UDC swears in officers

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 3/8/22

TUSTEN, NY — With COVID-19 case numbers in decline, the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) met in person on March 3 for the first time in 2022. The council took advantage of the occasion to swear in …

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UDC swears in officers

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TUSTEN, NY — With COVID-19 case numbers in decline, the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) met in person on March 3 for the first time in 2022. The council took advantage of the occasion to swear in its 2022 officers, who had been elected at January’s virtual meeting.

Andy Boyar, the council’s Town of Highland representative, was sworn in as chairperson. Shohola Township representative Aaron Robinson was sworn in as vice-chairperson, and Berlin Township representative Alan Henry was sworn in as secretary-treasurer.

Jeff Haas, supervisor of the Town of Highland, acted as the ceremony’s officiant, administering their oaths of office.

“I’d just like to preface [the ceremony] by saying this is quite an honor,” said Haas. “These fine folks—for the duties that you perform, thank you for your service.”

Bridge battles and funding woes

During the meeting proper, the council discussed several ongoing issues: the Milanville-Skinners Falls bridge project and the council’s fiscal sustainability.

The Milanville-Skinners Falls bridge has been closed since October 2019 due to structural deterioration. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has since been reviewing plans for the repair or replacement of the bridge.

The UDC has joined other local advocacy groups in consistent calls that the bridge be repaired and not replaced, owing to its historic nature and the impact a larger bridge would have on the area’s character. In a recent round of advocacy, the council sent out a letter to PennDOT and to certain officials, suggesting that a new federal bridge program passed as part of the federal infrastructure act could be a source of funding for the rehabilitation of the historic bridge.

The council sent its letter on February 1 and received a reply from PennDOT exactly a month later.

“I still haven’t quite figured out what the meaning of it is, except that they seem to be saying that this would not qualify,” said Laurie Ramie, the UDC’s executive director. The funding from the infrastructure act targeted “off-system” bridges, and while PennDOT’s reply did not address the council’s letter directly, it appeared to say that the Milanville-Skinners Falls bridge was not an off-system bridge, because it was owned jointly by Pennsylvania and New York through the Interstate Bridge Commission. “I would not consider that a disqualifying criteria myself, but that’s my interpretation of what was said there,” said Ramie.

In talking about the UDC’s funding concerns, a conversation begun the previous summer moved slightly forward.

The UDC is currently supported by a $300,000 yearly federal appropriation, an amount that has not changed since the council began in 1988. The state of New York and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania were obligated to contribute an additional $100,000 each back when the UDC was incorporated; neither has ever done so.

The council hired a consultant, Michael Crane, to examine its long-term fiscal sustainability in the summer of 2021. Crane’s conclusion, presented at the council’s December meeting, was simple: the council as currently established was not fiscally sustainable, and required drastic changes to become so.

The council met for a workshop on February 5 to discuss his findings. According to notes on that workshop, provided as part of the agenda packet for the March 3 meeting, several of the more drastic options Craine had presented were shelved. Changing the UDC’s operating structure to that of an interstate commission or a government agency was considered infeasible, and there was “no appetite to reopen the River Management Plan,” a prerequisite for either of those changes.

There was, however, an appetite for smaller-scale efforts: for putting pressure on New York and Pennsylvania to pay their share, for putting more emphasis on fundraising efforts and for identifying and implementing cost-saving measures.

The council took steps toward those measures. It approved sending letters to governors Hochul and Wolf, as well as state and federal legislators and the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, alerting those individuals to the UDC’s funding woes and requesting financial support.

Boyar indicated that the next phase of this outreach would involve an effort to rally grassroots support behind the UDC so constituents could put pressure on their legislators.

The council also discussed the possibility of saving costs by reducing or eliminating publication of its print newsletter; while there was some support for the measure, decisions were ultimately deferred until further meetings of the council.

Edit: A previous version of this article mis-spelled Michael Crane's name and mis-stated that the UDC's fiscal sustainability workshop occured February 25. Both of these errors have been corrected as of 4 p.m., March 10.

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