Wyoming County Commissioners unanimously approved the 2021 budget at a virtual work session on Thursday morning.
Commissioner Rick Wilbur said that there has been one change made since the initial budget was released, and that was $18,000 being added to the total. The budget is available for the public to view at the county website, www.wycopa.org.
The budget is balanced with an income of $16,014,720.60 and expenses of the same amount and contains no tax increases or cuts to any county services.
Commissioners thanked the county’s first responders for their work during the Christmas Eve flooding at a virtual work session on Thursday morning.
Although the major flooding that was initially forecasted did not happen, there were still some flooding concerns throughout the county, particularly in creeks, small streams, and areas with poor drainage.
“We were up during the night on Christmas Eve receiving hourly updates,” Commissioner Rick Wilbur said. “EMA, and all of the first responders had a great response and were prepared for all of the rain and snow melt that we had. Thank goodness that it wasn’t worse.”
Although the Susquehanna River did not crest as high as initially forecasted, there were still some spots in the county that did experience flooding. Meshoppen saw some moderate flooding, as did Noxen, Exeter Township and Eaton Township.
There were downed trees in Exeter Township that closed parts of Route 92. Six families were also evacuated from their homes along Bowman’s Creek in Eaton Township. Commissioners said those were the only evacuations that needed to be performed.
“The county has seen worse flooding in the past,” Wilbur said. “We were prepared for this one.”
Commissioners announced that after a couple months of meetings with Keystone College and Lackawanna County, that Lackawanna and Wyoming counties are close to partnering with the college for 10 percent tuition reductions for students in both counties.
“This is going to be a wonderful investment for our youth,” Commissioner Tom Henry said. “We look forward to having Keystone College as a partner with us for a long time.”
The commissioners agree that this will be beneficial for area students looking to continue their education, and will cause less worries of student debt which can cause students to turn away from college.
A slow-moving weather event anticipated to bring freezing rain moving into rain Sunday afternoon, ended up dumping about five inches of white stuff over most of Wyoming County Sunday.
“It wasn’t that big a deal,” Wyoming County EMA director Gene Dziak said, because most people stayed home.
“That’s a good idea for everyone’s safety,” he said, noting because classes locally were in virtual mode, there was no need for school buses to be out Monday morning.
But for many of those heading home after 7 p.m. Sunday, and having to scale higher elevations, road plows seemed to be in a losing battle trying to keep up with the snowfall, leaving behind any orders of cinders or salt as the temperatures were forecasted to keep going above the freezing mark after midnight.
The biggest culprit, Dzak said, was a winter warning issued about 9:45 p.m. about a band of snow that just spread out and stayed over the county.
During the night, emergency personnel had to deal with trees down in Windham Township, Nicholson Township and Falls Township, Dziak said, and Falls was particularly hit by power lines also down on Buttermilk Road and Falls Road.
PennDOT reported at 10 a.m., Monday, that because of power lines down on SR2017 (Buttermilk Road), the road probably would not be reopened until 3 p.m.
State police also reported that accidents were kept down to a minimum, and as daybreak arrived Monday, things quickly started improving.
Tunkhannock Township supervisors met for a reorganizational meeting Monday, and while much of 2021 will look like 2020, there was a case of musical chairs at the top.
Randy White emerged as chairman of the supervisors and Glenn ‘Ace’ Shupp is vice chairman. White will oversee a $4 million budget for the New Year, almost double of what he left at the end of 2019, when the then newly elected Hoyt Keiser was voted in as chairman.
Half of the budget is mostly on the strength of a couple of major grants that came the township’s way to pay for a long overdue bridge to replace a steel grate bridge across the South Branch of the Tunkhannock Creek.
Bassett Engineering has been overseeing much of the consulting work, and there was an expectation that a requested parcel for a ‘safer’ approach to the bridge would have been consummated by the end of last year but that has not yet materialized.
Most of Monday night’s meeting was a review of stakeholders for the township in the New Year.
It was agreed that once again, supervisors meetings would take place on the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m., except for Labor Day when September’s meeting would be the Tuesday following Labor Day Monday. and November’s meeting — so as to not go against the elections office prep work, would take place on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.
The Joint Municipal Sewer Authority (Lake Carey) would take place at 6 p.m. at the township building on the first Thursday of each month.
There was a discussion of vacation time of which was capped at 50 days as the max that could be carried over for municipal workers.
Secretary Judy Gingher said she had surpassed that number of days.
Chairman White said any days under consideration that way needed to be removed before the end of the first quarter of 2021.
During the meeting, the supervisors appointed the CPA firm of Ganader Jones & Co. to do the annual audit pf the township’s budget for 2020.
It was acknowledged that across 2020, three new road names have emerged in Tunkhannock Township: Sleepy Hollow (off Bardwell Road), Fernwood (off Saddle Lake), and Lower Stonewall Road (off Rt. 29, not far from Hardings Dairy Board).
Gingher noted that four local elections in the township will be on the spring primary ballot which they hope will yield competition in November: Supervisor post 6-year term held by Hoyt Keiser; township constable, and 2- and 4-year terms for township auditor.
She also noted correspondence from PennDOT which said it planned to collect traffic data on township roads without getting too specific.
During the closing parts of the meeting, White gave a shout out to a disc golf website apparently run by University of Scranton student or staff member, Brendon Dragos, that really lifted up the relatively new disc golf course at Lazybrook Park, which is a memorial tribute to William Kresge.
White said he was pleased to see people enjoying the course for recreation during the pandemic.
Secretary Gingher also read aloud a note of thanks for the township’s annual donation to the Tunkhannock Public Library that was made in December.
A new year is upon us, and as the world ventures into 2021, the goals of lots of people are to leave 2020 in the rearview mirror. Although the year 2020 did not turn out like anyone thought it would be, area business leaders are looking at 2021 through a new light.
Although the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will still be felt for a little while, most organizations are looking ahead to the post pandemic time, when events that have become a part of everyone’s lives can fully return.
Tunkhannock Business Professional Association President Nancy Parlo said that even though everyone is still keeping a close eye on COVID, that the TBPA is still planning 2021 events.
“As of right now, we are still planning to have Founders’ Day in June, but the association is also going to meet to plan some smaller events as well,” Parlo said. “It’s unfortunate that we had to cancel so much of our 2020 events, but everyone else was in the same boat.”
Tunkhannock Kiwanis Club President Tom Tesluk echoed those statements. He said the Kiwanis Club is planning to have all of their events again this year, if the pandemic allows.
“We want to get back our Easter egg hunt, canoe race, Halloween parade, and especially getting our stand back at the Wyoming County Fair,” Tesluk said. “We’re just looking forward to a better year, and things opening back up again.”
One of the industries that got hit hardest by the pandemic restrictions was restaurants.
La Catalina Store and Eatery on East Tioga Street in Tunkhannock opened in October, and owner Carla Lopez is looking forward to a better year, a year where she doesn't have to worry about restrictions.
“The people have supported us great, and we couldn’t be happier,” Lopez said. “The restrictions hurt us a lot, but we think that 2021 is going to be a really good year for us.”
Lopez said that she and her husband Macario Lopez have set some new goals, including making improvements to inside the restaurant.
“We want to expand our menu a little bit, but our biggest idea is to add an outdoor dining area so our customers can have more room,” Lopez said. “Having to tell customers that they can’t eat inside has been very hard for us, and we want to be able to fix that.”
One of Tunkhannock’s most famous landmarks, the Dietrich Theater, will be celebrating it's 20th anniversary of reopening. Although it was closed for a lot of the year, the Dietrich is looking to celebrate it's big anniversary with a bang.
“The theater is going to be offering lots of film festivals and classes as part of the 20th anniversary celebration,” theater executive director Erica Rogler said. “We typically provide movies, classes and events to over 70,000 people. We are hoping to see that number again in the new year.”
Although the Dietrich’s screens have been dark for a lot of the year, Rogler still said that there is a lot to be thankful for heading into 2021.
“Through our virtual events we were able to give people we might not have been able to reach before that small town Dietrich Theater experience,” Rogler said. “I thought that was a very cool thing to see.”
Business owners would like to continue seeing in 2021 is the continued campaigns to shop local and support small businesses.
“I have seen so many posts online of people trying to support each other,” Parlo said. “And I hope that even when COVID is over, people will continue to do that by going to area shops and restaurants.”
They are also hoping that 2021 is the return of seeing old friends and having fun.
“The kids missed out on a lot of stuff with schools being closed and events being canceled,” Tesluk said. “Next year, we’re looking forward to bringing fun back.”
“Hopefully 2021 is a year that we’re all going to be celebrating, and I think that it will be,” Rogler said. “The community is so strong, and it’s going to be stronger than ever this year.”
A 52-year-old from New York was Wyoming County’s first New Year’s fatality, following an all-terrain vehicle crash in Washington Township.
Meshoppen Police Chief John Krieg said that at 4:40 p.m., he was called to a Pierson’s Road location.
He identified the victim as Giovanni B. Mangogna, of Manorville, N.Y., and, according to a police complaint had last been seen at 3:15 p.m. when he departed on a 4x4 Polaris ATV and told his son and an acquaintance that he was going for a ride.
When Mangogna did not return, his 26-year-old son Antonino G. Mangogna, also of Manorville, and friend Giuseppe Simonetta, 45, of West Babylon, N.Y., became concerned.
After he failed to answer his cell phone, they left to look for Giovanni. After stopping at a neighbor’s house and confirming he had not been seen there either, they went back into the woods, and saw the lights on in the distance, Kreig wrote.
Once they located the lights, they discovered the ATV was on its side and lying on his father. The younger Mangogna said he attempted CPR but was unsuccessful. Simonetta then called for help.
Wyoming County Chief Deputy Coroner Eric Kukuchka pronounced the older Mangogna dead from multiple traumatic injuries. He ruled the death accidental and later said he believed weather may have been a factor.