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The Susquehanna County Commissioners’ October 28 meeting was held as usual, with the exception of Commissioner Jeff Loomis. Chief Clerk Sylvia Beamer informed Commissioners Kelly and Warren that Loomis had telephoned to say he had a doctor’s appointment and would not be able to attend the meeting that morning.
Commissioner Mary Ann Warren asked to approve the bills and seminar requests for the monthly expenses. Commissioner Roberta Kelly seconded the motions and approvals with the exception of tabling Resolution 2007-25, to authorize the condemnation of a portion of premises in Harmony Township. Kelly stated that the parcel was the site of the 911 tower, and although “it is important to move forward with this,” she felt that all three commissioners should be present for this action.
EMA Coordinator Mark Wood stated that the parcel was the only viable site for the tower. “It is an emergency (911) radio tower site, and covers way less than one acre of ground.”
The owners of the parcel, Sanya and Natasha Cupic are apparently not in agreement of the importance of the tower site, making it necessary for the commissioners to apply eminent domain, due to the fact that it is necessary for the Susquehanna County Emergency Management to have the tower precisely in that location.
The tower has been on that Harmony site since the initial lease of November, 1996.
In other business, referring to the New Milford quarry situation, Al Aronowitz informed the commissioners that at the recent zoning meeting, it was mentioned that “County commissioners do have the ability to use their own leverage force for zoning enforcement.”
Commissioner Kelly stated that they do not act over the local government’s decision, as the local governing body is the one on top of the situation in most cases, and knows what is best in the long run.
Kelly father added, “The question remains if it is really worth stepping in down the road.”
Warren stated that emphasis on progressive growth in the county may nor may not justify the commissioners stepping in. “What local grassroots do implement supercedes anything the county has.”
P. Jay Amadio asked how Commissioner Warren could justify action being taken on September 14 at a probable violation of the “Sunshine Law.” The meeting had admittedly been held between Commissioners Loomis and Warren, and involved Voter Registrar‚ Gary Wilder’s probationary status being lengthened another six months.
Commissioner Warren stated that none of Wilder’s tenure or other benefits had been altered or denied. She added, “I could have been wrong, but I followed protocol from previous actions.”
Jim Jennings asked when and what were the protocol items to which she referred.
Warren replied, “I don’t have those specs at this time, but it is a fact that it was done previously.”
P. Jay Amadio questioned the cost of the labor attorneys for the budget year.
Kelly reported the cost was $75,565, which included six contracts with negotiations.
Chief Clerk Sylvia Beamer added that that was the amount allotted for in the budget, and she stated she will look for more statistics regarding that question.
Thomas Wooden, on behalf of the Rail Authority said the Authority would appreciate getting something in writing and signed regarding Commissioner Loomis’ alleged promise to guarantee a loan the Authority is seeking.
Wooden told this reporter that there will soon be a train line coming into Susquehanna from Binghamton, through to Scranton. He said that if the county does not allocate a stopping station (the proposed site is Summersville, located between New Milford and Hallstead), then a lot of business could bypass the county. “This train will bring people to the county.”
Wooden asked that the loan be guaranteed via Loomis’ promise.
Ann Whynman offered to provide a “go bag” demonstration at the next commissioners’ meeting, for the safety and benefit of residents, in light of the recent evacuation of over 250,000 residents in California. Whynman told commissioners that a “go bag” consists of what it would take for a person to sustain her/himself if they needed to flee their homes, or if they became stranded in their vehicle (or elsewhere) for any length of time. She added she will bring her own personal go bag and a list of the bag’s contents.
The commissioners agreed that this is a good idea and there will be time allotted for Ms. Whynman to demonstrate.
In an important safety issue, Ms. Whynman reported that the upstairs door of the county office building is locked, and that in an emergency people could not get out of the door. She added that if someone is panicky or excited, they may not realize that there is a button they could push to exit. “It is a big safety hazard,” she added.
Ms. Beamer informed the audience that this matter had been addressed, and that quotes on fixing the door were already being sought.
The next commissioners’ meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 14 at 10 a.m. in the Susquehanna County Office Building.
In a public meeting which did not find its conclusion until around 10:15 at night, the Mountain View School Board discussed PSSA scores, food, and the education of students at length. The argumentative atmosphere, after its one meeting hiatus earlier in the month, made a sort of comeback as visitors attacked food quality and one board member eloquently expressed her opinion on educator grievances. Despite this, however, the meeting did have points in which progress and positivity shone through.
It opened with a presentation by Mrs. Voigt regarding the PSSA results. Referring to handout copies of the Pennsylvania District Report, she broke down the results as evidence that the district really is doing well in regards to these tests, despite being in warning at both schools. Many of the grades were above the required 54% of students scoring as proficient or advanced in reading, and grades 3, 7, and 8 scored above the 63% which will be required to make annual yearly progress next year. All tested grade levels met the 45% required for math this year, and all but one met the required 54% for next year. The lowest district reading score was found in fifth grade but, Mrs. Voigt reported, the fifth grade test is a difficult one.
The reason the separate schools are in warning is a lack of evident progress in learning support students. The district is trying to address this with a focus on differentiated instruction and team education. Learning support students are held to the same standards as regular students. The whole district is not in warning due to the way scores were divided. Warning, she emphasized, is only a means of getting a school to look at what is going on. The district is trying to address its deficiencies, and to do so without educating to the test.
Mrs. Stone broached the cafeteria questions which had been brought up at previous meetings. One, a problem with the student balance sheets not adding up correctly, she attributed to the outdated software program utilized by the cafeteria. She reported that balances in student accounts are right; that last year's balances did not carry over. However the statements are off by the balance at the end of the previous year. She said that she had contacted the software provider to see what might be done, and that she would be working with the cafeteria supervisor to see what action they might propose to the board in the future.
The second cafeteria matter discussed was, in part, the cause of the meeting's length. Mrs. Stone also had looked into the prices of a-la-carte options, which a visitor had asked about repeatedly at past meetings, claiming that items could be obtained more cheaply. Mrs. Stone had given the board members papers with the verified cost of the items from vendors, as well as the Sam's Club prices alluded to by the visitor. Mr. Zick pointed out that although the retail prices might be less expensive, vendors deliver. The difference in cost might be evened out if the district had to send a staff member, with district gas, to pick up the items. Another visitor, who worked for a dessert company, pointed out that vendors usually gave discounted rates to schools anyway, so that the vendor prices for the district are likely already discounted.
This investigation brought to the forefront exactly what was on the a-la-carte menu. This includes, at the secondary level, 17 kinds of ice-cream at three price levels, chips, and snack packs. Several board members expressed displeasure with this, feeling it to poorly mesh with the wellness policy. Mr. Halupke felt that a-la-carte ought to be done away with entirely. Other proposals were that the prices be kept high for unhealthy food and lowered for healthy, or that the a-la-carte prices be printed on the back of the menu. It was decided that the $1.00 ice creams be done away with entirely (this includes the candy bar ice-creams) and there was much discussion over maybe eliminating other ice creams and/or lowering some prices to mesh with the elementary school prices. One visitor queried why items were priced so high if the cafeteria was supposed to be a non-profit entity. A board member pointed out, however, that it could be the sale of these separate items which keeps the overall lunch cost down. Various visitors expressed that a-la-carte items were important, as the students did not like the lunches provided, and athletes might buy snacks at lunch time for later in the day. This matter was to be discussed further during the post-meeting executive session.
The graduation project handbook was approved at the meeting, and it was reported that some of the kinks were ironed out in a meeting with three board members and various staff. Community service projects were discussed, as was the problem of educators being out of the room for project defenses. It is hoped that the latter issue has been pretty much eliminated due to two partial days set aside for this purpose. One mother stated that she still had problems with these projects, particularly discussing the shrinking of the project timeline and claiming a lack of information for her child.
If educators think the district is such a terrible place to work, they should not let the door hit them on the way out. That was the sentiment expressed by one board member who, using her son's readiness for college as an illustration, felt that Mountain View did not adequately prepare him for higher education. She stated that she was tired of receiving complaints and grievances in her board packet between meetings, and that there were more important things staff could be doing – like educating the students. She pointed out that Mountain View currently only offers two AP courses, and that this might be part of why so many choose to go to cyber-school.
Three subs were approved to long term status, which requires more than 30 consecutive days spent in the same position. The change, which comes with an increased salary and benefits, was approved for Wes Davis, Nicole Zaleski, and Molly Virbitsky.
Dr. Chichura talked about a retirement dinner which had recently been put on by the MVEA. He stated that it had been very nice, and those who retired last year had a total of 183 years of service to the district.
Other reported positive items included a very successful homecoming bonfire and dance. Over 200 students attended the semi-formal dance, and there were no reported behavioral problems. A Halloween dance was scheduled for the seventh and eighth grade students as a way of compensating for their exclusion from the larger dance. The elementary school had multiple upcoming programs mentioned, including a Halloween parade, fire safety and radon programs, and a craft fair.
The august courtroom on the second floor of the courthouse in Montrose had some of the feel of a shotgun wedding on the afternoon of October 23. And the bride and groom were left waiting at the altar on the parson... um, the judge. The hearing had been scheduled for a couple of months, and most seemed eager to have the dispute settled. But it wasn't yet to be.
Bronson Pinchot, owner of the similarly august "Senator's House" and several other properties in the village of Harford, is suing the Harford Historical Society to regain control of the triangular traffic island in that place that has served as a park for over 60 years. When he purchased the old Country Store property a couple of years ago, he also acquired ownership of the triangle. However, under the terms of an "indenture," the Historical Society maintains it as a "memorial park." The Society put a gazebo on the triangle in 1994, which Mr. Pinchot claims is contrary to the provisions of the indenture; he seeks to wrest the small plot from the Society in consequence of that alleged violation.
The hearing attracted some 35 Harford residents, including the entire Board of Directors of the Historical Society, who all sat on one side of the courtroom's center aisle. Mr. Pinchot and his lawyer sat on the other side, with a few stray onlookers. There were no white bows setting off the pews for the family, but the lawyers, of course, had their own seats in the front. They didn't make much use of them.
President Judge Kenneth Seamans was on his throne at the appointed time, but he quickly disappeared out a side door trailing a line of lawyers, and one other. After about 10 minutes and a brief huddle with his attorney, Mr. Pinchot departed. Until some more lawyers appeared to explain the situation, the rest of the assembled seemed confused, understanding, of course, that there was to be no hearing that day.
Gene Franklin, Treasurer of the Historical Society and a potential witness in the hearing, is also a District Justice who is supervised by the county President Judge. That relationship was seen to present a possible conflict of interest of some sort, so Judge Seamans recused himself, removing himself from the case. (Judge Seamans also has deep personal ties to Harford, but that was not said to have been a factor.)
So, a judge from a neighboring county will be solicited to hear the case. The hearing was "continued" (postponed) until that can be arranged. No date was set for a resumption of the proceedings.
Presumably the only ones who are benefiting from the dispute – and even more from the delay – are the lawyers... um, the ushers, although they weren't publicly passing a plate.
The County Transcript’s report last week on the forum put on by the League of Women Voters to present candidates for Susquehanna County Commissioner inadvertently omitted mention of the question selected by write-in hopeful incumbent Roberta Kelly. Ms. Kelly chose to address a question about county infrastructure (roads and bridges) and the commissioners' relationship with the Northern Tier Coalition. We regret the error.
Mary Lou and Thomas R. (EST) Carberry to Joy Ann Carberry Chesnick and James H. Carberry, III, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Mary Lou and Thomas R. (EST) Carberry to Joy Ann Carberry Chesnick and James H. Carberry, III, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Mary Lou and Thomas R. (EST) Carberry to Joy Ann Carberry Chesnick and James H. Carberry, III, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
John T. Karakash, Donna Karakash (AKA) Donna D. Karakash and Donna Rae Dillingham to John T. Karakash, in Harford Township for one dollar.
Mark C. Mecca and Cheryl Pukita (NBM) Cheryl L. Mecca to Susan Lynn Boernsen, in Brooklyn Township for $211,000.00.
Douglas M. and Elizabeth A. Wakeman to Laurence (AKA) Lawrence M. and Deborah Beylo, in Silver Lake Township for $220,000.00.
Smith Living Trust (By Trustees) to Raymond Lee Smith, III and Corrine Rosetta Hawley, in Jessup Township for one dollar.
David Rumage, Sr. to David Rumage, Sr. and Mary Southworth, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Amy Supancik (By Sheriff) to US Bank, in Forest City for $1,806.52.
Mary J. Wall to Edward M. and Ann Marie Dimaio, in Ararat Township for $78,000.00.
Frances J. (AKA) Frances Matis to Drinkers Creek Holdings LLC, in Susquehanna for $117,000.00.
Matis Manufacturing Company, Inc. to Drinkers Creek Holdings LLC, in Susquehanna for $13,000.00.
Jean G. Andrews to Mark B. and Janette Ralston, in New Milford Township for $201,032.00.
Morgan T. and Irene L. MacDonald to Kevin MacDonald, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Morgan T. MacDonald (AKA) Morgan T. McDonald and Irene L. MacDonald (AKA) Irene McDonald to Karl MacDonald, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Marie Graziano to Anthony Graziano, in Lathrop Township for $100,000.00.
Chester H. Frystak to Chester H. and John P. Frystak, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Chester H. Frystak to John P. Frystak, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Deborah Wasnock (By Sheriff AKA) Deborah Yadlosky (By Sheriff AKA) Deborah Ann Wasnock (By Sheriff AKA) Deborah A. Butler (By Sheriff) to Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, in Herrick Township for $2,213.44.
Gary S. and Patricia L. Bloom to Gary S. and Patricia L. Bloom, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Gary S. and Patricia L. Bloom to Gary S. and Patricia L. Bloom, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Lynne Bloom to Philip E. Wirth, in Lenox Township for $80,000.00.
Sandra A. Hassenplug to Richard Eric, Mary Ellen, Dominick and Christina Ann Rylka, in Herrick Township for $120,000.00.
Joseph Gerchman to Anthony C. and Sheri L. Dellaquila, in Forest City for $40,000.00.
David L, Sr. and Janet T. Sexton to Joey J. Ilardi, in Lanesboro Borough, for $17,000.00.
Robert R. Lacey to Frederick J. and Lynne B. Lacey, in Franklin and New Milford Townships for one dollar.
Maureen Warren to William D. and Amanda K. Jenkins, in Harford Township for $52,725.00.
Albert R. Agostine (Estate) to Regina M. Agostine, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Frank and Angel L. Lippincott to James D. Fleming, in Thompson Township for $40,000.00.
Ronald John and Rose Ann Banko to Jason P. and Jennifer B. Horn, in Springville and Dimock Townships for $35,000.00.
Nicholas A. Griffiths and Nicole Nasser, both of Macungie, PA.
Clarence L. Brink of Great Bend and Audrey L. Jennings of Kingsley.
Sandra Capron of Susquehanna vs. Stewart William Capron of Hop Bottom, married 1985.
Timothy Yonkin vs. Wanda Yonkin, both of Montrose, married 1989.
Danielle M. Earl of Nicholson vs. Jason R. Earl of Peckville, married 1999.
Lori Hadlick vs. Timothy J. Hadlick, both of Susquehanna, married 1991.
Colleen Houck of Kirkwood vs. Dean Houck of Great Bend, married 2000.
Lorrine Lewis of Montrose is accused of altering two prescriptions and attempting to have them filled at a Rite-Aid pharmacy in Montrose. Charges are pending.
On October 20 Kathy Galazin and Tabitha Kittle, both of Laceyville, were traveling south on SR 3001. The brakes failed on their vehicle, causing it to exit the roadway and strike a tree.
On October 18, between 5:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., it is reported that one or more unknown person(s) entered the residence of Michael Jacobino of Hop Bottom and removed prescription medication and cash from within it.
On October 16, at around 7:55 a.m., two men pulled into the Pump N' Pantry in Lenox Twp. The men pumped $57 worth of gas before going into the store and paying for items to eat and drink. They then returned to the truck and drove off, though the store employee used the intercom to tell them to pay for the gas. The men are reported to have driven north on SR 92. The older man had black hair and was wearing jeans and a white shirt. The younger man was wearing a gray sweatshirt. They were driving a white Chevrolet truck with a black ladder rack and Pennsylvania registration.
Sometime on the 28th or 29th of September, Lisa Deremer, who recently moved from Laceyville, is accused of dumping household trash and furniture along a dirt road. The incident occurred along T334 Meshoppen Creek Road, approximately 4/10 mile from White Pond Road in Auburn Twp. Anybody with information concerning the whereabouts of Ms. Deremer is asked to contact PSP Gibson.
On October 11, at around 11 p.m., Kenneth Doody was a patron of the Parkview Hotel Bar in New Milford Boro. At this time he reports being assaulted by four individuals, and having two gold chains pulled from his neck. One was recovered in pieces at the scene; the other remains missing after a search of the area.
On September 13, Anthony Cokely of Great Bend was arrested for D.U.I. after being stopped for a traffic violation on SR 11. Charges will be filed at a District Court.
ACCESS DEVICE FRAUD
On October 6, an unknown person made a fraudulent purchase using a credit card owned by Montrose Produce, Inc. of Montrose.
THEFT BY UNLAWFUL TAKING
On October 15, unknown perpetrator(s) removed approximately 27 DVDs from a storage box belonging to Paul Frisbie of Hallstead. The incident occurred while Frisbie and his family were shopping. The storage box was inside a trailer next to the residence.
Sometime between August 23 and October 2, a residence on Butterfield Rd. was broken into. Perpetrator(s) originally attempted to gain entry by breaking open a back kitchen window before succeeding in opening a nearby window leading into the bathroom. The upstairs room of the cabin was gone through as the unknown person(s) looked under the mattresses of 3 beds and went through the drawers of 2 dressers. The main floor of the residence was also gone through, and a closet looked into, before a DVD/VCR combo player was removed from the main room and the building was exited, apparently through the same window by which it was entered. The front door, the only entrance to the cabin, was locked and appeared to be untouched.
Between October 14 and 15, Eleanor Kurosky of Montrose had a dog mailbox stolen from her during the night.
On October 13, Neil Lindsey of New Milford attempted to light a cigarette while driving south on SR 11 in New Milford Borough, and swerved off the roadway. The truck struck a utility pole and became disabled. Lindsey was cited for careless driving.
PSP Gibson is investigating the theft of a prescription drug (one pill) from an unnamed 14-year old juvenile on September 28.
On October 11, a 1986 dark blue Oldsmobile Toronado with chrome wire wheel covers was removed from the Hall residence on Stephens Rd. near the village of Kingsley. The vehicle belonged to David Lohman of Clarks Summit. Another vehicle was used in the crime, possibly a rollback wrecker.
On October 11 at 4:15 p.m. a crash was reported to have happened on 81 southbound in Lenox Twp. The incident occurred when Donis Gomez of Scranton lost control of a Suzuki Sidekick and crossed into the path of a Mack tractor and trailer driven by Brian Perry of Kirkwood, NY. The two units collided. Both drivers were wearing seat-belts; only Gomez sustained minor injuries. Gomez was cited for causing the crash and for not being licensed to drive.
FLEEING OR ATTEMPTING TO ELUDE POLICE
On October 14, a New Milford juvenile was operating an ATV on the roads in New Milford Boro and attempted to flee from police when caught doing so. In the process, the boy ran a stop sign and was almost struck by a motor vehicle traveling south on Main Street in that town. The youth then proceeded to travel north on the eastern sidewalk, losing control of the ATV and striking a tree stump. The ATV flipped over and it and its driver came to an uncontrolled stop in the northbound lane of SR 11, just north of the intersection of Main St. and Union St. The youth was transported to Barnes-Kasson Hospital in Susquehanna for treatment of minor injuries. Traffic citations will be filed for numerous traffic violations.
We, the undersigned committee members appointed by borough council to investigate the activities of certain individuals, do hereby render the following report to Borough Council with regard to Brigette D’Agati.
1. Brigette D’Agati served on Starrucca Borough Council from August, 2004, to December 31, 2005. During that period of time, she stated that she saw the paperwork to determine the FEMA funding for Shadigee Creek Wall at a council meeting. She voted to approve and accept Ken Rausch’s proposal, although her vote was not based upon the borough solicitor’s opinion at the time. She stated that she was aware of a lower bid at the time that Ken Rausch’s proposal was accepted. She was aware that Paul Everett, the then Starrucca Borough FEMA agent, was going to secure the GP11 Permit from DEP for the project. Although she still voted to accept Rausch’s proposal, D’Agati was aware of Renee Warden’s deed, establishing private ownership of the property benefited by the Shadigee Creek Wall Project, which deed was introduced at the June, 2005 borough council meeting. She did not contact FEMA to determine ownership of the property where the creek project was to be done.
2. After D’Agati left borough council, she did discuss borough business with Louis Gurske, including the Shadigee Creek Wall Project, the Buck’s Bridge Project and the subpoenas. D’Agati stated that she did not know why the T-Wall of Shadigee Creek was not removed while she was on council in either 2004 and 2005, but in 2006 she chastised council for not removing the T-Wall sections, accusing council of putting Renee Warden, her house, and the village in jeopardy.
3. Since she has been off council, she has written numerous letters to government offices, including Governor Rendell, Congressman Donald Sherwood and Senator Lemmond.
The Committee believes that Brigette D’Agati was less than candid when she testified under subpoena before the entire committee. Notwithstanding this, she was clearly aware that the Shadigee Creek Wall Project involved private property and was present at the April, 2005 council meeting when Paul Everett stated that Shadigee Creek Wall Project needed engineering. Brigette D’Agati never questioned or stated the Shadigee Wall Project could not proceed forward up to the time she voted to accept Ken Rausch’s proposal. She willingly voted to accept a contract using ineligible monies, creating a potential liability to Starrucca Borough and herself for civil lawsuits. The committee feels that Brigette D’Agati defied or ignored many of the necessary legal guidelines to complete the Creek Wall Project, including awarding the bid to the lowest responsible bidder for the project as provided by Code. The committee feels that this report should be forwarded to the Wayne County District Attorney and other investigative agencies for further actions which these offices and agencies feel are appropriate.
Applications for this year’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) are now available at the Susquehanna County Assistance Office.
LIHEAP is a federal program that assists low-income individuals who cannot pay their heating bills. Eligible households can receive assistance through a direct payment to vendors who supply their fuel, or through a crisis component during weather-related emergencies, such as a broken furnace, leaking pipes, or terminated utility service. Homeowners, renters (including those whose rent includes heat), roomers and subsidized housing tenants may be eligible. Any type of fuel may be used.
The program opens for both the cash and crisis components on November 5, with the cash and crisis components closing March 21, 2008. Besides household income, grants are based on the type of fuel used and the county of residence.
Susquehanna CAO Executive Director Thomas Kurosky urged county residents to apply early for the program.
To be eligible for the program, household income cannot exceed 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, or for a one-person household, $15,315; two persons, $20,535; three persons, $25,755; four persons, $30,975; five persons, $36,195; six persons, $41,415. For larger households, the guidelines increase by $5,220 for each additional person.
Help for families with a heating emergency is available 24 hours a day by contacting Susquehanna CAO at 888-753-6328.
The Susquehanna County Rail Authority met on October 26, with board members Rowland Sharp, Thomas Wooden, Joe White and Ken Bondurant present.
The main topic of the morning included information regarding the subject of the Susquehanna County Rail Authority’s liability insurance and how it was going to be paid. Rowland Sharp reported that five of the seven members are taking $206 each, from their own pockets, in order to continue the insurance, as the county allegedly will not pick up the tab for a county authority. (Implies i.e. “this” authority.)
Rowland Sharp stated that the amount would have been $141 apiece if all seven members of the Authority had decided to go along with the majority.
“This payment was voted on because we needed the insurance, we are liable here, we as the Authority, need the protection,” Thomas Wooden added.
Jim Jennings asked “Didn’t the commissioners appoint Rail Authority members? Aren’t they responsible for covering this liability insurance?”
Rowland Sharp stated that no response from the county was received for “anything,” including bills and insurance coverage information.
Thomas Wooden added, “We are paying a number of things from our own pockets to keep this going. It is important, we haven’t had a choice.
”In fact, the only thing we have received from the county was an e-mail from Commissioner Loomis dated 10/15/07, stating, ‘After receiving the 10/08/07 letter from Patrick J. Labelle, which was copied to all of the current commissioners, I still stand by the 9/21/07 commitment I outlined below.’”
The letter that Commissioner Loomis referred to was addressed to all three County Commissioners and stated, “No response has been received from the Commissioners to the Authority’s request that the Commissioners agree to guarantee a loan that would allow the acquisition of the real estate on which the transloading facility would be erected and the cost to construct it.”
The letter further stated, “Prior to that April 19, 2007, the following things happened: a Capital project Grant Agreement was executed between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation and the Railroad Authority; subsequently negotiations were commenced in 2006 between the Authority and the Sommerville Land Development Company to purchase 145 acres in Susquehanna County; Authority members vigorously pursued these negotiations which were directed towards acquiring the land needed for construction of a passing siding, industrial spurs and a transload facility; in late November of 2006, the Rail Authority was successful in reaching a tentative agreement with Sommerville to acquire the entire 145 acres for the sum of $600,000.00; a special meeting was held on December 27, 2006 to approve the terms of the proposed contract to purchase the 145 acres from Sommerville and to pursue securing of the necessary financing. Commissioners Kelly and Warren were in attendance at that meeting. Three motions were presented and unanimously passed by the Authority at that meeting, which provided for : (a) approval of negotiating terms of and Agreement to purchase the 145 acres for $600,000.00; (b) a directive to seek a loan of that amount plus closing costs to purchase the land and (c) a directive to seek an $800,000.00 Line of Credit for construction of Phase I of the transload facility; following that meeting, the Authority’s attorney Patrick J. Lavelle, Esq., drafted a proposed Purchase Agreement and sent it to the attorney for Sommerville. During January and February, 2007, members of the Authority approached local lenders and three of them tentatively agreed to lend funds to the Authority to acquire the property for $600,000.00 plus closing costs and to provide an $800,000.00 line of credit to construct the transload facility. Each of the lenders imposed the condition that the County guarantees the loan. On February 23, 2007, the Authority met with the County Commissioners and requested that the Commissioners agree to guarantee the loan. The Commissioners’ only response was to direct the Authority to deal with Anthony Ventello, Director of the Bradford County Progress Authority, who is operating the (Susquehanna) county’s Economic Development Department, and to request that Mr. Ventello pursue other possible funding avenues; following the February 23, 2007 meeting, the Authority contracted Mr. Ventello and provided him with information necessary to pursue alternate financing from other sources. To date (10/08/07), no proposals have been received form Mr. Ventello and no alternate financing has materialized. On April 10, 2007, the Authority sent correspondence to the Commissioners which requested that the County Commissioners simply guarantee the loan. On May 23, 2007, Commissioners Kelly and Warren sent correspondence to each member of the Authority in which it was pointed out that the leadership of the Authority and its progress for the proposed project were brought into question by the Commissioners following discussions with Senator Madigan’s office and the Bureau of Rail Freight. Commissioners Kelly and Warren indicated their agreement, “That in the best interest of the citizens of the County, there must be a change in your membership if the project is to continue.” During its June, 2007 meeting, a motion was presented by one of the members of the Authority requesting that the Chairman of the Authority be removed because of alleged failure to make progress on the project. This motion was defeated by a vote of five to two of the members of the Authority. The majority apparently feel that the matter of acquiring the land, securing the financing and planning for the construction of the transloading facility was being properly pursued by the Chairman and other members of the Authority; the Authority is currently without any funds to perform any further studies as to the anticipated financial support it may receive from shippers who might use the facility; further, the Authority members are personally paying for other bills to insure the financial responsibility of its own operations; and without either a guarantee from the County for a loan from private lenders, or an alternate financing source, yet to be identified by Mr. Ventello, this project cannot proceed.”
Attorney Lavelle concluded, stating that in light of the aforementioned, he is once again compelled to request that the commissioners advise the Rail Authority of their willingness or refusal to have the county guarantee the financing necessary to acquire the land and construct the transloading facility.
Attendees at the meeting on October 26 were given copies of the above letter, to bring them up to date of where the Rail Authority actually is, at this point in time.
Ken Bondurant responded, “We need the county support; this is like a Catch 22, to coin the phrase. It is sad, as the state requires us to own the parcel before we can acquire any funding to help us. It is like telling your child you will purchase a car for him, but to go buy it first. This is a good thing for the county or we wouldn’t be here investing our own money. If this is not acted upon, we will lose monies again, and it will be allocated to another county.”
Jim Jennings added, “It could actually put some of the heavy truck traffic off the roads.”
Tom Wooden said that part of the problem was that the County Solicitor, Ray Davis, had also not responded to “any” of the many correspondences sent to him and the commissioners.
Several questions were raised concerning the responsibility of the Commissioners when Commissioner Mary Ann Warren arrived at the meeting.
Commissioner Warren stated that accusations were targeted at the county, which were (uncalled for). “Commissioners take advice from their solicitor and Senator Madigan," she informed.
“Some of the happenings here aren't good; there is the issue of an ongoing 5-2 vote from this board.” Commissioner Warren questioned.
Rowland Sharp responded quickly, “You are sadly mistaken here Commissioner, the 5-2 vote had always been the same five and the same two opposing; you have been misinformed.”
“I didn’t say anyone ‘in this room,’ I said someone on this board,” Commissioner Warren emphasized. “I cannot guarantee something without the knowledge that is in the best interest of the whole of the county taxpayers.
“I do think that the effort on the part of your solicitor has been very good. The county is at fault, our solicitor is not forthcoming. I apologize for myself (only), and will call him and request that he make himself available to your solicitor.”
Wooden requested that Warren put her support and agreements in writing because there is nothing that can be done without a written agreement.
Warren agreed and stated that she had to leave for a conference call and would get right on what she believes “is certainly a good thing!”
“We appreciate you coming here, to what you knew would be a (somewhat) heated meeting. We need to find a way to make this work,” Ken Bondurant relayed.
“I am aware of the email from Jeff, the typical ‘woe is me-I can’t do it alone’ approach. I truly understand, and will work on making sure that Susquehanna County is not left (behind) on this,” Warren stated. “I look forward to the economical development of Susquehanna County.”
Rowland Sharp requested that Commissioner Warren contact him as soon as possible.
Wooden added, “We need to move forward, ASAP.”
The Rail Authority meetings are held the second Friday of every month at 10 a.m. in The Susquehanna County Office Building, 31 Public Avenue, Montrose.
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