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Great Bend Borough, a little town of less than 800 souls squeezed in a coil of the Susquehanna River and surrounded by Great Bend Township, seems like it has always had difficulty claiming its own identity. Now the town's post office is shrinking and cutting its hours, and the town's leaders are worried that further cutbacks will eventually erase the town's identity entirely.
Joe Tomeo, owner of the building that houses the post office - Zip Code 18821 - attended the borough council meeting on May 3 to offer what information he could. He said that revenue was down at the post office but that, although many operations had been moved to the Hallstead post office, so far the amount of space he leases has not been reduced.
Council President Bea Alesky said that she had talked with Gail Adams, Post Master for both Great Bend and Hallstead. Ms. Adams assured her that the post office was not going to be closed, or the Zip Code eliminated. Beginning May 19, however, the counter hours at the Great Bend office will shrink. The new hours will be 9:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.
A change in the status of the post office in a small town is often perceived as a threat to the town itself, to its very existence. Borough solicitor Frank O'Connor characterizes his office on Main Street as one of the heaviest users of the post office. He is concerned that loss of the local post office will destroy the town itself, where he has conducted business for more than 32 years.
Mr. O'Connor said that parking is better at the Great Bend post office than in Hallstead; that traffic is much worse in Hallstead than in Great Bend; and that since last year's flood, the obvious compromise of a new post office on the "flats" is no longer an option.
An uproar ensued that threatened to overwhelm the meeting, with Council members calling for petition campaigns, letter-writing campaigns, boy-scout campaigns, and all manner of other campaign to save the local post office. So someone suggested a special meeting to focus on the issue, which was duly scheduled for the following Tuesday.
Of course the P.O. wasn't the only business the borough council had to consider on this gentle evening early May.
Council opened the meeting by recognizing the attendance of District Justice Peter Janicelli, who appeared at the request of council to discuss what can be done through his court to handle ordinance violations in the borough. Council – and Code Enforcement Officer Ron Cranage in particular – have been frustrated by some residents who don't seem to care about the condition or appearance of their property, and who ignore repeated attempts to enforce ordinances against them.
It appears from what Mr. Janicelli said, that the borough needs to make sure of two elements in its enforcement procedures: first, a borough official must appear at the court proceeding to make the case; and second, the borough must maintain detailed records of all proceedings that can be produced in court on subsequent hearings if necessary. The borough must not depend on the court to enforce its ordinances by itself, or to maintain all of its records. The court decides each case on the basis of what is brought to it in that hearing; the borough must bring all materials to each hearing for each case.
In one long-running, but more uplifting case, Mike Crook announced the arrival of a sign he has had created to memorialize the sacrifice of Iraq veterans that will be placed at Memorial Park, at the flagpole at the corner of Franklin and Elizabeth Streets on Memorial Day. It will be erected by himself and borough council member Ron Cranage in advance of the event, and unveiled on the day by members of the family of a fallen hero, following ceremonies at the VFW that morning. Mr. Crook has been developing these plans since not long after six members of the 1st Battalion, 109th Mechanized Infantry of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard were killed in Iraq in September, 2005.
A resident attended the meeting to ask if an ordinance could be adopted to do something about barking dogs. Mr. Cranage reported that he had brought the county dog warden in to survey the situation. It was her opinion that the dog was properly cared for and restrained. Mr. Cranage said that he himself observed the situation on three separate occasions and heard no barking. While he said that, as a third-shift worker himself, he knew how annoying a barking dog could be, he said, "A dog is a dog." Dogs bark.
Having advertised appropriately, council formally adopted two new ordinances. One of them would assess a fee of 1% of the retail value of any new utility passing through the borough. This one is intended to hamper the installation of the New York Regional Interconnect high-power transmission line that is causing so much controversy in New York State that it threatened to be re-routed through northeastern Pennsylvania.
The other ordinance would allow the fire company to charge fees for certain types of emergency services, particularly for accidents on the Interstate. The fire company expends expensive equipment and materials on rescues and needs to recover some of these costs. The ordinance exempts residents of the fire company's coverage area and their homes.
Another proposed ordinance came under discussion during an executive session. This one would presumably provide some kind of control over massage parlors or other types of "adult-oriented" businesses, in response to a perceived threat from a developer who is thought to be planning such a business at the north end of town.
Last month, in order to head off a lengthy discussion on the streets, Ms. Alesky formed a committee to come up with a plan to do some repair work this year. The committee presented its recommendations to Council in the form of motions to request bids for repairs to Spring Street and Water Street. On Spring Street they will be looking for three separate bids; on Water Street, four separate bids. The motions gave no specifications. The committee wants the bids in pieces so they can decide how much they can afford to do this year.
As always, Great Bend Borough doesn't have much money to work with. They're saving a little bit at the moment, since they're not paying anyone to mow the lawns. Council member Jerry MacConnell offered to do the mowing gratis until someone is hired.
On the other hand, Recreation Park hasn't had anything to mow since the flood last June. Borough Secretary Sheila Guinan reminded members that the FEMA money to repair the park (dugouts, fences, field, etc.) must be spent by year's end. So members adopted a motion to have the field scraped and seeded. So maybe by late summer Mr. MacConnell will have more to mow.
The second public meeting to support the development of the Susquehanna County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan will be held on Wednesday, May 9, 7:00 p.m. at the Harford Fire Hall.
A draft of the proposed plan will be distributed to all who attend the meeting. Additionally, the draft plan will be posted to the County’s web site, www.susqco.com. Copies will be available at the Susquehanna County Council of Governments office, 175 Main Street, New Milford; the Susquehanna County Emergency Management Agency office, 31 Public Avenue, Montrose; the Susquehanna County Commissioner’s office, 11 Maple Avenue, Montrose; the Forest City Public Library, 535 Main Street; and the Susquehanna Borough building, 284 Erie Blvd. Comments on the draft plan will be due by the close of business Monday, May 14. Interested parties may submit comments to Mark Wood, Susquehanna County Emergency Management Agency Director, at 278-4440 (fax) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Any comments received after 5:00 p.m. on May 14 will not be considered.
In response to federal and state requirements, the Susquehanna County Commissioners will move to adopt the plan on Wednesday, May 23 at their regular bi-monthly meeting. Any municipality with properties currently included in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program application pending under the June, 2006 declaration are strongly urged to adopt the plan before the end of May to preserve funding opportunities for impacted homeowners.
Participation in the planning process and adoption of the hazard mitigation plan is completely optional and at the discretion of elected and appointed officials. However, any municipality that does not participate in the process of adopting the plan will not be eligible for state or federal hazard mitigation funds, which could leave municipalities, their residents and businesses, and public infrastructure vulnerable to the brutal impacts of natural disasters.
Contact Mark Wood at 278-4600, extension 257 with any questions.
Investment management consultants from The Seneca Group of Citigroup Institutional Consulting reviewed the county pension plan investments and provided an update to the Susquehanna County Retirement Board at a public meeting on April 25. Volatility returned to the stock market in a significant way in the first quarter, as slumping home sales, uncertainty about interest rates, and doubts about the US economy all took their toll on investor confidence. Better economic news led to improved market conditions in the final month of the quarter. After falling more than 400 points, or 3.3% on February 27, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rebounded in March, ending the quarter at 12,354.35, only a modest decline from its year-end 2006 level.
Despite the volatility, the County Pension Plan gained over $157,000 for the first quarter and outpaced the relative benchmark. This brings the total gain since October, 2002, when the current investment advisors were hired to advise the County Retirement Board, up to over $3,290,000. These gains helped the portfolio to grow despite the increasing costs of retiree benefits as the number of retirees supported by the plan has increased nearly 15% over the last few years. The next Retirement Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 8, immediately following the county commissioners’ meeting.
Lorraine Maio (aka) Lorraine Eckmann (aka) Lorraine Christiansen to William Christiansen, Rockaway, NJ, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Naomi J. Jayne to Donald M. Jayne, RR2, Meshoppen, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Amy P. Deshong to Amy P. Deshong, Blue Bell, in Montrose for one dollar.
Rose Zembrzycki to Bernard Zembrzycki, Jr., Herrick Center, Linda Zembrzycki, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
John Durante, Sr., Jean Durante to William Smith, Rockaway Point, NY, Evelyn Smith, in Springville Township for $130,000.
Keith Delaney, Kathryn Delaney to Dean H. Potter, RD2, Thompson, in Lanesboro Borough for one dollar.
Option One Mortgage Corp. to Paul Hill, Moosic, in Lenox Township for $80,000.
Frank Carpenetti, Mary Carpenetti to Marie Graziano, RR1, Springville, in Lathrop Township for $300,000.
Terrence R. Dugan, Julie H. Dugan to Terrence R. Dugan, Brackney, Julie H. Dugan, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Robert T. Reagan, Ronald E. Reagan, Nancy C. Reagan, Rosemary E. Hall, Ritchie Hall to Ronald E. Reagan, RR1, Brackney, Nancy C. Reagan, for one dollar.
Doris E. Sebring to Robert T. Sullivan, Jr., Robert T. Sullivan, Shirley I. Sullivan, Cathy Schallack, Michael D. Sullivan, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Lennas L. Russell to Theodore K. Russell, RR4, Montrose, Amanda Russell, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Hugh D. McCollum, Theresa M. McCollum to Walter Jeffrey, RR1, Brackney, in Bridgewater Township for $250,000.
Walter Jeffrey, Robyn Jeffrey to Adam Diaz, RR1, Kingsley, Julie Diaz, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Helen Mazurkiwicz to Elaine M. Tompkins, RR1, Hop Bottom, in Lathrop and Brooklyn townships for one dollar.
Giacomo Federico, Carol J. Federico to James T. McGlynn, Wallingford, Jacquelyn G. McGlynn, in Herrick Township for $113,000.
Patmar Realty Company Inc. (aka) Pat-Mar Realty Co. Inc. to JTSpano LLC, Hillsborough, NJ, in Forest City for $270,000.
Roy Darling, Phyllis Darling, Connie Richie, Thomas Richie, Perry Lyne, Larry Lyne to Brian S. Upright, RR4, Montrose, Angela Upright, in Rush Township for $76,000.
Helen A. Randall (by power of attorney), Richard E. Randall, Alan L. Randall to Richard S. Randall, RR1, New Milford, Jacalyn E. Randall, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Benjamin S. Schnessel, Irma Schnessel to Martin C. Flohs, Cliffwood Beach, NJ, Daryl L. Flohs, George A. Flohs, Doris A. Flohs, Carl L. Flohs, Sharon J. Flohs, in Great Bend Township for $270,000.
Robert A. Borove, Kathleen Sue Borove to Amy Borove, RR1, Kingsley, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Margaret F. Phelps (estate, aka) Margaret F. Phelps (estate), Donald Phelps, to James Pearson, RR1, Great Bend, Karol J. Pearson, in Great Bend Borough for $39,000.
Margaret Hardy to Christopher James Hardy, RR3, Hallstead, in Oakland Township for one dollar.
Chris Caffaro (aka) Chris Coffaro to Chris Coffaro, Union Dale, in Clifford Township for one dollar. (Corrective Deed)
Tina M. Woodruff to Duane A. Woodruff, RR2, New Milford, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Harold R. Smith, Carol A. Smith to John A. Bovenkamp, RR2, Hallstead, Laurie A. Bovenkamp, in New Milford Borough for $26,805.
Hallstead Realty Inc. to Amish Realty Inc., Hallstead, in Hallstead Borough for $25,000.
Robert Wedin Robert Wedin, Clifford, Margaret Gaudenzi, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Kathleen E. Burmeister to Mark D. Carmody, Thompson, Robin A. Carmody, in Thompson Borough for $2,500.
Michael J. Lindquist, Linda L. Lindquist to Michael J. Lindquist, Susquehanna Depot, Linda L. Lindquist, in Susquehanna Depot for one dollar.
Martin C. Plevinsky, Claudia Plevinsky, Joseph M. Plevinsky, Mary Plevinsky, Karen M. Shaver, Robert Shaver, Daniel H. Wages, Katherine A. Wages to Daniel H. Wages, New Milford, Katherine A. Wages, in New Milford Borough for one dollar.
Andrew J. Boes, Rome, NY and Megan L. Holben, Syracuse, NY.
William A. Burke III and Becky Lyne Yonkin, both of Meshoppen.
William A. Osterout and Joanna Mary Burdick, both of RR1, Susquehanna.
Patrick M. Daly, RR2, Montrose and Renee Janoski Coy, RR2, New Milford.
Duane C. Burgess and Leslie L. Horton, both of RR1, Hallstead.
Scott Allen Snow and Denise M. Whitney, both of Montrose.
The Susquehanna County Board of Elections held an emergency meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 3 in the commissioners’ meeting room in the Susquehanna County Courthouse on the advice of the county solicitor, Raymond Davis. The meeting was called when numerous errors were discovered on the ballots for the May 15 primary election. The Board of Elections, Dawn Wilson, Carolyn Paccio and Rick Ainey decided due to the number of errors, all ballots will be reprinted in order to ensure a fair and accurate election. The next Board of Elections meeting will be held in the commissioners’ meeting room in the Susquehanna County Courthouse at 3:00 p.m. on May 9.
An article regarding information on Act 1 in last week’s issue of the Susquehanna County Transcript stated that Susquehanna Community School District residents will vote on a new PIT, when in fact the ballot question in that district will propose an Earned Income Tax (EIT), not a Personal Income Tax (PIT). And, an incorrect website address was listed for the Dept. of Education; the correct address is www.pde.state.pa.us.
Some 30 people gathered at the Starrucca House in Susquehanna on Saturday, April 21 for an all-day conference and festival to celebrate the life and work of writer John Gardner. The 10th annual tribute was sponsored by the John Gardner Society and directed by Sandy Hiortdahl, Professor at Washington College in Maryland and PhD candidate at Catholic University (which provided some of the equipment used at the conference).
Novelist John Gardner.
Photo courtesy of Joel Gardner.
John Champlin Gardner grew up near Batavia, New York. His academic career as a teacher of fiction writing brought him to the State University of New York at Binghamton. He commuted to the campus from his home near Susquehanna, often by motorcycle. It was on one of those trips in 1982 that he was tragically killed in a crash at the age of 49.
Mr. Gardner was a driven man and known as a heavy drinker, perhaps attempting to assuage a guilt he felt over the death of a younger brother in a farming accident when they were children. He frequented the Starrucca House during its renovation and worked to develop a relationship with the Susquehanna community, describing the area in the opening pages of his last novel, "Mickelsson's Ghosts."
John Gardner wrote more than a dozen novels, out of which grew some celebrity, particularly during the 1970's; he won the National Book Critics' Circle Award in 1976 for the novel, "October Light." Since his death, his controversial and charismatic personality and his life's work have given birth to something of a cult following.
The conference featured brief lectures by a number of people who either knew Mr. Gardner or who have a special interest in his work. Dana Washington, for example, who teaches creative writing at Lock Haven University, spoke about her efforts to encourage students to adopt a metaphorical approach to fiction writing based on the moral truth in the realism of storytelling, rather than simplistic narrative of so-called reality.
Jan Quackenbush, one of the moving forces behind the John Gardner Society, lives in Binghamton, but his heart still resides in Susquehanna County where he grew up near Elk Lake. Mr. Quackenbush, a teacher and a playwright himself who knew John Gardner, offered some personal insight into the man who was John Gardner.
Still deeper was the insight of Susan Thornton who willingly responded to questions about the life she shared with John Gardner and that she described in a memoir called "On Broken Glass: Loving and Losing John Gardner," published in 2000. Ms. Thornton was to have married Mr. Gardner when he was killed. She still works at Binghamton University.
Mr. Gardner's son, Joel, was still a young man when his father died. Yet he has taken up the banner of his father's legacy and is preparing a documentary film on his life and work based on interviews his father gave during his lifetime, as well as conversations with people who knew him and his work. Joel Gardner treated attendees to a very preliminary version of some of this film to round out a satisfying experience for all on a bright Spring day: the film's title was "Sunlight Man," after one of the author's most popular works, "The Sunlight Dialogues."
The County Transcript has been advised that approximately $300 worth of railroad ties were stolen from the Shops Plaza area, near Benson’s Gas Station recently.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the local police department or the railroad police at 1-800-366-6979, ext. 4, attention James Willis, lead investigator.
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