It was a busy year for the Mountain Top area. Some of the news highlights across the mountain 2017 included the following:
Ice Lakes: The biggest news for Rice Township supervisors in 2017 came at the end of the year, when they finally awarded a contract to A. R. Popple of Wilkes-Barre to repair the Ice Lakes dam, a project 2-1/2 years in the making. Work is expected to begin around Jan. 2, and supervisors are still seeking $70,000 in additional funding to cover unexpected costs above the costs already funded by grants.
Police: In the spring, Rice police became the first force in Luzerne County to wear body cameras.
Child pornography suspect: Police charged Adam Dwight Snide, 42, with child pornography in August. Snide had been a tenant on the second floor of the home in Rice Township. Police found he had been viewing, downloading and disseminating child pornography via computer.
Polonia Estates crash: Seven members of a family were struck by a car Aug. 25 along Aleksander Boulevard in Polonia Estates. Bryan and Nina Herbst and their four young children, along with their niece, were out for a walk along a straight stretch of road on a sunny afternoon when their neighbor Jigna J. Kyada struck them with her white Nissan sedan, which had crossed the center line. An neighbor who is an emergency physician, Annette Mann, helped to stabilize the victims until emergency crews arrived. Crestwood Secondary Campus was used as a staging area for flight crews to transport some of the victims by helicopter to area hospitals. All victims eventually were released from the hospital after varying lengths of time. Police still have not announced whether charges will be filed against Kyada. The community rallied around the Herbst family, holding a number of benefit events to help with their medical expenses.
Church Road bridge: The state Department of Transportation notified the township that the Church Road bridge will be demolished starting in April 2018. Henry Drive and Church Road will be closed and traffic detoured along Stairville and Blytheburn roads for about two months. The elevation of Henry Drive will be lowered, and a four-way stop sign will be installed at the intersection of Henry and Church Rd.
Laurel Lakes: PP&L erected new high-tension wire near Laurel Lakes in the spring and early summer, creating complaints from residents regarding heavy truck traffic and damaged roads and lawns. By fall, the project was completed.
Election: Carl Smith unseated Rice Township Supervisor Chair Marcia Thomas in the November election and will take office Jan. 2.
Dorrance Township New development: The Preserve at Blue Ridge Trail, a proposed 546-acre development with 193 housing units (108 duplexes and 85 single-family homes) adjacent to the Blue Ridge Golf Course, received preliminary approval in August in a split supervisors’ vote. The “conditional use” approval stipulated the developer must submit a tentative plan within a year and the board must approve that plan. Gary Zane and Bill Wengrzynek voted to approve; Kevin Gallagher dissented. Planning commission had recommended against approving the project out of concerns about off-site water, lack of storm-water retention basins and violation of 100-foot buffer zones where land is supposed to be deemed open space. Many residents spoke out against the decision.
Playground: The township installed new playground equipment courtesy of a $79,000 LSA grant.
County Court case: Dorrance Resident David Green complained at a spring supervisors’ meeting about his neighbor Michael Medvitz, who for 15 years has operated a body shop out of his garage. Green said the body shop is not compliant with the township’s zoning ordinance, and Green ended up filing a land use appeal to try to stop Medvitz from operating the garage. Supervisors agreed to intervene to support the township’s zoning board in the case, which is coming before the county court of common pleas. Supervisors and the zoning board want to allow Medvitz to keep his body shop.
Firefighters: Dorrance Township Volunteer Fire Department complained of a lack of volunteers, a problem echoed by other local volunteer fire departments. Township supervisors called a meeting with other local municipal leaders, but even with everyone putting their heads together, no solutions were found.
Sewer settlement: After a sewer project ripped up borough roadways, council finally, after many months of wrangling, accepted a $15,000 settlement from the Nuangola Borough Sewer Authority and a $15,233 settlement from Wexcon, the major contractor on the sewer project, to apply toward road repair costs.
Trash collection: Council faced many resident complaints of confusion with County Waste took over trash collection from Gittens Disposal. Residents now have curbside recycling, which they like, but council is afraid County Waste will hike its rates when the contract comes up for renewal, and then residents will complain if council discontinues curbside recycling or if their rates go up. Residents also complained that some homes got bigger trash containers than others, and also that the holiday scheduling wasn’t clear.
Blighted properties: Council began taking a hard line on blighted properties, sending two property owners notices of default and announcing another property owner had hired a contractor to clean up his property. A fourth property may need to remain as-is until eventual foreclosure.
Other area newsWWII tank: A tank built at a plant
in Berwick was the star of the July 4 parade. The tank had been used by the British army in Italy, returned to the United States after the war, sold to the Brazilian government, and eventually sold to a plantation owner in Brazil to be used as a tractor after the Brazilian government was done with it. A British military vehicle broker bought the tank, and in 2016 the Stuart Tank Memorial Association in Berwick brought the tank home to help commemorate the efforts of local residents in building World War II tanks.
New fire truck: Wright Township Volunteer Fire Department bought a used pumper-tanker for $399,000, shedding an older truck to help cover the cost. The department put down a $50,000 down payment and financed the remainder through a 10-year loan.
Mountain Top ROCKS: Mountain Top resident Larissa Benjamin started Mountain Top Pa ROCKS” over the summer. Through her Facebook page, she encouraged residents to paint rocks and leave them around the community for others to find to brighten their days.
Pastor’s anniversary: Presbyterian Church of Mountain Top Pastor Jim Shanley celebrated his 30th anniversary at the church in May.
Amazon headquarters bid: Mountain Top resident John Augustine, president and CEO of Penn’s Northeast, headed a bid to attract Amazon to build its second headquarters in NEPA. Amazon has not yet announced where the new headquarters will be located, although Augustine expected NEPA to be a long shot, given that it had 237 competitors.