Municipal Input Sought for Greenways and Trails – Gas Funds Discussed

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Wyoming County Commissioners (seated, left) Judy Mead and Tom Henry helped proclaim February as Wyoming County Reads Month with help from (standing) Tunkhannock Public Library director Kristin Smith-Gary, and Margie Young and Erica Rogler of the Wyoming County Cultural Center.

Photo and story by Rick Hiduk

(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)

Wyoming County planner Lynnelle Farber informed the county commissioners at their regular public meeting on Tuesday that she is seeking ideas for the next greenways, trails and open spaces master plan. Emails will go out next week to municipal leaders, who are also invited to participate on a steering committee that will review applications.

I will be seeking input from them about any areas that should be preserved for recreation,” Farber stated. Her office will accept proposals prepared for municipalities by qualified design and planning consultants through Monday, Feb. 11. Farber will avail herself for guidance on the applications through Friday, Jan. 25. Questions may be sent to her via email at lfarber@wycopa.org.

Gaylord Says Gas Tax Funds to be Recouped

Wyoming County chief clerk Bill Gaylord provided an update on the controversial liquid fuel funds that state auditor general Eugene DePasquale reported as “left on the table” for ten or more years by the county.

He was wrong. We never ignored it,” Gaylord said of the accusations DePasquale made in October 2018, adding that the $221,000 total and the time frame were both inaccurate. The actual amount was closer to $200,000, Gaylord maintained, $60,000 of which is already in the county’s hands and the remaining $140,000 “on the way.”

Sandy Repsher-Ritz, one of four people in attendance who have publicly announced their candidacy for county commissioner in the upcoming elections, asked how the county might maintain an “open forum” of checks and balances to ensure that bridge inspection disbursements are filed in a timely manner in the future. Gaylord insisted that they had been filed on time.

Exeter Township supervisor Rick Wilbur, also a contender in the spring primary, asked if the townships will get the money that has been recovered. Gaylord related that it is ultimately up to the commissioners, and that it is likely that they will distribute the funds to the municipalities.

Commissioners Judy Mead and Tom Henry were generally in agreement and said that Wyoming County is one of the only counties in the state that gives most of the money to the townships and boroughs because the county owns no roads.

EMA Director Offers to Explain New Flood Maps

After making it clear that the county had nothing to do with the realignment of the flood plain on new maps issued by FEMA, Gene Dziak said that he will still do whatever he can to help municipal leaders understand the changes so they, in turn, can answer questions by residents. Eighteen municipalities are affected by the new maps. Changes can be appealed, Dziak noted, but the process is complicated and involves having hydrological studies conducted.

Wilbur said that townships are not to blame for the changes either, but officials at the local level are catching the brunt of the criticism and confusion over the maps. There are 64 properties in Exeter Township that are now in the flood plain, he related, and 55 of those don’t have structures on them. Others have structures that have never been flooded, but the back yards that abut the river have be inundated.

Dziak indicated that property owners do not have to purchase flood insurance if there is no structure, but they may also be prevented from future construction on the land. Wilbur also questioned a letter provided by the county that he assumed was supposed to be sent to all of the property owners. Dziak explained that the letter was simply a template of one that Eaton Township is using and that each municipality can draft their own version.

A meeting was slated at the county Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday evening at which Dziak and Chaz Mead hoped to answer any questions that municipal leaders have about the maps and their implications.

Commissioners Proclaim ‘One Book, One Movie’ Initiative

Wyoming County Cultural Center directors Erica Rogler and Margie Young were joined by Tunkhannock Public Library director Kristin Smith-Gary to provide details about this year’s “Wyoming County Reads” program. Now in their 15th year of partnering for the initiative, the trio were excited to announce that this year’s featured book and film will be “The Color Purple.”

Participants countywide are encouraged to read the book by Alice Walker, take part in as many as four weekly discussions about the book at the library, then enjoy a free screening of the film Steven Spielberg film based on the book at the Dietrich Theater. Details can be found on both the theater’s and library’s website.

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