Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jay Land/Ringgold Acquisition Group II LLC delivering water from site in West Penn Township to Niagara Bottling without required permits

On the border of West Penn Township with East Brunswick Township, there is a long history of issues with a water extraction operation on Blue Mountain Drive, operated by MC Resource Development which is owned by Jay Land.  Mr. Land's family has been in the water business in Pennsylvania for decades and is not new to controversy - a story from 1995 shows that Berks County residents were up in arms about Land-owned Wissahickon Springs' plans to tap the Oley Valley to the tune of 144,000 gallons a day, and truck it away by tanker.

Now, a company named Ringgold Acquisition Group II LLC (RAG II) and also owned by Land, has commenced commercial water extraction only two miles down Blue Mountain Drive at its intersection with Fort Franklin Road.  Like his other operations, Land has attracted the ire of neighbors who are fed up with heavy truck traffic, noise, and the threat that their water supplies will be affected.  Since approximately October 7, 2016, water tankers estimated to hold 6500 gallons each and weigh 40 tons have been observed to be leaving the Fort Franklin Road site at the rate of about 40 tankers a week, or 37,100 gallons a day.  They turn right onto Blue Mountain Drive, and then make a sharp right onto Route 309 South (red circle above).  Citizens and authorities have followed the tankers to Niagara Bottling Inc in Fogelsville, PA

Tanker arrives at Niagara Bottling in October 2016, followed from #1 Fort Franklin Road

There are some key differences in the new operation at Fort Franklin Road, however.  Let's look at them one at a time:

1. RAG has not obtained required permits from the DEP or Delaware River Basin Commission to operate a commercial water extraction operation.  It is believed that they haven't even applied for these permits.  A water bottler can't accept water from a non-DEP permitted supply.  Mr. Land has stated at a BOS meeting that he would not sell water to a bottler until such time that he obtained these permits.
Jay Land states at Dec 2015 BOS meeting he will not truck water to bottler without permits

2. RAG obtained a West Penn Use permit for water harvesting in January of 2015, and Mr. Land stated at multiple West Penn BOS meetings that he is hauling water off the property for agricultural use.  RAG is violating its West Penn permit, because by delivering water to a bottling company it is not using the water for the purpose stated, and is not conforming to all state and federal regulations.
Jay Land states at Dec 2015 BOS meeting he is hauling water for ag use

3. RAG is operating in a patently and conspicuously dangerous manner on Blue Mountain Drive.  Tankers have been observed to cross completely over the double yellow line of Blue Mountain Drive, in preparation for turning onto Route 309 South.  This creates a very real possibility of collisions with vehicles turning onto Blue Mountain Drive from either Route 309 South or North.  Furthermore, drivers who abruptly stop on Route 309 either northbound or southbound because such trucks are blocking the westbound travel lane of Blue Mountain Drive are at risk of being rear-ended by high speed travelers on Route 309.  Lastly, northbound vehicles on Route 309 who begin a turn into Blue Mountain Drive and have to stop in the southbound lanes because they find the Blue Mountain travel lane is blocked are at risk of an oblique head-on with vehicles travelling south at high speeds.

Water tanker from #1 Fort Franklin stopped, blocking entrance from Route 309 
to Blue Mountain Drive in Oct 2016

4. RAG is operating in a patently and conspicuously dangerous manner on Route 309.  Tanker tractors have been observed to cross completely over the double line and block both northbound travel lanes when turning onto Route 309 South.  This creates a head-on accident risk in both northbound lanes with vehicles travelling at high speeds.
Tanker pulling across double line of 309 and across both northbound lanes
Note guard rail mangled by tanker on October 8, 2016

Car and tractor trailer travelling northbound PA 309 have close call with water tanker

5. RAG trucks at 80,000 pounds are more than twice the weight limit of 15 tons recommended be posted on Blue Mountain Drive in a November 2015 Road Structure Engineering Study, which cost West Penn Township taxpayers $10,500.  This study found that Blue Mountain Drive requires another 1-1/2" of pavement in order to withstand the 15-ton recommended limit.  This study also found that Blue Mountain Drive is not wide enough for a long truck to negotiate curves without encroaching on the opposite travel lane.
$10,500 Road Structure Study's recommendations to post weight limits and bond
have been ignored.

6. RAG tankers are travelling onto the dirt shoulder of Blue Mountain Drive, which is not only illegal and extremely unsafe (see #3 above), but will destroy the pavement at the transition.  Mr. Land's company MC Resource Development "generously" donated $6000 towards the road fund as reported here.  Whoa daddy, that will fill a couple of potholes until your tankers cause the patches to fall out.
Tire tracks this past week reveal extremely dangerous and illegal traffic pattern detailed
in #3 above.  Note cracked pavement - it won't be there long at this rate

7. A tanker believed to be travelling from RAG destroyed the guardrail at the intersection of Blue Mountain Drive and Route 309 on October 8, 2016.  A resident observed a tanker stopped at the scene, but it left before police arrived on the scene.
Guard rail damage which occurred on October 8, 2016 - a witness alleges a water tanker
caused the damage.

8. RAG never submitted a Land Development Plan in conjunction with its Use permit, despite multiple certified letters from West Penn Zoning Officer William Anders.  One Notice of Violation (addressed to the landowner) is dated March 18, 2015.

9. On July 2, 2016, West Penn BOS Chairman James Dean informed a resident that the Zoning Officer was drafting a Cease and Desist Order against RAG.  This order was never issued.  Why not?

Official Comment by West Penn Chairman James Dean - no comment
On October 18, James Dean was asked to comment on the operation at #1 Fort Franklin Road, in light of the recent increase in activity and associated issues on the roads, destruction of public property apparently by a tanker associated with operation, the compromise of safety of the residents, and the fact that Mr. James Dean himself had told a resident on July 2, 2016 that the West Penn Zoning Officer was drafting a Cease and Desist Order.

His response was that the health safety and welfare of West Penn residents was the Board's primary concern, but counsel had recommended that the Board not comment on what steps the Board is taking to respond to the significant increase in activity at the site.

What is the West Penn Board of Supervisors waiting for?

West Penn Supervisors are on notice an unsafe condition exists since 2015

At the November 2, 2015 West Penn BOS meeting, resident Judy Russo reported that she was very concerned because she witnessed a very slow tanker cross totally across the oncoming lanes of travel of Route 309 (as in #4 above).  Here we are a year later, a Cease and Desist Order was supposedly being drafted in July of this year, yet it hasn't been issued.  If a serious accident involving a water tanker occurs (one with no injuries apparently already has), it will be on the West Penn BOS to explain, and possibly be held responsible.  This says nothing of the real threat to the wells of residents in the area - to have a non-permitted operation sucking large amounts of water out of the ground, there is no telling what the consequences could or will be.

A Cease and Desist Order must be issued immediately
Mr. Dean and his fellow supervisors would be well advised to get off their asses and see that the West Penn Zoning Officer issue a Cease and Desist Order immediately.  Not take a vote in November, requesting the Zoning Officer do his job.  Call him today and tell him the police chief tracked a tanker from Fort Franklin Road to Fogelsville.  Remind him that he issued a Violation of the permit in March 2015.  Ask where the devil is the Cease and Desist Order (even though the supervisors are very likely aware why it was not issued)?  This isn't rocket science or brain surgery.  "We are most concerned about the health safety and welfare of our residents" is the right thing to say, because that is what the Municipalities Planning Code and Second Class Township Code dictate the Supervisors' duty is.  Words are cheap, and we have a problem, Houston.  Ringgold Acquisition Group II LLC has violated the terms of its permit in more than one way, has thumbed its nose time and again at West Penn residents, and is operating in a manner that puts motorists, citizens and township property at great risk.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Well goes dry at property of 2015 Eldred Board of Supervisor candidate - US Gov't groundwater monitoring device appears nearby

This past week, a new well was drilled reportedly out of necessity on Wood View Road in Kunkletown, near the site of the planned Nestle Water extraction.

Ironically, the site of this replacement well is the home of none other than Kevin Silliman, candidate for Eldred Township supervisor in 2015, at the height of the furor over Nestle Waters/Deer Park's plan to extract 200,000 gallons of water a day from the aquifer underlying the heart of Kunkletown.  Mr. Silliman was defeated by Joann Bush in the general election.

A (replacement) well grows in Kunkletown

An Eldred resident was interviewed, and related 3 conversations he had with Mr. Silliman during the run-up to the election.  This resident wanted to know where Mr. Silliman stood on the issues.

Q: Was Mr. Silliman either pro-Nestle, or anti-Nestle?
A: He kept saying that he had to appear neutral, since he was running for supervisor.
Q: Did he appear to have a bias, an inclination towards one side or the other"
A: Not with me, but the public widely believed him to be pro-Nestle.
Q: Did you ask specifically what he thought of the proposal?
A: Yes, and he said that he didn't know enough about the issue to offer an opinion one way or the other.  I felt that his apparent lack of interest and failure to educate himself about the most volatile issue in town was an indication that he didn't care, or was in favor of it.

Mr. Silliman probably cares now.  Reportedly $6000 had been spent prior to the well being completed.

edit 10/19 - Mr. Silliman has posted some comments on this blog, making some interesting statements.

  1. He suggested that as a journalist, I may want to write differently.  I'm not a journalist, I am a bottom feeding blogger.  World of difference.
  2. He suggested I traumatized his family, wagged around "private property" and the PA State Police.  What happened is a car pulled up behind me on Wood View as I was preparing to take my first picture, and I moved to the shoulder of the road, with my back to that car.  The car pulled into the driveway and behind shrubs as I was taking a picture from where I stood, and its horn blew several times.  A woman yelled out of the car towards the house something, maybe someone's name, and then started yelling "EXCUSE ME!" "EXCUSE ME!" while the she was still behind the shrubs.  The woman then appeared at the end of the driveway continuing to yell "EXCUSE ME!", just as I had taken a picture 15' down the road towards my car.  As I got in, she approached me, gestured off towards her house, and said "I just saw you on my property!", to which I replied truthfully :"I was not on your property, I was on the road."  I added that it is legal to take pictures from public property, but not people, and she gestured as if to say "well, my property IS private."  The law is that pictures may be taken of private property from public property, as long as it isn't of something trademarked, like an architecturally unique structure.  Like my home, I doubt that the home in question is trademarked.  You also can't take pictures of some government buildings.  Think Google Maps - how can they publish pictures of your house?  It's legal, that's how.
  3. I didn't traumatize this family - the woman escalated the situation as I calmly explained it was legal for me to take the pictures I did from the road.  She was yelling out my license plate as I drove away.  Started yelling as soon as she hit her driveway with the car, and didn't stop until I was down the street.  I remained calm and on public property at all times.  If Mr. Silliman is thinking of pressing charges, he better find a very creative camera that miraculously moves me onto his property, or change the law.  The only person I interacted with was the woman, who didn't appear to want to accept my explanation.  I can't control that, and shouldn't have caused trauma to anyone through my words or actions.  As a bottom feeding blogger, I won't be intimidated by threats to get the State Police involved.  I can't imagine them pursuing the matter at all, but if they did I would be pleased to speak with them.
  4. I didn't publish the two pictures I took.  They prove I was where I say I was, however.
  5. I will continue to delete Mr. Silliman's posts, since they allege I traumatized his family and suggest I may have trespassed, as well as they identify the ages and sexes of his children.  If he wishes to create his own blog, that is his right.

US Government is monitoring groundwater only steps away

Only a few houses away on Wood View Road, there is a monitoring device.  When the phone number on the box was called, it was explained that the device monitors groundwater, but why the box was installed and who requested it could not be released.

Big brother is watching - but exactly what and why?

Water levels down in area creeks

Nestle's engineer testified under oath that he had done "an analysis" that showed the required 90,000 gal/hr rate could be supplied by the dry hydrant at the Chestnut Ridge Lane bridge.  His analysis will never be seen, but was likely flawed.  Here are some pictures taken October 15.  How might they differ if Nestle was sucking the aquifer dry?
Buckwha Creek

Princess Run at intersection of Fiddletown Rd and Kleintop Lane

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Nestlé debacle founded on illegally passed water extraction amendment cost Eldred Township taxpayers $89,500

It was reported today in the Times News that the total cost of the Nestle water extraction debacle to Eldred Township was $89,471.55.  This is in addition to the cost of the objectors' attorney, which this blogger does not know but estimates were roughly $17K +/- $2K.

The first observation is this is a bargain, compared with the cost the Nestle operation would have had to the community.  If only five landowner's lost $20,000 each in their property value, the fight to keep Nestle from taking advantage of an ordinance passed illegally through conspiracy, corruption and/or incompetence was worth it.  But the number of landowner's whose property values would have been affected would likely been several hundred.  There is no way to place a value on the loss of quality of life residents would have incurred.  Constant truck noise echoing off the Chestnut Ridge from 6am to 11pm seven days a week, the pollution of diesel exhaust, and residents stuck behind lumbering 40 ton trucks every 15 minutes would have combined to make life miserable.  Then when you come to sell your property, you get one final kick in the ass.

Two local individuals involved in the passage of the amendment were also instrumental in the decision to purchase the former school as a Community Center over a year prior to when it became publicly known Nestle was scouting the target site for water extraction.  What did these individuals know when?  The probability one or both knew nothing of Nestle's plans at the time they chose to support purchase of the school, which costs approximately $50,000 a year to support, is extremely low.  Therefore, it is likely they expected to offset the cost of the Community Center with the poorly defined $750,000 "trust fund" that Nestle pledged Eldred Township.  Over the 25-year expected life of Nestle's operation, that would result in a maximum $30,000 per year, not enough to even cover the cost of the Community Center.

Obviously, it is extremely unwise to plan for future income when there is no guaranty that income will exist.  To help guarantee it, there is an incentive to resort extraordinary (ie unethical) practices.

Returning to the cost to the township, as was suggested in the Times News article, the costs could have been far higher if the township and objectors had not been as proactive as they were in mounting a defense against Nestle.  Achieving victory without resorting to appeals and pursuing the civil action further saved more money than was spent.  The best spent money, in this blogger's opinion, was $10.830.77 to Hanover Engineering, which identified key weaknesses in Nestle's zoning application - weaknesses they could not overcome.  Unfortunately, lawyers are needed in these matters, escalating the costs dramatically.

Some residents appealed to the Eldred Supervisors at the September 14 BOS meeting to pursue a civil suit.  Assuming a complaint could be crafted that was not dismissed (not a certainty by any means), this would require depositions.  Depositions themselves are very costly.  It is rumored that some attorneys have advised that a civil action could cost more than the township already spent, accounting for the possibility of appeals, etc.  The downside of the citizens' lawsuit over the amendment being dismissed, is that the impending depositions did not take place.  That lawsuit was deemed to be legitimate by the court, but a potential lawsuit against one or more individuals for alleged wrongdoing - that is harder to imagine being certified.  The dismissal of that lawsuit was a major blow to Eldred residents' ability to find out facts already known.  But objectors in the lawsuit were in the same situation that Eldred supervisors were asked to consider - bear the cost of depositions without knowledge of what they would or would not reveal.  The objectors would have had to continue fundraising, which was reportedly becoming more difficult.  Their costs could have quickly more than doubled, at the county level alone.  Supervisors would have had to expend precious tax dollars.

To reiterate, $89.5K for Eldred Township and an estimated $17K for objectors was a bargain to get out of the Nestle debacle.  The effort was highly emotional for many in the community.  They feel violated and several understandably want justice.  Justice in matters that involve government officials can be hard to achieve.  Residents reportedly believe they have at their disposal an option to pursue a civil action themselves; if so, it is hard to criticize them for pursuing full disclosure of what happened and seeking to hold those involved accountable.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Eldred BOS votes to request Attorney General and county DA investigate if wrongdoing in 2014 water extraction amendment, planners to discuss filing disciplinary complaint against landowner attorney

This is an abbreviated report due to time constraints.  At last night's Eldred Township BOS meeting, the supervisors voted 2-0-1 to send letters to the State Attorney General and Monroe County District Attorney, requesting them to investigate whether there was wrongdoing in the passage of the 2014 Eldred Township water extraction amendment.  Also, to request the Eldred Planning Commission to consider recommending that a disciplinary board complaint be filed to determine if there was any unethical conduct on the part of landowner attorney James "Jimmy" Wimmer, Esquire, as relates to the same subject.

Update 9/16: A letter from landowner attorney Marc Wolfe was read, stating that while not required to do so, the last two Nestle wells that Gower had requested remain open will be decommissioned per township request.

Due to the the 2nd Wednesday (BOS meeting) and 3rd Thursday being on adjacent days this month, the Eldred Planners will meet tonight at 7pm.  Planning Commission Chairman Robert Boileau stated that the meeting would be "juicy", due to another item already on the agenda.  This blogger is unable to attend due to a conflict.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Basket of rogues, incompetents and deplorables associated with Nestlé project may receive attention at next Eldred BOS meeting

On Wednesday September 14, 2016, the Eldred Township Board of Supervisors will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30pm.

Two Eldred supervisors have reportedly met with council to discuss the possibility of pursuing legal action against one or more individuals involved in the illegal land use change that is the subject of this blog.  Residents may press the supervisors on Wednesday to poop or get off the pot; options may include pursuing: 1) criminal charges, 2) monetary compensation for the needless legal bills that Eldred Township incurred, 3) disciplinary sanctions from one or more agencies, 4) direct correspondence and/or confrontation with consultants and officials who were involved.

Let's review the cast of characters in this play, presented in no particular order.

As you look over the list below, some images may be helpful:


Howard Beers - Ross Township Planning Commission chairman and CJER representative during the relevant period.  Mr. Beers' Planning Commission inexplicably cancelled its very important March 2014 meeting at which they were to review the pending comprehensive ordinance update - as a result adoption of the ordinances across all townships scheduled for March 27 was delayed until May 1, 2014, giving an opportunity to "squeeze in" last minute changes, notably the ill-conceived water extraction amendment.  Mr. Beers is believed to be acquainted with landowner Ricky Gower.

Chuck Gould - Chestnuthill Supervisor and CJER Chairman during relevant period.  Was indignant at March 2014 CJER meeting when Eldred resident Vernon Barlieb suggested that Eldred residents would be rudely surprised when they discovered what was contained in the pending ordinance.  Was also indignant at September 2015 CJERP meeting when several Eldred residents including Mr. Barlieb appeared to ask questions.  Told these residents they had to go back to their township and ask questions there.  One has to wonder if the Chairman has any clue to this day that wise old owl Mr. Barlieb saw the fault in CJER's actions, warned him on March 27, 2014, and that he dismissed Mr. Barlieb's concerns as misplaced and not important.  It's right in the transcript.  Mr. Gould owes Mr. Barlieb and all of Eldred Township an apology.  He represents everything that is wrong with CJERP.

Jack Rader - State Representative, CJER Vice Chairman from Jackson Township during relevant period.  Appears to possibly be in the tank for Nestle, which is known to have strong lobbyists in Harrisburg.  Abruptly resigned from CJERP two weeks after it was announced Nestle was in town in spring 2015, but is now back on CJERP.  Was visibly annoyed at the June 8, 2016 Eldred BOS meeting when the crowd cheered at the announcement that Nestle was withdrawing its application.  Told Eldred residents on multiple occasions that the illegal land use change was a "local problem," which is a crock of shit - CJER (now CJERP) is responsible for what happened on its watch, while he was vice chairman.

Matt Neeb - Full time planner/zoner employed by Chestnuthill Township, sit on CJERP today as well as on CJER during relevant period.  Incredibly, in an interview in December 2015 Mr. Neeb in one breath stated that consistency across townships was a very high priority of the ordinance updates in 2014, and in the very next breath stated that he saw no contradiction in Eldred's definition of water extraction being changed from that in the other CJER townships just prior to adoption.  What the hell is his definition of consistency?  You couldn't find a Depends large enough to cover CJERP's ass.

Sharon Solt - Chairman of Eldred Supervisors, Eldred BOS Secretary, Eldred Treasurer, Eldred CJER representative and CJER Secretary, Monroe County Planning Commission member during relevant period.  This says it all - you put someone in all these positions, and they better be competent and have the highest ethics.  Ms. Solt has neither of these qualities.  She cheered via email when a resident complained about a road illegally placed across her property by Ms. Solt's fellow supervisor to her BFF's property, and when she believed the wool had been pulled over her fellow supervisor Clausen's eyes.  When an employee warned the Eldred Planners were not being given proper notice of the water extraction amendment, she reportedly said "send it that way."  Her minutes, in two words, sucked ass.  Minutes are to reflect what happened in a meeting, not just the parts the secretary wants people to see.  In March 2016, she asked when the Eldred BOS held a vote that she had seconded the motion of only two months earlier.  How does she remember where she is going after she gets in a car - "Siri, where am I going?"?  Resigned in disgrace as Eldred Township BOS member in spring of 2016.

Gretchen Gannon Pettit - Eldred supervisor and girlfriend of landowner Ricky Gower during the relevent period, named a road across a neighbor's property to give additional access so Gower could subdivide his property and retain access to his son's house.  Told the audience at the March 27, 2014 CJER meeting that "nothing is changing in our zoning - nothing."  Evidently her definition of "nothing" is not the same as what the rest of us believe it to be.  Told a resident who accused her of sleeping with Gower at the December 2015 Eldred BOS that she didn't get on the board just to do favors for her BFF.  This observer was not convinced.

David Mitchell - Pennsylvania Game Commission employee who reportedly has been involved in land swaps that Nestle Waters has engaged in, such as the 80+ acre Scott property in Ross Township, and land adjacent to Nestle's operations along Route 309.  Nestle got the Game Commission to greatly restrict what it does on its land off 309 in exchange for the Game Commission obtaining the Scott property 1 mile down the road from Mr. Mitchell, who already enjoys 1000+ acres of state land adjacent to his property.  Seen outside after several Eldred BOS meetings commiserating with landowner Gower, Ilene Eckhart and Nestle water john Eric Andreus.  The Game Commission just agreed to supervise lands of Allen Township in exchange for archery and bow hunting to be allowed on municipal land.  Failed to receive a second when nominated by Sharon Solt for the Planning Commission at the January 2016 Eldred reorganization meeting.  Reported to be SO of Ilene Eckhart.

Ileen Eckhart - Fomer Eldred BOS member.  Manager of Allen Township, where Nestle is rumored to be exploring and/or has operations.  Seen outside after several Eldred BOS meetings commiserating with landowner Gower, David Mitchell and Nestle water john Eric Andreus.  Believed to post under Little Aqua Velva identity in snarky comments that shamelessly supported Nestle on the internet.  Failed to receive a second on nominations by Sharon Solt for positions of Vacancy Board and Alternate Zoning Hearing Board member at the January 2016 Eldred reorganization meeting.   Reported to be SO of David Mitchell.

Darcy Gannon - Mother of Gretchen Gannon Pettit Gannon and Eldred Planning Commission Recording Secretary during the relevant period.  Prearranged to send the draft March 2014 Planning Commission minutes to landowner Gower's attorney, who doctored them to suit his needs and returned them.  The approved minutes were verbatim as modified by the attorney.   Lined up for Tax Collector to replace retiring Helen Mackes in late 2015, but this rat was unable to jump onto dry land after the malfeasance of 2014 was exposed.

Carson Helfrich - incomparably incompetent land planner.  Recommended it was alright to make the definitions of a use different in one township compared with the others, with no regard for violating the principal of consistency.  Failed to warn anyone that a more intense and incompatible use would be added to the Commercial district, which is intended for commercial uses.  Drafted the water extraction amendment based on direct communication from the landowner's attorney - with no authorization from the Eldred Twp BOS.  This man was actually paid for the "services" he provided with Eldred taxpayer money.

Christine Meinhart Fritz - Monroe County Planning Commission Senior Planner during the relevant period.  Has since been promoted consistent with Peter Principle to MCPC Director.  Rumored to be good friend of Sharon Solt.  At March 27, 2014 CJER meeting, made a ridiculous statement that the Eldred commercial zoned site of Gower's property was targeted for future commercial use, so water extraction would be a great fit.  Water extraction is an industrial use, not commercial.  When an Eldred resident appeared at the MCPC office in July 2014 to ask questions of Ms. Meinhart Fritz about the water extraction amendment, he was made to wait for 45 minutes because she was with her daughter.  When he asked how much longer it would be, he was told she was now with her parents, and was unavailable.  He left his phone number.  She never called - but Ms. Solt called with some information the resident had requested.  A coincidence?  Not.  No longer a representative to CJERP.                              

James "Jimmy" Wimmer - landowner's attorney.  Misrepresented the current ordinance to Eldred Planners.  Improperly submitted an ordinance amendment directly to regional planner Carson Helfrich, circumventing both the Eldred BOS and Planning Commission..  Secretively altered the March 2014 Eldred Planning Commission minutes and sent them to Darcy Gannon through Gretchen Gannon Pettit's email address, and invited Ms. Gannon to lunch in the same communication.

James "Jimmy" Fareri - one of the good old boys - CJER Solicitor from the relevant period through today. "Hey, Jim-eyy!" is the greeting he gets from the wheels of CJERP when he appears at a meeting - on the taxpayer's dime.  Big whoop-dee-woo.  Partner at Newman Williams, somehow believed to be the premier law firm in Monroe County.  Mr. Fareri had sole responsibility as Special Solicitor for reviewing amendments and advertising them during the relevant period, according to Eldred BOS Solicitor Kaspszyk.  There is no evidence that Mr. Fareri reviewed the water extraction amendment or the advertisement for it that was placed in the Pocono Record.  Advised a gag order on CJERP on January 12, 2016, a mere week after his partner Marc Wolfe agreed on January 4 to represent landowner Gower in an adversarial position to Eldred Township, a CJERP member.  You just could not make this shit up.  Newman Williams was responsible for publishing advertisements for the amendments in March and May 2014 - somehow the May meeting advertisement was altered after approval and after being submitted to the Pocono Record.  Mr. Fareri proclaimed at the May 1, 2014 CJER meeting that it was properly advertised.  Mr. Fareri is not believed to have reported to CJERP the results of the investigation he should have launched to determine who was responsible for changing only the Eldred water extraction amendment to conceal its effect.  Newman Williams agreed to represent landowner Gower in a stunning apparent conflict of interest that would only be attempted in Monroe County.

Dan Lyons - Eldred Planning Commission Solicitor who is reported to have essentially run the meetings.  Kicked to the curb immediately following privately arranging (unannounced to the Planning Commission) for Nestle to make a 3 hour presentation at the January 2016 Eldred Planning Commission meeting.  Planning Commission members found out Nestle was appearing when they showed up at the meeting.

Ellerslie "Bub" Helm - Typical lower tier seat warmer zoning officer found in 2nd class townships who aren't concerned about ensuring that the ordinance is enforced.  Initially wrote a few sentence, unsigned and undated review letter after he looked over the Nestle Waters 1000-page application, in which he found no deficiencies.  If Bub had caught the fact a road was blocked on the Gower property (he reportedly made a site visit), or that Nestle's above ground storage tanks are not permitted in Wellhead Protection Zone 2, or that the applicant needed a variance due to multiple uses being co-located on the Site Plan, Nestle could have been dispatched in one or two Zoning Hearing Board hearings.  Nestle did not the hardships needed for variances.  Bub was abruptly shown the "out" door shortly after whiffing the Nestle Site Plan review.

Michael Kaspszyk - Eldred BOS Solicitor during the relevant period, when the ordinance changes were made that should not have been.  Used the excuse that the CJERP solicitor was to review all ordinance changes.  This bad penny has returned like a boomerang already, having been appointed Vacancy Board Chairman in June 2016 to replace Gary Hoffman, who had been appointed supervisor.  The Vacancy Board Chairman steps in to break a tie when a sitting supervisor is unavailable or disqualified from voting.

Eric Andreus - Nestle representative who incredibly claimed in the January 2016 Planning Commission meeting that Nestle "didn't notice" that their use was not allowed by the ordinance in effect in 2012, when they were already doing testing on the Gower property.  Changed his story to "we saw it, but we thought we could make an excuse to get around it" by the following Planning Commission meeting.  Was big on pointing out that Nestle's extraction would be "sustainable," while simultaneously denying Nestle's operations had ever affected anyone's well.  Mr. Andreus was widely disparaged and hated by Eldred residents.

Will the Eldred Township BOS pursue justice for its residents and possibly obtain some restitution, in the final chapter of this debacle?  Or will they attempt to close the book prematurely and hastily write a one paragraph afterword?  Only time will tell.  Make no mistake, the ability to achieve full justice in this case has potentially significant legal costs.  However, there are less expensive steps that could be taken but have not yet been, that could result in appeasing many Eldred residents who are angry over what their community was put through at the hands of so-called professionals, inept and/or corrupt officials, and dingbats.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The history of the bells of St. Matthews United Church of Christ, Kunkletown

Perched high on a hill over the village of Kunkletown sits the St. Matthews United Church of Christ.  A visit to Kunkletown is enriched in this blogger's opinion if one happens to be in the vicinity at the top of the hour from 2pm to 10pm, because the carillon of St. Matthews, emanating from the church tower, is heard all round K-town at these times.  A tune is played, followed by the striking of the hour.  On a recent visit with a friend, as we sat whiling away a lazy sun-drenched and serene afternoon in the bucolic splendor of the lush Kunkletown hills and valleys, strikes at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm were all that reminded us on this day that time was not standing still.

During certain times of the year, such as Independence Day and Christmas, a special tune is played in recognition of the holiday.

View of St. Matthews ca. 1950

On the hill surrounding the church are headstones with family names that trace back from many living residents to ancestors who founded or settled in Kunkletown in days long since passed: Berger, Borger, Christman, Engler, Frable, Frantz, George, Gower, Greenzweig, Kleintop, Kunkle, Smale, Smith.  Life long resident Vernon Barlieb and a childhood acquaintance dug graves on this hill by hand in their youth - Vern recalls that it took two young men a day's work to dig one grave through the shale and rock.

Chimes were donated in memory of lifelong resident Verna Gower Barlieb

On a social visit to K-town in June, a resident made reference in passing that the St. Matthews chimes served to remind fellow residents Vernon and Leon Barlieb of their mother, Verna Barlieb.

Fascinated by this suggestion, the speaker was asked to explain.  Through further discussion and an interview with Vernon Barlieb, the following was gleaned.

Verna and Herman Barlieb

Verna Barlieb and her husband Herman raised 3 children in Kunkletown, Leon, Vernon and Gladys.  Verna was born in Kunkletown to Alvin and Rilla (Smith) Gower.  Verna and Herman ran Barlieb's Feed and Grain Service in Kunkletown for 22 years.  Prior to the Barlieb's ownership, Herman was a manager for the previous operation known as the Flory Milling Company, which commenced operations in January 1932.  The mill and store were located directly on the Chestnut Ridge Railway - as may be seen in the picture blow.

Typical product available at Barlieb's  Feed and Grain Service

Flory's - predecessor of Barlieb's Feed and Grain Service

Verna was a pianist for the church for 45 years and also a choir member, and she passed to eternal rest on November 30, 1988.  To honor Verna's memory and service, Mr. Barlieb and his three children donated the chimes to St. Matthews in 1989.  Sometime in the late 1990's, the chimes went silent due to lightning damage.  Insurance did not cover the entire cost of repair, and the chimes were deemed to not be worth repairing.  The Barlieb family, having lost patriarch Herman on September 14, 1995, again showed their generosity by donating the funds required to fully cover replacement and an upgrade of the original unit. 

St. Matthews carillon is an innovation of technology

This blogger has hands-on experience with carillons manufactured by Schulmerich Carillions in Quakertown PA (originally Sellersville PA).  Those chimes are electromechanical; tiny cast bronze rods, which when amplified create a sound almost indistinguishable from actual bells, which are far more heavy, expensive and bulky.

The St. Matthews carillon is manufactured by the Verdin Company, and is an innovation beyond miniaturization - it is totally electronic - there is only the control unit and an amplifier in the body of the church, and the loudspeakers are located in the church tower.

The next time you hear the chimes of St. Matthews bathing the village of Kunkletown in song, think of Herman ringing up orders at the Feed and Grain, and Verna playing for Sunday School each weekend.  It doesn't take much imagination to see her at the piano, serving her church and community.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Penn Forest Wind Farm Special Exception Hearing continues tonight August 25 at 6pm

In an earlier post today, I noted that 16-year old Kunkletown teen Jade Eve Manz is missing.  Prayers that this girl is returned home safe and sound.

Wind Mill farm near Centralia PA

Tonight, at Penn Forest Fire Company #1 1387 Route 903 the Special Exception hearing for a permit for a 37-turbine wind farm continues at 6pm.

I have attended three of the hearings, and the community has mounted a comprehensive (and expensive) defense, in an attempt to keep this development from occurring on a forested ridge in one of the more pristine areas in and neighboring Monroe County.  It targets the land containing a watershed that the City of Bethlehem uses as a water source.

Each turbine is about 525' tall, with blades swinging a 300' circumference.

At a recent hearing, a woman who lives 1600' from a similar wind farm described how the noise and blade shadows that inundate their home have destroyed their lives and the value of their property.  She and her husband drove 4-1/2 hours from Somerset PA to testify.  This woman held up well in testimony, but when I spoke with her after the hearing she appeared emotionally devastated.

Another witness, Dr. Pam Dodds, Hydrogeologist, testified at length to the damage that the widening and construction of roads, and installation of bases for the towers will do to the flora, fauna and the water quality of streams on the property, and hence the reservoir(s).

This blogger is planning to attend in a show of support for the community.  Others from surrounding communities have also been spotted at hearings, and the reporter who covered Nestle in Kunkletown has been to each hearing.