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Appearances for towns and boroughs are as important for them, if not more so, as it is for people. Coupled with keeping housing and roadways safe and in good repair, the physical aspect of any borough falls under the purview of its council. Discussion at the New Milford Borough's Council meeting on November 2 contained all these elements and more. Much of the first part of the meeting was on code enforcement and the duties and responsibilities of the code enforcement officer.
Previous violations of the borough's property codes were discussed, such as completion of the cleanup of the Hall property and the fencing to be done at Cosmello's in order for that business to be in compliance.
Part of the discussion centered on sidewalks and the disrepair of many of them around the borough. While discussion of a particular property brought up by Mayor Joe Taylor initially involved parking on sidewalks, the Council enlarged the conversation to include conditions of the sidewalks around the Borough and the property owners' responsibility in maintaining them. Councilperson Rick Ainey noted that some sidewalks are in "terrible disrepair," but he felt that the application of the ordinance should be applied equally to all homes and businesses with sidewalks. He also commented that the sidewalk ordinance " has not been enforced in years." He said that Code Enforcement Officer Mike Dopko could issue citations for parking on sidewalks. Both Councilperson Rick Ainey and Councilperson Teri Gulick suggested that the Borough Council look at the pertinent ordinance governing sidewalks to update and clarify the Borough's position.
During the public comment portion of the agenda, a resident questioned the Council on Code Enforcement Officer Mike Dopko's responsibilities and duties. She had a question regarding follow-up on the Houlihan building, and the condition of its siding. She also asked if Mr. Dopko follows up with the letters he sends to property owners in violation, and if so, how soon or often does he check on deadlines? The Council asked Amy Hine, Borough Council Secretary for clarification. She stated that she keeps a file containing copies of the letters she sends out for Mr. Dopko, and she also gives him reminders and notices when a response is due by the deadline set for the individual violator. Ms. Hine noted that the file contains only a couple of items waiting for completion or follow-up. Council President Scott Smith clarified that he thought that there was no ordinance on the books covering siding.
Councilperson Jane Zick noted Mr. Dopko is very capable of doing the code enforcement job.
Mayor Joe Taylor commented that finding someone with the qualifications of Mr. Dopko would not be easy. Councilperson Ainey noted that Mr. Dopko was hired on an "as-needed basis," and that the Personnel Committee should review with Mr. Dopko what the job is, and "he may have a different view of the job [than the Council does]". It was mentioned that Mr. Dopko has many municipalities, approximately, fifteen that he covers.
Vicki Drake, Borough Tax Collector, spoke during the Present to Speak portion. She requested that the Borough Council pass an ordinance allowing her to charge a fee for bad checks returned to her, and also a fee for requests from mortgage insurance companies. She said that she absorbs the costs at the present time, but would like to be able to recoup these expenses. She suggested a $20 returned check charge, and a $5-$10 charge for requests for copies from mortgage insurance companies. Councilperson Rick Ainey said that in addition to granting her request the Borough "should have established fees for here [the Borough offices]". The request was approved.
Ms. Drake also requested that the Borough Council apply for a grant to defray the cost of a replacement computer for tax collecting. This is a grant municipalities apply for, covering 75% of purchase up to $750. She would like to purchase a laptop as her current computer is giving her problems, and she could be more flexible either working out of her home or at the Borough offices, as suggested by Councilperson Ainey. Ms. Drake will research the options for different computers and present to the Council. Council President Scott Smith said once the price of a new computer was agreed on, the grant application could be submitted.
The 2007 budget was presented to the Borough Council and came with good news. There is no proposed tax increase for 2007, and if the flood had not occurred this summer, Councilperson Ainey said that it was possible that taxes could have been lowered. He said that it was prudent to wait until next year before deciding on any reduction, given the devastation caused by the flood and expenses that had occurred as a result. A motion was passed to advertise the 2007 budget for tentative approval in the December meeting.
No one on the Great Bend Borough Council could remember the last time property tax rates were increased. That may change.
Almost as an afterthought, Council briefly discussed a budget for next year, at the tail end of the November meeting on the 2nd, and then scheduled a special session for Monday, November 13, to talk about it some more.
Council members are looking everywhere else for revenue. Partly as a way to oppose the construction of a high-voltage electrical power transmission line through the area, members are looking to their solicitor, Frank O'Connor, to come up with an ordinance that will allow the Borough "to tax any utilities coming through the Borough without offering services to the Borough." If it ever comes to pass, such a thing will be a long time coming.
But such a tax might help the cash-strapped little town provide more services. With fewer than 800 residents and very little business activity in Great Bend Borough, property taxes don't bring in a lot of money. According to Borough Secretary Sheila Guinan, one mill is worth only $2,400. However, said Ms. Guinan, "You're in much better shape this year than last." The budget she developed for Council to consider calls for a half-mill rate increase. Council member Jerry MacConnell doesn't think that's enough. "We ought to consider something more," he said. Council did, however, decide to donate $100 to the Hallstead/Great Bend Library.
Last summer's flooding has cost every community dearly. The greatest damage in Great Bend Borough was at Recreation Park. Ms. Guinan told Council that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has already sent $13,615.13 to cover remediation work already completed, as well as costs for dumpsters. She said more could be available to help replace fencing, dugouts and other infrastructure at the park. Borough worker Alan Grannis has been seeding Rec. Park and Greenwood Park, hoping to provide a base for next Spring. The Little League ball field at Rec. Park is still a question, however. Mr. Grannis will spend the winter building new picnic tables, too.
Mr. Grannis reminds everyone that a fresh dumpster for metal goods is available at the Borough garage. No household trash, please.
Residents of the Kime Apartments have requested a crosswalk across Main Street for those who need to get to the Blue Ridge Senior Center (which is housed in the Borough building). Ms. Guinan presented some PennDOT materials outlining the requirements; Main Street is also U.S. Route 11, and a state thoroughfare. Council seemed to be looking for reasons not to install a crosswalk, and nothing was decided.
Council member Rick Franks reminded his colleagues that the Borough used to have a longer-range planning process that helped to allocate funding for such large projects as repaving the streets. The only street to get paved this year was done by the water company, following the installation of new piping. That paving is expected to be complete within the next two weeks.
The Great Bend Borough Council has had some difficulty collecting a quorum for their meetings over the last couple of months. This time everyone was in place, although some were eager to get it over with. A new member has apparently been recruited to replace Jeff Burkett, who resigned recently.
A lack of enthusiasm has been creeping over this Council in recent months and years. The lack of funds makes it difficult for these willing citizens to promote progress in their home town. The constant effort to keep taxes low for their constituents is wearing and their limited ability to accomplish much is dispiriting.
Show these people – your neighbors – your support at their meetings, on the first Thursday of each month, beginning at 7 p.m., in the Borough building at Elizabeth and Franklin Streets.
The Blue Ridge School District took a giant step backward last week when it lost ground in its court battle with three district tax collectors.
In a one-sentence court order, Wyoming County President Judge Brendan J. Vanston overruled the district’s preliminary objections to a second amended complaint filed in behalf of the plaintiffs by Attorney Michael Giangrieco. The plaintiffs in the suit are Vicki L. Drake, tax collector for New Milford Borough; Margo B. Merritt, tax collector for Great Bend Township; and, Miriam J. Page, tax collector for Jackson Township.
Judge Vanston’s ruling means the lawsuit will continue, much to the delight of the plaintiffs in the suit.
“I am happy,” said Mrs. Drake, “because it gets us back in the water. The judge believes we do have standing and we do have a case.”
The suit was promulgated by the three tax collectors on the heels of a school board decision to set the compensation for the tax collectors at 60 cents per tax bill beginning in January, 2006. In the tax year 2005, the district paid the plaintiffs $2.75 per tax bill for school occupation and per capita and $3 per tax bill for school real estate tax.
Besides objecting to an 80 percent pay cut, the tax collectors alleged that the school district made the move expecting the collectors to resign so it would enable the district to collect its own taxes.
Meanwhile, the school board has been toying with another drastic change in its tax collecting system. The board invited a representative from Portnoff Law Associates of Norristown to make a presentation relative to the firm in what could be a move to replace the county’s Tax Claim Bureau as the district’s collector of delinquent taxes.
Portnoff Laws Associates Ltd. was established in 1989 by father and daughter, Alan B. and Michelle R. Portnoff. In 1997, the firm decided to specialize in the collection of delinquent taxes for municipalities and school districts. Portnoff now employs nine lawyers along with a professional management team and represents 70-plus taxing districts throughout Pennsylvania.
“The school district wants to save money,” said Cathy Benedict, county treasurer and head of the county’s Tax Claim Bureau, “but this is not the way to do it. This puts the cost on the backs of the taxpayers.”
EDITORS NOTE: See Along the Way with P. Jay in today’s County Transcript for more information on the Blue Ridge tax issue.
Daniel Stephen Diljak, Mariann Lee Diljak to Daniel Stephen Diljak, RR1, Springville, Mariann Lee Diljak, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Ada Mahn to Barry Samm, Saylorsburg, Patricia Saam, in Herrick Township for $20,000.
Viola L. Birmelin (estate) to Christy Ann Clarke, Factoryville, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Thomas F. Perkins, Marsha Perkins to R. Scott Goff and Michele Goff, Montrose, in Liberty Township for $200,000.
Guy E. Vandermark Jr. to Charmarie V. Bisel, Dimock, James C. Bisel, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Penny E. Singer to Sandra L. Rogers, RR4, Montrose, James D. Rogers, in Rush Township for $88,000.
Hulda M. Cole (estate) to Donald Cole, RR1, Thompson, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Hulda M. Cole (estate) to Randall L. Cole, Gray, GA, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Mildred Brainard, Frank Brainard to Mildred Brainard, South Gibson, Frank Brainard, John Brainard, Steve Brainard, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Bernard K. Collins, Patricia L. Collins to Collins Living Trust, Endwell, NY, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
William Colt Stewart, Margley Stewart to Gary L. Watson, Greenfield Township, Teresa A. Watson, in Jackson Township for $12,500.
Vladimier Demianovich, Elizabeth Demianovich to Paul Demianovich, RR1, Forest City, in Clifford Township for one dollar.|
Mary Louise Ruiz, Charlie G. Ruiz to Hal K. Crisman, South Montrose, in Bridgewater Township for $40,000.
Henry L. Dube, Patricia Dube to Patricia A. Dube, RR7, Montrose, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Jacques C. Michot, Audrey J. Michot to Patrick R. Catania, Oak Ridge, NJ, Mari L. Catania, in Brooklyn Township for $205,000.
Michael E. Kipar, Alayne C. Kipar to Michael E. Kipar, Meshoppen, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Tina M. Theriot (by sheriff) to Bank of New York, Plano, TX, in Montrose for $4,012.
Phillip D. Leary, Tamara F. Leary, Linda J. Leary to Dene Rounds, RR1, Hallstead, in Liberty Township for $42,000.
Rose Marie Hastings to J. T. Spano LLC, Hillsborough, NJ, in Forest City for $33,000.
James Pearson, Karol J. Pearson to Richard M. Storr, New Milford, in Great Bend Borough for $40,000.
John R. Marshman, Diane Stephens (nbm) Diane Marshman to Jeffrey Tierney, RR2, Hallstead, in Great Bend Township for $75,000.
Lee Rivenburg, Karen Rivenburg to Lee Rivenburg, RR2, Kingsley, in Brooklyn Township for one dollar.
Jay P. Niskey, Alice B. Niskey to Phyllis Palmer, South Montrose, Harold L. Palmer, in Bridgewater Township for $75,600.
Chester S. Grzankowski (trust by TR), Lucille E. Grzankowski (trust by TR) to Chester S. Grzankowski, Edison, NJ, Lucille E. Grzankowski, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
Anthony R. Salomone to DJR Holding LLC, Olympia, WA, in Gibson Township for $10.
Robert W. Shave, Jamie M. Shave (NKA) Jamie M. Kuntz to Robert W. Shave, RR1, Montrose, in Montrose for one dollar.
Edward A. Nicholas, Jacqueline Krapz (nbm) Jacqueline Nicholas to Raymond and Jodie Lowe, Lenoxville, in Lenox Township for $154,500.
Walter J. Moyer, Beverly J. Fuzzi (nbm) Beverly J. Moyer to Charles W. Snyder, Meshoppen, Judith A. Snyder, in Auburn Township for $169,000.
John P. Ayres, Anne V. Ayres to John P. Ayres, Binghamton, NY, Anne V. Ayres, Christine A. Ayres, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
Justin N. Thompson, Martha B. Thompson to Justin N. Thompson, Addison, ME, Martha B. Thompson, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
Dennis W. Hayes, Pamela J. Hayes (nbm) Pamela J. Land, Roger Land to Dennis W. Hayes, RR1, Friendsville, in Choconut Township for one dollar.
Dennis W. Hayes to Freddy A. Diaz Sr., South Orange, NJ, Ann Marie Diaz, in Choconut Township for $75,000.
Vincent Sellitto, Helen E. Sellitto to Thomas W. Janofsky, Jenkintown, Jennifer L. Janofsky, in Jackson Township for $85,300.
David Witkin, Gale M. Witkin to Paige M. Sedlacek, Endicott, NY, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
David L. Symons (estate) aka David L. Symons Jr. (estate), Joy Marcy, Roxane Miller, Faith Taylor to Randy Casale, Beacon, NY, in New Milford Township for $70,000.
Francesca Buonpastore (by sheriff) to Rowland Sharp, RR1, Kingsley, Beth Resseguie, in Lenox Township for $119,701.
Barbara Ann Keehle to Mark R. Benwell, Hallstead, in Great Bend Township for $93,000.
Nicole Bernosky Nicole Forsyth (nbm), Matthew Forsyth, James J. Bernosky to James J. Bernosky, RR1, Susquehanna, Nicole Bernosky, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Scott M. Darling, Jeorganne M. Darling to Gregard LLC, RR1, Susquehanna, in Oakland Borough for $75,000.
William Kane to Debra A. Miller, Northampton, in Oakland Borough for $60,420.
Judith H. O’Dell (trust by trustee) to Alvin H,. Clemens, Radnor, Valerie C. Clemens, in Herrick Township for $290,000.
Jeffrey R. Strohl to Christopher McGee, Montrose, Courtney L. Emmons-McGee, in Montrose for $82,000.
Denise M. VanTassel (by US Marshal) Boyd E. VanTassel (by US Marshal) to Randall J. Houser, Lititz, in Forest Lake Township for $70,000.
Earle A. Wootton, Robert R. Wootton to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Dunmore for one dollar.
Joseph M. Ledonne, Elisa Ledonne to Craig T. Roe, RR1, Hallstead, Kyra Roe, in Great Bend Borough for $25,000.
John D. Quigley, Karen L. Rosenthal to Stephen J. Chapman, Brackney, Cynthia K. Chapman, in Silver Lake Township for $44,000.
Michael Siracuse to Michael Siracuse, RR3, Meshoppen, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Peter Bombar to Kathryn C. David, Friendsville, Kyle S. Davic, in Choconut Township for $130,000.
Nearly 100 dairy farmers attended a spirited information meeting last Wednesday at Columbia Cross Roads, Pennsylvania. A large majority of the dairymen present favored the new pricing formula that was developed by he Progressive Agriculture Organization (Pro Ag) for the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC).
The meeting was sponsored by Pro Ag and featured Pete Hardin, editor of the national farm publication, The Milkweed. Hardin, who hails from Wisconsin, brought the crowd up to date on several national key issues. The editor of The Milkweed predicted there will be several indictments of various people in the dairy industry as a result of the Department of Justice’s recently concluded investigation into the dairy industry.
Hardin reported that a year ago the investigation was stalled, but through the efforts of Pro Ag’s meeting with Senator Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the probe resumed and the official investigators submitted their report around September 1.
Some other issues covered by Hardin included the need for dairy farmers to develop alternative energy systems using cow manure, corn, and even windmills to produce energy on the farms.
Hardin claims that the Northeast is a milk production deficit area, and that dairy farmers should be capitalizing on higher milk prices that are available in nearby markets.
Hardin also urged dairy farmers to eliminate the majority of the hauling cost they are paying. Several times, The Milkweed editor applauded the officials of Pro Ag for their strong advocacy positions on many dairy problems. He especially singled out Pro Ag’s opposition to increasing the make allowance that is being charged to dairy farmers.
Pro Ag member, Gerald Carlin, who is a member of the National Family Farm Coalition’s dairy subcommittee, gave a detailed report on the problems that imported dairy products are having on dairy farmers’ prices. Carlin and Hardin both agreed that the United States has been a deficit milk producing country since 1996. Carlin said, “Without any question, dairy imports are causing the low milk prices paid to dairy farmers.”
Arden Tewksbury, Manager of Pro Ag, reviewed the milk pricing proposals that Pro Ag has developed for the National Family Farm Coalition. The proposals have been sent to USDA for consideration to be aired out in an upcoming milk hearing (time to be announced). Also, the pricing proposals have been reviewed by Senator Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) staff to be developed into a proposed dairy bill.
Tewksbury said, “The proposals would price milk to dairy farmers predicated on the national average cost of producing milk. The production cost is determined by the Economic Research Service, an arm of the USDA.”
It was reported that if the new pricing proposals were presently in effect, the blend price paid to area dairy farmers would be around $17.00 per cwt.
Tewksbury explained the milk supply management program that accompanies the pricing proposals. The Pro Ag manager said, “The Secretary of Agriculture could implement the program if needed, but only after the imports of dairy products were capped at a reasonable level.”
Tewksbury also gave credit to Pro Ag members Gerald Carlin, Brenda Cochran, Donna Hall, and Linda Broyan for going to Alexandria, Virginia, with him to testify against the make allowance. Reportedly, there were only seven or eight dairy farmers who testified at the national hearing, and five of them were Pro Ag members.
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