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The Forest City Regional Board of Education unveiled a tentative 2007-2008 operating budget last week. The action complied with a state ruling that it either make a preliminary budget available for public inspection by January 25 or adopt a resolution that the board will not raise the taxes above 4.6 percent.
The tentative budget is $10,997,227, an increase of $400,663 when compared with the 2006-2007 budget. While the budget increase only amounts to 3.78 percent, the board will probably have to make cuts somewhere to keep the tax increase at or below 4.6 percent.
One area being looked at is debt service. Kathleen Kaczka, business manager, advised the board that it could save as much as $80,000 by refinancing the school district’s 2002 bond issue. In another move, teachers and other professional staff employees who want to attend out of state conferences must pay for transportation and lodging. The school will give the time off and pay any registration fees.
The budget will be available at the school for public inspection until the February board meeting. The preliminary budget may be passed in February and finalized in June.
In keeping with its practice of recognizing student achievements, the board opened its meeting by recognizing Katie Zefran, high school student of the month for November, and Victoria Ignacio, December’s high school student of the month.
High School Principal Anthony Rusnak announced the following honors: Kevin Swartz, National Young Leaders Conference; Mike Forsette and Matt Silfee, district chorus; Daniele Nebzydoski and Megan Jones, district band; and, CTC Student of the Month, Michael Kubus.
Motions passed by the board:
Approved an agreement between Forest City Regional and NEIU 19 for wide area network services beginning July 1.
Approved a request from the student council to hold a dance lock-in from 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 30 until 6 a.m. Saturday, March 31.
Approved the appointments of Diane Bailey to a long-term substitute teaching position at a prorated salary of $35,737, and Leslie Staples, also a long-term substitute teacher at the start of the third marketing period and at the same prorated salary of $35,737.
Hired Cheryl Williams Austin to a four-hour support staff position in the cafeteria at a starting salary of $7.38 an hour.
At their meeting on January 13, Harford Township Supervisors voted to engage Hawk Engineering of Binghamton to provide studies for two projects at a total cost of $44,350. The studies are required to get state permits to rebuild a bridge on Pennay Hill Road, and to replace a sluice under Stearns Road at the outlet of Tingley Lake.
The township had two bids for the studies, but Sue Furney and Terry VanGorden were dissatisfied with the response from CECO of Scranton, the county's bridge engineering firm. When the original bid by Hawk on the Stearns Road project seemed very high, Rick Pisasik contacted them and found that the bid included the cost of construction administration. Removing that component made the two bids competitive.
To pay for all this, the Supervisors contacted three banks to submit proposals for financing. The Pennay Hill Road bridge project may ultimately be reimbursable from the Federal and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agencies; the cost of the sluice under Stearns Road may have to be paid solely from township funds. As Mr. Pisasik said, "We're going to bear some cost," especially on Stearns Road. Financing will be necessary to fill the gap until the Feds and the state can come through. No one can estimate how long it will take for reimbursement to come through.
The three bank packages arrived too late for consideration at this meeting, so the Supervisors tabled financing discussions until later. They are looking for a line of credit of up to $500,000, some part of which might be ultimately convertible to a loan. So far the proposals seem to offer rates around 4.5%.
In other business, the Supervisors approved a list of exonerations from the per-capita tax. This $5 flat tax is imposed on every person living in the township. The list, however, is pruned periodically to remove the names of people who have died, moved, or are otherwise exempt, like students away at college.
The annual mutual-aid agreement with the fire company was tabled for clarification of some details. The agreement obligates the township to pay workmens' compensation premiums for the firemen while they are out of the area supporting neighboring fire companies, and while they are conducting fund-raising activities and other similar activities.
The proposed agreement limits coverage of mutual-aid operations to a 20-mile radius. Supervisor and fireman Terry VanGorden said that there are occasions when the fire company is dispatched beyond this limit. The Supervisors will request language that defines this more clearly, and that specifies that mutual-aid under the agreement is only supported when dispatched; voluntary assistance is not covered.
The Supervisors also approved 10 members of the Fire Police. These individuals pay their own dues, buy their own uniforms, and pay for their own insurance as members of the Susquehanna County Fire Police Association.
There was no real news on the PennDOT bridge project in Harford village. Ms. Furney said that the best estimate right now comes from Representative Sandra Major, who contacted PennDOT and reported that the project should be complete by March or April.
The next meeting of the Harford Supervisors will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 23.
Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans last week sentenced 15 individuals for an assortment of wrongdoings, including a teenager who was treated as an adult.
Judge Seamans remanded Timothy Graham Gumble, 17, of New Milford to the Susquehanna County Jail for a term of three months to 12 months for criminal trespass in New Milford Borough on July 15, 2006.
Gumble was also given additional jail terms that will run concurrent with the initial sentence. He received one month to 11 months for theft by unlawful taking in New Milford Borough on July 15, 2006; one month to 11 months for theft by unlawful taking in New Milford Borough on January 1, 2006; and, five months to 23 1/2 months for burglary in New Milford Borough on July 8, 2006.
Besides the jail terms, Gumble was fined a total of $600, plus $500 for DNA testing, court costs, and he must make restitution to his victims.
Other sentences handed down by Judge Seamans included:
Michael Joseph Lawler, 20, of South Montrose, nine months to 23 1/2 months in the county jail for theft by unlawful taking in Clifford Township on September 20, 2005. He was also fined $500 plus court costs and must make restitution.
Daniel Jon Bateman, 40, of New Milford, one month to six months in the county jail, $750 fine, and cost of prosecution for driving under the influence in Gibson Township on May 26, 2006. In addition, Bateman must pay $100 CAT surcharge and $100 EMS.
Rudolph Testa, 47, of Gibson, 18 months probation, 25 hours of community service and $250 fine for recklessly endangering another person on February 2, 2006 in New Milford Township. And, on a separate charge of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer on February 2, 2006, Testa was fined an additional $750 plus costs, and given 18 months probation to run concurrent with the initial sentence.
Emmett Carl Sheptock, 47, of Great Bend, nine months to 23 1/2 months in the county jail followed by two years probation for indecent assault in Great Bend Borough on January 6, 2006. He was also fined $500 plus $250 DNA testing fee, and must continue with sexual abuse counseling.
Verne Ronald Woodruff, 52, of New Milford, 90 days to 23 1/2 months in the county jail, $1,500 fine plus $410 in related costs for driving under the influence in Great Bend Township on May 6, 2006. Judge Seamans ordered Woodruff to serve the initial 45 days in the jail and the remaining 45 days in home confinement.
Daniel Upright, 26, of New Milford, 18 months probation, $400 fine, $250 DNA testing, cost of prosecution for acquisition or obtaining possession of a controlled substance in Hallstead on December 7, 2005.
Charles Robert Biesecker, 36, of New Milford, six months to 23 1/2 months in the county jail, followed by 5 1/2 months home confinement, $1,500 fine plus related court costs for driving under the influence in New Milford Township on May 18, 2006.
Vincent Beckett, 31, of Hop Bottom, $200 fine, for driving while operating privileges are suspended or revoked, plus 48 hours to six months in the county jail, $500 fine and court related costs for driving under the influence in Lenox Township on September 30, 2006.
Roderick Reed Williams, 39, of Hallstead, 90 days to 23 1/2 months in the county jail for driving under the influence in Rush Township on June 18, 2006. He was also fined $300 plus court costs, assessed $300 for Act 198 fee and $100 CAT surcharge.
Derek Edward Gardner, 24, of Hallstead, one month to 12 months in the county jail, $200 fine for receiving stolen property in Mew Milford Township on September 12, 2003. Also 18 months probation, $500 fine, 50 hours community service for indecent assault in Gibson Township on May 2, 2004.
Richard Seymour, 47, of Montrose, 30 days to six months in the county jail, $750 fine, $410 in related costs and 50 hours of community service for driving under the influence in Brooklyn Twp. on May 7, 2006.
Todd Wagner, 31, of Union Dale, six months probation, $750 fine and related costs for driving under the influence in Clifford Township on September 10, 2006. Also $25 fine plus costs for driving at safe speed in Clifford Township on September 10, 2006; and, $25 for immediate notice of accident to police department on September 10, 2006.
Kevin Harold Hewm, 28, of Clifford, two and one-half months to 12 months in the county jail for driving under the influence in Clifford Township on July 7, 2006; plus 12 months probation for unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles in Clifford Twp. on July 7, 2006. Hewm was also fined a total of $500.
Kenneth W. Kasmarcik, 40, of Montrose, eight months to 23 1/2 months in the county jail, $500 fine, $250 DNA testing, for criminal theft by unlawful taking in Lenox Twp. on April 10, 2006.
Scogic Inc. LLC to Sherif Demcevski, Forest City, Melissa Demcevski, in Harmony Township for $1,000.
Geraldine Owens, Peter DeFazio, Eleanor DeFazio, Jasper DeFazio, Sharon DeFazio to Andrew Owens, Carbondale, Brandon Sanders, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Geraldine Owens, Peter DeFazio, Eleanor DeFazio, Jasper DeFazio, Sharon DeFazio to Christina Bolcavage, Jermyn, Jeffery Bolcavage, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Geraldine Owens, Peter DeFazio, Eleanor DeFazio, Jasper DeFazio, Sharon DeFazio to Geraldine Owens, RR2, Carbondale, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Geraldine DeFazio, Peter DeFazio, Eleanor DeFazio, Jasper DeFazio, Sharon DeFazio to Jasper DeFazio, Warren, NJ, Sharon DeFazio, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
William C. Beagle to William C. Beagle, Brackney, in Silver Lake Township for zero dollars.
Joel Errol Marsh to Jennifer L. Casselbury, RR1, Hallstead, Alvin C. Casselbury, in Liberty Township for $17,143.
WK 50 Unit 45, Bremer Hof Owners Inc. to William O. Henry, Sussex, N J, in Herrick Township, for $100.
Week 4 Unit 47, Bremer Hof Owners Inc. to Joseph F. Nickey, York, Nancy L. Nickey, in Herrick Township for $100.
Week 50 Unit 43, Bremer Hof Owners Inc. to Richard C. McCoy, Lafayette, NJ, Melissa J. McCoy, in Herrick Township for $1,000.
Week 10 Unit 39, Bremer Hof Owners Inc. to Colleen McGuire, Jim Thorpe, in Herrick Township for $100.
William F. Schroeder (trust by trustee) to Letitia E. Schroeder, Jackson, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
William F. Schroeder (trust by trustee) to Letitia E. Schroeder, Jackson, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
William F. Schroeder (trust by trustee) to Letitia E. Schroeder, Jackson, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
Manzek Land Co. Inc. to Steven J. Cosman, Brewster, NY, Doreen A. Passtore, in Jessup Township for $88,000.
Shirley J. Johnson (aka) Shirley J. Wood, Mark Johnson to Robert E. Garner, RR1, Hallstead, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
Ruth B. Garner to Robert E. Garner, RR1, Hallstead, in Liberty Township for $10,000.
Angelo Ventresca, Jr., Judith M. Ventresca to Angelo Ventresca, Jr., RR5, Montrose, Judith M. Ventresca, in Jessup Township for one dollar.
Andrew Kannenberg to Andrew Kannenberg, RR1, Friendsville, in Choconut Township for one dollar.
William J. Begraft, Jr., Dawn M. Begraft to Robert W. Conrad, RR6, Montrose, Beverly Ann Begin, in Dimock Township for $209,000.
William R. Komula (trust by trustee), Betty J. Komula (trust by trustee) to Marilyn Ann Foskuhl, Beavercreek, OH, in Herrick Township for $70.
Angelo Ventresca, Jr., Judith M. Ventresca to Diane C. Koloski, RR5, Montrose, John W. Koloski, in Jessup Township for one dollar.
Melvin G. Berry, Janet Marie Berry, George R. Berry, Mary Berry to Heather J. Soellner, RR3, Meshoppen, Terrell L. Soellner, in Springville Township for $162,500.
Cynthia L. Tompkins, Vernon W. Tompkins to Vernon Tompkins, RR2, Hallstead in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Cynthia L. Tompkins, Vernon W. Tompkins to Vernon Tompkins, RR2, Hallstead, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Cynthia L. Tompkins, Vernon W. Tompkins to Vernon Tompkins, RR2, Hallstead, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Louella Gulick, Nancy Anne Gulick to Nancy Anne Gulick, Endicott, NY, in Great Bend Borough for one dollar.
Robert Devries (estate), Rose Mary Devries to Harry D. Dilkes, Edison, NJ, Carmelannie Dilkes, in Jackson Township for $50,000.
Peoples National Bank to Ryan J. Nickell, Scanton, in Hallstead and Great Bend boroughs for $16,500.
Ruth H. Radicchi to Joann Radicchi, Susquehanna, PA, Carol Tingley, Linda Zilla, Sharon Soden, Sandra Zaccheo, in Susquehanna Borough for one dollar.
Richard J. Vallone, Julia Vallone to Richard J . Vallone, RR1, Hop Bottom, in Springville Township for one dollar.
William Kelley, Patricia Kelley to William H. Kelley, Jr., South Montrose, Annemarie Kelley, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Douglas G. Kilmer to FP Ventures LLC, Montrose, in Clifford Township for $290,000.
Marian E. Staff (by US Marshall,) fka, Marian E. Davis (by US Marshal) to Tonyehn Madigan, Jermyn, in Forest City for $21,400. (Corrective deed)
Sophia Turoski (est) aka Sophie Turoski (est) aka Sophie R. Turoski to Richard D. Holgash, Jr., Brackney, Tracy L. Holgash, Stephen F. Holgash, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Michael Rosenberg, Rose Maria Rosenberg to Brian L. Wilder, Kingsley, in Brooklyn Township for $117,000.
Ralph R. Moses, Viola Ingborg (estate) Moses, Linda L. Kert, Beverly J. Dimick, (fka) Beverly J. Thomas, Joyce C. Neira, to Joyce C. Neira, Owego, NY, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Michael M. Manganelli, Jr., Joyce W. Manganelli to Philip W. Swartley, Perkasie, Renee B. Swartley, in Harmony Township for $125,000.
Richard J. Foote, Mary Jane Foote to Richard J. Foote, South Montrose, Mary Jane Foote.
Fox Enterprises Inc. to Damon J. Sisler, Susquehanna, Melanie R. Sisler, in Susquehanna for $69,000.
Faith M. Vis to Robert A. DeLucia, Washington Crossing, PA, in Harford Township for $230,000.
Getaway Land Co. LLC to Mark Tanzos, Nazareth, PA, Patti Jeannine Tanzos, in Auburn Township for $43,750.
Brian Deverin, Georgia Deverin to Thomas G. Mitchell, Shavertown, Donna M. Mitchell, in Auburn Township for $129,500.
Lawrence T. O’Reilly, Christine M. O’Reilly, Thomas J. O’Reilly to Timothy D. Hornick, Mt. Laurel, NJ, Dayna M. Hornick, in Auburn Township for $105,000.
Evangeline Tannenbaum, Raymond Williams, Maria Williams to Charles D. Stevens, Westfield, CT.
Christopher P. Warriner, RR5, Montrose and Kristine Ann Kerig, RR5, Montrose.
Scott H. Rosenkrans and Jan Faith Brunges, both of RR 4, Montrose.
Ricky Lynn Kuder, Jr. and Natasha L. Chapman, both of RR3, Meshoppen.
Jeffrey A. Greenwood and Jennifer Lynn Phillippe, both of RR1, Springville.
Jason Scott Heeman and Kelly Balmer, both of Starrucca.
Paul Richard Valentine and Elizabeth Joy Seaman, both of Thompson.
Christopher Allen Serra and Kristy Marie Pavelski, both of Binghamton, NY.
Charles A. Menear, Constantia, NY and Trudy W. Pagano, Chittenango, NY.
Kenneth P. Stanford and Carolyn Louise Francis, both of Susquehanna.
John Gregorio, Endicott vs. Lyndell S. Reid Gregorio, Afton.
Jerry S. Mess, Great Bend vs. Shannon L. Mess, Great Bend.
Ronald R. Teets, RR3, Montrose vs. Maria Teets, South Montrose.
Robin Brandmier vs. Edward Clayton Brandmier, both of RD Susquehanna.
Jennifer L. Robinson, RR2, Kingsley vs. Christopher B. Robinson, Gibson.
Sandra Payne, Brackney vs. Randy L. Payne, Binghamton, NY
Sometime between the 16th and 17th of January, World Vend International in Little Meadows Borough was burglarized. The actor(s) entered the business by means of breaking a window, and removed several items from the premises totaling approximately $14,000 in worth.
On January 17, the residence of Karl Barrows in Hop Bottom, PA was illegally entered, and cash was stolen from within it.
TERRORISTIC THREATS/SIMPLE ASSAULT
On January 6, at around 1 a.m., PSP Gibson received a phone call from Susan Hallock of Laceyville. Mrs. Hallock reported that she had been assaulted and threatened by her husband while in their residence, and that as she was leaving the residence her husband went upstairs where his guns were kept, and said that he was going to shoot her. She left the residence and met members of the PSP Gibson station down the road from it. Several gunshots were heard by troopers coming from the vicinity of the home. The state police Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) were notified regarding the situation, and they responded to the scene. Michael Hallock then surrendered and was arrested and arraigned before District Justice Jeffrey Hollister in Montrose. Mr. Hallock was charged with Terroristic Threats, Simple Assault, and Recklessly Endangering Another Person. He was remanded to the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Between the 10th and 15th of January, one or more unknown persons shot at and damaged several road signs in Harford Township. The value of the 14 damaged signs totals $775.
HIT AND RUN CRASH
On January 10, Polly Henry of Montrose was parked outside the Montrose High School while attending a school event. An unknown operator struck her vehicle and failed to stop and provide information as is required by the Vehicle Code.
THEFT – SERVICES
On January 14, two minor aged boys from Clarks Green and Clarks Summit respectively were discovered to be defrauding Elk Mountain Ski Resort of a daily ski pass privilege. Charges are pending.
FALSE REPORTS/FALSE IDENTIFICATION/UNDERAGE DRINKING
On January 8, between 1:40 and 2:50 a.m. troopers from PSP Gibson were investigating a disabled vehicle. They arrested a 16-year old juvenile from Wildwood, NJ for underage consumption of alcohol, as well as for providing false reports and false identification. Aaron Clark of Nicholson PA, aged 18, was also arrested for underage consumption of alcohol.
PSP Gibson is investigating an incident where several individuals were trespassing on the roof o Rob's Market in Great Bend. The incident occurred on January 7, between 5:45 and 5:50 a.m.
On January 9, at 6:59 p.m., Don Carroll of Clifford was responding to a collision when he lost control of his vehicle on a snow covered road. The vehicle went off the road and hit a few small trees. Carroll was wearing his seat belt and only sustained minor injury.
1 VEHICLE ROLL-OVER
On January 13, at 11:36 a.m. a one-vehicle accident occurred on SR 171 North of Stack Road in Thompson. Justine Ord was traveling South on that road when the vehicle went off the West edge of the Southbound lane. Ord over-steered, and the vehicle traveled back onto the roadway, into the Northbound lane, then back into the Southbound lane. It proceeded to leave the road again, off the West edge of the Southbound lane, enter a ditch, and roll onto its roof. Thompson Fire and EMS responded to the scene. Both Ms. Ord and a passenger were wearing seatbelts and sustained no injuries.
On January 6, at 11:45 p.m., Roger Benson of Forest City was traveling on SR 171 about a mile south of SR 1003 in Thompson Township. He failed to see a downed tree, which was in both lanes. Benson struck the tree and his vehicle became disabled. He was transported to Barnes-Kasson Hospital by Thompson Ambulance, for treatment of injuries.
If you have information regarding any of these incidents please contact PSP Gibson Barracks at (570) 465-3154.
Much of the business conducted at the January 17 meeting of the Susquehanna Community School Board concerned Act 1, the legislation that is intended to shift school district’s revenue sources away, somewhat, from real estate taxes.
Superintendent Bronson Stone said that there is a lot of confusion relating to Act 1 and what it entails, not only on a local level, but around the state.
The district has an index (limit) of 5.2% for tax increases; any increase beyond that index will require the proposed increase to be placed on the ballot for voters’ approval. Mr. Stone said that the board and staff has seen the need for fiscal responsibility, and will not surpass that index with the upcoming year’s budget.
A public meeting is scheduled for February 20, at 7 p.m. in the administration office. It will address the resolution authorizing the referendum question that must be placed on the May, 2007 primary ballot, seeking voter approval to levy, assess and collect an earned income tax (EIT) and net profits tax for the purpose of annually funding homestead and farmstead exclusions (to real estate taxes). The meeting will give voters the chance to discuss the proposed question, which specifically gives them the opportunity to consider whether or not they would like to see an earned income tax. If the voters approve an EIT, it will not increase revenue to the district, but is intended to reduce property taxes. But, there are many variables to consider, such as the collection rate (income) the district would receive, and the number of qualifying homesteads/farmsteads there are in the district, a number which has yet to be determined. Mr. Stone explained that the EIT question involves a shifting of revenue that may benefit some, but not others. An EIT would be based on wages, salaries, tips, fees, and net business profit. Some might find that they are paying more in income tax than they would save through a reduction of real estate taxes.
And, the ballot question as written now may change. The district does not know what the collection rate will be, and at this time, does not know the number of approved homesteads/farmsteads. The question as written now, states that real estate taxes could be reduced by about $328, a moderate number, but for every homestead/farmstead approved, that amount would decline. The state is working on amending the question, to inform the public that that figure is a preliminary one, not a guaranteed one.
To further explain the process, the district’s website has a number of resources available to help voters make an informed decision before their ballots are cast in May.
Title VI grant funding, just over $28,000 has been approved. It will be used to furnish Smart Boards and LCD projectors for all classrooms for grades four, five and six.
Under Title IIa, professional development sessions have been held for teachers, implementing technology through the Blended Schools program, and providing training on strategies and grading students with disabilities.
Work involving new transportation software is still in progress, the preliminary budget for the coming year is also in progress, and the annual audit is underway.
After school tutoring at the elementary school will be winding up on January 30, at which time the Students for Standards of Success program will begin, which is a remediation program for PSSA preparation.
As January is School Director Recognition month, the board received copies of letters written by students in both the elementary and high school, and were presented with certificates in honor of their service.
Winter parent-teacher conferences will be held on January 31, the same day as the district’s All Curriculum Expo. The Mocha Moose Café will again be held during the Expo.
An in-service had been held the previous Friday, with a focus on the new Saxon math program the district has been using. Representatives from the Montrose and Hamburg Area School Districts will be visiting to discuss the program and to see how it works.
Early intervention meetings have been taking place, with eight students being evaluated for special ed. placements in kindergarten, a figure that was said to be below the norm.
The district’s Education Association will probably not be sponsoring their annual car show, but will be sponsoring a golf tournament, tentatively scheduled for the weekend after Mothers Day. Proceeds go towards the association’s annual scholarship awards.
Correspondence received included a request from a student asking the board to consider a district tennis team, which the board will consider at a future meeting; a student council update on a recycling program they are working on; and a congratulations from the Susquehanna Boro Council for the high school’s Blue Ribbon nomination.
Items approved by the board included the following:
Changing the October meeting date to the 17th, and the work session to the 16th.
An amended Realty Transfer Tax resolution; there was some adjustment to the wording of the resolution, but the tax remains at .5%.
A procedure/administrative regulation policy for the board.
The following resignations: Mary Wescott as delegate to the NEIU board of directors; Robin Burdick, boys’ junior high track coach; Kyle Cook, junior high boys’ baseball coach; board member Johnine Barnes; Tiffany Newberry, junior high girls’ softball.
A request for homebound instruction for a seventh grade student.
The following additions to the substitute list: Barney Wilkins, J. Marshall Ayres, Nadine Taylor, Jessie Decker.
A contract change for bus #25, effective December 11, 2006.
Reimbursing a per capita tax for 2006 where the tax had been paid in July, but an exoneration had been granted by the board.
Hiring for a temporary English teacher position, approximately 11 weeks; Tiffany Newberry, junior high girls’ softball volunteer; Dan Brinton, substitute bus driver.
The customary list of fund-raisers, conferences, workshops, and activities.
The following items were tabled until the next meeting:
Electing a delegate to the NEIU board of directors.
An exoneration from the per capita tax for 2006, until more information was available.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, February 21, 7:00 p.m. in the administration offices.
The January 16 COG meeting was well attended in spite of the somewhat snowy weather.
At a prior meeting, COG had discussed hosting a workshop on zoning hearing board training in the area for local municipalities. It was agreed to proceed, with a target time frame of late February to April. The Northern Tier Coalition, the Eastern Susquehanna County Partnership and representatives of any interested municipality may participate.
The committee working on employees’ policies and procedures has been working hard. After a lot of “homework” and research and revisions in accordance with state labor laws, the final draft is ready to be reviewed by the executive committee. The goal is to present it to members at the February meeting for their review. A motion carried to reimburse Annette Rogers for the cost of materials she had purchased in her research.
Randy Decker of PennDOT brought information about workshops scheduled in the area, through the joint auspices of LTAP and NTRPDC. On February 14, in Tunkhannock, the topic will be unpaved and gravel roads. On February 28, posting and bonding in Montrose, and on March 28, bridge maintenance, also in Montrose. Three other workshops are scheduled in the Scranton area in the near future, sponsored by another agency, on work zone safety, equipment safety, and asphalt problems.
The building committee reported that they had looked into two possible sites for a new COG building, a one-acre parcel in Hallstead and a 14-acre parcel in the Montrose area, but the asking price for both was well out of COG’s price range.
Ararat Township has completed the necessary paperwork needed for the municipal police survey, and it has been submitted to Harrisburg. No further news was available as of this date.
Friendsville Boro was sent a letter on December 28, informing them that COG must receive proof that the boro has advertised the ordinance reaffirming its membership, as well as up-to-date dues payment. In accordance with COG’s bylaws, the boro has until February 12 to furnish same; if no documentation is received, at that time the boro will no longer be considered a member of COG and all related work, such as sewage permits, will cease.
COG has met with a representative from NTRPDC to prepare paperwork to apply for grant funding for office equipment, a copy machine, a laminating machine (for maps), two desk top computers, a laptop computer, printers, bookshelves and a cabinet. The total cost is expected to be about $16,046; as it is a matching grant, COG’s share will be about $8,000. A motion carried to approve. Some time in March, COG should receive word as to whether or not the grant is approved.
In accordance with COG’s bylaws, reorganization will be scheduled for the February meeting. Committee chairs were elected for two-year terms in 2006, and vice chairs, which were elected for one-year terms, will be up for reappointment, for two-year terms.
There was some discussion as to why COG has a planning commission committee; chairman Elliot Ross said that it had been put in place to keep members apprised of any information of interest that occurs when the county planning commission meets. Cy Cowperthwait, who had served on the planning commission, said that the planning commission makes sure that development plans confirm with county ordinances. An audience member said that there was some “discomfort” with the planning commission of late. He said that although the commission asked for input before any action was taken, they basically “do what they want to do.” Mr. Cowperthwait disagreed, and said they do not have the authority to do what they want to do, they must abide by county ordinances.
Due to questions that had arisen after members reviewed a proposed ordinance requiring maintenance agreements for septic systems, the wording of the proposed ordinance has been amended to read that COG and the member municipality will have the discretion to develop a maintenance plan. After discussion, it was agreed that since the ordinance had been amended somewhat from how it was initially presented, it should be re-advertised. And, Ararat Township was not included in the original advertisement due to a misunderstanding of what the ordinance was about, but will be included in the subsequent re-advertising.
The Sewage committee reported some concerns with the length of time that it has taken for some legal proceedings, and will be meeting with their solicitor to discuss particulars.
The committee also recommended that COG adopt a policy for ten-acre exemptions for non-standard systems. Current regulations require that such systems be included in deed information when a property is sold, but the committee feels that there should be a policy in place to require that such systems be recorded when the exemption is applied for. Doing so would create a more reliable paper trail of where such systems are, and would serve as protection for COG when and if such systems malfunction. After discussion, it was agreed that any policy should be drafted for members’ review before it is acted on, even though there are only a few municipalities that still allow the ten-acre exemption for non-permitted systems. Any subsequent legal action would, after all, affect COG as a whole, not just the municipalities that still allow such exemptions.
One member had a question regarding setback requirements, in particular how they apply to land where there is a stream or other waterway. How would the delineation apply, especially in an area like ours that has very irregular terrain? How is it determined where the high water mark is, after which the setback distance is measured? SEO Duane Wood said that the rule of thumb is to go by the “scouring” line, where vegetation ends, and use that as the high water mark.
At last month’s meeting, discussion had taken place about an ongoing lawsuit regarding situations where a property owner used a building inspector other than the one contracted by a municipality. The municipality’s building code official (BCO) of record is the only one who may issue an occupancy permit; at issue is whether the BCO would be required to sign a permit for an inspection conducted by another party. Further information was that the case had been appealed to the Supreme Court, but the appeal had been stayed. This means that there are no changes to the authority or function of the BCO at this time.
One member had a question about the proposed assessment permit ordinance; the initial draft dictated that a permit is required for any structure of 1,000 square feet or less; he asked, would this require a permit for any structure, even a dog house or a poultry coop? It was noted that the municipality can set a fee schedule by resolution, and could require that permits are required according to the size of the structure. For example, the municipality could only require a permit for any structure over 500 square feet. It was noted that if the municipality were to set that limit, there would need to be some system of checks and balances in place to ensure that such structures follow setback requirements.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, February 20, 7 p.m. in the COG offices in New Milford.
The January 17 Elk Lake/SCCTC school board meetings opened with accolades. SCCTC students took first, second, and third places in a recent essay contest entitled, “Health Care Careers, An Investment in Life”. The three girls, Cassie Benscoter (3rd), Misty Karhnak (2nd) and Jackie Pullman (1st), all read their essays before the board. Misty then briefly presented a recent program which the Health Services vo-tech department ran. They sold candles, purchased and packaged goods, and provided for two needy families over the holidays.
The vo-tech students weren't the only ones deserving of recognition. Elk Lake won the Zurn-Bush wrestling tournament, and was praised highly by both Mr. Mallory and a board member. Five high school chorus members either qualified for regional chorus, or placed as a first alternate. Basketball player Jeff Madrack was named the Scranton Times Athlete of the Week. The forensics team placed very well at the La Salle Forum, with both individuals and the team as a whole performing admirably. The robotics team went to pick up kits and participate in a workshop, team-building activities, etc. Finally, Larceny and Old Lace was approved as the Spring play.
The positive reports continued as Mike Dougherty gave the annual audit report. Both schools appeared to be in good financial shape. A well planned and monitored budget contributed to a healthy fund balance for Elk Lake, while an increase in revenues (tuition and a grant) helped to account for that of the SCCTC.
The board turned its attention to academics with alteration of a problematic math retake policy. Some time ago the policy regarding the retaking of math courses for credit in order to improve a passing but low grade had been changed, in order to allow students greater freedom. Unfortunately students have been abusing this freedom, and using the policy as a mere means of taking easy courses. Some have retaken the same two courses twice in order to acquire their four obligatory math credits, and never move past Algebra 1. The new policy seeks to eliminate this practice. Now students can only retake one course in which they had a passing grade over the four years of high school. They can also only retake a course they took the previous year, no longer being able to return to one they took two years prior. In addition to these restrictions, any student seeking to retake a class may only do so with the recommendation of their current math educator (which recommendation states that they would benefit from more instruction before continuing to the next level) and an administrator. By this means, the school aspires to have all students make it to at least Geometry, and preferably to Algebra 2.
The board also took steps to solve a lifeguard conundrum. Previously, an adult lifeguard was required at all times in order for the pool to be open. During the times when an adult lifeguard could not be secured the pool had to be closed. Dr. Bush brought to the board a proposal aimed at alleviating this issue, which had been under discussion. The proposal met with board approval – providing for a student, meeting certain criteria, to act as an adult lifeguard. In order to qualify for this role, the student must be: a senior, at least 18 years of age, in good standing at the school, a regular lifeguard at the pool already, someone who has been head lifeguard at another facility, and fully certified (including applicable certification to work with children). They must also undergo an interview with the pool manager. One student was approved by the board to fulfill this role.
In time talk turned to the issue of Act 1. The board voted to recognize receipt of the report from the Tax Study Commission, and to subsequently reject the Commission's recommendation. The commission recommended that the district leave its tax policy as it is. This, however, is something which the legislation forbids the district to do. Therefore the board, while formally declaring their opposition to the way the law has been written and enforced, acted upon it. This tax-shift act mandates that the district give notice of intent to place one of two referendum questions on the ballot. This intent must be advertised for three weeks, and a public hearing held. The district must choose between a question regarding an increase in the earned income tax from .5% to a minimum of around 1%, or one regarding the conversion of the current tax to a personal income tax. An earned income tax only taxes wages; a personal income tax taxes various forms of income including pensions, dividends, etc. In exchange for the tax changes, some people will be eligible for a reduction in their property tax. The board passed a resolution to advertise their intent to pursue the latter option, a personal income tax of .92%. The public hearing is scheduled for February 20, at 6:30 p.m. If voters vote against the change in taxes, the district will be able to pursue the tax-study commission's recommendation of maintaining the status quo.
Near the end of the meeting the school board members were recognized, and publicly thanked for all their hard work. January is the month for acknowledging the work that school boards do in service to children and the community.
More Notes On Toxic Mold
A Bill that Congressman Conyers is introducing is named after Malina Walker. It is designed to protect home buyers, like her mother from unwittingly moving into homes infested with black mold, and provide a financial lifeboat for homeowners who are already stuck with it. “There is mold and there is poisonous mold, which particularly affects young infants whose immune systems and lung capacity are still growing,” the Congressman said.
The Malina Bill will, for the first time, require the EPA to define what dangerous toxic mold levels are, create an emergency federal insurance program, like FEMA, to pay the astronomical costs of black mold cleanup, and create a national database of homes infected with toxic mold.
But it comes too late to help Pam Walker and her two daughters. “We’re responsible for tearing the house down. And because it is a contaminated environment, we are supposed to pay $40,000 we do not have,” Pam said.
It can destroy, not only your home but your health as well, without you ever realizing it until it is too late. Pam Walker paid $115,000 for a house that was filled with toxic mold. “They said, in certain rooms of our house that it was so high we would never be able to touch our belongings on the inside,” Pam said. Even worse than losing her home, Pam’s eight-year old daughter, Malina, has lost much of her ability to breathe. She now suffers from severe asthma attacks, several times every day. “She lost 70 percent of lung capacity before we determined what was really making her ill,” Pam said.
I could cry when I see these poor people in the gulf, unaware of the dangers they face going into their damaged, toxic filled houses without proper covering. And since mold grows within 24 to 48 hours, it is unconscionable that FEMA and the governors permit this!
During the Melinda Ballard trial, the judge cited a lack of scientific evidence, delivering a major blow to the Ballards’ case. He refused to admit any testimony that mold causes brain damage – in effect, wiping out the family’s medical claims. Erin Brockovich (another victim) says science just hasn’t caught up with reality.
It was the jury that refused to believe the Farmer’s Insurance Group Company spokesman who falsely accused Ballard of committing insurance fraud, according to a lawsuit.
This verdict has created a ripple effect throughout the insurance industry, making insurers more accountable for how they respond to toxic mold claims.
Erin Brockovich has taken on the toxic mold fight. She purchased her “dream house” with the money she made from the movie of the same name, where she was played by Julia Roberts.
In her new book just published, “Take It From Me – Life’s A Struggle But You Can Win” (with Marc Elliot), I can certainly agree with Erin. Take it from me, also, it’s tough when you are deathly ill, watching your husband suffer, and nobody believes you – and you are treated with disdain by so-called friends. Back in 2000, even the medical community was skeptical. Dottie and I had to do our own research. The first research we collected, I carried in a small file and told my doctor that I thought my illness could be from toxic mold. She looked at me and said I was silly. I dropped the file on her desk and said, “Educate yourself,” as I walked out the door, never to return. My husband’s doctor saved my life.
One doctor said that the immune system and mold spores are at war with each other. Dr. Dana was the referee – he kept my immune system stronger than the spores that had invaded my body. I thank him every day – he saved my life and my sanity.
No matter how sick you can get, it is at least some help to know what the cause is and if someone can help.
After Erin moved into her new house, she discovered that much of the place was going to have to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch, due to the presence of toxic mold just about everywhere – inside the walls, above the ceilings and below the floorboards. Besides the immediate danger to her family, the toxic mold also meant she could not sell the place and buy a new one.
Along with Melinda Ballard, Erin has become an advocate, traveling around the country speaking out against one more killer. She is renovating – tearing out room by room – even if it takes $100,000.00.
Erin said, “Who in his or her right mind would knowingly buy such a health hazard? And anyway, I wouldn’t think of selling it to anyone in this condition, I do not do things that way. Instead, I made the hard choice to bite the bullet and renovate the entire structure, from the basement to the roof, at a cost that totaled about as much as I originally paid for it.”
Her only concern was that her children have a safe roof over their heads, whether it’s a palace, or a dump.
Hallstead Boro Council members agreed at their January 18 meeting that restoring the Route 11 park is a top priority. It has seen flood damage more than once in recent years, but damage from the more recent June flooding still lingers. The boro has received payment from FEMA for flood damage, in the amount of $6,033.75, but the repairs must be completed by December 30 of this year.
There is still debris at the site that needs to be removed. Some damaged trees were to have been removed, but had not been. Council will contact the party that was to have done so to determine if he will be taking them. If not, they will approach the fire department to see if they can be burned as a training exercise, as well as wood from damaged buildings at the ballfield across the road. There is also some metal debris that needs to be removed, and a drain pipe that will be checked to see if it has been damaged or is in working condition.
The pavilion at the park needs to be replaced, as do the restrooms. It was agreed to do a walk-through, to determine where the pavilion and parking area should be sited, where they had been or in a different area of the park. Bids will be prepared for council to review at the next meeting, and advertised shortly after. After that work is completed, the park will be filled in with topsoil and re-seeded, as soon as possible.
Complaints about properties where there are more than one unlicensed cars parked were discussed; the owners in question had previously been sent warning letters as well as copies of the boro’s nuisance ordinance. The owners will again be sent letters, giving 30 days to have the vehicles removed or registered and insured.
Other complaints discussed involved vehicles parked too close to intersections, limiting sight distance. Those owners, too will be sent letters and copies of the nuisance ordinance. As one of those complaints were about a multi-family dwelling where parking is obviously a problem, the solicitor will be contacted to determine if the owner of a multi-family dwelling is required to guarantee ample parking. And, the boro is trying to find out who the owner is of a property where the sidewalk has been torn up and replaced improperly, creating a potential hazard.
At last month’s meeting, council had heard from a resident at the intersection of Pine and Chase; he had asked if something could be done to prevent drivers from cutting the corner too close and damaging his property. Council had looked into the situation, and had determined that placing reflectors in the area would be the best solution. A stone in the drainage ditch that had been moved by the vehicle will also be re-placed so as not to impede water.
Motions carried to adopt a resolution pertaining to recreational structures, such as hunting cabins, and assessment permits.
Drainage problems were discussed, particularly on Pine St. A contractor was to have looked at one area, but with so much flood damage to deal with in the area, he has been unable to do so as of yet. Another area on Pine St. has seen water problems, with no obvious source. It was speculated that perhaps it is being caused by a sump pump emptying water into the road.
Council will approach the fire department about a small strip of land between the boro building parking lot and the fire company property; it is owned by the fire company, but the boro is interested in obtaining it, and will find out if the fire company is amenable to the idea, and what their terms would be.
And, council discussed what items should be put on a work list, as the relatively mild winter has (so far) not required much time spent on plowing and cindering.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, February 15, 7 p.m. in the boro building.
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