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The Blue Ridge School Board's workshop on April 28 was dominated by budget discussions. A budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 must be in place by then, so the details must be nailed down by the June business meeting at the latest.
The evening began with committee meetings, a half hour before the full workshop. The Budget and Finance Committee naturally focused on the budget, and was led by Alan Hall. The committee reviewed revenue figures, which will remain a bit hazy until the state legislature and governor can get their act together. So far the state is offering only about 1.78% more than last year, and only for "basic education." Since considerable funds are expended for special education and other purposes, the net result is an increase of probably less than 1% overall.
The largest local source of revenue for the schools is the property tax. The district saw a shortfall following the flood in the summer of 2006. According to Business Manager Loren Small, that is only now beginning to come back.
On the expense side, one of the biggest items is insurance, particularly health insurance for the district's employees. Administrators are working on a proposal to pull out of the consortium through which the district now buys health coverage. There may be some financial benefit to "self-financed" coverage; there is no intention to change insurers, just the way the premiums are financed. At present Blue Ridge spends very nearly $2 million per year for health coverage for its staff.
The Business Manager's draft budget shifts $233,000 from a debt-service fund back into the general fund to help balance the budget. Mr. Hall, however, recommends shifting only about half that amount, so that debt service can be reduced more quickly, and so that an additional amount would be available later, if needed. He hopes the district can cut taxes by one mill (now worth about $119,000) in the not-too-distant future.
As it is, by the end of the current fiscal year the district should come in under budgeted expenditures by a modest amount, with an ending fund balance of over $1.5 million. A large part of accumulated fund balances is typically squirreled away in a capital reserve to provide for future major expenses.
Each of the school principals reviewed his budget and answered questions from the board. Each budget was given close scrutiny, but so far the board hasn't squeezed too hard and the grilling wasn't as intense as it has been in the past. School budgets are nearly level compared with the current year. Mr. Hall asked the principals to be sure to make book purchases when necessary so that the schools don't find themselves teaching science from 20-year-old texts.
John Ketchur, outgoing technology director, offered a comprehensive package supporting his requests, which are up a little from last year. He expects the district to purchase about 80 new computers next year, part of the regular cycle he established some time ago to maintain the equipment at Blue Ridge at a reasonably modern level. He hopes that the use of technology will eventually help to contain costs, as more and more material is made accessible on the Internet. Some questioned how many families in the district might not have easy access to the Internet, for example, to examine their children's course work, progress, and grades. Mr. Ketchur said that he estimates between 80 – 90% of Blue Ridge parents have access to the Internet and the district's web site.
Superintendent Robert McNamara took the opportunity at this point to ask Mr. Ketchur to speak a bit more about something called PIMS. This is the Pennsylvania Information Management System. According to Mr. Ketchur, it is gobbling up tremendous amounts of information about students, staff and everything else. "It's become a monster," he said. "It has taken on a life of its own." No one seems to know who is responsible for PIMS in Harrisburg, but whoever it is, is demanding hundreds of data items about each student, and increasing numbers of reports of all kinds. According to Mr. Ketchur, the district could be fined up to $300 a day for being late to submit some of the reports. He said the "excellent" secretarial staff has so far been able to accommodate the system. "[We're] fortunate to be able to keep up with it with our own staff," he said, warning that if the demands keep growing, there may eventually be a need for a full-time employee just for PIMS.
One technological initiative that has gotten a lot of attention in the high school lately is the Classrooms for the Future (CFF) program funded in part by the state. Blue Ridge was allocated about $180,000 to purchase equipment, including laptops for students. The grant, however, only covered the basic hardware and a "coach." The district has had to spend another $20,000 or so on software and other ancillary items to make the equipment useful.
Bus transportation is a major expense for the district. Most of the "regular runs" are fully reimbursed by the state. However, according to Mr. Small, the district transports 45 students daily to 11 different programs, some as far away as Scranton and Carbondale, and maintains a small fleet of vans for these purposes.
Dawn Franks, chair of the Activities committee reported that her group had discussed the purchase of new basketball uniforms. Activities Director Jim Corse said that this would be the first year that the Junior High teams have had their own uniforms. Most of the others are about five years old and are wearing out.
New Board member Christine Cosmello told the Board that a local businessman has offered financial support to build another gym.
Overall, the proposed budget as it stands now would allow the district to spend just under $17 million. With revenue expected to be just over that figure, Mr. Small projects an end-of-year fund balance in June 2009 of about $1.4 million.
The Blue Ridge Board will continue these budget discussions into May. The next public meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 12. Meetings are generally held in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
Bridge repair work was the lead discussion at the May 1 meeting of the New Milford Borough Council.
Delta Engineering’s Chris Maby was present to speak concerning the fixing or building of several bridges in the borough. Maby explained that while completion should be done this year, there were certain “problems” that may slow down the progress. One of such problems may be the approval from DEP. “So far they are with us,” Maby said.
He stated that the first project is due to be sent out to the agencies, PEMA, FEMA and DEP for review as early as Friday, May 1. He also informed Council that the other three projects are each about a week away from the first deadline.
The main topic of concern is the Maple Street Bridge, which needs to be repaired or replaced. There was approximately 45 minutes of discussion and questions and answers with Maby’s concern. Maple Street is slated for fill-in on holes in the deck of the bridge, however it will need to be replaced soon. Council discussed the benefits and concerns of totally fixing the bridge for approximately $68,000 or patching the holes and waiting for the TIP program through the state to help with the majority of the cost to replace it, probably sometime in 2012.
Chris Allen said, “We have $20,000 saved, should we borrow another $20,000 to get the whole bridge fixed?” After much deliberation, it was decided that there were more costs than they had originally planned on.
The biggest concern was safety with the bridge for motor vehicles. Reportedly as it stands now, the bridge should not be used for motor vehicles. When the repairs on the deck are completed, the bridge would be back to where it was with a load limit of not more than two tons. This cost would be approximately $8,800.
Maby was asked what he would do; he recommended that repairing the bridge would be the best, as it is on the TIP list and would be more reasonable for the Borough.
Putting the stream, near the ballpark, back to its original place also had been discussed, with the final decision resting that it would be near where it was, but a little short of the original spot. Maby said that it would be built up heavier than its original height, to help give more room for flooding to go, if it ever happened again. He shared the statement from Pennsylvania flood officials, that the past flood was a 275-year flood, meaning that we would not get another flood like that one for over the 275 year mark. He emphasized that this was just and estimate.
In other business, Rick Ainey brought back information from his “job” to look into the Johnson Street flood problems and have a talk with the neighbors regarding the situation the residents of Johnson Street share.
Ainey reported that he learned that there are emergency plans for New Milford Borough and that several people, county and local, have been assigned to take care of emergencies and/or take action when such situations arise. He said that the emergency was not the flooding, that was secondary, but the main concern is safety and being able to get emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks or ambulances into that Johnson Street area.
He added that as of now, no emergency vehicles can get there at all. He also insinuated that without the capacity to get to that location residents of that location are in dire straits, should an emergency arise.
Ainey also scheduled a meeting with Emergency Management Director, Mark Wood, to come look at the problem. Wood was slated to meet with Ainey and any council members who could come on May 1.
“I am going to go after these people (who are assigned the emergency and safety concerns), to do their jobs to make Johnson Street safe and able to receive emergency services. By law, it is their responsibility to protect us.”
Properties at 47 Montrose Street, 121 Church Street, Depot Street, CCAP building, and 141 Church Street had all been given notices to bring those properties up to codes regulations. Codes Enforcer Mike Dopko will follow up on those 30-day notices on Thursday, May 8.
Cosmello’s junkyard did not pass permit requirements, and discussion of his need to fix the junkyard fence also held some discussion regarding the placement of the new fence. It is required to be 50 feet from the center of the road. Following that requirement would mean he would have to move the fence eight feet back from the original location, which would place it right on top of the sewer line pipes.
Originally the state allowed him to have the fence where it currently is, but now the state requires him to move it. Cosmello wants to move the fence closer to the road, but it is not possible and thoughts were that he would have to go inside the eight-foot requirement to avoid problems with hitting the sewer line.
Midtown Park’s fences will be put in at a lower height, five feet high. There will also be basketball courts and a place for children to play in the old tennis courts there.
A four-way stop sign was requested by Council President Jim Carr, as he noted that many cars “fly” through that intersection and “it would be a good thing” to put stop signs in there and slow them down. Council agreed, and a change in the ordinance will be made.
New Milford Borough holds its meetings on the first Thursday of the month at their office on Main Street at 7 p.m.
Susquehanna Boro Council’s first action at their April 29 monthly meeting was to open bids for several projects. The first three, all for Prospect Street, were for paving, curbing and drainage. The fourth was for a list of items for repair of flood damage to the Erie Ave./Drinker Creek area. As there were some vast disparities in line items in the bids received, council agreed that they should be reviewed in detail before the bids are awarded. As the Erie Ave./Drinker Creek projects must be completed by the end of June, it was also agreed not to wait until the next regular meeting to take a vote on awarding the bids. The May 6 Streets Committee meeting would also be a special meeting, at which time the vote would be taken.
Streets Commissioner Steve Glover was present, and was asked about curbing on Washington Street. He said that the Elm Street project is currently in Phase II, and includes curbing from Franklin Ave. to First Ave. Phase III, which is expected to begin next year, will include curbing from First to Fifth Aves.
Mayor Denise Reddon reported that a recent evacuation drill at the school had gone very well, with a number of entities participating. She said that she had had some questions from residents about the boro’s vacant building ordinance, which she would go into further at a later time.
A motion carried to enact Ordinance 453, which regulates utilities running lines through the boro, specifically placing a tax on them. This is in response to the NYRI project, which had been proposed to run through Susquehanna County.
Copies of the boro’s ordinance regulating snow removal were made available to council members for review, so that they can bring any recommendations to the table for discussion. It will be discussed at the next Codes Committee meeting.
A motion carried to approve Resolution 42908, which is in support of a grant application for the Riverfront park, for fencing and picnic tables.
The trees on Main St. were discussed, and whether or not it was necessary to approve having them mulched and trimmed. Council had approved doing so last year, and most thought that the approval had been continual, for the work to be done twice a year.
Dave Scales had asked council to consider closing off the upper end of Third Ave., due to safety concerns. He said that portion of the road itself is in very bad condition, and the bank above the road is deteriorating. Roy Williams added that the guard rails need to be replaced. Mr. Glover said that putting in a block wall had been considered, which would cost about $5,000, but that it had not been done because other projects higher up on the priority list usually deplete the budget. It was agreed that it should be closed immediately, at least for the time being, and to advertise its closing so that drivers are aware. (Reporter’s note: as of press time, the road had been closed.)
Mr. Scales said that while he was working at the polls on April 22, he had heard a lot of feedback from residents about a number of subjects. One item was about the timing of the traffic light at the intersection of Main and Exchange Streets and concern about the cable that holds the light up. Another was about potholes (work was set to begin over the next few weeks). And, there were a number of compliments about the work of the Codes department.
Another concern was about the recent collapse of the Oakland dam, particularly about the discharge pipes that come out of the sewage treatment plant. Mayor Reddon said that she had asked about that last year, when the hole in the dam first appeared, and had been told that the discharge lines are below water level. It was noted that this upper portion of the Susquehanna River is now lower than it has been in anyone’s memory, because of the dam’s collapse.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session. After the meeting reconvened, motions were carried to approve the following: hiring of Chad Welch for a 32 hour part-time streets position; to regretfully accept Shane Lewis’ resignation; to advertise to sell miscellaneous items near the borough garage (retaining wall block, steel beam bridge and other items); and, the hiring of additional summer (student) help, Carlos Cuevas, for 12 hours per week.
The next regular meeting will be 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 27 at the boro building.
Vena I. Blossom (Estate) to David R. and Heidi E. Mitchell, in Lathrop Township for $219,000.00.
Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. (By POA) to Lisa M. Rivenburgh, in Herrick Township for $58,500.00.
Donald V. and Vera G. Eddy to James M. and Rita G. Eddy, in Forest Lake Township for one dollar.
Donald B. and Vera G. Eddy to James M. and Rita G. Eddy, in Forest Lake Township for one dollar.
Michael and Tonya L. Lafferty (AKA) Tonya L. Horn to Tonya L. Horn, in Rush Township for $169,900.00.
Ines Jaramillo to Jeffrey R. and Janet D. Nokes, in Auburn Township for $85,000.00.
Ronald D., Shad R. and Chris M. Sahm to Ronald D., Shad R. and Chris M. Sahm, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
South Gibson United Methodist Church (FKA By Trustees) Methodist Episcopal Church Of South Gibson (AKA By Trustees) ME Church Of South Gibson (AKA By Trustees) South Gibson Methodist Church (By Trustees) to South Gibson United Methodist Church, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Torunn T., Erik S., Kirsten L. (By Atty), Robert H. (Trust By Trustee) and Robert S. (Estate) Rhodes to Robert S. Rhodes (Trust), in Ararat Township for one dollar.
Jerri Lou and Kevin J. Shibley to Kevin J. Shibley, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Christopher T. and Cathleen A. Tracy to Lawrence D. and Kelly A. Tracy, in Harford Township for one dollar.
Patricia and Lawrence Bidlake to Melissa Haertsch, in Dimock Township for $99,500.00.
Edward J. and Lisa A. Kozlowski to Edward J. Kozlowski, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Edward J. and Lisa Kozlowski to Edward J. Kozlowski, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Edward J. and Lisa A. Kozlowski to Edward J. Kozlowski, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Alice R. Konsur to James R. Konsur, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Emily Southworth Foote to Scott L. and Julie Foote Odell, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
Olin F. and Eleanor B. Miller to Alan Miller, in Harford Township for one dollar.
Lynne C. and Joseph S., Jr. Manzek to Aaron and Lynn Miller, in Rush Township for $59,000.00.
Nationstar Mortgage LLC to John Scrimo and Mario Diminich, in Lanesboro Borough for $155,000.00.
Dean Y. Regan to Robin E. and Catherine D. Medovich, in Bridgewater and New Milford Townships for $60,000.00.
Frank and Gail Adams (NKA) Gail Mroz to Ivan Corey and Barbara Westcott, in Great Bend Township for $25,000.00.
Ernesto and Margarita Q. Moran to Ricardo J. Moran, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Robert W. and Elizabeth L. Davis to Daniel Vlassenko, in Ararat Township for $105,000.00.
Jamie L. Creps of South Montrose vs. John C. Creps of Clarks Summit, married 2005.
David A. Wray of Thompson vs. Karen A. Wray of Jackson, married 1988.
Kevin J. Shibley vs. Jerri Shibley, both of Susquehanna, married 1995.
Robert J. Vertalics, Jr. vs. Carla C. Vertalics, both of Forest City, married 2000.
Betsy Jo Diaz vs. Manuel Diaz, Jr., both of New Milford, married 2002.
Rachelle McGowan of Montrose vs. William P. McGowan of Binghamton, married 1995.
Three members of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Musa Stiles Post #6223 in Great Bend attended the borough Council meeting on May 1. They presented the borough with 20 American flags, flag poles and holders that will adorn Main Street this summer.
The VFW members came with a larger purpose, however. On behalf of the local VFW post, its auxiliary, and its sons, one of their number read a letter to Council requesting that Recreation Park with its ball field be renamed in honor of veterans. The letter said that the post was "prosperous" and "dedicated to the community and community service." In return for naming the park for vets, the VFW post pledged $1,000 per year for the park's upkeep, and a new flag each year to fly on the pole there.
There was some discussion about the official name of the park. A plaque was placed there some years ago in memory of Joey Gard, who was killed by an automobile on Main Street in the borough, but the park has always been known as "Rec" Park. The VFW didn't care what the name was; only that it remember veterans. So everyone finally decided on Veterans Memorial Park. Council accepted the proposal and support with gratitude.
One veteran killed a few years ago in Iraq is remembered in the other Memorial Park in town, at Elizabeth and Franklin Streets, which was renamed two years ago in honor of Lee Wiegand. Mike Crook promoted the placing of a plaque in that park, and Ron Cranage, former Council member and now VFW Commander, helped place the sign. Mr. Crook attended the meeting to ask if families could replace the flowers that had been planted there. Council approved gratefully and without hesitation.
Another sign, this one at the Borough Building, is rotting away. Council decided to have the borough's maintenance employee try to make a new sign, which might be painted by Rosenkranz, for a cost not to exceed $500. The borough will ask Barnes-Kasson Hospital, which operates the Blue Ridge Senior Center in the building, to contribute and have the Senior Center on the sign as well.
Council opened bids from two companies for the work on drainage on Washington and Walcott Streets. A required pre-bid meeting was held on April 24, attended by representatives of three companies as well as PennDOT and the borough so that everyone would understand the scope of the work. The contract was awarded to CDG Excavating of Susquehanna for a price of $24,850, which, according to borough Secretary Sheila Guinan, is in line with PennDOT estimates.
Some other work in the borough had been undecided pending the drainage decision because of the potential drain on the town's budget. According Ms. Guinan, the street fund should be able to cover it; there is an additional $39,000 available in a money-market account. Council would like to repair a street or two, or at least fill some cracks, but that remained undecided for now.
In preparation for summer, Council would like to clean up after winter. Gravel and cinders littering the streets could be costly to sweep if a contractor was to be hired. Borough attorney Frank O'Connor suggested a different approach: ask all residents to turn out for two hours on a Saturday morning to sweep the street in front of their houses or businesses, and the borough's employee would come along with a truck to collect it. Mr. O'Connor said that he would try to recruit the local Boy Scout troop to help out. Council decided to give it a try, on Saturday, May 17, from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.
Mr. O'Connor put on his official hat to report that ordinances to restrict parking on John Street, and to allow the borough to contract with the Lanesboro Police Department, are ready. Council will advertise both ordinances in advance of approving them by formal vote at the June meeting. The advertising on the police ordinance will say that the ordinance is contingent on approval by the Lanesboro Council, which is expected to pass it shortly.
The John Street ordinance will prohibit parking on the south side to make more room for fire department equipment.
The police ordinance will contract with Lanesboro to borrow their police officers for a few hours a month at a nominal charge. It is hoped that random police presence in Great Bend Borough will help to control speeding on Main Street and vandalism in the parks.
Council member Jerry MacConnell continues to request that Mr. O'Connor draft an ordinance to control the installation of trailers in town. Some council members remember such an ordinance from past years, but no one has been able to find it.
Ms. Guinan reported that the owner of the soda machine in the Borough Building has been found. Montrose Beverage owns, maintains and fills the machine. She said the company keeps the price below what might be found elsewhere, and in exchange keeps all the money collected. Some Council members would like a cut of the income from the machine, and suggested some approaches to that end.
And, finally, Council enticed Bret Jennings to fill the seat recently vacated by Ron Cranage. Mr. Jennings attends Council meetings fairly regularly anyway, and he agreed to join Council. He will fill out the remainder of Mr. Cranage's tenure, and would have to stand for election again in 2009 if he chooses to remain. Council – only half in jest – threatened to saddle him as the new guy with Mr. Cranage's other job on Council, as codes enforcement officer. After a moment's consideration, Mr. Jennings agreed to try it out.
The next public meeting of the Great Bend Borough Council is scheduled for Thursday, June 5. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. and are held at the Borough Building at Franklin and Elizabeth Streets.
The Mt. View School Board discussed the possibility of holding Public Education Committee meetings. It was suggested that these meetings be held on the night of the second meeting of the month, at 6:30. The motion will be made at the next public meeting, with a potential June 19th start if it is accepted. Six will be planned for the time being, with the potential for more being acknowledged.
The Board declined, for yet another year, to approve the school's Graduation Project Summer Clinic/Workshop. Mr. Griffiths stated that he was voting negatively for two reasons: because he felt that public school students should not have to pay for such a program, and because he felt it to be a matter of opinion how students received their grades. The board voted against the program, 6-2, though no one else explained their vote.
The district is currently undergoing changes in the financial area, as was discussed at the meeting. With the recent resignation of the business manager, a new manager had to be appointed, James Maribelee. The district's accountant, Ernest Skiadas, has also retired, which position the district will be looking to fill. It is hoped this can be filled prior to the end of the fiscal year in June. Dr. Chichura stated that it would be difficult to replace the accountant, and complimented the job he has done for the district.
In what Ms. Vagni described as a very exciting week for the secondary school, Arts Alive and Collaboration Day were held the week prior to the meeting. The artwork of the former was left in the school for the latter, as 110 or 120 educators came to the district to discuss the Classroom for the Futures program. Mr. Ty Yost was recognized for the organization of this event. The high school also held a mock car crash assembly for the upperclassmen, to which emergency vehicles and a helicopter responded. Dave Schulte was acknowledged for his work in this event.
A bus of juniors was recently taken to the Wachovia center in Wilkes-Barre for a college fair, with 180 institutions in attendance. The students were given pre-made name and address labels, so that they could easily request further information.
The elementary school's co-educators have been recognized at a larger level. Instructors from this school have been attending trainings in co-teaching, and have been observed as a result. Because of these observations, teams at the elementary school have been chosen to be filmed. These films will be used in future trainings, as positive examples.
As of the day of the meeting, 72 children had shown up for kindergarten registration.
Net income for the first three months in 2008 was $1,415,000 compared to $1,123,000 for the same period in 2007, an increase of $292,000 or 26%. The determination was made in the first quarter of 2008 to record an Other Than Temporary Impairment Charge for three equity positions held by the Company. The amount of impairment charged against income for the period ended March 31, 2008 was $182,000.
Total assets on March 31, 2008 were $438,345,000, which compares to $405,591,000 as of March 31, 2007. Total assets increased from the December 31, 2007 figure of $434,363,000. Compared to the March 31, 2007 figure of $270,104,000, net loans were up 8.32% at $292,570,000 as of March 31, 2008. On December 31, 2007, net loans were $289,163,000.
Deposits totaled $331,292,000 as of March 31, 2008, compared to $320,459,000 on March 31, 2006, an increase of 3.38%. Total deposits were $327,430,000 as of December 31, 2007.
Peoples Financial Services Corp., Hallstead, Pennsylvania, is the parent company of Peoples National Bank, an independent community bank with ten community offices. The community office locations are: Hallstead, Hop Bottom, Susquehanna, and Montrose, in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania; Nicholson, Tunkhannock and Meshoppen, in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania; and Conklin, Deposit, and Binghamton, in Broome County, New York. Peoples Advisors, LLC, a member-managed limited liability company for the purpose of providing investment advisory services to the general public, and Peoples Financial Capital Corporation which main activities are the maintenance and management of intangible investments and the collection and distribution of the income from such investments.
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