On and Off The Mountain/Stephanie Grubert

MILLION DOLLAR RELAY FOR LIFE PARTY-Mountaintop Relay for Life participants, who reached the million-dollar mark this year in their fundraising efforts to fight cancer, celebrated Aug. 23 with a picnic at Wright Township Municipal Park. Front from left: Sandy Raduto, Regina Kloeker, Maggie Zurawski, Marian Munson, and Joy and Liz Kalac. Back: Vince Wojnar, Jamie Kane, Bob Sechevich, and Earl Munsen.

The annual “Back to School” activities consumed many family hours for the past couple of weeks and the drama over the Crestwood Transportation Contract was concluded last week at the 9th hour. As we went to print Monday August 22 there were no bus routes to publish and we had information that Kevin Foley’s Mountain Top Bus Company was in trouble. By 4 p. m. we learned that Foley had requested a release from his contract and that Rinehimer Bus Lines was “back in”.

Rinehimer is owned by Scott Henry, president and owner of the Martz Group. Henry was always in the drama from the moment the Crestwood School Board opened the contract to new proposals in March 2016 until last week. Much has been reported about Rinehimer’s 50-year tenure with Crestwood, which was formed in 1963 with all local schools joining to form a new school district. The Rinehimer bus company was owned by Edward Deets Holding Co., which filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case on Oct. 6, 2011. The case was converted to Chapter 7 on June 4, 2012. Scott Henry, owner of Martz, bought Rinehimer three years ago in July 2013 at a bankruptcy auction. Henry operated the company for the last three years through the previous Crestwood contract signed by Deets.

So the Henry affiliation is only 3 years old. Henry opted to reopen the Crestwood contract in 2016 proposing increases of 3% over state reimbursement for the first three years of a new five-year contract and 5% for the final 2 years. The amount of Henry’s proposal over the state formula was reported at $460,000. Ed Deets had always been paid the state reimbursement rate.

Crestwood got 3 proposals including one from Kevin Foley, who had knowledge of the financial aspects of the Crestwood Transportation Contract, when his accounting firm had worked on the Deets bankruptcy liquidation. Foley had no direct experience in running a bus company. Crestwood Transportation Committee Chairman Randy Swank and the Crestwood Business Manager Al Melone confirmed that in their opinion Foley had a solid business plan and the school board awarded him the new 5-year contract May 12, 2016 for 5 years at the state reimbursement rate. Foley’s proposal would save the school district the $460,000 that Scott Henry had filed in his proposal.

Foley got right to work ordering new buses and holding meetings for hiring drivers. He fully expected to hire the Rinehimer drivers, who were offered signing bonuses, higher wages, new buses, and a profit sharing plan. The response from the Rinehimer drivers was cool. Foley said there were a few Rinehimer drivers who came to his “meet and greet” events, but he never did get the traction he needed to fill out his driver roster.

In July Foley hired a logistics specialist to consolidate the number of bus runs from 40 to 27. He had hired a number of drivers from outside the Rinehimer pool and was headed down the home stretch confident that he would have enough drivers to begin service on August 29, the first day of school.

As we now know, Foley is out and Scott Henry/Rinehimer is in. The Crestwood School Board approved a new 5-year contract last week with Rinehimer with 3% increases over state reimbursement for each of the five years. According to Crestwood Transportation Committee Chairman Randy Swank, the Henry/Rinehimer company will be paid an additional $326,312 over the span of the $10 million contract. The extra cash will come in handy as Rinehimer’s fleet age is over 9 years and replacements with newer buses will be mandatory soon.

Hindsight is always more valuable than foresight. Kevin Foley underestimated the power of Scott Henry’s Rinehimer drivers. A majority of the drivers made a pact with each other and Henry early on that they would not work for Foley. The proof was dramatically played out at the August 18 school board meeting. Three days later Rinehimer had won.

Late last week I drove up to the lot on Route 309 in Wright Township where Foley had parked the new buses. 27 beautiful new machines will not see service in the Crestwood School District this week.

The drivers got what they wanted, their bus routes and jobs. Scott Henry got what he wanted, a $10 million plus transportation contract. I can’t really conclude the public or the taxpayers got what they wanted.

Late Summer Family Weekend Our family enjoyed a late summer

family weekend with Mark Grubert and Liz Rostan joining the Grubert and Dicus families. My compact house accommodates extra guests in our comfortable basement. It’s better than camping, but not quite up to a 5 star hotel. Being together is the joy of it.

Everybody had different activities they wanted to enjoy. I stayed home and picked the garden, kept up with the wash and the kitchen chores and cooked up two “big breakfasts” as Maggie Dicus so energetically describes them. Maggie and Kate are good in the kitchen assembling the pancake batter and the scrambled eggs. Maggie has now graduated to turkey bacon cooker and eggs scrambled “the New York Way”.

Everybody enjoyed a Sunday hike and then later Mark Dicus took Maggie over to the Ice Lake Park in Rice for some kayaking. Once again they reported the shallow the water level. It was over a year ago that lake lovers noticed that the upper lake was draining and the Rice Township officials began addressing a leaky valve problem. DEP got into the mix and like many governmental regulators, the problem is ongoing. DEP does not consider the draining lake a priority. The Ice Lakes were built by damming the stream and in the winter harvesting ice to be sold in the days before electric refrigeration was available.

The Rice supervisors talked about the Ice Lake drain problem at their August meeting and now another meeting is on the calendar for September. Although the pond is shallow there is enough water for kayaking and canoeing. The view from the shore is spectacular too.

Golf Season Our Blue Ridge Ladies Golf

League had their year-end tournament scheduled for this week. When we start play in April the season is ahead of us. With rainouts, vacations, and other commitments most members miss a week now and then. I am the scorekeeper and weekly news reporter and have enjoyed that job for the past few years. We still have two great months for golf and outdoor recreation to look forward to.

Friday Night Lights Our family enjoyed the

Crestwood vs. Pittston varsity football game Friday evening at the home field. The temperature was very warm and there was no need for a jacket after sunset. I took a beautiful photo of the sunset from the home stands and posted it on Facebook. In the spirit of a play-byplay accounting of the game. I also posted the game’s action up until nearly the end on the Mountaintop Eagle web page. Crestwood won 35-28 with some solid and successful running and passing. Former Crestwood teacher Bob Gaetano was at the game and sent the Eagle some outstanding action shots for this week’s edition. I have known Bob for 36 years, when he was a young Crestwood teacher. He has just retired from the Kane School District in Northwestern Pennsylvania and is back in Mountaintop. Bob was our original sports reporter. Kathy Flower puts the sports highlights in the Eagle every week now. Bob and the Eagle have come full circle.

End of Summer Cookout Sunday afternoon we had what

will probably be our final cookout for the summer season. Charlie Grubert cooked up the burgers and dogs and Lara and I made three different salads. Fresh corn is always a nice treat too. After dinner we fired up our little portable fire pit and roasted marshmallows for s’mores.

Before the meal the kids had a spirited game of whiffle ball in the back yard and the family cats George and Lulu spent the day hunting in the yard.