Disclaimer: The ideas expressed below are the personal thoughts and opinions of Nate Covington and do not necessarily reflect the position of Barrett Township or its Board of Auditors.
After I was appointed auditor in November 2018, I requested a copy of the previous year’s CPA audit from Pam Gardsy (Barrett Township Secretary/Treasurer, who replaced Rick Scrudato in 2015). Pam emailed a copy of the auditor’s report, but it did not include the cover letter. I wound up filing two Right-To-Know requests to obtain the following information:
More than 11,000 people who were registered to vote in Pennsylvania were found to not be citizens of the United States — and the state's Democratic governor didn't want anyone to know about it.
What's the story?
Two Republican state lawmakers, Reps. Daryl Metcalfe and Garth Everett, released the information Tuesday. Metcalfe had requested this information from the state in February 2018, but the request was appealed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, and stalled until Dec. 3, after the elections had already wrapped up.
On Dec. 3, the Pennsylvania Department of State sent a letter to Metcalfe, which indicated that a "possible" 11,198 voter registrations existed for people who were identified by the state as non-citizens.
Two years ago, Chief Grover Cleveland thought it would take until at least 2023 to complete the renovations necessary to repair Barrett Township’s 30-year-old firehouse.
Thanks to a $148,270 grant the volunteer fire company received last year, they were able to complete all of that work in less than 12 months.
“It’s really nice and I’m glad we were able to do it without taking money from the township,” Cleveland said. “It helps out with training, cleanliness. We’re able to have two things going on at once.”
A member of the community forwarded this article to me and I want to share the idea with everyone. Last year, the recycling center in Barrett closed, and this might be a great way to respond. It's environmentally friendly and we'd be creating value out of items that we used to discard...
The majority of the 300 million tons of plastic produced every year isn’t recycled, and recycling that does happen typically happens at an industrial scale in factories using equipment that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. But a growing number of designers are using a set of open-source, easy-to-build tools to recycle plastic and manufacture new plastic products on their own.
POCONO TOWNSHIP — A PennDOT construction project on Route 191 is expected to cause detours for more than 5,000 commuters per day for 11 months during 2019.
Crews will be replacing the Route 191 Bridge in Pocono Township and detours in the area are expected to last from Jan. 7 until the projected completion date in Dec. 2019.
The big numbers related to Pennsylvania’s public pension debt are somewhat mind-boggling. According to a September report from Truth in Accounting, a nonprofit organization that aims to find out what states’ balance sheets truly look like, the commonwealth has $42.8 billion in unfunded pension obligations and another $29.8 billion in underfunded retiree health care benefits.
For the sake of comparison, the state’s annual budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year is $32.7 billion – which means if the state devoted every penny it takes in to nothing but closing that gap, it would still take more than two years to do it.
Twenty-five years ago, Brian McCann and his friends got kicked out of High Acres Park for building ramps and skateboarding on an abandoned basketball court tucked away in a corner of the park.
Now, he’s trying to drum up enough community support to build a handicap-accessible skate park for children and families on the same court.
“A lot has changed, skateboarding is more mainstream. It’s not such a bad culture thing anymore,” McCann said. “The biggest thing that got me is if you go to the skate park in Tobyhanna, it’s kids and families and it’s a whole different element than it was when I was a kid.”
With community support, McCann envisions creating a concrete paradise for children from Barrett Township and the surrounding areas will be able to enjoy for decades. As a kid, McCann and his friends often found themselves without anything to do but skate board or try and find somewhere to skate board.
In the mid-90s, McCann and his friends discovered the unused court and decided to make it their own. The teens built ramps and would ride from miles away just to have an area to skate. The skateboarders’ paradise did not last long. The township found out and told them to remove the ramps and if they came back they would be charged with trespassing, citing concerns about insurance.
“About 15 of us would come out and skate every day and we had the greatest time. We built ramps, a whole bunch of little ones and we would hide them in the woods,” McCann said. “Then the township found them and took them all. They gave them back but we could never come back here again or we would be fined for trespassing.”
The idea to approach township officials and the zoning commission came to McCann while he was watching a television show about a skate park in the West Bank region of the Middle East. The area, which is known for being contested between multiple cultural groups, seemed an unlikely place for camaraderie but that is exactly what the skate park brought to children of the region, according to McCann.
So he decided to take to social media and gauge how his own community would feel about a similar project. The reaction was more positive than he expected and he soon found himself pitching the idea to township officials.
“It’s more mainstream, more common and more accepted. I figured I would hit a roadblock and get people to sign petitions and now all I have to do is get my plans drawn and get permits,” McCann said.
McCann’s vision for the skate park is an area that is handicap-accessible and has features that extreme sport athletes of all disciplines could utilize. Instead of having it tailored specifically to skateboarders, it will be designed for bikers, scooter riders, and rollerbladers.
His biggest motivation is creating something that will keep kids busy and out of trouble. For some of McCann’s friends growing up, skateboarding was an outlet that kept them out of harm’s way and doing something constructive.
“If you’re not on the team or sitting on the bench, you’re out and then what are you going to do? If you don’t make the team, you can come over here and ride stuff. And that’s when most kids I knew kind of fell towards the other way,” McCann said.
Despite ambitious plans to add ramps, a staircase, rails, a half pipe, and more to the space, McCann said his biggest obstacle would be insuring the potential skate park. After reaching out to companies, McCann estimates insurance will cost between $2,000 and $20,000 per year.
I have recently been appointed auditor by the Barrett township board of supervisors.
Note: Revised 12/5/18 to indicate that May Labar was appointed, not elected.
as of December 2018
For those that don't remember, lawmakers in Harrisburg failed to pass a budget in 2016. The following year, they passed a combination 2016-2017 budget. Now, projections for 2018 indicate "potential budget imbalance of up to $1.71 billion in the upcoming fiscal year." (Related: Why Pennsylvania's Governor Hasn't Signed a Budget in 3 Years)
Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office is pretty much what it sounds like – an agency outside the Treasurer’s Office and the Department of Revenue tasked with taking an unbiased view of the state’s financial picture.
The IFO, staffed with economists and analysts, releases dry, analytical reports designed to help guide lawmakers to make good policy decisions. IFO reports are generally not prone to making inflammatory remarks.
Nevertheless, the IFO’s recently released projection for the next five years was accompanied by an alarming phrase: “Updated revenue and expenditure estimates suggest policymakers could face a potential budget imbalance of up to $1.71 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.”
For those who don't remember, they tried 'outsourcing school bus drivers' in Chattanooga, Tennessee and it made the news in 2016:
Despite Election Day being over, yard signs have been popping up throughout communities in the Poconos over the past couple of weeks.
Community members have been campaigning to drum up support for the transportation staff at Pocono Mountain School District before the school board hosts a public meeting on Wednesday at 6 p.m. to potentially outsource those services.
The signs began to dot lawns and the sides of streets after the district’s school board announced at a Sept. 5 meeting that they would be looking into the possibility of outsourcing transportation services. The transportation department is made up of 150 bus drivers, 35 additional staff and 170 buses. The cost of operating the department in 2017 was more than $15.2 million, according to Wendy Frable, PMSD public relations director.
Looking for a free place to drop your bagged leaves?