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The Susquehanna County Commissioners met on Wednesday February 13 to take care of county business; however, answers were not always forthcoming from the commissioners to county taxpayers.
First off, Commissioner Michael Giangrieco voted nay on several issues and when asked why he was voting the way he had, said, “I could answer it, but I am not going to. I am not going to debate this with you.” Commissioner Giangrieco let it be known that although he would answer questions after the meeting, his decisions were not “up for debate” with anyone. Gerald Bevan stated that he would like to know the reasons for the nay votes, right from Giangrieco himself, “from the horse’s mouth.” Giangrieco said, “This is not public comment, and I am not obligated to state why, just yea or nay. I am not going to have a debate every meeting.”
Another instance where commissioners would not answer their actions, was when Commissioner Leon Allen attempted to slip through an item not on the Salary Board agenda, the hiring and setting of a salary, for a Fiscal Administrator, a title and position which really was not “known” by the commissioners, nor salary board member Cathy Benedict. “Well, not all of us are aware of just what the contract says,” Benedict offered.
The questions in this matter stemmed from the “appointment of position and salary,” and why this position was being created.
When asked if there was a job description for this “seemingly new” position, Warren answered yes, but one was not handy, one would be provided by Chief Clerk Sylvia Beamer later.
However, Thursday by phone, Chief Clerk Beamer reported that there was no job description because the motion to create the position did not pass.
In speaking with Commissioner Warren on Thursday, she stated, “There is a job description, Cathy (Benedict) apparently hasn’t seen it, but there is one; however, it is not needed, as the motion did not pass." The motion to create the position and salary died because Commission Giangrieco and Treasurer Benedict voted nay, with Commissioners Allen and Warren voting yes.
Commissioner Giangrieco stated, Friday morning during a phone call, that the reason he disagreed with this “new” position was, “A position was trying to be created to employ a certain person in the county, using taxpayers dollars... I will not allow this type of political cronyism to happen,” he told the Transcript. Commissioner Giangrieco also added that was the reason he and Mrs. Benedict both voted no.
Mrs. Benedict said, "I object that there was a contract that was signed without my knowledge. I wasn’t informed of the responsibilities, nor did I know what was done, or why it was being done. It would not have been responsible of me to approve this Financial Consultant contract."
Commissioner Giangrieco did say he would “be around” after the meeting to answer media questions pertaining to his votes. "If the correct questions are asked, then I will consider answering them, but I am not going to debate this.”
Another interesting half-hour (approximately) portion of the meeting was the Seneca Group, who informed the commissioners about the retirement fund for the quarter. However, it was not clear just why they were reporting on the market and fluctuations of the entire nation instead of Susquehanna County information.
Not only did the two presenters not have enough copies of their proposal, they had none for the press, making it difficult to follow along through the winding trail of market information, again not pertaining to Susquehanna County. The media was told they could get a copy after the meeting.
Approximately 15 minutes into the presentation, Commissioner Giangrieco asked them to "tell us where Susquehanna County fits into this." Treasurer Cathy Benedict stated she was interested in the market and countrywide, national market information that seemingly captured the majority of the Seneca Group’s time.
Thursday’s conversation with Commissioner Warren netted the information that no decisions were made during the briefing with Seneca. She also said that the lengthy presentation was actually a walk-through, “an educational tool to bring the commissioners up-to-date and aware of all the factors.”
Seneca also provided their own copy of a news release, which they later handed out. There were not enough for the public, and again they did not have any for the public or media until the information had been copied and distributed, after the majority of the informational meeting was presented.
The release is as follows: “The Susquehanna retirement board met with their consultants, the Seneca Group and reviewed the county’s pension investments and performance for 2007. The county and employees contributed a total of $1,109,952 while the plan paid out a total of $842,325 in death benefits and retirement benefits.
“The plan ended the year with a balance of $11,873,627, gaining $604,060 or 5.29% in what turned out to be a volatile year for the markets. A board decision to add an allocation to a hedge fund of funds last February paid off as it managed to outperform the S&P’s return of 5.5% while helping to reduce portfolio volatility. 2007 shaped up to be a challenging year with fears of a possible recession and turmoil in the credit markets creating a great deal of uncertainty that extended into January and February due to a decision to maintain a large cash position and an overweighting to high grade bonds. While the equity markets have suffered a 9% loss YTD (year to date) the portfolio gave up 4.8%. The Seneca group made several recommendations on strategies that could take advantage of the current market uncertainty and position the portfolio for the choppy markets ahead.”
No decision was made on the information.
In other business: Gail Shields, (District Magistrate Jeff Hollister’s secretary) was acknowledged for 10 years of service with the county in her current position. Shields actually has over 20 total years of service with the county, considering other capacities. John Nagy, (911) was acknowledged with serving five years of service. Commissioner Warren stated that they wanted to acknowledge all the county employees, and decided that the best way to do this (to include everyone) was to acknowledge employees at the five years of service level.
The HVAC services were awarded to Jeff Fair, of AireServe, a local business; nine sealed bids for custodial supplies were opened to be considered for review; the contract for the preparation of Phase I Scope of Study for the Susquehanna County Storm Water Management Plan was awarded to HRG (Herbert, Rowland and Grubic, Inc.), of State College, PA for a fee of $9945; the award of the demolition of 12 properties was awarded to Wince Construction, Scranton, PA, which was the lowest qualified bidder at $54,900, per recommendation of Donna Erat, who is the County’s Disaster Recovery Specialist.
A motion by Commissioner Warren, seconded by Commissioner Allen regarding the adoption of the Proposed Revised Susquehanna County Budget for 2008, was passed and included a nay vote from Commissioner Giangrieco. The set millage for Susquehanna County is 11.5 mills for General Real Estate for the General Fund, 1.01 mills for Debt Service, and .33 mills for the Library Fund, with total millage for real estate at 12.84. Commissioner Warren said that the budget had been revisited to avoid losing monies from grants for the 911 system. Commissioner Giangrieco stated, during a phone call, that the reason he voted no on the budget wasn’t because he disagreed with the figures, per say, but with the way the current budgeting allows departments to “overspend.” He said that the amount it takes to cover a department is settled, but that the department heads add a little to cover expenses they haven’t listed, to be sure they are covered. Giangrieco said that what they don’t know is that “by law,” the commissioners have to cover those needed expenses, “The law requires that we cover the expenses.” He added that the commissioners would have more control over the budget if this idea was used instead of cushioning their figures.
A motion was broken in two for the Central Bradford Progress Authority, when Commissioner Giangrieco voiced his disagreement. The motion to authorize the agreement between CBPA and Susquehanna County to provide the county with a Countywide Economic Development Program to provide assistance to all areas of Susquehanna County at an annual fee of $43,335, with a one-year term agreement passed, however the second part of the original motion, “designating CBPA as the applicant for the county’s annual LEDA allocation,” received a nay from Commissioner Giangrieco.
David Darrow, Bobbi Jo Turner and Jim Garner were reappointed to a two-year term to the Growing Greener II Advisory Committee; Commissioner Giangrieco did not agree to appoint Brian Driscoll to the Committee.
Matthew Curley’s resignation as Susquehanna County Planning Commissioner, was accepted with regret; John Butler, Little Meadows, was appointed to complete the vacant term left by Curley’s resignation.
Laura Biesecker, Montrose, was hired as a temporary employee to the full-time position of Case-Aide, Children & Youth, Range 9, rate $9.16 per hour, benefits per the Residual Bargaining Unit Contract.
Rick Kamansky was hired to the open full-time position of Director of Assessment/Chief Assessor with his salary of $46,000 set in the salary board meeting.
Kathy Aldrich was hired to the position of Deputy Chief Clerk with her $32,500 salary set by the salary board.
Laura Watts was hired as the Director of Elections/Voter Registrar with a $29,500 salary set by the salary board.
Deputy Sheriff Patton Weidow’s resignation was accepted with regret; Joshua Atherton’s (Task Force) resignation was accepted with gratitude and thanks for his service; John Walker was hired to the open, temporary part-time position of Drug/DUI Task Force County Detective, non union, at $13 per hour, effective immediately as per district Attorney Jason Legg’s recommendation, upon the availability of grant money from the state for the Task Force; the Susquehanna County Tax Collectors were exonerated from the task of collecting the $713,568.59 Delinquent County Taxes, to allow the Tax Claim Bureau to collect the taxes from this point on.
The Salary Board amended the 2008 Miscellaneous Compensation Schedule, changing the county mileage reimbursement from $.40 per mile to $.45; and the Drug/DUI Task Force County Detectives were increased from 10 detectives to 14 detectives, at the rate of $13.00 per hour, as requested by District Attorney Jason Legg, contingent on the availability of grant monies.
The Susquehanna County Commissioners meet the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, at 9 a.m. at the Susquehanna County Office Building, in the EMA Conference room. The next scheduled meeting of the Commissioners is today, February 27.
The February meeting of the Elk Lake and SCCTC school board happened to fall on the birthday of the elementary principal, Mr. Pirone. Public acknowledgment was made of this occasion, though the board did not actually sing. More routine business was also conducted that night. Discussed topics included student achievements, GCA opposition, parent conferences, and the district's preliminary gas and oil lease decision.
Elk Lake became another district to officially pass a resolution in opposition of proposed graduation competency assessments, exit exams necessary for completion of high school. Reasons cited for the district's alliance with the PSBA in this matter included cost and the exclusive nature of the tests. The board feared that the exams could have a detrimental effect on special education students, as the tests include chemistry, higher maths, etc. It was stated that these standards are not realistic for all students. The cost of implementing and administering such a program might also prove problematic.
This year the district did some experimentation with parent conferences at the elementary level. Fourth graders led part of the conferences themselves. This was reported to be successful, and it is hoped that next year third, fourth, and fifth grades will be targeted. Connected to conferences, Dr. Bush also had a good conversation with parents during a large meeting that day. Conversation centered around NCLB, staff training, the school calendar, and career pathways as students enter high school. The goal, Dr. Bush stated, is to eventually have parents come to meet with counselors in order to schedule their children's classes prior to the start of the year. The district wants to keep parents involved.
There was some discussion, however, about the lack of attendance at many meetings. The question was raised if the district could do anything to encourage improved attendance. Dr. Bush responded that parents were surveyed regarding this matter. Some suggested that food be provided. A board member also proposed that perhaps if kids could be brought along, with babysitting provided, it might help. The district may look into this further in the future.
The position of transition coordinator was extended another 150 hours. Mary Jo Bayer, who has been filling the role, was commended for the work she has done with assisting students entering high school to look towards graduation. Part of her work includes finding work for the Life Skills students. However, when the original proposal for the position was made the hours needed to complete the work satisfactorily were underestimated, Mrs. Staats said, and thus they asked for the extension. The board approved this request.
After much discussion, and after repeated conversations with particular companies, the district has decided to sign a contract with Cabot Oil and Lease, pending that company's willingness to agree on certain points the district still wants to insist upon. The lease would be a four-year contract encompassing 177 acres. Cabot is offering $500 per acre, with a 12.5% royalty and either 200 cubic feet of gas product or the price that product would be worth. If the company does not agree with the additional suggestions the decision will have to be made whether another company should be considered or the board is willing to proceed anyway.
The technology center had some positive news to report, along with one change which was received with regret. Four students recently placed first in a VICA competition. Any student who competed was treated to breakfast and a certificate. The second house project has been progressing, and it is hoped that the roof will be on the house before school lets out for this year. Two students each day who do not yet qualify to work on the house get to go out and watch. In less joyful news, a letter was read announcing the retirement of Scott Groover from the Center, which position, it is hoped, will be filled in the near future.
February is career and technology education month and as part of this students from SCCTC took two robots to the capitol in Harrisburg. Sandy Major came to see the display, the students drove the robots about, and several people apparently asked if the metallic minions could take their luggage outside during inclement weather. Both the school, and one student in particular, Angela Cosner, were featured on the PDE website. It was said that the students learned a lot from the experience.
As the winter activities wind down, those involved in these activities were also commended by the board. The cheerleaders were recognized, as were the advisors of various activities. One member said that it ought to be known that the board is proud of its students.
HARRISBURG – Attorney General Tom Corbett announced that agents of his Bureau of Criminal Investigation have arrested a Wyoming County man accused of forging a teaching certificate and providing false information about his college education in order to secure employment as an English teacher and coach at a high school located in Susquehanna County. Corbett identified the defendant as Corey D. Gesford, 37, 51 Main Street, Nicholson.
Corey D. Gesford of Nicholson is facing charges of forgery and providing false information to secure employment at the Mt. View School District in Susquehanna County.
Corbett said that Gesford allegedly provided false information about his teaching certification and college education in order to secure employment at the Mountain View School District, where he was initially hired as a teacher’s aide and assistant basketball coach, and later became a substitute teacher and a full-time English teacher.
According to the criminal complaint, Gesford copied a legitimate teaching certificate that he found in a classroom and altered it to include his personal information – falsely claiming to be certified to teach high school English and Social Studies. Gesford is also accused of falsely claiming to have earned a B.S. degree from Penn State University. Corbett noted that Pennsylvania teachers are required to have both a college degree and valid teaching certificate.
Corbett said that Gesford allegedly made false statements about his certification and college education in multiple applications submitted to the school district in 2004 and 2006. Following his hiring, school district officials submitted information from the forged teaching certificate to the PA Department of Education, which determined that no professional certificate had ever been issued to Gesford. Corbett said the investigation by the Office of Attorney General began following a referral from the PA Department of Education about the suspected use of a forged teaching certificate.
Gesford is charged with one count of forgery, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He is also charged with two counts of making unsworn falsifications to authorities, a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine, along with one count of illegal use of a professional title, an ungraded misdemeanor.
Gesford surrendered to agents from the Attorney General’s Office and was preliminarily arraigned before Clifford Magisterial District Judge Suzanne Brainard. He was released on $25,000 unsecured bail and waived his preliminary hearing and formal arraignment. A trial date will be set by the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas.
The case will be prosecuted in Susquehanna County by Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Forray of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Nickolaus A. Woronekin (By Sheriff) and Barbara A. Wheeler (By Sheriff) to Deutsche Bank National Trust Co., in Harford Township for $3,232.90.
Betty M. Dube to Christopher G. and Margaret C. Funk, in Silver Lake Township for $115,000.00.
Genova (AKA) Jean Dudek (Estate) to Geraldine Kitch, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Agnes D. Stillwell (Est) to Richard D. Stillwell, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Audrey Lahoda and Darlene L. Bayuk to Darlene L. Bayuk, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Getaway Land Co., Inc. to Thomas A. McMullen, III, in Auburn Township for $60,000.00.
Charles T. Gorton to Margaret M. Gorton, in Herrick Township for $25,000.00.
Beulah Lyman to Edward P. Lyman, in Ararat Township for one dollar.
Christopher Alan Butts to Laura Jean Butts, in Lenox Township for $20,000.00.
James Edward O’Neill to Brian T. and Amy L. Lansberg, in Oakland Township for $54,500.00.
Edward L. Miner and Carol Stroka Miner (AKA) Carol A. Stroka to Edward L. Miner (Rev Trust), in Choconut Township for one dollar.
Edward L. Miner and Carol Stroka Miner (AKA) Carol A. Stroka to Edward L. Miner (Rev Trust), in Choconut Township for one dollar.
Sheryl and Gary L Houser and Ardith and Joel Griffing to John Zairo, in Little Meadows Borough for $73,000.00.
Bruce Kerbaugh (Estate) to Robert D. and Linda McKenney, in Rush Township for one dollar.
Lori and Lewis W. DeJoseph to Lori and Lewis W. DeJoseph, in Clifford Township for $10.00.
Wachovia Bank and Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (By Trustee) to Dale Rockwell, in Lanesboro Borough for $15,900.00.
Albert H. and Doris J. Stickney to Michael H., Marie, Stephen M., Paul J. and Andrew W. Orzechowski, in Choconut Township for $300,000.00.
Robert H., Jr. and Kimbery Vohrer to Robert H., Jr. and Eric Vohrer, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Karen L. (AKA) Karen Fisher (Estate) to Ronnie J. Fisher, in Hop Bottom Borough for one dollar.
Lauren Hertzler, Jr. vs. Teresa A. Hertzler, both of Montrose, married 1985.
Jennifer Dawn Steele of Montrose vs. Scott William Steele of Conklin, NY, married 1998.
Following is the Susquehanna County sentencing report for February, 2008 as submitted by the county District Attorney’s office.
Anthony Pedro, 21, of Hallstead, to 9 months to 23 ½ months in Susquehanna County Correctional Facility, pay cost of prosecution, pay $500 fine, not to have contact with the victim in this case, receive a sexual abusers evaluation, no contact with minors for Corruption of Minors in Hallstead Borough on September 6, 2006. The defendant also received 9 months to 23 ½ months in Susquehanna County Correctional Facility, to run concurrent to the above sentence, not to have contact with the victim in this case, pay cost of prosecution, pay $500 fine, receive a sexual abusers evaluation, no contact with minors for Corruption of Minors in Hallstead Borough on July 1, 2006. Lastly, the defendant received 3 years probation to run consecutive to the above sentences, not to have contact with the victim in this case, receive a sexual abusers evaluation, pay $500 fine, pay cost of prosecution, no contact with minors for Unlawful Contact with a Minor in Hallstead Borough on July 1, 2006.
Donald Kenneth Clark, 44, of Forest City, to 21 months to 5 years in a state correctional facility, credit for time served, followed by 5 years probation, pay $500 fine, pay cost of prosecution, not to have contact with the victim in this case for Criminal Trespass in Forest City on September 9, 2007.
Brandi M Perry, 32 of Little Meadows, to 18 months probation, pay $250 fine, pay restitution to the victim in this case, perform 25 hours community service, not to have contact with the victim in this case for Defrauding Secured Creditors in Little Meadows on May 3, 2007. The defendant also received 4 months to 23 months in Susquehanna County Correctional Facility, credit for time served, not to have contact with the victim in this case, not to have contact with minors under the age of 18, not to have chat room or myspace accounts, perform 50 hours community service, pay $250 fine, pay cost of prosecution for Corruption of Minors in Friendsville on January 1, 2004.
Richard John MacDonald, 41, of Montrose, to 4 months to 23 ½ months in Susquehanna County Correctional Facility, followed by 18 months probation, not to consume any alcoholic beverages, attend an anger management class, not to have contact with anyone on supervision, receive a mental health evaluation, perform 50 hours community service, pay cost of prosecution, pay $300 fine for Terroristic Threats in Susquehanna on December 14, 2007. The defendant also received 1 month to 12 months in Susquehanna County Correctional Facility, to run concurrent to the above sentence, pay $250 fine, not to have contact with the victims in this case, pay cost of prosecution, receive a drug and alcohol evaluation, receive a mental health evaluation, attend an anger management class, not to have contact with anyone on supervision for Simple Assault in Susquehanna on December 14, 2007.
Hallstead Boro Council’s main topic of discussion at their February 21 meeting was the property recently deeded to the boro through the flood buyout program. There were a number of questions, such as exactly where the property lines are, and whether or not a subdivision had ever been completed. An easement would be required, as the sewer line to an adjacent property runs through what is now the boro property. It was agreed that it would be in the boro’s best interests to know exactly where the property lines are. After discussion, council thought the best place to start would be to contact the count Planning Commission for more information on the subdivision; pending the outcome of that, council will proceed with getting a survey.
There were no complaints from citizens to discuss, but there were a number of compliments to pass along about how pleased residents were with how well the roads had been plowed after recent snowfall.
The Bridging Communities group is proceeding with the sidewalk replacement project. They are in the process of getting clearance from the utility companies, and requested that the boro provide them with a list of property owners who had been sent letters about the project but had not responded.
In the spring, some drainage problems will be looked at, possibly with cameras, to find out if the sluice pipes are broken.
Tax collector Peggy Woosman has resigned, effective immediately. After a short discussion, a motion carried to appoint Melissa Glasgow to the position.
The boro has obtained flood insurance for the Route 11 park, as required by FEMA (no future flood claims will be processed without it). After all the details are worked out, the cost should be somewhat lower than the $500 price quote, as the restroom building is not in the flood plain, and the pavilion would not be covered open-air structures are not coverable.
Council reviewed the lease agreement for the ballfield, at the same terms as last year.
A motion carried to increase the pay for the boro’s two auditors from $240 to $250; the budgeted allocation is $500.
A representative from DCNR will meet with council members on March 18 to discuss various grant opportunities, to determine which would be appropriate for the boro to apply for.
Council is also looking to replace the boro’s truck, possibly through a state purchasing program, and into financing its purchase through a state low-interest loan program. Specs for a new truck will be drawn up and reviewed at next month’s meeting, also for the boro’s old truck to get an idea of what might be offered for it on a trade-in.
And, someone has been helping themselves to the boro’s road cinder supply, and has been leaving ashes in return. It was agreed that purchase of a security gate would be worth the cost, as it will cost less than replacing missing cinders.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m. in the boro building.
The February 20 New Milford Township meeting covered topics from arsenic and garbage to a bicentennial celebration and recycling, with plenty of sewage talk mixed in. In short, many topics were discussed in a meeting which continues to consistently be courteous, productive, and relatively well-attended.
August 7 through 9, 2009 was officially declared to be the New Milford Centennial Celebration. This move was spurred by Mr. Bondurant, who has been a central figure in the township centennial celebration for months.
A waste tire program is scheduled visit the township building on Saturday, May 10, from 8 a.m. to noon. There is a fee per tire, which fee increases as tires become larger. Those interested must call the recycling center for details and pre-registration at (570) 278-3589.
A report came back from DEP regarding testing conducted on the Lyncott landfill. Concentrations, according to their analysis, are in historic ranges, with arsenic concentrations decreasing in 2007. A visitor asked if other heavy metals were mentioned, or if the direction of arsenic travel was delineated, to which questions a negative response was given. The report will be forwarded to the county commissioners, and those desiring a copy have to request it in writing and pay a certain fee.
Mr. Conroy and Mr. Hunter also personally inspected the site. Concerns had been raised at the last meeting about trucks leaving the landfill at night and items lying about. As for the first concern, the supervisors were shown a large tank, which leeches water out of the landfill. This water is then taken to the Montrose sewage plant to be dealt with, via a tanker. The process is done at night, as the tanker causes an impediment to other actions at the plant, and it is thought prudent to therefore bring it in when other business is not being conducted. As for the items on the site, it was related that people still think it is an active landfill. Since the gate is locked, they drop things off outside of it. A pile is allowed to accumulate, and then the items are taken care of.
Concerns over waste disposal at another site were investigated by Mr. Conroy and SEO Mr. Fortner. There is an outhouse on the site, and Mr. Fortner is investigating the legality of the current system. When asked, no time indication of this investigation's completion was given.
Mr. Conroy and Mr. Fortner also conducted a site inspection on the Oneida campground. Due to snow on the ground, however, a continued investigation is being postponed until the weather breaks. No one is currently on the site. Mr. Briechle read a letter from the campground's attorney at the meeting, which requested it be noted that the owner of the campground is cooperating with the investigation and is eager to implement the recommended actions resulting from it. A visitor inquired whether or not there were time parameters set by the SEO, regarding information received. It was responded that such matters are at his discretion. It is uncertain as of yet whether there are violations at the campground or not. The original letter to DEP is understood to have been submitted anonymously.
Several meetings ago the idea of imposing an extraction tax was proposed, and the township supervisors were told that it was not possible for them to do so at their level. Mr. Drann brought the matter back up at this meeting, asking the supervisors to advocate for the implementation of the tax at the county level then. He stated that only PA and eight other states have no severance or extraction taxes whatsoever. The commissioners, he reported, are actively investigation the possibility, and he urged the supervisors to encourage its adoption as it represents a great potential source of income. The supervisors responded that they could do that, or more. It was suggested that they might express their support of the action to the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, who could put pressure on their superiors. Letters could also be written to representatives in Harrisburg, or action taken when attending a meeting there.
The East Lake Campground matter will be returning to local court for another round of hearings, the Commonwealth Court decided. The higher court overturned Judge Seamans on the permanent injunction he placed upon the campground, deciding that a preliminary injunction should have been put into place instead. Thus, unless something else is decided, the township will be back in court at the end of April. At one point a meeting is scheduled, in which township representatives will sit down with DEP and Mr. Young to discuss how the camp can be brought into compliance.
This announcement was made in the midst of a discussion regarding what ordinances the township has, or ought to have, in place to regulate zoning, etc. The discussion began when a visitor asked if the supervisors had plans to implement resolutions to protect township residents from undesirable occurrences, citing East Lake as an example. It was answered that the township actually does have an ordinance; it is the county's ordinance. In the absence of its own ordinance, the ordinance of the Susquehanna County Planning Commission is enacted by default.
Some present felt that this was insufficient, and wanted something to be formally instituted, at least stating that the county ordinances are in place. Mr. Bevan spoke about those who do not apply for permits, not knowing that they were supposed to have them. There was also discussion about the penalty for not having one, or the lack of penalty. It was suggested that the planning commission itself has a kind of limited knowledge on proceedings, and enforce little, penalty wise. If nothing is done, one visitor suggested, total disrespect for law is created.
The supervisors said that when they have caught people in the past without a permit, they do not normally fine them, but they do go get the fee and have the person get a permit. Mr. Conroy asked if the public felt he should give official bills, to which the answer was yes. Mr. Briechle pointed out that enforcement costs money, using the $80,000 cost of the East Lake situation as an example, though it was argued that permit fees are supposed to compensate for this, normally. A visitor expressed his opinion that it is not the job of township officials to rehabilitate people if rules are not obeyed, but to penalize them. It was suggested that these penalties should be large enough to be felt, though not excessive.
Two meetings ago it was suggested that the supervisors attend a COG meeting to consider joining that organization. It was reported that they had attended one the night previous, and were looking into some things before making a decision.
Several newly-elected member municipality representatives were welcomed by chairman Elliot Ross to their first COG meetings on February 19. Some visitors who came to see how COG works were also welcomed.
Annual membership dues for PACOG have unexpectedly increased; members are now being charged based on the amount of their annual budget COG’s will increase by $100 a year, to $300, the first increase in a number of years.
The Central Tax Bureau of Pennsylvania sent correspondence urging member municipalities to protest proposed legislation that would require counties to have one tax collector for any of the county’s earned income tax. The single collector would be responsible for not only the county’s earned income tax, for those that have one, but also for collection of any municipal earned income tax as well as for school districts’. It was noted that the latest issue of the PASATs bulletin has a very detailed article outlining both the House and Senate proposed bills that are currently being discussed by state legislators.
COG has been asked to look into getting fiberglass sign blanks, rather than the aluminum ones they have been using; some areas have had a problem with the aluminum ones being stolen.
For the new representatives’ information, Mr. Ross gave a recap of COG’s plans for new offices. Although their present quarters are in a convenient location and satisfactory in many ways, COG has seen growth in the last few years and expects to see more, so more office and parking space are needed. COG has a purchase agreement for a 5.3 acre parcel between Montrose and New Milford; the subdivision plans have been approved, and they are waiting for completion of the title search. They are also working on cost estimates for a building and related expenses; after the closing has taken place, the estimates will be taken to a meeting with state legislators to discuss what grant funding options might be available.
The week prior, representatives from COG and the Northern Tier Coalition met to discuss an agreement between the two groups for COG to administer zoning, much as they do codes and sewage enforcement. A draft agreement was drawn up and presented to COG’s members for approval. A zoning committee will be formed, through an inter-municipal agreement between the two groups, comprised of two members of the Northern Tier and two from COG. COG will administer the budget for the zoning committee, with funding from DCED to cover 75% the first year. COG expects that the Zoning Committee’s 25% will be covered by permit fees. DCED will provide funding the second year, at a 50/50 split and 25/75 the third year. After review, a motion carried to approve the agreement on behalf of COG. Northern Tier’s next meeting was scheduled for the following Thursday, at which time they would review it and vote on whether or not to approve.
A motion carried to approve SEO Duane Wood’s attendance at the annual PASEO conference in Grantville February 24 – 26.
Activity has been slow, as is usual for this time of year, with only six permits issued the previous month.
Forest City Regional School Board opened its February 18 meeting by appointing a new member to fill the Uniondale seat vacated by Thomas Heller. The board interviewed James Cull, Patricia Cino and William Heller, with William Heller elected. Heller, a self-employed Uniondale resident, was a graduate of Forest City High School. During his interview, Heller stated that children are a society’s most important resource, and he added that enabling children to participate in society is critical.
An elementary school book fair will be held February 27 - March 7. Parents will be sent more information regarding the fair.
On March 7, 8, and 9, Forest City High School students will perform the Aladdin musical. The event will be held in the district auditorium at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; Sunday’s show is at 3 p.m.
Forest City High School Band students will attend PMEA Regional Orchestra at Williamsport High School from March 5 - March 8.
A dual-enrollment grant between Keystone College and Forest City High School has been received, enabling Forest City students to take college-level courses at their high school. Courses and instructors have yet to be approved.
Board members concluded the meeting by expressing frustration with Pennsylvania’s proposed graduation competency tests. The tests are expected to go into effect with the Class of 2014, and would require students to pass a series of standardized tests in order to graduate from high school. Board members stated that the tests would put a financial burden on the school, and that additional standardized tests would place unnecessary stress on students while taking away from valuable classroom instruction time.
Although they are always quite serious about what they do and why they are there, the Susquehanna Community School Board members and faculty/staff members who usually attend the meetings also share a good sense of humor and often joke and share moments of good-natured levity. Their meeting of February 20, however, began on an unusually somber note with a moment of silence in remembrance of Brianna Doucette, a sixth grade student who had tragically died only days before.
Several faculty members spoke of how the school community had pulled together in a very difficult situation. Support in various forms, from within the school community itself and the local church community was made available for those who needed it, including counseling for students. The board extended their sympathy to Brianna’s friends and family.
Two representatives from the district’s auditors, Parente Randolph were present to give a detailed rundown of their findings of the 2006-07 audit. Overall, they gave the district an unqualified opinion, which translates to an excellent report (no negative findings). One item of concern every year is the food service account, which generally shows a loss. For this year, that loss was $8,000, considerably less than in past years. And, (debt service) bonds that the district holds are being paid off relatively quickly.
Work on next year’s budget is in full swing, with the faculty determining what needs are for next year. The district has received estimated figures of what state revenue will be. Special Ed. funding will increase by 3.3%, while general funding will increase by 1.5%. A healthy fund balance has been earmarked for retirement benefits, which will allow for a minimal tax increase next year.
PSSA testing in writing was concluded the previous week, with math and reading set for the end of March and early April. The Standards for Success program, which provides extra support for students in both the elementary and high school, will be winding up at the end of March, just prior to the PSSAs.
Board member Evelyn Cottrell was recognized for her distinguished service to the board, just over 24 years.
The Parent Involvement Committee-sponsored Mocha Moose Café was set for the following evening. It allows high school students (and faculty) a performance venue and is always a memorable evening.
Under New Business the board approved the following:
- The NEIU #19 Special Education services contract for 2008/2009 at the cost of $115,394.93.
- The Payschools.com Electronic Participant Agreement. This will allow parents online access to their child’s lunch accounts where they can pay into it by credit card. Payments for other school activities, such as pictures, etc. may also be paid online.
- The Parente Randolph local audit report for 2006 – 2007.
- Appointing Steven Stanford as the SCSD delegate to the NEIU #19 Board of directors.
- Granting permission for the Business Office to solicit bids for General, Maintenance, Industrial Arts, Sports and Computer Supplies for the 2008 – 2009 school year.
- Appointing the following to the 2008 – 2009 Dual Enrollment Committee: Mark Gerchman – K – 12 Assistant Principal; Mary Wescott – SCSD Board Member; Margaret Biegert – Parent.
- Granting permission to file federal and state program applications for the 2008 – 2009 school year.
-A revised policy, 804 – Operations – School Day.
- District transportation contracts for the 2007/2008 school year.
- Homebound Instruction requests for two students.
- Hiring faculty for the Standards for Success program, for both the high school and elementary.
- Hiring of a JV Boy’s Baseball Coach.
- Accepting the following resignations: a one-year leave of absence (Junior High Baseball); Assistant Varsity Softball Coach; Junior High Softball Coach.
- Medical leaves for an elementary teacher and an office aide.
- Accepting the three elementary employees’ intent to retire at the end of the 2007/2008 school year.
- two additions to the substitute list.
- The customary list of activity and fundraising requests.
Lastly, the board approved a co-sponsorship agreement with Blue Ridge School District for junior high football and soccer.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, March 19, 7 p.m. in the administration offices in the elementary building.
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