The sewer authority overseeing a sewage collection system around Lake Carey accepted bids last Thursday to begin work on a treatment plant as well as the collection system.
Construction could begin immediately, and past meetings of the Lemon Township and Tunkhannock Township Sewer Authority have suggested it will take at least 18 months to complete the collection system and 12 months for the treatment plant to become operational.
Contracts awarded Thursday, July 2, according to LTTTJMSA secretary Rebecca Kilmer, were: general construction of the wastewater treatment plant to Milnes Company of Tunkhannock — $4,703,949; the electrical construction system in the treatment plant to GR Noto of Clarks Summit — $902,000; and the low pressure sewer collection lines to Harger Utility Construction of Lock Haven — $5,593,934.
Kilmer said during a special meeting of the authority on June 24, there were around 20 units that had not satisfied a grinder pump easement status. Attorney Bill Lawrence suggested units not property signed up could go though a process seeking eminent domain or condemnation, and he was confident that would not interfere with the construction phase.
The need for a sewer system around Lake Carey has been a source of contention for years and was essentially settled when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection mandated a 537 plan around the lake that was approved in 2015 and updated the following year.
The original design called for a Biologically Engineered Single Sludge Treatment wastewater plant but was changed to be an Orbal system in order to be non-proprietary. It calls for a 120,000 gallons per day wastewater treatment plant that will be constructed to initially service 390 EDUs based on the sewage flow from the Lake Carey area in both Lemon and Tunkhannock townships.
The treatment plant will be located off Billings Mill Road behind the Shadowbrook Resort, with treated effluent discharged to the Tunkhannock Creek.
The LTTTJMSA was formed in 2012 on the advice of DEP, and both Lemon and Tunkhanock townships had to put up some of their own monies to get the project off the ground.
The sewer authority got a big boost last October when the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PennVest) awarded a low-interest loan of $3,317,652 and a grant of $10,008,698 to complete the Lake Carey Sewer Project, by constructing a wastewater conveyance system and treatment plant, including a low pressure sewage collection system. The assistance meant that people’s monthly sewer bills would be “affordable” once the system is completed.
Officials amended Tunkhannock Borough’s zoning ordinance to allow certain professionals to conduct business in the area surrounding the Wyoming County Courthouse.
The vote followed a public hearing held prior to council’s regular meeting on July 2. Council member Chas Mead voted present and council member Ron Coolbaugh voted no.
Council rezoned the area from R1 (residential) to RP (residential-professional) to allow professionals such as accountants, lawyers and realtors to have workspaces there. Medical offices were excluded for typically generating greater traffic and parking demands.
Ned Slocum represented the Tunkhannock Borough Planning Commission during the hearing.
“The vote was 3-4 to recommend not adopting the redistricting change,” he said. “The vote was in favor of the change in the zoning map down on Sherwood’s. We found no objection to that.”
From a personal standpoint, he said that while professionals may move away from downtown and free up storefronts, there’s no guarantee that more businesses would open as a result.
“You’re taking an already overly congested area and allowing it to become further congested,” Slocum said.
He mentioned another major change in the ordinance related to cluster housing development.
“We were surprised to see that the ordinance was also including amending the special district to allow cluster housing, and that wasn’t part of the initial direction given to us,” Slocum said. “...The Planning Commission’s position on that is moot. We have not had ample time to do a thorough review that we believe would be necessary.”
Council added the definition of an electronic messaging sign to the ordinance, which Slocum said the commission was also surprised to see in the ordinance. Likewise, he had no input to share on the commission’s behalf.
Representing the Wyoming County Community Planning Office, Lynnelle Farber said there were no objections to the ordinance changes.
“If it allows those businesses that are occupying our storefronts in town and other areas to evaluate and move, maybe it’s a good place to start, and we don’t know until we make that change,” she said.
Farber added that conversations about cluster housing came about because of proposed developments in areas already zoned S1 (special conservation).
“Those areas that are zoned S1 are some of the last developable properties in the borough,” she said. “When we talk about tax base and revenue, those are really our last areas to generate any of that kind of revenue for the borough.”
“It would still have to come in front of the Zoning Hearing Board for conditional use approval,” Farber added.
In response to the vote, council member Dan Gay said working personally with organizations like the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce and the Tunkhannock Business and Professional Association, the goal has been to bring more businesses into the area.
“I think it’s just going to be positive, and whether it works or not, it’s just giving these guys an opportunity to move around the courthouse,” he said. “I’m just happy that we’re moving forward to see what can happen to our downtown and bring businesses in.”
In other business, council hired South Abington Twp. Patrolman Matthew McDonald for a part-time patrolman position with the Tunkhannock Borough Police Department.
Council member David Wiggins said the Police Committee voted to ask the borough’s Civil Service Commission to consider lowering the hiring age for new officers from 21 to 19, then bring it to a full council vote later this year.
Also, Tunkhannock Borough Police Chief Keith Carpenter said “everything in town has picked back up” with the most restrictive COVID-19 orders lifted in Wyoming County.
He’s been in touch with Tunkhannock Area School District about plans for the fall, but they haven’t been formalized yet, he said.
Council also voted to have a rust mitigation technique performed on the underside of one of the police department’s vehicles, which costs $550.
Under transportation and streets, council president Bob Robinson said UGI presented its plans for the second phase of the GET Gas project in Tunkhannock Borough, but he didn’t share any details. The borough handed the plans over to Milnes Engineering.
Also, Robinson said Act 13 funding for 2020 totals $33,197.07, a decrease from last year.
Tunkhannock Borough Council is scheduled to meet again on Aug. 6 at 7 p.m.
By the time Bill Prebola learned he was the 14th person in Wyoming County to contract COVID-19, he was already on the mend.
“I was surprised in the sense that the fever went away within two days and I had zero respiratory symptoms,” he said. “Thankfully when the results came back positive, I was already feeling much better. I didn’t take a turn for the worst. It was a very mild case.”
In April, Prebola remembers feeling weak, fatigued and just generally run down. He spiked a high fever right before Easter and got tested for COVID-19 at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
About 48 hours later, his test came back positive.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” he said. “Within two days, the fever went away.”
A partner at Northeastern Rehabilitation Services in Wilkes-Barre, Dr. Prebola has appointments at several area hospitals. When businesses shut down statewide to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, his work remained essential.
“Even before I got sick, when the schools closed down and the hospitals closed to visitors, I was the one in my family going into the community,” he said. “The Prebola household was shut down, so to speak.”
Outside of the medical field, Prebola serves on the Tunkhannock Area School Board and dedicates time to volunteer work, such as the Tiger Fund for Excellence.
His mild symptoms, which reminded him mostly of a common cold, allowed him to recover at home in Monroe Twp. He’s thankful for this, and the fact that his wife Marianne and four children didn’t get sick, too.
“This virus back in March and early April was very concerning to the medical community,” he said. While concerns remain, he said we know much more about it than we did before.
Prebola said he’s in favor of everyone staying the course with mitigation procedures like wearing masks and practicing social distancing. While there are tons of mild cases out there, he reminded the public that it’s important to protect the most vulnerable.
“There are some people, and especially those over 70 years old with three or more comorbidities, those are the folks that are at high, high risk of really getting sick,” he said.
Prebola plans to donate convalescent plasma in hopes of helping other COVID-19 patients.
He feels fortunate to live in Wyoming County, which aside from having “a fantastic community,” has reported fewer confirmed cases than other areas.
“I think we have responsible people in the community and I think that’s one of the great things about living in Tunkhannock,” Prebola said. “My family, we love where we live, and we love the community… We’re very lucky to live where we live.”
Prebola also discussed his experience with COVID-19 in Stone House Gives Back, a video series with Stone House Retirement Income Planners. Visit stonehouseretire.com to watch the video.
The trial of Phillip Walters, the man accused of murdering his girlfriend, then throwing her body over a bridge at Falls in 2018, has been scheduled for Aug. 17, according to the new judge assigned to the case.
Senior Judge Dudley Anderson of Lycoming County, assigned to the case after Wyoming County President Judge Russell Shurtleff recused himself in March, said in pre-trial motions June 29 that the case could move forward in August.
At that hearing, Judge Anderson did clear the way for two new charges to be brought against Walters: strangulation and abuse of corpse. Both had been requested by Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell.
An unresolved issue at least on June 29 at the time of the pre-trial motions is whether Mitchell should recuse himself from the case based on charges leveled by Walters’ Attorney Timothy Michaels.
Mitchell said last Thursday that he expects the judge to rule on that matter by the end of this week.
Walters has been charged with criminal homicide, first degree murder and third degree murder in the death of Haley M. Lorenzen, 24, of Oregon.
Walters has been in the Wyoming County jail without bail since he was arrested in January of 2019.
The body of Lorenzen had been missing since Dec. 31, 2018, and was recovered on July 20, 2019 in the Susquehanna River near Plymouth.
Both Mitchell and Michaels were in agreement last week that even if the case were on the calendar for Aug. 17, no order has come through as to what a jury trial might look like in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the court’s actions, including guilty pleas and sentencings have been conducted via use of Zoom technology.
Nicholson residents will soon need to find another option for disposing of recyclables.
On Monday, Nicholson Borough Council voted to remove the County Waste recycling receptacles housed outside of the borough building. Residents of the borough and Nicholson Twp. can either drop their recyclables off at the Wyoming County Recycling Center in Tunkhannock Twp. or use a different service.
The decision followed a discussion last month about people abusing the service. Not everyone using it lives in either approved municipality, and people dropping off non-recyclable items has become a growing problem.
Council first checked to see if the township would be willing to house the receptacles instead, but Nicholson Borough Manager Jessica Bower said the answer was no.
“They said if we were to discontinue, they would end the joint venture and reevaluate their options for the township,” she said.
Council member John Decker voted against the motion to cancel the service. A date for picking up the receptacles has yet to be determined.
Members of council agreed that it isn’t out of the question to bring recycling back to the borough some time in the future.
In other business, Mayor Charlie Litwin presented an award in appreciation of bravery and sacrifice to Evan Herron from Nicholson Fire Company, who was injured while assisting with a structure fire in May.
Gary Evans, zoning officer, briefed council on developments in amending the borough’s zoning ordinance to include guidelines about fences. Council members plan to look over the possible changes ahead of their August meeting.
Council also appointed Sara Pipech to the Water and Sewer Authority Board to replace Art Wadge, who resigned.
With Nicholson Borough’s 2020 U.S. Census rates below 50%, Bower reminded residents to respond as soon as possible. Visit my2020census.gov or call 1-844-330-2020.
Nicholson Borough Council is scheduled to meet again on Aug. 3 at 6 p.m.