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Railroad denies request to Panther Valley board

Published November 14. 2009 09:00AM

A recent request by the Panther Valley School Board to the Reading and Northern Railroad has been denied.

Several months ago, the board instructed School District Solicitor Robert Yurchak to send a letter to the railroad to see if the schedule could be modified for trains passing through Nesquehoning so that trains were not going through the intersection near the elementary school during the school's start-up and dismissal times.

A letter from Wayne Michel, president of the Reading and Northern Railroad, outlined the reasons that the company cannot honor the district's request.

"We serve a number of customers along the line between Nesquehoning and hometown. We run our trains to meet our customers' needs. If we fail to meet those needs we will lose business and Carbon county and the region will lose jobs," director Anthony DeMarco read from the letter.

"I am ashamed and appalled that profits are coming before the safety of the children," responded DeMarco. "There are 830 students there. God forbid something would happen."

DeMarco also noted that it was requested that the Railroad at least place an arm across the intersection. "We're not asking for a lot," he said. Director Anthony Pondish noted that the district has repositioned the crossing guard in the area to help control the flow of traffic.

Director David Hiles also questioned the recent project that is going on at the former St. Ann's School in Lansford. According to an article that appeared in Thursday's TIMES NEWS, funding for the project is coming through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"When it's inhabited and goes on the tax rolls, are they going to look for in lieu of taxes?" Hiles asked.

Yurchak responded, "They're going to go for an exemption."

Hiles exploded. "They're taking our tax dollars and giving it to the church, and then they're going to go and put up a 'for profit' development and ask for an exemption. Are you kidding me?"

In other business, the board authorized the progression of the six energy conservation measures (ECM) as outlines in the 30 percent completion report presented by Schneider Electric at the recent budget and finance committee meeting. This is the next step in the energy review that is being conducted throughout the district.

The board also approved the recommendation from Provident Energy to enter into a two year contract with Constellation New Energy for retail electricity purchasing. According to business manager Kenneth Marx, the board had previously approved Provident Energy to put a bid package out for companies to bid on the district's electricity costs. "If what they're saying about PPL's rates is true, that they're going up 30 percent, we should see an approximate savings of $98,000 annually," said Marx.

The board approved settlement of a property tax appeal for the property located at 106-109 West Ridge Street in Lansford which establishes the fair market value of the property at $162,000. The property was purchased for $235,000 by Brenda Wells, from Staten Island, NY. According to Yurchak, Wells had the property assessed at $85,000. "We talked about splitting the difference," he said, "and that's how we got to the $162,000.

The county is in agreement with the $162,000."

Superintendent Rosemary Porembo also noted that the district's emergency management plan has been updated and the district is prepared to deal with emergency situations.

"The district does take the safety of everyone's children very seriously," she said.

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