NEW BETHLEHEM – As budget talks continue, and in light of a deficit projected at a little more than $800,000 based on initial reviews of the budget for the upcoming school year, the Redbank Valley School Board earlier this week voted to take preliminary steps toward deficit reduction for the 2019-2020 school year.
In two separate votes during their regular meeting Monday evening, board members approved motions to allow the district to increase tax millage at a rate that will exceed the 3.5 percent index for next school year as per the Act I Resolution, as well as to submit exceptions for retirement, special education and debt service as per the Pennsylvania Department of Education timeline.
Board member Dee Bell cast the lone opposition vote for raising taxes above the index.
Clarifying the vote on the question of tax increases above the tax index, board president Dr. Chad Shaffer said following the meeting that Monday night’s vote does not mean that district taxes will necessarily increase.
“It allows us the flexibility to request exceptions from the state to be able to raise [taxes] above the index,” Shaffer explained.
District officials noted that in accordance with the Department of Education’s timeline, a vote to request exceptions must be presented to the state before Feb. 5.
Once submitted, the state must respond to the district’s request by March 27, or 55 days prior to the Primary Election.
“We need to hear back from the state about the exceptions — whether we get them and to what extent,” Shaffer said.
When asked about the need to consider raising district taxes above the index, Shaffer pointed out that the district’s five-year budgetary projection shows that the fund balance will be depleted in less than five years.
“We need to both reduce expenses and increase revenue faster than we have in recent years,” he explained. “Increasing [taxes] just to the Act I Index simply does not provide enough relief.”
Although Shaffer noted preliminary budget analysis and development is “still very much ongoing,” he said the district is currently looking at a more than $800,000 deficit for the 2019-2020 school year.
“I think we’re in an extremely difficult position where unfortunately we can’t increase revenue as much as we may like, or enough to get us to the average district our size,” Shaffer said. “We have to look for exceptions, legislative relief, referendums or significant reductions in our expenses.”
Following up on discussion and a vote held at last month’s meeting rejecting the possibility of the district making Narcan available, board member Bill Reddinger made a motion to reconsider the proposal.
Noting the legitimate concerns raised by fellow board members regarding cost and possible side effects of administering the drug, Reddinger relayed a conversation he had with an emergency room physician supporting the availability of the anti-overdose drug.
“He said that Mrs. [Carrie] Adams is correct that a person who receives Narcan is subject to vomiting, convulsions or violent reactions,” Reddinger said. “But the next response from the ER doctor was, ‘other than that, if you don’t give it to them they’re dead.’”
Pointing out that the original motion only called for further investigation of the possibility of developing an administrative policy that would allow Narcan to be placed in the schools, board member Jason Barnett made a motion to table the motion and discussion. The motion to table was approved in a 5-4 vote.
• District superintendent John Mastillo will host a “Coffee and Conversation” event on Tuesday, Feb. 19 from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Redbank Valley Community Center.
The public is invited to attend the informal gathering to talk about the school, the community and how the two will move forward together.
• High school teacher Blane Gold was unanimously hired as head varsity football coach at a total cost of $5,946.99.
• March 15 was approved as a snow make-up day.
• The following board representatives were approved: Carrie Adams, legislative representative; Dr. Don Nair and Linda Ferringer, Career Center representatives; and Ann Kopnitsky, Intermediate Unit representative.
• The 2019 calendar of board work sessions and meetings was amended to include a combined work session and regular meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
• Board members approved an agreement with Clarion Family Therapy Inc.
• Permission was granted for the district to host a VEX IQ Robotics Tournament on Feb. 23.
• The board directed the administration to make arrangements to sell old uni-vents, lockers and a refrigerator as scrap.
• The resignations of school counselor Debra Boozer, high school teacher Molly Greenawalt, child specific aide Sally Ryan and cafeteria aide Bobbi McGuire were accepted.
• Corbin Anderson was hired as a long-term science/agriculture substitute until the end of the school year.
In addition, Jaclyn Snyder was added to the substitute secretary and cafeteria aide lists.
• The board approved the transfer of 25 sick days for Mastillo from his previous place of employment.
REDBANK TWP. – The start of a new year did little to dull the longstanding feud among Redbank Township (Clarion County) officials, as Monday’s reorganization meeting turned more toward disorganization.
With more than a dozen township residents present at the municipality’s office in Fairmount City, longtime supervisor Tim Shaffer called on his fellow two supervisors Eric Myers and Doug Minich to include him on township business.
Shaffer, who had served as a working supervisor until Myers and Minich went in a different direction a year ago, has been a vocal critic of his fellow supervisors, alleging that they keep him locked out of the township building and fail to notify him about township business.
On Monday night, Myers was appointed chairman and Minich vice chairman of the board of supervisors, and Shaffer was once again left off the list of working supervisors. Instead, Myers and Minich opted to promote part-time employee Wayne Livingston to full-time status.
Shaffer demanded that he should be provided with a monthly financial ledger of township expenses.
“You guys sign the checks and I never see them,” he told Myers and Minich.
Shaffer also demanded to be paid for his attendance at last year’s township convention. The other officials said that would not happen since Shaffer left the convention early and did not present the certificate of his attendance, which is given out to attendees at the end of the day’s activities.
Shaffer alleged that he has been kept out of township work sessions.
“It’s time you two start treating me like [an elected supervisor] because I am one,” he said. “This immaturity has got to come to an end.”
Shaffer claimed that 350 township residents signed a petition calling on Myers and Minich to include Shaffer in the township’s business.
“I am held out here in left field,” he said.
Myers disagreed, saying that Shaffer is invited to township supervisor functions, but it is not their fault if he can’t attend. Shaffer said he often learns of the meetings at the last minute.
“It will be addressed election day,” he said.
One man from the audience told the supervisors that residents voted for Shaffer, and that it wasn’t right for only two supervisors to “run the show.”
Minich said it is a board of three members, and that they do include Shaffer on every vote.
Shaffer said he was most frustrated by the fact that as supervisor, he is partially responsible for the township and its equipment, but he can’t even get in the building to see it.
“These two don’t understand that they work for you,” he told the residents who attended Monday’s meeting.
Becky Doverspike, a township auditor, said that while she doesn’t agree with how the matter has been handled, she said it was time for everyone to grow up.
“You do get to vote, you’re just outvoted,” she told Shaffer. She suggested that if the township needed additional manpower, instead of bringing Livingston on as full-time, it could rehire Shaffer for the position.
Shaffer noted that throughout his arguments, he has not argued about the paid position.
“When two say you don’t work, you don’t work,” he said. “I want my elected duties, I want my elected rights.”
Before the hour-long meeting was adjourned, Shaffer again asked if he would get a monthly ledger of township finances, and if he would be paid for his convention attendance. While Myers said he would get a monthly ledger, Minich said he would not be paid for the convention because he did not present the certificate.
“May is only a few months away,” Shaffer said in reference to the primary election.
A woman in the audience ended the meeting by calling for unity among the board members.
“Please try to get along,” she said, noting that they were acting worse than school children. “We don’t want our township to be the laughingstock of the county.”
SOUTH BETHLEHEM – South Bethlehem Borough Council discussed several topics at its regular monthly meeting on Monday night. The ongoing issues of replacing inoperable fire hydrants along Broad Street and a lagging police protection agreement dominated the session.
Council member Allen Dawson, one of two borough representatives on the Redbank Valley Municipal Authority, said, “The hydrants are set to be repaired or replaced this coming spring.”
Mayor Randall Stahlman said that the upgrades would allow for hydrant flushing and pressure testing to be completed. Funding for this and related projects can be funded through a combination of state and federal programs, according to council vice president Mike Tharan.
The inoperable hydrants have been the subjects of speculation and ridicule for a number of years, according to residents and emergency responders. Heavy truck traffic along Route 28/66, especially at the sharp bend in the road as it curves toward Distant, presents a public safety hazard. The trucks carry liquid fuels, corrosive chemicals and other noxious substances through a populated area.
In the event of a serious traffic accident or a house fire, area firefighters would be hard pressed to respond to the emergency if they had to rely solely on water tankers and pumper trucks drawing water from Red Bank Creek.
A Broad Street resident living near the sharp curve has offered the use of part of his creekside property for the installation of dry hydrants. These would give fire companies better access to the creek, providing a better water supply in addition to fire hydrants restored to operation.
In addition to RVMA’s lagging maintenance of the hydrants in South Bethlehem, council members weighed new terms dictated by New Bethlehem Borough regarding police protection in the area.
Formerly known as the Southern Clarion County Regional Police Department, the organization reverted recently to its original name of the New Bethlehem Police Department.
Along with several other municipalities, South Bethlehem is digging in its heels against significantly higher charges for police coverage.
Tharan said, “We have given the terms of the new agreement to our solicitor for consideration. We are waiting for his feedback.”
Dawn Davis, council secretary and treasurer, said, “As the contract stands now, New Bethlehem always has priority for police protection regardless of the severity of an incident in neighboring areas. If the Peanut Butter Festival is in progress, New Bethlehem police would not respond to a serious incident on the other side of the bridge in South Bethlehem.”
Despite the lower possibility of response, New Bethlehem wants to increase South Bethlehem’s share of expenses by 5 to 10 percent per year.
Negating a years-long agreement between the two boroughs, New Bethlehem also wants the money from all fines collected in South Bethlehem. In neighboring municipalities and townships, the terms are a 50-50 split of the funds, according to Stahlman.
While the council is still hashing out an agreement that everyone can live with, Tharan floated the possibility of extending the old police agreement by 60 days. Sandra Mateer, New Bethlehem Borough Council president, refused but offered to extend protection under the new terms at the new higher price.
Stahlman noted that the borough should be dealing with the police committee, not Mateer.
For now, South Bethlehem has suspended New Bethlehem police protection during the winter months when illegal activity is less common. This is a cost-saving measure which will also provide more time to come up with a solution benefiting all parties.
• Cameron Travis, a 19-year-old from the borough, was the only applicant to fill the council seat left vacant after the death of Clair Himes. Travis was approved by the council and sworn in by the mayor. Travis’ term will expire at the end of 2019, but he is eligible to petition to appear on the November ballot.
• Anita Bowser, Armstrong County community development coordinator, said that the borough has missed the deadline for seeking spring 2019 Community Development Block Grant funding. In the coming months, she will be completing the required applications for fall funding.
• Dawn Davis said that she had noticed deterioration of some new ramp work on Hamilton Street. Borough engineer Bob Grigas said that he would contact Ron Gillette Construction about correcting the damage when warm weather arrives.
• Davis also said that the borough has yet to realize any electricity cost savings from the new LED streetlight replacements in the borough, and its West Penn Power bill has actually increased. Despite a recently passed higher per-kilowatt rate, the borough is supposed to receive a discounted rate which has not been reflected in its bills. Grigas said that other towns that have converted to LED lights have reported significant savings. Davis will contact West Penn Power to discuss the issue.
• The next regular meeting of South Bethlehem Borough Council will be held Monday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Grant Street municipal building.
RIMERSBURG – In their first meeting of 2019, Rimersburg Borough Council members listened to New Bethlehem Police Chief Robert Malnofsky’s report of the borough’s police activity for December, as well as accepted the resignation of the council’s vice president.
At the opening of the meeting, Malnofsky went over his report, citing 40 total incidents. Those include 24 citations, four parking tickets and nine ordinance violations, with police hours totaling 204.25 hours. Not included in the 40 total incidents reported were 23 traffic stops.
Malnofsky said the plan for the month of January is for the department secretary to break down future incident specifics, so that the council is able to get a more detailed look at arrest details that would be de-coded in order to be better understood.
Malnofsky and council members also discussed plans for integrating the former borough council meeting room in the Rimersburg Community Building into a department sub-station, which would be shared between Rimersburg and East Brady. Council expressed interest in setting up a meeting with East Brady leaders to discuss the sharing of operating costs of the sub-station.
Councilman Mark Deeter noted that, in talking with borough residents, there have been positive responses to the new police leadership in regards to an uptick in police presence and traffic stops. Deeter asked Malnofsky what sort of feedback and experiences he had since taking over.
“I’m not going to lie to you, with Facebook, you have your people in favor and your people against,” Malnofsky said. “I made a promise to you guys when I met you that you were going to see changes. One thing that I’m seeing is what some people are considering nitpicking. We’re getting a treasure trove from traffic stops. When I say treasure trove, I mean drugs.”
Malnofsky continued, saying that the perception is that only larger counties have serious issues with drugs, but that that is not the case.
“In my short time here, I see you guys have got a major drug problem,” Malnofsky said. “It’s not minor, it is major. Rich or poor, it does not matter. It affects everybody.”
Malnofsky said traffic stops have yielded confiscations of heroin, meth and marijuana, including that which has been laced with Fentanyl or embalming fluid.
“I thought Westmoreland [County] was bad, but Clarion [County] is worse,” Malnofsky said. “With our interactions and what we’ve been doing, per population compared to Westmoreland, and from what I’m seeing on my end, it is bad. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.”
Malnofsky noted the influx of drugs presented a substantial increase in the importance of introducing a K-9 unit to the department.
“Imagine the stuff we are missing,” the chief said.
The council also discussed the idea of the potential introduction of surveillance cameras within the borough, particularly downtown. Malnofsky said the department is already able to tap into Union School District cameras, as well as utilize private surveillance from local businesses. Councilman T.L. Stewart expressed interest in introducing the cameras as well, noting that he believed they would help prevent ordinances regarding snow removal and parking times from being violated, as well as curtailing drug activity.
“I think it would deter a lot,” Stewart said. “At three o’clock in the morning, there’s a lot of strange traffic in Rimersburg.”
At the end of the meeting, council vice president Lark Palm announced that she would be resigning from the council, effective immediately. Palm did not disclose the reasoning for the resignation.
With the resignation, the borough will need to fill the unexpired portion of Palm’s remaining term by its next meeting in February. Council president Roger Crick noted that there are very few parameters as to how the council would go about appointing a new member, except that they would have to be sworn in within the next 30 days after a vote from the council.
The council also unanimously approved the appointment of Scott Myers as the new vice president.
EAST BRADY – East Brady officials had barely finished going over the December police report with New Bethlehem Police Dept. Chief Robert Malnofsky when two local women arrived at the Jan. 2 meeting to complain that increased police patrols were bad for business.
At their first meeting of the new year, East Brady Borough Council members started off with he chief’s report on December, which included 20 traffic stops in the borough, four citations issues, three ordinance matters, six written warnings and a total of 103.5 hours of police time for the month in East Brady.
Malnofsky, who took the reigns of the local police department in November, said the department is now up to three full-time officers and five part-time officers, with plans to begin the process for bringing a K-9 unit to the department. He also told the council about his plans to place a substation in Rimersburg so that one officer can be stationed in the Rimersburg-East Brady area during all manned shifts.
Council president Barb Mortimer said she was pleased with how the meet-and-greet with the police officer was received in the community in December, and suggested holding another outreach event with the new chief in early 2019.
Farther into the meeting, Kathy Montgomery and Danielle Brink came in to address what they have seen as too much police presence in the town.
Montgomery said that business owners want to know why there seems to be an increase of police enforcement in East Brady, claiming that they counted 16 cars being pulled over in one day.
Mortimer told the women that the borough had just increased its police hours from 20 hours to 30 per week at the start of the new year.
“It’s hurting businesses,” Montgomery said. “Nobody wants to come into town anymore.”
The women said the bars in town have felt the impact, along with Uni-Mart which they claimed was considering cutting back its night hours on certain weekdays. They also claimed people had been pulled over by police without just cause, and that police cars were spotted driving through the parking lot of the St. Cloud bar.
Malnofsky refuted the claims of 16 cars being pulled over in one day, noting that there were a total of 20 traffic stops in East Brady in the entire month of December.
“The officer needs probable cause to pull a vehicle over,” the chief said, noting that there is a lengthy paper trail documenting every traffic stop and incident. “Show me the facts and I’ll discipline the officer.”
Brink claimed that a police car followed her home from work at the All-Stars Bar one night, and the officer appeared to wait until she went inside.
Councilman Tom Hillwig said the complaints had struck a nerve with him, telling the two women that people in the community have been asking for more of a police presence.
“For years people in this town complained because we didn’t have enough police hours,” he said, accusing the women of exaggerating their “absolute baloney” claims.
Councilman Joe Hillwig agreed, saying that if businesses are looking to scale back their hours, it’s not because of the police, but because business is slow during winter months. He also said that police could justifiably stop nearly every car that comes into East Brady on Route 68, as few obey the speed limits coming into town from either across the bridge or down the hill from the north.
Mortimer noted that residents have been asking for more police.
“It’s like walking a tightrope,” she said.
Brink criticized the police for allegedly parking nearby the bars, and pulling over patrons as they leave.
While he said he didn’t condone that tactic, Joe Hillwig noted that “it’s not legal to drink and drive.”
“You can’t drink a beer and get in a car,” he said.
The council told the two women that if they have problems with the police patrols, they should document their findings and report them to the police chief.
In related business, the council adopted a new nuisance ordinance to start the year. Officials said the ordinance combined several related ordinances into one document, and raises the fines involved for violators.
• East Brady will celebrate its 150th anniversary as an incorporated borough in 2019. Council members discussed selling anniversary items to benefit the community center, and suggested incorporating the anniversary into this summer’s Riverfest celebration.
• Officials noted that Route 68 will be paved throughout East Brady and into Brady Township, possibly beginning in March.
• Approval was given for the borough to contract for street sweeping services for this spring.
From sunshine and temperatures pushing 50 degrees over the weekend, to ice and snow and freezing temperatures in just a few days — Mother Nature is sure dishing out the extremes here in January.
While we’ve been very fortunate this winter so far, the National Weather Service says this latest bout of wintry weather should come to an end by Friday, as we should see some sunshine. However, the temperatures aren’t predicted to rise much above freezing for the next several days.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to make the most of the winter season, be sure to check out The L-V later this month as we present a special section dedicated to the many great activities in the area you can still enjoy at this time of year.
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For something fun this weekend, an Ugly Sweater Party will be held this Saturday, Jan. 12, at Trinity Hall to benefit the Kameron Rankin Memorial Scholarship.
Doors will open at 5 p.m., and tickets are $10. Come dressed in your ugliest attire and enjoy food, drinks and music. You must be at least 21 years old to enter.
A Chinese auction is planned, and music will be provided by DJ Fat Kid Inc.
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Also this Saturday, you might want to get outdoors and take part in the Clarion River Winter Wildlife Expedition from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Just because the herds of people have migrated away during the wintertime, doesn’t mean the wildlife is gone too. Matter of fact, winter on the Clarion River is one of the best times of the year to observe wildlife in the park, especially some of the oddballs that you don’t get to see in the summer: migrating birds, river otter, fisher.
How many species of birds and mammals do you think we can document along the National Wild & Scenic Clarion River? To find out, bring your binoculars to the Cook Forest State Park Office for an interpretive driving tour as participants search Clear Creek State Park, the Clarion River, and Cook Forest. Hot chocolate and coffee will be available at the Park Office to warm you up.
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In partnership with the Brick House Bed & Breakfast in Oak Ridge, we are once again putting a call out for submissions of Wedding Announcements — with a chance to win a weekend getaway to the local bed and breakfast.
Any local couples who tied the knot in 2018 can submit their announcements, free of charge, throughout January to be entered in the giveaway. Newlywed couples will also receive a free six-month subscription (in-state only) for The L-V as our special wedding gift.
The Leader-Vindicator does not charge a fee to publish wedding, engagement, birth or anniversary announcements. Forms can be found on our website at www.leader-vindicator.com. Forms can also be obtained at our office, by calling (814) 275-3131 ext. 225 or emailing email@example.com.
For full details, see Page B-4 of today’s issue.
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As the new year gets underway, don’t forget to “Take The L-V With You” in 2019, and send in your travel photos throughout the year.
All you need to do is take a copy of our newspaper with you on any winter, spring or summer trip — from a day-trip to a weekend getaway to a full family vacation — and snap a photo of you and your travel companions with The L-V at a memorable stop along your journey.
Send your photo and information to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will publish it with all the other submissions in our annual end-of-summer special vacation pages.
We can’t wait to see where you take The L-V in 2019!