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The Susquehanna County Commissioners played to a different drummer last week and the result was a happy ending.
Meeting before a standing-room-only crowd that jammed in the small meeting room at the courthouse, the commissioners quickly appeased library personnel and supporters by restoring the library tax to last year’s rate of .33 mills. At a previous meeting earlier in December, the commissioners announced their intention to reduce the library tax to .30 mills for 2007.
When directors and employees of the Historical Society and Free Library Association heard about the decrease, they swung into action in a move to head off the commissioners at the pass and keep the tax rate unchanged. In a short period of time, well over 800 signatures were collected on petitions supporting the library’s position, and it was more than enough strength to change the minds of all three commissioners.
Commissioner Jeff Loomis appeared to be somewhat reluctant to leave the library tax rate at .33 mills. He said the .30 millage rate would allow the library to receive the $221,000 in tax revenue that it requested for 2007.
In a motion approving the county’s record $20 million-plus budget and the tax rate needed to finance it, the commissioners restored the library tax to last year’s .33 millage. The move drew a round of applause from the crowded meeting room.
The total tax rate for 2007 remains at 12.84 mills for the third consecutive year. It includes 11.5 mills to finance the financial needs for 2007, 1.01 mills for debt service, and, .33 mills for the library fund.
In another matter, Ellen O'Malley, chief assessor, expressed disappointment that, despite her position as a department head, she was forced to give the county $49.50 for a copy of the 2007 county budget. One man in the audience asked the commissioners if they were they so hard up for a buck they had to charge Ms. O'Malley for the budget.
Ms. O'Malley further noted that in researching the new budget, she failed to find any appropriations for the start of a reassessment fund. She noted that the last reassessment was more than 10 years ago and another one is due.
And in yet another financial matter, Ms. O'Malley said she is the only department head in the county who has an assistant with a larger salary than hers.
The commissioners made some noticeable changes while acting on upcoming vacancies in some county agencies.
Most noticeable was the appointment of Robert McNamara, superintendent of Blue Ridge School District, to the Susquehanna County Railroad Authority replacing Sam Merrill, who has been vice chairman of the authority since its inception three years ago. McNamara will serve a five-year term that will end December 31, 2011.
In another change, Attorney Katherine Shelly to the county Planning Commission, replacing Michael Greene who had been serving as chairman of the commission. Reappointments to the commission included Matthew Curley and Carolyn Doolittle.
Other motions approved by the commissioners included:
-ratifying the hiring of William Strong to the new open position of part-time drug task force coordinator/part time county detective, effective January 2.
-reappointed James K. Adams as a director on the board of the Susquehanna County Housing/Redevelopment Authority for five years.
-accepted with regret the resignation of Wesley Wilbur, courthouse security, effective January 4.
-hired Joshua Compton of Montrose to the temporary position of debris monitor on the Dubois Creek cleanup project. The salary board agreed to pay him eight dollars an hour with no benefits.
-ratified the hiring of Jason Ulrich as judicial law clerk to Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans. The salary board agreed to pay Ulrich $33,000 plus benefits.
-hired Kara Flatness of New Milford as a caseworker in Children & Youth at an hourly rate of $13.78 as set by the salary board.
The commissioners adopted the 2007 miscellaneous compensation schedule and it became effective January 1.
At their final meeting of 2006, the Susquehanna Boro Council heard a presentation from Peter Seman, a longtime dairy farmer from Ararat Township, about ethanol. Mr. Seman said that he had first heard about it 20 years ago, before most knew what it was. His intent is to educate people about this alternative fuel, which could be important to our region. The area has enough farm and timber land to support one, and grant funds are available from the state to start one and to fund a feasibility study. He will be visiting other municipalities in the area, to spread the word to anyone who may be interested.
Mr. Seman said that ethanol could be made not just from corn, but from cellulose from timber and other crops. A plant site would need to have storage towers, and access to a water supply. The building would not need to be huge; White Mills is in the process of building one, with a total of 7,000 square feet. The plant would be self-sufficient once it gets started, would produce no pollution, and carbon dioxide from the process could be bottled and sold. There would be, he said, no downside to the production of ethanol or bio diesel. He added that Honesdale has completed a feasibility study and is in the process of starting a bio diesel plant, with the intent of using bio diesel to power their trucks and vehicles.
When asked if any car could use ethanol, Mr. Seman said that older cars can burn a mix of 10%, cars made in 2004 could handle 50%, and those made in 2005 or later could take an 85% mix. “The man who built the Starrucca Viaduct took a chance,” he said. “If we all take a chance, a plant could work here. Paying $2 a gallon for ethanol would be better than importing oil.”
Council president Tom Kelly said that he did not know if there is any place in the boro that could support a plant, but perhaps there may be in one of the outlying townships. He agreed that it would be good to ease our dependence on foreign oil. He asked Mr. Seman if he had approached anyone at the county economic development office; Mr. Seman said that he had not, but that information is readily available. “The main thing is to look at the future; (local) farmers will (supply crops) if they still have the land and ‘the want’ to do it. The word needs to be spread.” Mr. Kelly said that council would be glad to pass on any information Mr. Seman could provide to county officials, and to anyone who may be interested.
In other business, Mayor Reddon said that in spite of the unseasonably warm weather the area has been seeing, “Winter will be here.” She wished to remind residents that their vehicles would need to be removed from the streets for plowing when the snow does come. And, she would like to hear from any property owners on Jackson Ave. whose properties were not repaired/restored after work done by PAWC.
Roy Williams relayed that a representative from PennDOT would be visiting the boro on January 2 to conduct a site inspection on Franklin Avenue, in response to complaints about water problems.
Motions carried to adopt the 2007 budget, as well as Ordinance 446, which sets tax millage for the year. And, a motion carried to reappoint Myron DeWitt as the boro solicitor for another year.
For the present, council’s meeting schedule will be unchanged, with meetings on the second and fourth Tuesdays at 6 p.m., and committee meetings on the first Wednesday of each month.
Correspondence received included a letter from the PA Fish & Boat Commission, informing council that a $54,000 grant for the boro has been approved, to put in a boat launch at the riverfront park.
Mayor Reddon had contacted PennDOT to find out what the status is of the bridge at Main and Exchange Streets, where barriers have been in place, closing off the turning lane. PennDOT’s reply was that, with the extraordinary weather the area has seen of late, there are too many other projects that are taking precedence, and could not give a specific date when it will be taken care of.
Council received a letter regarding ownership of the boro’s two rail cars; this will be discussed in depth at the next meeting.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session to discuss a personnel issue. When it reconvened, a motion carried to demote police officer Golka to the status of patrolman; council’s vote was three for, three against with Mayor Reddon breaking the tie, with a vote against. A subsequent motion was made to terminate his employment, and carried four to two.
Ken Travis, who owns property on Franklin Ave., spoke with council about the water problems there. He said that when it rains, the water washes the lawn out and runs into cellar of his house and the one next door. Mr. Kelly said that council has been trying to get something done, and that there was a site inspection with PennDOT scheduled for the following Tuesday. Roy Williams and Mike Matis also agreed to meet with Mr. Travis at the site the following day. Mr. Travis said that the boro had cleaned out storm drains in the area, but that the water bypasses them. Mr. Matis said that part of the problem was a crushed drain pipe, which was on private property. The boro would need a signed authorization from the owner to go onto the property and fix it. Mr. Travis agreed to contact the owner and ask him to sign the authorization.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, January 9, 6 p.m. in the boro building.
Believe Your Body – If you have headaches or rashes, if you sneeze or cough, or if you have trouble breathing when you are in certain places, believe what your body is telling you. Even if someone standing next to you has none of the symptoms you are experiencing and thinks you may be imagining things, trust your nose and believe your own lungs.
A constant dripping nose, if you do not have a cold or an allergy is another clue to the fact it may be mold in your surroundings.
The first step toward taking charge is accepting that we are all different and that we respond to our environments in individual ways.
Study your body’s reactions – be a scientist and objectively observe how your body responds to its environment. Is there any relation between the symptoms you experience and the place you are in, or the activity around? Do you have particular difficulty at certain times of the day, in certain seasons of the year (when the heat or air conditioning is on)?
The story that keeps spreading: in the December 3-5, 1991 issue of USA Weekend, it published a cover story about the plight of Melina Ballard and her family in Dripping, Texas and exposed the dangers of toxic mold to a national audience.
Melinda and her husband thought theirs was a dream house; a 22-room mansion on 72 acres outside of Austin, Texas.
It’s not a dream house anymore. They abandoned their home; they were forced to move out when their house was invaded by mold that made everyone in their family sick.
Their son, Reese was the first to become ill, at age 4. He was coughing up blood and his equilibrium was completely shot; diarrhea, vomiting – it just spanned the whole globe in terms of symptoms, Ballard said. Soon she became ill; she said she had trouble staying on her feet. Her husband also became ill and lost his job because he had difficulty doing his work.
Experts say the family was being poisoned by a black, toxic mold, called Stachybotrys. The mold, which has been found in all 50 states, in homes, businesses and schools, had invaded their house. Some strains of Stachybotrys cause allergies, asthma, and skin rashes. Others produce mycotoxins released into the air. These toxins can seriously damage the lungs and central nervous system.
In April, 1999, Dr. David Straus, one of the nation’s leading mold experts, ordered the Ballards to evacuate their house. They had to leave at a moment’s notice. They left dishes in the dishwasher and food in the refrigerator.
Dr. Straus believed they became sick from breathing in mycotoxins. The mold most commonly grows as a result of water damage, he said. This mold began with a leak in the downstairs bathroom.
The mold infiltrated under the flooring, 2,500 square feet of a wooden floor, according to Ballard and the mold contaminated all of the family’s possessions, including photographs. It got into the air-conditioning unit and spread toxins throughout the house. Removing every trace of the mycotoxins may be impossible, said experts hired by the Ballards.
This tragic story was published August 12, 2001, in The New York Times Magazine section: “Haunted By Mold – It grows in the walls, it chokes your child and renders your husband senseless. It’s your – and your insurer’s worst nightmare,” by Lisa Belkin.
Melinda Ballard has become an advocate. She speaks all around the country and was in our area several years ago, but I was too ill from the same conditions that her family suffered, so I was unable to attend her conference. She had formed a Toxic Mold Task Force, of which Harry and I are members.
These Task Forces are being formed in many states.
House Resolution No. 434 Session of 2002 was referred to Committee on Rules, February 25, 2002 in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania.
This information was sent to me by Representatives Sandra J. Major and Jim Wansacz. The resolution passed unanimously. The House urges the Department of Health to establish a task force to investigate toxic mold in homes, schools and buildings and health hazards it may cause, etc.
I am sure our Rep. Major will send this information to you. And as soon as it is resolved, I will be informed so this information can be included in the Toxic Mold Files that Dottie McPherson and I have compiled. One is in the Montrose Library in the Reference Section.
There is a new bill that will require the EPA to define toxic mold levels. This is a landmark piece of legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers, (D) Michigan. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. introduces H.R. 1268: The United States Safety and Protection Act (“The Mellna Bill”).
The growth of toxic mold is becoming a problem of monumental proportions. Exposure to mold growth in residential, public and commercial buildings is believed to have caused serious medical conditions which include bleeding lungs, digestive problems, hair loss, nausea, loss of memory, reduced cognitive skills, and death. Property damage from mold growth has destroyed millions of dollars in real estate and forced homeowners to the curb. We cannot eliminate mold. However, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the dangers of indoor mold growth.
The United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act will mandate comprehensive research into mold growth, create programs to educate the public about the dangers of toxic mold, and provide assistance to victims. In addition, the act will generate guidelines for preventing indoor mold growth, establish standards for removing mold when it does grow, provide grants for mold removal in public buildings, authorize tax credits for inspection and/or remediation of mold hazards, and create a national insurance program to protect homeowners from catastrophic losses. Taken as a whole, the Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act will attack indoor mold growth with good science, public awareness, and tangible relief.
Home ownership is part of the American dream, but for many, toxic mold has transformed that dream into a nightmare. It’s time to stop toxic mold from robbing Americans of their health and their homes. If you are concerned about the hazards of mold, contact your congressional representative and ask them to co-sponsor and/or support the US Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act.
The bill requires mold inspections for multi-unit residential property and mold inspections for all property that is purchased or leased using funds that are guaranteed by the federal government. The bill also requires mold inspection in public housing.
The bill creates a National Toxic Mold Insurance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to protect homeowners from catastrophic losses. Many homeowners are finding that insurance companies will not offer adequate coverage for mold.
You may have had your insurance provider advise you that your insurance will not cover mold damage to your house, etc.
The bill enables states to provide Medicaid coverage to mold victims who are unable to secure adequate health care (www.house.gov/conyers/mold.htm).
Richard N. Nanzer, Gwendolyn Nanzer, Gwendolyn Wilkins (nbm) to Brandon T. Barlow, RR1, Susquehanna, in Gibson Township for $82,400.
Audrey C. Lukens to David R. Lukens, RR2, Union Dale, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Robert A. Coleman, Donna C. Coleman to Daniel J. McCafferty, Miami, FL, in Gibson Township for $340,000.
George B. Stevens, Donna Donahue to George Stevens, RR1, New Milford, in Harford Township for one dollar.
Mary Ann Nagy to Mary Ann Nagy, RR3, Montrose, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Detora Cleary (nbm) Detora Cleary-Geyer, Howard Geyer, Jr. to Marianne D. Geyer, Harford, in Harford Township for $30,000.
Nancy E. Pordon, Orville Shoemaker (aka) Orville Shoemaker, Jr. to Nancy E. Pordon, RR1, Hop Bottom, Orville Shoemaker, Jr., in Brooklyn and Lathrop townships for one dollar.
Peter Handl, Nancy Handl to David Hewitt, RR3, Meshoppen, Sharon Hewitt, in Auburn Township for $200,000.
Richard J. Riccardi, Diane J. Riccardi to Dean L. Harkness, Beach Haven, NJ, Deborah A. Harkness, in Herrick Township for $133,000.
Paul R. Wells to Keith David Geiger, Buena Vista, CA, in Bridgewater Township for $117,000..
Raymond G. Miller, Jr., Sharon A. Miller to Richard S. Godowski, RR1, Hop Bottom, Jean S. Godowski, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Richard S. Godowski, Jewan S. Godowski to Thomas R. Timko, RR1, Hop Bottom, in Lenox Township for $139,000
R&D Builders Inc. to Raymond J. Shuma, Forest City RD, Linda M. Shuma, in Clifford Township for $15,000.
R&D Builders Inc. to Carl F. Pevec, Forest City RD, Nancy H. Pevec, in Clifford Township for $30,000.
Sharon A. Milewski, Paul Gover to Sharon A. Milewski, RR2, Thompson, Paul Gover, in Thompson Borough for $126,500.
Charles J. Colombo (estate) to Donald L. Smith, Lenoxville, Marjorie J. Smith, in New Milford Township for $95,000.
Donna L. Evans, Davis Evans to Andy R. Cavagnetto, RR1, Brackney, Jessica L. Viergutz-Cavagnetto, in Silver Lake Township for $242,500.
Keith Barnes to Frank A. Sokloski, Colonia, NJ, Judy Sokloski, in Oakland Township for $18,500.
Agnes M. Jones (aka) Agnes R. Jones to James W. Jones, East Stroudsburg, in New Milford Borough for one dollar.
Leslie F. Major to Leslie F. Major, RR2, Brackney, Ann Marie Lamarca Major, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
John Coombs to John T. MeGivern, Brooklyn, Jennifer MeGivern, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Todd Bradley Wilcox and Shereen C. Alinaghian, both of Hallstead.
Phillip J. Thomas, Sr. and Paula Lorraine Strohl, both of Hallstead.
David P. Kearney and Kendra R. Shufelt, both of Cortland, NY.
Robert Charles Heed II, Springville, and Amber K. Campbell, Laceyville.
Candonino Ramesh Corey and Julie A. Dingle, both of Blandon.
Kevin G. Hammond and Michelle Diane Conley, both of Forest City.
Mark James Ezdbeski, Clarks Summit and Katie Raye Cross, Hop Bottom.
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