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BLUE RIDGE CUSTOMERS VENT AT CABLE FRANCHISE HEARING

BLUE RIDGE CUSTOMERS VENT AT CABLE FRANCHISE HEARING
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, May 17, 2018

Delaware Township residents seized the opportunity to voice their feelings and frustrations about their cable television service during a public hearing held before the Board of Supervisors last week.

The hearing will figure in the board’s decision whether to renew a longstanding franchise agreement with cable provider Blue Ridge Communications.

Six residents spoke, all of them critical of Blue Ridge, some complaining of the monopoly created and the company’s high costs for services to customers.

“Years ago, we didn’t have a franchise.  Everyone complains about it,” said Bill Fells.  “It’s very expensive.  Standalone services are very expensive.  Optimum offers a two-year plan for $79 a month.  Since 1995, I’ve been paying the nose for Blue Ridge… Is the infrastructure so inferior that no (other) company comes here?  I feel isolated.”

I question them and get nowhere.

“Rates are ridiculous.  Channels are constantly pixelated,”  said Harold Strassberg.  “Under the plans we have its $100 a month (charges) with poor services.”

Pierre Lavanant said he has no access to Internet service in his area.

“Blue Ridge told us it costs them thousands of dollars to get the Internet (for us).”  Lavanant said “I want (the township) to make a case for us to have Internet access as part of the renewal.  They’re a big company, so I hope they’re able to do that.”

“Blue Ridge just came out with a box that they said is the best thing in the world but its not,”  said Ron Hough.  “There are times you can’t even get a station, that it’s not available.  I did better by the old system.”

Even Roadmaster Vince Flatt and Supervisor Jane Neufeld took to the podium.

“What about service to all residents,” said Flatt.  “On Myck Road, half the residents get Internet and cable and half don’t.  And then we have the outages.  That’s horrible.”

Neufeld complained that Blue Ridge did not remove discarded materials it generated while restoring power from the Nor’easters in early March and that some cable lines that were lowered were not raised back on the utility poles to a safe height.

“Some poles that were broken and they never came back and retrieved them,” Neufeld said, adding, “They should be responsible to customers’ needs.”

TICK SPECIMENS TO BE COLLECTED

With Supervisor Rick Koehler absent from the meeting, Supervisors John Henderson and Neufeld agreed to allow the Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force to collect specimens from the township property as part of a Tick Borne Pathogen Study undertaken at ESU’s Northeast Wildlife Lab for a report of seven different pathogens ticks can carry.

“Ticks are a real problem in Pike County and our commissioners are one of the few to take the bull by the horns to examine the problems,” Neufeld said.

Jeff Opitz was approved to fill a vacant seat on the township Planning Commission after his presentation during the workshop before the meeting.  A resident of Dingmans Ferry and graduate of Delaware Valley High School and the University of Pittsburgh, Opitz said he is planning over the next three month to move his business, Cera Material, from Port Jervis to Dingmans Ferry.

When asked about his interest in a Planning Commission seat, Opitz said, “What better way to serve the community as a business owner?” 

He said, when asked, that his goal “is to see more commerce come to the area.  I’d like to do my part.”  Opitz added he wanted see commercial growth without encroaching on the natural beauty of the area.

The board approved a $1,007 annual payment to the Niki Jones Agency for standard SSD hosting and website security.  Henderson challenged the cost of the service but township Administrator Krista Predmore said other agencies charge comparable rates.  The board also approved ABS Solutions fee of $1,560 for its annual renewal for Office 365 for township computer systems.

Delaware Football League was granted usage for four township fields from July 23-Nov. 26 from 2-9pm for practices and games.

Supervisors approved at the meeting, after discussion during the workshop, paying up to $750 for additional signage needed at Akenac Park for things not already posted.

New signs would include “Swim at your own risk when no lifeguard is on duty” and “No smoking, No Vaping,” which was recommended by Hough.

Henderson read during the workshop a letter from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation regarding three repaving projects.  State Route 2004/Silver Lake Road from SR 402 to SR 739 will be done this year.  SR 2001/Milford Road from the terminus of the project on that road north of 739, on both sides of the SR 2001 intersection will be done next year.

It covers about 2,000 feet of paving.

Supervisors discussed during the workshop and at the meeting a resolution for the May 23 meeting of the National Park Service’s request to set barriers up at the end of Doodle Hollow Road, which is owned by the township, so people won’t venture onto National park property that is unsafe in spots.

TOWNSHIP SAYS NO APPROVAL REQUIRED FOR ONE SMALL SHED ON BUSINESS LOTS

TOWNSHIP SAYS NO APPROVAL REQUIRED FOR ONE SMALL SHED ON BUSINESS LOTS
Pike County Dispatch, Thursday, May 3, 2018
by Wayne Witkowski

DINGMANS FERRY – Delaware Township extended a helping hand toward local businesses last week when the Board of Supervisors approved two ordinance amendments regarding storage space.

After a brief public hearing that had no public opposition or public discussion, the supervisors unanimously approved two changes to Ordinance 901 that allow for one shed on commercial property without the need for zoning approvals if it meets zoning requirements.

“This is an attempt to help businesses in our area,” township Solicitor Thomas Farley told the gathering while introducing the hearing.

The township’s subdivision and land development ordinance (SALDO) and its zoning ordinances follow one set of guidelines, which Farley said afterward makes the township “unique” among many municipalities in the area that have separate standards.

One amendment to the ordinance says, “No more than one shed is to be allowed on a commercial property.”  It follows the existing stipulation of a shed as a “structure not sued for the storage, parking, repair, or maintenance of a motor vehicle that is not more than one story high and whose area is not more than 200 square feet.”  It says the shed is permitted only in a rear setback of the property.

The other amendment to the Land Development section of Ordinance 901 says, “no residential shed or structure of similar or smaller size (200 square feet) shall constitute a land development.”

It goes with the already existing part of the section that excludes a shed as an improvement on one lot or two or more contiguous lots, tracts or parcels of land.

In the past, installing one shed would require an approval process.  Approvals still would be needed for more than one shed.

Also at the meeting, the board approved $2,200 for repairs to a backstop at one of the ball fields that was mangled by the early March Nor’easters Riley and Quinn.  American Fence Co. Inc. of Tafton will do the work.

Also funded was a $1,800 contract with Kocher’s Water Pump & Tanks Inc. of Bath to blow-clean the well providing water to the municipal building and to check the system for bad spots.  Township Administrator Krista Predmore said that type of clean-up has not been needed as far back as she could remember. 

REWIRING AND REMOVING CABINS

The township also approved obtaining estimates for electrical work needed for four cabins at Akenac Park.

A lengthy workshop discussion before the meeting outlined the work, which will include disconnecting the line of one cabin to the Bath House nearby.  That cabin, the Bath House and three other cabins used for storage will have the electric wires that have been on utility poles, including one pole that is in bad shape from the severe winter storms, moved underground.  Roofs for those cabins also will be repaired or replaced.

“As soon as we get estimates, we need to get the work started,” Board of Supervisors Chairman John Henderson said of the electrical work.

Supervisor Rick Koehler recommended the project and for six other cabins – four log cabins and two standard tongue-in-groove cabins – to go to public auction to be removed.  “I don’t think any of the cabins are in danger of collapsing,” said Koehler, who said some of the materials in them might be usable for the company contracted to remove them.  Supervisor Jane Neufeld encouraged Koehler to provide additional information.

The supervisors also plan to further examine the progress of replacing concrete piers under the Akenac park Recreation Hall as work resumes this spring.  “I want to get this going,” said Henderson.

The board approved May 12 from 9 a.m. to noon for a cleanup day at Akenac Park and to budget $100 for snacks and drinks for volunteers.

The supervisors agreed to contact local Boy Scouts, the Dingmans Ferry Lions Club and any other groups using the park to see if they can send volunteers.

The board also tabled any discussion to future meetings of a report under way on how much money has been spent on the park since 2006.  That study was ordered up at a recent meeting at the request of Henderson.

The board also waived any fees for Long Meadow Chapel for its approved use of Akenac Park for its annual baptism and picnic event.  Fees should be waived, said Predmore during a workshop discussion before the meeting, because it is a nonprofit entity.

Two Planning Board vacancies need to be filled and the supervisors said they would request resumes from some individuals who expressed interest.

The board also accepted the resignation of Michael Moffa from the Department of Public Works effective May 4 and praised his service.

During the workshop, the supervisors agreed to deny the Dingmans Ferry Lions Club’s request for a $500 donation because the township already agreed to provide for free port-o-johns needed for its annual Trout Fishing Contest at Egli’s Pond on April 28 that saves the club a $250 expense.

The township last gave $500 donations in 2013 and 2014.  Predmore said there is money available in the line item donation category of the township budget, but supervisor Jane Neufeld said, “I’m comfortable with that,” referring to the port-o-johns as sufficient support for the club.  The other two supervisors agreed.

CABLE FRANCHISE PUBLIC HEARING

Henderson reminded the gathering of a public hearing scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on May 9 regarding the township’s Blue Ridge Cable Franchise Renewal.  He encouraged residents to come to review past performance of the cable company and to identify future cable-related community needs of the township.

When asked during Public Comment when PennDot would fill potholes that have been marked with white circles on State Route 2001/Milford Road, Roadmaster Vince Flatt and Neufeld said they had not heard anything about that from PennDot.

“There’s been discussion whether PennDot has extra money to address sections (of that road) for more than pothole patching,” Neufeld said.  “PennDot has a big pothole patching drive and we’re encouraging residents to contact PennDot about this.”

Accounting for Park Expenditures Wanted

Accounting for Park Expenditures Wanted
By Wayne Witkowski
April 18, 2018 Pike County Dispatch

DINGMANS FERRY – How much money has been spent on Akenac Park since it was taken over by Delaware Township in 2006?

Supervisor John Henderson, regarded for his tough stand on township finances, wants answers.

His motion for a study of how that money was spent in the park, open to county residents and out-of-county visitors for a fee, was passed unanimously during last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

“I want to know 100 percent of what taxpayers have paid,” Henderson said firmly.  “We have a crumbling foundation in one building (being repaired) and leaking roofs on other cabins.”

“We may not know how all of the money was spent going back years ago based on records that were kept,” said Supervisor Jane Neufeld, who has monitored and developed township spending plans in recent months as the treasurer.

Henderson could not venture a deadline for when the figures would be sorted out.

“What is the end game?” asked resident Karen Hagen.  “Is it so we don’t make the same mistakes?”

“Exactly,” Henderson said.  “It’s going to be a history lesson.”

“It will help us do it all better,” Neufeld said.

The supervisors also agreed to put together a survey questionnaire for people entering the park of what they plan to do and what they expect coming to the park, an idea endorsed by Neufeld.

There will be a workshop at the township 9am on May 5 to discuss Akenac Park.

The park began its summer schedule last weekend, which includes weekdays as well as weekends from dawn to dusk.  It’s only open on weekends for the winter schedule.  During the pre-meeting workshop, there was a discussion on specifying operating hours for the park but that was put off for future discussion.

Also on financial matters, the township continued along the goal set by Neufeld and township Administrator Krista Predmore for transparency and to better specify allocation of taxpayer money by unanimously approving resolutions to move money from the General Fund into itemized reserve funds.

“We have a log of money (in General Fund) and we have to show (specifically) what’s being done with it,”  Neufeld said.  “We’re putting money aside (now) so we don’t have to put so much money in to the budget for expenses expected to come our way in the next give to 10 years, instead of looking at things one year at a time.”  The resolutions, first introduced last fall, set aside $310,767 for operating reserve, $250,000 for recreational capital reserve, $325,000 for emergency services and $475,000 for roads, bridges and major equipment.  With “$50,074 already set aside from the past for recreation funds, that, reserve now carries a $300,074 total.  There remains in the general fund $77,000 that has not yet been allocated.

The board also approved spending no more than $2,700 on replacing road equipment damaged from winter storms Riley and Quinn, including “road closed” signs and barricades.  It also approved $583.17 to the Delaware Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps to repair one ambulance damaged during the storms.

It also approved spending $6,937.56 for mulch at the Akenac Park and Ballpark Road playgrounds and for more said at the Akenac Park beach and volleyball court there, both shipments coming from Dingmans Ferry Stone.

Michael Dickerson was approved unanimously for one of the three township auditor posts.  Rick Koehler had won the election last fall for the seat but resigned as of Jan. 1 in order to take the other position as elected township supervisor. 

Only one letter of interest was received for the Recreation Committee that is being revived.  Neufeld said the responsibilities that include raising money for recreation might have discouraged some people and suggested a round table discussion on the topic.  “I’m going to wait until I get more mobile to get around and talk to people,” said Henderson, who has been battling an illness.

The supervisors unanimously agreed to advertise for a public hearing 7:15pm on May 9 regarding the township’s Blue Ridge Cable franchise renewal.  The hearing will include a review of past performance and identifying the future cable-related community needs of the township.  Citizens are invited to testify.  “Come with your questions about service,” Neufeld said.

The board at its next meeting on April 25 will have a public hearing to amend ordinance 901’s definition of land development.  The hearing begins at 7:15pm.

DELAWARE ISSUES SPECIFIC STANDARDS FOR DOG KENNELS

DELAWARE ISSUES SPECIFIC STANDARDS FOR DOG KENNELS
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch, Thursday, April 5, 2018

DINGMANS FERRY – Residents looking to house dogs or breed dogs, including show breeds, in a kennel will face more specific standards after the Delaware Township Board of Supervisors at last week’s meeting passed two amendments to existing ordinances after a public hearing.

With no opposition from the gathering and brief questions and comment from four individuals who shared some perspective, the board approved the amendments to Ordinance 901, defining the word “kennel” and Ordinance 110, listing more specifics for kennel use.  Township Attorney Thomas Farley said during the hearing the kennel is for boarding purposes only and responded to resident Steve McBride’s question about “puppy mills” that the ordinance does not allow for retail sale of dogs.

Ordinance 901 further defines kennel as any location with no more than 20 dogs kept at a time or a boarding kennel in which dogs are not all licensed in the property owner’s name.  Once those dogs are bred for puppies, the puppies must be removed to a new owner as soon as possible.  If the puppy is staying and gets licensed, it becomes part of the 20-dog limit.

A boarding kennel is defined in the ordinance amendment as “any establishment available to the general public where a dog or dogs are housed for compensation by the day, week or a specified or unspecified time” for the purposes of exercise, day care or entertainment for the dog.  It also does not allow for veterinary medicine to be practiced there as a service under act P.L. 995, No. 326.  It does not include an establishment engaged only in dog grooming or dog training, according to the ordinance.

Ordinance 110 amendments include that the property must be at least four acres in size.

The kennel is for conditional use, and an applicant must be approved by the Planning Commission and provide a copy of the kennel license to the zoning officer, who will be allowed access to the property as needed to enforce the ordinance.

Kennel owners may reside on the property, but if they don’t, it must be staffed 24/7.

Dogs may be let outside only between the hours of 7 am and 8pm, no closer than 100 feet to a property line and no less than 200 feet to any existing residence or noncommercial district line.  The township Planning Commission may impose additional setback restrictions regarding noise, odor, water pollution and other impacts on adjacent properties.

Areas must provide indoor and outdoor exercise areas for animals and must be enclosed by a fence satisfactory to containing the animals.

Animal waste and unconsumed food must be removed on a daily or more regular basis and water for cleaning cages must be disposed in a sewage disposal system approved for that purpose by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the township’s sewage enforcement officer.  Fecal waste must be stored in odor-proof, fly-proof containers to be removed from property by a solid waste hauler at least once per week.

Farley said that residents already housing or breeding dogs fall under previously existing ordinance requirements.  He said those “grandfathered” facilities can be sold to another breeder and continue under the old standards if established with the township by the original owner. 

The idea of the amendments stems from a September meeting in which the board granted a conditional permit from the zoning office to nationally certified show dog breeders Elisabeth Cologne-Szymanski and husband James Szymanski.  A neighbor had complained about noise from the 20 dogs on their property.

Farley said the township worked with them on the specifics to allow for their service many of them included in the new amendments.

The main points of the approval, all sides agreed, was the time allowed for the dogs to be outside: 7am to 8pm and a stockade wood fence to be built around the back of the property facing the neighbor, to reduce sound.

George Beodeker asked what happens if someone decides to open a breeding operation on commercial property and he was told it falls under the building ordinance.  Farley said any construction goes under standard zoning and is referred to the Planning Commission.

McBride offered some “housekeeping items” to tighten and clarify wording of the amendments.  Farley said necessary changes were noted and would be made.

“If someone is breeding dogs for short term and not keeping them in that case, there’s no need for conditional use,” Farley said.

Jennifer McPherson, who said she issues dog licenses, pointed out that the state has established more specific standards on matters such as the lowest temperature for a dog to be kept outside.

Dorothy Moon said as a professional breeder who also houses rescue dogs and has stayed under the 20-dog limit, she is concerned about exceeding that limit, but Farley assured her that her property falls under the old standards. 

Later in the meeting, the board approved a public hearing during the April 25 meeting at 7:15pm to further amend ordinance 901 to include the definition of “shed” and update the definition of land development with exception.

In other meeting news, Board of Supervisors Chairman John Henderson resigned as township secretary because of a physical condition he suffered recently that he said restricts use of his hands.  Supervisor Rick Koehler was approved as new secretary…Supervisors also accepted the immediate resignation of Marguerite Nemeth from the Planning Commission because she and her husband are moving.  The board agreed to advertise for letters of interest for the position.

The board also accepted the fiscal year 2017 audit performed by Kirk Summa & Co LLP and agreed to publish and advertise the township’s Concise Financial Statement for fiscal year 2017 on the modified cash basis by Kirk Summa & Co.

Key totals include $2,996,115 in total assets.  $44,048 in liabilities, $2,055,470 in total revenue and $1,879,777 in total expenditures.

It also approved renewing volunteer accident insurance with CIMA at a $582 annual cost.

Repairs by Marshall Machinery Inc. for $5,277.79 for the township chipper were approved after discussion.  Township Roadmaster Vince Flatt pointed out the chipper had been used extensively during storm cleanup and new ones cost between $40,000 and $80,000… The board approved payment of $1,800 to 12 independent contractors working the three days on road clearing and traffic control following Nor’easter Riley at $10 per hour over 15 hours of work by each.

Township Administrator Krista Predmore said during the workshop session before the meeting that the Delaware Plaza project “is moving forward despite what you’ve heard.  It will start this spring.”  She said the developer is looking to change the septic requirement but has gotten approvals from the state DEP, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Highway Occupancy Permit and a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.  “They (developer) can come to the township for a zoning permit and move forward this spring,” Predmore said.

Predmore said during the workshop a “thank you” letter was sent to local company Sequoia Tree Service for its work during the storm but said additional work is needed that township employees do not have the equipment to handle.

Flatt said half a dozen “widow makers” (a hazardous detached or broken limb or tree top) are above local roads and Emergency Management Coordinator George Beodeker recommended the supervisors contact state Rep. Rosemary Brown and state Senator Lisa Baker to see if that work would be covered by state emergency grant money.

The board approved an Eagle Scout project by Matt Budd of Troop 175 to install two picnic tables that have handicapped accessible seating and to paint one of the swing sets to match the other at Ballpark Field off Wilson Hill Road.

Delaware Twp. Gets Debriefing on Storm Response

Delaware Twp. Gets Debriefing on Storm Response
By Dakota Hendricks
Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, March 22, 2018

DINGMANS FERRY – At their March 15 meeting, Delaware Township Board of Supervisors heard a preliminary report from Emergency Management Coordinator George Beodeker about the response to Winter Storms Riley and Quinn.

In the preliminary report, Beodeker outlined the struggles Delaware Township faced during the first few days, including where and when vehicles were stuck, the fire department’s response, tree cutting and other measures.  He said Delaware Township did not meet federal requirements to open as a shelter; however, they provided a warming station, MRE’s etc., at the township building. 

Beodeker said they struggled to get information out to the public and had difficulty fighting rumors of mandatory evacuation and other misinformation.  The Township had to hire Sequoia Tree Service, a company with disaster certification, to clear trees near live wires and clear trees for emergency responders.  There will be a formal emergency action review in the next 30 days.

Beodeker praised Roadmaster Vincent Flatt, Mike Moffa, Steve Tarquini, Lori McCrory, Robin Jones, Krista Predmore and the 20 firemen from the Township Fire Department for “carrying” the residents of Delaware Township through the storm and cleanup.  Beodeker warned that residents should prepare for the upcoming storm early as the infrastructure is already damaged and the people that maintain it are work out.

Tom Zologa, a PennDOT subcontractor, said he was upset at the lack of communication during the storm.  He asked why the Township did not have adequate measures to get information out ahead of time like a radio broadcast considering similar circumstances occurred after Hurricane Sandy.  He accused the Board of doing “nothing” despite Beodeker’s attempts at explaining what the Emergency Management Response entailed.  Zologa said “How can you check it [Facebook] when the power is out?”

According to Michel Baehr, executive director of American Red Cross Poconos and Wayne/Pike Chapter, the Red Cross was deployed to Matamoras, Milford, Bushkill and Dingman Fire Departments, bringing food and other needed supplies.  “it’s up to Pike EMA to let us know what they need.”

 There will be a Red Cross Appreciation Dinner at Bushkill Fire Department on April 22 starting at 4 p.m. for Bushkill, Dingman, Milford Township, Matamoras and Lackawaxen Fire companies that opened shelters.  Any others that also set up shelters can attend.

The Supervisors will be asking Boucher & James Consulting Engineers to re-evaluate two birdges in the township, on Park Road and Log and Twig, to determine the extent of the damage done by Winter Storms Riley and Quinn.  Boucher & James will also be contracted to repair the docks at Akenac park, finish the Akenac Rec Hall Piers, design a salt shed for the township and create plans for the restoration of the Dingmans Ferry/Delaware Township Historical Society.

Resident Dick Hanel asked the Board if there was any way to reach out to the Park Service to get a timetable as to when local parks such as Child’s Park will be reopened.  He was particularly concerned as the last closure of the park lasted over two year.  Beodeker responded, saying the Park Service has yet to do a damage assessment and will not until the weather clears. 

IN OTHER BUSINESS

There will be a public hearing on March 28 to amend ordinance 110 and 901 adding kennels as conditional use in commercial zones and defining what a kennel is.

The Township approved motions to advertise for staff at Akenac Park during the summer months. Positions include lifeguard, seasonal gatekeeper and public works.

The Board approved a pay raise to $16 an hour to full time public works employee Mike Moffa.

The Dingmans Ferry Lions Club will be holding a Fish Fry at the municipal building on March 23 from 3-8pm.

The Delaware Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps is holding their Annual Easter Plant and Bake Sale Friday, March 30 from 12pm to 7pm.

The Supervisors approved a request to use Akenac Park by North PPODS & Friends, Parents of Children with Special Needs, to hold their annual Walk for Down Syndrome Awareness on Sunday September 23.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be held on March 28.  The Workshop begins at 6pm The Supervisors’ meeting starts at 7pm.

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