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The search goes on for a motor vehicle believed to have struck and killed 20- year-old Stephen Smith of Nicholson on November 24 as he lay in the middle of the road in Lenox Township suffering from a gunshot wound.
Authorities are not sure if the driver of the vehicle is actually aware that he hit the victim. They said a heavy fog blanketed Route 92 at the time and may have obstructed his visibility.
Initially, Susquehanna County Coroner Tony Conarton pronounced Smith dead at the scene and said death was caused by a gunshot wound. After he received the results of an autopsy performed on the victim, he said Smith was alive when he was struck by the motor vehicle.
Meanwhile, Rashaun D. Garner, 17, of Wilkes-Barre is being held in the Susquehanna County Jail charged with criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault and terroristic threats.
An affidavit of probable causes reveals that Garner and Smith were two of seven passengers in a vehicle driven by 18-year-old Amanda Fratzola. The group had been at a party in Jackson Township and was returning to the Wyoming County area where some of the passengers lived.
Trooper Greg Deck of the Pennsylvania State Police at Gibson began questioning the passengers. He was told that Smith and Garner started a fist fight inside the vehicle about 4 a.m., and Smith told the driver to pull over and she did. The fight outside apparently turned into a pushing and shoving struggle. Then the passengers inside the vehicle heard what sounded like a firecracker.
One witness was quoted as saying, “My heart dropped to my toes and the first thing I thought was that someone was shot.” Other passengers said that Garner shot Smith.
“I saw a red light flicker from the gun when he fired,” another witness told Trooper Deck. The witness said Garner got back in the car and started crying. “I saw a black gun and he (Garner) started freaking out, saying that if we tell on him he will kill us, or someone would kill us.”
The criminal complaint against Garner alleges that he “did intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently cause the death of another human being. To wit, the defendant discharged a firearm into the victim and left the victim laying wounded on State Route 92, knowing the victim was in need of immediate medical attention.” The weapon was later described by authorities as a .32 caliber handgun.
A Susquehanna County man that authorities allege was responsible for a bomb scare at the county courthouse last May was arrested in Pittsfield, MA and returned to the county to face criminal charges.
Gerald C. Knorr, 46, whose last known address is listed as Hop Bottom, was lodged in the Susquehanna County Jail in default of $250,000 bail to await a preliminary hearing on December 11. He is charged with making terroristic threats and harassment.
District Attorney Jason Legg said Knorr was apprehended after police in Pittsfield arrested him on another charge. Through the National Crime Information Computer System, they learned that Knorr was wanted in Susquehanna County.
Knorr is also wanted in Hillsborough County, FL and authorities there have filed a detainer in Susquehanna County so they can get the next crack at him. According to reports, Florida authorities have charged him with aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief.
According to a State Police criminal complaint, on Tuesday, May 9, at approximately 3 p.m., Knorr is alleged to have telephoned the county courthouse and asked to speak to President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans. Apparently Knorr was due in court the following day regarding a civil matter and he ended his conversation with the judge by suggesting that if he did not have a good day in court, he might decide to blow up the courthouse.
The following day, Sheriff Lance Benedict suggested to the county commissioners that the courthouse be closed. The State Police K-9 Corps was called and arrived with three trained dogs and searched the courthouse for more than four hours looking for anything that resembled a bomb or some semblance of an explosive device. Nothing was found.
Knorr did not show up Wednesday for his court matter and, despite owning a Chevy van that stuck out like a sore thumb because it was painted gray with red stripes, he managed to elude authorities until his arrest in Massachusetts on November 29.
At their meeting on November 28, the Harford Township Supervisors hired Brad Fisher as a mechanic, at $14 per hour. Mr. Fisher is a trained diesel mechanic with a commercial driver license (CDL) and comes highly recommended, in particular by George Sansky, the recently departed mechanic and Roadmaster. Questioned about the starting wage, Supervisor Rick Pisasik said he was happy to have a qualified diesel mechanic at that level, which is slightly lower than what Mr. Sansky was paid. Moreover, Mr. Fisher will presumably have other duties as well, as a member of the township's road crew, as time permits.
Supervisor Sue Furney reported that Hawk Engineering of Binghamton, NY has been asked to submit estimates for work to repair or replace the bridge on Pennay Hill Road and the sluice under Stearns Road. Earlier proposals by CECO of Scranton put engineering costs alone out of sight, and the township is looking for other alternatives that might be less costly. The Pennay Hill bridge project would be at least partially reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); the township probably cannot expect any help with the work at the outlet of Tingley Lake under Stearns Road.
In the meantime, the bypass around the bridge on Pennay Hill Road had to be rebuilt again following recent heavy rains. The Supervisors are concerned that these projects get under way and finished before any more costly damage occurs.
A couple who reside in Kingsley attended to ask for help repairing Mill Street, which they say suffered damage during the past season's flooding that could lead to severe and dangerous icing during the winter. Mr. Pisasik told them that township crews would inspect the area, and "If it's a hazard, we're going to fix it." On the other hand, he and Supervisor Terry Van Gorden pointed out that the township's resources are spread quite thin right now, and would be focused on projects that are deemed most important.
The couple pressed the Supervisors for details about the township's finances. "Where's the money?" they asked, wondering why some $81,000 from FEMA that was put back into the general fund couldn't be applied, say, to Mill Street. They also questioned the work the township did to "dredge" Martin's Creek in Kingsley. Shouldn't Brooklyn Township pay for part of the work, since the creek is the boundary between the two municipalities?
Mr. Pisasik was annoyed by what he characterized as the couple's "attack" on the Supervisors. He responded that the work in Martin's Creek was a one-time effort to help the residents of the area, and that, since no one on the other side of the creek was affected by the flooding there, he wouldn't expect Brooklyn Township to have an interest in helping to fund the project (which was paid from Harford Township funds and is not reimbursable). Both he and Mr. Van Gorden reminded the meeting that the township has expended funds well in excess of the money provided by FEMA to alleviate the affects of the summer's flooding.
In other business, the Supervisors approved a resolution suggested by the Susquehanna County Council of Governments (COG) to require anyone building a "recreational cabin" to provide a signed affidavit stating that the structure is not to be used as a full-time dwelling. Such buildings can be excluded from construction requirements under the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code (UCC).
The Supervisors also proposed an ordinance that will require that property owners installing new sewage systems must complete an agreement with COG to define the maintenance requirements for such systems. The ordinance will apply to systems producing 800 gallons per day or less.
And, finally, the township received a letter from Bronson Pinchot, owner of the large property in the center of Harford village remarking on the use of his property for parking. Mr. Pinchot had removed some obstructing planters along the wall circumscribing his yard at the request of the township. But that made the space available for parking, and Mr. Pinchot intends to re-install the planters if overnight parking continues on his property. Since the area in question is along a state road, the township has no specific interest except to maintain traffic flow and safety in the village. The Supervisors remarked on what must have been an expensive project to improve the appearance of the area, and expressed chagrin that some would take advantage and spoil it.
The next meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors should take place on Saturday, December 9, beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Harold G. Johnson, Mary Lou Johnson to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Dunmore, in Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
Michael R. Manning to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Dunmore, in Little Meadows Borough for zero dollars.
Sharon Short to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Dunmore, in Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
William D. Gow, Gloria L. Gow to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Dunmore, in Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
Kenneth C. Corwin, Jr., Aryle S. Corwin to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Dunmore, in Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
Gary A. Nagy, Sr. to Fiondi Inc., Binghamton, NY, in Middletown Township for $317,500.
Helen M. Oakley to James W. Colwell, RR1, New Milford, Brian L. Colwell, in Harford Township for one dollar.
Richard T. Craige, Elverta M. Craige to Kim M. Forys, Montrose, in Montrose for $93,000.
John R. Kaminski, Beverly A. Kaminski to Jeffrey John Kaminski, RR2, New Milford, Rebecca Kaminski, in Great Bend Borough for one dollar.
John R. Kaminski, Beverly A. Kaminski to Robin L. Kaminski Waldowski, RR1, Great Bend, Tammy M. Kaminski, Jeffrey A. Kaminski, in Great Bend Borough for one dollar.
Shawn Cooper, Rebecca L. Cooper to Lawrence R. Lyons, RR4, Montrose, Anna Lyons, in Little Meadows Borough for $101,000.
Ronald D. Gasbarro to Ronald D. Gasbarro, New Milford, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
John P. Flynn, Heidi L. Flynn to John P. Flynn, Forest City, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Bonnie Rudock (by sheriff), David Mark Ingerson (by sheriff) to JP Morgan Chase Bank (trustee), New York, NY, Equity One ABS Inc., in Gibson Township for $4,557.
Mark Glemboski, Sally Glemboski to David M. Glemboski, Springville, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Household Finance Consumer Discount Co. to James Cimino, Dimock, in Auburn Township for $170,000.
Betty Glemboski to David M. Glemboski, Springville, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Vera E. Everitt (by power of attorney) to Keith L. Everitt, Brackney, Evelyn J. Carley, in Forest Lake Township for one dollar.
Trehab Center Inc. to Anthony J. Yannone, Susquehanna, in Susquehanna for $105,000.
Edward K. Leh (by poa), Karen E. Worthing (by poa) David Leh (by poa), Karen Lambert Leh (by poa), Lorraine Leh Pearson (by poa) John Pearson (by poa) to John E. Coyne III, Wayne, Lyn M. Coyne, in Clifford Township for $950,000.
Jeffrey Allen Medlar, North East, MD and Denise Anne Hodack, North East, MD.
The Internal Revenue Service has filed municipal tax liens against the following individuals for non-payment of income taxes:
Michael Lepre, PO Box 205, Hop Bottom, $108,219.
Joseph Clary, RR2, Montrose, $18,710.
Verbitsky Construction, RR1, Forest City, $148,837.
Verbitsky Construction, RR1, Forest City, $1,013,934.
Charles W. and Marlene L. Robinson, Springville, $7,160.
As an army runs on its stomach, a school runs on its taxes. Funding for school districts in many areas of the country, including Pennsylvania, has become problematical due to a sluggish economy and an aging population, among other reasons. Recently the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed Act 1, which essentially is tax reform for the funding of school districts. The Mountain View School District, in compliance with the Department of Education directive, created the Mountain View School District Tax Commission to present its recommendations to the School Board. These recommendations were presented at the November 27 School Board meeting.
The Tax Study Commission started its work in September, 2006, with five committee members. According to Chairperson Jan Webster of Hop Bottom, these members could not be working, nor have any family member working for the school district in any capacity. A total of five meetings were held to examine the requirements and options Act 1 mandated for school districts. Dr. Andrew Chichura, Acting Superintendent, and Mrs. Jennifer Stone, Business Manager, assisted the Commission as advisors.
As stated in a letter to school district superintendents, Dr. Gerald L. Zahorchak of the Department of Education, clarified that Section 331.2(a) "requires each school district to submit a referendum question to the electors at the primary election of 2007 seeking approval to levy, assess and collect an earned income and net profits tax (EIT) or a personal income tax (PIT) for the purpose of annually funding homestead and farmstead exclusions." This is the purpose of the local Tax Study Commission.
In a separate letter to all local tax study commission members dated September 15, 2006, Dr. Zahorchak states, "The new property tax relief law represents a fundamental change in the Commonwealth's school funding system. An anticipated $1 billion from gaming will be used to provide dollar-for-dollar local tax cuts… And the voters in each community will have unprecedented control over the way their schools are funded.
"The tax relief law allows voters to choose the best mix of local taxes to fund their schools based on the specific needs of each community. Voters will have the power in the Spring 2007 primary election to reduce their property taxes by $1.4 billion by shifting to local income taxes – but the choice rests entirely within each community to determine whether this shift is in the best interest of the local taxpayers."
Ms. Webster said there was a set of criteria that the commission had to follow, and she felt the choices of the Tax Study Commission were limited. The resolution begins by setting forth the mandate and requirements it had to meet, which it met. Item number 4 of the resolution said the commission disagrees with the timelines enacted as being "too vague, ambiguous, and reflect poor planning," item 5 "feels …Act 1 language is overall too vague and ambiguous," item 6 "documented …uncertainty of the dollar amount of property tax relief", item 7 states the Commission "does not have accurate data available to estimate the reduced taxes on qualified residential properties", item 8 "disagrees with the two (2) choice requirement [of PIT or EIT].", item 9 says the Commission " was directed to make a choice for recommendation which it disagrees with", item 10 says the Commission "would have recommended no, participation based upon the review and current documentation available".
The Tax Study Commission "reluctantly" recommended a referendum question be presented to the voters. It states, "Do you favor imposing an additional 1.0% earned income tax? The revenue generated from the increased tax rate will be used to reduce taxes on qualified residential properties by an amount to be determined. The current earned income tax rate is .5%". The final resolution presented to the School Board was passed with four yes votes, with one member absent.
Further info may be obtained on this issue by visiting the Department of Education at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (717) 787–5423.
Various water problems were the focus of the November 28 meeting of the Susquehanna Boro Council.
Requesting time on the agenda was business owner Jeannie Rodriguez. A clogged catch basin on Erie Blvd. has been the cause of water problems at her location for quite some time, but with the excessive rain our area has seen lately, it has become worse. And, just the previous Saturday morning, icy weather made it an even bigger problem when the water froze and made her property inaccessible to the public, creating a safety hazard as well as impeding business. Mike Matis said that there are two clogged catch basins, one of which needs to be replaced, and a 100-foot section of pipe needs to be installed. A contractor had been lined up to do the work back in September, but has been unable to get to it. After discussion as to whether the boro’s streets department could do the work or if another contractor should be found, it was agreed to find another contractor who can do the work as soon as possible, before the ground freezes.
A water problem on Franklin Ave. was brought to council’s attention by a resident. This, also has been a continuing problem. President Tom Kelly said that it is being caused by a sidewalk that has been buried, causing water to accumulate, which then freezes over. Mr. Matis said that replacing the sidewalk is the property owner’s responsibility; if it is not taken care of, the boro does have the option to replace it and bill the owner.
Another water problem further down Franklin Ave. has existed for some time. Mr. Matis feels that this problem is caused by a cross pipe that was installed incorrectly and is too small. As Franklin Ave. is a state road, PennDOT has been contacted, to no avail. Mr. Matis has contacted Rep. Sandra Major, to see if she can be of any help in getting it resolved.
Another resident, on W. Main St., notified council that there has been a runoff problem, with water apparently coming down from Washington St. Mayor Reddon said she had looked into it, and thought it was the result of work done on a driveway. After discussion, it was agreed to ask Shane Lewis to check it out.
In other business, a list of 14 inoperable street lights have been submitted to Penelec, most of them some time ago, but so far they have not been fixed.
Margaret Biegert brought information about a holiday decorating contest that the SCDA is sponsoring for downtown businesses.
Mrs. Biegert had also been involved in a cleanup held recently at the boro’s riverfront park property. Many people had participated in removing brush and other debris, and shortly afterwards, new brush, freshly cut trees, had been dumped at the exact same site. She asked why the gate to that area has not been kept locked, as it should have been for the last three years. Mayor Reddon relayed that she had been approached by a resident who was unaware that the boro no longer sanctions dumping brush there. (Notices to that effect have been published in the County Transcript, as well as included in press coverage of council meetings.) Mr. Kelly suggested that the boro police be asked to keep an eye on the area, to see if they can determine who is dumping there. Mrs. Biegert asked council to consider sponsoring a weekend of chipping for residents, some time in the future to help them dispose of brush.
As part of the Main St. project, Mrs. Biegert asked council to consider wider, more visible crosswalks, or pedestrian warning cones/signs in downtown area to slow vehicle traffic and make the area more “walkable.”
Mrs. Biegert also asked council to consider adding a provision in next year’s budget to dispose of trash that has been dumped at several vacant lots in the boro. Having it hauled away would be less expensive than pursuing offenders through litigation.
At their last meeting, council had expected to enact Ordinances 442 and 443, which allow for property tax breaks for the renovation or replacement of dilapidated buildings. Action had been put on hold because some council members thought that the timeframes allowed for tax reduction for some items were too generous. After discussion, it was agreed to lessen the time allowed for several items in #442, for residential structures. The ordinance requires that a pre-inspection be done, to create a record of what exists and what will be done, and to ensure that any work meets codes requirements. The tax breaks will not be retroactive, only properties that meet the criteria after the date of enactment will qualify. Although owners will need to obtain building permits, the cost of permits will be a worthwhile investment as it will be offset by reduced taxes. A motion carried to adopt both ordinances; Bill Kuiper’s was the lone dissenting vote on both.
A motion carried to allow the Endless Mts. Heritage Region to install a sign at the boro’s river access point, as part of the Susquehanna River Water Trail Orientation and Safety Signage Project being managed by EMHR. The project is being funded by the PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources and the National Park Service through the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network. The signs are expected to be available for installation before the end of the year.
A motion carried to allow the Tax Claim Bureau to sell repository properties in the boro at any price. The properties were listed in two public sales and had not been sold; as no tax revenues are being received for them, it was agreed that allowing the sale would be beneficial as the boro would receive tax revenues once they are sold.
Correspondence received included a letter of resignation from Alan Christensen, the boro’s CEO; a motion carried to accept.
Police officer Laura Watson has completed her probation period; a motion carried to approve a salary raise of 50¢ per hour, as per the union contract.
And, the police department will be asked to look into complaints about a blue van packed full of garbage that has been seen parked at various sites in the boro, as there is concern about whether the garbage is being dumped illegally.
Work continued on the 2007 budget, which is now available for public review and will be adopted at a rescheduled meeting on December 28. It reflects a two-mill increase in taxes.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, December 12, 7 p.m. in the boro building.
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