Update 2/12/19

Tunnel Detour in the Poconos Riddled with Potholes

Stites Tunnel project will impact thousands of drivers

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.

Monday, 03 December 2018 09:05

New Township Auditor

I have recently been appointed auditor by the Barrett township board of supervisors.  

What’s going on with the Barrett Township auditors?  

Recent history: 
Note: Revised 12/5/18 to indicate that May Labar was appointed, not elected.

  • May Labar - was an appointed Auditor, resigned in April 2018
  • Dina Rinehart - appointed May, resigned September 2018
  • Nate Covington - appointed October 2018


This makes the current list of Township Auditors:

as of December 2018

  • Michelle Sisak, Chair
  • Christine Macaluso
  • Nate Covington


Editor's Note: 
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)

Original Article

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.”

Editor's Note:
For those who don't remember, they tried 'outsourcing school bus drivers' in Chattanooga, Tennessee and it made the news in 2016:

Report: Driver Asked Kids ‘Are You Ready To Die’ Before Crashing Bus In Chattanooga

This driver was found guilty in 2018 for the crash, and subsequently charged with statutary rape.  

(Original Article Pocono Record)

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.

Monday, 12 November 2018 10:25

Bagged Leaf Drop-Off

Looking for a free place to drop your bagged leaves? 
I'll take them, for making compost.  Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or text me (570.576.7497) to arrange drop off (located in Mountainhome). 

Did you know that there used to be a YMCA in Mountainhome?  How about Solar-Way, a Solar Design and Installation Service?  Lots of gems in this old publication.  The old library, Cresco station... a handful of organizations are still open for business in town!  

Monday, 05 November 2018 11:20

The Long Journey: Cresco Station Museum

By Kevin Conroy

In the mid-1970’s, the Cresco Railroad Station may have been the loneliest spot in the Poconos. The place gave no hint of its past, a roiling past that included as many as a thousand passengers a day, the parking lot jammed with horses and buggies and automobiles that would turn today’s heads. There were fortunes made in trade. Among the thousands of pieces of freight delivered there? Five barrels of pork delivered to Cresco in 1896 from Armour & Co, in 1900 a one hundred twenty-five pound barrel of soap, freight charge 25¢.

Thursday, 01 November 2018 15:44

Canadensis man charged with selling heroin

Editor's Note:
Why wasn't this guy locked up when he was charged for his prior arrests?  

CANADENSIS — Chester Botch, 49, was charged this week with selling heroin out of his Beartown Road home in Barrett Township after an Oct. 24 incident there.

Botch was placed in Monroe County Correctional Facility in lieu of $100,000 bail and is awaiting a district court hearing.

[Editor's Note: Unfortunately, the recycling center in Barrett is now closed...]

With recycling and waste programs struggling throughout the region, recent grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will be providing much needed relief.

A total of eight Monroe County organizations received nearly $2 million to be used for different types of recycling program and education.

“By providing these grants, we are helping bolster recycling in communities all over Pennsylvania, and reduce the amount of material going into our landfills,” said Patrick McDonnell, Department of Environmental Protection(DEP) secretary.

The state’s DEP announced earlier this month that 195 county and municipal governments would be receiving $37 million in Recycling Development and Implementation grants In Monroe County, eight programs received a total of $1,993,805. The grants can be used for recycling and education programs, as well as leaf collection.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 12:29

To the Editor: Response to PMSD Admin Salaries

Hi Nate,

I for one do NOT support the continued increase in PMSD administrators' budget when we can't adequately support the bus drivers and other front line workers in the district. If I gave myself pay increases in this economy I would go out of business. Not to mention, they claim to be "saving" money by outsourcing things like transportation which will put the locals out of work. How is it that the community has no say in these matters?

I went to one of the meetings where Robinson's increase was debated, the consensus from most was we can't afford it yet the school board, with the exception of one person voted to approve. I guess we can just keep passing the buck to the taxpayers until the entire district is full of "for sale" signs and foreclosed properties. The only people who will be able to afford the school taxes will be the school administrators. They brag about the minuscule millage decrease but they close down several schools which in my opinion should have DRAMATICALLY decreased our millage. Instead they pass the money on the the admins, give us a few crumbs, and pat themselves on the back.