HONESDEALE, PA — The Wayne County Commissioners had a packed agenda at their Thursday, March 11 meeting. Interspersed among ceremonies recognizing county employees and lauding a multi-school …
HONESDEALE, PA — The Wayne County Commissioners had a packed agenda at their Thursday, March 11 meeting. Interspersed among ceremonies recognizing county employees and lauding a multi-school remote learning partnership [see page xx], the commissioners took action and provided updates on the recent 10-ton weight limit on State Route 3028 [the Owego Turnpike], a budgetary issue, ongoing litigation and the several-years-long project at SCI Waymart.
When the new weight restriction on the Owego Turnpike was first discussed at a Wayne County Commissioners meeting a few weeks ago, none of the three county leaders were shy about expressing their frustration with PennDOT. The county has now formalized its opposition with a letter from planning director Craig Rickard.
“This state route, which has traditionally been used as a bypass from State Route 6, always has aided in reducing traffic congestion for all weight loads traveling between Waymart and Hawley without needing to further increase traffic congestion on Route 6 through the four boroughs of Hawley, Honesdale, Prompton and Waymart,” the letter reads. “Additional traffic congestion would also take place through the Route 6 Plaza/Indian Orchard area of Texas Township, which already experiences the highest traffic volumes in the county. We are also very concerned of the resulting effects this would have between both the construction and tourism season during the summer months from the increased population that occurs.”
In addition, Rickard expressed practicality and safety concerns. There are quarries on the turnpike in Canaan and Palmyra townships, which rely on the road as “their direct access for scheduled deliveries without being forced to travel through [Route 6] with multiple traffic lights.” Rickard said that the intersections where truck traffic has been redirected as a result require safety and traffic light improvement.
Rickard noted that neither the commissioner nor his department were notified or consulted before this decision was put into place. He requested an in-person meeting “to further discuss these negative impacts and alternative solutions.”
Unified Judicial System
The commissioners and prothonotary/clerk of courts Edward Sandercock sent a letter to their state representatives Sen. Lisa Baker and Reps. Jonathan Fritz and Mike Peifer to sound the alarm about a line item in Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget. As it stands now, the budget would mark the fifth consecutive year of flat funding for the Unified Judicial System [UJS] and would continue to divert money from the Judicial Computer System [JCS], two vital components of the state’s court system. Without more funding from the state, commissioner Brian Smith said that the expense in the prothonotary/clerk of courts’ offices would fall on the local taxpayers.
“If existing diversions continue, [the PA Judicial Administration] has no choice but to shut down all modules of the Common Pleas Case Management System (CPCMS), which has been in place since 2006… The shuttering of CPCMS will have a significant impact on Wayne County courts and the many criminal justice agencies and other users with whom the courts interact,” the letter reads. “We have had no opportunity to plan for a system to replace the essential functions that CPCMS provides, and county funds are not available to develop or procure a county system. The cost and staff hours required to procure and rollout a county system will be significant to Wayne County.”
Litigation and SCI Waymart
The commissioners hired attorney Jeffrey Treat of Honesdale to represent the county in the federal fracking lawsuit against the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). Providing no further discussion or comment on the matter, the commissioners executed the agreement with Treat “at an annual cost of one dollar for up to three years.” The county has joined Sens. Lisa Baker and Gene Yaw, the PA Republican Caucus and Damascus Township in challenging the DRBC’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing activities, which was recently upgraded to a full ban. The plaintiffs allege that the ban amounts to the taking of property rights from citizens without property compensation, and that it usurps authority from the state legislature.
As a result of a civil case agreement, the commissioners also issued a county tax rebate to Weis Markets for a property in Salem Township for the 2019 tax year in the amount of $9,198.96.
And the commissioners ratified a non-binding letter of intent with the PA Department of General Services “regarding the proposed lease of state land in Waymart.” If that sounds vague, it’s because nothing has been finalized yet, so the commissioners haven’t been able to go into too much detail about what they’re working on, but it pertains to ongoing efforts to expand the state prison in Canaan Township, SCI Waymart. An effort initiated years ago when Pennsylvania actually had the prison on the chopping block, the commissioners are hoping to expand the facility by 20,000 feet, adding a treatment center for substance abuse and mental health, with the ultimate goal of getting people reintegrated into the workforce.
“The whole process is to get people back to where they’re working again,” Smith said. “These people who have fallen prey to addiction of any kind need treatment and we recognize that.”
Smith said they’re making progress, but they don’t have a signed agreement with the state.
“Once we have a deal, we’ll be in the public, we’ll be doing presentations, we’ll be up in Canaan Township and Waymart and letting people know what’s going on,” Smith said.