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The June, 2006 flood knocked down the deck on the back of Renee Warden’s house, located on Shadigee Creek in Starrucca Borough. The November, 2006 flood washed the deck away, flooded the house, the road and other properties along Shadigee Creek, and Starrucca Borough Council continues to drag their feet regarding the repair of the Shadigee Creek wall.
Robert Muller, Jr. (Manager, Wayne County Conservation District) attended the November council meeting "at the request of Solicitor Bugaj" and spoke about the criteria council must meet in order to apply for funds through USDA-NRCS (US Dept. of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service). We've all heard some of council's reasons for not using the FEMA funds... i.e., the creek is on private property, the landowner is responsible for maintenance of the creek wall, etc. Recently, Darl Haynes has stated in various news publications on behalf of himself and Solicitor Bugaj, "...our understanding that moneys applied for the Shadigee Creek Wall project was not eligible funding." Are Mr. Haynes and Solicitor Bugaj insinuating that FEMA awarded funds for a project that was not eligible? Or, is this a public attempt by Mr. Haynes to discredit the efforts of Paul Everett, former FEMA representative? I find it puzzling that Mr. Haynes would take the time to send a list of questions for Mr. Everett to the newspapers. Mr. Everett was in attendance at the November meeting, why didn't Mr. Haynes ask the questions then? What was your point, Mr. Haynes?
Mr. Muller stated that USDA-NRCS requires that council must sign an operation and maintenance agreement stating that council will be responsible for the maintenance of the wall for 10 years, and does not include catastrophic failure. There is a contradiction here; council has previously stated many times that the landowner was responsible for the maintenance of the Shadigee Creek wall, and was requiring that statement in the form of an easement from the landowner. Why is council now willing to assume the maintenance if USDA-NRCS funds are awarded? Where is Tony Palonis? At a previous meeting, he was adamant that the landowner should be held responsible, not council. Doesn't he have an opinion any more? Has he also changed his mind? Who knows? Council meetings were changed from Monday to Wednesday in order to accommodate Mr. Palonis' work schedule and the schedule of the council secretary. It is understandable that Mr. Palonis' work schedule may conflict with an occasional council meeting. As a council member, how can he fulfill his oath of office if he is not attending meetings? I would not expect Mr. Palonis to resign from his employment, but I would expect him to resign from council if he is repeatedly absent from meetings.
Mr. Muller also stated that the Shadigee Creek Wall will be engineered by one engineer from USDA, as well as one engineer from DEP and it must be put out for bid. Mr. Muller also stated the project is "on the list" and "hopes" the project will be funded through USDA-NRCS. What is council's next step if the funds are not awarded from USDA-NRCS? Does it make sense to anyone that council would apply for federal funds through USDA-NRCS when federal funds awarded through FEMA in 2005 for the repair of Shadigee Creek wall and borough roads are sitting in council's FEMA account? Does the USDA-NRCS know about the FEMA funds previously awarded? Will the USDA-NRCS award federal funds for pre-existing damages to the Shadigee Creek wall and borough roads that occurred during Hurricane Ivan (2004) and the April floods of 2005? Will Starrucca Borough Council apply for more funds for the Shadigee Creek wall and borough roads due to the November, 2006 flood? Many residents (including myself) have questioned council's application for federal funds due to the June, 2006 flood.
In January, 2006 Darl Haynes and Kirk Rhone pulled back the GP-11 paperwork submitted to DEP in 2005 for permits necessary to repair the Shadigee Creek wall. Their action was done without any discussion at a council meeting or authorization of council. Further, at the time, Darl Haynes was not the FEMA representative for Starrucca Borough. Their action was in direct violation of the Sunshine Act and the beginning of the mess that now exists regarding federal funds and the repair of the Shadigee Creek wall.
I was not in attendance at the November meeting; however, I viewed the videotape that was made at the meeting – a very thorough source of accurate information and available for review.
In the November 15 edition of the County Transcript, front page, Mr. Amadio reported on the special evening meeting held by our county commissioners to set salaries for all elected officials for the next term. We feel the report was well written, however, we feel that your readers need further clarification on some of the numbers stated. Again, no offense to you, P. Jay, but in the “true spirit” of being auditors, we feel the need to give the “scoop” on some of your numbers.
The report stated that Mr. Conarton, our county coroner, feels that he is the lowest paid elected official in the county. No “sour grapes” whatsoever, but this is simply not true. In fact, there are five elected county positions earning significantly less than the coroner’s current salary.
P. Jay’s report clearly shows that the jury commissioners are truly the lowest paid elected officials in the county. Although this really can be considered a part-time position, it is an elected position nonetheless and these folks do a very fine and important job for the court. Then there are the auditors, perhaps the elected position in the county about which the least is known.
The county auditors in Susquehanna County as well as all other county auditors across the Commonwealth are paid on a per diem basis. This means that we only receive a specified pay rate for each day we are physically in the office performing our duties. We do not get vacation or sick days, and only receive holiday pay when we are in the office the day before and after that particular holiday. Our current rate of pay is $111.06 per day. So let’s take a closer look at this. If this $111.06/day was multiplied for all 365 days of the year, then the auditor’s salary, if you will, would be closer in line to most of the other elected officials, but, this is not the way it works. In fact, a certain total budgeted amount is approved by the commissioners for total auditors’ pay yearly, which equates to about 190 working days each. So take 190 days, times the per diem rate of $111.06 and you will see that a county auditor’s pay averages about $21,101.40 or about $10,000 less than the coroner’s salary and nearly half of other elected positions.
The actual job of a county auditor is a tremendous undertaking, requiring a great deal of knowledge in governmental accounting and reporting procedures to say the least. We do enjoy our job and serving the voters of our county. We get our work done and have managed to come in under budget each and every year.
George P. Starzec
Holly H. Bialy
Susquehanna County Auditors
Correct The Problem
Consumers of milk and milk products in Pennsylvania pay a lot more for milk than do those in New York or New Jersey, or any of our border states.
Why, you ask? The PA Milk Marketing Board establishes a minimum price milk has to sell for, so a few PA producers can keep producing it. So, we all suffer.
Any one of us close to New York can buy milk for dollars less.
The Catch-22 here is, most farmers we see around our area never see a penny of that high cost we have to pay. It does not go to local dairies.
Please, next time you drive by one of the few dairy farmers left, don’t think that they must be raking in a lot of money when, in fact, they are not. Any milk sold to the milk pool gets paid whatever manufactured milk nationwide sells for.
I feel it is time you, the consumers of the high-priced “moo juice” call your newly-elected officials and some of the old ones, too! Have them correct the problem before it is too late!
Peter A. Seman
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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