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Dr. Stephen Barry Scher, now 67, is still imprisoned by the justice system of Susquehanna County.
Dr. Stephen B. Scher is escorted to the Susquehanna County Sheriff’s vehicle after "his day in court." Scher was tried for the second time for the murder of his good friend, Attorney Marty Dillon and was found guilty of first degree murder.
Photo By Carole M. Canfield
Mrs. Jo Dillon (Marty Dillon’s mother) told The Transcript, “I hope that now, my ‘soap opera life’ is over, and that this is the end.” Joann Reimel (Marty’s sister), showed The Transcript a picture which she has carried with her throughout the whole trial. The picture was of her father, Larry Dillon. It was through Larry Dillon’s determination that the whole murder came to light, when he demanded a second autopsy. “Dad and Marty are here with us,” Joann said. “We hope that this is the last chapter.”
On Thursday, jurors found Dr. Scher guilty of murder in the first degree, after approximately two hours of deliberation on the facts, evidence and theories presented in the seven-day trial. Scher had been hoping the previous verdict handed down years ago would be overturned.
“We are just glad it is over,” stated Norman Breese, the jury chairman.
Marty’s friend, Kendall Strawn said, “Justice has been served, finally.” Strawn, a former native of Montrose, now residing in Erie, PA, comforted Mrs. Dillon after the sentencing, as did several friends and family members. Friend, Alan Bennett, also agreed with the family, "I am so glad it is over for the Dillons. They have waited a long time for this.”
The courtroom held an audience of approximately 60 people as the sentencing was imposed, Friday morning. The number of interested people was nowhere near the first trial held in 1997. The crowd was much smaller, perhaps because of the age of those actually involved and the length of time in-between trials.
The sentence, ordered, by Judge William L Henry, was mandatory life in prison.
In addition, Judge Henry imposed the maximum fine of $50,000 prosecution costs.
Dr. Scher rose as he was asked if he had any questions. “No, your honor,” he replied.
Scher’s lawyer Joshua Lock told the media he would appeal Thursday’s guilty verdict.
Prosecutor Patrick Blesssington had no comment as he left the courthouse on Friday morning.
The prosecution’s evidence just proved to be too strong for the jurors to decide any different verdict.
Evidence of 4” and 8” shell casings, blood spatters, carbon burns, wound location, tied boots, enlarged photographs, forensics reports and testimony of numerous witnesses, even deceased witnesses, just all blended together to prove Scher’s involvement in Martin Dillon’s murder.
These and other things were unique about this trial, especially when pathologist Michael Baden accidentally lost a piece of evidence (body tissue) from Martin Dillon. The tissue slipped down the drain while Baden was examining it. Baden was a defense witness who was looking at tissue samples in the courthouse bathroom. Baden stated that the sample was small and not relevant to the case. Atty. Patrick Blessington felt differently, as he scolded Baden for his accident.
Baden, an expert witness, had also testified in famous cases such as the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
Defense for Dr. Scher called only four witnesses, a small number when compared to the 30 who took the stand for the prosecution (including video tape and read testimonies for deceased witnesses).
Baden offered that a struggle between Dr. Scher and Marty Dillon was possible, saying that the angle of entry (by the shot) into the chest “could”, reflect that of a struggle.
This possibility was proven false, previously, by the prosecution in that the carbon found in the tissue samples reflected close range and that same angle would not have occurred if there had been a struggle; the entry path was that of a downward shot.
Dr. Scher, now beaten and his longtime love remarried, has the rest of his life to sit and ponder, knowing only for certain, himself what really happened on that fateful afternoon at Gunsmoke. He can add to the sentence, that not only did he lose his best friend, but his wife, and freedom as well. He will have a long time to ponder the accountability of the whole scene and ask himself, “Was it worth it?”
Dr. Scher will be incarcerated in a state prison near Pittsburgh, sources reported.
Let‚s hope this is an ending to the soap opera played out and a new beginning for the family of Attorney Marty Dillon. Justice has been served, “Finally.”
The Susquehanna County Commissioners signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” between The Pennsylvania State University and Susquehanna County Services for Children & Youth, “regarding the hire of a Secretary for the Family Resiliency Educator. The secretary will be a Penn State employee from February 19, 2008 through December 31, 2010. The total cost amount reimbursable to Penn State will be no more than $35,290.00 for the three-year period. Of the $35,290.00, 15.6% ($5,505.24) will be the cost to the county for the three-year period, with the remaining balance being paid through state funding to Children & Youth,” according to the meeting agenda for March 12.
Sue Adamec explained that the program is a partnering between the Children & Youth Agency and Penn State to provide coordination between the county resources and the university’s resources, including: Drug & Alcohol Services, Children & Youth Services, Health Services and other important services offered by Penn State. The position is cost shared with Penn State. The secretary will be housed in the Penn State Extension Office located in the Susquehanna County Office Building.
C.A.S.U.A.L. Day in Susquehanna County was proclaimed for March 27, as the commissioners adopted Proclamation 2008-02. Harry Phillips was on hand to explain the background for the day. Phillips related that the event was to raise awareness of colon cancer and advise the importance of screening for the disease. Phillips stated that this day was also to honor his wife, who died of colon cancer. It was first organized by his children, Michael and Maura in February, 2002. The children met with Northeast Cancer Institute in Scranton and the day now is celebrated in nine counties. Money spent through C.A.S.U.A.L. Day is used for screening, and has saved numerous adult lives via its support.
In other business: Deanna Wasko, of Children & Youth was recognized for her 10 years of service to the county and to Children & Youth; Ray Osborne and Sue Adamec were on hand for the presentation. Sue Adamec stated that Deanna was “an asset to the county,” because of her dedication to her position as caseworker and the way she helped with families and in-home services. The commissioners approved seminar requests for Don Stewart, Warden, and also John Lester, Probation, to attend conferences for their positions. Resolution 2008-02 was adopted, authorizing the filing of an application for the financial fiscal year 2007 Pennsylvania Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Funds. The grant amount was $284,029.
Resolution 2008-03, Fair Housing Resolution was adopted, agreeing to promote fair housing practices in Susquehanna County. Resolution 2008-04 was adopted as The Minority Business Enterprise Plan and Statement of Goals. John Witiak(Yogi’s) of Clifford, was awarded the Waste Tire Program collection and transportation bid, for a total of $1,600.00 set up cost for four sites ($400 per site), and a disposal cost of $247.50 per ton of tires. Christine Lee, Montrose, was hired to the open, full-time position of Domestic Relations Intake Clerk, Range 7, Rate $8.20 per hour, with a six-month probation period and benefits per the Court Appointed Bargaining Unit, effective March 10, 2008. Resignation of Edward Kays, 911 Dispatcher Trainee was accepted with regret, as was the resignation of John Megivern, Sheriff’s Department, and Jeni Soules, Dimock, was hired to the open, full-time position of Voter Registration/Clerk Typist, Range 6, Rate $7.75 per hour, six-month probation period, benefits per the Residual Bargaining Unit Contract, effective March 17, 2008, per recommendation of Laura Watts, Director of Elections, Voter Registrar.
A motion was made by Commissioner Giangrieco to award the bids of custodial supplies for 2008, per the recommendation of Kathy Aldrich, Deputy Chief Clerk (a list of the awarded bids was attached to this meeting’s minutes).
Commissioners also signed the service agreement with Motorola for one year, beginning April 1, 2008 and ending March 31, 2009, in the amount of $2,974.72. The agreement is for service on the electronic bank equipment in the 911 Emergency Center.
Commissioners reminded the audience that the Rail Authority would meet on Friday, March 14 in the conference room upstairs in the County Office Building. The Rail Authority has had two appointments and needs one more appointment of a chairman. Commissioner Warren said “We are still working on that.”
Jim Jennings asked if Rowland Sharp was still a member of the Rail Authority. Commissioner Warren stated that Sharp’s term ran out. He was answered with a little hesitation, but finally received an “I don’t think so” from all three commissioners.
The Susquehanna County Commissioners meeting is held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 9 a.m.
During its March 11 meeting, Clifford Township Supervisors announced that they will open a separate account for $10,800 received through the Winter Municipal Agreement. The money is to be spent on a future paving project.
James Cole, owner of Dunier’s Country Store, would like a liquor license transfer. Cole plans to open a pizza shop near the store, and wishes to sell take-out beer. In order to receive public feedback, the supervisors agreed to discuss the matter further at a special public meeting on Wednesday, March 19 at 7 p.m.
Directly following the liquor license review will be a discussion of Damskov property set-backs for the construction of a swimming pool.
On Wednesday, March 26, the supervisors will host a special public meeting to review the Clifford Township land ordinance and subdivision policy. The supervisors will also formulate a letter in response to DEP questions concerning sewers at Crystal Lake.
A woman present at the meeting expressed concern about her mother’s lack of a house number address. The woman stated that in the event of an emergency, it could be difficult for rescuers to find her mother, who resides in the Elkview Development. The woman also requested that the township begin plowing the road her mother lives on. John Regan, township supervisor, replied that Clifford Township does not plow the road because the road doesn’t meet PennDOT requirements. Regan stated that when the problems with the road are resolved, the township will plow the road. Regarding the matter of house number addresses, Regan stated that nobody in the township has one, but he added that the Postal Service is in the process of providing house number addresses for all Clifford Township residents.
The supervisors announced that Lynn McLaud will donate stone for the repair of a neglected stretch of Round Pond Road. Clifford Township will assume responsibility for the road repair work.
The supervisors would like to remind township residents that Garbage Clean-up Day will be held on May 3. Participants are encouraged to pre-register and may do so by calling the Susquehanna County Recycling Center at (570) 278-3589. The center’s web address is www.susquehannarecycle.com.
Barbara A. Tourscher to Robert and Elizabeth P. Maslyar, in Springville Township for $150,000.00.
Helen M. Capewell to Thomas A. Capewell, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
David M. Opeka to Martin A. Haitz and Jessica H. Freed-Haitz, in Herrick Township for $185,000.00.
Eleanor M. (AKA) Eleanor Tagler (EST) to Jean M., Carl Frank and Eleanor Jean Konzman and Frank J., Lisa Marie and Frank Donald Tagler, in Herrick and Clifford Townships for one dollar.
Joseph D. and Deborah Ritter to Nathan Ritter, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Nathan Ritter to Joseph D. and Deborah Ritter, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Martin J. and Lorraine Kay Parise to Martin J. and Lorraine Kay Parise, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Richard K. Burdick to Christopher S. Burdick, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Wells Fargo Bank and Option One Mortgage Corporation to John Granick, in Gibson Township for $132,000.00.
John Hauser to Tina McGroarty, in Montrose for $195,000.00.
Thomas Heller (Estate) to Michelle H. Heller, in Uniondale Borough for one dollar.
Carrie L. Kegelman to Keith L. Kegelman, in Great Bend Township.
Doris D. Larnerd (Rev Trust By Trustee) to Justyn R. and Christine A. Lee, in Bridgewater Township for $100,000.00.
Eric S. and Rebecca L. Page to Eric S. and Rebecca L. Page, in Oakland Borough for one dollar.
Carlton, Nadene L., Matthew C. and Amy M. Hawley to Ronald R. Aton, Jr., in Forest Lake Township for $63,000.00.
L&T Home Again LLC to Edward Kevin and Melissa Ann Zajaczkowski, in Rush Township for $54,900.00.
William L. Dittmar to Frederick R. Kulikowski, in Silver Lake Township for $150,000.00.
George F. Robinson (Trust By Trustee) to Eugene T. and Julie L. Walker, in Jackson Township for $134,000.00.
Laverne S. Pippi and Robert W., Jr. and Karen Tarry to Robert W., Jr. and Karen Tarry, in Middletown Township for $10.00.
Shirley Sheridan (AKA) Shirley D. Holdridge (By Sheriff) to Deutsche Bank National Trust Co., in Forest Lake Township for $1,219.54.
Agnes M. Reilly (Estate) to Thomas J., John J. and M. Theresa Reilly, in Oakland Township for one dollar.
Minnie Stanford (By Tax Claim) and Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau to Scott J. and Tara L. Vogler, in Susquehanna for $648.45.
Michael Mills (By Tax Claim) and Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau, in Choconut Township for $3,331.35.
Herman R. and Lois B. Agler (By Tax Claim) and Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau to Mario Button, in Oakland Borough for $12,600.00.
Paula Jean Cramer (By Tax Claim) and Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau to William J. Bauer, in Great Bend Township for $6,200.00.
Robert E. and Mary L Clapper (By Sheriff) to T. Chester and Nancy L. Goldyn, in Auburn Township for $93,000.00.
William and Aimee Andrews (By Sheriff) to Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., in Ararat Township for $1,213.99.
McCormick Road Associates LLC to Matthew J. Nagle, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Regina M. Agostine to Loumar Family Limited Partnership, in Springville Township for $120,000.00.
Philip J., Jr. and Lauri A. Pass to Edward L. and Sue M. Price, in Herrick Township for $40,000.00.
Edward L. and Sue M. Price to Edward L. and Sue M. Price, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Sherry Sparks to Brian B. and Laura A. Huber, in Gibson Township for $360,000.00.
Sherry Sparks to Sherry Sparks, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
David McLean Wilson and Mary Jane Labonte, both of Brackney.
Shane L. Powell and Danielle R. Hall, both of Montrose.
Lawrence Giovanni Berti and Maryna S. Rekun, both of Pittston.
Jeremiah J. Dewitt and Jennifer L. Harvey, both of Montrose.
Jason W. Bradway and Jeimy C. Alvarez, both of Baldwinsville, NY.
Matthew J. Wood and Gina M. Holsopple, both of Oswego, NY.
George J. Dean, III and Lisa M. Hollenbeck, both of South Montrose.
Matthew J. Bergman and Marianne Jarrett, both of Montrose.
Kurt W. Sherman and Jody L. Sheffler, both of Springville.
Joseph P. Cross and Rebecca Marie Bower, both of Montrose.
Brian Martin Booth and Marci Dee Choplosky, both of Hop Bottom.
John A. Whitney of Susquehanna and Carrie L. Bartlett of Brackney.
David F. Ristagno and Maryann Rose Early, both of Thompson.
Jared Wayne Norris and Stefani Marie Lyons, both of Susquehanna.
Allen B. Clark, Jr. and Desiree Lynn Sheridan, both of New Milford.
Jeffrey Michael Herbert, II and Bobbie Jo Vanhorn, both of Hop Bottom.
Damian Taylor Allard and Kathryn Elizabeth Armondi, both of New Milford.
Christopher J. Kilmer and Teri A. Buck, both of Enfield, NH.
Laurie A. Hubal vs. Robert W. Hubal, both of Thompson, married 1989.
Keith L. Kegelman and Carrie L. Kegelman, both of Great Bend, married 2003.
Elizabeth Gertrude Taylor of Columbia, MD and Kenneth Douglas Taylor of Montrose, married 1995.
Debra E. Hayslett and Jeffrey N. Hayslett, both of Great Bend, married 1995.
During the March 10 Forest City Regional School Board meeting, J. Curtis Rose of the Pennsylvania School Board Association honored board member Henry Nebzydoski, Jr. with a “Distinguished Service Award” for his commitment to the school. Mr. Nebzydoski, who has served on the school board for 24 years, is beginning his seventh term in office. Nebzydoski remarked, “This school has done a lot for my kids,” adding that they were impacted by “positive experiences” and “positive people” during their school years. Nebzydoski stated that he serves on the board because he “just loves kids.”
Elementary principal Kenneth Swartz announced that this year, the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association granted its Elementary School Career Education and Development Award to the Forest City Regional Pre-Kindergarten program for “providing students with outstanding career education and development opportunities.”
Forest City’s pre-schoolers are not the only ones to have access to advanced education. The school board announced that dual-enrollment agreements for the 2008-2009 school year have been approved between Forest City Regional School District and Marywood University, as well as with the University of Scranton.
The board approved the revised 2007-2008 school budget of $11,335,756. The budget was modified due to changes in transportation costs and because of grants for the “Pre-K Counts” and “Classrooms for the Future” programs.
In mid-April, the district will host an event called “Flip the Switch,” which will highlight the role of “Classrooms for the Future” technology in education at the school. Legislators and community members will be invited to attend.
Also open to the public, a Strategic Planning meeting has been scheduled for March 25 at 7 p.m. in the high school library. The meeting will concern curriculum and professional development needs.
It was a busy evening for Joel Whitehead, longest-serving member of the Blue Ridge School Board. Board President Priscinda Gaughan and Vice President Harold Empett both being absent, Mr. Whitehead was nominated and selected President Pro Tempore at the start of the meeting on March 10. Following the customary Pledge of Allegiance, he was pleased to start off with a brief concert by the "girls' half" of the Fifth Grade Select Choir, directed by Kristen Small.
The twelve young ladies sang four selections representing music from around the world and were roundly applauded by everyone, not least by the group of parents and friends who came out to do just that. Director and piano accompanist Ms. Small closed the presentation by thanking the board and administration for their support of the arts "at all levels."
The meeting was notable also for the presence of a student representative, Lynnea Brush, senior and member of the National Honor Society. She sat stoically through the meeting, but unfortunately was not called upon to participate.
The business meeting agenda was fairly routine for Blue Ridge. Among the usual collection of personnel items were the announcements of intention to retire of five teachers, Elizabeth Benedict, John Ketchur, Paul Kipar, William Mazikewich and Lorraine (DeDe) Tersteeg. Mr. Whitehead said that he knew many of them, and that it was "sad to see them go," but wished them well in their retirements.
Mr. Ketchur was on hand to attend the laptop computers propped open at every place around the table. There were a few printed copies of the agenda available, which did not include minutes from last month's meeting as they have in the past. When asked, Business Manager Loren Small said that approved minutes would be available the next day on the district's website; minutes are now available before approval only to board members at a protected location on the district's network. Curiously, board member Lon Fisher at the end of the meeting asked what the implications might be of the recently passed Act 3, the state's updated Right- to-Know law.
The board approved a calendar for the next school year. Frequently revised, the calendar builds in snow days at the end of the year in June. Classes are now scheduled to begin for the 2008-2009 year on August 26, and end on June 4, 2009, with graduation on June 13, 2009. Mr. Fisher asked about a movement in Harrisburg to require all school districts to begin school only after Labor Day. According to Superintendent Robert McNamara, the issue is still before the legislature, pushed primarily by the tourism industry, but has not yet passed.
The board accepted the budget of the Northeastern Intermediate Unit #19 for the next school year. The administrative part of the budget totals about $3.2 million, of which Blue Ridge will be responsible for $14,398, a slight increase over the current year. The "IU," as it is known, provides a wide variety of services for school districts in the region with an overall budget of some $35 million.
The board approved the creation of a "Sing, Move, Play, Create!" summer program for elementary students this summer, under the direction of Elizabeth Gaughan. Other than use of the facility, the program will cost the district nothing; parents will pay $75 per student for children to participate. With all the other summer activities on the campus, there was some concern about scheduling collisions. Mr. McNamara said that the summer would require "close cooperation" among the events, but the principals did not think that there would be much overlap.
Board members approved Dominica Skal as morning literacy tutor for first and second grade students. According to Mr. McNamara, this will be the third year for the brief sessions that will be offered between March 25 and May 22 this year. Originally begun under a grant, Blue Ridge will now be "taking it on our own," said Mr. McNamara.
The program is offered in the hour between the arrival of the high school buses and the regular start in the Elementary School. There was some concern about younger children riding the buses with older students. Mr. McNamara said that participating youngsters will travel with an assigned "bus buddy," to help out.
Like many school districts across the state, Blue Ridge is opposed to a proposal by the state Department of Education to require students to pass something called a Graduation Competency Assessment (GCA) – a test similar to the New York State regency examination – in order to graduate. The board was presented with a draft resolution to be forwarded to Harrisburg that lists the district's objections. Mr. Whitehead read the entire resolution out loud, then declared his opposition to the test, saying, "One more test for seniors is not needed at this time."
Under the proposal, all students would have to pass this exam in order to graduate, "whether they are taking college prep or vocational courses, are English language learners or participating in individualized programs."
Many districts are concerned that the new mandate would be imposed without additional funds to support it. In the words of the resolution, "the proposal requires school districts to absorb many new costs related to revising curriculum, professional development, test development and validation, test preparation and administration, remediation and other costs." By passing the resolution enthusiastically, the Blue Ridge board declared its satisfaction with the graduation requirements imposed at the district level. It was interesting that High School Principal John Manchester's report noted that Blue Ridge seniors are already aware that they must score "proficient" on the PSSA tests (the state standard assessment exams mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act) or an equivalent before they will be permitted to graduate.
Mr. Manchester made a strong pitch for parents to attend the fourth annual "Kid Safe Night" at the school on March 27. The event brings together representatives of various local and state agencies and organizations to promote awareness and provide information about how to keep children safe from drugs, crime and other threats. He said that this year a state representative would offer a presentation on "cyber bullying," a new threat to children active on the Internet.
The three principals all make their handbooks for the next year available to the board about this time of year. The principals report that this year the handbooks will be only very slightly changed from the current editions.
And finally, Chris Whitney, representing Marywood University, made a brief presentation promoting a new program she directs that, working together with local school districts, would help final-year students in high school diagnosed with various degrees of autism make the transition to the wider world. She said the first application for a grant was turned down, and she was requesting letters of support from board members and administration to help get the program going.
The only workshop this month at Blue Ridge would be a meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 17 to begin developing a budget for next year. The next business meeting will be held on April 14, beginning at 7:30 p.m. All meetings are held in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
The Susquehanna County Rail Authority met on March 14 with a full house, including two new members and two Susquehanna County Commissioners.
Attending the meeting were: Ken Bondurant, Acting Chairperson; Thomas Wooden, Secretary/Treasurer; members Joseph White, Robert McNamara, Dave Darrow, Don Button, Rowland Sharp and Bob Templeton, County Planning; Commissioners Leon Allen and Mary Ann Warren.
Chair Ken Bondurant welcomed the new members, and they were brought up to speed with the combined efforts of the members present. Past positive and negative items were discussed without personalities playing any part.
A question was raised concerning whose place Dave Darrow is taking, as the dates on his letter were not in compliance with any seat which was open. Ken Bondurant will check with Chief Clerk, Sylvia Beamer to ascertain the correct seat for Darrow. Bondurant believes there is just a typo in the letter. Don Button replaces P. Jay Amadio.
Although the commissioners were late for the meeting (previous schedule conflict), they brought good news in the form of a possible meeting with Senator Madigan's office to discuss the future of a transloading site in New Milford Township, near Summersville.
The Rail Authority welcomed this information and after the Authority and commissioners checked their agendas it was decided that a meeting on April 11, at 10 a.m. (the regular meeting for the Authority) would be a good time. Commissioner Mary Ann Warren phoned Craig Schuey of Senator Madigan's office to cement the date. Schuey agreed on the date, but asked that a little allowance be given as to the time. It was decided that The Rail Authority would hold its regular business meeting and that Senator Madigan's representative would arrive sometime between 10:30 and 11 a.m. The meeting will be held in the EMA Conference Room in the bottom of the County Office Building, to allow for space and people attending the meeting.
Authority members were very happy about this upcoming meeting. The commissioners agreed that this would be a good thing for Susquehanna County.
An important factor in acquiring and planning for a transloading and passenger site is the purchase of the land proposed for the site. Rowland Sharp reported that previously (last year), he had a good bargain worked out with the owner of the land, but the next morning the landowner died.
Dave Darrow and Don Button said they would look into the matter of talking with the land's new owner about purchasing the property.
Discussion was held on the amount of land to purchase, and Thomas Wooden said that if the whole tract was purchased it would allow for expansion in the future. Decisions on the exact amount of purchase will be discussed further at the next meeting.
Information on the New York–Pennsylvania I-81 corridor rail was provided; it was discussed that it would greatly benefit Susquehanna County to have railroad transportation within the county, bringing commerce, rail transportation and freight service.
Funding was discussed, stating that whichever bank the Rail Authority goes with will need the county's guarantee to finalize the loan needed for the transloading facility.
Don Button, a New Milford resident, said one of the reasons he is on the Rail Authority is because he actually wanted to know what "is" going on in "our town" (New Milford). Button shared that he had heard several rumors and wanted to know firsthand himself. "It (the railroad) is gonna happen! And we need to be in there" (or the funding will go to some other county, and Susquehanna County will lose the opportunity to take advantage of the positive aspects the railroad will bring).
The Scranton-Hoboken Line is moving forward, and there is positive talk about a Binghamton to Scranton run. Susquehanna County would be the ideal stop in between the two. Lackawanna is reportedly merging with New Jersey, and that opens up the railroad even further to allow more commerce to come into Susquehanna County.
The Rail Authority meets on the second Friday every month at 10 a.m. Don't forget that the April 11 meeting will be held in the EMA Conference Room instead of the upstairs conference room.
On March 10, Montrose School district became the 439th school entity in the commonwealth, out of approximately 600, to oppose the proposed Graduate Competency Assessments. Superintendent Michael Ognosky stated that he personally did not feel standardized testing to be a true measure of student performance. The proposed legislation sets the same standards, regardless of a student's course of study or disability. It also, according to the resolution which the district shared with the press, involves a cost to schools which, due to other recent legislation, they may be stretched to meet.
This legislation was not the only matter considered that night which has been recently debated by other area schools. Mr. John Butler came to the meeting and spoke on gas and oil leases, as a representative of a local landowners' group. He said that this informal group, which so far has over 18,000 acres and had 153 landowners at one meeting, was formed to ensure that members have as fair, beneficial, and profitable an oil and gas experience as possible. He described various problems with the leases as they are commonly written. They provide the companies great freedom, allowing them to lay pipeline as they please, to resell the gas, and to not designate heirs and assignees should the landowner pass away. In addition to this, many people are signing on for much less than they could be getting. Once the lease is in the courthouse, he said, there are a lot of restrictions in place before it can be released. For these reasons, the group has added around 60 addendums to a standard lease, which will supersede the other document. It has also pushed/waited for an increased price per acre, and royalty percentage. He came to the meeting to explain all of this, and to ask if the district would like to add its land to the pot. Nothing is required to join or be a member of the group, he said. The district replied that they would consider the matter, but was not willing to make any decision that evening. Before the matter rested, however, a visitor added to the discussion by urging the board to thoroughly research the process and its potential environmental repercussions.
The student information system, which was approved at a recent meeting has begun to be utilized, Mr. Owens reported. The conversion of student data from the current system to MMS has commenced. People find the system pleasant to work in, and it is hoped that the district will be able to do its 2008/2009 scheduling with it.
Many events, and much district development, are occurring in the near future. Choconut Valley Elementary school is slated to hold its spring fair on April 5. At the time of the meeting, it was also in its sixth week of Sunday archery league, with 22 students in grades 3-6 planning to attend the state competition. PSSA's will be beginning at that school, and at the other schools, soon. The high school recently had foreign language week, and brought in a Spanish dance instructor. A mock D.U.I. accident has been planned for the week before prom, and Mr. Tallarico spoke at both this meeting and the last of the power of this experience. Finally, a senior sleepover may occur this year just prior to senior exams, in conjunction with work by the district attorney and judge. Students will have to take a breathalyzer test to gain entry to the event, and if they test negative they will receive a ticket for a raffle. Mr. Tallarico also reported that the district passed its Middle States evaluation, though there are some changes which were recommended and will need to be considered.
Students themselves made four requests for board consideration at the March 8 student/board forum. They asked about an emergency communication system; Mr. Ognosky said that the administration would look at the costs and benefits. They requested permission to hold fairs, modeled after college fairs, for children moving from sixth to seventh grade. They wished to have a wall of fame to honor athletic excellence, and were instructed to establish criteria for this honor, and then report back to the administration and board. The juniors and seniors also stated dissatisfaction with new lockers, which the building and grounds supervisor agreed to look into rectifying. Mr. Tallarico, thanked the board for holding this forum and reported that students were referring to it as being very helpful.
Following is the list of names drawn to serve as Petit and Traverse jurors, to appear in the Court of Common Pleas, Susquehanna County Courthouse, Montrose, on the seventh day of April, 9:00 a.m.
Apolacon Twp.: Joseph Fernandez.
Ararat Twp.: Richard Cottrell.
Auburn Twp.: Maynard Bowman.
Bridgewater Twp.: Maureen Hoover, Leroy Morgan, Douglas Overfield, Robert Remington.
Brooklyn Twp.: Mary Beeman, Dale Grosvenor, Laurie Tylutki.
Choconut Twp.: John Davis.
Clifford Twp.: Alverna Gow, Gerald Maskovsky.
Dimock Twp.: Mary Berg, Arthur Doolittle, Ray Hubert, Graham MacDonald, Phillip Probasco, Richard Spering.
Forest City 1W: Diana Junior, Joseph Pleska.
Forest Lake Twp.: David Kerr, Lorrie O’Brien, Joanne Reynolds, Martin Triebel.
Gibson Twp.: Richard Marcho.
Great Bend Boro: Maureen Crook, Doreen Moat.
Great Bend Twp.: Helen Baglino, Lois Singer, Edward Wilber.
Hallstead Boro: John Pavlisak, Richard Rosenkrans.
Harford Twp.: Daniel Bonham, Elizabeth Grant, Louise Oakley, Ruth Purdy.
Jackson Twp.: John McNamara.
Jessup Twp.: James Brunges.
Lathrop Twp.: Tara Burgess, Regina Evans, Daniel Harvey, Patricia Marrazzo, Paul Paschuk.
Lenox Twp.: Christine Evans, Anthea Fulkerson, Bonnie Lorenzetti, Jennifer Schmidt, Rebecca Tingley.
Liberty Twp.: Harry Albert, Lucikay Johnson.
Montrose Boro 1W: William Lyon.
Montrose Boro 2W: Robert Alexander.
New Milford Boro: Leon Phillips.
New Milford Twp.: Suzanne Brant, Edward Dietzel.
Oakland Boro: Dale MacDonald.
Rush Twp.: Eugene Baldwin, Dick Richards, Sandra Zapolski.
Silver Lake Twp.: Stanton Earley, Luke Ferraro, Edward Shelp.
Springville Twp.: William Loch, Nancy Randolph, Paul Ward.
Susquehanna Boro 1W: Pearl Benson, Roger Crawford, Douglas Heath, Pauline Magliulo.
Susquehanna Boro 2W: Gerald Walker.
Thompson Twp.: Ardith Callender, R. Spencer Callender.
PSP Gibson is investigating an aggravated assault which occurred on February 28 at around 3:45 p.m. In this incident, Beau Baker of Clarks Summit allegedly attempted to use his vehicle to run a vehicle driven by Christopher Race off of the road. Baker also threatened to assault him. Charges were filed in District Court 34-3-01.
POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DELIVER
On March 1, at around 3:28 p.m., a trooper stopped for a disabled vehicle on Interstate 81 near mm220 in New Milford Twp. Upon making contact with the operator of the vehicle, the trooper smelled marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. The passenger (and accused), Kyle Mullen of Kinnelon, NJ, was asked to exit the vehicle and was found to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. A consent search was asked and granted by the operator, which produced three individual glassine baggies of suspected ecstasy and three glassine baggies of marijuana in a bag owned by the defendant. The passenger was processed and arraigned at District Court 34-3-02 on charges of possession with the intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a small amount of marijuana. The district judge imposed a $5,000 unsecured bail on the defendant, and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for March 10.
On February 24 at around 7:30 p.m., Leroy Mulhollen was traveling south on SR 29 in Franklin Twp. with a female passenger. The two were driving in a 2008 Chevrolet Impala, and were on their way back to Montrose from Fiddlers Bar in New York state. When the two became involved in an argument, Mulhollen became angry and physically pushed the woman out of the car while it was still moving at a reduced speed. He then put the vehicle in reverse and struck her with it, knocking her down. Aaron Booth of Montrose, who was traveling north on SR 29 at the time, observed the latter incident and stopped to help the woman, who got into his vehicle. Mulhollen then began to pursue the two, until he intentionally hit the right rear side of Booth's truck, approximately two tenths of a mile south of TR677 in Franklin Township, causing it to spin in a clockwise direction into the northbound lane before crossing back into the southbound lane and into a ditch on the west berm. Mulhollen was arrested and incarcerated in the Susquehanna Co. jail.
VEHICLE - RECOVERED
On March 1, at around 12:25 a.m., a 2003 Dodge Ram 1500, registered to David Marsden of the Thomasville, NC area, was discovered on fire on the Highland Rd. in New Milford Twp. The investigation, which was continuing at the time of report, has indicated that the vehicle was reported stolen to the Greensboro police department in North Carolina.
On February 29, Brooke Pratt of Springville was traveling southbound on Herb Button Road in Springville Twp. when she lost control of her vehicle on the ice covered dirt road. The vehicle exited the roadway to the east of the travel lanes, continued approximately 93 feet, impacted a series of trees, and came to a final rest off the roadway. Pratt was transported by the Montrose Minute Men to Tyler Memorial Hospital.
On February 23, a Fire Cat F7 snowmobile was parked on the side of the road in Herrick Twp., unoccupied, when it was impacted by a Plymouth Breeze driven by James Serge of Carbondale. The snowmobile rolled over and ended up under Serge's vehicle. There were no injuries. Serge fled the scene after the crash.
On February 28, unknown person(s) apparently withdrew approximately $370 from a Susquehanna resident's debit card. The report is still under investigation.
On March 8, at around 3:40 a.m., Dustin Jesse of Hallstead apparently failed to properly stop and struck a vehicle driven by Gerri Beach of Conklin while she sat at the drive-thru window of McDonalds in Great Bend. Jesse was arrested for suspicion of DUI.
Marisa Flanagan and Jody Hall of New Milford reported that someone rifled through their unlocked vehicle sometime during the night of February 22. The incident occurred behind the New Milford Post Office.
On March 9, unknown person(s) slashed two tires on a vehicle belonging to Alan Rogers of Springville. The vehicle was parked at PJ's Bar in Bridgewater Twp. at the time.
HIT AND RUN
On March 8, Jamie Canfield of Hallstead Boro was attempting to make a left turn onto Park Avenue in that town. At this time, an unknown driver attempted to overtake Canfield, causing a collision. The unknown driver then proceeded to flee the scene.
THEFT OF A MOTOR VEHICLE
On March 6, at around 7:23 p.m., an unknown perpetrator stole a truck belonging to David Moody of Vestal, while parked outside the Smokin' Joe's in Choconut. Moody had gone inside the store, and noticed the absence of his truck upon exiting the building. The vehicle is described as a maroon and silver 2000 Chevy pickup truck, with a NY registration plate of 33095JU.
One or more unknown perpetrator(s) entered the trailer of Catherine Jacobino in Hop Bottom by unknown means, and removed a portable DVD player and three Playstation games from within.
One or more unknown perpetrator(s) are reported to have entered a house in Harford Twp., belonging to Wayne Hague of Vestal, NY, without permission. The perpetrator(s) broke the window in the rear of the house to gain entry, took numerous small electronic devices and small items, and fled the scene in an unknown direction by unknown means.
FLEEING AND ELUDING
On February 3, Derek Benson of Hop Bottom attempted to elude a police officer, finally coming to a stop on Main Street in Hop Bottom. Benson was apprehended without incident. Charges were filed in district court 34-3-03.
On March 3, at approximately 1 a.m., a PSP Gibson trooper stopped a vehicle on SR 81 northbound in Harford Township, for traffic violations. A traffic citation and warnings were issued. Indicators of criminal activity were observed. A consent search was requested and voluntarily granted. Upon searching the vehicle, clear plastic bags containing prescription pills were located, but the driver did not appear to have a valid prescription for the medicine. Baggage was located in the back seat and trunk areas of the vehicle that was found to contain two clear plastic bags, containing approximately 18.6 g. of marijuana, a clear plastic container holding approximately 246 g., a plastic bowl containing approximately 152.5 g., and a glass jar containing approx. 17 g. of the substance. Also found were a box of clear plastic bags, a digital scale with marijuana residue on it, and four smaller, clear bags that held small distribution amounts of the drug totaling around 29.3 g. The total combined weight of the suspected marijuana was about 463.5 g. The prescription medications were identified as containing Hydrocodone, a schedule III controlled substance. There were a total of twenty-seven pills. The suspected marijuana field-tested positive as marijuana. The driver, Tony Johnson of Charlotte, NC, admitted that all of the contraband belonged to him and that the passenger, Brian Weishenker (also of NC), did not have any knowledge regarding the contents of his baggage. Johnson was arraigned on multiple drug offenses and bail was set at $50,000. Bail was not posted, and Johnson was committed to the Susquehanna County jail.
On February 23, one or more unknown persons went into the boys’ locker room at Mountain View High School in Kingsley during a regional band competition, rifled through the personal belongings of students, and removed iPods and cash from their luggage.
THEFT/RECEIVING STOLEN PROPERTY
On March 12, at around 11:30 a.m., an unnamed 17-year old male is accused of having stolen a cell phone and credit card from the purse of Laurie Wilkins of Nicholson. The incident occurred at Mt. View High School in Kingsley.
A mixed agenda made more complicated by winter weather took the Harford Township Supervisors nearly two and a half hours to cover on March 11, and they still pushed the last item into the next meeting. For one thing, the meeting scheduled for February 26 was cancelled due to inclement weather. And the continuing messy conditions have been giving roadmaster and chair of the board of supervisors Terry VanGorden headaches.
As the meeting got under way, Mr. VanGorden announced that at 6:00 a.m. on March 5, the supervisors officially declared a "disaster emergency." With no assurance that the declaration would yield any assistance, the supervisors were taking no chances, with the heavy rain "tearing up roads and ditches" all over the township. The bypass around the bridge on Pennay Hill Road that was first damaged during the flooding in the summer of 2006 washed out again. Since the only other alternative for area residents – and emergency vehicles and school buses – is a 12-mile detour, a contractor in the area was enlisted to replace the bypass one more time for a cost of about $1,000. And, as might be expected considering the difficult conditions, there are equipment problems. For one thing, one of the snow plows has been out of action for about three weeks, waiting for a brake part. Mr. VanGorden said he has been swamped with phone calls, and asks that residents "try and bear with us."
The township has received an extension from emergency management agencies subsidizing the replacement of the Butler Creek bridge on Pennay Hill Road. The work must now be completed before the end of this year. Supervisor and Township Secretary Sue Furney said that she has not yet signed the paperwork for a state "infrastructure" loan to help pay for the project (as well as another large one on Stearns Road at the outlet of Tingley Lake) because the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) still has not issued a permit for the bridge work, which is required before the Township can solicit bids and get the work under way.
The supervisors opened bids for road materials at the meeting, but were disappointed that they received only one bid for cinders, and only one bid for stone. The bid from Matthews Trucking for 400 tons of cinders at $18.24 per ton (up from $15.71 last year) was tabled to give the supervisors time to consider whether they actually want to use cinders next year. Some think that the cinders do little good on icy roads, where the effect seems to be more psychological than anything else.
There was considerable discussion about the relative merits of the alternative to cinders for snow and ice, namely the various types of "anti-skid" products, which are really just different sizes of crushed stone material. The bid from Eastern Industries (which now owns what used to be known as State Aggregates) was accepted for 2RC and 2B stone, as well as AASHTO #67 and Type 2 anti-skid. Mr. VanGorden said the Type 2 product seemed to be too small; it disappears in the ice on the township's dirt roads. He prefers the #67 stone, or even perhaps another version known as #7, whose size is between the Type 2 and #67. They decided to accept the entire bid, including the Type 2 anti- skid, which is more useful on macadam surfaces like those in the Harford and Kingsley villages.
Most of the rest of the meeting was more like a workshop, an in-depth discussion of various township policies that the newest supervisor, Garry Foltz, would like to have revisited and formalized.
The township will be developing a new driveway permit that will come in two parts. Without saying precisely how it might work, the idea is to try to make sure that landowners installing a new driveway on a township road construct it in such a way as to provide sufficient drainage, to avoid water damage and winter ice buildup.
The law doesn't require the township to record meetings, but many organizations – including municipalities like Harford – do. A question had come up as to how long such recordings must be kept. It was decided that, since the only official record of meetings that is required are the approved minutes, the township secretary was free to discard or re-record tapes as soon as a meeting's minutes have been formally adopted.
Residents may have noticed that the big mailbox that used to stand on the road outside the township offices has disappeared. The township has a new address: P.O. Box 1, Harford, PA 18823. But don't get too used to it. The countywide readdressing project is nearing completion. According to Ms. Furney, sometime this summer the post office will probably be notifying residents of their new addresses. Every location will be given a street address – a number on a street name.
The supervisors will be asking the phone company for a new pricing schedule. The township now has four phone lines, one of which is used for connecting the office computer to the Internet. A new DSL connection will cut that back to three lines (one for the sewer plant, one for office use, and one for the FAX machine) as well as make broadband Internet access available to the computers in both the office and the shop.
Since both of the township's computers are getting a little long in the tooth, the township will also be shopping for some new technology.
The supervisors will be developing a policy on jury duty for the township's employees. Ms. Furney was recently called for federal jury duty, which paid her $40 for the day, plus mileage. Based on the discussion at the meeting, the new policy will probably pay employees their normal wages for time served on jury duty, as long as the employee surrenders any per-diem payment to the township.
There was a lengthy discussion of how and what the township should charge for office services. An update to the Right-to-Know law in Pennsylvania, called Act 3 of 2008 was recently passed in Harrisburg, giving municipalities an opportunity to review their own "open-records" policies.
The township has always had a policy for charging for some office services, but it was vague and incomplete. The new one will probably charge 50 cents per page for copies of official documents; personal copies are sometimes made for individuals, who will now be charged 25 cents per page. Any service that requires mailing will be charged for postage plus $5 for handling. FAXes will cost $1 per page. The township may ask for pre-payment if the estimated total cost of the requested services is expected to top $25.
The supervisors are concerned that the time of the township secretary should be focused on township business. The policy is expected to say something about charges for research time as well, although Ms. Furney said that significant time on such work has only occurred once in her 16 years in the job.
At a meeting in February, the supervisors decided to get tough with sewer subscribers who are delinquent on their payments. Delinquents will receive a 30-day notice, and if they fail to pay up then, will receive another final notice warning that the township would attach a lien on the property. Now the supervisors are considering taking action on some long-standing liens by proceeding to sheriff's sale in some cases. According to Ms. Furney, there are now four liens outstanding, some accumulating delinquent charges going back as long as two years.
Ms. Furney also discovered that the township will no longer have to pay for expensive CPA auditing services for the sewer system. The remaining principal on the 40-year Rural Development loan that helped build the sewer system and that the township has been paying down for 10 years or so is now under $1 million. She contacted the holder of the note who told her that, since the township's debt had fallen below the $1-million threshold, the formal audit would no longer be necessary, a saving of almost $5,500 per year. The township must still submit regular financial reports, however, and the township's own auditors will continue to inspect the records each year.
Following an inspection by DEP some months ago, the engineering firm that manages the township sewer system recommended a study to determine what the system needs for repairs and upgrades. The supervisors were annoyed that the engineers wanted to charge for such a study when they hadn't made the township aware of problems through a regular reporting process all along. At a February meeting the supervisors reported that the engineers are now saying that a separate report would not be necessary, recommend instead a few relatively minor changes in the plant and repairs to its equipment and facilities.
The supervisors were clearly tiring after two hours of this sort of thing, and there were some testy exchanges between Mr. Foltz and Mr. VanGorden. Mr. VanGorden and Ms. Furney are both employed by the township as well as occupying chairs as supervisors. Mr. Foltz was upset that he, as the only supervisor not otherwise employed by the township wasn't being informed in a more timely manner about some of the more difficult issues that have come up recently, including, for example, the washout of the latest bypass on Pennay Hill Road. He recited from a calendar all of the hours he had spent on township business since the beginning of January, and seemed to feel that he was being shortchanged. Mr. VanGorden apologized and said he would try to keep Mr. Foltz as fully informed as possible.
As the Supervisors finally ran out of steam, the last item on the official agenda, something called "Review zoning possibilities," was put off until the next meeting on Tuesday, March 25. It will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the township office on Route 547.
TRIANGLE UPDATE: The Harford Township Historical Society was informed recently that a hearing on the dispute with Bronson Pinchot over the triangle in the center of the village has been scheduled for Friday, June 20.