Rice Twp. Board Majority Rescinds Controversial Items
By MARY KATHERINE EVANS
Mountaintop Eagle Intern

Rice Township Board majority members Marcia Thomas and Mark Taney voted to rescind two controversial items that were passed in October and November 2013 at the township’s February 4 meeting. A motion approving placement of a gate across the road at the end of the paved portion of Heslop Road was overturned. Thomas and Taney also voted to rescind Ordinance 2013-2, which vacated portions of the unpaved section of Heslop Road. Supervisor Miller Stella, who had supported both motions with former supervisor George Venesky, voted No.

Heslop Road is paved up to the driveway entrance to Harry Kemmerer’s property. An additional 500 feet is graded and graveled. Heslop continues up through the Pennsylvania State Gamelands property to Brown Street in Fairview Township. It has been a public road for nearly 200 years.

Rice residents were solidly against the erection of a gate and the abandonment of Heslop Road at public meetings held in the fall. A gate was erected at the end of the gravel portion in early September 2013. That gate was dismantled after public outcry was voiced. Supervisor Marcia Thomas has said that remnants of that gate including cement footed posts, will be dug up and removed from the site as soon as weather permits.

Road maintenance was another big concern at last week’s meeting Rice Roadmaster Mark Taney said that although township roads are well taken care of, Interstate 81 and Nuangola and Church Roads, which are maintained by the state and county, are not receiving priority service. In the last storm, the state only sent two plow trucks to the Township. Salt supplies for the township and state are depleted. “This has been an unusual winter. There have been many nuisance events, not major snowstorms. Our road crews are ready,” said Taney

The board agreed to notify State Representative Gerald Mullery about their concerns for Nuangola and Church Roads. According to Police Chief Robert Franks, “Nuangola is the last one they do. The intersection of Nuangola Road and Church Road is very problematic when it snows. Even the Wright Township Fire Department has been calling the state about the roads, saying that it is difficult for them to fight fires when the roads are so bad.”

Chief Franks also reported on the Route 309 rock-clearing project in Fairview Township, which is set to start on schedule in March. Jersey barriers will be set up on southbound lane for north and southbound traffic. The current northbound lane will have one lane that will be used for emergency vehicles, addressing a concern about how emergency vehicles will get up 309 if there is an accident and one whole side of the 309 is closed. Unfortunately, Chief Franks did not know what would happen when construction crews start blasting, because the debris will block both lanes.

Solicitor Jack Dean was approved to intervene in the motion and petition filed by the Pennsylvania State Attorney General regarding the potential dissolution of the Rice Township Volunteer Fire Department/Independence Fire & Rescue Company No. 1. The petition was filed in November in the Luzerne County court and has not yet had a hearing.

Professional Municipal Planner Jack Varaly gave a brief presentation about the Rice Community Survey for 2014, which will be incorporated into updating the Rice Township Comprehensive Plan. Varaly was hired at a rate of $70 per hour to assist with outstanding issues

See Rice page 4