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State of Emergency Declared in Delaware Township

March 3, 2018

The Delaware Township Board of Supervisors along with the Delaware Township Emergency Coordinator, George Beodeker have declared a State of Emergency.

Travel throughout the township is limited and dangerous due to down trees and powerlines.  Travel should be restricted to only essential services/personnel.  Utilities are estimated to be restored in 7-10 days.  Stay inside and keep warm. 

Only residents with a true emergency should call 911. Currently, the township phone lines are out of service.  Do not attempt to call the township for information or with concerns.  The Delaware Township Volunteer Fire Company can be reached by phone at (570) 828-2223, however, the facility is not staffed 24 hours and should not be contacted for requests such as fuel, food, or access.  Both the fire company and the township do not maintain those supplies, and will not have accurate information as to where they can be found.

The township municipal hall located at 116 Wilson Hill Road, will be open beginning tomorrow, Sunday, March 4, 2018 from 9am to 4pm as a warming center and everyday thereafter as needed.  No transportation or food will be provided.

ROADWORK FOR ’01, WILSON HILL ROAD GETS PUSHED BACK

ROADWORK FOR ’01, WILSON HILL ROAD GETS PUSHED BACK
Pike County Dispatch  - Thursday, February 22, 2018
By Wayne Witkowski

DINGMANS FERRY – Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation’s major roadwork scheduled for the Delaware Township vicinity on Milford Road/State Route 2001 and for Wilson Hill Road may be done much later, rather than sooner, than projected.

Years later, in fact.

Township Supervisor Jane Neufeld went off the agenda topics to open discussion about what she had learned about that during last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, which noticeably shocked a few residents who attended.  A PennDot official disagreed with the extended deadlines.

Work on Phase 3 of the Milford Route 2001 road widening project that was targeted for a 2020 completion now won’t be done until 2024.  Neufeld said she learned from two Pike County Road Task Force meeting she had attended recently.  That work goes from Little Egypt Road in Lehman Township to Rockledge Road about a mile north of the Delaware Township boundary.

When it was pointed out to the board that works have been moving utility poles back near the Briscoe Mountain Road intersection in recent months to prepare for the road widening, resident Karen Hagan said she hasn’t seen work started north of that area.  “That’s as far as the work goes,” Hagan said.

Neufeld pointed out that the project has completed work on the two opposite ends of Milford Road – in Lehman Township and the Milford vicinity – but not much has been going on in between.  “They’re back to doing a lot of work in Lehman Township,” Neufeld said.

“That’s been a 10 year project (already),” lamented township Planning Department member LoriAnn Hines.

Neufeld said the road has been reclassified from a “feeder road” to a “minor arterial road”.  That could affect prioritizing the pace of the work. 

Neufeld also said the work to rebuild the crumbling eastern end of Wilson Hill Road now won’t be completed until 2026.  It originally was supposed to be done this year then pushed to 2019, according to PennDot officials.

“That’s news to me,” said Don Wuchter, head of maintenance and paving of roads in that area.  “It’s an extensive project to get that road stabilized and I understand it was being pushed from 2018 to 2019.  We’re replacing 11 to 12 culvert pipes.  It’s all about (state) funding and I’m looking at resurfacing and repaving that road in 2020.”

Wuchter said the road is “slowly getting worse,” with edges slipping down the mountainside.  Metal road barriers are seen tilted almost sideways.  “The fire company has told us they’re concerned about using that road now,” Wuchter said.

Neufeld said it would be good to get residents’ response along with the board communicating with local lawmakers on the issue to move the work along.  She said the board could perhaps take them on a tour and to tape a video of a drive taken along the road.  Township Solicitor Thomas Farley cringed at the touring idea, acknowledging the danger of traveling on the road.

Neufeld expressed concern about the deteriorating condition of Milford Road, particularly worsening potholes and overall road deterioration, from heavy truck traffic.  “The amount of traffic hasn’t lessened since the summer,” she said.

She said it’s also her understanding that a stretch of Silver Lake Road/State Route 2004 remains on the schedule for repairs and replacing culverts for this year.  That stretch of road foes from Route 749 to the private community of Pocono Mountain Lake Forest.

At the regular meeting, the board, with Chairman John Henderson absent because of illness, approved the slightly revised township budget, which includes primarily 2 percent cost of living allowances for salaried employees. …Ron Tussel was appointed township Sewage Enforcement Officer… Township roadmaster Vincent Flatt was appointed to the sixth and final spot of the Pike County Road Task Force.  Pike County Commissioners delayed filling that position because Flatt was just named roadmaster earlier in February after Mike Kolenet resigned.

The board agreed to advertise for accepting letters of interest to fill vacancies for the Emergency Management Coordinator, the seats on the newly resurrected Recreation Committee, the township auditor and township Public Works employee.

The Rec Committee will advertise again after getting no response to the first announcement.  Rick Koehler had been elected township auditor in the November General Election but had to resign when he also was elected township supervisor. Public Works, meanwhile, need to fill only one of its four positions.

ZONING ORDINANCE HEARING

The board approved advertising for a public hearing on March 28 at 7:15pm for the amendment to Zoning Ordinance 110 and the amendment to definitions on Ordinance 901 involving animal kennels.  The issue came to the forefront at a September meeting after a complaint from a neighbor about noise from a business on Meadow Ridge Acres Road run by a couple – Elisabeth Cologne-Szymanski and James Szymanski – who are certified to breed elite show dogs.  Matters were resolved on that issue, said Farley, with a 10 point conditional permit mainly about setting hours when the dogs could be allowed outside.

The permit also requested a stockade wood fence to be built around the back of the property facing the neighbor to reduce sound.

Farley said at the time the key element was the township determining that the couple’s property is not a kennel, a category that falls under township ordinance.

The board also is leaning toward switching its garbage removal from Waste Management to County Waste.  Township Administrator Krista Predmore said Waste Management’s contract had become expensive and County Waste countered with a lower offer.

She said that, “Waste Management then came back with much lower rates but I feel County Waste is the better option.”

Predmore said that, after tapping into a webinar about grant writing for historic funding that applying for money to restore kitchen flooring in the Historical Society Building located with the library in Akenac park does not fit the criteria of historic buildings.  Four bids from companies came in with estimates ranging from $9,000 to $15,000 for restoring the floor, which was damaged a few years ago by a flood.  Neufeld said perhaps the work could be covered by the Scenic Rural Conservation Project since it is a part of the park.

In a continued effort by Neufeld and Predmore to streamline the banking of township finances, the board agreed to move two Wayne Bank Certificates of Deposit of $3,461.14 and $843,020.20 to the Wayne Bank General Fund checking account.

It also moved to close the Wayne Bank Park & Recreation checking account and transfer the account to the Dime Bank Park & Recreation checking account.

It also amended the approved decision to close the Diem Bank General Fund account and transfer it to the Wayne Bank General Fund checking account.

The board approved a parking lot use request by Camp Gans Israel for 60 to 100 cars from the afternoon of June 7 to the afternoon of June 10 for a Jewish Shabbat retreat gathering.

Neufeld asked to delay a decision on the North Pocono Parents of Children with Down Syndrome Buddy Walk request for Sept. 23 at Akenac Park until more information goes to the Board.

Supervisors Protest Dropping of Scranton Channels

Supervisors Protest Dropping of Scranton Channels
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, February 1, 2018

DINGMANS FERRY – Supervisors at their regularly scheduled workshop and board meeting shared an announcement from Blue Ridge Communications that it is dropping television stations WBRE, WYOU and WNEP from its package as of Thursday, Feb. 1. Supervisors responded in the regular meeting by unanimously approving a letter of protest to be sent to BRC.

Copies will be sent to the Federal Communications Commission and the Pike County Commissioners.

Supervisor Jane Neufeld urged residents to send letter to Blue Ridge and to the FCC at 445 12th St., SW; Washington, DC, 20554 or to email the FCCs’ Consumer Help Center at https://consumer-complaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us.

Available at the meeting were copies of a letter to Blue Ridge Communications from State Rep. Rosemary Brown, R-189, stating residents in her district losing those channels would lose up-to-date weather, breaking news and general news reports tailored to the Northeast Pennsylvania region that affect them.

Blue Ridge Communications management told the Dispatch the affected area also is “the Milford vicinity,” which includes Milford, Blooming Grove and Shohola.

“Unless you get townships together acting together, you don’t have leverage,” resident Steve McBride said.

BRC said it sent a letter to customers and displayed a crawl notice at the bottom of the channels that its decision comes in response to a “doubling” of rates of the companies those three stations fall under:  Mission Broadcasting and Nexstar Broadcasting.

Blue Ridge Communications Consumer Complaints representative Eric Gamage, in a written response to a resident’s complaint shared by the board, explained that Blue Ridge will no longer carry those “out-of-market” channels out of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre “but will continue to carry the required DMA (Designated Market Area) channels that are part of the New York Market area.  They include New York stations WNBC-4, WCBS-2 and WABC-7.

“DMAs are often linked by major metropolitan cities, but in rural areas, they can be combined.  Some DMAs cover a huge geographical area, whereas others can be geographically small…The deciding factor in determining which DMA is assigned comes down to viewing habits.  If more than 50 percent of homes in a county watch certain TV stations, then the county is assigned that DMA based on viewership.  This can be true even if the county is geographically closer to another city.”

“We’re considered a New York marketing area but we should actually be considered West of the Delaware River,” resident George Beodeker said.

When asked his opinion, Supervisor Rick Koehler said those stations “don’t cover Pike County at all,” but acknowledged the opinion of the board and residents that those stations provide information during emergencies.

FALSE ALARM PENALTIES

Also at the meeting, the supervisors unanimously approved Ordinance 304, which provides for penalties for repeated false fire alarms caused by faulty fire detection, alarm equipment or negligence, following a public hearing that drew some public comment.

The ordinance states that written warnings would be issued on the first three offenses in a calendar year, detailing what steps can be taken to avoid future incidents.  A fourth false alarm is subject to a service fee not exceeding $100 and a fifth false alarm is subject to a service fee not exceeding $200, and/or legal action in either case by the township.

In another area of fines, township attorney Thomas Farley acknowledged the advice of McBride during the hearing and immediately amended Article IV-b to read that convicted violators before any magistrate or court competent jurisdiction pay a fine between $50 and $500, together with the costs of prosecution.  The ordinance originally stipulated only a magistrate ruling on the offense.

Delaware Township Volunteer Fire Co. member Richard Schultz expressed concern that “someone from the alarm company has a keyholder to respond, someone to call, so we do not have to break down the door” in the case of a false alarm.

NEW ROADMASTER APPOINTED

In other action, board Chairman John Henderson announced that at a Jan. 17 Special Meeting , it accepted the resignation of Michael Kolenet as township roadmaster “for personal reasons” and appointed Vincent Flatt at an annual salary of $47,320.  Kolenet was approved as a public works member at $17.99 hourly pay with a 2 percent cost of living increase at the meeting.

The board also unanimously agreed to allow Flatt to use township vehicle of his choice during the winter season so he could get out and check roads during emergencies without using his personal vehicle… The board also approved allowing township personnel to drive company vehicles to the scene of a fire when applicable but they must abide by all traffic laws when responding…It also allows the road crew to use township vehicles to resolve road issues affecting ambulances responding to emergency services.

In an effort to reconstitute the township Recreation Committee, the board moved to advertise for letters of interest from volunteers looking to fill five seats.  Henderson, who has led that effort, hopes to start the process by the end of February.  Supervisors responded to resident Ron Hough’s question that those committee members cannot accept money for rental of park facilities but have to refer those matters to the supervisors.

DELAWARE OPPOSES STATE CELL TOWER BILL

DELAWARE OPPOSES STATE CELL TOWER BILL
Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, January 18, 2018
By Wayne Witkowski

DINGMANS FERRY – The Board of Supervisors at last week’s meeting unanimously adopted a resolution opposing House Bill 1620, which the supervisors feel could deplete total local autonomy over wireless cell tower companies and crimp potential revenue.

The topic has been discussed recently at meetings at Milford Borough and other Pike municipalities as well.

House Bill 1620 would amend the act of Oct. 24, 2012 (P.L. 1501, No 191).  Known as the Wireless Broadband Collocation Act, the bill would affect regulation of wireless support structures, for processing of applications, for enforcement and for preservation of local governing authority and providing for use of public right-of-way to get access to municipal poles.

Delaware Township supervisors disagree.

“It is a bill for potentially dozens of mini-cell towers to come into municipalities and takes away control of their right of way,” said Supervisor Jane Neufeld during brief discussion on the subject and before passing the resolution.  She told residents that townships would lose “large amounts of money” from changes in permitting fees.

The proposed bill would streamline the latest wireless build-out so that companies won’t have to file zoning permits for each new small cell, which takes time and can incur numerous permitting fees.  The bill would enable a utility to install dozens of towers under only one permitting fee.

A memo from the state General Assembly posted online by the amendment sponsors, including primary sponsor Nick Miccarelli, R-Delaware County, said seven of 10 emergency calls come from a wireless device.  Wireless data transmission experienced 175 percent growth between 2012 and 2014.   By 2019, mobile data traffic will be nearly six times the 2014 amount, the memo reads.

To address the growing demands for enhanced wireless communications services, including high-speed broadband in rural Pennsylvania, wireless providers are erecting mini towers, many on utility poles, in targeted areas of the Commonwealth.  Lawmakers feel the bill will encompass the 2,562 local governments that have varying municipal zoning ordinances for wireless infrastructure siting and inconsistent fees.

The memo reads, “Compliance is burdensome, time-consuming, costly and not only impedes but sometimes outright prohibits the deployment of small cell wireless infrastructure needed to meet consumer demands.”

Neufeld expressed concern that this could lead to a proliferation of towers set up in the township.  It also could replace cable services.  The supervisors at the meeting had approved Cohen Law Group to perform cable franchise renewal services for $8,900.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in November that Lancaster officials have opposed a plan to put more than 70 small-cell antennas for wireless services on big new poles in the city’s historic areas.  “The City would look Godawful with these towners all over,” Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city’s director of public works, said in the report.

Bill sponsors, on the other hand contend local government will maintain its authority over zoning and land use.  Delaware Township supervisors disagree, saying the legislation will strip their jurisdiction over their municipality’s land in representing taxpaying residents.

Township Supervisor Robert Lovenheim from Smithfield in neighboring Monroe County has been quoted calling the legislation “rights-of-way robbery” because it takes so much authority away from local municipalities.  “We have to have some zoning control but maybe not all zoning control,” he said.  “It’s got to be fair on both sides.”

But Brooks Mountcastle, environmental planner for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office, commented that the legislation “would have a chilling effect on democracy since it would prohibit the public from commenting during the approval process.  Municipalities would be prohibited from being fully indemnified, and having bonding and insurance coverage for facilities in public rights of way.”

The General Assembly memo disagrees, feeling it will fast track through cumbersome red tape in paperwork and reduce fees.

“Siting permit applications (will become) consistent with common sense limitations,” the memo reads.  “Specifically, the legislation will limit the imposition of fees, permitting requirements and general policies above and beyond fees, requirements and policies imposed on other companies occupying the public rights-of-way.  It also prohibits a municipality from requiring a wireless provider to justify the deployment of its infrastructure as a stipulation in the permit application process.  This will result in a more efficient and economical process for siting small cell wireless infrastructure… for reliable wireless and high-speed broadband deployment.”

House Bill 1620 has been sitting in the House’s Consumer Affairs Committee chaired by Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery, with Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks as the Democratic chairman before it is advanced to the House floor for vote.

COST OF LIVING INCREASES

Also at the meeting, the supervisors approved cost of living increases for nine full-time employees and one part-time employee.  Increases were at 2 percent except for the road master, whose increase is between 2 and 3 percent, said township Administrator Krista Predmore.  Michael Kolenet at the Jan. Reorganization Meeting was appointed road master after Charlie Kroener retired at the end of last year.

The board also released to the public copies of a report from McGoey, Hauser & Edsall engineers on its inspection last fall of the Log and Twig Road Bridge over Hornbeck’s Creek.  Although it said elements of the bridge are in “satisfactory condition” with the road surface showing “minor wear and cracks,” there also are signs of heave efflorescence and active seepage along one beam.

George Beodeker, who plans to step down as Emergency Management Coordinator this year when a successor is appointed, recommended the township prioritize what work needs to be done before submitting it to the county and engineers Boucher & James for scrutiny.

The board said it will advertise for an emergency management coordinator but followed Beodeker’s input that the job should include a stipend higher than the $1,000 that has been in place for 20 years.  They said they would not specify the amount of the stipend in the ad but determine the amount based on the scope of work to be done.  The board also adopted the township’s Emergency Operations Plan.  It is not a new plan but just establishing it under a new board of supervisors, said Beodeker.

The board also is advertising for a Sewage Enforcement Officer and a township auditor.

HENDERSON HEADS NEW DELAWARE TOWNSHIP BOARD

HENDERSON HEADS NEW DELAWARE TOWNSHIP BOARD
By Wayne Witkowski

DELAWARE TOWNSHIP – Jane Neufeld and Rick Koehler were installed to full terms as members of Delaware Township Board of Supervisors and John Henderson was elected board chairman at the township’s reorganization meeting on January 2nd.

Neufeld and Koehler were elected to full terms in the Nov. General Election.

Neufeld was an interim supervisor for the second half of last year, replacing Jeff Scheetz, who retired as board member and chairman.  Henderson had served as interim chairman at that time.

Henderson will serve as township secretary and Neufeld as board vice chairperson and as township treasurer.

With no changes among salaried township employees, Krista Predmore remains as township administrator, assistant treasurer and right to know officer.

Thomas Farley remains as township solicitor and planning commission solicitor at a rate of $150 per hour and Robert Bernathy is alternate solicitor in both roles.

Township employees’ salaries will be determined during an executive session 6pm Wednesday prior to the 7pm regularly scheduled meeting.

Wayne Bank, Dime Bank and PLIGIT remain as the township depositories.  William Owens was the CPA firm last year.

Michael Kolenet is a new appointee who was named road master, replacing Charlie Kroener, who retired at the end of last year.  Kolenet was appointed head of the reconstructed township Public Works Department, a merging of Public Works with the Road Department and Maintenance.  In the past, they ran under separate directors.

George Beodeker remains the township Emergency Management Coordinator on an interim basis.  He wants to retire and the township has 90 days to find a replacement. 

Boucher & James remains the township engineer.

The Pike Dispatch, The News Eagle and Pocono Record again were appointed official township newspaper.

Bring Back Recreation Board

Henderson said he and the board have one prevailing goal:  to reconstruct the township’s recreation board.  “We had a good one at one time and it dissolved.” Henderson said.

Getting more public volunteerism is a goal Henderson and fellow board members share.

The township’s three boards made up of volunteers are filled, with seven seated on the Planning Commission and five each on the Zoning Hearing Board and Building Hearing Board.  Steve McBride will serve on the Vacancy Board, his first involvement with the township.

Henderson feels the Board of Supervisors has a good makeup “to put things in order” as its most immediate goal for this year.

“Occasionally you have disagreements but that’s a good thing,” Henderson said.  “We may disagree but we’re on the same page for moving the township forward.”

What he has seen in his two years as board member and the last six months as interim chairman is fulfillment of his campaign promises for more critical scrutiny of township spending and greater transparency of where and how taxpayers’ money is spent.  Township taxes remain the same again for this year.

Neufeld likewise has shared that goal of transparency by proposing a series of ordinances designating more specific capital reserve funds categories.  Those ordinances will be tweaked in the upcoming three months for a vote in April, and perhaps beyond that if needed.

“We put off a lot of stuff, “ Henderson said after the meeting.  “If you do things quickly, they come back to bite you.  We want to do things slowly and steadily.”  He enthusiastically praised office staff for supporting that steady progress.

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