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Ousted resident welcomed back to township meetings

  • CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS Rush Township resident Joe Shamonsky, right, talks with supervisors at Tuesday's public meeting.
    CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS Rush Township resident Joe Shamonsky, right, talks with supervisors at Tuesday's public meeting.
Published May 19. 2010 05:00PM

Rush township supervisors on Tuesday welcomed resident Joe Shamonsky back into public meetings - provided he behaves in a civil manner.

Supervisors had barred Shamonsky from meetings in January after a verbal confrontation in which Shamonsky expressed his outrage over a tax increase.

At the start of the meeting Tuesday, Supervisor Steve Simchak called Shamonsky to the front of the room. Shamonsky had been standing in the back. Simchak asked Shamonsky if he would meet with supervisors, then said he would be welcomed back to meetings provided he did not disrupt meetings, be unruly, curse or threaten supervisors. Shamonsky agreed.

There followed a 1 1/2 hour period of public comment.

Supervisor Robert Leibensperger Jr. addressed what he described as a "disturbing" segment of a Wilkes-Barre television station's broadcast of interviews with township residents who are upset about the purchase some years ago of a vacant home next to the municipal building. The building was demolished last week. There are no definite plans for property.

Leibensperger said the building, known as the Fortunato property, was purchased for $91,803, using about $80,000 from an investment CD for the Hometown Sewer Fund. He said that in Dec. 2006, then-supervisors Marion Lazur, William Sanchez Jr. and Simchak decided to buy the property for the Hometown Sewer Fund for sewer fund use. Leibensperger said the remaining amount was taken from the operating fund of Hometown Sewer.

On Jan. 21, 2008, the township moved $37,000 from its general fund to the Sewer Fund to keep it solvent, Leibensperger said.

In 2008, the township agreed to buy back the building from the Sewer Fund, paying $54,803 over five years.

Leibensperger said the state Auditor General's office investigated the purchase. Special Investigator Nathan Lipton found no wrongdoing or mismanagement, Leibensperger said.

During the public comment period, Sanchez questioned supervisors about the television interview, Crest Street and the Act 537 plan.

On the advice of solicitor Robert T. Yurchak, supervisors agreed residents have the right to question motions by supervisors as they come up.

Resident Pat Tracy asked about Purnell Avenue repairs; the purchase of a new desk and computer for the township office; the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the Fortunato property and whether supervisors planned to build a veterans monument at the site.

Jeanne Motroni asked about the bidding process for the Fortunato property and for topsoil at Quakake Park. Mike Tessitore asked why supervisors failed to respond to a letter he sent them in March. Leibensperger read the letter, in which Tessitore questioned raises for township employees and criticizes supervisors, aloud. A Mr. Tracy asked whether Supervisor Shawn Gilbert is kept in the loop about township matters since most votes are 2-1, with Gilbert opposing.

Marion Lazur talked about the Fortunato property. Leibensperger gave her Lipton's telephone number. She also asked that all correspondence be read aloud by the secretary.

Joe Shamonsky Jr. asked that the hoop be fixed on the basketball backboard at Lincoln Park. He also asked that the potholes on Wyoming Street be fixed. Bill Boyer asked about the funds used to purchase the Fortunato property.

George Gerhard asked about grants the township has applied for and when the township would replace a steel pipe that collapsed near his home and created a sinkhole. Joe Shamonsky asked whether the chairman's seat has been switched.

Steve Behun asked who supervises the sewer fund investment CD and about water drainage on Kahler's Hill. He also asked where debris from the Fortunato house was dumped.

Behun also asked for more fire hydrants and whether there is sufficient water pressure to fight fires. He also asked that Simchak step down as chairman of the board of supervisors.

Gilbert then asked several questions, including when the road crew, which was laid off about two weeks ago, would be back to work and suggested the township would save money by not continuing to provide full health benefits.

He also questioned why the township doesn't have the road crew cut grass instead of spending $700 to have it done. Gilbert also talked about painting the office, buying the desk and rearranging the office. he also asked about where the township buys fuel and about the Kahler's Hill construction change order.

Gilbert also asked to see receipts for the disposal of the debris from the Fortunato property demolition before the contractor's bill is paid.

In the final 15 minutes of the public meeting, supervisors hired Joshua Carter as a part-time police officer at $12 an hour; appointed secretary Marie Skripnek as Labor Compliance Officer; authorized Cpl. Duane Frederick to organize a Crime Watch program and approved the $10,260 change order for the Kahler's Hill project.

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