Please visit our kind sponsors
Susquehanna County, the Susquehanna County Commissioners, and, Commissioners Jeff Loomis and Maryanne Warren (individually), are being sued.
Papers filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County identify the plaintiff as Gary A. Wilder of RR2, Susquehanna. Wilder was one of many applicants seeking to replace Linda Hollenbeck as the county’s voter registrar.
Attorney Anthony P. Trozzolillo, of the Scranton law firm of Lenahan & Dempsey, alleges that Wilder was passed over for the job despite the fact that he was the most qualified applicant. Trozzolillo further stated in complaint papers that Laura Watts of Bridgewater Township, who was appointed to the position by a 2-1 vote, is less qualified than Wilder.
On June 14, the commissioners voted 2-1 to hire Watts to the full-time position of voter registrar at a starting salary of $10.85 an hour plus benefits. Commissioner Roberta Kelly, who nominated Wilder for the job at a public meeting on May 24, voted against Watts. That motion failed to draw a second from Loomis or Warren.
Kelly said her nomination was made after she reviewed Wilder’s application and talked to a representative of the state Department of Labor and Industry. She said she was advised to give preference to Wilder because of his military service.
In his complaint, Trozzolillo quoted chapter and verse from Pennsylvania Laws that states in the absence of a Civil Service list of qualified applicants, the commissioners should have given preference to Wilder who is a veteran of the United States Navy. He further pointed out that Wilder possesses a BA degree with double major from the University of the State of New York, and has job related experience.
“In spite of his superior employment credentials to Ms. Watts,” Trozzolillo noted, “defendants failed to hire the plaintiff.”
In the complaint, Trozzolillo further stated that the commissioners were advised by “legal counsel and/or their chief clerk, Sylvia Beamer,” that Wilder was the most qualified applicant and should be given preference in appointing and filling the position of voter registrar.
Wilder is seeking appointment as voter registrar plus back pay, front pay, loss of past, present and future benefits, attorney fees and punitive damages.
Nearly 40 people attended the Blue Ridge School Board meeting on October 16. Very few of them came to listen to the recitation of the 18-point agenda of routine personnel and other matters. They were there to debate the controversy over tax collectors in the Blue Ridge district with Board President Alan Hall and the five suits who had presumably been invited to participate.
Among other business items, the Board approved a three-year agreement with LifeTouch for pictures in the Elementary School. LifeTouch, Inc., based in Minnesota, is a large company that specializes in school photography. According to Principal Robert Dietz, Blue Ridge has been satisfactorily affiliated with LifeTouch for nearly 30 years.
The Board also approved a 30-day review for a long list of changes to the Blue Ridge policy manual, including extracurricular participation by home-schooled students and students in charter and cyber-charter schools; cell phones; fraud; student rights and surveys; suspension and expulsion; dress and grooming; assessments; student discipline; student recruitment; graduation requirements; homework; guidance counseling; and taxable fringe benefits. The Board will have an opportunity to discuss the details at a workshop before final adoption.
Among administrator reports, Superintendent Robert McNamara presented Mr. Hall with a plaque from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) commending the District for its cooperation and support as a Disaster Recovery Center during and following the flooding this past summer. Mr. Hall thanked staff, faculty and board for their efforts during the crisis.
Business Manager Loren Small reported that additional security cameras are being installed throughout the schools. This project was planned well before the recent spate of violence in schools in Pennsylvania and around the country.
Security was to come up again when the small crowd of observers were offered a voice. Sitting patiently through the routine business agenda, many were clearly eager to get started. But first Mr. Hall introduced two pairs of visitors who started it off with briefings related to the topic of most interest in the room.
Representatives of the Pennsylvania Economy League (PEL) presented a summary of a study prepared about two years ago on the tax collection system in Pennsylvania.
PEL is a privately-funded non-profit research organization whose product is research on various issues concerning the citizens and state of Pennsylvania. PEL's sponsors include individuals and corporations. The representatives at the meeting were not aware of any contributors or members in Susquehanna County.
PEL refers to the tax collection system in Pennsylvania as "archaic, awkward and cumbersome." The system of elected tax collectors in each municipality is founded in law dating back to the early 19th century.
The PEL study covered some 80 jurisdictions as representative of the types of tax-collection structures around the state. According to PEL's data, elected tax collectors are generally paid between 70 cents and five dollars per bill; where they are paid a commission on collected revenue, the mean seems to be about 5%.
However, many jurisdictions have changed the method of tax collection, often to a more centralized, county-wide system. Some hire outside firms to do the work, including banks. In Lancaster County, tax collectors are paid a small amount per bill NOT to collect the taxes.
The PEL study and recommendations centered around what they considered the primary objectives of a tax collection system: prompt, efficient, economic and honest. To that end, they have recommended the "elimination of tax collectors as an elected position."
Next up was Michelle Portnoff, representing her own law firm based in Norristown, which specializes in collection of tax delinquencies for taxing jurisdictions across the state.
Currently, delinquent tax bills are turned over to the county Tax Claim Bureau, headed by Cathy Benedict. Each jurisdiction that uses the Tax Claim Bureau pays a percentage (about 5%) of collected revenue for the service.
Ms. Portnoff is apparently pitching to take over the business of collecting delinquent taxes for Blue Ridge. She described her service as offering two advantages over the current system: delinquencies would be collected more quickly; and, because her firm's fees are generally billed to the taxpayer, the taxing jurisdiction (the school district, in this case) would typically receive 100% of taxes due and collectible.
Following Ms. Portnoff's presentation, Mr. Hall opened the floor for questions and discussion from the floor. He gave everyone ample opportunity to speak, and moderated the debate himself, with some contribution from the district's solicitor. Significantly, not one other member of the school board volunteered to speak, clearly deferring to Mr. Hall as their spokesman.
Several harsh attacks on both PEL and Ms. Portnoff were politely brushed aside as taxpayers, tax collectors, and Ms. Benedict herself challenged the board's move to take over the process of tax collection itself.
Roberta Gulick, tax collector for New Milford Township, focused on security issues that might be presented by angry and irate taxpayers visiting the school campus. Mr. Hall noted efforts to install more security cameras, and reported that, especially since the recent incidents in Lancaster County and elsewhere, discussions and training for security have been stepped up at the school. The school also employs a security guard for about two hours a day, at about $10 per hour. Mr. Hall noted that most violence in schools is perpetrated by students – on other students or administrators. Moreover, he was reluctant to characterize Blue Ridge taxpayers as generally violent.
Vicki Drake, one of the more vocal of the six district tax collectors, claimed that nothing the district could do on its own could be more efficient than the experienced tax collectors now in office. "You're getting a very cheap service from us," she said. At the new rate of pay, she said her wage comes to about 50 cents per hour.
The Blue Ridge district, in February 2005, well before the tax collectors came up for re-election for the current four- year term, offered to pay them 60 cents to handle a tax bill for Blue Ridge. The tax collectors balked at the reduction of some 80% from what they had been receiving; some of them sued, and so far have failed to convince the courts of their position.
Asked if the district has estimated its cost to collect the taxes itself, Mr. Hall said the current figure is thought to be about 50 cents. Moreover, according to the district's lawyer, the district cannot legally change their 60-cent offer. The law prohibits changing the rate of pay during the four-year-term of an elected tax collector, he said.
This issue doesn't promise to go away any time soon. Each board meeting attracts more people, most of them opposed to the board's action. They'll have another opportunity at a workshop on October 30, beginning at 7:30 p.m., in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans sentenced four individuals last week on an assortment of criminal charges.
Hardest hit was Gerald Arthur Lee, 40, of Elmira, NY, who was given 18 months to seven years in a state correctional facility. Lee was charged with receiving stolen property in Bridgewater Township on October 26, 2005.
Judge Seamans said Lee’s jail term is to run concurrent with a New York sentence. Besides the time in prison, Lee was fined $500, ordered to pay the cost of prosecution, make restitution to his victims, and pay $250 DNA testing fee.
Vernon Lee Smith, 44, of Hop Bottom was remanded to the Susquehanna County Jail for a term of 11 1/2 months to 23 1/2 months with credit for time served.
Smith pleaded to charges of simple assault in Harford Township on December 21, 2005 and again to simple assault in Lenox Township on July 25, 2005.
David Edward Tucker, 26, of Montrose drew three and one-half years probation and a fine of $1,000 for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver in Bridgewater Township on May 4, 2006.
Shane Charles Streich, 36, of Falls, was placed on 15 months probation and fined $300 for unlawful contact with a minor in Springville on October 2, 2005. Streich was also assessed $250 for DNA testing and ordered not to have contact with any persons under the age of 18.
Gary Joseph Johnson, Linda C. Johnson to Robert C. Heed II, RR1, Springville, Amber K. Campbell, in Springville Township for $145,000.
Betty Glemboski to James A. Glemboski, Lianne C. Glemboski, RR1, Springville, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Betty Glemboski to James A. Glemboski, RR1, Springville, Lianne C. Glemboski, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Russell E. Malina (estate) to Elwood Sickler, RR4, Meshoppen, Kimberly Sickler, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Russell E. Malina (estate) to Elwood Sickler, RR4, Meshoppen, Kimberly Sickler, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Gordon F. Lentz, Marie C. Joy, Lawrence E. Cameron to Liborio Maniscalco, Brooklyn, NY, in Herrick Township for one dollar (corrective deed).
Kelly Balmer (by sheriff) to Wachovia Bank (trustee), Jacksonville, FL, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, in Lanesboro Borough for $1,711.
Joseph Christopher Galletti to Joseph Christopher Galletti, Orlando, FL, Maria Galletti, in Rush Township for one dollar.
Joseph Christopher Galletti to Joseph Christopher Galletti, Orlando, FL, Maria Galletti, in Rush Township for one dollar.
Bruce L. Seamans, Marion Seamans to Elbert C. Seamans, New Milford, in Harford Township for one dollar.
Timothy P. Kushmar, Carol A. Kushmar to Gerald D. Higgins, Vestal, NY, Johanna A. Higgins, in Apolacon Township for $17,800.
Gerald D. Higgins, Johanna A. Higgins to Gerald D. Higgins, Johanna A. Higgins, Vestal, NY, in Apolacon Township for one dollar.
Peter G. Hausser, Michelle C. Hausser to Dennis L. Salsberry, Davis, FL, Linda C. Salsberry, in New Milford Township for $340,000.
Dawn Rooney (by sheriff), Paul E. Rooney (by sheriff) to Beneficial Consumer Discount Co., Elmhurst, IL, (dba) Beneficial Mortgage Company of Pennsylvania, in Thompson Borough for $6,428.
Maryann Lawson to Richard D. Luybli, Binghamton, NY, Diane Grow Luybli, in Thompson and Jackson townships for one dollar.
United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to Gary J. Lopez, Montrose, in Dimock Township for $55,000.
Diane Clark, Alan Clark to John Winans, RR2, Montrose, Christine Jaffe, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Geoffrey Rosevear, Fawn I. Rosevear to Geoffrey S. Rosevear, RR1, Brackney, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Kathleen J. Cornell to Richard Tripp Jr., RR3, Montrose, in Silver Lake Township for $85,000.
Robert Hakim to Robert E. Hakim (revocable trust), Vienna, VA, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Steve Buss, Kathy Flora to Jeffrey T. Hixson, Lenoxville, Wendy L. Hixson, in Clifford Township for $325,000.
Mark E. Siefring, Janice A. Siefring to Nancy L. Gill, Forest City, in Clifford Township for $167,000.
Ruth Abbott (est) aka Ruth F. Abbott (est) to Frank H. Abbott, Windsor, NY, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Phyllis J. Snyder to Marsha Morin, Daytona Beach, FL, Priscilla Brundage, Mark Snyder, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Edwin C. Scheffer to Debbie M. Mackey, Brackney, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Charles Riley, Lois E. Riley to Harold L. Empett, RR1, New Milford, Kristi L. Empett, in New Milford Township for $14,000.
Marjorie I. Mirra (estate) to Philip A. Lewis, Kineta E. Lewis, RR2, Hallstead, in Great Bend Township for $139,000.
Walter W. Turk, Beth N. Turk to Joseph J. Paolucci, RR2, Kingsley, in Harford Township for $85,000.
Herbert Talbert to Dora Cobb, Wake Forest, NC, Dawnney Talbert, Dennis Talbert, Darlene Sheffler, Diane Truscott, Dorothy Jackson, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Lena M. Valada to James D. Baileys, Apalachin, NY, Lisa M. Baileys, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Lucjan Mirowicz, Bogumila Mirowicz to Slawomir Powierza, Ridgewood, NY, in Lenox Township for $280,000.
Thomas E. Smith, Mary J. Smith to Jeffrey Fahy, Kristina E. Fahy, Forest City, in Forest City for $90,100.
Jeffrey A. Gunn, Jennifer Gunn to Jeffrey A. Gunn, Hallstead, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Pieter H. Quackenbush aka Peter H. Quackenbush, Elaine Quackenbush to Benson Bartron, RR4, Montrose, Rachel W. Bartron, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Edwin Hampton Shafer II (by attorney), Anne D. Shafer, George Carlton Shafer Jr., Camp Susquehannock, Louise H. Shafer to Edwin Hampton Shafer II, Brackney, Anne D. Shafer, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
Raymond K. Swingle, Lulu Swingle, Patricia Ann White, Joan Marie Mahoney, Mark Mahoney to David C. Gumpper, Doylestown, Emily Gumpper, in Herrick Township for $300,000.
Martha O. Theobald to Peggy Jenkins, Kingsley, Thomas A. Hall, in Hop Bottom for $131,840.
Mary E. Snyder, Charles H,. Snyder, Michelle Snyder to George Calabro, North Haledon, NJ, in Thompson Township for $48,500.
Douglas R. Heath, Nancee A. Heath to Kyle W. Kemmerer, Susquehanna, in Susquehanna for $80,000.
Ella Stark to Perry Stark, RR2, Susquehanna, in Oakland Township for one dollar.
Matis Manufacturing Inc. to Terry Tingley, Susquehanna, in Susquehanna for $5,000.
Kirk A. Heffner, Deborah A. Graves to Donald E. Heffner, Susquehanna, Maria E. Heffner, in Susquehanna for one dollar.
John R. Williams to John R. Williams, RR1, Carbondale, Linda Sue Williams, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Thomas C. Zigon, Terry Zigon to Thomas C. Zigon, Union Dale, in Union Dale for one dollar.
Thomas C. Zigon, Terry J. M. Zigon to Thomas C. Zigon, Union Dale, Terry Zigon, in Forest City for one dollar.
Hermann Zappe, Maxine Zappe to Justin Yarrish, Susquehanna, Lisa Yarrish, in Gibson Township for $150,000.
Patricia A. Wolfe (estate) to Charles R. Wolfe, RR3, Susquehanna, Lucky R. Wolfe, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
Terry James Jordan to Russell E. Leichliter, Laceyville, Ruth H. Leichliter, in Borough of Lanesboro for one dollar.
Nellie Medlar (estate) to Larry D. Medlar Sr., Orange Park, FL, Sandra L. Medlar, in Oakland Borough for $31,500.
Marion Sherman to Richard A. Sherman, RR3, Susquehanna, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
John P. Mayer to Peter Chiappini, Scranton, JoAnn Chiappini, in Herrick Township for $40,000.
Lucy Mayer to Peter Chiappini, Scranton, JoAnn Chiappini, in Herrick Township for $25,000.
Pasquale R. Genito, Patricia D. Genito to Emanuel M. Debonis, Nutley, NJ, Sharlene Watts Debonis, in Dimock Township for $240,000.
Jesse Kane Harris and Kimberly Marie Arnold, both of RR4, Montrose.
Edward R. Curtis, Hackensack, NJ and Christina S. Rookstool, Hop Bottom.
Todd William Heller and Kristen M. Grausgruber, both of RR3, Susquehanna.
Herbert T. Cornelius and Kendra L. Culber, both of RR3, Meshoppen.
John R. Bush and Bonnie E. Fassett, both of Susquehanna.
Benjamin Reese Thomas, Kingsley and Emily R. Black, Hop Bottom.
Brett James Spoor and Christina Marie Smith, both of Thompson.
Matthew Philip Reimel, Montrose and Wendy Marie O’Reilly of Friendsville.
Levi William Ely and Dawn Marie Bushnell, both of Hallstead.
Mark Skiba and Cassandra L. Slocum, both of Susquehanna.
Jason D. Knight, RR2, New Milford vs. Brandy S. Knight, South Montrose.
George F. Houghton, Susquehanna vs. Beverly A. Houghton, RR1, Susquehanna.
Jennifer L. Yachymiak, RR1, New Milford vs. Louis E. Yachymiak, South Montrose.
Richard Hadlick, RR2, Hallstead vs. Corina Hadlick, New Milford.
At COG’s October 17 meeting, the subject matter from the COG and COG Sewage Enforcement meeting segments overlapped.
Correspondence read during the COG segment included a letter from Tunkhannock attorney Gerald Grimaud, who is representing Kenneth Ralston. Mr. Ralston had purchased 70 acres in Jessup Township, adjacent to 1.3 acres owned by Gerald and Mary Ann Costello. The letter stated that Mr. Ralston had been in negotiation to purchase the 1.3 acre parcel, but that the closing had been canceled when SEO Duane Wood informed Mr. Ralston that the existing sewage system on that parcel could not be used, and that the site would not support a sand lot system. Mr. Ralston had intended to build his home at that site, but in light of Mr. Wood’s report had decided to build instead at a site across the road on his 70-acre parcel, that has a less pleasing view. He had subsequently had to spend $37,000 for a new system for the home. The letter noted (building) activity on the Costello parcel, and that the SEO had issued a permit to allow use of the existing system. He requested that the permit be withdrawn, as Mr. Ralston lacks confidence in the integrity of the system, and is concerned about contamination of his water well, which is downhill from the sewage system on the Costello property.
Mr. Ralston, who was present at the meeting, said that he was concerned that there is no absorption area for the tank, and does not know where it is, or if it even exists. He said that it would not be known if the system is sound until after sewage has gone into it, or if there is a drainage field. He said that a consultant he spoke with said that a dye test can be done, and requested that one be conducted. “Let’s test it. If there is a drainage field, okay. If not, I’ll have to worry about contamination to my well. The system is in close proximity to my well. If it breaches... they can put in a drip system. Cancel the permit until it is tested.” He requested that the test be done as soon as possible, and said that he would pay for it if necessary.
SEO Duane Wood said that, at one time, the lot had a mobile home and two camper trailers on it. The initial (permit) denial was based on the belief that there were two 55-gallon drums, rather than a tank there, but it had since been determined that there is a tank.
Mr. Ross asked if there was any evidence of a working system on the site; the Costellos, who were also present, said that it was working fairly recently. Mr. Ralston disagreed, and said that the site has been vacant for 20 years. He has been looking for the contractor who installed the system, but doubts that any records exist. And, the Costellos disputed that Mr. Ralston had been in the process of purchasing the parcel. They questioned why he would be on the property, or why he would be pursuing a sewage permit for land he did not own. Mr. Ralston had some closing documents that he said showed that he was in the process of purchasing the land, but no signed purchase agreement, and the closing had never taken place. The Costellos are putting in a mobile home, to be used as a second home, not a primary residence.
Mr. Wood cautioned that digging to determine what exactly is there could damage the system, and dumping 400 gallons (for a dye test) into an unused system could damage it; the dye would have to be put in gradually. Mr. Wood also said that the system is 118 feet from the closest possible location to Mr. Ralston’s well, which is down-slope from the system. Mr. Ralston disagreed, and said that the well was closer than that to the system. Mr. Ralston said that he was not trying to stop building on the site, but was asking for a dye test, or to put in a drip system if necessary.
Mr. Ross asked if there were a timeframe for a dormant system, after which it can’t be used. Office Manager Karen Trynoski said that information indicated it was being used in 2003. And, DEP regulations say if there is no record of a malfunction, “we have to allow him (Costello) to hook up,” although he should be aware that the system could fail. A soil probe had been done, and in the event of a malfunction, there is a spot for a drip irrigation system, which carries an anticipated cost of $35,000.
Mr. Ross noted that Mr. Ralston had said that he is wiling to pay for the dye test. In the interest of keeping peace, he asked, would the Costellos consider it? They said that they were not interested.
Mr. Ross also noted that the Costello’s permits are valid. “COG is not a party to this (disagreement), it is between landowners... I do not feel COG is in violation of Act 537... I understand Mr. Ralston’s concern, but I don’t believe COG is a party to this complaint. What was done, was done according to the law. The only solution I see is for the two parties to work on testing you’d both be comfortable with... I do not feel COG has acted improperly. It appears to have been dealt with in an appropriate manner.”
Mr. Ralston asked, “Isn’t COG for public safety? Isn’t your purpose to make sure the public is safe?” Mr. Ross replied, “Laws, rules, and regulations are to protect the public. But, there are other laws that allow use of the system... We have acted within the letter of the law. A structure that will not put greater demand on the system can be hooked in. A new system would be required if it malfunctions.” He suggested that Mr. Ralston contact DEP for information, and another member suggested that he have his well water tested to ensure that there has not been any contamination.
Mr. Ross closed the discussion, saying “According to DEP, it is a legal system. The law is the law. They are entitled to hook up to it. I don’t think we are the correct body to bring this to. I don’t see any way we can help resolve it. We acted in good faith.”
In other business, the COG committee reported that the annual workman’s comp. audit would be done shortly.
Some sign orders had been received from members, including some “Polling Place” signs.
The Insurance Committee met with DGK, COG’s carrier, and reviewed the policy. There were no major changes reported from last year, although the cost of some items have been reduced. The Sewage committee’s insurance has been paid; they were billed separately as requested.
The Building Committee reported they are working on a proposal for a property in Montrose, and had been contacted by a realtor from Gibson Township who has some property listings they may be interested in looking at.
The Employee Policies and Procedures Committee is still working on a draft, which will hopefully be ready to adopt by the end of the year. Mr. Ross will join committee members Chuck Mead and Annette Rogers to work on it.
One member noted that data from the 2000 Census was needed to fill out a survey regarding municipal police services from the Governor’s Center for Local Government. Where, he asked could this information be obtained? Another member said that it is available on the NTRPDC website; a comprehensive plan they had drawn up included information for county municipalities and was easily accessible.
The Governor’s Center for Local Government will be hosting a workshop on Zoning Hearing Boards in Wilkes-Barre. Mr. Ross asked if members thought it was worthwhile to try to schedule one in Susquehanna County, perhaps at the end of January or early February? The members agreed that it would.
Other than the Ralston matter, the Sewage Committee reported being busy, with nothing out of the ordinary, and Codes Committee reported being busy as well.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, November 21, 7 p.m. in the COG offices in New Milford.
Dealing with the June flooding and its aftermath were still the main topics at the October 16 meeting of the Great Bend Township Supervisors. Road repair is continuing, and a number of concerns brought up by residents at the meeting were already in the process of repair or would be shortly attended to. One concern was about deep ditches at the bottom of McHugh Hill Road; Roadmaster Dave Sienko wad that he was aware of the situation, and was looking at filling it in with stone. He would also look into complaints about potholes at the intersection of McHugh and Emerson roads, and on N. Bogart and Airport Roads.
Pipe replacement was in progress on Graham Hollow Road. Mr. Sienko said that one of the pipes that had been cleaned out but still kept clogging would be checked. A pipe on Tarzan Road is scheduled for replacement.
The Volvo truck was being looked at as it was not running properly.
The sewer authority will be asked to check for a possible water leak in the lines near the pumping station on Bogart St.
After an executive session following their last meeting, the supervisors had interviewed one individual interested in working on the road crew, but no decision had yet been made. Jim Shafer is unable to continue to work for the township; a letter had been sent to him to wish him well.
Cleaning wood debris out of Dubois Creek had begun, through a federally funded program administered by the NTRPDC. A resident asked if Denton Creek on Oak Hill could also be cleaned; the supervisors agreed to request that it be added to the list of areas to be cleaned.
A resident asked if it would be possible to widen Dubois Creek? If the area sees more heavy rain like it did this spring, there would be flooding again, and even homeowners who do not live adjacent to the creek have been getting flooded.
The supervisors explained that it is up to individuals to apply for emergency permits to have the waterways near their homes cleaned out. With such a permit, a channel twelve feet wide can be dug in the middle of where the creek runs. Emergency permits issued for this incident expired September 30, but a property owner could reapply for an additional permit at no cost. Permits are available through the DEP or the Conservation District.
Two GP 3 permits were issued, for the Myers property (Mitchell Creek) and for the Benacquisto property on Airport Road. A neighbor of the Benacquistos asked about what the permit allows; the creek can be cleaned within fifty feet of a bridge on a township road (Mr. Benacquisto had requested and received the township’s approval to clean the creek at his own expense). The supervisors explained that there is a limit as to what the permit allows (the distance that can be cleaned out); they suggested that this individual contact the contractor who is doing the work for the Benacquistos. As he is already in the area, perhaps he would be willing to do additional work at a good price.
Sluice pipes on Locust Hill Road were said to be not working properly. One has been plugged, and another said to be inadequate to handle the increased volume of runoff due to the plugged sluice. The subcontractor hired by the township was scheduled to work in that area the following week, after work on Nova Road.
Supervisor Squier noted that some sluice work has been delayed; pipes have been ordered, but there has been a delay in getting the orders filled.
The dumpster at the township for removal of flood debris has been removed, and there will not be another one to replace it. It was noted that the last load had more (household) garbage in it than flood debris. A metal dumpster is still at the township building, as it is year-round. A resident said that a neighbor had several appliances sitting in his yard; the neighbor had been told that the township would take them away. Mr. Squier noted that the township did pick up several loads of metal goods that were abandoned alongside the road after the flood, but it is not the township’s policy to pick up goods.
Other flood-related business, such as filing insurance claims, is slowly coming together and is winding down.
In other business, Mrs. Guinan reported that she is looking for a better interest rate for the general and state funds, at the recommendation of the state auditor.
A motion carried to approve a resolution for the Bridging Communities committee to submit a DCED grant application for $22,000, to cover additional expenses not covered by prior grant funding and municipal contributions.
Correspondence included a reminder that the supervisors need to take NIMS training, and a notice that two township properties have been in violation of preferential assessments (Clean and Green) and will be subject to payment of rollback taxes. Mrs. Guinan wished to remind residents that when a property in the Clean & Green program is sold, it requires payment of a percentage of the (back) tax reduction when land use changes.
Penelec can no longer purchase mercury vapor luminaries; as needed, luminaries will be replaced with sodium vapor luminaries, most of which are less expensive to operate than the mercury ones.
The Ralph Reynolds property has been cleaned up, as has the Ken Tingley property.
The Joan Long property has been cleaned up somewhat, but problems still exist. Ms. Long said that she had removed a car and cleaned up the lawn, but she had been unable to do more due to illness. Mr. Squier noted that there has been a problem at this property for many years, and said that it was time to refer the matter to the magistrate. Ms. Long said, “I’ve made some effort, work with me.” Ms. Long added that she is not getting FEMA reimbursement (for removal of debris). Mrs. Guinan noted that there had been dumpsters available after the flood that residents could use. She said that the problems at the Long property had been listed on the township’s meeting agenda for ten years. She made a motion to proceed with taking the matter to the magistrate. Ms. Long responded that there are others with (junk) cars on their properties, but nothing is done; she mentioned several names; Mr. Squier said that those cars have not been sitting there for years. Mrs. Guinan added that Ms. Long could submit a written complaint, which the supervisors would look into. A unanimous motion carried to take the Long matter to the magistrate. Ms. Long commented that the supervisors were being unfair to her. Because of health reasons she was unable to do a lot, and had expenses from the flood to deal with.
The supervisors’ next meetings will be at 7 p.m. at the township building on the third Mondays of the month, November 20 and December 18. At last month’s meeting, it had been agreed to eliminate the first Monday meetings. At the reorganization meeting in January, the schedule for next year’s meetings will be determined.
Hallstead Boro Council had three guests at their October 19 meeting; Johnnie Florance, owner of A & E Auto, Dawn Washo of Resource Environmental management, and David Morgan, Mr. Florance’s attorney. Prior to last month’s meeting, council had received a request to enact an ordinance requiring that all structures within the boro be hooked into the municipal water system for drinking water, rather than individual wells. Council had some questions, and had sent the request to their solicitor for his input. The visitors were present at this meeting to explain the request.
Prior to 1985, Mr. Florance’s property had been a gas station. When the new sewer system was put in (in 1985), the lines would have had to run through the same area where the gas tanks were located. If the tanks were not removed, it would have required running the lines out into Route 11, which is a state road and would have necessitated PennDOT’s involvement. At the time, it had been decided that removing the tanks was the best avenue to take. When the contractor removed them, onlookers observed at least one of the tanks leaking gasoline.
Mr. Florance said that, at the time, no one thought much about the gasoline leak. But, over the years it had bothered him; he felt that something was just not right. He also did not want to be faced with the prospect, some years down the road when he is ready to retire, that the property could not be sold, or that the leak had caused a problem that still existed. So, he had contacted DEP to find out what needed to be done and had agreed to voluntary remediation.
Ms. Washo explained that, over the years, gasoline in the soil would gradually break down and wash away, which it has done. But, due to the nature of the soil, which is mostly clay, some residual chemicals remain. Soil and water samples were taken over a one-year period, which showed that benzene is present, but at a very low level; the level is low enough to allow swimming, but too high for drinking water. And it is not a threat to any neighbors, as the strongest concentrations are either under the road or the sidewalk and pose no health risks.
If the boro were to enact an ordinance requiring that all drinking water be obtained from the municipal system, DEP would allow a more lenient standard of remediation than if there were (drinking water) wells. The ordinance would allow Mr. Florance to get a release from DEP, and could encourage other property owners where there may be contamination to clean up their sites. During discussion, it was noted that, at one time or another, there had been a number of gas stations in the area, as well as residences and commercial sites with underground fuel tanks. And, Ms. Washo said that the ordinance would not have to be permanent. If contamination continues to go away on its own, the ordinance could eventually be lifted.
All three visitors concurred that it would be best for the boro to address any potentially existing problems; DEP prefers municipal ordinances in these cases, rather than deed restrictions which would be harder to keep track of.
Mr. Morgan stated that before he became an attorney, he had been a chemist and had some knowledge of what was involved in the contamination. Gasoline is made up of about forty components; in the case of Mr. Florance’s property, only one of those, benzene had been found. He said that there were many reasons to enact the ordinance. One would be to protect children who could inadvertently ingest contaminants and find themselves facing serious health problems. Another would be the potential to attract new industry to the area; having a safe water supply would definitely be a plus. And, the ordinance would protect all of the boro’s citizens from unknown health hazards.
Ms. Washo stressed that the ordinance would not just apply to new development, but to existing properties, even when they change hands. And, all of the structures in the boro are currently hooked into the municipal system; the boro would have no impact on them, but would only affect future construction.
Council agreed that the ordinance was worth pursuing; a motion carried unanimously to approve it, pending the solicitor’s findings. With a thirty-day period needed for advertisement of an ordinance, council’s action on it is expected to take place at the December meeting.
Ms. Washo was asked about the old foundry property. She said some of the tests conducted included a drainage ditch on Lusk Lane and the Salt Lick Creek. It is known that four underground fuel tanks still exist on the foundry property. It had been council’s understanding that if the tanks were filled in, they would not have to be removed. Ms. Washo said that she had read the reports on the foundry property; she had researched it because activity there could affect Mr. Florance’s property, and possibly contributes to the situation there. An excavation pit had been dug around the tanks; the soil on the west side was found to be clean, but the soil on the east side contained heating oil above health standards. She said that she was unable to find documentation that the tanks had been filled.
In other business, council received a complaint that the maintenance supervisor has been riding the boro lawn mower on the streets.
After review of the month’s bills, and concern about the amount of bills for supplies (paint, etc.), a motion carried to limit the amount that can be charged to $100 per month. Any emergency expenses would need to be approved by a council member.
FEMA claims are still in progress; council is waiting for estimates on repairs to the Route 11 park pavilion and restrooms.
A request from the Central Bradford Progress Authority to adopt a resolution in favor of creating an enterprise zone was tabled for further information.
A motion carried to adopt an ordinance setting the rates for a realty transfer tax.
The boro’s Christmas lights will be put up in the near future while weather allows.
A communication was received from Penelec; due to unavailability of mercury vapor luminaries, as needed lights will be replaced with sodium vapor luminaries. With the exception of 100 watt lights, the monthly cost for operating the sodium lights will be lower.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, November 16, 7 p.m. in the boro building.
Harford Township's little office has become too cramped for voting. At last May's primary, new computerized equipment for handicapped voters didn't fit very well. Election Judge Maureen Warren brought the issue before township Supervisors, who themselves complained about the inconvenience of hosting the polls in the limited space. The search was on for another location.
So far the county election board and voter registration office haven't been very helpful. According to Ms. Warren and Supervisor Sue Furney, county officials don't seem to have a procedure for such things.
Local consensus seems to consider the Harford Volunteer Fire Company's new facility on Fair Hill Road an ideal choice – except among the firefighters themselves. An early decision by the fire company board of directors declined the honor, considering liability issues and the small payment from the county for the use of the large hall twice a year.
Supervisor and firefighter Terry VanGorden asked the board to reconsider, and the fire company board in turn took it to the membership. At a recent meeting, attended by County Commissioner Mary Ann Warren, the members voted to allow the use of the firehouse for the November 7 election. The fire company is still reluctant to consider this a long-term solution, but at least it will give the county more time to find another solution.
At their meeting on October 14, the Supervisors passed a resolution requested by the county, officially moving the polling place for this year to the fire hall, but also encouraging county officials to find another place for the future.
In other business, the Supervisors passed an ordinance authorizing the real-estate transfer tax to be collected. At one-half of one percent of a sale price, up to now the tax has been collected on the basis of a simple resolution. The county has asked municipalities to put the foundation of an ordinance under the tax.
Tax collectors themselves will be getting a little help as well. The Supervisors will advertise another ordinance that allows tax collectors to assess various fees for additional services. The measure allows a fee of $25 for returned checks; $5 for registered mailings to unresponsive taxpayers; and up to $15 for duplicate tax bills.
In Harford, tax collectors receive 5% of total collections. In the words of Supervisor Rick Pisasik, "it's not like anybody is getting rich doing this." The ordinance will help offset some of the collectors’ additional costs. Ms. Furney said that the tax collectors often do "more work for the taxes they're not collecting," that is, for delinquencies and other duties.
Township taxes in Harford haven't increased in several years. The flooding this summer threatened the township's coffers. So Supervisors were delighted to receive a check from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for $81,275.80 for remediation work so far. More is expected as the work continues.
Longer-term projects related to the flooding are still in planning stages; government subsidies may not be quite as reliable. The township is still expecting a report from an engineer who examined the outlet of Tingley Lake. The report is required before the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will issue a permit for the work to proceed.
Replacing the bridge on Pennay Hill Road will be very expensive; the township will require federal or state assistance on this half-million-dollar project. In the meantime, a bypass is in place, and the bridge has been blocked by barricades and piles of dirt. Unfortunately, it has become an attraction for some trespassers on ATVs, who have been removing the barriers and damaging the blocking piles. Without effective police patrols, Supervisor Terry VanGorden said he would have some old guardrails welded across the ends to keep the damaged bridge safe from predators.
Mr. VanGorden himself has a new job, at least for now. "With deep regret," the Supervisors accepted the resignation of Roadmaster George Sansky. In his five or so years with the township, Mr. Sansky has reorganized the operation of the township's road crews, and built two trucks for the township almost single-handedly. His contributions will be hard to replace, but the township will be advertising for someone with mechanical skills; a commercial driver's license (CDL) will be a plus. Mr. VanGorden accepted the title for the time being, but has indicated that he may decline at least part of the $10/hour salary.
Mr. Sansky will be leaving many happy customers. One resident of the Podunk Road area wrote to commend the township's work in that area perennially plagued with flooding. "They're really great," said the letter of the township's road crew.
The Harford Township Supervisors meet in public on the second Saturday of each month beginning at 10:00 a.m., and on the fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m. All meetings are held at the former polling place on Route 547.
Attending the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees' Convention in the Pittsburgh area were Susquehanna County Chapter President Mary Ketterer, Past President Ruth Roman, State Assistant Treasurer Barbara Kelly, and State Community Service Chairperson Joan Peters. These four joined more than 500 of their peers to discuss public education, legislative issues, and advancing the welfare of Pennsylvania's 140,000 plus public school retirees.
Pictured (l-r) are: Past President Ruth Roman, State Assisstant Treasurer Barbara Kelly, Susquehanna Chapter President Mary Ketterer, State Community Service Chairperson Joan Peters.
"We've spent our days caring and giving to better the lives of others while employed. It was heartwarming to see that our commitment hasn't changed and the focus of many of the attendees at the conference demonstrates that the same dedication and compassion still exist in retirement," said President Mary Ketterer.
Those attending listened to speakers regarding politics and staying mentally sharp through the aging process. The keynote speaker was Steve Scully of C-Span who was recently elected president of the White House Press Corps.
Information gathered during the four-day event will be used to direct local programs such as the recognition of outstanding public school employees all across the state and the chapter's community service projects.
As we admire the fall colors and begin to think about the upcoming holiday season, the Farm City Feast comes along and reminds us about the important partnership between our farms and urban life. This year Susquehanna County Farm City Feast is celebrating its’ 40th anniversary.
The annual Farm City Feast will take place at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, November 18, at the Mountain View High School, Kingsley. This celebration is sure to be a gala event, celebrating the cooperation between rural and urban neighbors.
Since its inception, the Pennsylvania Farm-City Program continues to keep the link between farms and urban dwellers strong. This is a unique opportunity for farm people and city people to become friends and get a first hand look at each other’s way of life. Without farms, cities would have no food; without cities, farms would have few markets or processing facilities. It’s this continuing partnership that brings economic opportunity and progress to coming generations.
Ron Smith of Community Bank & Trust Company is this year’s Master of Ceremonies. Following a delicious roast beef dinner willingly served up by the Harford Willing Workers, the night’s entertainment features a musical program by Re-Creation.
Re-Creation returns to the Farm City Feast this year; they performed in 2002 and wowed the audience with their fabulous show. For those of you who may have missed them in 2002, Re-Creation presents young, talented performers who take audiences of all ages on a fabulous joyride through great eras of American music. It is a magical program that transforms the stage into a wondrous showplace of unforgettable entertainment. Re-Creation performs numerous shows at fairs, banquets, conventions, schools, churches and many other public and private venues, but their main service is to America’s Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and state veterans’ homes. Since 1983, Re-Creation has provided the only continuing, live, therapeutic entertainment presence in our nation’s VA Medical Centers. This promises to be a great evening of wonderful entertainment.
As in the past, the Farm City Feast will incorporate the annual meeting of the Penn State Cooperative Extension of Susquehanna County. A short meeting of this organization will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Mountain View High School auditorium. Penn State Cooperative Extension has been sponsoring the Farm City Feast ever since its inception.
In order to accommodate all, there will be special needs tables and priority seating for those who need such assistance. Simply contact the Susquehanna County Extension Office at 278-1158. You can also obtain tickets from the office or from anyone on the Farm City Feast committee (a list of committee members is available from the extension office). Once again, a great meal, great entertainment, with good neighbors provides a chance for folks to catch up with each other and continue the very important rural-urban partnership.
At their October 18 meeting, the Susquehanna Community School District Board of Education heard the recommendations of the district’s Tax Study Commission, which had been put in place in accordance with Act I to make a recommendation to the board as to whether an Earned Income Tax or a Personal Income Tax should be enacted. (Act I was enacted for the purpose of reduction of property taxes.) The commission’s final meeting had been held earlier that day, and it is their recommendation that the district not enact either tax. Superintendent Bronson Stone pointed out that the commission’s findings are not binding; the question of whether or not to enact the taxes will be put on the primary ballot next spring. The final decision will be made by the district’s voters, by public referendum. The board approved the commission’s recommendation.
The state Dept. of Education has approved the district’s Strategic Plan, Act 48 plan and Teacher Induction plan. Word on the approval (or rejection) of the district’s technology plan was expected shortly.
In accordance with new Chapter 12 guidelines, which requires periodic updates of student policies, a number of amendments to those existing policies was approved. They include: attendance, confidential communications of students, dress and grooming, enrollment in district, health examinations/screenings, pregnant/married students, searches, student assistance program, student discipline, student expression/distribution and posting of materials, student rights/surveys, student records, suspension and expulsion, use of medication, extracurricular activities, guidance counseling, interscholastic athletics, special education, strategic plan, student services, and a bus driver random drug testing consequence policy.
As with every other district in the state, this year’s enrollment grant funding has seen a decrease, from an expected $40,000 to $23,147. The funding received will be applied towards tuition for LCCC college study courses offered at the Susquehanna campus. Students will be responsible for an enrollment fee of $40 plus cost for textbooks, but tuition will be paid.
The Safety Committee has been looking at issues to increase safety for all at the campus, in light of recent events across the country.
The board discussed a report commissioned by the legislature regarding beginning the school year after Labor Day; it indicated that not doing so has had a detrimental impact on local economies. For example, beginning the school year before Labor Day results in economic losses in travel/vacation spending, and a lower income to students/staff who hold seasonal, summer jobs. Mr. Stone pointed out that the majority of the state’s districts are not as affected by geographical conditions as those in the northern areas of the state. Winter weather must be considered as a disadvantage, as districts in the north regularly experience snow days when school is not in session, which in turn decreases the number of instructional days for students to prepare for PSSA testing. Mr. Stone requested a waiver, to allow for a week’s delay in PSSA testing of district students and has sent a letter to Senator Lemmond outlining his concerns. It remains to be seen what action the legislature will take regarding the report’s recommendations.
The board was introduced to some of its newest faculty. In the high school, Lawrence Tompkins, a Blue Ridge and Marywood graduate is teaching Social Studies, and Brian Scopelleti, a Scranton native, is teaching Physical Education. In the elementary school, Leeann Rhone, a Susquehanna and Marywood graduate is teaching fifth grade; Liza Dooley, a graduate of Susquehanna and Penn State, is teaching Kindergarten; and Michael Wolk, an Endicott native and Penn State graduate is teaching vocal music.
Local Masons recently conducted a CHIP program for new students, with about 35 taking part. The program provides identification materials to parents in the event a child should be missing/abducted. The Masons have provided the service for about 7,000 children in the county, and prior programs had been provided for district families.
The elementary students are participating in annual Red Ribbon activities, which promotes a “Do Not Use Drugs” message. The high school SADD chapter has been involved, and members will judge essays written by the elementary students.
Elementary students were recently treated to a unique hot-air balloon presentation, where Principal Bob Keyes and several teachers were able to take rides to a height of about fifty feet. The weather cooperated in helping to make the presentation possible and very enjoyable.
Transportation was said to be running smoothly, with an annual bus tire inspection slated for the month of October, to ensure that all buses are ready for winter travel.
The district’s annual audit is underway with results expected by the end of the month.
The education association recently sponsored an annual scarecrow contest, hosted by the Susquehanna Community Development Association as part of the annual Pumpkin Fest. Students, teachers and parents helped in construction of the scarecrows, and the education association sponsored prizes and a pizza party for students who took part. The association is making preparations for the district’s annual retirement dinner, slated for June 2 at the Summit Hill Tearoom, with three retiring personnel, so far, to be honored. The association will also be hosting a workshop next month for new teachers, with a representative from the PSEA slated to attend. An invitation to attend has been extended to the county’s other school districts.
Other items approved by the board included the following.
-River Bounty’s request to be exempt from taxes.
-2006-2007 Bus Contracts.
-Accepting the resignations of Senior Class Advisor Vince Rock, and Newspaper Advisor Diana Hurlburt.
-Hiring the following staff for the 2006/2007 school year: High School After School Homework Program, Tracy Bergen; Elementary Wrestling, Jason Fissel; Special Education Aide, Joanna Rooney.
-The customary list of activity/fundraising requests.
-Flex spending accounts (cafeteria) for instructional and non-instructional staff.
-A service agreement with Tri-Guard Security Systems for annual fire alarm inspections at a cost of $3,000 per year, a substantial savings over prior years’ cost.
-A lease agreement for three copiers, at $1,090 per month, a savings of $3,000 per year over prior agreements.
-A contract with Tri-Guard for a door security system. The high school and elementary buildings and the administration offices will each have a single-point of entry, which will limit public/visitors’ access and ensure the safety of the district’s students and personnel.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, December 6, 7:30 p.m. in the administration offices in the elementary building, when the board will reorganize.
Following a lengthy executive session, the Elk Lake and Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center board meetings opened with a student presentation. Three members of the cosmetology program brought materials (and a stylishly coiffed mannequin head) before the board to thank them for their assistance and to more fully explain the program. The gratitude was, at least in part, due to board assistance in acquiring a new microdermabrasion and dermatouch machine. The students explained the process of microdermabrasion and glycology, and assured skeptical board members that it did not hurt at all. In addition to the procedures made possible by their new technology, the cosmetology department offers a wide range of other services. Every Thursday and Friday, and one Saturday a month, they offer a clinic to the public. On Wednesdays an after school clinic is made available for students and staff. They offer programs for the elementary kids (such as “hair camp”) and skin care and makeup information to junior high students. They encourage donations to Locks of Love and the American Cancer Society, and offer manicures to the residents of Gracious Living. In addition to the regular student programs, continuing education classes are offered to help current cosmetologists maintain and update their skills.
After the students left, the meeting continued its academic theme with reports by principals and the head of special education. The elementary school will be celebrating Veterans Day on November 10. In the middle and high schools, the online grading system is up and running for use by both parents and students. The eighth grade will be taking part in the American Mathematics Competition on November 14. Within this competition, all Algebra students will take a test to see how Elk Lake matches up against students across the country.
Not only are things happening academically, but extracurricular activities abound as well. Mr. Mallery, the middle-school principal, reported several impressive winning records as fall sports seasons draw to a close. On November 3 and 4, the high school drama club will present their fall production. Homecoming was reported to have been a success, with multiple sporting events, a bonfire, and the dance. One of the board members, Mr. Sible, took the time near the end of the meeting to concur with this report, and thank those involved in running it. It was well attended, and a nice way of bringing the student community together.
Regarding matters outside of the school, Dr. Bush reported that the next Tax-Study Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday November 14, with another slated for the 28th at 7:00. At this latter meeting, the Commission plans on holding a public hearing and making their recommendation to the Board.
More Vo-Tech activities were discussed during the SCCTC meeting, which started shortly after the district meeting adjourned. The Building Trades programs have been busy of late. They recently donated two coat storage sheds which the American Legion had requested, in addition to five dog houses donated to the Humane Society. The Healthcare program is planning a “What’s Up Doc” camp next summer. Within automotives, the auto inspection course is being offered again this year. SCCTC received money, for the third year in a row, from the Community Foundation. The $8,000 will be used to benefit the students. Finally, another occupational advisory meeting is scheduled for November 20, where people from various fields come to the school and provide input to ensure that students are learning what is necessary.
At one point, brief mention was made of school safety, an issue much on people’s minds of late. When queried as to whether or not there has been discussion about updating security, Mr. Bush responded that current security measures have been reviewed. The school is looking to update some things, but did not seem to feel the current system to be exceedingly deficient.
News | Living | Sports | Schools | Churches | Ads | Events
Military | Columns | Ed/Op | Obits | Archive | Subscribe