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More than ten years of tension between the Thompson Township Supervisors and the Rail Trail Council of North-Eastern Pennsylvania exploded at this month’s supervisors’ meeting when the Rail Trail Council (RTC) sent a letter requesting the supervisors’ assistance in obtaining a county grant.
The grant, from the county Growing Greener II Program, is being sought by the RTC to repair drainage and flooding problems in the Horseshoe Curve area of the township. The flooding has caused severe damage to residences in the area for over ten years.
Gelatt Road residents Dawn and Robert Gaffey, who live in the affected area, said they were “angered by the request.”
According to Mr. Gaffey, RTC Program Manager Lynn Conrad had told him she was “just waiting to receive the grant money and the problem would be fixed.”
“Every day its’ a different story with this woman,” Gaffey said. “The governor is not coming through; the county is not coming through. It’s always someone else’s responsibility.”
“Where is she (Conrad),” Mrs. Gaffey asked. “She told me just yesterday that she would be here tonight to resolve this issue and answer the supervisor’s concerns.”
Supervisor Jenkins said he also had believed Conrad would be present at the meeting.
“I’m just enraged that this hasn’t been addressed,” he said.
Along with Conrad’s letter requesting assistance with the grant application, Jenkins read from a list he said was from the County’s Growing Greener II program and stated that the RTC had received a $47,000 grant to place access ramps from the trail to local roadways.
“They can get money for ramps, but not to repair a problem that for over ten years has raised havoc with people’s lives and threatened the watershed of this county,” he said. “This request is out of line.”
Potter Hill Road Resident Michael Greene, questioned Conrad’s assertion in her letter that the drainage problems had been caused by previous mining in the area.
“The flooding problems are being created by an improper drainage system installed by her organization,” he said. “There was no flooding problem in Horseshoe Curve until the RTC installed their own drainage system.
Supervisor Staci Nier-Yaskowiztz also questioned the letter’s contention that the drainage problem was of a “minor environmental impact.”
“The impact on the families is only one part of the story,” she said. “The area being flooded is in a wetlands area and is part of the local watershed. That has a potential impact on a bunch of springs and streams.”
Greene asked if Township officials could apply for the funding and “keep your hands on the funds until the job is complete?”
“They (the RTC) have been saying they would fix this since 1998 and they’re still waiting for funding, “Mrs. Gaffey said. “Maybe the township could get the funding and just fix the problem.”
Supervisor Jenkins said that the RTC is responsible to make the drainage system work, but hasn’t. “The township has waited ten years. The residents have waited ten years. Ten years of promises. What we need is action.”
“Why can’t we just apply and put the money into escrow and fix the drain?” he asked.
The Supervisors agreed that it is time they look into obtaining funds for the project.
The Board tabled any action until TRC Manager Conrad meets with the board and “we resolve this issue.”
Mrs. Gaffey told the Transcript that the flooding problems “began in the mid-1990’s when the RTC replaced a flat bottom transverse ditch with their own drainage system that didn’t work, and was replaced by a second system that also doesn’t work.”
Gaffey, who lives with her husband and three daughters in the home where she was born and raised, expressed “disgust with the whole situation and the whole system.”
Her property on Gellat Road borders and includes what is known locally as “Williams Swamp.” This wetlands area is located at the head of the Starrucca Creek Watershed which flows to the Susquehanna River.
Gaffey said that the worst of the flooding occurred in 1998, “when our entire world came apart.”
“During a particularly rainy season the flooding became horrendous,” she said. “Our dog coops were under water, our horses had to be moved and a nearby septic system bubbled up.”
“We were underwater a long time,” she said. “And nobody did a thing to help.”
Gaffey said the problems created flooding, causing her well and household plumbing to become contaminated by E Coli.
“We had to have a new well drilled, had to move out of our home and have it replumbed, had to truck in water for our horses and dogs, and our lives crumbled,” she said.
“The money we spent could have paid for at least some of our daughters’ college education,” she said. “Instead I work four jobs.”
According to Gaffey the ensuing years have been hell for the families who live near the trail at Horseshoe Curve.
“We’ve been everywhere asking for help,” “We even met with (State Representative) Sandra Majors. Each time promises were made by the RTC, and every time the promises have been broken.”
Gaffey laughed and said. “The funny thing is, the trail runs through my dad’s property and to this day he pays taxes on it (the property where the trail is located).”
Gaffey said she has spoken with many people “even down in Forest City” who are paying taxes on property that the RTC is using for its trail.
“If only that was my situation,” she said. “Then we could just fix the damn drain and be done with it.”
“As it is,” she said. “My husband cleans out the drain regularly. I call it community service, he calls it self preservation.”
When reached by the Transcript, RTC Program Manager Lynn Conrad expressed dismay with the tone of the meeting. “We’ve had a very good working relationship in the past, and I hope it continues,” she said.
Conrad said that no resident should be paying taxes on trail property. “We pay taxes in every township the trail goes through,” she said.
Conrad said that the RTC acquired the property for the trail from Hudson River Estates, “the bankruptcy corporation for the railroad.”
She said that title searches were completed and that any property owned by a private citizen was either acquired or an easement for the trail was granted.
“PSE&G also did a title search for the right of way,” she said. “Do you think they (PSE&G) would let such an issue go by?”
“Every owner who came to us with an issue was resolved,” Conrad said. “Mostly it was a mistake on the part of the title agency.”
Conrad agreed that the drainage at Horseshoe Cove has been a “big problem.”
“We’ve tried to get funding to replace the drain but have been unsuccessful,” she said.
Conrad said the previous systems were installed because the original drainage basin “interfered with the flow of the trail.”
“We were constantly getting calls about trespassing,” she said.
She denied ever having said she would attend the Board of Supervisors’ meeting, “I don’t even know when they meet,” she said.
Conrad said the RTC has worked with the Township in the past to resolve drainage issues at Horseshoe Curve. “We’ve always had proper designs, studies and permits,” she said. “It (the drainage system) just hasn’t worked.”
Conrad said that in the next bid to the federal government for Enhancement Funds to complete trail work from Herrick Center to Thompson (work from Forest City To Herrick Center is near completion) the re-design of the Horseshoe Curve drainage system will be addressed.
Until then Conrad said that the drain will “just have to be kept open manually.”
When asked who was responsible for keeping the drain at Horseshoe Curve open, Conrad said, “Mr. Gaffey has been doing a great job.”
Good things are happening in the Montrose Area School District, or at least so said Mr. Ognosky Superintendent of Schools, as he presented the board with a giant thank you card at the August 14 meeting. The card came from the children of Choconut Valley School's summer elementary computer camp, and included photos and testimonials from the children. The program was a huge success, as was a similar program run at Lathrop Street Elementary School. The children will be invited to the next board meeting, to be held on Monday September 11, to give a presentation on their experience.
Other good things include the repair of the network, the start of extracurricular activities for the fall, and the returned availability of the tennis courts. It is believed that a hard drive was the difficult to identify hardware problem which caused the network issue. The server has now been rebuilt with backups, mail is once again able to be accessed, and an extra hard drive will be kept accessible from now on. The tennis courts are reported as becoming increasingly maroon.
All financial motions were approved, and the overall cost of new employees discussed. The board also approved the adoption of a resolution, submitted by the school district solicitor, renewing a realty transfer tax.
A large portion of the rest of the meeting was given to the approval of new staff prior to the start of the new school year – a good thing in and of itself. This was tempered by the acceptance of resignations from several talented and respected employees. The staff changes were broken into basic subdivisions: extracurricular, support staff, and educators and mentors.
The only staff appointment within the extracurricular arena involved Debra Andre, who was approved as the Student Council Adviser. It was noted that the students who have been spoken to are thrilled by this idea, as she is known for attending everything anyway. The other positions slated to be filled at this meeting were not, due to extenuating circumstances. Two job openings, that of the Head Junior High Soccer Coach and the Assistant Junior High Football Coach, either have been posted or will be posted soon.
The district regretfully accepted the resignations of one part-time food-service worker, one cook, and one instructional aide for learning support. It approved the hiring of three new part-time food-service workers, one new cook, and a new Learning Support Instructional Aide. This last was an internal appointment, leaving open her previous position as a lunchroom/playground aide at Lathrop Street Elementary. This position will be posted, and once it is filled the district will have a full complement of support staff. Six people were also approved as substitute support staff, and an ad will run this week looking towards hiring more.
Two excellent educators are being lost from the Junior-Senior high school this school year – Gretchen Grimaud in the Social Studies department and Bridgid Petorak in the Computer-Information Technology department. Daniel Cherney will fill the social studies position, and Michael Clifford the computer-information technology position. In addition to these, Michaela Steele was approved as a long-term substitute for first-grade at Lathrop Street Elementary. Nine people were approved as mentor teachers, including one other first-grade long-term substitute, Diane Cronk. (By a rule recently changed by the state board of education, any long-term substitute of greater than forty-five days must be assigned as a mentor.) Finally, JoAnn Heitsman will be joining the district this year as a part-time dental hygienist, to work in conjunction with the school dentist, and Jamie Janesky as an elementary substitute.
One more large appointment was made at this meeting; a new school board director was elected. Mr. Kevin Sives and Mr. Chris Caterson had both expressed interest in being considered for this position, and the election was held by means of secret ballot. Kevin Sives won the election, and will serve in the position until the reorganization meeting in December.
Susquehanna County has a new jail warden.
At a special meeting last Wednesday, the Prison Board hired David Stewart, 40, of Bradford County to replace William Brennan who retired. Stewart, who traces his family roots to the Montrose area, started work on Monday at a starting salary of $40,000.
Before moving to Northeastern Pennsylvania, Stewart worked for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in Maryland. He was employed there for 17 years before retiring with the rank of major. He also served four years in the U.S. Marines. While in the Marines, Corporal Stewart served on the Presidential Guard Unit at Camp David in Maryland.
“My family is originally from Montrose,” Stewart said. “My father graduated from Montrose High School.” Stewart is married and the father of two children. His last assignment in Maryland was as shift commander at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, a Medium Security Level II facility that housed 1,800 prisoners.
“I am look forward to starting here,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge that it brings and I have always been one to make a place better than it was when I took over.”
At the same meeting, the board hired Kandi Zapolski of Montrose as a deputy warden. Ms. Zapolski served eight years in the United States Navy and will receive a starting salary of $28,000. She becomes the prison’s second fulltime deputy warden.
County Commissioner Jeff Loomis, who is chair of the Prison Board, said he would like to secure a pay raise for Nick Conigliaro who has been filling in as warden while the county searched for Brennan’s replacement. Conigliaro, who is a deputy warden, had been receiving pro-rated paychecks based on an annual salary of $35,000 while he was acting warden.
The votes on Stewart and Zapolski were unanimous. Commissioner Roberta Kelly was not at the meeting because she was attending a County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania meeting. But she did make voice contact via speaker phone and supported Stewart and Zapolski.
William F. Gallagher, Sr., William F. Gallagher, Jr. to Andrew Wyzykowski, Clifford, in Gibson Township for $100,000.
William F. Gallagher, Sr., William F. Gallagher, Jr. to Rachel Kochmer, Clifford, in Gibson Township for $77,500.
Eleanor H. Roberts to Heather C. Roberts Lerch, Oreland, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Robert Nanius to Daniel P. Hollis, Krista A. Hollis, Union Dale, in Herrick Township for $3,000.
John Edward Neely to Bruce Long, Brackney, in Choconut Township for $85,000.
Rag Apple LLC to Daniel A. Graham, Lynne Graham, Ellicott City, MD, in Jessup Township for $300,000.
Norman Norton, Sr., Tammy Norton to P. Scott Baldwin, Deborah Baldwin, Kingsley, in Liberty Township for $190,000.
Allan Beavan, Jennifer L. Beavan, Mary Ellen Beavan to Allan Beavan, Jennifer L. Beavan, Nazareth, in Oakland Township for one dollar.
Leroy S. Rotherforth, Martha R. Rotherforth to Paul D. Kilmer, Sharon L. Kilmer, Forest City, in Forest City for $165,000.
Thomas Dooley, Diane M. Dooley, Robert G. Garrigan, Monica A. Garrigan to Robert T. Garrigan, Monica A. Garrigan, Yorktown Heights, NY, in Thompson Township for $1,000.
Thomas A. Dooley, Diane M. Dooley, Robert T. Garrigan, Monica A. Garrigan to Thomas A. Dooley, Southlake, TX, Diane M. Dooley, in Thompson Township for $1,000.
Paul Kilmer, Sharon Kilmer to Douglas G. Kilmer, Union Dale, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
James L. Eldred, Jr., Kim E. Eldred to Robert W. Howard, Cyndi A. Howard, RR1, Montrose, in Bridgewater Township for $97,000.
Charles W. Wormuth, Sarah Wormuth to Robert Fox, North Salt Lake, UT, in Oakland Township for $15,000.
Susan L. Smith (estate) to Amy P. Deshong, Blue Bell, in Montrose for one dollar.
Marie A. Reeder (by sheriff) aka Marie A. Reeder, David A. Reeder (by sheriff) to Household Finance Consumer Discount, Mendota Heights, MN, in Auburn Township for $9,463.
Frank J. Smith, Donna Marie Smith to Christopher M. Burke, Catherine M. Burke, Brooklyn, NY, in Forest City for $53,000.
Lyle G. Place (by sheriff) to Peoples State Bank of Wyalusing, Wyalusing, in Auburn Township for $6,957.
Norman G. Widen, Ann H. Widen to Widen Family Trust, Sarasota, FL, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Jacqueline P. Gage to Alan C. Gage, Lawton, in Rush Township for one dollar.
William R. Brown, Nance J. Brown to Aura M. Pike, Brackney, Eleanor M. Ferguson, in Silver Lake Township for $118,000.
John A. Edson, Walter J. Struzek, James V. Ganley (by trustee), Susan Edson, Camille Struzek to Samuel Desist, RR1, Forest City, in Clifford Township for $204,600.
Mary Beth T. Zazzera to Robert P. Degnan, Mary Degnan, Nutley, NJ, in Bridgewater Township for $210,000.
Daniel P. Tyler to Jacqueline Ruth Tyler, New Milford, in New Milford Borough for one dollar.
Anthony Balsamo, Ingrid Balsamo, to Craig Reuter, Mary Lou Reuter, Jenkintown, in Gibson Township for $110,000.
James A. Tracy to Douglas Marx, Piscataway, NJ, in Harmony Township for $335,000.
Robert Kerr (by attorney), Audrey Kerr to Mary P. Kerr-Button, New Milford, Thomas R. Kerr, Deborah L. Kerr, Robert F. Kerr, Robin M. Kerr-Nickerson, Jeffrey J. Kerr, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Robert Kerr, Audrey Kerr to Mary P. Kerr-Button, New Milford, Thomas R. Kerry, Deborah L. Kerr, Robin M. Kerr-Nickerson, Jeffrey J. Kerr, Robert F. Kerr, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Willard Van Applegate, Jr., Stefanie E. Applegate to Lawrence Giese, Linda Giese, RR3, Montrose, in Franklin Township for $308,000.
Nancy L. Boughton, Jeffrey A. Boughton, Diane M. Terpstra, Arnold Terpstra to Stacy L. Mallery, Susquehanna, in Susquehanna for $80,000.
Jean M. Very, Russell S. Very to Oscar Medina, Mayra Medina, Bloomfield, NJ, in Forest Lake Township for $155,000.
Phillip C. Hodges, Donna Hodges to Walter T. Marek, Jr., Josephine L. Marek, Forest City, in Forest City for $87,765.
Thomas A. Page, Lois E. Page to Thomas A. Page, RR1, Susquehanna, in Hallstead Borough for one dollar.
William M. Carey (by sheriff), Joyce E. Carey (by sheriff) to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, Mendota Heights, MN (fka) Bankers Trust Company (by trustee and custodian), Saxon Mortgage Services (fka) Meritech Mortgage Services Inc. (attorney in fact), in Auburn Township for $1,700.
Lee C. Bechtel, Donna D. Bechtel to Jason D. Jones, Morgan S. Jones, RD 4, Montrose, in Rush Township for $25,000.
Lawrence M. Grasso (trust by trustee) to Joseph S. Hunchak, Leeann C. Hunchak, Denville, NJ, in New Milford Township for $72,000.
Oakland Borough vs. Edwin E. Trynoski, Susquehanna, $1,862.
Oakland Borough vs. Martin Gallagher, Oakland Borough, $3,324.
Oakland Borough vs. Clay Taylor Martin, Lorraine Martin, Susquehanna, $1,493.
Joseph Manuel Fernandez, Little Meadows and Amy Lynn Potter, Castle Creek, NY.
David E. Leach and Jamie L. Layton, both of Greene, NY.
Anthony Verzella, Barrington, NJ and Amy Elizabeth Page, Philadelphia.
Michael Paul Doney, Kingsley and Debra L. Dixon, Great Bend.
Jeremy Edward Henry and Bonny Lynn Stone, both of Montrose.
Seth W. White and Margaret A. Miller, both of Springville.
John A. Plumley and Katie L. Korenkiewicz, both of Binghamton, NY.
James S. Ryan and Cassie Elizabeth Robinson, both of Great Bend.
Joseph D. Carpenter and Aireal C. Webb, both of Montrose.
Robert Thomas Sullivan, Jr., Montrose and Rebecca L. Casey, Old Forge.
William Vonholen and Molly Dunn, both of New Milford.
Roger Walter May, New Milford and Amy Ruth Sands, Brackney.
William John Strong and Debra Lyn Millard, both of Montrose.
Susan Zaleskas, Shavertown vs. Michael G. Zaleskas. Married May 28, 1988.
Shanna Leiser, Laceyville vs. Carlos Leiser, Chuckey, TN. Married June 25, 2004.
There have been multiple instances of people pumping gas and then driving off without paying in the last few weeks. These include one instance at the Great Bend Exxon, and one at the Lenox Pump and Pantry, both on August 16. In the latter case, the person(s) got away with 7.434 gallons of gas.
Sometime between August 11 and 14, two pieces of equipment were vandalized with spray paint at the Cecil Kilmer Flagstone Co. in Nicholson. The vandal or vandals have not yet been apprehended. Approximately $40.00 worth of damage was done.
Sometime between August 13 and August 16 the Kingsley United Methodist Church received damage to the glass in its windows and doors. The siding was also affected. This appears to have been done with yellow paintballs and a BB gun. Also, the front wall of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses on Route 706 in Bridgewater Township sustained damage to its front wall, between August 10 and 12.
On August 12 police responded to a report of a man slumped over the wheel of his vehicle in Jessup Township. Upon arrival they found that the victim suffered from a possible heart attack, which resulted in the vehicle traveling off the road and onto the North berm of 706, where it came to a resting position. The coroner assisted the troopers at the scene.
The Starrucca House bar/restaurant in Susquehanna Borough was burglarized during off hours between August 10 and 11. The unknown perpetrators stole several bottles containing various liquors, as well as some cases of beer.
On August 9, at mile marker 207.5 of 81 Southbound in Lenox Township, Kurtis McPhee was involved in a one-vehicle tractor trailer accident. The driver, a 28-year old man from Lang Sault, Ontario, lost control of the truck while attempting to negotiate a corner. The truck exited the roadway to the west of travel lanes, hit the embankment, made contact with the guardrail and overturned. It continued to travel southbound as it overturned, until it came to its final resting place, covering both southbound lanes. The driver suffered head injuries and was transported to CMC for treatment. The crash is still under investigation.
Lori Sampson of Susquehanna had her ATV removed from her detached garage between August 5 and 6. The vehicle, a Kawasaki Lokota 30000, has an estimated value of $2,500.
On August 16 Barney Wilkins of Kingsley had his car windows smashed while the vehicle was parked in front of his quarry. The perpetrators then fled the scene.
Anyone with information on any of these incidents is asked to call The Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Gibson at (570) 465–3154.
Roadmaster George Sansky reported all roads in Harford Township are now open, following intensive repair work as a consequence of the flooding in late June. He told the Supervisors at the scheduled meeting on August 12 that a bypass around the washed-out bridge on Pennay Hill Road was completed and tested with heavy trucks; so he is confident that it will be serviceable for buses as the beginning of a new school year approaches.
Mr. Sansky toured the township with engineers from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to survey the damage. The township now has permits to work on several creeks, including Martin's Creek in Kingsley, the subject of a plea by a Kingsley resident at the last meeting. Mr. Sansky said the engineer pointed out a way to work that creek that will minimize the amount of work to be done while producing a better result.
One permit he didn't get was for the sluice under Stearns Road at the outlet of Tingley Lake. He was expecting to consult with another engineer about that one, which will involve a sewer line also under the road.
Supervisor Rick Pisasik told the meeting that the Tingley Lake issue is "high on our radar." Property owners around the lake are concerned that the sluice is too small to carry away the water in a flood like the one in June, thus jeopardizing their cottages and homes. At the last meeting Mr. Sansky estimated the cost of the project at about $10,000; one property owner attending offered an interest-free loan in that amount to help finance the project. Expressing appreciation for the offer, Mr. Pisasik said, however, "We feel comfortable that we have the money" to do the work.
One concern about the Tingley Lake issue remains the secondary road downstream from Stearns Road, which also has a sluice. That road hasn't been maintained by the township for many years. The Supervisors aren't inclined to pay for research to determine its formal status with the township. Instead they are working with three local landowners to resolve that part of the problem, presumably by removing the roadway (and the sluice) over Leslie Creek.
Another property owner on Tingley Lake last time asked the township to look into getting a study done on the lake for flood insurance purposes. Mr. Pisasik said that a brief inquiry convinced him that the cost would be "prohibitive" for the township for such an undertaking.
Mr. Sansky, with Supervisors Sue Furney and Terry VanGorden, attended a "kickoff" meeting with federal and state emergency management agency officials, as well as PennDOT and DEP, to review the next steps. Funding is an issue, because the township will have to pay for the work up front, only in expectation of later reimbursement.
And expenses have been significant so far. Ms. Furney has been spreading the costs among available accounts, but there may not be enough available for much dust control through the rest of the season. The township did take delivery of some liquid calcium chloride recently; Mr. Sansky said that, as time permits, it will be applied in front of homes as long as it lasts. For the moment, roadwork is concentrated on those areas that will be most affected by Harford Fair traffic later this month.
In other matters, the location of the Harford polling place for the election now less than 90 days away is still in doubt. Poll Judge Maureen Warren noted at the Spring election that new computer equipment required to accommodate handicapped voters does not fit in the township office where voting has taken place for some years. The township would prefer to have the polls elsewhere as well, since it can disrupt operations for a day or more around election time.
Ms. Furney attended a fire company meeting at which the issue was discussed. Sentiment in the fire company seems to be against offering the fire hall as a replacement polling place. For one thing, the fire company might be able to make more from renting the hall on election days than the standard $50 paid by the county. Moreover, fire company insurance policies require that at least one member of the fire company be present whenever the building is occupied. The fire company is also concerned about parking, and that some vehicles might be left in front of the bays, blocking them in case of emergency.
It had been suggested that an empty bay be used as a polling place instead of the event hall at the fire company. But the bays are not generally heated, and confusion could be caused should the equipment need to be used during the voting.
Ms. Warren said that she would bring the question before the church council (of which she is a member) for the possible use of the church lecture hall.
There was some discussion of fireworks regulation, but the supervisors were not inclined to mess around with that sort of thing.
When they mess around with anything in public, the Harford Township Supervisors usually do it on the second Saturday of the month, beginning at 10:00 a.m., and on the fourth Tuesday of the month, beginning at 7:30 p.m. All meetings are at the township building office on Route 547, half a mile south of Exit 217 on Interstate 81.
Exception: The Supervisors decided to cancel the second meeting for this month, which would have been scheduled during Fair week.
By the time you read this, the new school term will be only a few days off. Administrators at Blue Ridge assured their governing board at the August meeting on the 14th that preparations are well under way, including construction at the High School entrance, paving, and installing new desks and equipment.
The August meeting, as in July, took place in the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) still operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). The DRC, of course, doubles as the Elementary School cafeteria. And, in fact, the DRC has been downsized to approximately one table in a corner.
Superintendent Robert McNamara referred to FEMA/PEMA and associated organizations as a "very gracious guest." He said that the flood relief work carried out there was a "very cooperative effort." And he reported that PEMA will recognize the contribution of the school with a plaque.
All of the administrators, and the board, commended the maintenance staff and the cafeteria operation for a "great job", an "outstanding job" over the summer, for supporting the relief effort in the community and the DRC, as well as for the many summer activities that continued despite the disruptions.
But life goes on, as does the situation with taxes and tax collection in the Blue Ridge School District.
A new law passed this summer and referred to as Act 1 – also referred to as the Taxpayer Relief Act – is a very complex piece of legislation that mandates performance by school districts according to a very tight schedule on a confusing series of actions right through October, 2008. The first deadline is September 14 of this year, less than a month away. By that date, the district must empanel a "Local Tax Study Commission" (LTSC) of at least five members made up of local citizens (which may include one school board member). District residents are encouraged to contact the district office if they are interested in serving on such a panel.
The LTSC is expected to report by mid-December a question to be posed to taxpayers at a referendum in May, 2007. The commission will study the district's local tax structure and offer recommendations for changes or adjustments. Recommendations to the local district board are not binding, but the law encourages commissions and boards to cooperate in reaching conclusions about school taxation and funding.
Act 1 is so new and so complicated that the various interested bodies (Department of Education, the state School Boards Association, and others) have not absorbed it yet. It seems to be a hastily cobbled-together collection of notions drawn from Act 72. Act 72 hoped to relieve property tax burdens by tapping gambling revenue but which was rejected by a large majority of school districts around the state, including five of the six in Susquehanna County. Blue Ridge Board President Alan Hall characterized Act 1 as an attempt to "force the earned income tax into all the districts," whether or not they bought into the original Act 72 program. He said he thought the legislation simply tries to shift the burden of school finance from one segment of the local population to another, from property owners to the gainfully employed.
Whatever happens with Act 1 (or Act 72, or whatever), for right now Blue Ridge has to deal with those who are elected to collect whatever taxes there are to collect. A couple of them attended the meeting to keep their grievances before the Board and the public.
Some of the tax collectors have sued the Blue Ridge district to get their jobs back. A year and a half ago, before the tax collectors came up for re-election, the district offered to pay them only 60 cents to handle a property tax bill. That was a drop of some 80% from the $3.75 they had been getting. The idea was clearly to try to save money: the district administration seemed convinced that they could collect the taxes more cheaply. However, the district has never stated outright that it wants to collect the taxes itself; only that it is offering the lower payment to the elected collectors. The district presumably expects the elected tax collectors to default and refuse to collect for the lower fee. The district could then (and actually already has) appoint its own tax collection entity or person, or perhaps have the court or the county give them the authority to do so.
In the meantime came the flood. The school board voted last month to delay issuing tax bills for 60 days, ostensibly to give residents affected by the disaster more time to collect their wits, much less their taxes. Some of the tax collectors consider that move a smokescreen, implying that the district hasn't been able to get its act together in time.
Whatever the facts in that issue, the bills didn't go out on July 1 as they usually do. Taxpayers – particularly those who live out of the area – have been phoning the elected officials wondering where the bills are, concerned that the flooding has disrupted the distribution somehow. The elected tax collectors consider themselves harassed by these calls when they are no longer the designated collection agency for the Blue Ridge district. One of them, Roberta Gulick of New Milford Township, went so far as to refer taxpayer calls to Blue Ridge Business Manager Loren Small's home telephone number on her answering machine.
That action prompted a letter from the district's attorneys requesting that Ms. Gulick cease referring callers to Mr. Small himself, instead asking that callers be directed to call the district office.
And that's what caused the shouting match at the meeting, between Ms. Gulick (and her husband Franklyn W. "Buzz" Gulick) and Mr. Hall. Mr. Hall tried to suppress the discussion as a legal issue that need not be debated in public. The Gulicks would have none of that. Ms. Gulick said that she would ignore the lawyers' demand to remove Mr. Small's phone number from her answering machine, and Mr. Gulick called board members "bobble-heads" for meekly going along with the administration and Mr. Hall. Ms. Gulick asked why the taxpayers should pay for the letter sent to her by the district's lawyers, when a simple request on district letterhead would have sufficed. Mr. Hall countered that, since she intended to ignore it anyway, what difference would it have made whose letterhead was on the paper?
It went on like that for a while until Mr. Hall got control of himself, called a halt to the argument, and asked for a motion to adjourn.
There was other business on the agenda, of course.
Among a list of routine personnel actions, the Board accepted the resignations of Michael Ostrowski and Mary Ellen Reese. And members welcomed with warm applause the appointment of Jessica Boyko, who accepted the welcome in person, as guidance counselor in the Elementary School.
When the administration recommended a new staff member to work on the "Blended Schools," "SuccessMaker," "Aleks," "Homebound teacher," and "Alternative Education" programs, the Board balked at the salary of $24.58 per hour for hours "as approved by the superintendent." According to Mr. McNamara the new appointment would be partially paid for from a small grant; the job would concentrate coordination activities in the one person. In the end the request was tabled. Mr. Hall asked the administration to provide a written justification, including a description of the position and activities, and estimated costs. He said the Board wanted to know "what's going on here."
The Board accepted the only bids for food service products for next year from Butter Krust for baked goods, and Hartt Dairy for dairy supplies.
Whatever Meghan Ragard is eating, she should share it. As an eigth grader in the triple-jump, she compiled an extraordinary record, going as far as a national competition in which she placed 15th. Principal John Manchester will be proudly accepting her into the High School this month. He reported that Fall sports practices are already under way.
Mr. Manchester outlined four efforts that he hopes to focus on this year:
* Study skills and homework, to "make homework more effective."
* The PSSA (state standard tests) "is getting harder all the time."
* The PSSA will be including science this year, so the curriculum has to be updated.
* "Inclusion" of the special education students with the rest of the school population.
And, as the beginning of the school year approaches, those affected most by the summer's disastrous flooding will be helped out a little by the effort and generosity of the district's teachers. Through their union, the Blue Ridge Education Association (BREA), they will be distributing book bags, clothing, and school supplies to those who need them most. So that will be one less thing they have to worry about, said BREA President Jane McNamara.
Asked the status of bus scheduling, Mr. Hall said that all routes had been examined and adjustments made as necessary in most areas. One road will probably remain officially closed (although traveled by locals); residents in the area will be asked to work with the schools to find the best way to get their children to school until the road can be made safe again.
In some cases, families have had to move, at least temporarily, with children sometimes scattered. Mr. Hall said that families in these situations should contact the district to make known the changes necessary; the school district will make every effort to accommodate changes necessitated by the flooding and damage to homes.
If you don't pay your taxes, you will be considered delinquent. Collection of delinquent taxes comes under other laws and regulations. The district's recent move to delay collections by 60 days has hit a snag at the back end – the collection of delinquencies. In order to change that, it seems that the county commissioners have to weigh in with a vote, and they have yet to do so. According to Mr. Hall, the request has been made; the district is simply awaiting the formal decision in Montrose.
Whether you pay your taxes on time or not, whether you know yet what your taxes will be, or when they will be due, or even who you're supposed to pay them to, you can see how they're spent on the second and fourth Mondays of most months in the cafeteria in the Elementary School when the Blue Ridge School Board meets in public session, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Following is the Silver Lake Township Police Report for July, as submitted.
ATVS’ ON ROADWAY
On July 1, it was reported that ATVs were running up and down Donovan Road in the Township. Immediate response to the area by multiple police vehicles netted no encounters.
MVA (DUI) Assist
On July 1, SLTPD was dispatched to assist PSP until their arrival with a MVA on SR029 Franklin Township. No injuries resulted, vehicle damage was extensive and the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol and subsequently arrested for DUI.
SUSPICIOUS VEHICLE (DUI) Assist
On July 1, SLTPD was dispatched to assist PSP until their arrival with a suspicious vehicle parked in the middle of SR167 Choconut Township. The driver was passed out behind the wheel of his pickup truck and was subsequently arrested for DUI.
ASSIST OTHER AGENCY
On July 2, SLTPD was called to assist all other agencies at the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility. A cell extraction took place without incident or injuries.
On July 3, Ray Berube, on Laurel Lake, was cited for riding on SR4002 highway and not wearing a helmet.
On July 5, Donald Overfield, Jr. reported theft and other violations which occurred while at his property in Silver Lake Township. He alleges that Jackie Snyder of Montrose has taken several items from his properties throughout the county. She was also in violation of a PFA which Overfield had against Snyder. Snyder was summoned to court over the PFA violation.
Donald Miller of Brackney reported that on several occasions individuals have driven dirt bikes and quads on his private property where he has a private motocross/dirt bike practice racetrack. He has confronted people and the activity has persisted. This activity is still under investigation.
On the evening of July 7, Robert Robinson of Silver Lake Township returned home and discovered what appeared to be an attempted break-in at his residence. Investigation showed that possibly a black bear had been visiting his home and apparently pawed around a window area while his dogs were inside trying to get at the bear.
On July 8, Warren Rockwell reported a burglary in progress. He stated that two vehicles were at his shed and garage area trying to take items from them. The vehicles fled the area when he turned the spotlights on. A Search for the vehicles and of the area by SLTPD was negative.
VEHICLE CODE VIOLATION
Multiple complaints were received in early July concerning a dark blue Chevy pick-up truck speeding on a regular basis on Snow Hollow Road in Silver Lake Township. The vehicle was apprehended and the driver, Joel Lehr of Hallstead, was sited for driving an unregistered vehicle.
ATVS’ (DIRT BIKES)
On July 19, multiple dirt bikes were reported running on SR167 and Lake Sophia Road. A roadblock was set up and an attempt to stop the bikes resulted in the bikes eluding the stop. The individuals were identified on video cameras and this incident is still under investigation.
On July 21, we received a call from Eileen Mlynarczyh stating that a pit bulldog had attacked her on North Shore Drive on Laurel Lake. She further stated that the attack drew blood and left her with bruises. She was advised to call the local dog warden.
On July 21, we received a call from the C.C. reporting that Steven Peet had been assaulted by Dustin Godfrey at his residence on SR4008. This incident is still under investigation.
On July 21, Silver Lake Twp PD responded to a domestic call at the Stacey Teed residence in the township. This domestic was resolved while police were on scene.
On July 21, Silver Lake Twp PD responded to a complaint of a loud party on Quaker Lake. Subsequently the party was disbanded upon our arrival.
On July 25, Sandra Payne and Caitlyn Burnett, both from Silver Lake Township, were involved in a two-car MVA on SR167 near Murphy’s Corner. No injuries resulted, the vehicles were damaged but were driven from the scene.
MVA (ATV) (NON-REPORTABLE)
On July 25, an underage youth was traveling at high speed on McCormick Road when he rolled his ATV. The youngster was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
On July 26, Robert Unterhoefler stated his neighbor’s dogs keep coming on his property and barking. He was advised to call the local dog warden.
DISORDERLY CONDUCT/FALSE INFORMATION
On July 28, SLTPD were investigating a possible burglary in progress at the Steven Peet residence on SR4008. While investigating the incident George Stone jumped out a rear window and fled the scene while his information was being verified. Stone was charged with disorderly conduct and false information and an arrest warrant was issued. SLTPD was assisted by PSP and Montrose Police.
Any information or questions for the Silver Lake Township Police, please call 278-6818 or 663-2760, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.This has been a very successful tool recently for SLTPD, please do not hesitate to use. All information will be held strictly confidential.
HARRISBURG, PA – Volunteer attorneys will be providing free, disaster-related legal assistance to low-income individuals affected by the flooding from the late-June storms, commonwealth and federal officials announced today. The Young Lawyers Division of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will provide legal counseling and referrals to Pennsylvania disaster victims through a toll-free hotline number. The service began Monday, August 14, and ends September 28.
Low-income callers can receive free counseling and advice from a Pennsylvania-licensed volunteer attorney regarding their disaster-related legal issues. Other callers will receive a referral to a local Pennsylvania-licensed attorney. The service is available 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-932-0311 Ext. 2224.
Attorneys are available to assist Pennsylvania disaster victims in designated counties with legal services such as: insurance claims for doctor and hospital bills, loss of property, loss of life, etc.; replacing wills, drafting powers of attorney and other legal documents lost in the disaster; help with home repair contracts and contractors; advice on landlord/tenant issues.
Disaster victims are encouraged to leave a message on the automated answering system. A volunteer attorney will contact them within 48 hours to discuss their needs. Many problems can be addressed just by speaking with the volunteer lawyer. Issues that could generate a fee for the attorney cannot be handled by volunteer attorneys. If further representation is required, low-income callers will be referred to a private attorney who may be able to represent them free of charge.
HARRISBURG - Rep. Sandra Major (R-Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming) said that legislation amending the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code to improve the safety of motorists and protect the Commonwealth's youngest citizens is now law.
Under Act 113 of 2006, the state's Vehicle Code will be amended to increase the grading for the offense of fleeing or attempting to elude police officers from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony when the subject is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, crosses the state line, or endangers law enforcement or the public during a high-speed chase.
The new law also states that a separate offense would occur for each child who is left unattended in a vehicle. Currently, a person who leaves several children unattended in a vehicle could be charged with only one offense instead of one for each child left unattended.
The law also adds a requirement for drivers to pull into the left lane, or as far left as possible, when overtaking a police car with another vehicle pulled over.
Finally, the bill amends the highway occupancy permit process to allow agricultural operations to drive on certain highways 25 times a week. Before the enactment of the legislation, agricultural travel on these highways was limited to five times per week.
The law takes effect in September.
The first day of school at the Forest City Regional School District is next Monday and the Board of Education appears to have everything under control for that opening.
At its regular meeting last week, the board firmed up the instructional staff by hiring teachers Jullian Zarnowski and Jennifer DeMarko. Ms. Zarnowski was hired as a secondary social studies teacher and Ms. DeMarko was appointed to a one-year position as a secondary English teacher.
The board also approved the 2006-2007 substitute list that includes more than 30 teachers and three nurses.
The following individuals are on the substitute list:
Andrew Aten, Diane Bailey, Daryl Burleigh, Diana Burns, Jennifer Burrell, Lynn Cole, Kelly Driscole, Jessica Einhorn, Sheila Fairbrun, Stephen Fonash, Lauran Fonash, Patricia Fortuner, Landon Gabriel, Gene Grum-Bensinger, Marie Gulbin, and Susan Harvatine.
Also on the list are Randi Iyoob, Tammy Jensen, Sean Kelly, Glenda Kramer, David Leschak, Sarai McAndrew, Gina Mussari, Lauren Olsewski, Andrea Owens, Barbara Passarfelli, Regina Petrauskas, Susan Pizzimenti, Sandra Robinson, Derek Shayka, Leslie Staples , Kathleen Urbas, Wendy Walczak, and James Yurkanin.
In a related matter, the school board approved the daily substitute teachers rate of pay at $75 per day for the 2006-2007 school year. However, if the substitute teacher holds an instructional I or II certificate and is substituting for the same teacher for 10 consecutive days, the rate of pay goes to $100 a day beginning with the eleventh day.
Dr. Henry Nebzydoski, board president, said the rate of pay for the substitute teachers is the same as it was in the 2005-2006 school year.
In a surprise move, the board terminated its contract with Berkheimer Associates who had been collecting the district’s delinquent wage taxes for a number of years. The board then approved G.H. Harris as the new collector of delinquent wage taxes effective December 1.
In another financial matter, the board accepted the 2004-2005 school audit prepared by Parente Randolph of Scranton.
The firm pointed out a number of questionable moves by the district’s accounting department.
“There is a general lack of segregation of duties in the accounting department which weakens a system of internal control,” Parente Randolph wrote in a report to the district. “While it is advisable to have adequate segregation of duties among employees, the cost of such implementation must be weight against the benefits derived. The cost of increasing the number of employees to more fully segregate the duties may greatly exceed the benefits derived.”
Parente Randolph further noted that the district utilized the Student Activity Fund to account for “assortment of special purpose funds such as faculty accounts. These funds are not school accounts,” the firm declared. “Monies that faculty groups collect and disburse should not be included in the Student Activity Fund.”
Additional motions approved by the board completed the following business-
- approved the administrative internship of Denise Skorupa from Aug. 15 through Dec. 22, 2006. The internship will include conducting a substitute teacher orientation, working on professional development and curriculum, coordinating early morning activities in the elementary school, and attending seminars deemed necessary by the elementary principal and the school superintendent.
- approved Dr. Neil Davis as school physician for the 2006-2007 school year at a fee of $15 per student for sports physicals and $20 per student for mandated school physicals.
- awarded the bid for the driver’s education vehicle to Allan Hornbeck at a cost of $197.50 per month.
- approved Methance Rosario for a support staff position in the cafeteria at a starting salary of $7.38 an hour.
- accepted the resignation of Sabrina Kizziah as a teacher assistant.
- accepted the resignation of Kelly Svecz as girls’ varsity volleyball coach.
- approved the appointment of Drew Sparks as volunteer assistant golf coach for the 2006-2007 school year. He was recommended by head coach Mike Heck.
Following is the list of names drawn to serve as Petit and Traverse jurors for September, 2006, to appear in the Court of Common Pleas, Susquehanna County Courthouse, Montrose, on the fifth day of September at 9:00 a.m.
Apolacon Twp.: Robert Creller, Urania M. Tennant.
Ararat Twp.: Lee Hugaboom.
Auburn Twp.: Richard Ayers, Susan Huff, Terry I. Huff, Timothy Ryce, Annie Stone, Charlie Tyler, April Wallace.
Bridgewater Twp.: Alma Goff, Sheila B. Mead, Carol A. Nasser, Robert C. Skinner, Anne B. Vaccaro.
Brooklyn Twp.: Martha A. Franklin, Ronald D. Gardoski, Timothy Murray.
Choconut Twp.: Robert S. McFarland.
Clifford Twp.: Christine M. Barhite, Giulio Cavallaro, David E. Christiansen, Stephanie Cooper, Abraham J. Gallagher, Joseph Gowat, Georgette A. Meka, James S. Pribula.
Forest Lake Twp.: Sharon M. Salsman.
Franklin Twp.: Lori King.
Gibson Twp.: James I. Major, Mark A. Sillaman.
Great Bend Twp.: Hazel Penny Adams, Christine Armondi, John Ross, George Stover.
Hallstead Boro: Colleen K. Foote.
Harford Twp.: Dale F. Payne, Stephen G. Pennay, Mary Jane Taylor.
Hop Bottom Twp.: Veronica R. Hay, Arthur Piasecki.
Jackson Twp.: David A. Damarodis, Kathleen Wolosczuk.
Lanesboro Boro: Shawn Bedford.
Lathrop Twp.: James Bowman.
Lenox Twp.: Nancy A. Davitt, Edna M. Tiffany, Luise E. Wohrer.
Liberty Twp.: Robert R. Fagan, Randy Henry.
Middletown Twp.: Thomas Golden.
Montrose Boro 1W: Harold R. Perry.
Montrose Boro 2W: Cheryl Alexander.
New Milford Boro: Joyce Carroll, Joseph Waldowski.
New Milford Twp.: Gloria R. Ainey, Charlotte M. Raub.
Rush Twp.: Donna H. Delhagen, Edward T. Milot, Eric Mitchell, Ronald P. Staehle, Christopher M. Stephens.
Silver Lake Twp.: Ricarda L. Robilotti, Christina Schomp.
Springville Twp.: Bonnie Smith.
Susquehanna Boro 2W: Todd W. Heller, Robert Iveson, Elizabeth Ciletti Matis.
Thompson Boro: Paul Shelly.
With Vice President Charles Fahringer presiding at the August 15 meeting, COG members held what amounted to a roundtable discussion about their municipalities’ dealings with FEMA in the wake of the spring flooding.
One person reported that all remediation work has been contracted out; project plans are in place and the necessary permits have been obtained.
Another reported that he was not happy with the FEMA engineer who visited his township. When shown an area where about 800 feet of ditch had been demolished, approval was only given for 100 feet; the FEMA engineer said that it was not obvious that the damage was caused by the flooding. Although the township was appealing the decision, he felt that they would be lucky if FEMA were to provide funds to fix half of the damage.
Another reported that FEMA inspected an area where rip rap was torn off and there was extensive erosion damage; the FEMA rep asked if there were photographs available of the area before the damage had occurred, as if it was in doubt that the flood caused the damage.
Another said that the DEP damage report conflicted greatly with what FEMA would do.
Another said that DEP recommended 200 feet of stream repair, but it was still uncertain whether FEMA would cover it.
Regular business included review of correspondence; insurance paperwork; a recommendation from PACOG to elect second and third vice presidents; and information about DCED grant applications. Members were asked to bring suggestions for possible projects to the next meeting.
There was no news on the results of a survey municipalities had completed regarding shared police services. Secretary Cheryl Wellman will request an update.
The audit for codes should be complete by the end of the month.
Although it is not definite, it is probable that assistant office manager Kelley Colwell will be attending the PACOG annual conference in Pittsburgh in September, which had been approved at the last meeting.
The Codes meeting centered on discussion of DCED regulations, effective August 23, that require that all new manufactured homes installed in PA must be installed consistent with the manufacturer’s approved designs and instructions. Code officials may not reject the manufacturers’ approved designs or require review, approval or a seal by an engineer or architect licensed in PA. Persons wishing to install new manufactured housing must successfully complete a DCED approved training course, and apply for DCED certification as an installer. A Certificate of Compliance must be completed by the installer and provided to the purchaser, with copies to the codes official and DCED. An occupancy permit may not be issued until a completed Certificate of Compliance form is received. No person may represent himself as an installer or sign a certificate of compliance until they receive written certification from DCED. If the retailer has not agreed to provide installation of the new home, prior to the sale documents must be provided by the retailer that outlines the PA installation program. The retailer’s statement must also inform the purchaser that a Certificate of Compliance must be completed by a certified installer, and the purchaser must be provided with a list of certified installers.
The information was sent by BIU, COG’s third party building inspector, with a clarification that while these regulations relate to the UCC, they are not part of the UCC. Inspectors do have to take a course and be certified, and BIU’s inspectors have done so. The regulations only apply to steel frame structures (trailers, double wides), not to wood frame, industrialized modulars. And, the regulations only apply to new buildings, not previously owned ones; if a building were to change hands, they would not apply.
COG has notified the manufacturers in the area who have, in the past, obtained permits through COG, those in New York as well as PA, as there are no exemptions for out of state installers.
The sewage committee reported that there are still a lot of complaints to deal with as a result of the June flooding. Everything else is calm.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, September 19, 7 p.m. in their offices in New Milford.
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