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Rice Twp. Supervisors, Police Reach Agreement On New Contract

September 10, 2018

Rice Twp. supervisors and members of the township’s police department have reached an agreement on a new three-year contract. The pact, which was approved at the supervisors’ Sept. 4 meeting, calls for raises of 2.5 percent in each of the three years. Additionally, for the first time, members of the department will pay toward the cost of their health care coverage. Police will pay two percent of the annual cost of health care. Supervisor Carl Smith, who negotiated the contract with police, expressed his appreciation to members of the department for their cooperation in the bargaining process. “I want to thank members of the department for their work on this agreement. I feel it is fair to both the township and police,” Smith commented. Board chairman Robert Pipech thanked Smith for his work. The department has six full-time members including Chief Robert Frank. In addition to Rice Twp., the department provides police coverage for Nuangola Borough. Police in both Fairview and Wright townships also contribute to the cost of their health care insurance. Wright Twp. police contribute two percent of the cost of health insurance. Fairview Twp. police contribute one percent for 2018 and will pay two percent in 2019. Residents of Heslop Road and nearby streets who are worried about the impact of increased traffic from the proposed Woodberry Manor Planned Residential Development (PRD) expressed those concerns at the September meeting of Rice Twp. supervisors. While supervisors promised they would make certain their concerns are addressed, they also made it clear that growth of residential communities is important to the township’s sustainability. Back in April, supervisors gave tentative approval to the PRD following a public hearing. The approval was conditioned on a traffic study being performed and concerns raised at the public hearing being resolved. To go forward, the project’s final design must obtain approval of the township’s planning commission. The tentative plan for the PRD calls for the construction of nearly 200 homes to be built in five phases, with each phase taking a minimum of three years. Developers anticipate five points of access to the development, including one off Heslop Road which will require a stream crossing. It is the proposed access onto Heslop Road that concerns some residents. Though the project was not on the agenda, attorney Mark McNelis, representing the developer, Presidential Land Development, told supervisors the traffic study had been completed and the developer would comply with recommendations of the study. However, Barbara Miller of Wilderness Drive told supervisors she and other residents felt the study only addressed the intersection of Heslop Road and Nuangola Road. She presented supervisors with a petition asking them to make sure improvements are made to Heslop Road before an access road from the PRD is constructed. Supervisor Bob Pipech told Miller and several other residents who attended the Sept. 4 meeting that the township realizes that Heslop Road needs improvements. However, Pipech reminded residents that the township cannot stand in the way of growth. “Without growth, the township will not survive,” the supervisor stated. “We have no commercial development in the township, so without growth (of residential development) we’re done. Without growth, we can’t sustain the township,” he added. He pointed to the cost of maintaining and paving roads and the need to expand the township’s public works department and equipment. Supervisor Rick Arnold commended the developer for coming to the meeting but promised residents the township will listen to their concerns. “The developer is being pro-active by coming to us. They are here of their own accord,” Arnold commented. “We have to applaud them, but I promise you we will take your concerns seriously,” Arnold, stated. A planned residential development allows a developer to meet overall density and land-use goals without being bound by rigid zoning requirements such as minimum lot size and use categories. It also encourages preservation of more open space than traditional developments. The current plan calls for more than 66 acres of open space. At the public hearing in April, project engineer Tim Connelly of Tetra Tech said the development will cover 495 acres, but only 220 will be developed. The remainder is either undevelopable due to slope of the land or wetlands; or will be designated open space. The project will consist of 195 units, either single family or twin homes, on various sized lots. Arnold reported the Ice Lakes dam repair project is in the hands of legal counsel which is working with the contractor’s bonding company to get it completed. “We’re done with that gentleman (AR Popple). We’re working with them to bring someone else in,” he stated. Rice Twp. 2018 leaf drop off program will begin Monday, Oct. 15, and conclude Friday, Nov. 16. Leaves can be deposited in a dumpster which will be located near the municipal building and must be in compostable bags. Branches cut to a length of no more than three feet and no more than one inch in diameter will be accepted. He reminded residents the area is monitored by cameras. Superior Court Judge Correale Stevens will present America’s Fascination with Serial Killers at the Marian Sutherland Kirby Library at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2. Judge Stevens is a former Supreme Court Justice, member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Luzerne County District Attorney and trial judge. The presentation will focus on criminal profiling, forensic evidence, and characteristics of serial killers. The discussion will include the crime of homicide and the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit with details of what happens at a crime scene. The former district attorney will examine a collection of evidence and organized crime scene versus an unorganized crime scene. He will also discuss how the courts handle high profile cases such as that of serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and others. Registration for this program may be done by visiting the library, 35 Kirby Ave. or by calling 570-474-9313. Due to the serious nature of the material, this program is not suitable for children. PAT RUSHTON writes about Mountain Top. Contact him at pat4psu@msn.com.

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