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The November 9 meeting of the Montrose school board was so well attended that it was moved into the cafeteria, from its normal location in the community learning center. By the time the work session began, all but three of these visitors had left. It was jokingly pointed out that even of these three, two were paid to be in attendance (members of the press). The largest reason for the unusual crowd stemmed, apparently, from contract negotiations with the support staff. The members of this group did not speak up at the meeting; one woman explained that the point was more to make a show of solidarity than to speak out that night.
Many people were honored during the Good Things are Happening section of the meeting. Melissa and Karen, Wal-Mart representatives, attended the meeting to pass out gifts as part of their educator recognition program. Associates of the store nominate schools their children attend for the program. Schools are then randomly selected, and this year Montrose was chosen. All of the staff grades K-8 were then noted, and 10 names were randomly drawn from that list. Each of these instructors received a gift bag and a $100 gift card for supplies. The chosen instructors were: Cynthia Goodman, Diane Cronk, Linda Truman, George Smith, Anne Lathrop, Karen Ricci, Caitlin Kerwin, Sarah Brander, Nina Merrick, and Kristina Dufton.
Karen Guinane was also mentioned at the meeting, with Mr. McComb commending her for the hours she spent working for the school as the president of the Choconut Valley Elementary School. She and the PTO not only toiled to bring a new piece of playground equipment to the school, but secured a matching fund grant and raised $21,000, allowing the school to procure a nicer piece of equipment than originally considered.
The girls track team was also honored. Mr. Tallarico spoke of the nationally ranked team's success at the Nike outdoor nationals track meet. Sarah Kimsey placed within the top 40 in the high jump. Julia Kiloski placed 25th in the triple jump, and 12th in the 100 meter dash. The 4x100 meter relay team finished 5th at the competition, after taking 3rd place at the state level. The accomplished athletes were given a certificate, and made the rounds of the table shaking hands.
Some policy matters were discussed. Some parents had contacted Mr. Ognosky after the last meeting, concerned about whether or not the new Electronic Devices policy, which was posted on the website for review, would keep their children from utilizing cell phones during after school activities. Mr. Ognosky reiterated that the prohibition applies only to the use of devices during the school day.
A first reading of revisions to various other policies, which were to be put on the website as well, was also announced. Mr. Ognosky explained that the largest change would probably be from an alteration to Policy 114, Gifted Education. This policy lowers the caseload for gifted staff, as of July 2010 each gifted instructor would only be allowed to manage 65 students, as opposed to the 75 student limit currently in place. As with most of the policy changes mentioned in the meetings, this alteration did not originate with the district.
Michelle Lusk, who was not missing from the meeting, spoke of her role in forming a safety committee. While the school has had a safety committee in the past, it was a different sort of committee, and was never really required before as it is now. When Pennsylvania passed the budget, it was explained, it became mandated that all schools have a committee which meets monthly. When the district gets audited, this will be part of the investigation. The district needs to have 6 formal meetings before July 1 come around. Ms. Lusk announced that she would be setting up an organizational meeting, and invited board members to be on the committee.
Ms. Lusk also briefly discussed the impending PSERS crisis. A meeting, it was reported, is scheduled for December to announce the final increases, but the estimates have raised much concern. The district currently contributes 4% to the retirement account. It was estimated that next year this would double to 8.4%, increasing to 10% the next year, and in short order jumping to 29 percent. In 2012 this could mean a 1.2 million dollar commitment, a number which only pales in comparison to the 3.7 million dollars required the next year. Mr. Caterson stated that just that number alone might require the district to raise taxes 30 percent. At least Montrose is not facing this problem alone, every district faces the same conundrum. It was explained that this topic came up 10 years ago, and then 5, but any action was always pushed off. Mr. Caterson had sent a letter to Sandy Majors about the issue, and reviewed her response which discussed proposed legislation to address it.
Quite a bit of talk was had regarding a recommended copier upgrade. Craig Owens was recommending that the district alter the classroom printing culture to encourage staff to print to copiers instead of laser jet printers. He stated that printing costs for the district were very high and only climbing; the district had gone from using approximately 17 pallets of paper 3 years ago to 21 pallets this year. Twenty pallets, he estimated, would contain around 4 million sheets. In the copier, every printed page costs half a penny for black and white, in a printer the cheapest job costs 5 cents. For color, whereas a copier still costs around 7.5 cents a page, a printer could cost 15 cents a page. Mr. Owens proposed, then, that the copiers be replaced with networked copiers with copy management software. Despite some concern over the new copiers not being in a central location, the board did not appear to be in opposition to this plan, and it was decided it would be an agenda item at the December meeting.
Mr. Ognosky reported on the H1N1 situation at the district. Notification had been received that Montrose would receive 1,000 vaccines for the students. No definite date as given in the Department of Health missive, however. Eight hundred doses of these would be for children ages 5-17, and 100 for those older. So far, the district only knows that it will be receiving one set, though for young kids it is a two dose process. The vaccinations are planned for out of school hours, and are scheduled to be done at the high school. When the vaccinations are actually received, permission forms will go home to parents, who can opt out on their children’s' behalf. A question was raised regarding the potential danger to immunosuppressed students if the district receives the live nasal vaccine. It was answered that this is a danger the district is aware of, though it is not yet known which version of the vaccine will be arriving.
A Choconut Valley 3rd grader won a very profitable Scholastic contest, it was announced. The 3rd grader apparently received one library of books for himself, as well as one form his classroom. It was suggested that he be highlighted at an upcoming meeting.
Other news also came out during the principals' and administrators' reports. Choconut valley had a successful Halloween parade and hayride, it was said. Attendance was on the rise again, as of that night, after having had perhaps three times the normal number of absentees the week prior. That elementary school's administration had decided not to have a veteran's day program, as it had in the past, due in part to the difficulty in getting a speaker on that day. Instead, the children created a “wall of honor” display, which was spoken of positively. This wasn't the only change being made, however. The PTO at Lathrop Street, reportedly, in an attempt to be sensitive to the economic times, has been tackling with the administration the problem of fundraising. The goal was to balance not having the children out in the community too much with not shutting the community out of the school. It was decided that some fundraisers would be eliminated, and that there would only be 4 in the year. The PTO would still have its two, and there would be two food drives.
Dr. Golden highlighted the gifted program. The 3rd grade, he said, was chosen to be part of a research study. He called it an honor to participate. The older students were also planning on attending the physics day at Dorney Park.
The high school has spent time recently in the support of causes. Mr. Tallarico spoke again of the impact and lasting activities inspired by the Rachel's Challenge program. A Pink Out was performed at the school, which raised $5800 for breast cancer awareness. Probably 80%, it was estimated, participated in the event. Also, a check was slated to be given to the united way with money raised from homecoming.
The major topic of discussion at the November 12 meeting of the Oakland Boro Council was the budget for 2010. The proposed budget does not reflect a tax increase or an increase in water rates. It also includes a wage increase for the boro secretary and maintenance supervisor, neither of which have received an increase in the last two years. Also included is an additional three hours per week for the Codes Enforcement Officer, at the current rate of pay. Fire protection for the year will be $7,500, only slightly increased from last year. There was some discussion regarding the wage increases; it was agreed to continue the discussion during an executive session following the meeting.
After the executive session, a motion carried to proceed with adoption of the budget.
Mayor Dudley reported that both of the boro's police officers have completed their F120 certifications. The $8,000 grant that the department received for equipment has been closed out; she noted that the boro would be required to repay the funds if the department should be dissolved within the next two years. During October, the Lanesboro police conducted some patrols, and assisted the Oakland police with patrols on Halloween night. On Halloween, there was one incident where seven youths reportedly vandalized a private residence. The police reached an equitable solution, in cooperation with the parents of the youths involved, and the situation was resolved.
Mayor Dudley was not successful in her bid for reelection, and as she will be unable to attend the December meeting due to a family commitment, she took the opportunity to thank the people of Oakland for the opportunity to serve the community, and stated that the new mayor will undoubtedly receive the same help and cooperation of the council that she has. President Ron Beavan complimented her in return, stating that she has done a lot to help the police department and the people of Oakland.
The monthly codes report was reviewed, and there was some discussion of the legal costs involved to pursue violations. Council also discussed a priority list for violations; it was agreed that unsafe structures should be first on that list, followed by new ordinance enforcement, garbage issues, eyesores and tall grass.
There have been a number of instances where ditches are being clogged by homeowners raking leaves into them. The boro does have an ordinance that allows burning of leaves in the ditches, but apparently some folks are just raking the leaves into the ditches and not burning them. There was a short discussion as to whether or not the ordinance should be changed to discontinue allowing the leaves to be burned. Council's consensus was that people should be burning them or bagging them.
Through the assistance of the county Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the boro has procured the extra funding required to put curbing in when the new sidewalks on State St. are completed. Work is expected to be done in the spring, as the winter season will soon be arriving. New concrete is especially susceptible to the effects of salt and needs time to cure, so completion of the project will be on hold for the time being.
There was some discussion about a retaining wall on State St. that fell down during the work that has been completed. Mr. Beavan said that the Housing and Redevelopment Authority is involved in trying to rectify the situation.
The playground equipment for the park has been delivered, and the boro has applied for and been granted a one-year extension on the grant funding for the project. Negotiations to obtain the trailer property adjacent to the park are still underway.
During public comment, the audience members were unanimous in thanking Mayor Dudley for everything she has done on behalf of the boro. It was noted that only ten percent of the boro's registered voters had taken the time to vote in the recent election.
One resident asked where to find information about the boro, such as contact phone numbers; the boro does have its own website, www.oaklandboro.com, where that information is listed. He had some specific questions about the sidewalk project and asked who to contact with questions about that; as the questions were in regard to sewer lines, he was advised to contact the sewer authority.
Council reviewed a report from maintenance supervisor Jeff Wayman. He has been working on an application for CDBG grant funding for paving, and has compiled a priority list of streets in need of paving. In relation to the application, residents may receive income surveys in the mail, and are asked to complete them and send them in. Winter supplies have been ordered, the trucks have been winterized, and three fire hydrants that are too low will be raised. And, as has been the custom, the upper portion of Walnut St. will be closed once winter conditions set in.
During their customary “around the table” discussion, council debated whether it is more cost efficient to continue to hire an outside contractor for excavating work, or if it would be better to hire an additional boro employee. On the one side, it was noted that the contractor the boro regularly uses was instrumental in installing the water system and is very familiar with it. He has also given the boro a price break on any work that he does for them, and has always been readily available for any work that needs immediate attention, such as water line breaks. Much of the work involved in the past year involved upgrades to the water system, one-time projects, and the boro will receive reimbursement for work that was done in relation to the sidewalk project on State St. On the other side of the discussion, it was noted that if the boro were to hire an additional employee, there would be additional costs involved, such as workmen's compensation and insurance costs as well as the expense of renting the equipment needed.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, December 10, 7:00 p.m. in the Lanesboro Community Center.
Lengthier than usual, Clifford Township’s November 10 board meeting lasted approximately 90 minutes. A Penn-DOT proposal to introduce paperless, (electronic), reports and contracts was discussed at length. Renee Reynolds, township secretary, stated that the system would eliminate approximately eighty pages of paperwork. Other township officials stated that they would like more information about the system. A woman attending the meeting advised that Penn-DOT is “putting you on the spot” and that a decision could wait. The board tabled the matter for now.
Penn-DOT also requested that the township plow the bridge in Clifford, since the bridge is too narrow for state plows. Although the announcement met with several chuckles and jokes about planning, the supervisors passed a motion to plow the bridge this winter.
After an announcement that the Attorney General’s office is investigating matters concerning Don Carroll, who was formerly employed as Clifford Police Chief, a township resident stated “I am afraid of [Carroll].” The man stated that Carroll had threatened to murder him and asked, “Don’t you [supervisors] have the power to fire [Carroll]?”
Joe McGraw, township solicitor, explained, it’s “not that easy to terminate someone.” Although the township legally cannot bring Carroll back, it’s “outside the control of the supervisors” to fire him. Carroll, who has been suspended from working in the township, is presently employed by the county.
Another police matter involved the schedule, which will be altered to include some late-night coverage. A resident attending the meeting stated that 9 p.m. - 2 a.m. are prime crime hours. Acting Police Chief Paul Nardozzi promised to provide the supervisors with some crime statistics.
Board members agreed that additional hours would be necessary, and the possibility of placing Nardozzi as a full-time officer was discussed. Fred Lyons, who resides in Clifford Township, stated that paying a full-time police officer would be “peanuts” when divided among all township residents and added that he does not object to paying for good police coverage.
John Regan, chairman of the board, also suggested that the township “Give [Nardozzi] forty hours, and let him run the show.” However, the board’s final decision was to increase Nardozzi’s hours to a maximum of thirty-eight and to raise his salary to $16 per hour. Nardozzi’s assistant, Doug Smith, will receive $15 per hour.
Clifford’s addressing saga apparently has ended; the tentative date for receipt of new addresses is November 30. Although township residents will retain their present zip codes, Clifford Township will be added to all addresses.
Community members interested in participating in holiday events should note that a Christmas tree lighting is slated for the first Friday of December, and Sunday, December 6, is the annual Christmas Care Breakfast. The following Sunday, December 13, will be the Kid’s Christmas Party at the firehouse.
Residents interested in participating in the Nixle System, which provides such information as emergency reports and weather bulletins, may register at nixle.com to receive e-mail or text messages.
A final matter discussed is the appointment of Jim Locker to serve as Winter Road Foreman for the township. Board members stipulated that Locker must attend township meetings. Regan will monitor hours and provide a schedule for next meeting.
Francis C. Schuch to James E. Attica, In Rush Township for one dollar.
McHugh Living Trust (by Trustee) and Marie McHugh to Marie McHugh, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Thomas B. Combs to William H., III, Jerome J., George M., Sr. and Suzanne S. Combs, Lucia C. Geraci, C. Noel Garapola and Edmee C. West, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Thomas B. Combs to William H., III, Jerome J., George M., Sr. and Suzanne S. Combs, Lucia C. Geraci, C. Noel Garapola and Edmee C. West, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Karen C. Ogrady to Edward J., Carolyn A. and David M. Smith, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Karen C. Ogrady to Edward J., Carolyn A. and David M. Smith, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Carol J. Lesjack to Rowan Tree Developments LLC, in Great Bend Borough for $20,000.00.
Philip S. and Catherine E. Strawn to Robert C. and Susan R. Heed, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
A. Irene (AKA) Irene Ball to Endless Mountains Energy Partners LLC, in Bridgewater Township for $50,500.00.
George and Beverly A. Welch to George A. Welch, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Carol Brownell to Dusty Cartrette, in Susquehanna for one dollar.
Alice Eldred to Gracious Living Estates, Inc., in Bridgewater Township for $50,000.00.
Edward G. and Karen F. Higgins to Willard E. Westcott, in Harford Township for $152,500.00.
Button Family Partnership to Button Family Partnership, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
The Susquehanna County Domestic Relations Section has bench warrants for the following individuals as of 9:15 a.m. on November 13, 2009.
Antonio L. Alcantara, Duane Aldrich, David P. Atherholt, Jr., Erika L. Back, John W. Barber, Sr., Neeko A. Beahan, David Shawn Blaisure, Joseph Bonavita, Robert B. Carrier, Jason James Carroll, Beverly A. Carvin, Darryl M. Chaffee, Christopher J. Clark, Tony R. Clark, Edward J. Dickson, Jr., Deborah L. Drish, David J. Fischer, Ryan M. Forder, Kelly Fox, Racheal L. Frisbie, David Haines, Jr., Suzanne R. Hansen, William N. Hendrickson, Steven L. Jones, Kenneth M. Kintner, Corey J. Koch, Erik E. Krisovitch, Lee Labor, Charlie J. Legere, Carlos L. Leiser, Patricia J. Marrero, Nancy McGillis, David N. Miller, Joseph C. Moore, Anthony Neri, Donald Palmer, Scott Pensak, Gary Perico, Timothy W. Rogers, Amy Shelp, Michelle L. Shepard, David J. Shiner, Darin Sink, Duane Spencer, Robert J. Sterling, Garrett M. Thomas, Keith W. Vroman, Steve A. Welch, Jamie L. Williams, Kenneth L. Wilmot, Jr., Patrick L. Yachymiak.
Please contact the Domestic Relations Section at 570-278-4600 ext. 170 with any information on the location of these individuals.
The Susquehanna County Rail Authority, while left on its own feet and struggling to stay afloat, has not given up hope of helping to locate a trans-loading facility or aiding in bringing railway into Susquehanna County.
According to information from the November 13 meeting, Ken Bondurant told The Transcript: ”The Rail Authority is working with SCEDAC, Central Bradford Progress Authority and rail experts OnTrackAmerica to determine if the project has any viability in the current environment (vis a vis, the natural gas boom), which has hit Susquehanna County.”
“We are all currently working in tandem, along with the landowners and SCRA, to see if we can develop something to move this forward, and are strictly in the discussion stages.”
“Tony Ventello (CBPA) has been asked to keep the Economic Development Board and The Susquehanna County Commissioners in the loop, as we progress. Thus far, I have had no communications from them in this regard.”
“However I have maintained as we move forward this time, that this is not the time to dredge up old problems and personalities because it would only tend to stifle progress. What is past is past.” Bondurant shared.
SCEDAC is the Susquehanna County Development Advisory Council; strictly a group of business “folk” and individuals interested in seeing the county develop, while maintaining its beauty and uniqueness.
SCEDAC’s president, Mr. Bill Kelley and vice president, Mr. Bob Wert, had expressed an interest a while ago regarding the idea of the trans-load facility. Mr. Wert (at one time) was with SEPTA, which is Philadelphia’s transit system.
Central Bradford Progress Authority’s Tony has also expressed interest and has visited “gas plays” in Texas and Canada. He is also receiving regular inquiries from potential shippers/suppliers, etc., as the natural gas boom develops.
The OnTrackAmerica group “is a 50(c)(3) nonprofit transportation consultancy founded in 2007. The goal of OnTrackAmerica is to build and promote a new model for freight transportation planning that facilitates stakeholders in multifaceted, integrative thinking and implementation and that allows the private and public sectors to effectively collaborate in the delivery of transportations systems that serve more of our economic and social needs.“ It is headed by Michael Sussman, who also has Strategic Rail Finance. Mr. Wert knows Mr. Sussman and invited him into the discussion.
“OnTrackPennsylvania’s plan for advancing optimal freight transportation in Pennsylvania” with a goal to maximize the effective use of all surface transport modes in order to strengthen commerce, attract and keep jobs, as well as creates a cleaner environment, and delivers a higher return on transportation investment in the state.
“The gas boom is coming and it requires massive transfers of materials and it only seems likely and necessary that rail travel is a part of that.” Bondurant continues.
Although it is not known whether or not the former project and information is a part of that, The Rail Authority feels “another run at bringing rail through Susquehanna County could be very positive, whether through private funding, or a combination of public and private funding, we don’t know at this time. Leasing could be a possibility, but the key thing is that we have some interested people talking and that is good!” Bondurant enthusiastically shares.
However, nothing is definite yet, the Authority has taken no action on anything and at this point they are talking with new folks with some hopefully fresh and exciting ideas and approaches.
“Let’s hope we end up helping to drive the train of “gas boom” rather than getting run over by it.” Bondurant concluded.
The Rail Authority Meetings are held on the second Friday of the month bi-monthly. The next meeting will be January 12.
At a school board meeting on November 9, Fred Garm and Rita Lowry each received a certificate for their years of service on the Forest City Regional School Board. Both Garm and Lowry have served twelve years on the board. The award, bestowed by the Pennsylvania School Board Association, placed Garm and Lowry on the “Honor Roll of School Board Service.”
Later, Lowry announced that she is vacating her spot on the board. Lowry commented, “It’s a great school district, and I was proud to have been on the board.”
During the Public Comment portion of the meeting, a woman stated that her daughter was injured recently during a sports game at Blue Ridge. The woman stated that she was informed that Forest City Regional has no protocol regarding such situations. “I’m not talking about insurance,” the woman clarified, “Are there protocols and procedures when a child gets hurt [at an away game]?”
Dr. Robert Vadella, Forest City Regional Superintendent, promised to address an incident report, adding that he plans to have a draft for approval at the next board meeting.
High school principal Christine Acevedo praised the “trunk-or-treat” graduation project held in the school parking lot on Halloween. In the interest of keeping children off of the streets for the night, volunteers stationed in the school parking lot provided candy to children. Altogether, 160 children participated, and although it rained, Acevedo stated that the event “was absolutely fabulous.”
In his report, Vadella stated that plans to address math deficiencies in the high school are underway and will be ongoing throughout the school year. Additionally, the school district has contracted Sylvan Learning to provide targeted tutoring to in-need elementary and high school students based on teacher and parent input.
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