VanDerMark Retires From Laceyville Council, Board Grants Ambulance Request

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Officer Kevin Costello (above) of the Laceyville Borough Police Department is happy to be back on the road following the borough’s purchase of a 2011 Chevy Tahoe, formerly used by the Athens Police Department. Decals identifying the vehicle, which has been in service since the end of November, will be ordered and applied in the coming weeks.

Photos and Story by Rick Hiduk

(As published in the Dec. 7 edition of the Rocket-Courier)

Laceyville Borough Council welcomed one new member to the table and said farewell to a longtime member who has served the community for 40 years. Don VanDerMark conducted his final regular meeting as chairman and was applauded by the board as he wrapped up business on Tuesday evening.

VanDerMark (above) noted that he was elected to the board when Mabel Clark was mayor. One of the biggest achievements he has helped to oversee was the paving of all streets within the borough. Commenting on what he personally gained from the experience, he stated, “I learned a lot of things in the time that I was on council about what used to be in Laceyville from older council members and other older residents.”

In addition to an executive session to hash out details of the 2018 budget, which will be available for public review as of today, Laceyville Borough Council weighed a request for additional funding for ambulance service, discussed the future of the Franklin Street bridge, and committed to the proper outfitting and care of a new police vehicle.

Meshoppen Fire Company president Travis Prevost (below, foreground) completed a successful eight-municipality sweep on Dec. 5 with his pitch for an additional $3,000 toward the $25,000 the company needs to hire additional ambulance drivers and personnel. The dynamics of ambulance coverage for rural areas has changed dramatically, Prevost explained, and ambulance coverage in the region is threatened by a number of factors.

Volunteerism is on the wane, the cost for certification of personnel is up, and the lack of emergency services at Tyler Memorial Hospital means that ambulances spend more time on the road traveling to and from distant hospitals. What used to be a 45minute run now keeps an ambulance out of service for three hours or more. Meshoppen Ambulance currently has paid staff from 6 am to 6 pm on weekdays and wants to increase its manpower into the evening and on weekends.

We’re not in it to make money, but we don’t want to lose money either,” Prevost stated, noting that the company’s reserves are getting low. Meshoppen absorbed Laceyville into its coverage area in 2014. “We would hate to see Laceyville lose another ambulance.”

Nobody on the council disagreed that ambulance coverage was a high priority for the community, even though they were taken off guard by the urgency of the petition. Having just discussed the budget however, they knew that there was enough of a surplus from 2017 to meet the request one a one-time basis.

Kristy Fassett made the motion, and the board unanimously approved a donation of $3,000 to Meshoppen Ambulance and encouraged Prevost to reach out to them prior to September in 2018 so the full amount needed could be reassessed and included in the 2019 budget. Prevost thanked the council and indicated that he and Meshoppen Fire Company Chief Chris Carney intend to make more regular visits to all of the municipalities they serve over the coming year.

Council Takes Bridge Closure Seriously

The small bridge that carries Franklin Street over Little Tuscarora Creek has been closed following an inspection that deemed it structurally deficient. As reported last month, PennDOT requested that load restriction signage be updated. New board member Randy Brigham, who helped to place temporary “bridge closed” signs near the span urged council to declare a long-term closure of the bridge until adequate repairs can be done.

Citing the condition of the bridge in the report by SHI Consulting Engineering that led to PennDOT’s decision as “dire,” Brigham convinced the board to purchase six concrete barriers and three permanent signs that would reduce the status of the span to that of a “pedestrian bridge” and maintain only a 60-inch clearance. Mayor Phil Brewer agreed, noting that the borough’s insurance does not cover the bridge.

New Police Vehicle Renews Attention to Department

Nobody could be happier than Officer Kevin Costello that Laceyville finally has a police car on the road again. But council members took several additional steps to ensure that the investment of the tax payers is protected. It was also acknowledged that the SUV has been properly tagged and insured.

It has been a positive experience,” Costello said of getting the 2011 Chevy Tahoe into service, noting that the vehicle is fully functional but needs a few upgrades to enhance officer safety. After the meeting, he stated, “I’ve been on foot for a long time, so this is a big deal.”

Brigham suggested the purchase of a portable shelter under which the vehicle could be parked to reduce the impacts of weather. Chris Shaffer, also participating in his last regular meeting, brought up the importance of properly marking the vehicle. “How does an unmarked vehicle serve and protect?” he asked.

Council agreed that Costello should look into options for having the Tahoe lettered as soon as possible. Now that the police department is once again considered fully functional, Fassett moved that Costello be granted a raise of one dollar and fifty cents per hour promised to him as of the first of the year.

Tax Decrease Approved for Borough Residents

The meeting gave the council cause to tweak just a few provisions of the 2018 budget before it was made available for public inspection today. A special meeting will be held on Friday, Dec. 22 solely for approval of the budget, which is expected to come in below the 2017 total of $235,000. Due to the decrease, Shaffer made a motion to drop borough taxes by I mil (approximately four percent), which was unanimously approved by the board.

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