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Issue Home December 13, 2006 Site Home

SCHS Is Blue Ribbon Contender
B/R Will Cut Taxes
Arrest Made In Home Invasions

Courthouse Report
Gibson Barracks Report
FC School Board Board Shies Away From Tax Increase
Driver Gets Jail Sentence
Great Bend Boro Adopts Budget
Continuity In Montrose
Starrucca Council Meeting Minutes

SCHS Is Blue Ribbon Contender

The board members of the Susquehanna Community School District heard some exciting news at their December 6 meeting. High School Principal Mike Lisowski had received notification from the state Dept. of Education that the high school has been nominated for a Blue Ribbon Award, a very high honor, in recognition of receiving a Keystone Achievement Award for three consecutive years. The Keystone award is given annually to schools that meet or exceed Annual Yearly Progress standards. Mr. Lisowski compared the Blue Ribbon Award to the equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize, or the Nobel Prize, it is that prestigious. He commended the faculty, students and their families and the entire school community for their contributions to this achievement. The field of contending schools has been narrowed down to only thirteen, with Susquehanna being the only high school to have been nominated in the last three years. The downside is that the final outcome will not be known until September. Superintendent Bronson Stone concurred that this is a prestigious honor, and noted that just four years ago, the school was on the “needs improvement” list.

Mr. Stone had more good news to report. The district will be receiving Title VI grant funding, geared for schools with small (low) enrollment; funds, expected to be about $20,000 will be used to continue technology improvements, with “smart boards” and LCD projectors to be purchased for the fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

The district has also been awarded a DCED grant, which will be used for repair of the track; the existing track will be ground down and repaved and expanded in size.

In keeping with Act I, a preliminary budget will be ready in January. In February, a public hearing will be held on the question that will be on the primary ballot, whether or not the district should enact an Earned Income Tax (EIT) or a Personal Income Tax (PIT). In a related action, a motion carried to amend the October 18 minutes to reflect that the board had accepted the receipt of the Tax Study Commission’s recommendations not to adopt an EIT or a PIT; the original wording implied that the board had accepted the commission’s recommendation not to adopt an EIT or a PIT. Under Act I, the board cannot determine whether such taxes will be enacted, it will be decided at the polls in May.

New software is being implemented to improve the efficiency of the transportation system, with a trial run expected to take place some time in February.

At their reorganization, held prior to the beginning of the regular meeting, Terry Carpenter was reappointed as board president, and Steven Stanford as vice president.

In other business, items approved by the board include the following.

The meeting schedule for 2007; meetings will now begin at 7:00 p.m.

Dissolving the Tax Study Commission.

Turning the “Oakland School” property over to the borough of Oakland.

Granting John Kropcho Jr. & Associates permission to create bid specifications and seek qualified service providers for a roof repair project for the high school.

The county Tax Claim Bureau to accept any price for three unsold repository properties located within the district.

Larry Todd of Lakewood Garage for snow removal at the rate of $20 per incident, for a bus turnaround on Shehawken Road.

Four bus contract changes.

The resignations of head football coach Richard Bagnall, effective November 8 and boys’ volleyball game manager Tom Adornato, effective November 2.

Hiring of staff for the 2006-07 school year: senior class advisor Anastasia Zabielski; after school homework help/tutoring, Carolyn Homer, Debra Stone, Rachael Gilleran, Sandra Harris, Leanne Rhone.

Substitute teachers for the 2006-07 school year: Robin Burdick, Rose Ann Escandel, Tom Escandel, Brion Stone.

Substitute bus drivers for the 2006-07 school year: Roberta Christianson, Jim Sellitto.

Two volunteers, Brion Stone, junior high girls’ basketball and Harold McKinney, elementary wrestling.

The customary lists of activities and fundraising activities.

The next meeting will be on Wednesday, January 17, 7 p.m. in the administration offices in the elementary building.

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B/R Will Cut Taxes
By Ted Brewster

Blue Ridge School Board President Alan Hall said that he expects to begin cutting taxes within five to seven years.

Following a brief reorganization meeting at which Mr. Hall was re-elected by his colleagues to serve another year as their president, the board heard a presentation by Michael Dougherty of Murphy, Dougherty & Co., the district's independent auditors. Mr. Dougherty distributed a detailed report of his findings, and pronounced the district's financial position sound. The auditors' opinion was "unqualified, the best you can get," said Mr. Dougherty.

According to the report, Blue Ridge had accumulated a "fund balance" of about $2.42 million by the end of the last fiscal year, in July. That was about $162,000 over last year and 20% over what was expected in the budget. Mr. Dougherty said that higher state subsidies and better investment performance brought in almost $350,000 more than expected. And the district spent about $323,000 less than expected.

Asked about the ever-growing surpluses after the meeting, Mr. Hall said that it was due to careful fiscal management, which he expects to lead to tax cuts within 5-7 years. He said that the flooding this past summer will result in about a quarter of a million dollars less revenue in the short term, but that declining debt service and retiring some of the district's bonds, along with gradually declining enrollment (currently 1,219), will ultimately cut expenses enough to be able to shave rates for the district's taxpayers.

The financial details could not overshadow the announcement that Elementary School Principal Robert Dietz will retire at the end of the current school year. In his letter to the Board, Mr. Dietz said he wanted to take advantage of the district's latest retirement incentive package (also approved at the meeting), announcing his intentions well enough in advance to allow the board to select a replacement in good time. Mr. Dietz was applauded and thanked for his 16 years of service to the children in the Blue Ridge School District.

In other business, the board adopted a collection of changes to the district's policy manual, most of them minor revisions meant to keep policy in line with recent changes in law. During discussion the board added clarifications and additional amendments. The schools' policy manual is public information and is available at the school library. Some of the recent changes involve taxable fringe benefits for faculty and staff, fraud, student discipline, home-schooled and cyber and cyber-charter students, dress codes and cell phones.

The board approved a recommendation last month by High School Principal John Manchester for the creation of a robotics club under Schedule B of the teachers' contract. Mr. Manchester said he expects the club to start up "immediately" with 10-12 students, including some from the vocational program and others from the gifted program. If the club gets involved in competitions some substantial expense could be involved, he said; but some of the funds could be available through grants.

The board approved a bid from RGM Hardwoods, Inc. of Moscow, PA to supply wood chips for heating at $32 per ton. Business Manager Loren Small said the district uses about 800 tons of the stuff per year. He also said the price was about $6 per ton lower than last year. Mr. Hall asked Mr. Small to come up with some figures showing what the district might be saving by using wood chips rather than, say, oil, to heat the schools.

A list of coaching positions was approved with two exceptions. James Corse, the Blue Ridge Activities Director, was listed for two positions. Board member Joel Whitehead questioned whether that might constitute a conflict of interest of sorts. Superintendent Robert McNamara said that the two track coaching positions had drawn no other applicants. The two slots were tabled for consideration later.

Mr. Manchester's report included the announcement that Katie Bovencamp was awarded a "Gold" scholarship by the McKelvey Foundation. The scholarship will pay for four years at a major college in Pennsylvania.

Taxes may or may not come down in the future, but they still have to be paid. As an addendum, the school board adopted recommendations to allow the Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau to collect delinquencies and sell "repository properties" as necessary. There had been some question whether or not the district would hire another firm to carry out this chore, a matter that got tangled up with the dispute between the district and its six locally-elected tax collectors.

The meeting was the last of 2006. The board approved a meeting schedule for next year similar to the current one: the second and fourth Mondays of the month. The Blue Ridge School Board will next meet in public on Monday, January 8, 2007, in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.

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Arrest Made In Home Invasions

Pennsylvania State Police at Gibson announced the arrest of James Edward Farley, Reading, PA for burglaries that were committed on October 17 and December 3.

On October 27, Farley is accused of entering an occupied home along SR 706, Bridgewater Township. While inside, Farley engaged in a struggle with the victim and struck him in the head several times with a hammer. The victim was home alone at the time of the crime. During the struggle, Farley bound the victim’s hands with handcuffs and his feet with zip ties. He then removed approximately $2,800 in cash from the home. Farley then fled the scene, leaving the victim partially bound.

On December 3, Farley is accused of entering an occupied home at Place Road, Auburn Township. While inside, Farley engaged in a struggle and struck the victim in the head with a hammer. The victim was home alone and asleep at the time of the crime. During the struggle, Farley bound the victim’s hands with handcuffs and his feet with rope. He then removed approximately $500 in cash and two rifles. Farley then fled the scene, leaving the victim bound.

On December 6, Chief John Krieg, Meshoppen Borough Police Dept., received information from a reliable informant that the rifles from the December 3 burglary were at the residence of Steven Michael Bennett at Montrose Terrace Park. State Police and Susquehanna County Probation Officers were able to recover the guns from under Bennett’s bed. Bennett was taken into custody on a probation violation. It was determined through the investigation that Farley brought the weapons to this location.

Farley was charged with two counts each of Burglary, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition, Receiving Stolen Property, and Possessing Instruments of Crime.

Farley was picked up on a warrant for these crimes on December 7 at his residence by the Reading City Police Dept. and transported back to Gibson by State Police.

He was arraigned by District Judge Gene Franklin, Clifford. Farley was unable to post $400,000 bail ($200,000 for each incident) and was remanded to the Susquehanna County Jail. The preliminary hearing has been scheduled for December 18 at 1:15 p.m.

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Courthouse Report
Compiled By P. Jay Amadio


Reese A. Price (estate), Anthony Price (aka) Anthony W. Price, Theresa Ann Dingee (aka) Theresa Price to Theresa Price, RR1, Nicholson, in Lenox Township for one dollar.

Diane E. VanGorden to Steven D. Whritenour, RR2, Susquehanna, in Oakland Borough for $46,500.

Paul S. Stein, Heather M. Stein to Harold E. McFall, RR1, Brackney, Carolyn McFall, in Silver Lake Township for $233,500.

Mary E. Snyder, Charles H. Snyder, Michelle L. Fox Snyder to Richard T. Henry, Margaretta Henry, RR1, Susquehanna, in Jackson Township for $29,500.

Margaret A. Lockett to Margaret A. Lockett, Herrick Center, George E. Emmons, in Herrick Township for one dollar.

Joseph J. Scott, Holly A. Scott to Joseph J. Scott, Susquehanna, in Susquehanna for one dollar.

Joseph J. Scott, Holly A. Scott to Joseph J. Scott, Susquehanna, in Susquehanna for one dollar.

Larry N. Fletcher, Barbara Jean Fletcher to Stephen J. Starks, RR1, Great Bend, Debora J. Starks, in Great Bend Township for $13,400.

Richard J. Foote, Mary Jane Foote to Jeremy Paul Dabulewicz, RR2, Montrose, Ursula Dabulewicz, in Forest Lake Township for $150,000.

Manley Fowler (by sheriff), Carol Fowler (by sheriff) to Ocwen Mortgage Asset Trust 1, West Palm Beach, FL, in Bridgewater Township for $2,001.

John L. Gudaitis, Elizabeth A. Gudaitis to Gudaitis Trust, Forest City, in Forest City for one dollar.

Peoples State Bank of Wyalusing to Richard Place, Laceyville, Charlotte Place, in Auburn Township for $68,000.

Gregg D. Whitney (by sheriff), Faye I. Whitney (by sheriff) to FederalHome Loan Mortgage Corp, Vienna, VA, in Little Meadows Borough and an out of county municipality, for $1,844.

Walter S. Oakley, Margaret J. Oakley to Walter S. Oakley, Brackney, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.

Frederick W. Iannitto, Joseph Iannitto, Frances T. Iannitto to Joseph Iannitto, Philadelphia, Frances T. Iannitto, in Apolacon and Choconut townships for one dollar.

Getaway Land Co. LLC to Deborah Traver, Meshoppen, Steven J. Morris, in Auburn Township for $59,300.

Betty Glemboski to Christopher R. Glemboski to Christopher R. Glemboski, Basking Ridge, NJ, Irene Glemboski in Lathrop Township for one dollar.

Timothy J. Rothrock, Stephanie J. Rothrock to Robert Porreca, Blenheim, NJ, Jane Porreca, in Ararat Township for $70,000.

Joanne Ricker, Gary Ricker to James F. Voelzer, Binghamton , NY, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.

Barbara J. Button, Charles J. Moses, Ramona M. Auchinachie, Robert Auchinachie to Moses Camp Legacy LLC, Binghamton, NY, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.

Anthony Bisogno, Susan Bisogno (nka) Susan Kriskowski to Anthony Bisogno, Monroe Township, in Jackson Township for $45,000.

Geoffrey T. McKernan (aka) Geoffery T. McKernan, Nancy Ward McKernan to Mark P. O’Connor, Haverford, Susan E. O’Connor.

Mark P. O’Connor, Susan E. O’Connor to Charles A. Murray, Fort Washington, Karyn D. Murray, in Harford Township for $125,000.

Mary B. Bahan to Michael S. Gillingham, RR2, Montrose, Cheryl A. Gillingham, in Choconut Township for $117,500.

Mark G. Tims, Lisa M. Tims to Mark G. Tims, Brackney, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.

John T. Kurilla, Karen L. Kurilla to Mary L. Cianciulli, Clarks Summit, in Clifford Township for $280,000.

Mary V. Tourje, Edward E. Tourje, Rebecca K. Sheridan, Allen Sheridan to Adam J. Smith, Forest City, in Herrick Township for $130,000.

Joann Heller (aka) Joan Heller to Mary Ciamaichelo, Philadelphia, in Union Dale for one dollar.

Joann Heller (aka) Joan Heller to Mary Ciamaichelo, Union Dale, Susan Calabro, Margaret Heller, William Heller, Thomas Heller, Patricia Cino, James Heller in Union Dale for one dollar.

Lawrence A. Brown, Linda A. Brown to Michael S. Solebello, Ocean Grove, NJ, Mary Brenda Solebello, in Herrick Township for $54,000.

Brice Whitney to David C. Berg, RR1, Susquehanna, Stefanie R. Berg, in New Milford Township for $20,000.

David C. Berg, Stefanie R. Berg to Brice A. Whitney, RD2, New Milford, in New Milford Township for $20,000.

Elizabeth E. Evans (by power of attorney) to Robert John Segerstrom, Bridgewater, NJ, Terrilyn A. Segerstrom, in Thompson Borough for $116,850.

Kristian B. Lesjack, Kimberly Gable-Lesjack to Anthony J. Gigliotti, Carbondale, Linda D. Gigliotti, in Great Bend Borough for $18,000.

Lillian M. Gallagher to Thomas P. Gallagher, Susquehanna, in Oakland Borough for $125,000.

Wilbur E. Sweazey, Nancy S. Sweazey to James D. Sweazey, Glen Gardner, NJ, in Jackson Town ship for one dollar.

Alan J. Hinkley, Nancy A. Hinkley, Michael K. Hinkley, Kristen Hinkley to Anne M. Mills, New Milford, in New Milford Borough for $90,000.

Mark F. Oakley, Terrie A. Oakley to Christopher D. Slocum, RR2, New Milford, Brooke M. Lewis in New Milford and Harford townships for $95,000.

Faith M. Vis to David Vis, Providence, RI, in New Milford Township for one dollar.


John Gregorio, Endicott, NY vs. Lyndell Reid, Afton, NY. Married Dec. 27, 1978.

Donald S. Henry, Hallstead, vs. Kathy L. Henry, Kirkwood, NY. Married May 30, 1986.

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Gibson Barracks Report


Sometime between the 4th and 14th of November, Beatrice Short of Brackney had numerous Christmas items stolen from a barn on her property. The barn was intended to be used as an indoor flea market. Items stolen included Christmas wreaths, a glass snowman, Christmas figurines, and wind chimes.


Sometime in the last year a 1991 Toyota 4Runner belonging to Neil A. Mack of Massachusetts was removed from his property on McGavin Road. The vehicle was recovered on November 6, from Elk Lake Road in Auburn Township.


On December 3, a white male wearing black clothing forcibly entered the home of Charlie Tyler of Meshoppen. While inside the house he removed two firearms, struck the victim about the head area with a hammer, and ordered him to the floor, where he was bound. The suspect then asked for money before fleeing the residence with two rifles and around $500 in cash. The victim sustained injuries to his head and refused medical treatment at the scene.


On November 30, a copper colored Honda Accord began to follow the vehicle in which Sharon Bickford and Martha Cuomo were driving. It started following them near Mastroserio’s restaurant. The Accord was following them too closely, and eventually passed their vehicle as they turned on State Route 1028. It then stopped in the roadway, in an attempt to block their passage. The victims drove through the Dean Manufacturing parking lot and continued on to the Susquehanna County Courthouse where they summoned police response. The driver of the Accord, George Bickford, was arrested on several violations of the PACC and PAVC.


The Pennsylvania police at Gibson announced the arrest of Rashaun D. Garner (17 years old) of Wilkes Barre. Garner is accused of shooting Stephen Smith, 20, of Nicholson and leaving him wounded on State Route 92. On November 24, at about 4 a.m., the Gibson Barracks were notified that a person was lying on route 92. It appeared initially as if he had been hit by a vehicle, and he was pronounced dead on the scene by county coroner Anthony Conarton. It was discovered through further investigation that Garner and Smith were arguing while traveling in a friend's vehicle on that road. Garner and Smith exited the vehicle near the Wyoming County line. Garner then shot Smith with a handgun and left him lying on the road, where he was later struck by a vehicle which left the scene. State police apprehended Garner hiding in a safe in Newton Township. Mark Yevonishon, 21, and Eric Schanbacher, 23, both of Clarks Summit were charged with Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution for their role in hiding Garner. Garner was charged as an adult with Criminal Homicide, Aggravated Assault, and Terroristic Threats. He will be arraigned before District Judge Jeff Hollister of Montrose. The investigation is continuing.


On November 27, Zachary Smith of Princeton, NJ picked up a ringing payphone at the Great Bend Burger King. The caller on the other end threatened him. He did not know who it was.


Sometime between the 22nd and 28th of November, a tar trailer belonging to Aggregates Construction of Tunkhannock was stolen while parked near exit 223 on State Route 0492. The trailer is valued at $5,150.


On December 4, Dana Hall of Binghamton reported that someone had smashed windows in her rental property at 121 Church Street in New Milford.


On November 23 at around 2:45 a.m., John Fleegel of Camp Lejuene, NC was driving on 81 in New Milford Township. He lost control of his vehicle on an ice covered roadway and hit the guardrail. He then flipped over the guardrail and rolled approximately 200 feet down the embankment. Both he and his passenger, Michelle Simmons of Skaneateles, NY, were wearing seatbelts and sustained only minor injuries, despite disabling damage to the vehicle.


On November 25, near State Route 3009 in Auburn Township, Robert Kolmansberger of Mehoopany, PA was pulling into a driveway off the east edge of the Northbound lane. An unidentified vehicle was at that time passing on a double yellow line, going South in the Northbound lane. It struck the first vehicle, then fled the scene.

If anyone has information regarding these cases please contact the Gibson Police Barracks at (570) 465-3154.

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FC School Board Board Shies Away From Tax Increase

The Forest City Regional Board of Education voted last week to raise its earned income tax by one percent. Well, almost.

Motion 4 on the board’s meeting agenda was to “accept the recommendation of the school district’s tax study commission as presented in the public meeting of Monday, November 13.” That recommendation was to increase the earned income tax by one percent.

However, when Director Fred Garm made the motion, he altered it to read that the board accepts the report of the tax study commission that includes a recommendation to raise the earned income tax by one percent. The motion, that was seconded by Director Michael Sterchak and approved by the board, is not the same as it appeared on the meeting agenda. However, the agenda only serves as a guideline for the board and is subject to change. Then, too, the state Department of Education authorized the tax study commission to “make a nonbinding recommendation regarding the imposition of an additional earned income tax or new personal income tax to annually fund homestead/farmstead exclusions, to its school board by December 13,2006.” And so, it now appears the ball is in the hands of the school board and they will need to sit down and analyze the tax commission’s recommendation and the alternatives.

There are some important dates attached to the subject. For example, December 31 is the deadline for school districts to mail to the owner of each parcel of residential property in the district a notice stating that the homeowner must submit a completed application to the county assessor to qualify for homestead exclusion.

There is a chart that gradually scales down the tax savings as income increases but the average homeowner in the Forest City Regional School District is expected to receive a property tax rebate of $273 if the school board increases the earned income tax (EIT), or develops another program capable of replacing the loss of revenue from the property tax rebates. Then, too, the final decision on whether the district can increase the EIT will be decided by a referendum question on the May, 2007 primary election ballot. All participating municipalities in a regional school district must approve the referendum or it will be rejected.

“It’s just shifting the taxes,” Al Dyno, president of the Forest City Regional Board of Education, said.

Another important date is January 25, 2007 which is the deadline for the school district to make its 2007-2008 preliminary budget available for public inspection. A school district can bypass the budget presentation if it adopts a resolution indicating that it will not raise the rate of any tax by more than its index. In the case of Forest City Regional, the maximum tax increase to support the 2007-2008 budget is 4.6 percent.

By February 19, 2007, a school district must submit a preliminary budget to the Department of Education showing any proposed tax increase. If the district does not raise its tax beyond the 4.6 percent index, it can seek approval from the Department of Education or the Court of Common Pleas for referendum exceptions. If the district does not have approval to bypass a referendum, it must submit a request to the county Board of Elections for a referendum seeking voter approval of any tax increase in excess of the district’s index.

Special Session Act 1 of 2006 was signed into law on June 27, 2006. The intent of the law is to ease the financial burden of home ownership by providing school districts with additional money so the district can lower property taxes. The Commonwealth hopes to get enough money from the recently-allowed gaming machines to pump $1 billion a year into local property tax relief. According to some sources, any new or increases in current taxes imposed by boards of education will be repealed when the gaming revenues hit $750,000,000.

Dyno’s election as board president at the annual organization meeting was unanimous. However, there was a contest for vice president. Mary Emmett edged Margery Schwartz by a 5-4 margin. Ironically, the swing vote that went to Emmett was cast by Henry Nebzydoski who, along with Schwartz, are the two representatives from Pleasant Mount.

Also at the organization meeting, the board agreed to continue the second Monday of the month for its regular meetings and the first Monday of the month for work sessions except in January, July, September and December.

In personnel matters, the board hired Joan Kopa as the school psychologist effective January 2 at a salary of $58,000 for a 200-day work contract; hired Catherine Fedak as the art/gifted teacher at a salary of $38,237; and added Girard Histed to the substitute teacher list for the 2006-2007 school year.

High School Principal Anthony Rusnak reported that Michael Gulbin has been named a commended student in the 2007 National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation recognized 34,000 commended students from across the nation for their exceptional academic promise.

The missing championship banners for athletic achievements by the school have been found, according to School Superintendent Robert J. Vadella and will be displayed in the gymnasium prior to the Christmas holiday break.

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Driver Gets Jail Sentence

A 23-year-old Susquehanna County man, who caused a motor vehicle accident that claimed the life of five-year-old Megan Thomas, will serve four and one-half years to 14 years in a state correctional facility on an assortment of charges including homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence.

Besides the jail sentence, Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans also fined Jacob J. Herbert of Great Bend a total of $6,800 and suspended his driving privilege while he is on supervision. He will receive credit for time served in the Susquehanna County Jail.

On March 17, Herbert plowed into a mini-van on State Route 2063 at the entrance to the South New Milford Baptist Church where Megan’s paternal grandfather, the Rev. Lawrence Thomas is pastor. Rev. Thomas and the girl’s maternal grandfather, Edwin Lindsey paid tribute to the girl just before Herbert was sentenced. Their talks soaked the eyes of most of the child’s family and friends in the courtroom.

In addition to the homicide charge, Herbert pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering another person, accident involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed and accident involving death or personal injury.

A witness to the crash told State Police that the mini-van carrying Megan, her brother, Chad; her grandmother, Nancy Lindsey; and, her great-grandmother, Laura Jennings, had slowed down to pull into the church driveway when the accident occurred. He said Herbert started to pass his vehicle on the left side of the roadway, over a double yellow line and plowed into the back of the mini-van. The witness said that after the crash, Herbert fled the scene and headed north toward New Milford Borough.

A second witness said he observed the truck fleeing the scene of the crash and he followed it to the Pump and Pantry in New Milford. The vehicle was found unattended behind the Pump and Pantry. Herbert was located at his residence and admitted he was driving the truck.

Megan Thomas resided in Milliport, NY with her parents, Sam and Marcy Thomas and brothers, Chad and Zachary.

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Great Bend Boro Adopts Budget

Great Bend Borough Council members observed a moment of silence before adjourning their last meeting of the year to honor the memory of the 65th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, and those who are serving the country abroad today. The freely elected representatives of the citizens of the little town took time to remember what they are about.

Unfortunately, what they are about is mostly money: how to get more, and how to spend as little as possible. To that end, they adopted a final budget for 2007 that calls for a 1 mill increase in property taxes, to 7.88 mills. (The Fire Company gets three quarters of a mill; no change there.)

The borough hasn't raised tax rates in several years, but they are feeling the pinch now, with little prospect for revenue growth any other way. One mill is worth about $8,500 to the borough of less than 800 residents. That is just about the amount the budget will rise next year, to nearly $111,000.

The one-page budget document doesn't compare the new with the old, but presumably the major increases are for employee wages and rising fuel costs. In fact, toward the end of the meeting Mayor Jim Riecke asked for a sudden executive session. When council returned about 15 minutes later, Council chair Bea Alesky announced that it concerned an employee salary issue.

A major responsibility of the town's government is maintenance of its streets. Council member Ron Cranage reported that Spring Street was in urgent need of repair, largely from the effects of this year's floods. The problem seems to be that the roadway is below the surrounding grade for most of its length; high water tends to wash out the road bed, breaking up the pavement. Water Street is thought to be in a similar situation.

Council didn't take any action, but Ms. Alesky asked that information be collected for decision in January. PennDOT will be contacted for help in deciding what can be done. Estimates will be solicited.

It is said that some residents in the Spring Street area would just as soon keep the potholes, to deter youngsters from trying their luck on the large humps in the road formed by the dikes surrounding the sewer plant. As dangerous as that practice is, however, most would like to see the street repaired.

A recent request by a resident of the Kime apartments to install a crosswalk to make it easier for elderly residents to get to the Blue Ridge Senior Center was turned aside as too complicated and potentially expensive. Council member Joe Collins had investigated the possibilities, but his colleagues decided it just wasn't worth the hassle.

Borough Secretary Sheila Guinan presented an update to a borough ordinance requested by the Council of Governments (COG). Recent changes to the law governing the state Uniform Construction Code (UCC) require regular permits for mobile homes. The borough's ordinance covering non-UCC structures requires a fee for installing a mobile home, meaning that COG would be constrained to assess two fees for the same thing.

The apparently simple change sparked a long and warm debate over fees charged generally for construction in the borough, which has little space available for new structures: most permits issued in Great Bend Borough are for either mobile homes, or improvements to existing homes. Garages, decks, sheds, pole barns, etc., require a permit that currently carries a fee of $50 (collected by COG but paid to the borough).

So that the borough isn't seen as discouraging home improvements, council updated its ordinance not only to remove the fee for mobile homes, but to cut in half the fee for other non-UCC construction, to $25.

Council and many local residents are concerned about the possibility that a high-power electrical distribution line will be built through the area as part of the New York Regional Interconnect system that would supply more electricity to the New York City suburbs. The Great Bend Borough Council has asked its solicitor, Frank O'Connor, to draft an ordinance that would assess a fee or tax on any such utility building through the town which does not also benefit the town in some way. Council asked that Mr. O'Connor be urged to complete the draft as soon as possible.

As an added inducement, Council would prefer not to pay Mr. O'Connor's invoices until they show an itemized list of services provided, something they have asked for repeatedly in the past.

Borough employee Alan Grannis has already collected a lot of wood from discarded pallets for the annual holiday bonfire. He may have to store the slabs for a while. Council decided not to sponsor the bonfire this year. Maybe in January?

A request for some help with a dog problem on Hayes Street is being handled informally. Codes enforcer Ron Cranage spoke to the dog's owner with some hope of settlement, but finds that the problem continues. The borough has no specific ordinance on dogs, deferring instead to the County. Mr. Cranage has also met with resistance from some other residents who seem to take less pride in their property than might be expected. The borough purchased a digital camera for him to use to document the cases, which he will take to the district justice as necessary.

New council member Patricia Thatcher is keeping a low profile so far; other members certainly make up for her reticence in meetings. Curiously, of the seven members of Council, none were really sure of their own terms of office until Ms. Guinan read them off from a brochure published by the League of Women Voters. Jerry MacConnell, Ron Cranage and Joe Collins will decide on their seats in 2007.

The Great Bend Borough Council will meet next on Tuesday, January 2, 2007 to reorganize itself, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the borough building.

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Continuity In Montrose

The December 4 meeting of the Montrose Borough Council was one of continuance rather than change. Appointments to borough positions were made, but they were reappointments of those currently holding the positions. Marion O'Malley will once again serve as the borough solicitor, and Annette Rogers as the secretary. Robert J. Brown, CFP, which company was hired four months ago to manage the borough's police pensions, was approved to continue in this role. A representative of that company attended the meeting, and presented before the board a report of the profit made through its investments.

Two ordinances which have been tabled repeatedly were tabled again this month, though one may soon be done away with permanently. The lack of a holding facility for out of county youth who violate the Youth Curfew Ordinance continues to keep this issue from being resolved. The closest facility of this nature for females, for example, is in Hazleton. The borough decided to postpone any action until the January meeting; in the meantime a search will be made for other similarly sized communities that have a youth curfew in order to see how they handle the problem. The Renter's Ordinance may soon be discarded entirely. The lack of a Code Enforcement Officer would make the quality assurance aspect of the ordinance difficult. There was further discussion as to whether or not this was what the borough sought to achieve by the document anyway. It was decided that it wasn't, that quality control was something which the Department of Labor and Industry would pursue and which the Borough, lacking a CEO, would ordinarily not. This would leave the ordinance in existence as a renter registration tool, a means of knowing who lives within the borough's boundaries. Someone pointed out, however, that Berkheimer, the recently appointed Borough tax collection agency, might provide this information in the course of its services anyway. The ordinance was put on hold until it could be ascertained whether or not this would occur.

Following the meeting's trend of decisions for continuance, a local park will retain its name. It had been proposed that the Memorial Park be renamed The Daniel Arnold Memorial Park, in honor of a fallen soldier. Members of the council felt, however, that to do this would be to single out one soldier, when as it stands the park is there to memorialize all fallen soldiers from all wars. Daniel Arnold is honored under the park's name now, as are others who have gone before. The park then, will remain named Memorial Park, though a tree or bench may be dedicated to him specifically.

A topic currently causing some local dissension was discussed near the end of the meeting; who will be the recipients of money allocated for borough “beautification and restoration.” The money is the result of one man's generosity. When his building was taken out of the tax rolls due to its use as the Community Foundation, he decided to donate money, in lieu of taxes, for the aforementioned purpose. This has become a bit of an issue as the Montrose Restoration Committee wants to claim it, and others feel that “beautification and restoration” can have a wider scope and be pursued by other bodies as well. The council decided that all the money would not currently go to the Committee.

The Montrose Borough Council will have a special meeting to consider its 2007 budget on Monday December 11, at 7:00.

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Starrucca Council Meeting Minutes

Following are the Starrucca Borough Council meeting minutes for November 1, as submitted.

The Starrucca Borough Council met for their regular monthly meeting on November 1. President Rhone, Mr. Lou Gurske, Mrs. Helen Haynes, Mr. Fred Rhone, and Mr. Robert Buck were present. Mr. Anthony Palonis and Mr. Donald Haynes were absent.

President Rhone called the meeting to order. The minutes from the previous meeting were read, and a motion carried to approve.

The treasurer’s report was given  and a motion carried to approve.

The bills were presented for payment. The bill for Thompson Borough ($660.19) will be held until the next meeting. A motion carried to approve.

Correspondence was read.

A motion carried to accept the contract with Thompson Fire Company.

A motion carried to authorize the Road Committee to select a road project and submit the same for a possible Dirt and Gravel Road Program grant.

Mr. Robert Muller, Jr. from the Wayne County Conservation told council that the borough solicitor had asked him to attend this meeting to explain the borough’s history with the “wall” (Shadigee Creek). He told the borough has received funding several times over the years for the wall. He told of the NRCS program that funds “Emergency Watershed Protection.” He explained how the system is federally funded, the state commits the engineering through the DEP, and the borough would become the “sponsor,” as the money cannot be given to an individual. As the sponsor, the borough would be responsible to handle the funds, the bidding process, obtaining the easements, and conducting construction inspections, which is aided by his office. The “Operations and Maintenance” agreements last for ten years, and in some cases side agreements are made with the landowners, but in no way is the borough responsible for a catastrophic failure, which he stated “has occurred in this case.” He stated that both the wall and Mr. Gurske’s land are on the list. The sites are then examined and given a ranking by Harrisburg, and once determined, “the process begins.” He then took questions from the crowd.

In borough reports: Mr. Darl Haynes, FEMA agent, reported money has been allocated for the Community Hall flooring only, not the floor joists, and turned the matter over to the Hall Committee. Mr. F. Rhone spoke on behalf of the Hall Committee and invited citizens and the Civic Committee to meet for suggestions.

Mr. Haynes also listed road projects that funding has been allocated for, following the June storm. “Winter Road Maintenance” was then discussed. It was reported neither Miller Brothers nor Harmony Township were interested. Preston Township offered to plow and cinder the Stephano Road for $500 and the Coxton Lake Road for $1,500 for the season. A second proposal from Como Construction offered plowing and cindering all roads, with the exception of Fairmount and Kellogg, which are maintained by Scott Township, for a price of $50 an hour plus $15 per ton for the cinders. A motion carried to accept Como Construction’s proposal at the price quoted.

A motion carried to have Jackie Young, Wayne County Redevelopment Authority, use the county engineer’s (Stephen Knash) specs on Stephano Bridge, for the purpose of bidding out the engineering on the project.

A motion carried to apply through the CDBG grants to obtain an additional $35,000 for the Stephano Bridge.

In other business:

A motion carried to adopt an ordinance to place a stop sign at Jacob’s Ladder Road and Coxton Lake Road.

A motion carried to have the following roads surveyed: Buck, Stephano, Leach Creek, Penn Hill and Kellogg for the price of $2,900 by Butler Land Surveying. Mr. Gurske was opposed, stating he feels the borough should wait until next year or when the finances can be straightened out.

A motion carried to advertise the proposed budget open for public inspection, to be adopted at next meeting. Mr. Gurske was opposed. President Rhone announced he would place a copy at the building for review as well.

Mr. F. Rhone suggested the board consider an ordinance to regulate buildings not covered by the UCC, as other municipalities are doing, and gaining the revenue from the same.

A motion carried to add a $25 administrative fee to Sewage Permit fees.

Mr. Gurske asked council to send Mr. Palonis a letter, demanding his resignation, as he has “shown little interest” in borough matters. Mr. Martin told Mr. Gurske that a judge must remove him.

Mr. Martin questioned the need for a road survey. He also asked if any interest has been shown in the position of mayor.

Mr. Jack Downton submitted a letter of interest for that position, and a motion carried to appoint him as such.

Mr. Downton asked about the loans.

No further business to come before the board, a motion carried to adjourn.

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