Edward Reddon – Emergency Certification, Sandra Schell – Music; Maria Cina – Non-Instructional; David Nalbone – Non-Instructional; Howard Gray – Bus Driver; Julie Hargett – Nurse.
Bus contract changes were approved.
Resignations from Pete Downton – Junior High Baseball Co-Coach and Kristen Snedeker – Elementary Teacher Aide were approved.
Hiring/transfers were approved for Secondary Guidance Secretary, Junior Class Advisor, and Girls Junior High Game Manager.
Volunteer Brian Wheeler – Wrestling Program was approved, as were homebound instruction for a grade 12 student, the customary requests for workshops, conferences, fundraisers and activities.
On the advice of the district’s legal counsel, a request from the Church of Latter-Day Saints for use of the schools facilities for the purpose of Sunday Worship and Youth Activities was not approved due to its wording, but sponsoring a youth activities night was approved.
The board approved making the district’s cooperative football agreement with Blue Ridge a perpetual agreement, until one of the districts requests its dissolution.
And, the board approved exemption of taxes and authorized the Tax Claim Bureau to accept any price for (specific) listed property.
For the first time ever Susquehanna County will have a fulltime district attorney beginning on January 2, 2006.
District Attorney Jason Legg has advised the county commissioners that he will exercise his right to fulltime status as provided by Act 57 of 2005. Mr. Legg has been a part time district attorney since 2003 and, prior to that, was an assistant district attorney for three years.
In another employee matter, Suzanne Brainard, who has been chief clerk for the past three years, has resigned, effective December 9.
While Mr. Legg’s salary as a fulltime DA will more than double, the county will actually save money on the deal. As a part time DA, the county paid Mr. Legg his annual salary of $65,000. As a fulltime DA, the Commonwealth will pay 65 percent of his estimated $135,000 salary reducing the county’s portion to $47,000. “I am excited about the opportunities presented with the ability to be a fulltime prosecutor,” Mr. Legg said. Besides being a crime fighter, Mr. Legg will participate in community awareness services and similar events.
Besides saving money on Mr. Legg’s salary, the county intends to eliminate one of the two assistant district attorneys. In all probability, Ray Davis, who did limited but effective work as an assistant DA, will be leaving.
By law, Mr. Legg was forced to give up his private law practice. It will be taken over by Marion O'Malley who is the first assistant district attorney. A few municipalities will also be without Mr. Legg’s services. He was solicitor for Montrose, Silver Lake Township, Auburn Township, New Milford Borough, Jessup Township, Gibson Township, Thompson Township and Little Meadows Borough. Also for the Council of Governments, Fiddle Lake Sewer Authority and the Silver Lake Sewer Authority.
In his six years as a part-time prosecutor, Mr. Legg has been involved in nearly 3,000 adult criminal cases. The number does not include juvenile cases and a number of additional duties the DA is involved with including appellate work, post-conviction proceedings, federal cases and summary appeals.
“It is painfully apparent,” he said, “that the criminals in Susquehanna County are not working on a part-time basis and neither should the district attorney.”
Mr. Legg is a lifelong resident of Susquehanna County and a 1989 graduate of Montrose High School. He earned Bachelor and Masters degrees from the University of Scranton and was awarded a scholarship to Albany Law School of Drew University where he received his law degree. He and his wife, Magda Lynn, reside in Silver Lake Township.
Regarding Mrs. Brainard’s decision to resign as chief clerk, it appeared to be sudden but she said she has been thinking about it for some time. “I decided I would like to look at other possibilities,” she said. Mrs. Brainard is tax collector in Lenox Township and also has her own electrolysis business. Besides all her activities in the county, she is also a member of the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Society of Electrology.
Lindsey Oil Corporation (nka) Rapp Petroleum Corporation to Jeremy Ebhardt, RR2, Susquehanna, in New Milford Township for $9,900.
Lindsey Oil Corporation (nka) Rapp Petroleum Corporation to Eileen Ebhardt, Jeremy Ebhardt, RR2, Susquehanna, in New Milford Township for $17,900.
Richard Zrowka, Ronald Zrowka, Annette L. Zrowka to Ronald Zrowka, RR1, Union Dale, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Gerard Kruger, Catherine Kruger to Christopher Kruger, 419 East Church St., Susquehanna, in Susquehanna for $72,000.
Steve Rayanic, Elaine J. Rayanic to William Volk, Brick, NJ, in Auburn Township for $189,000.
James Delaney, Marel Delaney to Angelo and Margaret Lucarelli, RR2, Thompson, in Thompson Borough for $7,000.
Gary J. Lopez to Nick Andrejack, RR7, Montrose, in Bridgewater Township for $125,000.
Harold E. Groover III, Nancy J. Groover to Harold E. Groover III, South Montrose, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Donald E. Hill, Elizabeth J. Hill to Kenneth V. Greene, Binghamton, NY, in Silver Lake Township for $275,000.
Colleen P. Morris (nka) Colleen P. Gurn to Jared W. Hopewell, RR1, Brackney, in Silver Lake Township for $95,000.
Robert Walsh to Robert G. Pandich Jr., Brackney, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar (corrective deed).
Douglas G. Kilmer to Elk Manor Estates, Montrose, in Clifford Township for $360,000.
Mary H. Bannach, Mary H. Alexandrowicz, Richard J. Alexandrowicz to Mary H. Alexandrdowicz and Richard J. Alexandrowicz, Flanders, NJ, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Stephen J. Luce, Debra P. Luce to Kevin J. Berg, Brenda E. Berg, RR7, Montrose, in Bridgewater Township for $240,000.
Kathleen S. Kittle to Thomas R. Kittle, RR3, Meshoppen, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
John L. Sprout, Rebecca E. Sprout to Justin Sprout, 19 Public Ave., Montrose, and Klazina Sprout, in Bridgewater Township for $14,000.
David Light, Joan C. Harrington, Sandra Goetz, to Rodney D. Stone, Nancy J. Stone, RR1, Friendsville, in Choconut Township for $44,000.
David L. Ward, Tammy A. Ward to Frank E. Kilmer, Margaret E. Kilmer, RR1, Hallstead, in Liberty and Great Bend townships for $152,000.
Sovia Kieler Paul to Susan Paul Nurney, Hatboro, David B. Paul, in Gibson Township for $10.
David B. Paul to Susan Paul Nurney, Hatboro, in Gibson Township for $10.
Irene M. Huston (by sheriff), William Huston (by sheriff) to Fremont Investment & Loan, Ontario, CA, in Forest City for $2,530.
Michael Z. Marder to Marder Living Trust (trust), Suffern, NY, in Ararat Township for one dollar.
Florence W. Beck (estate by trustee) to David T. Hackett, 4 Mitchell Hill, Montrose, Michele B. Hackett, in Montrose for $70,000.
George A. Gall Jr., Esther Gall to Nancy Hall, Apalachin, NY, Neil M. Hall, in Susquehanna for one dollar.
Marjorie Smith, Donald Smith, Oswald A. Johnson (estate) to George Scott Heiss, Scranton, Lisa Ann Jones, in Lenox and Clifford townships for $34,000.
Robert F. Tiffany, Patty L. Tiffany to Charles Bunnell, Mandy Bunnell, South Montrose, in Bridgewater Township for $25,000.
Mary Carlisle Hess (estate, aka) Mary C. Hess (estate) to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in Apolacon Township for one dollar.
Michael J. Stitley, April Stitley to Shaun Bigelow, Sylvia Bigelow, Somerville, NJ, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
R. Lee Smith, Charlotte Smith to Denise Chu, Pompano Beach, FL, in Jessup Township for $2,750.
Robert J. Hollenback, Mary Jean Hollenback to Mary Jean Hollenback, RR2, New Milford, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Randy D. Powers Jr., Tina N. Powers to Randy D. Powers Jr., RR3, Meshoppen, in Rush and Auburn townships for one dollar.
Edward R. Moriarity, Diane Hinds Moriarity to Joseph Hyer, 53 Elkview Dr., Forest City, Nancy Armetta, in Clifford Township for $204,235.
Edward R. Moriarity, Diane Hinds Moriarity to Joseph Hyer, 53 Elkview Dr., Forest City, Nancy Armetta, in Clifford Township for $26,765.
Paul Weinwurm, Patricia Weinwurm, Carol Johnson, Emily Weinwurm, to Kenneth G. Miller, PO Box 191, Hallstead, in Silver Lake Township for $63,000.
Mary Katherine Johnston, Nicholas A. Shursky to Chris Caffaro, Clifford, in Clifford Township for $186,500.
Susan Zeyher, Meshoppen vs. Rafe H. Zeyher, Springville.
Roy E. Cole Jr., Montrose, vs. Kariann Cole, Kirkwood, NY.
Kathryn Ann Smith, Montrose, vs. John Mark Smith, New Milford.
School boards in Pennsylvania are required to reorganize themselves every year, which mostly means electing officers. Sometimes there are actually changes, but not this year at Blue Ridge. At a meeting on December 5, the four members re-elected in November repeated their oath of office, a temporary board president was chosen, and moments later every thing was back where it started: Alan Hall, President and Priscinda Gaughan, Vice President. The reconstituted board then decided on its meeting schedule for next year; they generally meet on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, with some exceptions.
The last business meeting of 2005 immediately followed the reorganization session. Among a few routine personnel items and following a brief executive session, the board approved renewing Superintendent Robert McNamara's appointment for another three years. Mr. McNamara had been high school principal at Susquehanna Community Schools when he moved up to Superintendent at Blue Ridge seven years ago.
Last month Mr. McNamara told his board about a nifty new system that can be used to send messages quickly to parents about, well, just about anything. This time he reported a limited-time offer by which the district could save money by not waiting to sign up. ALERTNOW is a service of a North Carolina company called Saf-T-Net. For a mere $3.00 per student (with the sale price of only $2.51 for the first year), the district can have messages phoned automatically to student home phone numbers. The initial service agreement has a three-year term and is expected to cost the district about $3,000 per year.
The company claims to be able to dial 1,000 numbers per minute; it does not require any equipment installation, and does not use district phone lines. According to Mr. McNamara, the system would be used to notify parents of school closings, emergencies, delays, and even sports schedules, homework assignments and just about anything else the administrators and faculty can think up. Presumably the system has ways to deal with busy signals, no answers, answering machines and the like. Board member Harold Empett wondered if a family with three children enrolled would get three calls with the same message. One also wonders if homework assignment calls can be scheduled at dinner time.
The most extended discussion focused on the proposed kindergarten for four-year-olds. It was approved to begin next Fall over the objections of two board members, but not before Mr. Hall and the administrators energetically defended the program on all counts. Mr. Hall has promoted the kindergarten extension as a financial winner for the district, although he concedes that it will cost local resources more than $80,000 to implement.
Most of the cost of two teachers and two aides for the expected 70-80 additional children to be enrolled in the half-day sessions, and all of the additional transportation costs, are expected to be subsidized either by the state or by the federal Head Start program, for which many of the new students will be eligible. The increased enrollment represented by the youngsters will bring in additional subsidies.
Mr. Hall said that he expects the expanded early- childhood instruction to lead to diminished special education requirements in later years, thus also reducing costs. He even projects an overall savings after 8-10 years. The Elementary School is said to have enough space available to accommodate the children without expansion. According to Mr. Hall, seven years ago the Elementary School enrolled 140 more students than it has today, in the same space.
Asked if the new program would not put additional strain on the school's available resources, Mr. Hall promised, "We're not cutting anything in order to make this happen. We're going to become a little more efficient."
At least the children will be able to watch TV when they get there. The Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) has donated seven television sets and six VCRs to the school, demonstrating a continuing commitment by parents to the support of their schools.
And the students are making the best of it. High School Seniors Crystal Whitney and Jessica Calla, from six applicants at Blue Ridge, are to receive McKelvey Foundation "Gold" scholarships. The McKelvey scholarships are awarded by Andrew McKelvey, founder of Monster.com, and his wife to students across Pennsylvania who plan to attend one of a group of private colleges in the state. The Gold scholarships pay for an entire four-year program. Applicants must demonstrate not only high academic achievement, but an entrepreneurial spirit, and are usually interviewed personally by the McKelveys.
The next meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board will not be until January 9. Most meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
The Susquehanna County commissioners have put together a county budget for 2006 that does not require a real estate tax increase. In fact, if all goes according to plan, there will be about $44,000 in excess revenue at the end of 2006.
The budget still needs final approval by the commissioners but the present numbers show anticipated revenue of $19,036,107 and expenditures totaling $18,991,491. Of course there are always unexpected expenditures that can eat up $44,000 in a hurry.
While real estate taxes are expected to remain at 12.543 mills, there will be an increase of seven mills in the occupation tax. It will go from the present 18 mills to 25 mills but the actual dollar increase is minimal. For example, those who have been paying $3.60 will pay five dollars.
There will also be a bitter pill for some employees to swallow. Unless they change their minds, the commissioners will make non-union employees kick-in 10 percent of the total cost of their health insurance premiums. Employees who did some quick arithmetic say they will have $150 a month taken from their pay. The commissioners also asked the elected officials to consider contributing 10 percent of the cost of their health insurance and so far the idea has been greeted by a couple of volunteers and a few arguments.
The new spending plan will pump about $8.4 million in the general fund which is the money needed to run the county for another year. Another $3.9 million is required to supply the needs of the various offices in the county. Much of the funding for the larger departments such as Children & Youth Services, Domestic Relations, Juvenile and Adult Probation, to name a few, is almost a tradeoff. The county provides these agencies with working capital but ultimately is reimbursed by state and federal funds.
As might be expected, the biggest source of income for the county comes from real estate taxes. In 2006, the county expects to realize $7.6 million from these taxes. The occupation tax will bring in another $130,000, and penalties for delinquent taxes, both real estate and occupational, along with money paid in lieu of taxes, will generate an additional $76,000. Among the more noticeable anticipated revenue sources are: Children & Youth Services, $2.9 million; 911, $912,132; Domestic Relations, $659,141; HAVA, $431,804; Library Fund, $239,665; Probation and Parole Adults, $132,644; Probation and Parole Juvenile, $207,959; and, Liquid Fuels, $190,718.
In a related development, Commissioner Jeff Loomis said the county expects to enter the new year with about $935,000 left in the coffers from last year’s budget. The amount will still leave the commissioners needing to take out a Tax Revenue Anticipation Note to meet expenses for the first three months of the new year. Real estate taxes generally don’t start pouring in until mid-March.
The topic that got the greatest discussion during the remarkably short December 5 meeting of the Great Bend Township board of supervisors was communications from PENNDOT that board chair Bob Squier brought up. In it, the Department, under its new Agility Program, wanted to know if the township was interested in snowplowing the parking area (and not the entrance and exit ramps) of the new visitor’s center. Reimbursement would be about $44 per person, and PENNDOT would furnish all materials (antiskid, cinders, etc.) except for the snowplow trucks and for gas. PENNDOT would be responsible for removing snow with a loader, should snowfall be great enough to require it. Squier spoke with a PENNDOT representative, and passed along that the township crew would be given plenty of time to do the work.
A resolution was needed to say yes to PENNDOT, and it couldn’t wait until the next meeting – what with snow likely to fall any time. George Haskins noted that a concern was whether the township had the manpower to handle the request, and how soon would the township crew need to return for a re-plow during a heavy snowfall. Delivery of a newly purchased truck was expected last Wednesday, reported Haskins, adding that an on-call person is also needed to plow, and the township has one. He was told by a road crew member that the township’s F350 truck can do all the little streets and the rest area as well. Haskins thought that, should the township go ahead with the resolution, it would be in pretty good shape with three trucks and a three-person crew available to plow.
However, with Haskins and supervisor Walt Galloway wrapping up their terms of office at the next meeting, Haskins added that the decision was really up to Squier and the two new members of the board. Both Sheila Guinan and David Sienko, who will take up supervisory responsibilities after the first of the year, were at the meeting. Sienko asked if the township’s insurance would cover its plowing the rest area and Squier answered that it did. Guinan noted that the request was for this season’s plowing – in other words, for a year – and thought it would be a good idea to see how it went. All felt that PENNDOT has always been good to work with and if problems arose later on, they would be worked out.
So, the township’s new road crew will be plowing the parking lot of the new visitors center for PENNDOT.
The road crew also got a good workout with the snowfall that occurred at Thanksgiving. Much of the roadmaster’s report on activity of the prior two weeks was, in fact, about snow-related activities – putting on plows and the spreader, laying anti-skid for several days, plowing, repairing the plow – although they also patched holes on several township roads. Haskins reported that the crew got a thank-you note from Baptist Hill residents for making their road safe for their family after the bad Turkey Day weather.
In other business, the board: agreed to write a letter of support to the newly formed Northern Susquehanna River Watershed Association; reported that an assessment permit was issued to David and Susan Eddleston; will give a property owner 30 days notice to totally clean up a continuing eyesore on New York Avenue before further action is taken; and told the owner of a property on Route 171 that looks like a junkyard to fence it in and it is Haskins understanding that he is.
The next regular meeting of the Great Bend Township board of supervisors is scheduled for 7 p.m. on December 19 in the Township Building.
The Montrose Borough Council caved in under public pressure and voted down a proposed ordinance that would have created an earned income tax in the borough and opted instead for a three-mill increase in real estate taxes.
The vote at last Thursday’s meeting which was continued from December 5, was 7-1. Councilman Fred Peckins was the only member of the governing body who stood pat in the face of some bitter opposition to the one percent income tax.
Council will vote on the new budget at a special meeting on December 29. At the same time, it must vote on a tax ordinance that will put the borough’s real estate tax at 17 mills. One mill equals one dollar per $1,000 of property value. The three mill tax increase will give the borough an additional $82,500.
The borough’s new spending plan totals $660,535. The real estate tax will bring in about $432,500. Other sources of revenue include $32,500 in liquid fuels money; $20,000 in real estate transfer tax and $4,000 in occupational taxes.
Some of the more noticeable expenses include $104,600 for the police department; $103,000 for the street department; $50,000 for the fire company; and $11,000 for snow removal.
Veteran Councilman Jack Yeager said more people are upset over the three-mill tax increase than the one percent earned income tax.
At the invitation of president Ron Beavan, Larry Travis and Roger Holleran, representatives of the Tri Boro Municipal Authority were present at the December 8 meeting of Oakland Boro to address council and those residents present. Mr. Beavan had extended the invitation to help educate area residents on some impending changes that will have a strong impact on the authority’s customers.
Mr. Travis gave a rundown of the Chesapeake Bay agreement, begun in 1983 by Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, to implement the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding areas. The agreement’s intent is to lessen the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous and other foreign elements getting into the water. Even though sewage treatment accounts for only about 20% of those elements, strategies to reduce those elements will be enforced, which will require upgrades of treatment plants.
In 1987, the agreement was expanded; in 2007, studies will be conducted to check on progress and in 2011 if the water is not sufficiently restored more regulations will be put in place. Hopefully, Mr. Travis said, we will be able to exceed the goals set. But, bigger plants with more resources will be competing for what limited grant funds may be available, and the Tri Boro plant, which is currently thirty years old, will need upgrading. There are things the public can do, mainly reduce the amount of flow that goes through the system whether by being more conservative with their water usage or (more importantly) finding other means to dispose of storm water from sump pumps, which really shouldn’t be emptied into the sewer system. The authority is pursuing grant funding for a feasibility study, which would be quite expensive.
In other business, Mr. Beavan reported that the water system pump had been leaking and had been (somewhat) repaired, but as it was still leaking a new one has been ordered, cost about $650.
Codes activities have slowed down, mainly due to the weather; CEO Shane Lewis had checked on a few complaints.
Mayor Dudley gave Officer VanFleet’s November report. There had been a number of complaints about dogs roaming, with the owner of one being cited. There had been a hit and run incident on Westfall Ave. Mr. VanFleet had found the person responsible, as well as the person responsible for a break-in at the Oakland Inn. He had also investigated a complaint about burning.
Mayor Dudley reported that she had checked the references of the two applicants for part-time police officer, with favorable results for both. She recommended that Joe DeMuro be hired as the boro’s primary officer, with Eric Brush as backup (Mr. DeMuro lives in closer proximity to the boro). The total number of hours worked per year would be the same as Mr. VanFleet had worked. She recommended that council draw up an employment agreement for a one-year period, to include a six month probation period. And, she recommended that an allocation of $100 each be designated for uniforms, with a small amount to be set aside each year towards replacement. With two officers, the boro’s workmen’s compensation might increase marginally, but since the amount paid by the boro is based on annual salary the total should be close to what the boro is presently paying. The boro would also be responsible for paying for training time for certifications, about two days per year, but this would be well within the budget allotted for police services.
Motions carried to hire both candidates and to implement an employment agreement. And, a motion carried to officially accept Mr. VanFleet’s resignation, as of December 15.
Mr. Beavan has been working on applying for grant funding to improve River Road, which would require that an engineer’s report be given. Council agreed that he should proceed with contacting an engineer. Mr. Beavan will try to keep the expense at a minimum.
The owner of a High St. property addressed council; he had removed an older trailer from his property with the intent of replacing it with a newer one, but had been told by the CEO that a cement slab would be needed even though the original trailer did not have one. There was a lengthy discussion about the state’s construction code, which all agreed could not be changed by council. But there were some questions about interpretation of the code; how is it determined whether or not a slab is needed? If it is based on compaction of the area, who determines just what that is? The property owner does have the right to appeal the CEO’s decision. A meeting of the appeals board would review the CEO’s recommendation and make a final decision. The property owner agreed to request an appeal.
Council’s reorganization meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 3 (that Monday being a holiday).
A motion carried to approve $25 gift certificates for the boro’s four employees for Christmas, Roger Holleran, Jeff Wayman, Flo Brush, and Bob VanFleet.
More lengthy discussion centered around the 2006 budget, which will increase taxes by two mills. Each mill brings $4,973 in revenue to the boro, with the total 2006 budget being $98,311. Real estate taxes will now be at 18.1 mills. A motion carried to accept the water budget at $93,735.75, with no increase in usage fees.
A meeting was scheduled for December 22 at 7:00 to adopt the budgets.
Chad Crawford, attending his last council meeting, was thanked for his service to the boro. Mr. Crawford in turn thanked Mr. VanFleet for his many years of service, as well as council and the boro residents for the opportunity to serve. He will remain active on the Parks and Rec. Committee.
In closing, Mr. Beavan asked council to consider appointing Mr. Wayman as streets commissioner, and to discuss it further at the January meeting.
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