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Prior to its regular meeting on December 1, the Susquehanna Community School Board first held their annual reorganization. Mike Kosko was elected president pro tempore, to conduct nominations and the election. Both president Terry Carpenter and vice president Jim Bucci were nominated and unanimously voted to retain their positions, and were then sworn in by secretary Evelyn Cottrell.
With this business taken care of the board then began their regular meeting. The board approved the minutes of their October 20 meeting, filing of the treasurer’s report, the general fund bills, the food service report, filing of the activity fund and athletic fund reports.
Superintendent Bronson Stone reported that, in December, the district would be filing a required biannual report, information from which is used to assess the quality of implementation of funds received through Title II. These funds are earmarked for improvements in technology, and have been used to update the district’s website and to hold “parents academies,” which the district hosts on a regular basis on a variety of subjects. And, the federal budget for education for the coming year has been solidified; the district will see an increase in Title V funding.
During reports of district personnel, Mr. Stone commended Mr. Kosko for his 25 years of service on the board, and presented him with a plaque in recognition of his contribution to the community.
Mr. Stone again urged district residents to file their applications with the county assessment office for Act 72 tax relief, to be implemented when the state receives revenues from gambling. It is vital that these applications be submitted he said, not only to determine if homeowners are qualified for the tax relief, but if the applications are not submitted it will cost the district considerably to have to re-mail applications; although the state has mandated that the applications be sent out, no (state) provisions were made for the costs involved in the mailing. School Districts have had to foot the bill for distributing the applications, which was an unexpected expenditure.
Elementary principal Bob Keyes noted that recent parent-teacher conferences were very well attended, with 88% of students represented. Many of the elementary students are participating in “Operation Ornament,” where handmade Christmas ornaments will be sent to troops overseas in Iraq, through the efforts of the National Association of Elementary and Secondary Principals, a very worthwhile project, Mr. Keyes said. A number of elementary students participated in making ornaments to be used on the Christmas wreaths placed in downtown Susquehanna as well. And, the elementary school was the recipient of the Keystone Achievement Award, a public recognition given to schools that show improvement by meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards for two consecutive years. It was a very proud achievement, Mr. Keyes said, one that many have worked very hard to achieve, and hope to continue to do by continuing to strive for annual progress.
In keeping with “always looking for ways to improve,” high school principal Mike Lisowski reported that surveys have been sent to the families of students who are participating in both the athletic programs and in other areas of extracurricular activity. Findings from the surveys will be used to determine how these programs can be improved. He stressed that the surveys are not intended to be an evaluation of any of the district’s coaches, but to allow students to have the opportunity to give their input to make the district’s programs better. Surveys were mailed to students’ homes, so that parents could also provide input. Information from the surveys will be compiled and passed onto the district’s sports coaches. So far, Mr. Lisowski said, there had not been the response he would like to see, and he is looking into other ways to distribute the surveys, such as having students distribute them. Mr. Stone added that surveys will be available for other programs besides athletics and that, further down the road, the surveys will also be made available to those students who have not participated in athletics. Mr. Lisowski stressed that the intent of the surveys is to give coaches more insight into students’ thoughts on the programs.
Special ed coordinator Joni Miller was, in her words, “excited” to report that compliance monitoring by the state Department of Education was completed in November, with findings showing that the district passed with “flying colors.” This monitoring is conducted every five years to ensure districts’ compliance with special ed regulations as mandated by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. As part of the process, an on-site team conducted interviews with teachers, parents, students and administration, reviewed policies, notices, plans, special education forms, data reports, and student file reports. The overall findings proved that the district did extremely well, and was in compliance for most items. Commendations were received for inclusion practices and transition programs for students aged 16 or older. It was, she said, a collaborative effort, with credit to all teachers involved in the program, as well as students and parents that participated in the monitoring. The Special Ed department will continue to work diligently with parents to deliver service to the district’s exceptional students, she said, and commended staff members from both buildings. “It took a real team effort to pull this off.”
During public comment, sophomore Student Council member Ashley Hubal addressed the board. She had attended a state conference in November, along with two other students, and had made the decision to volunteer to be a NE PA representative of the Student Council. As such, she will be attending a district conference, and will have the opportunity to attend a national conference and a leadership camp.
In other business, the board approved a meeting schedule for the coming year, with regular board meetings to be held on Wednesdays: January 19, February 16, March 16, April 20, May 18, June 15, July 20, August 17, September 21, October 19, and December 7, with all meetings at 7:30 p.m. in the administration offices. Information and deliberation sessions will be held on the Tuesday prior to the meetings, same time and place.
Additions to the substitute list were approved: Caleb Lee, emergency certification; Karyn Armitage, emergency certification; John Mann, maintenance; Tracy Druhl, emergency certification; Mildred Herbert, clerical; Sue Crawford, boys basketball game manager (junior varsity and varsity); and, Ashley Keenen, clerical.
Three bus contract changes were approved, as were resignations from Rebecca Lewis, assistant drama advisor; Maria Arneil, instrumental music, marching band, summer band; Phyllis French, secondary library aide; Bobbi Jo Norris, nurse.
Hiring of the following was approved: Sarah French, assistant junior high girls’ basketball; Roland Salamon, assistant junior high boys’ basketball; Mary Salomon, part-time substitute nurse; Roxann Lloyd, secondary library aide.
The following individuals were approved for volunteer positions: Leah Salamon, drama; elementary wrestling – Louis Sparks, Mark Sheriff, Chris Carver, Brian Wheeler; Phil Stein, junior high girls’ basketball; Ray Price, junior high girls’ basketball.
The board approved renewal of an Epix Internet service contract for a three-year period, July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2008. Mr. Stone explained that, while the actual costs of this service might seem to be a considerable amount of money, federal funding is received to cover 70% of its costs.
The board approved Plan Con Part K, project refinancing for Lease number 042092, which Mr. Stone explained is finalizing of the bond refinancing that the board had previously approved.
Also approved was homebound instruction for a student in grade 11, a list of activities, workshops and conferences, and a list of fundraising requests.
The meeting adjourned to an executive session, to discuss a personnel issue.
The next regular meeting will be on Wednesday, January 19, 7:30 p.m. in the administration offices.
Last week we got a close look at what Bronson Pinchot is doing in Harford, restoring some of its oldest houses and giving the little village a new lease on life. But who is Bronson Pinchot, after all? As a stage, screen and television actor, Mr. Pinchot is a celebrity, whose biography can be found just about anywhere. As one might expect, there's more to him than his very long list of acting credits, or what one might find in a press release.
Mr. Pinchot's grandfather's family was originally from southern Russia. Mr. Pinchot doesn't know much about his grandfather, except that his father was born in New York City when his grandfather and grandmother were visiting this country, just as the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917; they settled in France instead of returning to Russia. His father grew up in Paris, and retained a French accent all his life, but returned to New York as an adult where he married a Brooklyn native. With an unusual attachment to America, he also adopted a new name. Pinchot has a French flavor (pronounced PINCH-oh) and happened to be the name of two-time Pennsylvania governor, Gifford Pinchot, a progressive and an early environmentalist. So Bronson Pinchot has deep, if indirect, Pennsylvania roots.
His father was also fond of American literature, so he named one of his sons for the Alcott family. Amos Bronson Alcott was the father of Louisa May, author of "Little Women." Bronson's full name is Bronson Alcott Pinchot. He says that "part of the attraction of the small house across the street from his own is [that] it reminds me very much of the Alcott house in Concord, Massachusetts, in miniature." (Curiously, Louisa May Alcott was born in Pennsylvania, in Germantown, in 1832. She moved with her family to Concord in 1840, and it is the decade of the 1840's that she describes in her most famous work, the same decade during which these houses in Harford were built.)
Mr. Pinchot's father moved the family to California, where he promptly abandoned his wife and four small children (all under age 6) to live the good life. His mother had to struggle to raise them by herself, in South Pasadena, an otherwise "fairly moneyed place," as he recalls it. He remembers being informed by playmates that he was poor. "... [O]ne of the other kids came up to me and said, `Are you a nationality?' I seem to remember answering, `No, I'm an institution.'"
In jest, Mr. Pinchot says, "I knew I was academically a high achiever." Yet his achievement got him a scholarship to Yale, where he expected to study art. "I've always been an artist," he says. But his art turned from painting to the theater at Yale, and he hasn't looked back. He admits that he hasn't painted anything significant in 20 years.
Toward the end of his senior year at Yale, a professor who was working on a musical in New York suggested that he visit the city for an audition. Mr. Pinchot says that, as a gawky youngster in braces, he attracted little attention. So he sat in a lobby waiting area for about 5 hours until, by the time he was given a tryout, he had absorbed enough tidbits to help make a surprisingly good impression.
He didn't get that part, but he did make some contacts that bore fruit later the same year when he was making his professional stage debut in a play called "Poor Little Lambs" ("ironically playing a Yalie," as he says). A film producer who saw his performance declaimed, "We want the guy in the beret!" That won him a role in the film – "Risky Business" – which came out in 1983 and became a hit for himself as well as for another newcomer, Tom Cruise. Three years later he was co-starring in the TV sitcom, "Perfect Strangers," which ran for nearly 7 years. Mr. Pinchot admits that not all of the hair he wore as Balki Bartokomous was his own. Now, at age 45, he may have somewhat less than he had then, but it hasn't stopped him from pursuing all of his interests, including acting. His long-standing interest in old houses, particularly 18th and early- to mid-nineteenth century, is on display in Harford. In addition to old and rare books, an interest he acquired from his father, who was a book restorer, he has a deep interest and knowledge of classical Greece, including its art, and especially architecture. "That's why I have to have a Greek Revival house," he says. That, "and the look of Virginia Brainard's roses" across the street.
He makes his living on the stage and in front of cameras, however, a vocation he has pursued around the world. Because he likes to make people laugh, he specializes in physical comedy, and calls himself a "comic actor." He says that physical comedy stays with an audience longer than dialog, and he likes to hear from people who have appreciated his performances long after. Shooting a movie about Laurel and Hardy in South Africa (he played Stan Laurel in "For Love or Mummy", 1999), he was delighted to see people laughing blocks away, although they couldn't possibly have heard the dialog. While he has done some "heavily dramatic parts in independent movies," he clearly prefers comic acting, and has never done "stand-up comedy."
Mr. Pinchot has done voice-overs, Shakespeare, musicals, and a wide variety of TV appearances besides "Perfect Strangers." He hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 1987. His most recent work was in the comedy "Sly Fox," in New York, with Richard Dreyfuss. It was during that performance that he severely injured an ankle.
He is currently working on a new musical comedy called "Chasing Nicolette," to run at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia from December 4, 2004 through January 2, 2005, a holiday feature based on a 13th century French romantic poem called Aucassin and Nicolette. There are hopes that the play will make it to New York next year. Mr. Pinchot has been working on the production in various ways for nearly 4 years. And he has to dance on that bad ankle. A tub of ice is kept backstage to reduce the swelling between scenes.
Mr. Pinchot says that he has no real preference between movies and theater. He has concentrated his recent work on the stage on the East Coast, primarily so he can be close to his projects in Harford. He has been commuting (almost daily) to Philadelphia.
He says that most people "don't really think much of acting" as a job or profession, at least beyond the celebrity of it. He said that once, when he paid a visit to his 90-year-old grandmother, she asked where he'd been. He told her that he had been working in Chicago. When she asked what he had been doing in Chicago, and he told her he was acting, she just said, "You call that work?" Apparently she thought he should have been driving a truck, or making sausage.
"Theater people are great!" he says. "They're the working class of the performing world." "It's like a real job... a more grown-up way to make a living" than TV or movies. Because the company works closely together for an extended period, they become more like a family.
"Plays are about passion," he says. He doesn't much care what form a work takes, "as long as it's good." He tends to do a lot of preparation – at least in his head – before a performance on stage. Even if his character's motivation isn't what he would prefer, he can try to project a different motivation into the work so that he can play it well, as if he was really sympathetic to the character. When he was developing a project based on Dickens, he consulted one of the English author's biographers, who told him that, as a comic actor he already had the basics. He was told to simply "read the books." Which he did, all of them. The young Dickens apparently dreamed of becoming a comic actor. Had he been as successful as Mr. Pinchot, "we'd never have any of those books."
The acting trade has clearly been good for Bronson Pinchot. Commuting back and forth to Harford is "incredibly exhausting," but performing is what he does for a living. ("Besides," he says, "I can practice my lines in the car, even though it makes the truck drivers look at me like I'm nuts.") He concedes that his early success went to his head somewhat. His success has also allowed him to care for what he values. When his mother was "involuntarily retired" and worried for what she would do, he told her he would take care of her. "What do you want to do?" he asked her. She wanted to try the theater. She's 76 years old, "and in a play right now" in community theater in California, he says. "She's incredibly good."
Lately Mr. Pinchot has brought his head – and his heart – to Harford, which he calls his "only home." He has tried to become a part of a community that is necessarily somewhat isolated from stage, screen and TV, joining the 200-year-old Congregational Church congregation, and becoming a third- degree Mason with Harford Lodge Number 445. Giving tours of his projects isn't really something he's comfortable with, however. "Giving eight performances a week, if you're any good, is like taking 2,000 people on a tour of your soul. When I come home, I'm all toured out." He has offered tidbits of expertise when asked by players in the Endless Mountains Theater Company. But while his presence is making a notable difference in the little town, the town in turn is making a difference in Mr. Pinchot. At the stage door following a performance in New York, he introduced some 25 members of the audience to the cast as “my town.”
Mandates Are Pushing Taxes Up
Susquehanna County’s 2005 budget made its public debut last Wednesday and shortly afterwards Commissioner Jeff Loomis said further review of the new spending plan will result in changes before final adoption later this month.
No word yet on how the budget will impact on the county’s real estate tax rate but Mr. Loomis believes it will go up anywhere from one-half mill to two mills.
When the current commissioners took office in January, they reopened the 2004 budget and subsequently raised the real estate tax from 9.75 mills to 10.255 mills. However, they had no choice because the outgoing administration made cutbacks that would have damaged the effectiveness of several departments.
Mr. Loomis said pay raises for union employees coupled with a requirement that the county pay 100 percent of the health insurance premiums for all union employees and their families is partially responsible for the impending tax increase. He added that the county must put $1,039,000 in the retirement fund, a move necessitated by bad investments from the agency that was administering the pension fund three or four years ago.
As presented, the 2005 budget totals $18.4 million compared with $16.1 million in the 2004 budget. Included in this year’s budget is $11.3 million in the general fund. The amount includes $1 million the county must pump into the retirement program.
One of the more expensive items in the budget is telephone service. Much of it is due to the 9-1-1 emergency system although county telephone users are assessed $1.50 per month for every telephone line and that money is applied toward the county’s expenses. In 2005, the county budget for all phone service is estimated at $573,000 and includes alarm and answering services as well as tower leasing fees.
Maintenance, salaries and insurances on county-owned buildings will exceed $500,000 this year. The amount also included $60,000 for renovations to the county office building on Public Avenue and $10,000 for renovations in the courthouse annex (Warner Building) where individual offices have been made for the county commissioners.
The county anticipates revenues in 2005 of $18,605, 883 and expenses of $18,410,658 including liquid fuel funds.
Some other areas with noticeable spending expected includes the county commissioners‚ offices, $559,022; Planning and Zoning, $167,784; Recorder of Deeds, $295,850; Public Defenders, $134,959; Treasurer’s office, $182,053; tax collectors, $199,323; 9-1-1, $1,087,092. A number of offices, like the Recorder of Deeds and the Treasurer, generate sizable amounts of revenue annually for the county.
Commissioner Loomis said the budget may be up for preliminary approval at the December 14 meeting and then formally adopted on Dec. 22. The timetable allows plenty of time for county residents to review the budget and also gives the county the required days for public display of the spending plan.
Shortly after 4 a.m. on the morning of November 30, someone threw a bottle from a passing vehicle that smashed the front window of a home belonging to Kandy Rose, Lenox Township.*
Unknown person(s) entered a barn belonging to Charles Mannear, Jessup, and siphoned gasoline from the farm tractor sometime between November 20 and 26.*
At the Penn Can Truck Stop in Harford, someone pumped $32.75 of gasoline into his or her car late on the afternoon of November 30 and drove off without paying.
On the afternoon of November 27, someone pumped $21.21 of fuel into a gray four-door sedan and left the Pump & Pantry in Great Bend Township without paying for it.*
Someone entered a vehicle belonging to Mark Wills, Great Bend Township, sometime between late afternoon of November 26 and the following morning, and removed two packs of GPU cigarettes.*
Between the night of November 26 and 11 a.m. the following morning, someone took $20 in cash, $25 in coins and a prescription for Tylenol with codeine from a vehicle belonging to Joseph Frye, Great Bend Township, while the vehicle was parked in his driveway.*
Between the late afternoon of November 26 and mid-morning of the following day, a person(s) took a purse and a black satchel with a stenographer’s machine inside it from a vehicle belonging to Ruth Lynch, Great Bend Township. The person then went to the parking lot of Susquehanna Small Engine, Inc. about a quarter-mile south and went through Lynch’s items, removing a small amount of money from the purse and fleeing the scene, leaving the purse and machine behind in the lot.*
Between the night of November 26 and early the next morning, someone entered a vehicle belonging to Barbara Robinson, Great Bend Township, while it was parked in the driveway of her home. Taken were a 14-carat gold bracelet with fencing charms attached; $200 in cash, $10 in quarters and $10 in gold dollar coins.*
Between the night of November 26 and early the next morning, someone entered a vehicle belonging to Brian Hinkley, Great Bend Township, and stole an undetermined amount of money from inside it.*
Unknown person(s) arrived at or passed by the Ford dealership on State Route 374 in Lenoxville and threw two large stones through its front plate-glass window, smashing it. The stones then landed against a new 2005 Ford Escape, damaging the door. This incident took place between October 18 and 19.*
An inspection sticker was taken from the windshield of a 1991 Chrysler LeBaron belonging to Michael Matthew Ely, Sr., Dimock Township. This theft took place between November 22 and 24.*
While a female was waiting outside Flynn’s Stone Castle, Lawton, in a white sedan, her male companion was inside gathering cartons of cigarettes. The man then ran outside to the waiting vehicle which was last observed traveling on State Route 706 West. The female is described as approximately 20 years old with bleached blond hair; the man – in his early 20s, short black hair and wearing a black coat and blue jersey. This incident took place on the evening of October 18.*
Sometime between 6 and 8:30 p.m. on November 12, Paul Barlow, 29, Great Bend, is accused of breaking into Purple Sage Pizza on Main Street in Great Bend and causing a significant amount of damage there. The business was closed at the time. An investigation resulted in the arrest of Barlow who is lodged in the county jail.
All four tires and rims were stolen from a 2002 Ford Explorer at Simmons Rockwell Ford on Route 11 in Great Bend Township sometime between the evening of November 25 and the following morning.
THEFT BY UNLAWFUL TAKING, CRIMINAL TRESPASS
Between November 16 and 24, an unknown person(s) went onto private property on Muckey Run Road in Liberty Township, entered an unlocked panel truck used for storage and took approximately 20-30 garbage bags full of soda cans and bottles – leaving the scene undetected.
A 1989 Ford Escort driven by Robert Rzewski, 37, Waymart, was traveling west on State Road 106 in Clifford Township on the evening of November 25. Rzewski lost control of the car which left the road and hit a tree. Rzewski was cited for driving a vehicle at unsafe speeds and careless driving.
FLEEING, ATTEMPTING TO ELUDE POLICE
Two female juveniles, both 17 and both from New York State, were passengers in a green 1993 Pontiac Bonneville driven by an unknown white male that led State Police on a 15-minute pursuit. The pursuit began at 7 on the morning of November 25 when the Pontiac fled from police on Route 29 south, continued to Old County Road, Fernheim Road, Williams Pond Road, to Route 706, Franklin Hill Road to Forks Hill Road and once again to Route 29. The pursuit went through Bridgewater Township, New Milford Township, New Milford Borough and Franklin Township. The driver and the two passengers abandoned the car at Forks Hill Road and Route 29 in Franklin Township and fled on foot. The two female juveniles were apprehended a few minutes later at a local residence. The investigation is continuing and charges are pending.
Between the evening of November 23 and the following morning, someone pried open the door on and damaged a Pepsi vending machine at the intersection of State Roads 2027 and 2014 in the village of Dundaff, Clifford Township.*
A vehicle belonging to Thomas Lucente, Montrose, was damaged while it was parked at the A&A Auto Parts Store on Route 706 in Bridgewater Township sometime between the evening of November 24 and the following morning. Two rear windows valued at approximately $600 were apparently shot out of the vehicle.
The back window of a Lincoln Town car belonging to Millicent Holdsworth, Bridgewater Township, was shot out sometime between the evening of November 24 and the following morning.
* Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the State Police at 465-3154.
Mildred L. Patrillo to J. Parker Properties, in Susquehanna for $12,000.
Dean Y. Regan and Leona T. Regan to Walter A. Kernechel and nn G. Kernechel, in Bridgewater and New Milford townships for one dollar.
Terence W. Repine and Susan K. Repine to Joseph R. Kelleher and Michele A. Morningstar, in Apolacon Township for $100,000.
Daniel P. Hollis and Krista A. Hollis to Ryan Lafferty, Kimberly Ryon , Howard C. Wyandt, and Mary Karen Wyandt, in Union Dale Borough for $102,000.
Beulah Lyman to Emory C. Doyle and Bernice L. Doyle, in Ararat Township and an out of county municipality for $4,900.
Emory C. Doyle and Bernice L. Doyle to Emory C. Doyle and Bernice L. Doyle, in Ararat Township and an out of county municipality for one dollar.
Frederick Sanders to Jonathan J. Finley and Christina B. Finley, in Thompson Township for $142,500.
Frederick Sanders to Jonathan J . Finley and Christina B. Finley, in Thompson Township for one dollar.
Thomas E. Burkert and Erica Z. Burkert to Gregory Sperduto, in Thompson Borough for $141,000.
Florence M. Hugaboom to Florence M. Hugaboom, in Ararat Township for one dollar.
Glenn W. Andersen and Randi L. Andersen to Mill-Pond Properties Inc., in Herrick Township for $132,500.
Rafael Mattey Jr. and Evelyn Mattey to Louis J. Mercadante and Betty Jane Mercadante, in Forest City for $115,000.
Nicholas B. Quackenbush and Alicia Quackenbush to Christopher R. Tripp and Jessie L. Tripp, in Dimock Township for $65,000.
Harry A. Jerauld to Linda M. Matthews, Alan W. Jerauld, Gary R. Jerauld, and Diane Myers, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
Theresa Raggazzino to Robert Darrow and Ella Darrow, in Franklin Township for $48,000.
Michael J. Case (by sheriff) to LaSalle Banka (fka) LaSalle National Bank, in Hallstead Borough for $6,981.
Myles L. Strohl and Karen R. Strohl to Daniel Strohl and K. Ann Strohl, in Dimock Township for $45,000.
Mary J. Donnelly Gana to Richard Patrick Donnelly and Mary L. Donnelly, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Shawn Edwards to Shawn Edwards and Gordon R. Stanley, in Hallstead Borough, for one dollar.
Lisa Saam to Lisa Saam and Robert L. Spangenberg, in Ararat Township for one dollar.
Paul F. Krzan to Ellen Krzan, in Forest City for one dollar.
John H. Sholtiss and Darleen Sholtiss to Leonard R. Aldrich, in Oakland Township for $40,000.
Sylvia McPherson to Anthony J. Noble and Ashley N. Noble, in Bridgewater Township for $79,900.
Nile Preston and Marie Preston to Leon Mock, in Apolacon Township for $40,000.
David W. Eddy and Mary F. Eddy to Steven Matthew DeRiancho, in Forest Lake Township for $94,500.
J. Parker Properties to James H. Jump, in Bridgewater Township for $76,000.
Lana Fabrizi and Augustine Fabrizi to Steven Jon Fabrizi, in Oakland Borough for $60,000.
Thomas A. Pascoe and Kathleen K. Pascoe to Thomas A. Pascoe and Kathleen K. Pascoe, in Montrose for one dollar.
Kevin M. Holgate, Hop Bottom, and Alma Paulouskieme, Nicholson.
Jamey N. Shoemaker and Amy Marie Hillgren, both of Meshoppen.
Lyle W. Moyer and Rachel Arlene Johnson, both of Montrose.
In our Mountain View School District Board of Education meeting report, run in our issue of December 1, we inadvertently erred on Ms. (not Mrs.) Vagni’s update regarding Student Leadership Council AND Student Council (two different groups). In fact, Student Council collected over 3,000 canned goods and $600.00 in cash. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
The regular meeting on the Susquehanna County Planning Commission held on November 30 authenticated the land use proposals that had been acted upon through the month by office personnel. These included subdivision and land development for Charles and Norma Jaget of Gibson Township, Ruth States, Springville Township, and Charles Krieg of Harmony Township. They also gave positive comment to an addition of ten acres to Temple and Ann Smith property in Liberty Township.
Bills for the month were in excess of $2000, with much of that amount being spent at the Pennsylvania Planning Association Annual Meeting. Planning Director Robert Templeton spoke highly of the conference from which the attending members brought back much relevant information to be used as guidelines and impetus for planning in Susquehanna County. In his report, Templeton praised the work and input of Arthur Loeben, Planning Director of Montgomery County for thirty-three years and a respected voice in Pennsylvania land use planning. Templeton quoted Loeben as saying, "Sprawl will not stop until the state government follows the practices of other states and allows the use of strict growth boundaries." Templeton continued, "This is not what developers and property rights advocates would like to hear, but I believe Mr. Loeben is correct."
The resignation of Planning Commission member Margaret Biegert was accepted. Biegert represented the Susquehanna/Lanesboro/Oakland area, but cannot continue because of new employment. Suggestions to replace her can be offered to the County Commissioners who make the appointment.
Of concern to the Planning Office is the fact that the Recorders Office has upgraded their system so they will no longer be using aperture cards. These cards are very important to the Planning office and will now cost that office $2 per card.
With 2004 coming to a close, Secretary/Planner Amy Payne is working on the annual report. She has also recently attended the Pennsylvania Planning Association Conference and thanked the Planning Commission for allowing her to attend. Michael Villanella has made a map of the stone quarries in the county. Some quarries may have been missed, and owners are invited to add them to the map.
Business was dispatched in record time, and the Planning Commission members then stayed on for a lengthy discussion of other things that impact planning and the County. They realized from the State Planning Conference that Susquehanna County has the least income per capita of any county in the state. It also has the second oldest population and an identity problem. Someone noted that if you’re not moving ahead, you are falling behind.
During the discussion a recommendation was given that at some of the Planning Commission meetings, speakers would make presentations on different concerns of the County. This idea was met with enthusiasm. They will also ask the County Commissioners for an intern this coming year.
There was frustration that the evening Community Forums have had to be stopped because the County Commissioners will not pay overtime for the Deputy Director and Secretary/Planner to attend.
Because of holidays the next meeting of the Planning Commission will be December 21.
The December meeting of the New Milford Borough Council, at which all members were present, seemed to be full of good things, starting with the town’s 2005 budget. It was approved by members and, for the second year in a row – following a year in which Council voted to actually cut borough taxes, there is no tax increase for residents. In fact, after all the town’s December bills are paid, the group expects to see a decent surplus carried over into next year which will be added to other funds set aside for an ambitious street-paving plan that’s in the works.
It was also reported that the borough now owns its borough building free and clear. The last of the accelerated payments – so it could be paid off earlier than called for – was made before the meeting.
The town will also get a siren. Not that it needs one to call firefighters to respond to an emergency – pagers do that today. Rather, it is meant to alert residents of situations they should know about. Council has been trying for two years to get a grant for one, and the roomful of residents who showed up at the council meeting after the flooding wanted one, too.
A group of involved residents has gotten them one. Last month, council members heard from Mike McCain about his research on and his efforts to obtain funding for a siren. Janet Glatzl, speaking on behalf of the women’s auxiliary, explained that the auxiliary, working with McCain and Ray Cobb of the fire company, will take care of paying for the siren and the cost of its installation – no small thing, since the siren weighs 400 pounds. Glatzl wanted to know if that was okay.
Was it ever. Council members were surprised, delighted and happily agreeable to the borough’s maintaining the siren’s operational costs (principally, electricity) once it is installed. When that happens, residents will be notified about under what circumstances the siren will be sounded, and what patterns to listen for. Many letters of thanks will also be sent to those who dedicated their time and money to bring a siren to the town.
In other good news, the borough also got good marks from Mark Wood, the county’s emergency management director. In November, Wood met with several members of council as well as town emergency coordinator Jim Carpenetti to critique how they responded during the recent flood and evacuation and what they could do to improve response going forward. A representative came up from Harrisburg, too, to sit in on the meeting.
Borough president Scott Smith reported that Wood stated that the town “did everything it was supposed to do – in fact, doing better than most.” Wood stated that Carpenetti was one of the few municipal emergency coordinators to call the county communications center and keep it apprised of the situation in New Milford. The Red Cross was contacted, and Wood explained that it is the responsibility of the county – and not the borough – to do that.
What should have been done regarding the evacuation (which nobody is quite sure by whom it was called)? Wood replied that Carpenetti should have come to council for a recommendation of evacuation. He explained that the only person who can enforce one is the governor; the mayor can declare a state of emergency and, in the absence of the mayor, a designated council person (in this case, it would be Smith) can assume that responsibility.
Wood’s recommendation was to gather representatives from the state police, the fire company, Carpenetti and council members together for a meeting Wood would attend and at which a mock emergency situation would be set up, as well as to develop a check list of actions to anyone from the town who is involved in handling an emergency situation. Council will do both.
Members also heard a report from council member Teri Gulick and secretary Amy Hine who reported that this year’s Santa in the Park was a resounding success. A record number of children – more than a hundred – showed up for horse and buggy rides (paid for by the Parkview Hotel), hot dogs from the Men’s Club and, of course, a visit with Santa and a photo to remember the occasion. Hine will send more thank-you letters from council to all who helped make it a fine day for kids in the town.
An agenda item may prove good news to a few borough residents, and its action on it was prompted by a resident who attended the meeting. The resident owns a business that, along with homes in the vicinity, was badly flooded and damaged when tons of water could no longer be held in by creek banks. The flooding in that area has gotten worse over time, from a few inches to a few feet in times of heavy rain. Along with others, he can’t afford a FEMA loan and is tired of having to keep fixing his property after high water.
This resident and others who were flooded do not own the land adjoining the creek. In the past, he noted, the town used to dredge the creeks. Now it is the responsibility of property-owners who border the creeks, and some have no reason to act on cleaning up or taking care of the creek because, while it may flood land, water does not come into their buildings. The resident thought it was council’s responsibility to go after landowners to take care of a creek that spills over from the owner’s property onto others, where it does damage. He did not think it was, or should be, the responsibility of owners of damaged property.
Council wasn’t sure about this one, but member Chris Allen, who has been working closely with the railroad, state agencies and property owners in flood clean up, reported that the creek in question really does not even have banks any more. Where it runs under a bridge, he said that gravel banks deposited there have made the passage half as wide as it used to be.
The resident made a convincing argument that, if the borough could cite residents for code or other violations on a private property, then it could take some sort of control when it comes to properties that are a problem on the creek. “I think the borough should seek help,” he said, adding that landowners bordering the Susquehanna in the Wilkes-Barre area did not build the levees to protect property there; its city council and those of the boroughs along the river sought state financing to do it. “I think a lot of the problem could be alleviated if the borough went in and cleaned the creek from bank to bank,” he said.
Council member Rick Ainey suggested several things: to see if the railroad owns both sides of a bridge and to see if it would do its part; to find out from DEP or the appropriate agency who would be cited and who would issue a citation should someone go into a creek without permission; to look more closely at the town’s flood ordinance which he thought had not been enforced, with people moving or filling in a flood plain, displacing water that goes somewhere else – like onto other people’s property; and – here’s where the agenda item comes in – to apply for a CDBG grant that, if received, would be used for dredging the creek. Council will follow through on all these suggestions.
In other business, members reported on a recent meeting with COG Codes representatives about enforcement of the town zoning requirements. Codes inspectors used to do it but now COG says it can’t because there is no one trained to do it, and questions of liability might arise. Council decided to advertise, then, for an on-call officer who would be responsible for zoning and non-UCC codes enforcement. It will do that soon; in the meantime, Smith will act as interim officer.
Gulick reported on actions taken by the town’s planning commission at its latest meeting. This included welcoming new board member Jackie Ferenczy. The commission is also recommending that no-parking warnings be painted on certain sections of certain streets, that new no-parking signs be placed in problem areas around town, and that an ordinance be developed that outlines who could enforce violation of parking ordinances. Currently, no one does, so there’s little incentive to pay attention to current signs. Council approved all of the Commission’s recommendations, and Gulick will report back with a proposed ordinance.
In the ongoing discussion about the police pension plan, Hine reported that she received information on the phone from the secretary of Great Bend Borough about disposition of any excess plan assets (they revert to the state), and will request written confirmation of the plan’s status for borough records.
This meeting of mostly really nice news adjourned. The next regular council meeting is scheduled for January 6 at 7 p.m. in the borough building.
Great Bend Borough Council chair Ray Holtzman is still trying to impose some discipline on his sometimes unruly colleagues, and at the meeting on December 2 he was largely successful, working through a detailed agenda in an orderly manner without too many of the digressions these friendly neighbors are often given to in their discussions. They were most happy to listen to an idea that might bring more police protection to the town.
Mr. Holtzman credited Borough Secretary Sheila Guinan with moving the proposal along so quickly, and for bringing Susquehanna Borough Police Chief Tom Golka to the meeting to help describe what could be done.
Great Bend Borough has long been dissatisfied with the level of support provided by the State Police. The Borough once shared a police department with Great Bend Township, Hallstead Borough, and New Milford Borough. It was disbanded several years ago because of rising costs and falling support from the other municipalities. Yet residents are still concerned about speeding on Borough streets, and a general inability to enforce traffic laws, Borough ordinances, and to control vandalism.
Chief Golka told Council that he and his force of four officers should have no difficulty fitting Great Bend into their schedule. He even said that an expanded coverage area might help to bring in more state funds for local policing, since the state has recently been pushing "regionalization," particularly in more rural areas. He said he could enforce all state and local laws and ordinances, except for building codes. (The Great Bend Council and the county Council of Governments handle local codes ordinances.) The Susquehanna force now has two cars, and, according to Mr. Golka, could even provide a bicycle patrol in the summer.
Chief Golka said that what he could do would depend on negotiations between Susquehanna and Great Bend Boroughs on costs. Without committing himself or his borough, he said that current costs are about $20 per man-hour; adding another area would cost an additional $1,100 or so for workmen's compensation coverage each year. He also noted that a rule in his department is that patrols after midnight require two officers.
Great Bend Borough Council members have been frustrated with speeders, particularly on Main Street, and with their inability to enforce any local ordinances, not even one-way designations on some streets. Not to mention persistent vandalism in the town's three parks. "We're wide open," said Jerry MacConnell.
Council also formally adopted its budget for 2005 at the meeting. While it calls for an increase in spending of about $13,000 over 2004, the budget does not provide for whatever cost might be involved with supporting local police coverage. According to Ms. Guinan, assessed valuation of real estate in the Borough is just under $7,000,000, which translates into about $48,000 in tax revenue. The new budget, like those of the past several years, calls for no increase in property taxes.
Council has been trying to get the local water company to repair sunken sections of Borough streets over their water lines. Apparently some minor patching has been done, but there has been no direct response from the water company to Borough inquiries. Council has also tried to get the State Police to respond to inquiries about police coverage in the town, so far to no effect.
This year water has been a problem just about everywhere in the area. In Great Bend Borough, a resident on Franklin Street has complained about water in his basement, apparently from a large accumulation of water in a low place in the street. Some Council members are concerned that residents have paved driveways too far out into the street, and at a level that blocks whatever gutters and ditches there are from carrying water properly to storm drains. They recognize, however, that low places such as this one do occur and will need to be built up to help carry water away. Council is still considering a way to install or improve curbing along Borough streets, which may also help.
Borough employee Alan Grannis has been refurbishing traffic and parking signs throughout the village. The Borough purchased 20 new stop signs. Some stop signs are being refurbished, others are being replaced.
Council created a committee for street lights. Residents who find street lights that are not operating are asked to note the pole number (on a plate affixed to the pole) and report them to the office. Council would like to have older lights replaced with newer, brighter, more efficient lights, but lights aren't likely to be replaced unless the old ones are broken. Penelec owns the lights, but the Borough pays the electric bill. Council is still looking for someone with equipment, or a very long ladder and the willingness to climb it, to replace a bulb in a light in Greenwood Park.
Council received a letter from the Broome Volunteer Emergency Squad (BVES) thanking the Borough for its confidence in allowing BVES to operate in the town. The letter reports that BVES has handled 50 calls so far in the area. Response times have been averaging about 5 minutes, sometimes less.
The Broome ambulance squad was named as an available emergency responder late last summer, after the Great Bend- Hallstead Ambulance Service ceased operating when its license was revoked. The local volunteers are still trying to revive the service, and called a meeting for the evening of Monday, December 6, to lay out available options and receive input from the community. Rumors swirl about the state of the local ambulance service. There is still considerable feeling in the community that the outsiders (BVES) are "in it for the money." Ms. Guinan pointed out that BVES is entitled to request reimbursement for workmen's compensation for the portion of its calls in Susquehanna County. Mr. MacConnell said that they could request it, but the Borough might decide not to pay. This was not a generally accepted view, however.
Rick Franks announced the receipt of a check for $1,000 from the Tim Fancher Memorial Race. According to Mr. Franks, there are no strings attached to the money, but he suggested that the original intent was that the proceeds were to be spent on the parks.
Since the Borough is not required to have a formal "reorganization" meeting this year, Council decided to schedule its meetings as always, on the first Thursday of each month, beginning at 7:00 p.m., at the Borough Building at Elizabeth and Franklin Streets. The next one will be on January 6, 2005.
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