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With no business meetings since well before the holidays, the Blue Ridge School Board was faced with a dense 24-point agenda on January 12. Several of the items concerned the focus new Superintendent Chris Dyer is applying to the professional development of his teaching staff. With the help of some grant money, the district will be hiring some consultants to provide training to the faculty, and has formed a "Professional Development Team" to plan and oversee the process.
High School Principal Scott Jeffery has been bringing forward some of his most exceptional students each month, and this time the meeting opened with the introduction of Stacy Pearson and Stefano Griffen, who each was invited to describe their many activities during their Blue Ridge careers.
Mr. Griffen's interests clearly are in business, with his activities focused on the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), a nationwide business-oriented organization for students. He plans to attend Binghamton University to study, what else?, business, accounting and finance.
Ms. Pearson's interests seem somewhat more diverse, but she expects to pursue a major in Japanese in college, following a year in Japan with the Rotary International exchange program.
Mr. Dyer followed up with presentations of large keystone awards to Mr. Jeffery and Elementary School Principal Matthew Button, for two consecutive years of "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) in the state's standardized testing program. Mr. Jeffery, new to Blue Ridge this year, acknowledged the contribution of his predecessor for the achievement.
And Mr. Dyer recognized each School Board member with a certificate of thanks for their service during School Board Recognition Month. The Board and public were invited to share a tasty-looking thank-you cake after the close of the meeting.
Tax collectors were well represented at the meeting, as the Board approved a new compensation schedule through the end of their current term in 2013. Vicki Drake, a frequent spokesperson for the tax collectors, thanked the Board for the "modest" increase, doubling to $2.00 the amount they are paid to handle a delinquent tax bill, which will mean all of about $40 per year to the tax collectors. Tax collectors will be paid $2.00 per bill for each of mailing, handling incoming payments, delinquencies, and returned mailings. In 2012 the per-bill rate will rise to $2.10.
One tax collector, Roberta Gulick, is to be paid an extra $175 to compensate her for having to re-enter data that was lost from the school's computer systems during a refit last summer.
Two students, Caleb Park and Allison Coller, each requested assistance from the Board to help them attend special conferences. Mr. Park will attend the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference, and Ms. Coller will attend the People to People World Leadership Forum. The Board annually sets aside a $500 pool that is shared at the end of the fiscal year in June among all students who make such requests. There was some brief discussion about whether that amount should be raised.
The Board appointed 15 people to a "Strategic Planning Committee," which will help the Board revise and update its long-range plan. Most of the committee are members of the school community, faculty and administrators.
Presumably they will have something to say about school policy, which large topic, however, is largely mandated by state and federal law. The Board adopted some major policy changes this time, particularly in the area of textbooks and other classroom materials. During the discussion, which followed a 30-day Board review, Mr. Jeffery proposed some additional changes recommended by his teaching staff. The Board wondered if these additional changes should await yet another 30 days, but member Priscinda Gaughan argued that this is the way the Board has always handled such minor changes, and the policies were approved over the objection of Joel Whitehead.
One of the new policies was clearly provoked by some recent controversy over the assignment of reading material in High School English. Some parents had objected to requiring students to read "The Chocolate War" and "The Kite Runner" in ninth and tenth grades, because of some material they considered objectionable and unsuitable for some students.
The new policy, entitled "Challenged Materials," outlines the procedure for such objections, and sets a fairly high bar for students and parents to challenge the use of classroom materials. The policy requires a two-page "Citizen's Request for Reconsideration of a Work" be completed for questioned material to be submitted to a school principal and his "Learning Material Team" for review and consideration. A change in the proposed policy recommended by the teachers through Principal Jeffery would alter some wording in one paragraph so that material would not be "temporarily withdraw[n] pending a decision," but that would "temporarily excuse the student and provide an alternative assignment."
A revised policy on "Programs for Gifted Students" will get a 30-day review by Board members. The policy provides a procedure for identifying and nominating students for the gifted program, and the development of individualized educational plans (IEP) for students accepted into the program. A large section of the policy describes the purpose of the policy and program in terms of current educational theory. For example, "The theory of multiple intelligences suggests that there are eight different pathways to learning. Much instruction in schools has used the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. This theory suggests there are several other ways that instruction should be presented to facilitate effective learning," and goes on to describe the eight "research-based strategies" that can "provide learning opportunities to develop each of the intelligences."
The Board appointed a 12-member "Professional Development Team" to provide planning and guidance for the training and further enhancement of faculty skills, and then approved two contracts for a total of $20,150 to make some of that training available. (The Board took a 20-minute executive session at the start of the business meeting to finalize the terms of the contracts.)
One contract, with "Literacy & Learning Specialist" Louise L. Cleveland, will offer five workshop sessions during February and March "in connection with the program entitled ‘K-12 Literacy Initiative.’” The program is expected to help students become more motivated and successful readers and writers, particularly through grade 5.
The other contract, with Solution Tree, Inc. of Indiana, will provide "PLC" consulting during two days next August. PLC, or Professional Learning Community, according to Mr. Dyer, is a collaborative technique that hopes to help teachers improve techniques in teaching, determining how well students are learning, and what to do if students aren't learning well enough.
The Board also approved a retirement incentive program for 2009. As before, the incentive offers 40% of the teacher's last year salary as a bonus, and coverage under the district's health plan until the retiree is eligible for Medicare. This year, staff interested in the program must declare their intentions a month earlier, by February 1. A teacher in attendance asked if that could be changed back to March 1, suggesting that there wouldn't be sufficient time for proper consideration of the retirement program.
The incentive program this year also requires retirees to bear 25% of the cost of their health insurance coverage under the program. In the past, such coverage has been at no cost to the retiree. All of these provisions are in addition to benefits provided under the Pennsylvania state teacher pension program.
The Board adopted a resolution declaring its intention to keep any tax rate increases within the state-determined "index" limit, this year defined at 6.1%. The Board has already informally declared its intention not to increase taxes at all. This measure, required under recent legislation, gives the Board some breathing room in the development of a new budget.
Mr. Button reported that a "mobile planetarium" would be rolled into the gym on January 29 to give all students at Blue Ridge a good look at the heavens in a "Dome Theater" assembly.
Middle School Principal Matthew Nebzydoski reported on the success of his school's on-line newsletter that should be available to the community at http://www.brsd.org. He also reported that Devin Clapper will be recognized with a Red Robbin award, and a free dinner for him and his family at the Red Robin restaurant in Dickson City.
Mr. Jeffery reported on a successful "mock interview" day for sophomores, who were invited to be interviewed by representatives of Barnes-Kasson Hospital and Peoples National Bank just as they might be were they seeking a real job.
Business Manager Loren Small told the Board that he is investigating the possibility of refinancing the district's outstanding bonds again, to take advantage of current low interest rates.
And finally, new Board President Harold Empett outlined some changes in Board committees and procedures. For one, Mr. Empett himself will chair the Finance Committee, which will be split off from the old Finance and Transportation Committee. He also said that the Board will try to schedule two business meetings per month. The meeting on February 9 will be a workshop, however, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with a session led by a representative of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) on the roles and responsibilities of Board members.
The next public meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board will be a workshop scheduled for Monday, January 26, beginning at 7:30 p.m. All meetings are held in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
The January 9 meeting of the Susquehanna County Commissioners was held at The EMA Conference room at 9 a.m.
Commissioners Michael Giangrieco, Leon Allen and Chair, Mary Ann Warren were present, as well as Chief Clerk Sylvia Beamer and approximately seven audience members.
After ratifying and approving checks and payments, the commissioners approved seminar requests and/or payment for the same.
Susquehanna County EMA's Charlene Moser and Scott Aylesworth will be attending a number of seminars and EMA/EMS meetings and trainings to familiarize Mr. Aylesworth with the County Emergency Management procedures and other pertinent information.
The Commissioners then moved down their list to adopt Resolution 2009-01, amending Resolution 2007-29. This resolution approved a tax abatement program as authorized by the Areas Tax Exemption Act. Act 42 of 1977, in cooperation with the Borough of Hallstead and The Blue Ridge School District: Establishing the boundaries for the tax exemption area and establishing the term of the tax abatement program for new housing, including multi family rental units constructed within the boundaries of the area for tax abatement.
Commissioners also authorized to sign a letter to the Susquehanna County Housing/Redevelopment Authority committing $25,000 from existing Act 137 Housing Trust Funds to the Station House Apartments Project.
The grant funds are dollars that have been generated by the county prior to 2009 and transferred into the Susquehanna County Housing/Redevelopment Authority’s account and may be used to aid Trehab in the completion of the Station House Apartments.
In addition, the Commissioners accepted the quote from Wacor Electronic Systems, East Petersburg, PA, in the amount of $23,8221.75 for security cameras for county buildings. These cameras were ordered by Sheriff Lance Benedict and will be strategically located where necessary as per Sheriff Benedict.
Guyette Communications will have a maintenance agreement with Susquehanna County for repairs and routine maintenance for telephones in the Recycling Center for a monthly service charge of $27.00.
The Commissioners also agreed to accept “any” price negotiated by the Tax Claim Bureau on ten properties throughout the county which have been through two public sales (called Repository Properties) and are no longer generating income from taxes.
Public comments were primarily regarding the Tourism Committee’s request for additional tax monies from their 3% tax collected by the hotel and lodging businesses.
Jim Jennings asked if there were any monies returned to the Tourism Committee. Mary Ann Warren stated that there was some returned for use in new brochures, maps, web site and other printing/advertising necessities.
Jennings then inquired if any monies were being “held.”
Warren replied, “Yes, some are being held for other businesses, giving them the chance to partake in being advertised in the future.”
There was no answer to the question that the businesses were already asked if they wanted to be included in the tourism brochure, by Al Aronowitz.
Also, Ms. Warren stated, “We are trying to work with everybody here.”
When questioned if any monies were left in the account, Warren answered, “I don't know, maybe $15,000 is still in there, I think.”
Susquehanna County Commissioners’ meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 9 a.m. sharp in the County Emergency Management meeting room in the Susquehanna County Office Building.
December's color confusion continued into the January 5 Montrose Borough meeting, although the current confusion regarded what was said and not what should be done. In December, much discussion had been held regarding an alleged desire on the part of the Montrose Historical Society to cease the siding of a local resident's house in colors other than white, due to the existence of a historical precedence for this uniformity. The Historical Society responded to articles written about the meeting with letters to the editor denying any intention of intervening. At the January meeting, borough solicitor Marion O'Malley reported a meeting she had with representatives of this organization, which unequivocally said, it was related, that they had nothing to do with the matter. Instead, they claimed that the packet which was sent to the borough secretary stemmed from a request for information which a third party made. They maintained that the Historical Society had no control over how people painted their houses, and that it was a strictly informational organization. Some present at the meeting, however, continued to assert that correspondence to the borough had spoken of an intervention and asked the secretary to go back and research the issue. It was generally agreed, however, that a third party must have been involved either way, as the Historical Society should not have known about the change otherwise. It was decided in the end that the Historical Society would be invited to the next meeting, in an attempt to sort out the confusion.
Various appointments were made at the meeting, which included that of Lynne Bruzec to the Zoning Hearing Board and David Rechlicz to the Municipal Authority. It is the borough's desire to also appoint four new people to the Recreation Committee, however there appeared to be a lack of candidates for these. It was suggested that these spots were particularly important, as the town plans on pursuing various park programs in the near future.
One of the proposed programs involved a walking trail around Memorial Park. Although the project was recently rejected for a grant, Mr. Reimel stated his desire for it to move ahead in the spring, regardless, with work being done as the borough was able. He feared an extended delay should the borough continue to await grant funding.
The repetition of a sweet festival is also in the works. Borough council approved the closing of Chestnut Street on May 16, between noon and nine p.m., for the second Chocolate and Wine Festival. Proceeds from the event are slated to benefit the new hospital and library. Last year, approximately $6000 was raised.
Birchard Trust (By Trustee) to Birchard Credit Shelter Trust UTD, in Forest Lake Township.
Margaret S. Graf to Susan B. and Joseph A. Pipitone, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Margaret S. Graf to Richard N. and Ann Marie Graf, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Robert G. and Joann M. Meeks to Judy K. and Frank E. Rains, in Herrick Township for $100.00.
Alberta Crandall (By Guardian) to Stephen C. and Anne M. Smith, in Hallstead Borough for $83,000.00.
Mary R. Scott (By Atty) to Ashley R. Bean, in New Milford Borough for $98,000.00.
Alyssa N. Lonzinski to Scott A. Lonzinski, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Harry A. Shibley (Est) to Donald D. Shibley, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Bruce and Robin Baynes to Ronnie G. and Barbara J. Cooper, in Lenox Township for $124,135.00.
Mary Louise W. Kessler to George and Barbara Matreyek, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Jack R. and Susan Rhinevault to Charles A. and Norma M. Bennett, in Montrose for $19,000.00.
Robert and Eleanor Hastings to Jack and Theresa Casterline, in Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
Robert and Eleanor Hastings to Robert and Eleanor Hastings, in Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
Mildred and William Booth to Paul A. Hitchcock and Carol J. Stanley, in Bridgewater Township for $33,225.00.
John K. and Jeannie M. Davidson to John K. Davidson, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Douglas F. (By Sheriff) and Joann (By Sheriff) Perry (AKA) Joann Saab and Eastern Overhawk LLC (By Sheriff) to Peoples State Bank of Wyalusing, in New Milford Borough for $5,371.01.
Citimortgage, Inc. (SBM By POA) and Citifinancial Mortgage Company, Inc. (By Atty) to Michael Zuk, in Clifford Township for $145,000.00.
Robert E. Hakim (Revocable Trust By Trustee) to Hakim Uniondale Pennsylvania Revocable Trust, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Darryl and Sandra K. Hoppe and Deidra A. and Ernest H. Younger to Charles A. and Cindy P. Balbi, in Montrose for $120,000.00.
Thomas A. Thiede to Jason Thiede, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Thomas A. Thiede to Jason Thiede, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Thomas A. Theide to Jason Thiede, in Jackson Township and Forest City for one dollar.
Margaret A. Kittleson to Margaret A. Kittleson and Jonathan Long, in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Robert C. and Grace E. Wert to Eric L. and Iris K. Hoffman, in Montrose for $100,700.00.
Manzek Land Co., Inc. to William Cellini and Noel M. Kuszmaul, in Rush Township for $85,000.00.
William and Noel M. Cellini to Robert, Stephen, Jr. and Thomas Sutkowski, in Forest Lake Township for $50,000.00.
Brooke L. Reese to Brian M. Reese, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
William A. (AKA) William and Elizabeth A. Smith to William A. and William J. Smith, in Jessup Township for one dollar.
Walter E. Buechel to Nancy Beers, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
Walter E. Buechel to Nancy Beers, in Liberty Township for one dollar.
John J., Jr. and Kimberly Gazzillo to Gary E. and Shirley E. Johnson, in Springville Township for $159,900.00.
J. Thomas and Shirley L. Quigg to Scott and Melinda Quigg, in Montrose for one dollar.
Robert Conyer to William and Kelly Conyer, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Geraldine R. Demarest (Trust By Trustee AKA) Geraldine R. Demarest (Trust UTD Dated February 19, 2001), Steven H. and Brenda J. Demarest to Edward Demarest, Jr., in Forest Lake Township for one dollar.
Toman Family Irrevocable Trust Agreement (By Trustees) to Robert and Jean C. Bocek, in Liberty Township for $36,000.00.
JPMorgan Chase Bank (DBA By Atty) and American Business Credit, Inc. (By Atty) to Phillip Hodges, in Forest City for $26,000.00.
Rhonda R. Mills of Hop Bottom vs. Thomas M. Mills of Scranton, married 1991.
Brian M. Reese vs. Brooke L. Reese, both of New Milford, married 2004.
Christine Burgess of Montrose vs. Kenneth W. Burgess of Hop Bottom, married 1988.
The Susquehanna County Domestic Relations Section has Bench Warrants for the following individuals as of 9:58 a.m. on January 16, 2009.
Robert G. Arthur, David P. Atherholt, Jr., Erika L. Back, Keith Beach, David S. Blaisure, Joseph Bonavita, Michael P. Bradley, Jr., Ryan T. Brooks, Kenneth G. Burgess, Joshua D. Calby, Mark T. Conklin, Jeffrey A. Craig, Thomas J. Croghan II, Mary Dallasta, John J. Deakin, Jeffrey L. Decker, Amanda Dedonis, Paul H. Donovan, Deborah L. Drish, Thomas D. Earley, Jonathan Fathi, Kristoffer B. Fazzi, David J. Fischer, Thomas Fisher, Nesbitt W. Fitch, Jr., Ryan M. Forder, Kelly Fox, Yvette Glover, Angela M. Grecco, David Haines, Jr., Suzanne R. Hansen, Keith G. Harms, Jamie E. Heaman, Gregory R. Henry, Ann Hightower, Holly N. Holbrook, Timothy M. Holmes, Lyle J. Hugaboom, Roy M. Huntley, Erik E. Krisovitch, James R. Lee, Charlie J. Legere, Carlos L. Leiser, Howard J. Linder, Debra J. London, George D. Lowery, Joseph Malloy, Jr, Tanika Marazzani, Patricia J. Marrero, Jason Marshall, Fred C. Materese, James R. Moran, Anthony Neri, Todd M. O'Hara, Ivy U. Oropallo, Gary Perico, Jonathan R. Powers, Jeffrey A. Ransom, Kim Read, Jesse R. Rhinebeck, Jr., Nathan Rosene, Donald L. Rousseau, Jr., Brandon Scott, Neil D. Shaffer, David J. Shiner, Duane Spencer, Amy M. Squier, Andrew J. Survilla, Earl H. Thompson, Jr., Anthony M. Vaow, Keith W. Vroman, Robert C. Walter, II, Glynn Wildoner, III, Patrick L. Yachymiak, Karl D. Zantowsky.
Please contact the Domestic Relations Section at 570-278-4600 ext. 170 with any information on the location of these individuals.
On December 24 at around 3:10 p.m., Todd Hadden of Boyertown, PA was traveling north on SR 92 when, failing to negotiate a left-hand curve, the back of his vehicle slid. Hadden overcorrected for the slide, crossing the southbound lane and striking an embankment. The vehicle rode the embankment, turning onto its left side, before coming to a final rest facing south on the west berm.
POSSESSION OF SMALL AMOUNT OF MARIJUANA
On January 5, Joseph Singer of Vineland, NJ was traveling on Interstate 81 in New Milford Twp. when he was stopped for violation of PA Title 75. A strong odor of marijuana was detected upon initial approach of the vehicle. Singer was given a written warning for the violation, and consent to search was requested and given. The search yielded approximately six grams of marijuana. No additional contraband was located. Singer was subsequently placed into custody and transported for processing, before being released as per rule 519.
RECKLESSLY ENDANGERING ANOTHER PERSON
On January 12, at approximately 3:30, an incident occurred in Lemon Twp., just south of the Susquehanna County Line on SR 29. The incident involved a shooting into an occupied structure, where a 10-year old female was seated at a desk inside her residence. She was almost struck by the bullet. A reward is being offered by the Wyoming County Crime Stoppers and the Wyoming County District Attorney's Office for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved. Anyone with information concerning this incident, is asked to please contact PSP Tunkhannock at (570) 836-2141.
On January 11 at approximately 6:45 p.m., James Moran, Jr. approached Neil Darrow while both men were at the Park View Hotel in New Milford Borough, and struck him in the head. When Darrow fell to the ground, Moran kicked him several times to the body and head area. Darrow was taken to Barnes-Kasson Hospital for treatment. Charges will be filed at District Court 34-3-02. The investigation was continuing at the time of report.
On January 6, at approximately 1:38 p.m., Merle Spaltro was traveling north on SR 1003 in Thompson Twp. when her vehicle entered an uncontrolled skid, traveling across the road and impacting a tree. The vehicle then traveled back across the road and rolled over the embankment before coming to a rest. Spaltro was not wearing her seatbelt at the time; she sustained moderate injury.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT VEHICLE ACCIDENT
On January 8, Daniel Trivett, Jr. of Meshoppen was cindering an ice covered road in Auburn, Twp. when his vehicle began to slide backwards, continuing off the roadway and down into a ravine. Trivett was utilizing his seatbelt and sustained minor injuries.
It was reported that on January 9, at around 10 p.m., a theft occurred at the Liberty Exxon in Harford, Twp., in the amount of $9.10. The investigation was continuing at the time of report.
On January 8 at around 9:53 a.m., Jason Bennett was traveling West on SR 1010 in Great Bend Twp. when he noticed a PennDOT truck with a plow traveling East toward him at approximately 200 yards. Bennett lost control of the vehicle and slid off the road, striking a tree with the vehicle's rear end. Both Bennett and a passenger were transported to Lourdes Hospital for treatment.
The Pennsylvania State Police conducted a sobriety checkpoint in Susquehanna County the weekend of January 9, 10, and 11, according to a news release. Everyone is reminded that utilizing a designated driver is the safest way to enjoy the weekend. The Pennsylvania State Police will remain vigilant in its efforts to keep our roads safe and free of impaired/drunk drivers. Everyone is also reminded that driving under the influence of drugs and certain medications, even if legally prescribed, is considered driving under the influence.
On January 9, at approximately 6:50 a.m., an unnamed driver was traveling Northbound on I 81 in Great Bend Twp. when he or she struck a tire/rim assembly that was lying in the travel lane. After impact, the operator drove the vehicle a short distance northbound to the 230 exit ramp. He or she was not injured, and the only visible damage to the vehicle was to the windshield, due to the deployment of the air bags. The vehicle was driven from the scene.
In celebration of National School Board Month, at a January 12 meeting, Superintendent Dr. Robert Vadella presented Forest City Regional School Board members with certificates of recognition. Vadella praised board members for the voluntary service they perform on behalf of the district’s students. He stated that school board members attempt to make “decisions that are good for children,” yet in the face of controversy, board members must be able to “take the heat for those decisions.”
A parent again inquired about what is being done for students who wish to excel academically. Joseph Castrogiovanni, acting high school principal, announced that a six-session SAT-prep course will be offered at the end of January. “I don’t think we have the numbers for [advanced placement],” he said, but added that the school is looking into individualized instruction through the NEIU’s V-Linc program.
The elementary PTO is sponsoring a performance of “Pinocchio,” which will be performed by the Sherman Theater and is scheduled for Friday, January 23 at 1:30.
Parents should note that school will be in session on Monday, February 2. Parent-teacher conferences scheduled for that day have been postponed until February 9.
Finally, with a vote of 6-2, board members renewed Vadella’s contract as superintendent. The new contract is effective from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2011.
More than $370,000 in state gaming revenue will benefit 44 area first responder organizations in the 110th Legislative District, said Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), and help them improve their capabilities to handle emergencies.
"These organizations spend countless time training for the emergency situations they face on a daily basis," Pickett said. "This grant program has been very successful in supporting our local community fire and emergency service personnel who protect the residents of the 110th Legislative District."
The Pennsylvania Volunteer Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant program is administered by the Pennsylvania Office of Fire Commissioner within the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), and allows local organizations to use the money for the construction or renovation of a fire company or ambulance service's primary structure; the purchase or repair of firefighting, ambulance or rescue equipment; training; or debt reduction.
Grants were awarded to the following companies located in Susquehanna County: Elk Lake Volunteer Fire Company, $9,516; Forest Lake Volunteer Fire Company Number 1, $9,500; Little Meadows Volunteer Fire Company (EMS), $4,916; Little Meadows Volunteer Fire Company (Fire), $9,500; Montrose Minute Men Inc., $4,916; Rush Volunteer Fire Department, $9,500; United Fire Company, $9,686.
A guest at the January 15 Hallstead Boro Council meeting was there to ask what had to be done, as far as permits, etc. to construct a farm stand on his property. As codes enforcement for the boro is currently handled through COG, he was referred to them. COG would be able to provide information about what permits and inspections, if any are required.
At their November meeting, council had heard a presentation by Codes Inspection, Inc., and has been entertaining the idea of using them instead of COG to enforce codes and issue permits. But, with only four council members present at this meeting, it was agreed to table the matter until more members are present.
The boro’s tax collector is resigning and someone must be appointed to fill out the remainder of the year. It was said that one candidate may be interested, but it wasn’t definite, so no action was taken. The position will be open on the primary election in May, with election in November, the term to begin at the first of the year.
State law now mandates that municipalities join the One Call system, which requires anyone doing excavating on public property to notify One Call of when and where they plan to dig. One Call will then notify the municipality of the intended digging so that any underground utility lines can be marked. One Call will provide training for municipal workers, so that they know what needs to be done and how to do it. One Call also has an on-line mapping system available, where utility lines can be drawn in and kept in a database. The program is at very little or no cost to the boro.
Last year, at the request of the Susquehanna County Housing/Redevelopment Authority, council had agreed to a tax abatement for a (new) 24 unit senior housing project. In May of 2008, the Authority was turned down by the PHFA Tax Credit Program. The authority is resubmitting their application, and asked that council adopt an updated resolution approving the tax abatement. A motion carried to do so.
Council has heard from DEP regarding the old foundry property. DEP has given the owner of record, James Booth, thirty days (as of January 8) to furnish a plan and schedule to address the removal of waste material found in old castings piles at the rear of the property. The letter sent to Mr. Booth by DEP said that DEP is concerned about the lack of recent remediation activity, particularly the lack of progress in removing and further delineating the lead contaminated sand. A site sampling report conducted in 2001 estimated that 300 cubic yards of sand exceeds the 5ppm limit, and that the lead was found to be leaching at levels that would characterize the material as hazardous waste.
Council received correspondence from Rep. Sandra Major regarding grants for municipalities or municipal authorities for the construction of drinking water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer projects. Funds are also available for flood control projects and the repair of high hazard, unsafe dams. Grants are limited to $20 million, and are available for projects with a total cost of $500,000 or more. Those eligible for the grants must provide matching funds of not less than 50 percent of the amount awarded.
A motion carried to appoint secretary Cindy Gillespie as the boro’s open records officer.
Council has been planning on getting a new truck for the boro, which will have a new spreader. Until then, the old truck’s spreader is showing signs of wear and needs a new motor. Council approved taking the truck to a local mechanic to see if it can be fixed, and a contingency plan of obtaining a new motor in the event that it can’t.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, February 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
Harford Township ended last year with satisfactory balances in all of its accounts. The Treasurer's report for year-end 2008 accepted at the Supervisors' meeting on January 13 showed a balance of about $74,600 for the township itself, about $41,000 in the state account used primarily for road maintenance, and about $102,000 for the sewer system. With fuel costs declining, the Supervisors seemed comfortable with those results.
On the other hand, the bridge project on Pennay Hill Road looms large as the latest extension by federal and state emergency management agencies to reimburse the township for the cost of the project will expire in June. The bridge over Butler Creek was washed out in the flooding of June, 2006 And now the contractor, ProCon is asking for a "change order" to set a new completion date in May, allowing the company to shut down for the winter. The request calls for "substantial completion" by May 15, with final cleanup to be complete by the end of that month.
The ProCon request doesn't offer any concrete guarantee of completion by May, so the Supervisors will arrange a meeting with ProCon and Hawk Engineering, the Binghamton, NY company that designed the bridge and is overseeing the project. The Supervisors want a "penalty clause" added to the change order to ensure that the project will be "100% completed" in time to qualify for the reimbursement funds. Supervisor Garry Foltz said that he wants the clause to specify a "substantial penalty" for failure to complete the bridge in time. "The township cannot afford to lose $400,000 if this doesn't happen," said he. The project will ultimately cost about that much, and the township had to borrow (interest free, from a state program) to finance the project, of which about $134,000 has already been paid to the contractor, more is obligated for the fabricated bridge section, leaving about $150,000 yet to go.
Mr. Foltz is also trying to find a way to save on debt service by refinancing the 40-year loan with Rural Development for the sewer system construction a decade ago. The loan has about 28 years yet to run, but Rural Development will not refinance at a lower rate. Township Secretary and Supervisor Sue Furney approached PennStar bank and was told that a 10-year note would carry a rate between a low 4% and a high 3%. The bank was willing to consider a longer term variable rate loan, but the Supervisors are not willing to consider a variable interest rate that could leave the township vulnerable in the future. The bank would also require that all of the township's accounts be held at PennStar. Other institutions will be canvassed for better terms.
The owner of a mobile home park in the southern part of the township has bid the "judicial minimum," $527, for an abandoned trailer at a tax sale so it can be renovated and rented. The Supervisors accepted the bid through the county Tax Claim Bureau.
The township's auditors have asked the supervisors to set a pay rate for "casual labor" and the Supervisors did so, at $10.00 per hour without benefits. But what Supervisor and Roadmaster Terry VanGorden really wants is an on-call temporary worker with a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) to help with snowplowing and other equipment operation. He apparently has a couple people in mind for the slot, but Mr. Foltz wants to be sure that the township's liability insurance will cover a temporary employee operating township equipment. If not, then the employee would have to show evidence of his/her own coverage, and would probably demand a much higher wage.
Mr. VanGorden also got authorization from his colleagues to begin looking for a new grader, preferably 1990 or newer. The old township grader just isn't doing the job any more; it is a 1978 model. An observer at the meeting suggested the township consider leasing, or perhaps trying to acquire a newer grader just coming off a lease.
And the township office has some flyers and brochures for anyone interested in temporary employment counting people. The 2010 Census is coming up, and the Census Bureau will be hiring for a variety of positions for the decennial enumeration.
The Harford Township Supervisors meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, beginning at 7:00 p.m., in the township office on Route 547.
A Lathrop Street fourth grader was recognized at the January 12 Montrose School Board meeting for a somewhat unusual, but laudable, achievement. Annelise Mittman received a perfect score last year on the third grade PSSAs, in both the math and reading sections. She was presented with a certificate, and made the rounds of school board handshakes.
Both elementary schools, Lathrop Street and Choconut Valley, also received PSSA accolades. The two were presented with Keystone Achievement awards at the meeting, awards given by PDE to schools making Annual Yearly Progress two years in a row. It was the fifth year in a row the two schools have received the award.
January is also school board recognition month, and Montrose honored its board members at the meeting. Three peer mediator students from Choconut Valley attended the meeting and read to the board statements of appreciation and recognition. Each board member was also presented with items made by elementary classrooms. These included a placemat with their photo on it, and papers quoting students on what they think school boards do. (The answers to this question were at times quite humorous.) One administrator stated that none of the great things done in the district could have been possible without the board.
Various items were mentioned and discussed during administrator reports. Mr. Adams recognized staff at his school for keeping the kids calm through the flurry of pre-Christmas activities, and spoke about the new Friday morning live in the gym program (planned and performed by sixth graders) and the fifth and sixth grade student liaison meetings which plan on soon meeting with representatives from the cafeteria and the playground staff. Mr. McComb commended those involved in the fifth and sixth grade chorus concert, and mentioned an entire school Christmas movie which happened, and a planetarium show and performance by the Tri-Cities Opera which are planned for the future. Mr. Owens spoke of a new internet filter which was installed to keep current with new concerns mandated by the law. Mr. Clapper addressed the concerns of those who felt that seeing lights always on the hill was in conflict with the school's energy conservation attempts. The lights which are seen, after 11:30 p.m., are low energy vandal lights, he explained. They are necessary for the function of the security cameras, and for staff who might need to visit the school in the late evening or early morning.
Graduation this year might end up being later than it has been in years past. While as of the meeting there was still a few days’ buffer before the event had to be moved, there was only one day left in the regular calendar which had been set aside for snow. Board members and administration expressed concern that with the rough winter already experienced, it might need to be pushed back at least one week. Mr. Ognosky recalled that in his time, the most snow days the district had had was seven in a year; as of the meeting there had been six already. Mr. Caterson suggested that in future years, it might be wise to reconsider the days off around Easter, and Martin Luther King Jr. day, though Mr. Ognosky cautioned that fears of potential snow days had to be considered against the need for quality professional development.
Tax collectors attended the meeting to request a raise in their compensation rate, from $2.82 per bill to $3.10 per bill. Tax collectors do a lot of work, one man maintained, which taxpayers do not see. He suggested that before the district agree to give them a raise, they send a representative to a collector’s office to see their work and expenses. Mr. Caterson stated that he felt the district's collectors do a good job, but expressed his opinion that the system itself is antiquated, and pointed out that no two districts handle this matter in the same way. It was decided that it would be further discussed at the Wednesday Public Finance Committee meeting.
Mr. Caterson also reported that, with the land around Choconut Valley school perhaps considering gas lease use, he had approached a company to see if they would be interested in a no-drill lease with the school. Nothing had been decided, he said, the inquiry was just to see if the company would consider it.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is proposing to rehabilitate various structures within the six-counties of District 4-0 (Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming). These projects are being advanced in accordance with PennDOT’s overall goal to reduce the number of structurally-deficient bridges within the district over the next several years.
The public is asked to review the project information listed below and discuss it with their municipal officials at their regularly scheduled meetings in order to provide input to PennDOT. Information of interest includes access for emergency services during construction, possible presence of private utilities, local events that could be impacted by construction, and other items requiring special coordination. The projects are as follows.
Route 1012, Section 570, New Milford Twp., Susquehanna County, Salt Lick Creek Bridge rehabilitation. Existing structure is a single span, non-composite steel I-beam bridge. Span length is 30 ft. Curb-to-curb width is 24 ft. The steel grid deck is encased with an asphalt overlay. Proposed rehabilitation includes replacing the deck on the existing beams. Beams will be repainted and minor repairs will be made to abutments. Traffic control measures during construction will be by means of a detour utilizing Routes 1012, 1031, and 492. Subject to availability of funding, the earliest possible time that construction can begin is Fall, 2011.
Route 3003, Section 570, Auburn Twp., Susquehanna County, Transue Creek Bridge Replacement. Existing structure is a single span, steel I-beam bridge. Span length is 17 ft. Curb-to-curb width is 21 ft. The structure has a timber deck and masonry abutments. The proposed structure is a single cell precast concrete box culvert with a 14’ clear span and 22 ‘ curb-to-curb width. The structure will provide a slightly increased hydraulic opening. Traffic control measures during construction will be by means of a detour utilizing Routes 3003, 3005, 3001 and 3002. Subject to availability of funding, the earliest possible time that construction can begin is Fall, 2011.
Route 1037, Section 571, Great Bend Twp., Susquehanna County, Dubois Creek Bridge replacement. Existing structure is a single span, reinforced concrete I-beam bridge. Span length is 52 ft. Curb-to-curb width is 24 ft. There is a severe skew with the creek and full height reinforced concrete abutments encroach on Dubois Creek. Proposed structure is a 116’ long single span, pre-stressed concrete bulb T-beam bridge with 26’ curb-to-curb width. The span will be increased to improve the skew and allow use of integral abutments. The driveway located in the northeast quadrant will be relocated. Traffic control measures during construction will be by means of a detour utilizing Routes 1037, 1022, 29, NY state Rtes 7 and 7A and State Route 1033. Subject to availability of funding, the earliest possible time that construction can begin is Fall, 2011.
Questions regarding these projects may be directed to PennDOT project manager Robert Kretschmer (570) 963-4253 by February 13.
The January 8 meeting of the Susquehanna County Rail Authority was declared unofficial due, to the lack of a quorum.
It was decided that although no action could be taken, unofficially there were items which could be discussed.
The largest topic was a letter received from the Susquehanna County Commissioners stating that, “While we understand your circumstances, the Rail Authority is an independent, autonomous group and as such is responsible for its own financial interests. The county cannot pay legal bills for services contracted by the Rail Authority, nor can we pay an auditor to complete your audit report.”
In addition, they stated, “Thought should have been given to how these obligations were going to be paid before they were incurred.”
That letter was in response to a letter requesting help from the commissioners with the outstanding bill from Attorney Patrick LaVelle, Esquire, the Authority’s attorney, and the need for an audit required by Pennsylvania State.
“First, we are in non-compliance with the state, specifically DCED, for tardiness in filing the audit report for last year. This report has to be handled by a CPA. We believe that we have the necessary numbers to include in the report, but we have no CPA, nor the funds to hire one to produce the report.” Ken Bondurant continued, saying,” Second, we have an outstanding legal bill of $9,000.00, from Attorney Patrick LaVelle for his services, rendered during the attempts to secure the land for the transloading facility.”
He added, “It is likely that the DCED audit report compliance is a relatively low cost/no cost if we were to utilize the county’s auditor.”
In closing Bondurant offered, “I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with (the commissioners), and anyone else (the commissioners) may choose to involve. I will ask Bob McNamara to join with me in any discussion or meeting in this regard, as he has been working with me on these issues.”
Unofficial discussion followed, regarding the commissioners’ continued lack of interest with the Rail Authority and no support for their work on their assigned project to bring in a railroad transloading facility into Susquehanna County, which would also bring commerce, job opportunity and infrastructure into Susquehanna County, thus helping the economy and depressive state currently experienced.
The question of the ability of the commissioners to ignore the Rail Authority and deny aid was raised, along with the original formation of the Rail Authority in 2003.
According to the “Articles of Incorporation” from the Department of State – Corporation Bureau, “This Authority has been organized by the Board of Commissioners of Susquehanna County. The following is a list of authorities heretofore created under the Municipal Authorities Act of 1945, Act of May 2, 1945, P.L. 382, as amended and supplemented, under the Act of June 28, 1935, P.L. 463, and are in existence in and for the County of Susquehanna: (a) Susquehanna County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (b) Susquehanna County Industrial Development Authority.”
The Rail Authority entertains speaking with Atty. LaVelle, once an official meeting can be held.
Bondurant stated that the Rail Authority was neither “helped nor allowed to bring progress and economic growth to Susquehanna County residents, as required by their agreement (upon being sworn in) to represent and serve Susquehanna County.”
He also said The Rail Authority was made up of “a group of volunteers, who tried to do their best at what we were charged to do,” and that the commissioners were aware of the need for attorneys’ and accountants’ services when the first Authority was appointed in 2003.
“It is a shame that this county will be left behind once the infrastructure and railroad gets moving,” Rowland Sharp added.
“The project failed us, because of the lack of financial backing from the county commissioners,” Bondurant stated.
According to action in counties surrounding Susquehanna County, it is ascertained that growth is going to happen; Susquehanna County sits in the middle, at a prime spot to opportunity which will bring commerce, new employment, financial gain and infrastructure into the county. All of which bring positive results for the Susquehanna county taxpayers.
Bondurant said, “The questions remains, ‘Are we smart enough to take advantage of it?’”
The Rail Authority meets on the second Friday of the month, 10 a.m. in the County Office Building, with the next meeting being held in March. The meetings are scheduled every other month.
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