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The May 28 meeting of The Susquehanna County Commissioners was short and sweet (as now is the practice), unless you count the recess held to await the arrival (from Syracuse, NY), of The Seneca Group’s two representatives.
The representatives handed each of the commissioners a booklet, then proceeded to read each and every of the 17-20 pages of the “report” to the commissioners.
Commissioner Mike Giangrieco questioned the operation at hand after approximately three pages were read, “Are you going to read all of this to us?”
The two specialists looked at each other as Giangrieco continued asking questions.
Commissioner Mary Ann Warren asked Atty. Giangrieco what he would prefer. Giangrieco stated, “I would suggest that if this is going to be read to us at each time, wouldn't it be better to have a copy sent to us, so we would get it a week before they travel down here. That way we would be able to study it and make note of any questions we may have ahead of time.”
“Well, we will do anything you want us to do,” the senior gentleman answered.
This reporter asked if they could also bring a copy for each of the three media representatives, so that we may accurately report the findings to the taxpayers?
It was quiet for a few seconds, then both the commissioners and the two representatives awkwardly said that that absolutely could not be done.
“It is a matter of interpretation.”
The commissioners said, “We won’t do it!”
The Seneca group did provide a “press release” of what they wanted the taxpayers and per se, the commissioners to “see,” but left it up to the county clerk to make copies for the press.
The following is their press release:
“The Susquehanna Retirement Board met with their consultants, the Seneca Group, and reviewed the county’s pension investments and performance for the first quarter of 2008. Despite the liquidity crisis that occurred during the quarter, the portfolio performed very well, down only 2.63% compared to a 5.33% drop in the benchmark. For the trailing 12 months, the portfolio was able to close up 1.24%, also out-pacing a negative market. The Seneca Group reviewed the county’s performance compared with other public funds and was pleased to report that for the first quarter the pension plan ranked in the top quartile. Susquehanna County is also in the first or upper second quartile for the trailing three years, five years, and since the plan went under the advisement of The Seneca Group in 2002. The Seneca Group reviewed the holdings the plan has in a diversified hedge fund and showed how it was a contributing factor to them outperforming their peers while lowering the volatility of the portfolio.”
In other business, Al Aronowitz stated that although he has often disagreed with the commissioners on several occasions, he believes that good deeds deserve recognition and attention as well as bad. He commended Commissioner Warren on her acquiring a wreath to be placed on the soldiers’ memorial at the Welcome Center in Great Bend. He stated that there had been accusations of it being a “state facility” and the state should supply (pay for) one.
He commended Ms. Warren for stepping up and getting a wreath in memory of the 109th Infantry and the eight Susquehanna boys who died in the Iraq War. He further said that when a wreath couldn't be found for purchase, Ms. Warren and her friends went to A.C. Moore and made one that was above the designs of any other wreaths.
Aronowitz also questioned the availability of any reimbursement for the cost of a $1,468.50 seminar request for Susan Eddleston and Susan Stoud of Prothonotary/Clerk of Courts. He was told, “This one is not reimbursable.”
A motion was granted to adopt Resolution 2008-09, the Memorandum of Agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of State, Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors and all sixty-seven Pennsylvania Counties.
The Resolution 2008-10 to approve and adopt the Susquehanna County Flood Mitigation Plan, prepared by E Group, LLC, dated May 5, was also adopted.
Commissioner Allen made the motion to sign the 2008 Emergency Management Performance Grant Agreement, which funds the County $43,054.00 toward the salary and benefits of the EMA Coordinator and the Operations and Training Officer. Commissioner Warren seconded his motion.
Karen Goskowski and Trish Goskowski, of Kartri Sales Co., Forest City, were appointed to fill one seat on the Susquehanna County Economic Development Board, effective immediately. (Only one will vote.)
Two dispatcher trainees, Isaac Choplosky and Melissa Langford, were hired to the open positions per recommendation of Art Donato, 911 Coordinator.
Robert Fearnley was hired to the open, fulltime position of Program Specialist, per the Susquehanna County Conservation District Board of Directors.
The resignation of Deborah Sheldon, Clerk/Typist for Drug & Alcohol was accepted with regret.
The commissioners’ meeting was adjourned at approximately 9:10 and the Salary Board was opened.
The minutes of Salary Board were approved and the meeting recessed until approximately 10 minutes later, when The Seneca Group arrived.
The Susquehanna County Commissioners’ meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays at 9 a.m. in the EMA Conference Room in the basement of the County Office Building.
By recent standards in Harford, the Supervisors' meeting on May 27 was brief. In just under an hour the three handled more than the usual complaints about the roads, the township's primary responsibility; curiously, none of the complaints this time were about dust. With his road crew shorthanded, Supervisor and Roadmaster Terry VanGorden very nearly lost his normally placid demeanor trying to explain the situation.
Mr. VanGorden said that so far he and his only other worker had had barely eight days in May to work the roads, what with bad weather, high fuel prices and equipment problems. One person remarked that Harford used to be known for its "excellent" roads; "that isn't true any more," he said. Mr. VanGorden could only respond with a plea for patience. He said, "our roads went to hell" over the winter. With a tight budget, aging equipment and a short staff, he said the crew were doing "the best we can with what we [have]."
He also said that the cost of fuel will probably mean that, barring emergencies, he would keep crews and equipment working in one section at a time. (For maintenance purposes – primarily for plowing in advance of school buses in winter weather – the township is divided into three sections.) In any other summer, the crew might move around a bit more, but not this year.
Another observer warned of potential damage to a bridge at the lower end of Podunk Road. Large stone trucks, he said, were clearly exceeding what used to be the posted weight limit on the bridge. It was unclear what the weight limit should be, whether 5,000 pounds, four tons, or something of the sort. But a large truck loaded with 14 or more pallets of stone would easily exceed a limit like that. Unfortunately, the weight limit signs – like road signs all over the township – seem to disappear quickly, perhaps to adorn someone's dormitory room. The weight limit on the bridge is determined by PennDOT. Mr. VanGorden said the signs could cost about $150 apiece. Supervisor Garry Foltz said that he would contact the State Police to see what might be done.
The township is already preparing to replace one bridge, on Pennay Hill Road, that was nearly demolished during the flooding in the summer of 2006. Supervisor and township Secretary Sue Furney said that a required DEP permit had finally been received. She said that the township is currently advertising for bids to replace the bridge. Serious bidders are invited to a conference at 10:00 a.m. on June 4. The Supervisors will open submitted bids at a special meeting on June 18. The winning bidder will be announced at the regular Supervisors' meeting on June 24.
All the paperwork now seems to be in place to proceed with that project. The township will borrow half a million dollars from the state through a no-interest "infrastructure" loan program to help with this project, as well as with the replacement of a sluice under Stearns Road at the outlet of Tingley Lake. The Pennay Hill Road project must be completed, however, before the end of 2008, so that the township can qualify for full reimbursement from state and federal emergency management funds.
Along the same lines, the supervisors regretfully accepted the resignations of Ted Batzel and Charlene Moser as township Emergency Management Coordinator and deputy, respectively. Ms. Moser decided to resign due to a potential conflict of interest with her job with the county emergency management office. The township still has two deputies, but no one yet has indicated an interest in taking the top job.
With the township "cleanup" approaching in the first week of June, the Supervisors hired two helpers for the week as "casual labor," for about $8.50 per hour without benefits.
A third, Lynn Hollis Adams, will become a full-time township employee beginning June 10, after his last school bus run of the year. Mr. VanGorden said the Supervisors conducted four interviews of candidates selected from among about 10 applicants. Mr. Adams will bring the township's road crew up to three, and Mr. VanGorden hopes that will help to get more work done on the roads.
Mr. Foltz noted warnings in some sources that equipment used in gas drilling could put an extra burden on township roads once the flurry of interest in gas leasing turns into full-scale development.
The cost of all of this is rising quickly. So far the Supervisors have not shown any concern about the health of the township's budget. But Ms. Furney did remark that "in hindsight, we should have raised taxes every year a little bit" to provide the necessary resources. When Mr. Foltz joined the board of Supervisors early in the year, he expressed some concern that the budget for 2008 might not provide enough funds to cover increasing fuel costs and could dangerously trim the township's fund balances available for emergencies.
The next scheduled meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors should take place on June 10, beginning at 7:00 p.m., at the township building on Route 547.
The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 on the heels of passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote for the first time. Ever since, they have promoted good government and encouraged all citizens to vote.
Pictured are Jean Rounds and Shirley Masters at the Susquehanna County Chapter, League of Women Voters annual meeting, which celebrated the League’s 88th year.
On the evening of May 28, the Susquehanna County Chapter of the League of Women Voters gathered at the Summit Tea Room to hold its annual meeting, and to celebrate the organization's birthday.
County League President Shirley Masters hosted the assembly of a concentrated group of county politicians and other movers and shakers that included three speakers. State Senator Lisa Baker recited a long list of her achievements and goals in the legislature. She mentioned specifically the proposal to impose a "Graduation Competency Assessment Test." As a member of the senate education committee, she has found that there is not a lot of support across the commonwealth for this measure that could cost as much as $50 million. She is also promoting a state-wide indoor smoking ban.
She fielded a few questions related to gas leasing, but didn't seem too well informed on the issue. Representative Sandy Major told the group that the House is considering a bill related to disposition of funds from gas leasing on state lands.
State League President Andrea Mulrine gave a vigorous talk on re-districting reform in Pennsylvania. She showed some examples of how some districts had been "gerrymandered" into long, winding territories where once they had been compact and more or less contiguous. She urged everyone to contact their legislators to get reform soon. The next time districts are redrawn will be after the 2010 census.
Ms. Mulrine said that districts are now drawn by the legislative leadership in a process where the "leaders choose the voters" rather than the other way `round. House Bill 2420 and Senate Bill 346 would turn over the drawing of district boundaries to a non-partisan outfit called the Legislative Reference Bureau. However, in order to change the method of drawing district boundaries, a state constitutional amendment would be required. So there is a long lead time before such a thing can become fact. And, if it's not done this time, we will wait 10 years for another chance. Redistricting reform is the state League of Women Voters highest priority right now.
The local chapter also honored one of its own for service and dedication. Jean Rounds of Harford acquired an interest in politics in her youth, watching her "Mommy" and "Daddy" battle over such things. Ms. Rounds was accompanied by her daughter and a few close friends for an occasion that she did not personally relish. Nevertheless, she graciously told the history of the League and her participation. As it happened, that very day was Jean's 91st birthday. She's more than two years older than the League of Women Voters. And they're both still going strong.
Ralph V. Lewis to Dennis P. Lewis and Wendy E. Clarke, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Michelle M. Marcho to Shawn Marcho, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Daniel L. Petrolati to Daniel L. Petrolati, in Rush Township for one dollar.
Fannie Mae (AKA) Federal National Mortgage Association to Michael Durbin and Sheri Miles, in Hop Bottom Borough for $25,900.00.
Erma L. Banks to Frances E. Zurn, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Jeffrey T. Haberle (T/D/B/A) and Neway Homes to Dennis Bevan, in Liberty Township for $66,000.00.
Robert B. and Rebecca J. Cooley to Robert B. and Rebecca J. Cooley, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
David Vis and Ortrud Birk to Faith Vis, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Emily M. Yoselson (Estate) to Barry R. and Kathryn E. Yoselson, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
David Ludington (Estate AKA) David Luddington to Carol A. Ludington, Penny Moody and Brenda Stevenson, in Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
Dermot A. and Brooke O'hare to Shawn R. and Julie D. Burns, in Susquehanna for $37,000.00.
Peoples National Bank to Laura J. Novak, in New Milford Township for $45,000.00.
Louise M. Baker, Nancy J. Espe and Ruth Murphy (Estate) to Roy Gehrlein, in Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
Ernest R. Gerfin to Dale M. Gerfin, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Darlene F. Preston and Robert Mireider, Jr. to Robert Mireider, Jr., in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
David R. and Janice B. Carpenter to John M. Troup, in Susquehanna for $2,500.00.
Agnes Kolodinsky (Estate) to Debra Brazitis, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
James P. White to James P. and Jill M. White, in Susquehanna for $10.00.
Andrew Lee and Ellen Kathryn Clark to AA&E Clark Trust, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Edith P. (Estate), Duane P., George R., David C. and William E. Bishop and Gail M. Burke to Gerald E. and Gail M. Burke, in Auburn Township for $50,000.00.
Craig H. and Kathleen A. Beaver to Craig H. Beaver, in Brooklyn Township for one dollar.
Stephen Colley to Stephen and Anna Marie Colley, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Gregory A. and Mary L. Ciraula to Mark and Michelle Antinnes, in Dimock Township for $299,900.00.
John W. (By Sheriff) and Sara E. (By Sheriff) Kawka to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (FKA) Bankers Trust Company, in Bridgewater Township for $1,665.45.
Catherine R. Benedict, Susquehanna County Treasurer and Tax Claim Bureau Director reports that her office has received numerous phone calls. East Coast Properties, LLC. has reportedly been contacting county residents regarding delinquent taxes, and urging them to sign over their interest in their properties to East Coast Properties, LLC.
Delinquent tax rolls are deemed public information, and as such, they are subject to the open records act.
Mrs. Benedict advises that East Coast Properties, LLC. has no affiliation with Susquehanna County or the Tax Claim Bureau. She urges property owners not to sign any paperwork regarding their property without first consulting an attorney.
The escalating cost of fuel came into play during discussion of several topics at the May 27 Susquehanna Boro Council meeting.
So far, half of the streets department’s fuel budget for the year has been used up. With concern about the cost for the remainder of the year, council agreed that funds could be moved from the capital improvement fund to the streets fuel budget if it becomes necessary.
The police department is, so far, under budget for their fuel allocation for the year, but with increased patrols set for the summer, their allocation may also need to be increased some time down the road.
The boro’s CEO has requested reimbursement for fuel costs; after discussion, a motion carried to approve 45¢/mile, rather than a flat monthly fee. Since the codes budget does not have a line item for mileage, one will be created, moving funds from the allocation for salary (funds are available).
The boro received a $20,000 grant for purchase of a new police vehicle, which will be bought through the state’s CoStars program. Which to choose was discussed at length, particularly which would be more fuel efficient. After review of all available options, a motion carried to purchase a Dodge Charger all-wheel drive with a police package, cost just under $30,000. The proceeds from the sale of the two older vehicles, a Jeep and a Chevy, will be applied towards its purchase. In the meantime, a loan will be taken out to cover what the grant doesn’t.
Whether or not to hold the boro’s annual scrap metal pickup was discussed at length. The boro usually provides for pickup of items, which are taken to the boro garage and placed in a dumpster. The boro obtains the dumpster at no cost other than the time/manpower to pick up the items. Dave Scales suggested that there is a lucrative market for such items now; perhaps it would be cost effective to collect the items and rent a dump truck to take it to Binghamton for sale. Proceeds after costs could be applied towards the police car and/or the cost of sealing the road at the riverfront park property. Council agreed. The pickup will be scheduled for June 25 – 27.
Council will obtain price quotes for sealing of the (new) road at the riverfront park.
Only a few properties in the boro are not hooked into the municipal sewer system and require inspections by a sewage enforcement officer. After discussion, a motion carried to designate Thomas Milewski as the boro’s SEO, on an on-call basis. Fees will be paid directly to the boro and will then paid to him by the boro. A resolution setting fees will be drawn up and adopted.
The 2007 audit has been completed, the financial reports are available at the boro office.
A motion carried to approve Code Inspections, Inc. as the boro’s designated administrator/enforcer of the UCC for all commercial construction and (commercial) building upgrades within the boro.
A motion carried to approve two tax exoneration applications; a third was rejected as that individual’s income was above the cut-off amount.
A motion carried to hire a new part-time police officer. Zaysongkham “Cy” Phonechanh is qualified and comes with high recommendations. He will be taking one shift.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, June 24, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
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