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Empty Chair At Delaware Dais Is “Elephant In The Room”

Empty Chair At Delaware Dais Is “Elephant In The Room”
Pike County Dispatch - Thursday, January 20, 2017

By Wayne Witkowski

Dingmans Ferry- A chair at the front table was noticeably empty at a packed Delaware Township Board of Supervisors meeting last week as board members Jeff Scheetz and John Henderson accepted the resignation of Supervisor Tom Ryan, a Republican, effective immediately. But nobody in the crowded audience commented on Ryan’s resignation.

The large gathering sat through Scheetz explaining the protocol for accepting applications and selecting a supervisor to complete Ryan’s term that expires at the end of the year. In his resignation letter, Ryan said he relinquished the seat because of overlapping obligations balancing township duties with his service to local veterans. He also said he had finalized plans for his retirement with his wife, Debbie.

It was explained that letters of interest would be received up to Jan. 20 with a meeting to consider a selected candidate during the regular bi-monthly meeting on Jan. 25. If the two supervisors are deadlocked on the choice, Vacancy Board Jeff Shirley will cast a deciding vote in a Feb. 13 meeting. If the choice remains deadlocked it will go to Pike County President Judge Joseph Kameen for a decision.

Ironically, the vacancy board position was debated at the reorganization meeting on Jan. 3 and Henderson recommended Steve McBride. Henderson showed a Right to Know document that showed Shirley, who has been reappointed to the position every year since 2012, gave a campaign contribution when Ryan ran for the position. The motion passed 2-1, with Henderson dissenting.

 “I’m still against it” Henderson said after last week’s meeting.

Residents sat through a mostly routine agenda highlighted by approving a motion for township Solicitor Thomas Farley to draft an ordinance to be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation lowering speed limits to 35 mph for much of Park Road. The ordinance eventually would be presented in a public hearing for vote. The Park Road motion came off a Park Road Traffic Study report presented during the workshop that preceded the meeting. Because there was an approved lowering of speed limits on Doolan Road last fall based on a similar traffic study, less groundwork would be needed by Farley, said Scheetz.

The agenda included approvals for moving money to pay bills and mostly routine approvals regarding public events at Akenac Park and usage of the municipal building for birthday parties, the Milford Valley Quilters Guild and a ballet group.

Scheetz affirmed a question from a resident if Pocono Mountain Lake Estates was paying a rental for approved usage of the building for meetings in four different months. Electronics pickup days in the spring (April 1) and the fall (Oct. 7) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. were set. Also approved was a $5,460 purchase of a snow plow and mount for a road crew truck from Powell’s Sales and Service Inc. with money set aside at the reorganization meeting.

There was public comment on the meeting agenda at the start of the meeting on a few specifics of motions to be presented. But no one spoke during the customary public general comment period at the end of the meeting, including anything on Ryan from a crowd that, according to attendees, was a mixture of supporters and those opposed to Ryan. There was some applause early in the meeting when Scheetz praised the service of Ryan after his resignation was officially accepted.

With only two seated supervisors, Henderson was in an unusual position of casting a deciding vote on approving his application for a license to continue operating a junkyard he owns with his wife, Kathleen, in Dingmans Ferry. Henderson said, in the absence of a third supervisor, he is allowed to cast a vote, according to state ethics documentation given to him by township Solicitor Thomas Farley. With Scheetz voting in favor of the license to be rolled over for another year, Henderson’s vote carried the motion.

 “Ordinarily I would abstain as I did last year,” Henderson, who first took office at the beginning of 2016, said before the vote. “I’ve run the business with my wife for 18 years and there has been a junkyard there for 30 years but I see that state procedure allows my vote with one supervisor no longer seated.”

Credit card Questions

Henderson in the early part of the meeting also questioned on the approval of $63,303.29 to pay General Fund bills, a listing of $1,050 and $1,414 for unspecified credit card expenses. He continued to urge that those purchases be itemized.

“My concern is bills being paid by credit card,” Henderson said. “There’s a long list of bills and one says “Visa” but not what it is for.”

Resident McBride suggested the credit card be registered under the township name and not the of a supervisor, but Township Administrator Krista Predmore expressed doubt that could be done in terms of signing off for purchases.

McBride asked if there were perks that come with the card- a Citizens Bank Masters Card- such as promotional payback offers, and Predmore said she did not think so. “I wonder if we should look for a credit card with that,” McBride said.

Resident Jane Neufeld pointed out that the township should not charge on a credit card at places where it already has an account.

“To do that wouldn’t make sense,” Neufeld said. “There should be safeguards and it should be controllable so someone doesn’t abuse it. There are policies and procedures out there for credit cards.”

Also at the meeting, the board approved a $559.95 upgrade to QuickBooks Pro 2017 from Intuit and it approved spending $199 for Fred Pryor Seminars that includes live seminars and more than 2,500 online courses.

When one resident questioned the purpose of the program and who benefits, Predmore said supervisors and township employees can take seminars that include human resources, time management and safety. Township staff took 45 of the seminars last year, she said.

It also approved buying a $299.99 portable kerosene heater form Northern Tool & Equipment to keep its equipment form possible damage during plunging winter temperatures.

In a carryover from the reorganization meeting, the board approved two tabled motions, one to appoint Sharon Franks to the township Planning Commission for a four-year term and to appoint Steve Vitale, Jim Owens, Wayne Day, Sean Helferty (alternate) and Mike Moffa (alternate) to the township Building Hearing Board.



Routine Town Appointment Turns Political

Routine Town Appointment Turns Political
Pike County Dispatch, Thursday, January 12, 2017

By: Wayne Witkowski

           DINGMANS FERRY A conditional appointed position customary in municipal government triggered a lengthy debate during the Delaware Township reorganization meeting last week and led to further discussion after the two-hour session.

               About 32 residents, more than usual for a reorganization meeting, came to see where some of their tax money will be spent in 2017 and to hear dialogue and dissent on some of the 70 line items of appointments and approvals. But when it got to item No. 50 to appoint local contractor Jeff Shirley as Delaware Township Vacancy Board, Supervisor John Henderson objected and instead recommended Stephen McBride for the position.

               Henderson said the agenda that included this position was set up without his seeing it or given as opportunity for input. Township Administrator Krista Predmore pointed out that a draft of the agenda was sent electronically to all three supervisors.

               The Vacancy board, which consists of one person appointed in municipalities around the state, is called upon only for a tiebreaking vote. It happens when a supervisor resigns, is suspended or passes away and the other supervisors cannot reach a majority vote on a successor within 30-day time period. When that happens, the vacancy board individual casts the deciding vote within 15 days.

               Henderson contended the appointment of Shirley was a “pay to play’ move that would create a perceived conflict of interest. He showed paperwork that Shirley and his wife, Evelyn, gave a $200 campaign contribution between March and May of 2011 to supervisor candidate Tom Ryan, who was elected and currently is seated on the township’s board of supervisors.

               Township Solicitor Thomas Farley firmly disagreed. “It only became a conflict of interest if it involves the who would be appointed to the (vacated) supervisor’s position,” Farley said.

               “I would say three-quarters of the people in this room gave (me) campaign contributions,” Ryan said.

               Henderson said McBride had not given campaign contributions and Ryan countered that the point was incidental because McBride would not be allowed to support any candidate while he served as a magisterial judge at the time. McBride no longer servers as a judge.

               Henderson also held a Right to Know requested list of 17 work orders between 2010 and 2015 totaling $16,642.97 paid to Shirley and his company, ADI Sign in Dingmans Ferry. All of the jobs paid less than $1,972 except one for $6,510 for township signage and another for $2,080 for emergency signs.

               Henderson contended that many of the work orders that made up most of the 17items should have been put out for bid. The supervisors disagreed, and Predmore after the meeting provided documentation that only work orders costing more than $10,500 are required by state regulations to go through a bidding process. Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff Scheetz asked for a motion after discussion and the vote was taken, approving Shirley by a 2-1 vote, with Henderson dissenting.

               Henderson said afterward that the work orders list for Shirley included $1,971.25 for repairs from vandalism at Akenac Park in December of 2014 and $1,245.45 for installation of floodlights at the park in 2015. He claimed that Ryan campaigned against the park in his run for supervisor and then, after being elected, reversed his position.

               “We had the Dickens Christmas event that day (when the vandalism was discovered) and were scrambling to get someone to come in right away and repair the damage so we called the first two people we could think of,” Predmore said of the repairs order, saying that B&G (Electric of Dingmans Ferry) also teamed up for the repairs. Ryan agreed after the reorganization meeting that he was opposed at first to the $1.2 million acquisition of the park property and the $800,000 engineering study for a mixed-use zoning of streets, sidewalks and underground utilities under the previous administration. Stroudsburg engineering firm F.X. Browne Inc. made follow-up studies for a different plan.

               “It was not an urban environment like the (early) plans showed, and the public was never consulted by the previous administration,” Ryan said. “But once we got it right, which meant getting away from the urban plan, I was in favor of it.”

               After the board voted to appoint Shirley, Henderson kept to his point. ” It still can be perceived as a conflict of interest,” Henderson said afterward. Most motions were approved unanimously, including Scheetz remaining as board chairman and treasure, Ryan as vice chairman, and Henderson as secretary but Henderson still voted against some motions, including authorizing the treasurer to pay monthly bills due between regularly scheduled meetings. That motion passed 2-1 vote.

               Henderson asked before the vote that the township have a specific list itemizing purchases, including those on credit cards, saying they can only be made after approval. He was alluding to a meeting last month when he criticized a purchase of a large Christmas tree for the township bought by Ryan on sale reduced 40 percent on his credit card at the time before the boards’ approval vote for the purchase was taken. The purchase was made at the time within the period of the sale. Farley pointed out at the meeting that the supervisor making that purchase risks being liable for the expense if the board rejects the purchase.

               The next Board of Supervisors meeting takes place 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Dec. 11, preceded by a 5:30 p.m. workshop. Henderson objected to the start time for workshops a half hour later at 6 p.m. would allow time for people to attend who are getting out of work. The board approved the motion to keep the startup time at 5:30 p.m. by a 2-1 vote, with Henderson voting against it.


Delaware Wants More Info Before Donating To Safe Haven

Delaware Wants More Info Before Donating To Safe Haven
Pike County Dispatch Thursday December 22 ,2016
By Wayne Witkowski

DINGMANS FERRY- Delaware township wants to see more evidence of financial restructuring by Safe Haven before making a financial contribution to the domestic violence service.

Safe Haven recently suspended services and referred clients to sister agencies in Wayne and Monroe Counties while it is restructuring.

Township supervisors rejected the funding during a Dec. 14 workshop meeting attended by recently appointed Safe Haven President Tamara Chant and Treasurer Brian O’Hare. They joined Safe Haven Vice President Allison Taylor, who said the agency had temporarily lost funding during financial restructuring (under a checklist) and until two advocates are selected, which can be done soon, in order for funds to be restored after a financial review early next year.

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Crime, the Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence all normally provide funds, said Taylor.

“We have a plan and are spending 40 to 50 hours a week to put this together,” Taylor said.

Taylor said Lehman Township was the only other Pike municipality to donate funds to Safe Haven recently, and that occurred just before it lost its state funding. She said Delaware Township was the first of many townships that will be approached for help by the group. Chant said she is “encouraged” by individuals who have continued to donate as the have. O’Hare said he is organizing detailed spreadsheets for the organization to continue to pay expenses for 14 to 15 billing categories. On Monday, Dec. 19, after the Delaware meeting however, Blooming Grove Township supervisors approved a $10,000 grant for Safe Haven.

Delaware Township supervisors said they would be open to discussing funding once the checklist is complete and approved, but Taylor pointed out that the agency could run out of funds until that happens. “I understand your decision,” O’Hare said at the end of the discussion.

Supervisor Tom Ryan initially opposed the request until the audit obligations are fulfilled, and Board Chairman Jeff Scheetz said, “I’m inclined to go along with that.”

“We are obligated to use tax-payers money with common sense for funding sources. Then, we’ll be happy to do that in January. We can’t donate money for what we hope will happen.

Delaware Cuts Township Tax By One Mill

Delaware Cuts Township Tax By One Mill
Pike County Dispatch Thursday December 22 ,2016
By, Wayne Witkowski

Dingmans Ferry-Delaware Township Supervisors made it official at their meeting last week that residents’ municipal taxes will be less in 2017.

The board unanimously approved a tax millage rate is 9.68 for the fiscal year, which is 1 mill less than last year’s taxes and the fourth drop in six years.

At the meeting, the board approved $1,239,023.24 in the General Fund budget. It also approved the Recreation budget, a $149,072.89 allotment that covers Akenac Park and the township ballfields. The 2016 allotment was $1,487.05.

The reduced tax rate is the lowest since 2006 when it was set at 6.68 mills.

The adjustment comes with most expenses staying about the same or increasing or decreasing slightly, including employee Pension Accounts, which is up from $49,179 for 2016 to a projected $51,000. The medical insurance holds steady at $80,000 set aside. There was an increase in rates, but fewer employees are covered so it remained the same. The payroll taxes also hold at $30,000.

The highway expense comes to $215,750, and maintenance of roads and bridges is $20,000 while winter road maintenance is $14,500. The budget also call for payment of $140,000 for the volunteer fire department and $4,000 to the township ambulance service.

Nearly half of the budget covers the general government cost of $517,100 that includes an outlay of $114,500 for government buildings’ supplies and maintenance and energy costs.

There also is a $1,950.29 savings coming off the new phones systems for township offices from Cloud Voice Communications. It covers the software for cell phones, enabling calls to be transferred from office to mobile phones of staffers in the field.

Supervisors John Henderson also said during the meeting that a $1,047 payment out of the Recreation fund for a Christmas tree at the township building was illegal because it was made prior to a vote of approval by the supervisors and asked that all credit card purchases in the future be reported.

“It’s not true that it’s illegal and it is an improper way of using township money,” said township Attorney Thomas Farley, but said supervisor Tom Ryan “took a risk to do it” to save the township money and. If it was not approved, Ryan would be obliged to repay the township out of pocket.

Road Turned Over To Camp

Also at the meeting, the supervisors approved executing an agreement between the township and Camp Speers for the township to vacate a portion of the township Route 360 on the part located on camp property. There was ongoing discussion for months about the agreement, in which the camp originally requested that the township resurface the road, but that request was later removed. Camp Director George Painter was on hands to thank the township for the agreement, which he said decreases the township’s liability and encourages what he feels will be an ongoing partnership with the township.

In workshop prior to the meeting, the supervisors discussed and then apparently rejected the idea of vacating Doodle Hollow Road. At one time an access to the post office that was razed and reopened in Nichecronk Road, Doodle Hollow Road leads to National Park Service property and a lake suited for hunting and fishing, but resident Steven McBride said the NPS has not been servicing the road, which led the supervisors to drop that idea to vacate it.

The Board also approved adopting the Pennsylvania Municipalities Pension Trust Act 44 Disclosure Statement but noted that the statement included donations to state politician. Attorney Farley said the donations are part of lobbying on behalf of the fund but the supervisors agreed it draft a letter objecting it that practice. Resident Len Glemann asked if those donations affect the pension fund, but Farley said it would not.

The township also accepted a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation land development per recommendations from the township’s Planning Commission at its Dec. 6 meeting, which would allow for PennDOT to build larger shed for its road salt. The township also has a smaller salt shed in the area.

The board approved renewing the lake management program for Akenac Park with Aquatic Environment Consultants Inc. of Scotland, Pa for $3,500 over three payments on May 1, June 1 and July 1.

Henderson raised the point that he had not gotten a response from Boucher & James regarding questions he posed in a correspondence on Nov. 29 regarding its study of Akenac Park facilities. They included his question of who designed the Rec Hall kitchen and about a ladder leading to the attic he felt was unsafe. It also included a measure of the safe load weight tolerance for the Rec Hall, saying it was not in accordance with the American Society of Civil Engineers. Boucher & James engineer Jon Tresslar, who attended the workshop, said the weight tolerance was grandfathered for the building, erected in the 1920s. As for the ladder, Ryan said it has since been removed.

Henderson said he wanted to be more involved with policies and decision-making with the board but Farley assured him that all issues had been presented at meetings he has attended and there have been no efforts to exclude him in correspondences.

Dec.28 Meeting Cancelled

The supervisors moved to cancel the Dec. 28 workshop and regular meeting. They approved the township reorganization date of Jan. 3 at 6:30 p.m. as well as the Planning Commission’s reorganization meeting of 6:30 p.m. for Jan. 17 and township auditor’s reorganization for 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 4.

They approved usage of the municipal hall for the Warrior Extreme Cheer from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan. 14 for a clothing drive fundraiser and the same group for an end of year party on March 4.

Kids Brave Winter to Break In New Playground

Kids Brave Winter Weather to Break In New Playground
Pike County Dispatch - Thursday, December 15, 2016
By, Wayne Witkowski

DINGMANS FERRY- Freezing temperatures, chilling breezes and a worsening snow squall are not typical conditions for a late afternoon romp in the playground, but dozens of youngsters frolicked in the newly rebuilt one in Akenac Park as Delaware Township officials shivered though Saturday’s ribbon-cutting.

“This is a special occasion, a brand-new playground that will be fully operational this spring, but this weather has not stopped kids from coming in, “township Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff Scheetz said as he was joined by fellow supervisor Tom Ryan, township administrator Krista Predmore and township official robin Jones, who helped oversee much of the project that was nearly completed at the end of November.

“We’re about 90 to 95 percent done, nothing that could keep the playground from being opened now and it’ll be all ready in the spring,” Scheetz said afterward of the playground that was nearly 20 years old. Scheetz said he was surprised to see such a large turnout of youngsters there in the driving snowfall.

“That old playground was wood and splinters. What a difference. This is so much better for the kids and the community,” Ryan said.

The $274,00 project completion was delayed nearly a month for the pour-in-place artificial  surface, which needed the right weather conditions in order for the synthetic, cushioned compound to settle underneath the playground equipment for safety and durability.

“It’s all done. We made it just under the weather” Ryan said, referring to the surface. “This is the first time I’ve seen it (completed) and what an attribute for this community. What a gift this community has, an incredible piece of equipment. The kids are loving it.”

Along with the surfacing, the only other challenge that slowed progress was the ledge rock underground that stretched out the excavation part of the project.

The playground includes a large slide tower, swings, a climber and a seesaw as well as a swing slide rail, a sort of elevated metallic zip line framed around much of the playground that offers youngsters a high-speed joy ride. It was the most popular part of the playground for many youngsters.

“This is an improvement from what it used to be. I like the swing that goes around,” said Jacob Hughes, 11 of Sunrise Lake community and a fifth grader at Dingman-Delaware Middle School.

“People Don’t realize that this is a county park, not only for the township,” said Scheetz as families traveled from Milford and other reaches of Pike County as well as nearby New Jersey areas for their children to burn off excitement. The playground opening was a prelude to the Akenac Christmas event, also known as Dickens Christmas, which kept the park abuzz from the 4:30 p.m. start to 8 p.m.

A fire truck that brought Santa Claus kept floodlights on the playground for another hour as youngsters continued to spend some time there along with enjoying the holiday festivities. Adults sipped hot cider and hot chocolate sold by the Lions Club at one of the cabins while others were warmed at a large open fire set up nearby. The Lions Club also sold fudge, chocolate bark, peanut brittle and other holiday candy delights from Irene’s Kitchen, a candy shop in Milford.

The main cabin had tables manned by volunteers who guided children through making ornaments, decorating gingerbread cookies and face painting.

Other cabins, all decoratively lit for the season, featured a display of toys, many for sale, as well as a story time cabin where the Doctor Seuss classic “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” was read by a member of the Delaware Township library staff to some captivated young listeners.

A Pickup truck pulled a wagon for a ride around the grounds as riders of all ages took on the lighting and holiday music played on speakers around the park, all part of the festivities offered free of charge that kept families there for a long and enjoyable evening.          


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