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Planning Board Up to Full Strength, Might Get Even Bigger

Planning Board Up to Full Strength, Might Get Even Bigger
By Chris Jones

Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, March 16, 2017

DINGMANS FERRY – Delaware Township Supervisors filled two vacancies on the Planning Commission last Wednesday, bringing it up to full strength at five members, but there was some discussion about whether the Commission should have just five ore even seven members.

Meanwhile the supervisors appointed William Errico to fill out a one-year term on the Planning Commission and former Supervisor Tom Ryan to fill the vacant two-year term.

Supervisors Jeff Scheetz, John Henderson and Ron Hough all voted for Errico, but Scheetz and Hough voted to appoint Ryan while Henderson voted “no.”

Alluding to Ryan’s having a second in Florida, Henderson said he had been on the Planning commission long enough to know that a member couldn’t follow land plots when he needs to attend a meeting by telephone.

“You need to look at the information in front of you,” Henderson said before casting his vote.

Later during public comment, Dawn Bukaj, herself a former Planning Commission member, asked Hough and Scheetz why they voted for Ryan when there were other candidates for the seat.

“The chairman of the Planning Commission stood up at this meeting and said he [Ryan] was not a good candidate because he can’t be at all the meeting,” Bukaj said.

She then asked why Scheetz and Hough voted for Ryan.

“Because of his experience on the Board of Supervisors and thus with the Planning Commission and his 45 years’ experience in this particular field,” Scheetz said. Ryan is a building trades contractor.

Township Solicitor Tom Farley said there was a provision for removing a Planning commission member: missing four consecutive meeting without cause.

Farley later explained that there was a conflict between the Planning Commission bylaws and the township ordinance governing the Commission, with the bylaws calling for five members and the ordinance for seven.

The township had drafted an ordinance to reduce the number to give members from seven, but here was some discussion that seven might be better because other candidates had expressed interest and seven would provide more “bodies.”

Any change to the ordinance would have to go to a public hearing at a later date.

IN OTHER MATTERS

Emergency Management Coordinator George Beodeker announced that the Township EMA would begin recruiting volunteers next month. As many as 15 to 20 volunteers are needed, he said. In May and June they will provide two introductory level training programs required by FEMA of all individuals with emergency or disaster response responsibilities.

Beodeker, who also is president of the Delaware Township Fire Department, said that the DTVFD had signed a contract for spring 2018 delivery of a new tanker-pumper costing $282,300. Through township and department funding the cost has been paid upfront and nothing will be owed on the fire engine, he said.

Little League President Salvatore Panetta said the League pays thousands to keep up the ballfield at the township complex on Wilson Hill Road but other leagues play on the same field but they don’t pay much for it.

“Everyone benefits but we pay the bills,” Panetta said.

Supervisors asked for a meeting with the Little League and softball leagues to determine who uses the field and how much is paid for what maintenance.

There was also discussion about the feasibility of a wheelchair wing at the new playground in Akenac Park. Such a swing could cost as much as $25,000 and would require a full-time supervisor.

The playground cost $20,000 less than what was budgeted so there is a balance for other improvements.

Jane Neufeld suggested that since it is a brand new playground about to enter its first season of use, people should wait and see what other needs develop such as providing shade over the playground area, fencing and matting under the swings.

Delaware Township To Post New 35 MPH Speed Limit On Child Park Road

Delaware Township To Post New 35 MPH Speed Limit On Child Park Road

Pike County Dispatch, Thursday, March 2, 2017

By Wayne Witkowski

DINGMANS FERRY - Motorists pushing the pedal on Childs Park Road will be warned to slow down as the Delaware Township Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved an ordinance dropping the speed limit to 35 mph.

The road, also known as Park Road, had no posted speed limit until this approval, which followed a brief public hearing that had no question or challenge from the gathering. The new speed limit was determined after an engineering and traffic study conducted by Boucher & James Inc. on Jan. 10. The report stated the road is 20 to 24 feet wide with no shoulders and has some sharp bends with limited visibility.

The board afterward approved $1,600 to buy speed limit signs and materials from Garden State Highway Products Inc., the low bidder from among five companies the township reviewed for the project. The road’s old speed limit had defaulted to the state standard of 55 mph.

It is the second road in the township to mandate a lower speed limit, with an ordinance approved in mid-October dropping the speed to 35 mph on Doolan Road after a traffic study by Boucher & James.

Board Chairman Jeff Scheetz said no other roads are being considered for a lower speed limit.

               Resident Rich Hutchison asked about state police enforcement against speeding on Park Road, a question that also had been raise last fall by other residents when Doolan Road’s lower speed limit was passed.

               “Can I call the state police to sit in my driveway?” Hutchison asked. He was told that police might not be able to be stationed at residences, and police have other spots set aside.

               “Before the “racetrack’ turns, can we have the signs that have the orange diamonds at the top of the sign like you see on some speed limit signs on other roads, notifying drivers of the speed limit,” Hutchinson asked. “I was hit almost four times pulling out of my driveway.”

               Scheetz was open to the suggestion. “It’s just amazing there haven’t been more accidents,” he said.

               Residents also asked if Ordinance 401A banning roadside parking on Park Road-which was passed when the Doolan Road speed limit was set last fall- would be enforced by towing away violating vehicles. Residents said that with Childs Park’s lot full when weather is favorable like it has been lately that some motorists park their cars on the roadside and walk into the park. Scheetz assured the ordinance would be enforced.

               Also, the board tabled the appointment of Tom Ryan to the township’s Planning Commition on request of Supervisor John Henderson, who wanted further discussion. Henderson was absent from the previous meeting and workshop where receipt of Ryan’s letter of interest was discussed.

               Ryan had resigned as a member of the Board of Supervisors in early January so he could pursue retirement plans for himself and his wife, Debbie. Ron Hough also is a member of the Planning Commission.

               Scheetz pointed out there are two vacant positions on the five-member Planning Commission. One position was advertised for letters of interest in October and got no response. Scheetz said that since an article ran in the Pike County Dispatch about Ryan’s letter of interest for one position, there have been five applicants for the positions.

               The board also approved in a 2-1 vote with Henderson dissenting the purchase of paint and materials for the EMA building for $1,058.95 from Home Depot. Henderson said there should be price quotes from other stores before deciding. Township Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds Ed Hammond said that purchases under the township’s Home Depot credit card accrue toward future discounts. Township Administrator Krista Predmore said the township has a $200 credit.

               The board unanimously approved Pike County Generator’s $615 estimate to install an Itron second stage regulator that will more evenly feed fuel into the township generator as it is needed.

               Scout Project Proclamation - Also, Cody Daily of Delaware Township Scout Troop 1005 received a proclamation from the supervisors for completion of a project last June 25-26 at Akenac Park in which he laid new mulch along a half-acre of a trail and built a 14-by-18-foot boundary made from railroad ties for a recreation workout area. Dailey said it allows for installation of things like a sit-up bar and a pull-up bar, for example. He also installed three benches. Daily said he was helped by 30 volunteers the first day and 20 the second day.

               His project ended up under his $418 cost estimate and he donated those surplus funds he raised toward township park projects. Dailey was accompanied by his dad, Brad Dailey, and Troop 1005 Eagle Scout Advisor Nicole Herman at the meeting.

               Wesley Witherel, another member of Troop 1005, spoke about his upcoming Eagle Scout Project that includes installing four benches and three bear-proof garage canisters at Akenac Park.

               The board also discussed again at its workshop before the meeting about whether and how it might spend $20,000 surplus of funds budgeted for the Akenac Park playground project after contractor Liberty Parks & Playgrounds Inc. informed the township that it overestimated the cost for the poured-in-place surfacing.

               The discussion focused on a wheelchair apparatus that would include a swing costing $1,225. Predmore said the vast majority of the 30 responders to a township Facebook survey that included 28 from the township and two others from Pike County said they wanted a wheelchair swing. Predmore said, based on the playground design, the wheelchair swing would replace two of the eight existing swings.

               Hough spoke against that idea because he said there already are two handicapped swings.

Predmore said the wheelchair swing could replace the small children swings and said those children can play on the generation swings that can accommodate different ages. She said rubber matting could be placed in that area instead of mulch that could be kicked away and it can be purchased under that surplus.

               “No other park here has that. I like the idea of purchasing something special for our park.” Resident Jane Neufeld said as some other residents shared support of the idea.

               But Scheetz cited Predmore’s report during the discussion that the Delaware School District accommodates only four wheelchair students.

               “I have some doubts it will get much use,” Scheetz said.

               Scheetz also dismissed, after discussion, Predmore’s presentation of a Dr. Pepper/Keep America Beautiful Recycling bin Grant that would supply a dozen bins for Akenac Park.

               The grant would call for pickup of recyclables and Predmore said she had gotten a $50 monthly price quote from one hauler. It also calls for tracking the volume of discarded recyclables.

               Predmore said cans could be set aside and cashed in for money toward a community project. Predmore said, when asked, that there is no contract and that it is a two-year agreement.

               “Who is going to keep track of this and how are we going to monitor this? Some people throw (regular) garage in those cans,” resident Len Glamann said.

               “I don’t sense a groundswell of enthusiasm for this,” Scheetz said.

               Henderson, during the meeting’s public comment period, pointed to a section in the January issue of Pennsylvania Township News that focuses on the theme of public trust and complying with the state Ethics Act.

               He said he learned that an ethics complaint could be filed up to six years after an alleged violation occurred. “The most important thing a supervisor can give to the community is integrity and ethics,” Henderson said.

               The board during its meeting announced spring Electronic Recycling Day takes place 8a.m. to 4 p.pm. on April 1 at the township Bulk Waste Area at 145 Wilson Hill Road at the cost of $10 per car.

Delaware Supervisors Appoint Replacement For Tom Ryan

Delaware Supervisors Appoint Replacement For Tom Ryan

By Wayne Witkowski

Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, January 26, 2017

DINGMANS FERRY — Ron Hough, who served on the Delaware Township Planning Commission for the past four years and narrowly lost the 2015 Primary Election for township supervisor to John Henderson, was appointed interim supervisor at Wednesday night's board meeting. He completes the term of Tom Ryan, who resigned on Jan. 10. Ryan's term expires on Dec. 31 this year. Hough, a Republican, was one of six candidates who sent letters of interest by the Jan. 20 deadline. He is believed to be the first interim supervisor appointee in recent memory, according to Delaware Township officials.

Solicitor Tom Farley swore in Hough after the two seated supervisors first differed on the appointee before Henderson changed his decision to Hough. Supervisor Chairman Jeff Scheetz moved to appoint Hough, and Henderson seconded the motion, but Henderson at first nominated Elizabeth Forrest.  From 2005 to 2010, Forrest had been a legislative aide to former 189th District Rep. John Siptroth. She later ran unsuccessfully against Rosemary Brown for that seat. Forrest is one of the founders and current president of Pike County's League of Women Voters. Had the decision remained deadlocked, Vacancy Board appointee Jeff Shirley would have been asked to cast the deciding vote on Feb. 14. If it remained deadlocked, the decision would have been up to Pike County President Judge Joseph Kameen.

Henderson at first argued for Forrest on her background and the fact that she said she would not run for that seat in the next election. Forrest, who was at the meeting, affirmed she would not run for the full term. Henderson said he wanted a "level playing field" for the next election and Hough would have an unfair advantage having served briefly in the seat. Henderson also pointed to a discussion in 2015 on whether the township should have an earned income tax, and that Hough was the only one who spoke in favor of it and the EIT proposal never got traction. Hough later disagreed with Henderson's claim.

A township resident since 1985, Hough noted in his letter of interest that he had attended all Board of Supervisors meetings and workshops and budget meetings since 2012. Scheetz said at the meeting and at a previous meeting that he would favor a candidate who regularly attended township meetings and knew what was going on in the township. Scheetz said most of the candidates had regularly attended meetings. Henderson asked Scheetz when both supervisors nominated different candidates, "Would you reconsider?" Scheetz said he would not and, moments later, Henderson said he would change his vote.

"I'll second it (Hough's appointment by Scheetz). I got a phone call on this that it's a done deal. Mr. Scheetz, I'll side with you," Henderson said. "This (disagreement) was just a matter of spitting in the wind."

As Hough stepped forward to take his oath and took the vacant seat at the front table Scheetz said, "Mr. Hough, I shudder to use the word 'congratulations.' " There was a delay before the oath was taken as Farley and Township Administrator Krista Predmore stepped away to the township offices to find the paperwork for the swearing in as Farley said he did not expect a decision to be reached that night. "I was a little bit surprised and thought it would go longer and then Mr. Henderson changed his mind," Hough said. "At least I've showed interest in what's going on. I love my township and what I can do."

Hough said his initial interests are to continue to at least prevent an increase in township taxes, which have gone down in recent years, and to promote volunteers for the township fire department. Hough said he would like to remain on the Planning Commission but awaits word from Farley as to whether a supervisor can serve in that post as well. Hough at the Wednesday meeting abstained from voting on motions that involved Planning Commission recommendations.

During a workshop before the meeting, Steve McBride spoke against the procedure of each seated supervisor nominating a candidate he selected without residents knowing the names of all who submitted letters of interest. He also said he felt all of the candidates should state their policies and positions and perhaps answer questions posed by the gathering.
Residents then received copies of the candidates' letters of interest

Farley said that each township has its own procedure and there are no state guidelines or rules.  

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.

           

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