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The Blue Ridge School Board held a relatively brief workshop on November 22 - but it started at 6:00.
Board member Harold Empett’s Facilities & Grounds committee gathered at that early hour to hear a pitch from a representative of Southwestern Energy. But first the committee considered a measure that was tabled at the business meeting two weeks before when the administration wanted to solicit auction bids for an 11-year-old tractor.
The tractor is used primarily for snow removal, and has snow blower and sweeper attachments. It is not much used for lawn mowing any more, and Mr. Empett agreed that the machine needs to be replaced. So Business Manager Loren Small will present a proposal at a later meeting.
Mr. Small also asked the committee what it wanted to do about a “facilities request” he had received. A for-profit group of investment companies, attorneys and water testing companies wants to use the auditorium to present an “informational” session on the Marcellus shale exploration now in progress in the area (about which, more later). Neither Mr. Small nor the committee are enthusiastic about making the facility available for such events, although it is often opened for similar events by non-profit organizations.
And Mr. Empett asked the committee to consider assigning some of the janitorial staff to help the New Milford volunteer fire company refinish a floor in their building. He said similar community-assistance had been done before.
The committee was called together so early, however, primarily to hear from Sharief Hassan, an employee of Elexco Land Services, representing Southwestern Energy Company. (This reporter negotiated a lease with Southwestern through Mr. Hassan 2 years ago.) Mr. Hassan projected a map of the area surrounding the Blue Ridge campus, marked off with parcels leased by various energy companies. Most of the map was a solid sickly green, Southwestern’s coverage. Large splotches of grey represented some 7,000 acres of state game lands, which is so far off limits to gas exploration and extraction. One of the larger white areas - as yet not leased by anyone - includes the campus, some 47 acres abutting one of the smaller game lands tracts.
Mr. Hassan pointed out three spots on the map, to the south of U.S. Route 11 and to the southwest of New Milford, where Southwestern is expecting to begin drilling. He said the extraction “units” of some 640 acres each are typically rectangular in shape and run northwest-southeast. He said that Southwestern generally established well pads for up to 6 wells in a pair of radial patterns of 3 horizontal wells each. He said that Southwestern so far has planned 10 wells in the New Milford area, each of which could accommodate 6 horizontal wells. He didn’t give a time frame for this development.
Mr. Hassan said he was prepared to offer the district an up-front bonus of $5,000 per acre for 5 years, with a 15% royalty. The district already has an offer from Cabot Oil for $5,750. Mr. Hassan said that the location of the campus, particularly its proximity to the game lands whose status is unsettled, may make it slightly less suitable for drilling. He left the meeting, however, promising to offer a more definite proposal in the near future. (Mr. Hassan himself is a resident of the district, whose lot, in the Lakeside area, curiously, is leased to a different company.)
The more formal Board workshop was relatively short, with reports from many of the committee chairs.
Joel Whitehead, Blue Ridge representative to the Northeastern Instructional Unit #19 (“the IU”) said that the IU is forming a search committee to find a new executive director. The outgoing director retired under a cloud because of what has been perceived as an excessively generous retirement package.
Priscinda Gaughan, chair of the Wellness committee, reported on a conference she attended with some Blue Ridge staff in Scranton. She said that in Pennsylvania as many as one-third of children are overweight or obese, and that this may be the first generation of Americans who do not outlive their parents. She said that we “don’t exercise enough, and we eat terrible!”
Laurie Brown-Bonner reported that her curriculum committee has found a way around some of the special education issues they have been struggling with and will not be recommending any new staff. She commended Special Education Director Mark Fallon and the rest of the staff for their hard work. She said that Mr. Fallon is working on a plan to provide speech therapy services to a number of students who are not now officially cataloged in the special education program with their own Individual Education Plans (IEP). There are currently about 30 students at Blue Ridge with IEPs related to speech difficulties.
Superintendent Robert McTiernan said that he would soon propose changes to district policies, including one that would add some of the more advanced science and math courses to the grade-point-average weighting algorithm.
And Board President Alan Hall reported on a workshop he recently attended near Philadelphia on negotiating. He’ll get to use some of what he learned very soon. He announced that “early-bird” negotiations with the teachers on a new contract will begin on December 3. He said that if the early talks didn’t result in an agreement, then “real” negotiations would start after the beginning of the new year. The teachers’ current contract expires at the end of June 2011.
The Blue Ridge School Board will meet next on December 6, to reorganize itself. Meetings generally begin at 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
B. Elizabeth (by sheriff) and Jonathan S. (by sheriff) Guzy to US Bank, in Hallstead Borough for $1,692.48.
Douglas L. and Margaret B. Sheldon to Potter Hill Farm LP, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
Andrew Russin (by Atty) to Andrew Russin Family Limited Partnership, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Douglas L. and Margaret B. Sheldon to Potter Hill Farm LP, in Thompson Township for one dollar.
Thomas P. English to Thomas P. English, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Robert W. and Cynthia A. (AKA) Cyndi A. Howard to Conan and Shonna Rae Andrews, in Bridgewater Township for $153,700.00.
Robert J. and Elizabeth A. Pencek to Henry C. and Dee A. Cheney, in Choconut Township for $141,500.00.
Carol Upton to Carol Upton, Stephen and Janice E. Kelly, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Marsha Z., Brandon J. and Graham M. Yeager to Marsha Z. and Graham M. Yeager, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Brandon J., Graham M. and Marsha Z. Yeager to Graham M. and Marsha Z. Yeager, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Brandon J., Graham M. and Marsha Zerbe Yeager to Graham M. and Marsha Z. Yeager, in Lathrop and Springville Townships for one dollar.
Brandon J., Graham M. and Marsha Zerbe Yeager to Graham M. and Marsha Z. Yeager, in Springville and Lathrop Townships for one dollar.
Brandon J., Graham M. and Marsha Zerbe Yeager to Graham M. and Marsha Z. Yeager, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Wesley and Diane Silfee to Frank and Kaye Holtsmaster, in Gibson Township for $5,000.00.
Barbara Hammell (estate) to William D., Catherine Elizabeth and Mark Hammell, in Ararat Township for one dollar.
James Orazi to Christopher L. Fishel, in Clifford Township for $20,000.00.
Mary E. and William P. Hayes to Mary E. (trust) and William P. (trust) Hayes, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
John T. and Juliann Lee to Glenn and Margaret Russo, in Clifford Township for $50,000.00.
Robert E. and Patricia O. Aiken to Larry and Larry, Jr. Proof, in Montrose for $132,000.00.
JPF Enterprises to Randall and Tara Stokes, in Forest City for $115,500.00.
Abram and Carole Diane Haberle to Eric and Bobbi Jo Diaz, in Franklin Township for $30,000.00.
Daniel J., Margaret E. (estate), Alfred J. and Raymond C. Jones to Daniel J. and Alfred J. Jones, in Middletown Township for one dollar.
Jonathan A. and Charlene E. Bunnell to Pennsylvania Commonwealth of Susquehanna County, in Auburn Township for $222,675.00.
John J. and Daryl A. Moriarity to Ayres Living Trust, in Brooklyn Township for $232,000.00.
BPR LLC to Ryan Bidwell, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Leo and Michael, Jr. Teddick to Michael Teddick, Jr., in Brooklyn Township for one dollar.
Leo and Michael, Jr. Teddick to Michael Teddick, Jr., in Brooklyn Township for one dollar.
Samuel and Therese F. Desist to Therese Francoise Desist, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Samuel and Therese Francoise Desist to Therese Francoise Desist, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Peoples State Bank of Wyalusing to Mona and Garrett, Jr. Hannigan, in New Milford Borough for $10,000.00.
Ruth P. Wildenberger (by Atty) to Donald and Matthew Button and Andrew Weller, in Jackson Township for $25,000.00.
William and Eleanor Vince to Timothy A. and Brandy L. Carpenter, in Bridgewater Township for $15,000.00.
James Douglas and Virginia J. (AKA) Virginia Jean (AKA) Virginia Jeanne Durren to Virginia Jeanne Durren, in Jackson Township for $5,000.00.
Bear Creek Properties, Inc. and Pro Ko Properties, Inc. to James and Joan Odowd, in Gibson Township for $69,900.00.
Vincent Kruse and Rita Jenney to Vincent and Donna R. Kruse, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Louis J. Grisafi vs. Barbara J. Grisafi, both of Montrose, married 1974.
Michael J. Cummings of Montrose vs. Debra Cummings of Vestal, married 1982.
Lisa Lighthizer of Forest City vs. Jonathon D. Lighthizer, married 2007.
Judy A. Hobday of Montrose vs. Austin R. Hobday of Tunkhannock, married 2003.
The Susquehanna County Domestic Relations Section has bench warrants for the following individuals as of 3:07 p.m. on November 24, 2010.
Erika L. Back, Keith Bryant Beach, Keith Bryant Beach, Harold R. Bensley, David Shawn Blaisure, Allen S. Bowman, Ryan T. Brooks, Douglas Buckman, Bryan S. Burnett, Howard A. Burns, III, Jeremy Travis Degraw, Jonathan Fathi, David J. Fischer, Thomas Fisher, Jeremy J. Grick, Michael A. Groover, David Haines, Jr., Keith G. Harms, Gerald C. Hundley, Jason R. James, Erik E. Krisovitch, Casey J. Lawton, Charlie J. Legere, Carlos L. Leiser, Jason Lindquist, Jennifer M. Miller, Shane Nelson, Brian T. Phillips, Jeremy Presson, Arthur D. Quick, Michael S. Rieman, Matthew J. Setzer, David J. Shiner, Richard D. Shoemaker, Sinon C. Smith, Sr., Matthew A. Taylor, Justin Thompson, Robert J. Twilley, Roderic R. Williams, Steven G. Wormuth, Karl D. Zantowsky, Anthony E. Olszewski.
Please contact the Domestic Relations Section at 570-278-4600 ext. 170 with any information on the location of these individuals.
At the beginning of the November 22 Mountain View school board meeting, Mr. Zick, board president, requested that Joyce Colleti, Eloise Cobb, and Jan Price come to the front for a special presentation. The three women had all retired recently and represented, Mr. Zick said, over one hundred years of service, which was special in the current economic situation. Two women were presented with clocks and pens; Ms. Price received a plaque having received a similar clock already at the alumni dinner.
The board approved submission of a grant application for the high school breakfast program. This was passed unanimously.
Mr. Mirabelli led a discussion regarding the general supplies bid process. He called this process tedious, explaining that when he first inherited it they would pass out spreadsheets which the staff would fill out, and then estimate the bidding, which was usually wrong. There is no way, he said, to budget what the bid is going to be. While that system had been replaced with an excel spreadsheet, there was still the problem with not knowing what would come through with the bid. Calling it a clunky, inefficient system, he explained how the process ran from the staff, to an advertised bid, to the vendors, to a returned bid, and then to further scrutiny. Through Kurtz brothers, then, he said, a new system had been found, which company had treated the district well. Having an online system, Kurtz had offered that if the district did not bid out but agreed to purchase from them, it would receive 30% off all items in the catalog and 40%-60% off the most popular items. Instructors, then, could see what they wanted to purchase and the cost of the purchase prior to submitting their orders. It would also, he felt, potentially reduce waste, as he suspected staff at times ordered extra due to ordering so far in advance. Under this system the orders could be placed that much later. Offering to conduct further investigation to see if any other companies had a similar system, he recommended that the board approve changing the methodology by which it ordered general supplies, thinking the district would probably break even in the end. Ms. Rinehart-Cowan pointed out that there is a 25% increase above what they paid the year prior, with the 30% discount. She expressed her concern over eliminating the bidding process, fearing that Kurtz brothers would then perhaps increase their prices or decrease the discount. Competition is a good thing, she said, as it drove down prices. Competition comes in, Mr. Mirabelli countered, between catalog and catalog, though admittedly bid prices would bring in lower costs. Also, he said, the district would not be locked in at any time, and any given catalog would not be the sole provider. Mrs. Aherne commented on the potential savings in staff time. Mr. Griffiths said that the districts had gone through cycles of going with Kurtz in the past, and said that going with the company had led at a certain point to more items being left on the back shelf. In principle however, Mr. Mirabelli said, not having to order so far in advance would, he thought, allow for lower inventory. Mr. Griffiths argued, though, that people would use what was left in their budgets at the end of the year, and then add to it with the new budget, resulting in wasteful buildup. Purchase orders being cut off, for the most part, in April should help curtail this, Dr. Chichura thought, but Mr. Griffiths still felt this might not help.
The motion was made and seconded to adopt a job description for the certified school nurse. Also, the job description was adopted for the school health technician. Mr. Griffiths voted against the latter.
An approved change in procedure was also accepted, where the principals would be able to approve coaches who were deemed satisfactory and wished to remain in the position to do so. This is a change from the past, where all positions were deemed vacant at the end of each year. Ms. Rinehart-Cowan voted against this.
The resignation for the purpose of retirement was accepted of Beth Komar. At the elementary school, Ms. Komar was a Learning Support instructor.
Dr. Chichura explained that the next meeting was the organizational meeting. Discussion had been held regarding whether the board wanted to continue having two public voting meetings, or move the system to one public voting meeting and one work session. The reorganization meeting was scheduled for December 6 due to the legal requirements regarding this. The decision was made that the first meeting of the month would be the workshop, and the second the voting meeting. Mr. Griffiths wanted to make certain that if this was pursued, however, the board would hold to it in general and use the workshop as a true non-voting meeting. Dr. Chichura also put two consecutive Monday nights out as an option, thinking perhaps less would come up between meetings that way. He also thought that were the board to do this it might want to consider eliminating the 6:30 public meeting. It was suggested that the meetings could then be held at 7 in the evening. There was then discussion regarding which two Mondays it would be, and due to a paperwork problem Mrs. Makosky felt that perhaps the second and third would be best. In the end the second and third Mondays were the decided upon days, with the 6:30 meetings done away with and the regular meeting at seven. In July and August, however, there would only be one meeting, the voting meeting.
The Accelerated Reader program was discussed by Karen Voigt, the Curriculum Coordinator. This had been a topic of dissent at a prior meeting. She had found, she said, going from grade to grade, the lower levels did not set goals as much as make the system incentive based. The books have point values to them, she explained. In fourth grade one of the staff divides the classes into high medium and low, and each kid reads three books regardless of point values. Entering fifth grade, she continued, though, goals began. In seventh and eighth grade, where the program has been run for ten years, things are pretty well set. In 7th grade 67% met their goals, and 76% of those exceeded the goal. Eighth grade was similar, if not the same. She also clarified that books read in class do count toward points. An accelerated reader grade might count for between 7% and 13% of their grade in the older levels, she said. With this being the first year for the 9th and 10th graders doing this, the process is still being worked on, especially with a change in staff, etc. Mrs. Yarrish said that there was a concern by parents that the accelerated reading was being counted towards a large percentage of their grade. Mrs. Voigt replied that she had not found this. Mrs. Rinehart-Cowan asked how many points were being required at seventh grade; the answer was 20 points. In the seventh grade 40% of the child's grades are test grades, of which two were accelerated reader grades. It was suggested that perhaps it could be established that students aim toward half of their points for midterm grades in hopes of defraying the tendency to wait until the end to crunch points.
The Keystone Exams, Dr. Chichura said, would be operational this spring for three subjects. The eighth graders, the top level, would be testing in Algebra one. This is the only exam which is offering a bonus toward graduation, as it would count as their credit. In tenth grade Biology and Literature would be tested; this would be more of an informational assessment test to gauge student ability and curriculum applicability. The district was not going to participate in field testing this spring due to PSSA's and other tests already being scheduled.
The 5th and 6th grade students had a tobacco on trial assembly. It was felt to have gone well. The elementary school's veteran's assembly was also spoken of favorably, and termed very moving.
Mr. Doster spoke well of the high school Veteran's Day assembly also. On December 15 the district was looking at doing the Rachel's Challenge program and anti-bullying assembly. The program was borne out of the Columbine tragedy. It was to be financed by an outside group; in the past it had not been implemented due to the cost.
Mrs. Pipitone spoke of the PTO craft fair, calling it wonderful how many staff members had their booths there. It was a great event, she said.
Mrs. Voigt spoke of school improvement money under Title 1, again broaching the subject of a two way glass for the reading program. It was uncertain what the cost might be. On December 11 Mountain View was scheduled to host the ACT's for the first time. It is planned to offer the test twice a year. Finally, she wanted to recognize the 8th grade young scholar team, which competed in two rounds at a competition and did very well. Also, she commended the Scholastic Bowl team, which she said similarly represented the district well in a competition.
Donna Williams from the Susquehanna County Farm Bureau attended to speak about the mobile ag ed science lab. This would be a service provided for the district. Early this year the Bureau had contacted the 6 districts to offer the service, and offered monetary incentives to the first two schools to seize the opportunity. A certified instructor comes with the lab. When Montrose did it, she pointed out, the instructor was a Mountain View alumnus. She wanted to encourage the board and administration to look into taking advantage of the program. The cost was $2300 for a week. This past year the incentive had been offered, however, to defray this though. The program would be a possible source of assisting the school to meet the Pennsylvania standards.
Kathy Shelley, also from the Farm Bureau, spoke up next about Ag in the classroom, a different program. This program goes all the way up to grade twelve, and trains educators to incorporate agriculture into whatever his or her subject matter is normally. The training is held during five days in the summertime. It costs $800, and beyond this the farm bureau gets grants, etc. The educator pays $100 and the bureau and sponsors pay $700; the instructor is responsible for travel but he or she is fed and housed. Act 48 credits are included in the price, and credits toward a Master's Degree are reasonably priced. It is not, she stipulated, ag education, it is ag literacy for everyone to know.
Roy Twining asked what measures were in place to keep the public apprised of changes regarding the Keystone Exams. Mrs. Voigt said that they would be informed.
Starrucca Borough Council meeting was called to order by President Jack Downton on Monday, October 4, at 7:05 p.m. at the Starrucca Community Hall. The meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance.
Council members present were Vice President Robert Martin, Barbara Glover, Arthur Kopp, Robert Buck, Anthony Palonis and Mayor Maryann DeBalko.
No Council members were absent.
The audience included Louis Gurske, Roger Glover, Kathy Downton, Dee Martin, Loreda Everett, Dan Kramer, George DeBalko, Roland Buck, Darl Haynes, Charlie Levchak, Brigitte D’Agati and Paul D’Agati.
The minutes of the Council meeting held on September 7 were read. Motion to accept the minutes as read. Anthony Palonis was opposed, motion carried.
The Treasurer’s report was read. Motion to accept passed unanimously.
The secretary discussed petty cash disbursements and suggested submitting receipts for reimbursement instead of keeping track of cash for office supplies. A discussion followed and President Downton made a motion to spend the balance of petty cash on hand ($3.04) and in the future the secretary will submit receipts as needed for reimbursement not to exceed $100.00. The motion passed unanimously.
A $20.00 cash donation was received for use of tables and chairs. The donation was submitted by A. Kopp on behalf of C. Levchak. The cash will be deposited in the General Fund.
Bills To Be Paid (October) - Motion to pay the bills as presented and to include the last payment to Daniel Boughton for lawn service as well as to pay the funds allocated by the Commonwealth supporting Volunteer Fire Relief to Thompson Hose Co. General Fund ($1669.02) passed unanimously.
Correspondence Presented - Actions Taken
Notice of Wayne Co. Electronics Collection - posted & filed.
Wayne Co. Bd of Assessment & Revision of Taxes - (Home Solutions Partners IV REO LLC) - filed.
Freddy’s Refuse Removal (contract renewal) - signed, posted and filed.
Copy of correspondence sent by D.A. Lehutsky to Deputy Attorney General.
Anthony Forray - Reference to the ‘Mayor” should read “Wall Committee and majority of Council” - filed.
Wayne Co. Board of Elections - permission for Nov. 2, 2010 General Election - signed and returned.
Dept. of the Auditor General - 2010 Commonwealth allocation supporting the Volunteer Fire Relief Association(s) - funds sent to Thompson Hose general fund.
PA Form UC-2 due October 30, 2010 - submitted.
Hess Corporation - Sustainability Report - filed.
Buck Road Bridge Loan - Correspondence from Solicitor Treat regarding loan re-payment requirements. R. Martin made a motion to complete and return the required paperwork to Solicitor Treat. The motion was seconded by B. Glover, A. Kopp abstained and the motion passed.
Hess Road Agreement - The secretary was instructed to make copies of Road Agreements used in other Townships and give to R. Martin - completed.
Hazard Mitigation Report - Mayor DeBalko posted a notice that the meeting was postponed and will update when a meeting is scheduled.
Ballfield Signs - R. Martin reported that the following signs were removed because the annual fee was not received: Empire Insurance, Commonwealth Bank, Porosky Lumber, Pennstar Bank and Lakewood Medical Center.
Winter Road Maintenance 2010-2011 - R. Martin made a motion to advertise for bids in the Wayne Independent and the Susquehanna County Transcript. The motion was seconded by R. Buck and passed unanimously.
Michael Martin’s resignation - Michael Martin’s resignation as Council Member and FEMA-PEMA representative was not accepted at the September meeting due to lack of a quorum. Motion to accept Mr. Martin’s resignation passed unanimously. Mayor DeBalko advised that a copy of Mr. Martin’s resignation should be sent to Cindy Furman at the Election Board.
Appointment of Auditor - President Downton asked if anyone was interested in the position of Auditor - there was no interest expressed.
Appointment of Council member - President Downton opened the floor for nominations. Three people were interested. Paul Everett submitted his letter of interest at the September Council meeting. Lou Gurske and Darl Haynes expressed interest at this meeting. Mr. Palonis stated that Donald Haynes was interested but not present at this meeting. B. Glover, R. Martin and J. Downton voted in favor of Paul Everett. R. Buck, A. Palonis and A. Kopp opposed. The vote was a 3-3 tie. Mayor DeBalko broke the tie with a vote for Paul Everett - final vote 4-3 in favor of Mr. Everett. At this time, Mr. Palonis left the meeting.
Penn Hill Road and Kellogg Road - Following discussion, President Downton made a motion to have a surveyor review the points on the original 2007 maps for Penn Hill Road and Kellogg Road and that the maps should be sent to Solicitor Treat for review concerning the Resolution amended October 1, 2007. The motion was seconded by B. Glover. A. Kopp and R. Buck opposed. The motion carried.
Use of Community Hall - Council approved A. Bennett’s request for softball on Sunday afternoons. Council approved J. Bennett’s request for a Halloween Party.
A discussion followed regarding propane for the Community Hall. R. Martin volunteered to contact Paraco. Motion to have Mr. Martin order 100 gallons of propane passed unanimously.
A discussion followed regarding winterizing the Community Hall. Mr. Kopp volunteered and Mr. Martin offered his assistance also.
President Downton asked the secretary to read PEMA correspondence from John J. Forr, Director (Bureau of Recovery and Mitigation) dated September 15, 2010 concerning Shadigee Creek wall projects in response to President Downton’s correspondence dated July 19, 2010. This correspondence clearly states the events surrounding the damages incurred to the Shadigee Creek Wall and that “FEMA had already determined that both projects (DR 1557-Hurricane Ivan and DR 1587 April 2005 Flooding) were eligible for Public Assistance funding since the Borough had a legal obligation to maintain the wall according to the existing NRCS agreement of March 1996.” The correspondence further stated “In late July/early August 2006, PEMA was informed by the Borough Secretary/Treasurer, Laura Travis that the Borough would not be affecting repairs to the Shadigee Creek retaining wall.” A phone call confirming this followed between the Borough’s Applicant Agent, Darl Haynes, and the PEMA Public Assistance Officer, John Forr. The applicant Agent was informed that “since the Borough would not be completing the work according to the provisions of the ‘Scope of Work’ in the project worksheets, all funding must be returned and the projects closed.” The FEMA funds allocated for the repair of the Shadigee Creek Wall were de-obligated (returned to FEMA) because “the Borough decided not to complete the projects.”
There was no public comment although some discussion followed regarding the PEMA correspondence.
The meeting adjourned at 8:00 p.m. with a motion made by B. Glover and seconded by R. Martin.
CORRECTION - At the meeting held on November 1, 2010 Mr. Kopp objected to the October Minutes as read because reference to a letter from PEMA dated August 17, 2006 and read by Mr. Kopp at the October meeting was not included in the Minutes as read.