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They call themselves the “Hoover Group.” No, they are not vacuum cleaner salesmen. They are a group of Clifford Township taxpayers who are vehemently opposed to the installation of a sewer system in the Dundaff/Crystal Lake sections of the township.
“In 1927,” their spokesman, Attorney Jim Sposito told the township supervisors last week, “Herbert Hoover promised two chickens in every pot and a car in every garage. In 1928 there were no two chickens in every pot. And by 1929 there was no car in every garage.
“There is no free lunch. Will the sewers be free? No, there is nothing for free.”
Sposito and a standing-room-only crowd jammed the meeting room to protest the concept of running sewer lines from Dundaff and Crystal Lake to the Greenfield Township sewer plant off Route 247. Sposito presented the supervisors with petitions containing 418 signatures opposed to the sewer system.
“Most of the 418 people who signed the petition opposing the sewer plan are property owners,” Sposito said. By way of contrast, he pointed out that three signers of the petitions favored the sewers.
Sposito questioned the need for sewers at this time and said they may be necessary in the future but not now. He cited Fell Township as an example of unexpected costs. He said the people in Fell where sewers were installed are now getting two sewer bills.
“This Hoover Group is concerned about the financial responsibility. Right now we are looking at $10,000 to $11,000 for each property owner to put in their lateral lines to hook up to the sewer system. Will it be $11,000? Probably more! When do we say enough is enough?” He said the group is not against any individual or that it does not like Greenfield Township. But he cautioned that once contracts are signed with Greenfield, the people who signed up will be locked in. He said they could end up with two bills if some time in the future Clifford decides to install its own sewers.
“We urge the township supervisors to give this matter serious consideration before it proceeds any further,” he concluded to a round of applause.
Attorney Ben Schnessel, who resides at Crystal Lake, said there has to be a need before a project like this is done. He said Crystal Lake is tested every year and there is no sewage in the water. He further stated that Dr. Joseph Calabro, a water specialist, has tested wells in the Crystal Lake area and did not find a one contaminated.
“The Crystal Lake area is not in need of sewers,” Schnessel said.
However, Tom Chesnick, another Crystal Lake resident, disagreed with Schnessel and said the project should move ahead. And Jack Williams of Crystal Lake disagreed with the petitions, claiming that 75 to 80 families are definitely in favor of sewers.
“There is a tremendous amount of sewage going into the lake,” Williams said. “If we let this go, we will be making a very big mistake,” he said about a federal grant that the township will receive to help with the cost of the project. He said it is a once in a lifetime grant and will never be offered to the township again.
One man said proceeding with the project will hurt a lot of people in the Dundaff area. He said the cost of tying into the system will put a lot of people out of their homes and put some people out of business.
“It’s going to hurt a lot of people. Not everybody lives in Crystal Lake,” another man said, and many in the crowd clapped and cheered.
Except for an occasional slap with the gavel to quiet multiple conversations, Chair John Regan and Commissioners Randy LaCroix and Dennis Knowlton sat quietly and listened to the barrage of complaints.
Many in the audience expressed surprise that the supervisors had such limited knowledge of the proposed sewer project. The most important concerns were the overall cost of the project and the hookup or tie-in fees. Some also said the supervisors should have had the project engineers and representatives of other agencies involved with the proposal on hand to answer questions.
Regan did say that increases in the cost of the project were caused by adding about 100 more residences to it, including White’s Trailer Court in Dundaff. However, he assured the audience he would have the answers to their questions at the next meeting.
New Milford Township is looking for volunteers. At the December 13 New Milford Township meeting, Ken Bondurant brought up the subject of the Township's approaching bicentennial. Currently in its 199th year, New Milford may be one of the oldest townships in the county. It predates New Milford Borough by 42 years. This, Mr. Bondurant suggested, is call for celebration, and he proposed the creation of a committee to plan the festivities. The supervisors agreed, and appointed him chairman. There is a need for volunteers now to serve on it. If anyone is interested, or knows someone who would be an asset to this endeavor, they are requested to let the township know.
In order to remain in good standing with the government, a required resolution was also passed that night. The resolution was related to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) which requires that all personnel operate using a common language in case of emergency. This way, should something happen (like the recent flood) the process of receiving aide from PEMA or FEMA will be facilitated. The supervisors have taken the required courses for this, and plan on attending more in the future.
Various money matters were also discussed. Having been advertised, and no complaints received, the 2007 budget was approved. There was no increase in taxes this year. There will be an increase, however, in the cost of renting the township building. It had previously been rented at $25. However, in part due to the current cost of heat, this service will now cost $50.
One visitor questioned whether or not concrete barriers were going to be erected on Cosmello road, where a change in sluice pipes has led to people fearing the possibility of cars going over the bank. The supervisors stated that yes, they actually have the barriers and plan on putting them in place.
As an update from last month, the meeting with the attorneys regarding the campground at East Lake was canceled. It has not been rescheduled, and the situation will remain unresolved for the time being.
The next Township meeting will be on January 2, and will be combined with the reorganization meeting. It will be at the standard time of 7:30.
Yes, Susquehanna County, there is a Santa Claus! In fact, there are three of them, Commissioners Roberta Kelly, Jeff Loomis and Mary Ann Warren.
At last week’s meeting, the commissioners presented county taxpayers with three gifts: no increase in property tax next year; a tax reduction in the library tax; and, the elimination of the county occupation tax.
The commissioners expect to pass the 2007 county budget on December 27 and, while it is the first budget to reach the $20 million mark, it will keep the tax rate at 11.5 mills for a third consecutive year. While the figures are not set in stone until the budget is adopted, the current 2007 budget is fixed at $20,929,720.
A good year for the county retirement fund was given some of the credit for holding the line on the real estate taxes. The fund topped $10 million for the first time in over six years and reduced the amount of cash the county has been pumping annually into the fund to keep the retirement checks in the mail for the county’s 70-plus retirees. Additional financial help came from overdue appropriations for Children and Youth Services that were finally received by the county.
For years the county library tax was fixed at .30 mills, a number that always satisfied the folks who manage the library funds. Then, the library appropriations from other sources were cut and the county responded with an increase from .30 to .33, still a respectable number. Earlier this year, the county learned that the money taken away from them will be restored and the commissioners were able to revert back to the customary .30 millage.
The repeal of the occupation tax becomes effective December 31, 2006. It was passed unanimously by the commissioners in front of a small audience and none were as happy as one man seated in the front row. Jim Jennings of Brooklyn Township was the man behind the six-year effort to have the tax eliminated.
Commissioner Jeff Loomis praised Jennings and said he did a “good job” in providing the commissioners with the thought and then backing it up with statistics that proved his point. Loomis pointed out that the occupation tax was generating $90,000 a year of which $70,000 was distributed to the tax collectors in the 40 municipalities in the county. He also said some money went to the Tax Claim Bureau for collecting delinquent occupation taxes.
“Why should we have a tax that pays nothing but tax collectors,” Loomis said.
“They don’t always do the right thing,” Jennings said of the commissioners. “This time they did.”
In what could be considered another Christmas present, the commissioners joined the Northern County Health Insurance Purchasing Cooperative (NCHIPC), a consortium of counties and other political subdivisions that obtain their health insurance from Blue Cross but with more clout than if they purchased the coverage individually.
The concept is the brainchild of a group known as BENECON or Benefits and Consulting Group. David P. Wuenschel, vice president of Consulting Services, said the county could save between $100,000 and $200,000 annually because it joined the Group.
Wuenschel further stated there is a 30 percent reserve built into the plan and the purpose of it is to assist counties that, in a given year, may have an unexpected increase in its claims.
Other motions passed by the Board included -
-accepting with regret the resignation of Jeremiah Eagen, judicial law clerk, effective December 23.
-appointing James Wolf of Friendsville (reappointment) and Tinamarie Carlin of Meshoppen RD to the Agricultural Land Preservation Board. Ms. Carlin replaces outgoing member D. Byron Hunsinger. Both terms run through the end of 2009.
-accepting with regret, the resignations of John Brunner, Linda Kupchick and Carol Lyman as caseworkers in Children & Youth Services. Brunner and Lyman are retiring and Kupchick is leaving for personal reasons.
-ratifying the hiring of John McCarty of Clifford to the open, fulltime position of Caseworker I in Children & Youth Services effective December 11, and the hiring of Michele Detweiler Graziano as a fulltime Caseworker II, also in Children & Youth, effective January 2, 2007.
At the Salary Board meeting, McCarty’s pay was set at $13.28 per hour and Graziano will receive $14.78
The board also created the part-time position of Drug Task Force Coordinator in the District Attorney’s office at a salary of $20,800 per year effective January 2, 2007.
Ruth Ann Fuller, Gerald Fuller to Donald G. Fuller, RR2, Meshoppen, Karen M. Fuller, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Victoria Geisler to Eric S. Kelley, Levittown, Megan B. Kelly, in Silver Lake Township for $22,000.
Laurence D. Wedeman, Clara Jean Donahue to Laurence Wedeman, Lewis, DE, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Laurence D. Wedeman, Clara Jean Donahue to Laurence Wedeman, Lewis, DE, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Charles E. Vanerson, Dorothy L. Vanerson to Mark Thomas Robinson, South Montrose, Wendy Robinson, in Bridgewater Township for $97,790.
Jeffery Moore, Tabitha Ruch to Robert J. Marinari, RR2, Thompson, in Ararat and Gibson townships for $120,000.
Greg M. Rebello, Jennifer L. Rebello to James J. Walsh, RR2, Brackney, Cynthia A. Walsh, in Choconut Township for $150,000.
Harold E. McFall, Carolyn A. McFall to Micheleen Wheaton, Brackney, in Silver Lake Township for $285,000.
Debra J. Snow (nka) Debra Ellis to Debra Ellis, RR1, Great Bend, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Kathy Lynn Henry to Donald Stephen Henry, RR2, Hallstead, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
Thomas Wooden, Vickie Wooden, Delbert Wooden, Jr., Sherman F. Wooden, Cynthia Wooden to Delbert Wooden, Jr., RR4, Montrose, Sherman F. Wooden, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Ann Morgan Ritinski (est, aka) Ann Ritinski (est) to Janice M. Hicks, Rome, PA, in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Ann Morgan Ritinski (est, aka) Ann Ritinski (est) to Janice M. Hicks, Rome, PA in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Willi Kehrer, Frida Kehrer to Lisa Leshner, Brooklyn, NY, in Gibson, Ararat and Herrick townships for $250,000.
Louise K. McCafferty, Patricia E. Lynch to Louise K. McCafferty, Chenango Bridge, NY, Patricia E. Lynch, Mary L. Giblin, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Alan B. Hickok, Sr. to Robert A. Stankiewicz, RR2, Montrose, Beverly Stankiewicz, in Bridgewater Township for $50,000.
Harriette W. Crooks to Harriette W. Crooks, RR2, Montrose, Daniel Bateman, Paula Bateman, in Forest Lake Township for ten dollars.
Lawrence M. Grasso to Kenneth F. Clark, RR3, Montrose, Barbara L. Clark, in Franklin Township for $59,000.
Dennis M. Stone to Dennis M. Stone, Bowling Green, KY, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Dennis M. Stone (aka) Dennis Stone to Paul O. Sherman, RR1, Springville, Brenda L. Sherman, in Springville Township for $143,000.
John A. Shobat (est, aka) John Szoabat to John J. Gordon, RR2, New Milford, Ernest Gordon, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Walter O. Sutton, Sharon J. Sutton to Richard C. Billig, Little Meadows, Dianne Billig, in Springville Township for $42,000.
Edward W. Yost to Patrick John Yost, Quakertown, in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Edward W. Yost to Patrick John Yost, Quakertown, in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Edward W. Yost to Patrick John Yost, Quakertown, in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Roberta E. Petock to George E. Petock, Jr., Fairless Hills, in Jessup Township for one dollar.
Mario Fitzgerald, Dorothy A. Fitzgerald to Thomas Frederick, Philadelphia, in Thompson Township for $92,000.
Byron Miles, Jeanne A. Miles to Kurt Kulick, RR1, Hop Bottom, in Hop Bottom Borough for $50,000.
Getaway Land Co. LLC to Rodger G. Foreman, Danville, Jill R. Foreman, in Auburn Township for $53,000.
Thomas F. Ryan, Michele C. Ryan to Thomas F. Ryan, Michele C. Ryan, Friendsville, in Friendsville Borough and Middletown Township for one dollar,
Carol Winnie (aka) Carol Christine Winnie to Daniel McDevitt, Social Circle, GA, in Great Bend Township for $136,000.
Bruce A. Fortnum, Mark D. Fortnum, June U. Fortnum (est), Alda Lee Fox, Mary Fortnum, Colin Fortnum to Bruce A. Fortnum, Florence, SC, Mark D. Fortnum, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
John M. Kiskurno, Joan M. Kiskurno to Bruce Eelman, Perkasie, Kathryn Eelman, in New Milford Township for $79,000.
Lorraine G. McFarland (nka) Lorraine G. Shebeck to Lorraine G. Shebeck, Brooklyn, PA, in Brooklyn Township for one dollar.
Steven Letting, Helen Letting to Brett A. Dymond, RR3, Meshoppen, PA, in Rush Township for $55,000.
John J. Polakowski (by sheriff) to GMAC Mortgage Corporation, Waterloo, IA, in Hallstead Borough for $2,538.
Joan Linarducci, Mario Linarducci to Brian W. Small, RR5, Montrose, Maria Delandy, in Forest Lake Township for $104,000.
Thomas J. Dixon, Jr. to JTSpano LLC, Hillsborough, NJ, in Forest City for $28,000.
Wesley J. Gunn, Patricia A. Gunn to Jason Dubanowitz, RR2, Susquehanna, in Oakland Borough for $30,000.
Geraldine E. Pease, Mark C. Pease, Susan L. Pease to Mark C. Pease, RD1, Susquehanna, Susan Pease, in Jackson township for one dollar.
James B. Kerr, Susan M. Kerr to James B. Kerr, Harleysville, William F. Kerr, Glenn N. Rodgers, in Clifford Township for $120,000.
Ronald L. Rapp, Dena A. Rapp to Weldon C. Flewelling, New Milford, Ruthann Flewelling, in Great Bend Borough for $395,000.
Michael Igoe, Jr. to Frank S. Fitch, Hop Bottom, Penny M. Fitch, in Brooklyn Township for $56,200.
Michelle L. Burke (nbm) Michelle L. Gazzillo, John Joseph Gazzillo III to John Joseph Gazzillo III, RR2, Meshoppen, Michelle L. Gazzillo, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Gerald Burke, Gail Burke to John Joseph Gazzillo, III, Meshoppen, Michelle L. Gazzillo, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Brian Scott Upright, RR1, Montrose, and Angela Michelle Mowry, RR2, Meshoppen.
William Everett James Smith, RR2, Hallstead and Shirley Ann Osborne, RR2, Hallstead.
Margaret J. Oakley, Binghamton, NY, vs. Walter S. Oakley, Brackney.
Robyn Brandmier, RD2, Susquehanna vs. Edward Clayton Bradmier, Hazleton, Married June 8, 2000.
Ronald R. Teets, RR3, Montrose, vs. Maria Teets, South Montrose. Married Dec. 31, 1998.
Jerry S. Mess, Great Bend vs. Shannon L. Mess, both of Great Bend. Married August 12, 2000.
Patrick L. Burke, RR5, Montrose, $2,500.
Joseph Kernoschak, Vandling, $44,429.
Michael Lepre, Hop Bottom, $108,219.
Joseph Clary, RR2, Montrose, $18,710.
The next meeting would be scheduled on the day after Christmas, and they're required to reorganize themselves on January 2 anyway. So, Harford Township's Supervisors decided that their meeting on December 9 would be the last for 2006.
To make sure they could pay for next year, the Supervisors formally adopted a budget that allows them to spend a bit over $267,000 in 2007, without an increase in tax rates. Property owners in Harford Township pay 3.13 mills to support the local government; another 0.75 mills is assessed for the fire company.
They may have to find a large chunk of that to pay for a new sluice under Stearns Road at the outlet of Tingley Lake. After the June flood damaged some residences on the lake, in part because the water backed up behind the sluice, the Supervisors started looking for ways to remedy the situation. Because neither the sluice nor the road were directly damaged by the flooding, its replacement isn't automatically covered by FEMA subsidy.
The first step is to get an engineering study, to find out what really has to be done, and how. The first engineering firm consulted submitted a bid of over $15,000 just for the study. So the Supervisors engaged another company, Hawk Engineering, of Binghamton, to submit another proposal. That one came in at just under $20,000. Neither of them gives an estimate of what it might cost to actually fix the sluice; that's what the study is for.
(The Supervisors also asked Hawk to submit a bid for engineering to replace the bridge on Pennay Hill Road. At $29,400, the Hawk bid was less than half of the previous bid for engineering on that project – which may cost well over $400,000 to finish.)
Rick Pisasik asked Township Secretary (and Supervisor) Sue Furney to see if the two engineering companies could provide some sort of "ballpark" estimates for completing the entire project on Stearns Road. That would at least give the Supervisors a general idea of what they face to get the job done.
A couple from Kingsley attended the last meeting to ask the Township to fix a part of Mill Street that they thought would be hazard in winter weather. Both Mr. Pisasik and Roadmaster and Supervisor Terry VanGorden re-visited the area. Neither found anything more than remaining "cosmetic" damage to the street. Mr. VanGorden declared that there is "no safety hazard there."
Mr. VanGorden reported that he and the road crew have been busy installing speed limit signs around the township. Mr. VanGorden said that the procedure is quite tedious, and has provoked some comments from residents as they watch township employees cruising along surveying. The state provides a rigorous method for determining what speed limits can be imposed where, and how the signs are to be placed. There is hope, but no one is under any illusion that the limits will be scrupulously observed.
There was no more news on the stalled bridge project in the middle of Harford Village. If they have to live with them for a while longer, people in Harford may get so they like the traffic lights.
Oakland Boro Council has yet to decide where their new offices will be. The plot of land that used to be the boro building has been signed over to the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which, it is expected, will be building a new senior housing complex of some kind. The authority has made an offer to the boro for the “lower” portion of its property, in the amount of $8,000. Council discussed whether it would be worth holding on to it. Although there would be enough room to build a new office, the lot’s size would dictate that it be small and there would be very limited parking space. The lot would not be large enough to allow for an office building that includes a garage for the boro truck and other equipment, and it was agreed that it would not be large enough for just a garage. Several council members felt that the land should be sold to the authority, as the housing complex will ultimately benefit the boro and its citizens.
The Tri-Boro Municipal Authority has offered use of a portion of their property in Susquehanna for a municipal garage. Another site to be considered is the building at the hydro-electric plant on the Susquehanna River. A new operator will soon be running the plant, but it is yet unknown if he will require use of the entire building, or if the boro could use part of it for a garage. After discussion, it was agreed to table the Housing Authority’s offer for the time being, for further consideration of what options are available.
In other business, Lanesboro’s mayor, Chris Maby and council member Dan Boughton were present; both extended their thanks to council for cindering in Lanesboro during cold weather the week prior when Lanesboro’s truck was out of commission.
A review of codes violations was discussed. One case was taken to court, with the outcome in the boro’s favor. DEP is involved in another, still ongoing case, and others are still in progress. There were rumors that a property owner was planning to put in a mobile home larger than the property would allow, but as of yet no permits had been applied for.
Two bids were received for a new tractor, with a price difference of only $26.50. After discussion, a motion carried to accept the higher bid, as it contained two items on the list of specifications requested that were not included in the lower bid, a block heater and a remote hydraulic hookup, which would cost an additional $900 or so to add on. The motion did include the stipulation that the warranty be the same as for the lower bid machine.
The parks committee has not yet received the funding for the grant that has been approved for improvement. A separate account has been set up for the grant funds, and for the matching funds pledged by residents.
The streets committee has been working at finding a solution to water problems on Prospect Street, and is working with the property owner where the water seems to be originating from.
The monthly police report included the number of hours worked by officers and the incidents that occurred, one of which was the theft of the lights from the boro truck’s plow. Currently, the boro has two police officers; no applicants had responded to advertisements for additional officers. With six hours per week budgeted, there was some discussion as to whether it would be cost effective to continue to maintain a police department, or to contract out for services as the boro has done with Lanesboro when there were no officers for coverage. One opinion was that it would be difficult to reinstate a department once it was dissolved; another was, “I would hate to see it go.” Council will continue the discussion in January.
The 2007 budget is ready for adoption, with no increase in taxes. It includes a 50¢ per hour raise for streets worker Jeff Wayman, $50 per month for secretary Flo Brush, for use of her home as temporary boro offices, waiver of water fees for Mrs. Brush in lieu of a raise, a raise to $9.50 per hour for police, as well as $10,000 for streets improvements in addition to the $14,00 received from liquid fuels funds.
The water system budget includes no increase in fees.
A motion carried to accept both budgets, and a special meeting will be held on Saturday, December 30, at 6:30 p.m. to formally adopt them.
Dan Boughton suggested that council consider a two- or three-year plan to fix residents’ water meters. Doing so would generate a job, for a meter reader, and would put the boro into a better position to qualify for grant funding. Council president Ron Beavan said that an estimate to put in new water meters was for approximately $24,000 (the old ones are not worth fixing) and that council has been looking for grant funding to do so. Meters would encourage those who waste water to conserve, and those who have minimal usage would see a reduction in fees. Mr. Beavan said that council has also applied for a grant in the amount of $498,500 to upgrade the sewer system on State St.
Resident Carol Trevarthan had made a contribution of $100 towards purchase of new Christmas lights for the boro; she asked council to consider using the money instead for cash prizes for the best holiday decorated homes in the boro; council agreed. Mrs. Trevarthan and Cynthia Beavan will judge to determine the four best homes. Mrs. Trevarthan donated an additional $100 for next year, with the intent to expand on the idea.
Mrs. Beavan showed council a brochure that Margaret Biegert had been instrumental in putting together, through Susquehanna’s Main Street project. She suggested that both Oakland and Lanesboro see if they could obtain copies, to be given to any interested parties. The brochure includes details about the Scenic Byway that runs through Oakland and Lanesboro as well as Susquehanna, and details about points of interest in the area. Mrs. Beavan said that Mrs. Biegert was also working on putting together a “welcome packet,” that would include helpful information for new residents.
Dan Boughton said that Lanesboro issues a newsletter to residents, keeping them up to date on boro events, and asked if Oakland would consider doing the same. Mr. Beavan said that, at one time Oakland had also had one, but that there had not been much interest.
Grant funding is available through the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority. A maximum of $15,000 is available for home repairs to low-income homeowners. Information on the eligibility criteria and applications are available through the Authority.
Council approved a Christmas gift of $25 cash to each of its six employees.
A motion carried to accept the Susquehanna Fire Dept.’s cost of protection for 2007, $6,915, an increase of $302.
And, those council members who have not already done so were encouraged to complete their NIMS training.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session.
Susquehanna Boro Council carried a motion at their December 12 meeting to hire Laura Watson as their new Codes Enforcement Officer. Ms. Watson, who is also a part-time police officer for the boro, will work 16 hours per week, at $10 per hour. Her probationary period will be six months, in accordance with the boro’s employee policy.
Shane Lewis reported that rental inspections have been going well, and the water problems on Fifth Ave. have been addressed. During November, 20 messages and nine complaints were received, three verbal warnings issued, 11 general inspections and two rental inspections conducted, one condemnation and one permit issued.
The streets committee is working on an improvements plan for next year, specifically drainage and paving.
Mayor Reddon reported that all officers have been recertified on the shooting range, all-weather raincoats have been ordered, and Officer Watson has been certified on C-Net and J-Net.
The monthly police report included five traffic arrests, two non-traffic arrests, one misdemeanor arrest, one felony arrest, one juvenile in custody, 11 written warnings, four verbal warnings, four incident numbers, and six out of the area calls.
Bids had been solicited several times for sale of the old street sweeper; one was received. A motion carried to accept Mark Sherman’s offer of $1,051, with the stipulation that Mr. Sherman is aware that it is on an “as is” basis.
And, PennDOT requested a meeting with boro representatives to discuss the right-of-way under the Veterans Memorial Bridge, which is the boro’s responsibility.
The next regular meeting has been rescheduled to Thursday, December 28, at which time the 2007 budget will be adopted.
Council changes were the order of the day, and the consequences of those changes dominated the December Thompson Borough Council meeting. Council member Nick Sheptak resigned at the end of the November meeting, as he was anticipating moving to Oakland. After the minutes had been read, and the treasurer's report given, Council President Andrew Gardner called for nominations from the council members to complete Mr. Sheptak's term on the council, stipulating that a person had to be a resident of Thompson Borough and a registered voter for one year in order to be eligible for the vacant council seat. Whoever was elected would serve until fall of 2007, at which time he or she could choose to run in his or her own name. With four of the six members voting for him, Pastor Mark Wyman was elected after his nomination. Mayor Jim Delaney proceeded to swear in Pastor Wyman.
The proposed 2007 Thompson Borough budget which originally called for an increase to 6.25 mills on property tax, up from 6.00 mills, was defeated in part due to Mr. Sheptak's absence from the council. His replacement, Mr. Wyman, voted against the increase. Council President Andrew Gardner called for a new vote, based on the 2006 budget and the 2006 tax rate. This budget was passed. Marjory Whitney, Treasurer, and the council reviewed the 2007 budget to correct the items in the new budget affected by the defeat of the proposed tax increase. Only three budget items were in need of change.
Another council change was Councilperson Gary Swartz announcing that he was stepping down as Roadmaster, effective immediately. Council President Andrew Gardner called for a volunteer to replace Councilperson Schwartz, and Councilperson Jeffrey Sheldon stated that he would serve as Roadmaster.
Secretary Christine Henke informed the council that in researching enforcement of various ordinances at the council's request, including one governing stray livestock in the borough, she had discovered that enforcement of the borough's ordinances was problematical. Regarding the stray livestock issue, which had been raised at the previous Council meeting, she had contacted the State Police, as well as the Humane Society, PennDOT and the county about enforcement. The State Police said they cannot enforce the Borough's ordinances due to a "lack of express duty" in the ordinances, meaning there is a lack of specificity as written. The county said they had no laws on the books regarding the matter, and would be referring it to their attorney. PennDOT said livestock would be considered as traffic, and treated as such. The Humane Society would only become involved if there were mistreatment of the animals.
Council President Andrew Gardner stated that the council should "make it enforceable or get rid of it," in regards to the ordinance governing stray livestock. Council will change the ordinance after Council President Gardner consults with borough attorney Myron DeWitt.
Mayor Jim Delaney and Council President Gardner spoke about local enforcement, and Council President Gardner mentioned that the mayor could enforce ordinances, that he has the authority to issue non-criminal citations. He would have to appear before the magistrate to testify, which Mayor Delaney agreed he was willing to do. The mayor requested that in certain circumstances someone accompany him, and Council President Gardner said there would be a procedure posted and given to borough council members for enforcement. The council passed a new ordinance empowering the mayor to issue citations, and establishing procedure for such events.
The broken fire hydrant on Jackson Street apparently was the result of the fire department using the wrong one, according to Council President Gardner. There are a number of hydrants in the borough that do not meet the requirements of size for use, and are basically inoperative. Council President Gardner will try to obtain a measuring wheel used by engineering firms for measurement to ascertain the distances between hydrants. This may lead to the decommissioning of some hydrants if the distances between meet or are less than the requisite 1,000 feet demanded by insurance regulations.
Law enforcement in Susquehanna County took a couple of giant steps forward recently with some innovations in the district attorney’s office.
District Attorney Jason Legg has assumed control of the Susquehanna County Drug Task Force that had previously been run by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office. Legg will be responsible for submitting quarterly reports to the AG’s office including an accounting of appropriations received from the state for operating the task force.
Cash, a purebred German Shepherd, recently acquired by the Susquehanna County District Attorney’s office, is presently being trained in Old Forge and should be ready for duty in the Spring of 2007.
At last week’s meeting of the county commissioners, Legg received approval to employ a part-time task force coordinator at a salary of $20,800 with no benefits. The coordinator will be a law enforcement officer and will be sworn in as a part-time county detective.
“In order to maximize the state funds for actual drug investigations,” Legg said, “the coordinator position in the first year will be funded through monies obtained by persons convicted of DUI offenses. In other words, there will be no county tax dollars needed to pay for this position.”
Legg said the AG has already advised Susquehanna County that it will receive $24,200 in funds for task force activities during 2007.
The DA said he also expects to launch a new Driving Under the Influence (DUI) task force in the county. He said it will also come under the leadership of the new task force coordinator.
Legg said the salaries of the police officers who will participate in the DUI task force will come from funds received from criminal defendants admitted into the county’s ARD program. He added that the patrol car for the task force will be purchased with forfeiture money maintained in accounts held by his office.
“I do not believe we will be using any county tax money for this program,” Legg said.
Another objective that is presently in the works is obtaining and training a K-9 unit. A black German shepherd named Cash has been acquired and is presently being trained by Alan Finn in Old Forge. Deputy Sheriff John Megivern will be the handler of the dog and it is expected to be ready for service in the Spring of 2007.
“Having our own dog,” Legg said, “will provide us with an opportunity to go into schools with very little notice.” He said he intends to meet with Boards of Education in the county to discuss his thoughts on school visits.
Legg said he will propose that the police officers involved in task force activities be sworn in as part-time county detectives to be utilized as needed.
“The hope is,” Legg concluded, “to create a large roster of part-time detectives to assist the task force coordinator with flexibility for the DUI patrols as well as to provide manpower for potential drug investigations, including the execution of search warrants.” Another agency that is in strong support of the district attorney’s recent addition is Children & Youth Service. At the end of his presentation before the commissioners, Susan Adamec, head of CYS, told Legg her staff is very excited about the K-9 Unit.
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