Tremont gives nod to 'Tobacco-Free' zones
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BY JOAN SCHWER
TREMONT - It took a young girl to change a Tremont Borough Council vote from a unanimous 'no' in May to a unanimous 'yes' in June.
Gabby Brown, a Tremont resident and Pine Grove Area Middle School student, presented her case June 9 for the passage of a resolution designating all facilities owned by the borough of Tremont to be "Tobacco-Free" zones.
Brown is a member of ACT (Always Contributing for Tomorrow), a school service club. Twelve members of the club recently volunteered to do some clean-up work at a borough playground, spreading mulch and painting two picnic tables. They were alarmed at what they found.
"We want the playground to be safe," said Brown, "but it can't be, because of smoking." According to Brown, 100 cigarette butts were found in the playground.
After noting a variety of statistics involving the use of tobacco, Brown said ACT wants to know why council didn't pass the tobacco-free zones resolution they had provided to them. "Tobacco free parks would make a safe environment for children," said Brown.
Council president Bob Donmoyer noted he had been absent from the May meeting and felt there may have been some confusion. Solicitor Chris Hobbs agreed noting that the council members were not against the idea but there are concerns, since the police or Code Enforcement Officer would need to provide the enforcement, and, said Hobbs, manpower means money. He explained, however, that an offender can not be fined with a resolution, but anyone found smoking could be asked to leave the playground.
"If not enforced, the resolution won't help. We'll still see butts," said Paulette Yuschock.
Donmoyer, however, disagreed, stating that the majority of adults will adhere to it. "(It's) the example we'll set for the kids," said Donmoyer.
A resident noted that swimmers who want to smoke leave the pool area and go out of their way to an area which is not posted. "If they see a sign, they may move out to the road," said the lady.
Included in the resolution signed by Donmoyer and Mayor Roger Adams on June 10 is a list of the tobacco free zone designations which include the Robert "Pete" Wiscount Veterans' Memorial Park, Poplar Street Park and Playground, Clay Street Municipal Building Playground, and the Community Swimming Pool. The resolution also requires that appropriate signage be posted, and any person in violation be immediately ejected from the area. Council authorized both elected and appointed officials to make periodic observations of the area to monitor compliance and promote awareness of the resolution.
The program is supported by the Health Promotion Council and funded through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Angela Morgan, Director of Community Coalition and Youth Development, Clinic Outcome Group accompanied Brown to the meeting which sponsored the "Tobacco-Free Parks and Playground Resolution".
Donmoyer closed the meeting informing members that he would be resigning from council for personal reasons effective June 30. "I've enjoyed my time on council," said Donmoyer, "but things came up that are more important."
Since Donmoyer had not submitted a letter, Hobbs advised council not to advertise the vacancy before the seat was available. "Since you're making it known to the public," said Hobbs, "you don't have to advertise."
Donmoyer also thanked council for its generous donation to the United Church of Christ in memory of his wife who passed away recently.
A Laurel Street resident noted he had kept the grass cut on a neighboring property which has been vacant for some time, but he does not intend to do it this year. The grass, he said, is two feet high, the back door is open, and animals are moving in and out. In addition, he said, the back side the building sways in the wind. "It's a safety issue," said Bob Klauser.
When questioned by Donmoyer whether he had contacted the Code Enforcement Officer, Klauser said he tried several times, but Jeff Bruce never called him back. Donmoyer informed him the borough's engineer would be asked to evaluate the building.
Since Bruce was not in attendance and his report listed 21 'Quality of Life' Ordinance violation tickets had been issued and 16 Building Maintenance violations (left over from previous CEO), Yuschock suggested one of them could have been a high grass citation for Klauser's neighbor.
Councilman Roger Adams suggested the CEO attend the council's next workshop meeting. According to secretary Linda Gately, Bruce would need to take time off from work. That's the reason I felt an assistant should also be appointed, Donmoyer reminded his fellow council members.
"Enough is enough," insisted Adams. "If he wants the job, he was told he would need to re-arrange his schedule." (A review of attendance at monthly council meetings indicates that Bruce was appointed in January 2014. He attended the January, February, and May meetings, and was absent, March, April, and June.)
Donmoyer reported he had made five telephone calls regarding CEO complaints to Bruce and finally made a trip to his home in order to obtain an answer. "If he's not returning my phone callsâ¦..?" asked Donmoyer.
Former Code Enforcement Officer Jerry Fasnacht questioned the solicitor about who can enforce ordinances. According to Hobbs, the police can always enforce an ordinance, but when a municipality has a CEO or a Health Officer, ordinances relating to their speciality are enforced by them. However, according to Fasnacht, the borough's new 'Quality of Life' Ordinance can be enforced by any council member, and any council member can cite anyone for smoking in the playgrounds.
Adams reported he had attended the Williams informational event for the Transco pipeline 'Atlantic Sunrise Project' at the Tremont Fire Company on June 9. According to Adams the session provided information for residents who live near the proposed pipeline which will run parallel to I-8l in this area and installed at least 1,000 feet away from the interstate. He estimated between 200 and 250 people were in attendance.
Hobbs reported the attorney for MEM (Municipal Energy Managers), the company that had provided electricity to the borough for a short period of time, and has since declared bankruptcy, has filed a motion for the Trustees to abandon property. It's part of the bankruptcy filing, said Hobbs since the property has no equity. According to Hobbs, he is still waiting to see if there will be any funds at all remaining, but whatever there is will be peanuts. He noted that Tremont is lucky since some municipalities have lost $500,000 and $700,000.
Donmoyer reported the company that is scheduled to demolish the two properties at 58 and 60 East Main Street moved a piece of equipment onto the property about three weeks ago and was to start the project on June 9. Madonna Enterprises, Port Carbon, had agreed to change their schedule and do this job sooner since the rear of one of the buildings had collapsed. According to George Schaeffer, "There is more stuff falling every day."
Mayor Roger Adams reported the county will be running tests on the new police radios to determine where the problem spots are. He also noted that he's been accused of telling kids they can swim in the creek. "That's false," said Adams.
Since kids are using some of the borough streets as their playgrounds, drivers, said Adams, should be on the look-out. There's a basketball net on Clay Street, even though there are basketball nets in a tennis court not too far away. Since an area of Laurel Street is also used as a playground and there are several bus stops, another stop sign had been erected several months ago upon the urging of residents as a way to slow down traffic which they claimed comes "flying" down the mountain.
Adams requested residents with police problems call him at home. "Don't come to the council meeting 'bad mouthing' the police." He also suggested grass and weeds be kept cut. "I can enforce ordinances and I will," said Adams.
Adams is currently checking on some items regarding parking meters. Calls to Harrisburg, he said, have not been returned, though he has discovered there is a free class on calibrating parking meters which he said should be done every five years.
Adams noted he is also traveling around town seeing what needs to be done. "I don't want to hear you're being picked on," said Adams.
He concluded his report questioning why people have a hard time understanding the sign 'No Parking Here To Corner'. "That's what it means," said Adams.
Fire Chief James Koppenhaver reported the company had responded to 7 calls in March, 13 in April, and 2 in May. Since the chief has questions concerning Workers' Comp, secretary Gately suggested Koppenhaver meet with the W-C representative in October when the annual review is performed.
The fire company held two meetings to prepare for the Schuylkill County Firemen's Convention which will be held in 2016, which is also the 200th anniversary of Tremont Borough. Koppenhaver said the first meeting was for organizations and he was disappointed with the response.
Permission was granted for the fire company to participate in the June 14 Dauphin County Firemen's Convention Parade in Wiconisco. A popular fund raiser, Wing-Night, is being held on Wednesday nights at the fire company.
Koppenhaver noted that properties 200 feet away from the recent fire in Pine Grove shows that you can have good equipment, but you also need good water (pressure). "Some fire hydrants in Tremont," he said, "don't meet code."
Along with good equipment and water, training is also important. As of the present time, Tremont firemen have a total of 460-1/2 hours of training and, according to Koppenhaver, will hit 1,000 hours by the end of the year.
James Scheibly reported the swimming pool is up and running beautifully. The old pump, he said, was serviced and running well. The pool is, he said is, losing two- to three-inches of water each night and he is working on identifying the problem in order to get it fixed.
The police department responded to 45 incidents during May. Included are eight civil, two domestic, four harassment, and one dog at large complaint; one juvenile run away, one mental health suicidal, one stolen vehicle, one stolen mail, four thefts, and one underage drinking. The officers made two ambulance and five other police department assists, plus attended one district justice hearing. Two non-traffic citations were filed.
Although it was not an agenda item, Yuschock questioned this reporter asking whether the council president or the secretary reviews and approves her articles before printing, or does she writes what she wants. According to Yuschock, she didn't appreciate the personal jab that was made by the mayor during the May meeting and printed in the paper. She suggested the reporter only report the news in the future. However, according to solicitor Hobbs, it was said at a public meeting and can be reported.
The article read that Yuschock said she could not see the speed control lines that had been painted. The mayor responded, "If you can't see them, you need glasses."
In other business,
- Sen. Dave Argall will visit the borough on July 14 and will meet with residents in the council meeting room from 8 to 9 a.m.
- Council approved the installation of an air conditioner supplied by Natalie Zimmerman in the Aerobics Room, providing it meets Bill Mindler's approval.
- The Grid Iron Club will hold a Concussion Seminar on June 24 at 6:30 p.m. Various coaches will be providing information.
- Koppenhaver recommended the borough erect a sign forbidding jumping off the Pine Creek bridge.
- Council adopted a floodplain ordinance and approved EMC W. Pryce Parker as the borough's floodplain coordinator.
- Hydrant flushing was rescheduled for Wednesday, June 18, beginning at 6 p.m., and continued on Thursday evening, June 19 if needed.
- Residents eligible for cost-free assistance up to $20,000 for housing repair which addresses health, safety, code violations, energy inefficiencies, accessibility modifications, and lead-based paint hazards should contact Schuylkill Community Action at 570-622-1995 for information, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Council approved the Tremont Fire Company's annual craft fair on Saturday, Aug. 23, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine on the main street sidewalks.