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Issue 20 — Thursday, December 14, 2017

NPS Names Acting
National Park Chief

BUSHKILL — Kirsten Talken-Spaulding has been named Acting Superintendent of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. She will take the helm later this month and will be working out of the superintendent's office at Park Headquarters beginning in early January. She will be in the park until early spring unless a new permanent superintendent is named before then.

A nationwide search to fill the position permanently will be conducted by the National Park Service.
"I am really looking forward to learning more about Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and helping with the transition to a new superintendent," said Talken-Spaulding.

She is currently the superintendent at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Virginia. Prior to that, she served as the first superintendent of Fort Monroe National Historic Site, also in Virginia, where she led startup operations for a brand new national park unit. She began her NPS career in 1988 at Shenandoah National Park and held positions at Mojave National Preserve in California, NPS Headquarters and the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D. C., Haleakala National Park in Hawaii, and several parks in the National Capital Region including Prince William Forest Park and National Capital Parks-East.

As a Bevinetto Congressional Fellow in Washington, D.C. from 2010-2011, Talken-Spaulding served as a staff member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and as special assistant to the NPS director. She also worked with the NPS Legislative and Congressional Affairs office.

John J. Donahue recently retired from the position of Superintendent after 14 years in the park.

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Official Paper More Than
Forty Years

MILFORD — Although it has been publishing much, much longer, the Pike County Dispatch has been the newspaper of record for the County of Pike for more than 40 years. That means the Dispatch is the place to go to find out about public meetings, estate notices, bids, public hearings, real estate sales and transactions, and Sheriff sales.

The Pike County Commissioners listed the Dispatch as an official newspaper for legal notices during their opening meeting of 2014, and once again, during their annual reorganization meetings on the first business day of the New Year, most of the other municipalities in Pike County followed suit. So far, Milford and Matamoras Boroughs, and Westfall, Dingman, Delaware, Shohola, Blooming Grove. Milford and Lehman Townships have made it their business to have the Dispatch as an official newspaper.

So make it your business to keep up with all the news in Pike to print, including official business and legal notices from your town.

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The Voice Of Pike County
Since 1826

The Pike County Dispatch is not only Pike County's largest circulation weekly newspaper, it is also the oldest.

Founded as the Eagle of the North, it has been in continuous operation reporting news and covering local events since 1826. It is, and always has been, the mainstay in keeping the local citizenry informed. Today, subscribers are as far afield as California and Florida

The Dispatch has covered the historic events that have shaped Pike County for almost as long as that history has been in the making.

Over the years, hometown news has shared pages with national and world events, and world events were sometimes right here in Pike County, Pennsylvania.

Its pages carry news of joy and sorrow, homespun advice, births, deaths, marriages, spats, feuds, political controversy, scandals, murders, heists, social affairs, dedications--in short, all the news in Pike to print.

Look for the Pike County Dispatch at local news dealers, and read all about it!

No 2018 Tax Hike Thanks To Lower Courthouse, Trial Costs

MILFORD — Pike County's tax rate will remain the same for another year, county commissioners announced at their meeting last week.
In a one-page handout of the essentials for the county budget, which became available Dec. 6 at the county administration offices and is being posted online, the millage rate remains at 19.74. It had been increased last year from 18.54. The budget will be considered for adoption 9 a.m. on Dec. 27.

This year's tax rate breaks down to a 17.32 county millage, a 1.27 debt service millage that increased from 0.3 the previous year and a county Scenic Rural Character Preservation millage of 1.15, a drop from 2.12 in the 2017 budget. The SRCP involves the $12 million set aside to preserving open space some years ago. The county budget balances at $40,047,255. That's more than $3,200,000 below what it was in 2017 but about $1 million more than what it was in 2016. The correctional facility remains the biggest expenditure at $12,429,868. Assessed valuation in the county increased by $1,885,340 to $1,126,969,670.

"It's the (reduction of) courthouse expansion expenses on bond issues," explained Board of Commissioners Chairman Matt Osterberg about taxes remaining the same. "Last year's budget of about $3 million higher figured in the expense of the courthouse and that was reimbursed."
The estimated cost for expansion last year was $5 million but $3.5 million was reimbursed in bond money. Last year's budget led to an increase of county taxes between $24 and $42 for most households. Taxes were not increased the previous four years.

Rising medical insurance and pension costs and $290,000 set aside for the Eric Frein trial last spring also figured in last year's budget. Frein was convicted and given the death penalty for the shooting death of one state trooper and wounding of another at the Blooming Grove barracks in the fall of 2014.

Also at the meeting, Pike County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Knapp and Jordan Wisniewski, training and operations manager for the county Training Center, talked about the center's approval as a certified training program by the Pennsylvania Voluntary Fire Service on Nov. 16. Knapp said the demanding three-year process makes it the first training center approved in the state in 15 years, the 29th overall.
As part of the National Association of Professional Firefighters, the certification is valid in other states as well. Volunteer firefighters do not need certification to join their local fire companies but it helps them to perform better and if they go on to become career, paid firefighters elsewhere.

There have been 159 trainees over the past three years, two-thirds of them from Pike County municipalities, said Knapp. In the past, Pike firefighters would travel to Snydersville in Monroe County and beyond for training. The local fire company pays $150 for each volunteer's training program. Some volunteer firefighters who took the Pike training courses came from as far as Bradford County and there also were career firefighters in full-time paid positions from Scranton and Dunmore. There is a return for fire companies paying $150 for the training class. Although training is not required for volunteer fire companies, it received $250 in grant money for each certified firefighter.

"There were times I thought it would not get done," said Knapp of the certification approval. "The days of our responders leaving the county (for training) are over." The Pike program offers training not only in the popular Fire 1 program but the more demanding Fire 2 as well as Hazmat (hazard materials) awareness and pumper operator. A pilot program has begun this year for aerial operator (pumper trucks) and tanker truck operator training.

Those two new programs should get a quick certification approval when a state evaluator comes to assess it. "They (state evaluators) were totally blown away by our recruitment and retention program, and they were very impressed with our facility," Knapp said. Knapp said his office wants to start a career track program in emergency response at the training center for eight seniors from each of the three local high schools: East Stroudsburg-North, Delaware Valley and Wallenpaupack.

"I think this program is a model," Knapp said. "We would not have done it without the (support of the) commissioners." At the meeting, Jessica Grohmann, assistant director of the Pike County Office of Community Planning, announced that $50,000 awarded from the Marcellus Legacy Fund would be disbursed for three local projects as part of the Scenic Rural Character Preservation program. Lehman Township is receiving $25,000 toward restoration of its Bushkill train platform as part of its Bushkill Village plan.

Dingman Township is splitting the other $25,000, with $12,500 toward constructing a one-mile trail in Dingman Park and the other $12,500 toward building a trail approximately three-quarters of a mile long that would be part of the connecting trails in the Bridge Preserve.Any municipality in the county has until Feb. 28 to apply for a grant up to $25,000 in the next round of Marcellus mini-grant funding, and Grohmann recommends residents with ideas on where to invest funds in their area contact their municipality about it. Grohmann can be reached at (570) 296-3500... for complete story, get this week's issue.

Chinese Religious Group Buys Fernwood For $1.69 Million

BUSHKILL — Shuttered Fernwood Hotel & Convention Center, a major employer in the region spanning into Lehman and Delaware townships in Pike County, is being reincarnated by a Chinese Buddhist church. The Jinyin Temple of Sino Esoteric Buddhism Inc., with an address of 33-37 Farrington St. in Flushing, N.Y., filed a deed on Oct. 31 with a $1.69 million purchase price. HA RA Corp., a subsidiary of the Bushkill Group, was the prior owner.

The 125,000-square-feet hotel property that includes 127 rooms had an opening price tag of $3.9 million. The transaction covers four properties in Middle Smithfield Township, primarily along Route 209. Middle Smithfield Township officials say the new owner already has begun the permitting process filing construction plans and has indicated to the township that the property would be used as a retreat center for its Chinese Buddhist following.

Just a few miles north, the shuttered Pocmont Resort in Lehman Township that reopened in recent years as the Bushkill Inn, is known to accommodate many groups of vacationing Hasidic Jews. The Fernwood transaction does not include the 650 Treetops and Fairway Villas year-round timeshares, the snowtubing slope and golf course, and the horse stables as well as the miniature golf course, rec center and paintball course on the other side of Route 209.

That complex earlier this year was acquired by Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. of New York from the Bushkill Group that also had owned those properties. Developer W. Peter Ahnert originally built the properties on both sides of Route 209 in the late 1970s. The deed stipulates that no Fernwood properties purchased by the temple can be used as timeshares. "Renovations and upgrades will take the next two years," said Judy Acosta, Middle Smithfield zoning administrator. "They'll be utilizing structures and bringing them up to code, not so much building new structures."... for complete story, get this week's issue.

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