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County consolidating positions

TOWANDA — Bradford County Commissioners on Thursday approved the creation of a new position that will consolidate two open positions within the county courthouse.

Specifically, the commissioners voted to create the position of “office manager prothonotary courts” which merges positions in the prothonotary’s office and collections office.

“We got the office heads together and we decided that if we create this position, it could provide coverage for an existing empty position without any increase in staffing or personnel,” Commissioner Ed Bustin said. “It’s kind of like job-sharing where it will split the duties of existing staff.”

“There’s another rationale to that in that collections always works very closely with the courts,” Commissioner Daryl Miller said. “Issues regarding collections, fees, fines — things of that nature. So they’re putting that more under the auspices of the prothonotary. Even though our fiscal department will still oversee it, it’ll be part of the prothonotary’s office.”

“It’s just about increasing efficiencies within the departments,” Bustin said.

“With a projected savings of about $40,000,” Commissioner Doug McLinko added.

The new position will go into effect on July 21.

editor / Dave Post/Morning Times  

The Athens 8-10 year-old All-Stars captured the District 15 Minors Championship on Thursday with an 8-3 win over Towanda. Athens will now advance to the Section 3 tournament. The District 15 champions are pictured above — in no particular order — Duncan Thetga, Kamdyn Wheeler, Graham Wanck, Alex McQuay, Connor Davidson, Lucas Schultz, Sam Cheresnowsky, Joseph Dickerson, Peter Bertsch, Cartyr Cockroft, Brycen Wood, Zack Fisher and Eli Hicks. The coaches are Jason Wanck, Jeremy Davidson, John Cheresnowsky and Kevin Wheeler.

Van Etten Town Board gives update on water district

VAN ETTEN — The Van Etten Town Board gave updates to residents on the town’s water system and the sale of the current town hall building.

Deputy Supervisor Harold Shoemaker and Town Justice and Water Operator Heather Gable gave an update on the water district.

The water district committee has a few proposals in hand to upgrade the meter reading system.

“(With) the equipment that you’ve inherited, the software is no longer going to have support as of next April, so we need to go to next computer software upgrade,” Gable said.

The proposal to upgrade the meter reading system is going to cost around $9,000.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges to establish the correct water billing. I think we’re getting there, but the next software on either side is something we’ll have to do,” Gable commented.

Schmidt’s Wholesale will be at the Aug. 8 monthly board meeting to give a presentation on the upcoming upgrades and changes to the town’s water system.

New York Rural Water Association is also working with the town and has let the town know of two grant opportunities.

One grant deals with water system mapping, which works through “the cloud,” according to Gable. The grant is through New York State and in conjunction with New York Rural Association.

“We had initial drawings when the system was put in a decade ago. The drawings are not accurate,” Gable said.

The second grant opportunity is for sustainable management.

“It’s a management program through New York state, where they would send New York Rural representatives down here to work pretty extensively with the board. They would have a management program, which would include energy efficiency,” Gable said.

Another part of the grant would be asset management. This part of the grant would take a look at the town’s existing equipment and tell (the town) what the lifespan of said equipment is and how much money the town would be looking at to replace the equipment.

The last part of the second grant is a water rate study, which Gable comments “should be looked at immediately.”

“I think it’s a good opportunity, again this requires board involvement. It’s two great things that I think we should look forward to,” and start the grant process as soon as possible, Gable said.

Shoemaker went on to comment, in regards to some of the discussion that happened at last month’s meeting, that Van Etten’s current water rates and the debt service fee is not that high for the area. Shoemaker cited the West Danby water district, which holds 124 residents within its district, and it’s average water rates of $19.

“A lot of people think that our rates, that the way we’re charging is expensive, but it’s very comparable to other small water districts,” Shoemaker said.

Moving on from the upcoming water systems changes, Supervisor George Keturi gave an update on the town hall and library move.

Keturi read the advertisement that the town will be sending out on for bids on the current town hall building. Bids will be due by Aug. 8, the next monthly town board meeting where the bids will be opened.

The town also discussed the invoice from the previous village attorney Frank Como. The original estimate for Como’s services was around $3,000. The recent invoice is now at about $7,300.

The concerns the town board had with the invoice was the lack of detail of what the town was being charged for.

“One of my concerns with it — and so everyone knows — our town attorney, when he sends a bill in like this and it comes across our desks, it’s pretty well detailed and broken out right down to what he (had) done, to hour and fee,” Councilperson Fred Swayze, Jr. said. “It’s just non-detailed, you might as well have wrote it on a cocktail napkin and said ‘hey, here’s my bill.’ To me, that’s unacceptable, especially as us as an entity doing business.”

The town approved for Town Clerk Dawn Rose to write a letter in response to the invoice asking for a more detailed list of charges and fees.

The town clerk also made a note at the end of the meeting that Van Etten residents should be on the lookout for giant hogweed as Chemung County just recorded its second case of the invasive species.

Trump abandons bid to include citizenship question on census

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump abandoned his controversial bid to inject a citizenship question into next year’s census Thursday, instead directing federal agencies to try to compile the information using existing databases.

He insisted he was “not backing down,” declaring in a Rose Garden announcement that the goal was simple and reasonable: “a clear breakdown of the number of citizens and non-citizens that make up the United States population.”

But the decision was clearly a reversal, after the Supreme Court blocked his effort by disputing his administration’s rationale for demanding that census respondents declare whether or not they were citizens. Trump had said last week that he was “very seriously” considering an executive order to try to force the question. But the government has already begun the lengthy and expensive process of printing the census questionnaire without it, and such a move would surely have drawn an immediate legal challenge.

Instead, Trump said Thursday that he would be signing an executive order directing every federal department and agency to provide the Commerce Department with all records pertaining to the number of citizens and noncitizens in the country.

Trump’s efforts to add the question on the decennial census had drawn fury and backlash from critics who complained that it was political, meant to discourage participation, not only by people living in the country illegally but also by citizens who fear that participating would expose noncitizen family members to repercussions.

Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, and the lawyer who argued the Supreme Court case, celebrated Thursday’s announcement by the president, saying: “Trump’s attempt to weaponize the census ends not with a bang but a whimper.”

Trump said his order would apply to every agency, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. The Census Bureau already has access to Social Security, food stamp and federal prison records, all of which contain citizenship information.

Trump, citing Census Bureau projections, predicted that using previously available records, the administration could determine the citizenship of 90 percent of the population “or more.”

“Ultimately this will allow us to have a more complete count of citizens than through asking the single question alone,” he contended.

But it is still unclear what Trump intends to do with the citizenship information. Federal law prohibits the use of census information to identify individuals, though that restriction has been breached in the past.

At one point, Trump suggested it could help states that “may want to draw state and local legislative districts based upon the voter-eligible population.” That would mark a change from how districts are drawn currently, based on the entire population, and could increase Republican political power.

Civil rights groups said the president’s efforts had already sown fear and discord in vulnerable communities, making the task of an accurate count even harder.

“The damage has already been done,” said Lizette Escobedo of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

The Census Bureau had stressed repeatedly that it could produce better citizenship data without adding the question.

In fact, the bureau had recommended combining information from the annual American Community Survey with records held by other federal agencies that already include citizenship records.

“This would result in higher quality data produced at lower cost,” deputy Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin had written in a December 2017 email to a Justice Department official.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, ultimately rejected that approach and ordered the citizenship question be added to the census.

The American Community Survey, which polls 3.5 million U.S. households every year, already includes questions about respondents’ citizenship.

“It’s a retreat back to what he should have done from the beginning,” said Kenneth Prewitt, a former Census Bureau director.

Trump’s administration had faced numerous roadblocks to adding the question, beginning with the ruling by the Supreme Court temporarily barring its inclusion on the grounds that the government’s justification was insufficient. Two federal judges also rejected the Justice Department’s plan to replace the legal team fighting for inclusion.

But Trump insisted his administration was pushing forward anyway, publicly contradicting government lawyers and his commerce secretary, who had previously conceded the case was closed, as well as the Census Bureau, which had started the process of printing the 2020 questionnaire without the controversial query after the Supreme Court decision.

As he has many times before, Trump exploded the situation with a tweet, calling reports that the fight was over “FAKE!”

A week of speculation about the administration’s plans and renewed court battles ensued as Trump threw out ideas, including suggesting last week that officials might be able to add an addendum to the questionnaire with the question after it was printed. And he toyed with the idea of halting the constitutionally mandated survey entirely while the court battle played out.

Attorney General William Barr, however, said that the government had no interest in delaying the count and that, while he was confident the census question would have eventually survived legal review, the process would have taken too long to work its way through the courts.

Hannah McKay 

United States' Serena Williams returns to Czech Republic's Barbora Strycova in a Women's semifinal singles match on day ten of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Thursday, July 11, 2019. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP)

Waverly School Board reorganizes

WAVERLY — The reorganization of the Waverly School Board did not feature any shakeups, as longtime board president Parvin Mensch retained his title, as did board vice president Colleen Talada.

New board member David Ackland was also sworn in, but fellow newcomer Janel Golden’s official welcome will have to wait, as she was out of town and, as such, absent from Thursday’s meeting.

As for board committees, the following board members were appointed:

• Audit committee — Renee Kinsley, Kristi Zimmer and Golden.

• Special education committee — Cory Robinson and Jennifer Vaughn.

• Academic committee — Talada, Kinsley, Ackland and Golden.

• Policy committee — Talada, Robinson and Donald Mattison.

• CAPP Committee — Mattison, Robinson, Mensch and Ackland.

• Community Connections committee — Ackland and Golden.

There was, however, a “reshuffling of the deck,” as district Superintendent Eric Knolles put it, in the ranks of the district’s administrators.

Catherine Pichany, formerly the district’s athletic and transportation director, was transferred to the middle school as its principal.

Paul Vesci, who previously served as the district’s intermediate principal, is moving to the high school as an assistant principal, joining Ryan Alo in that role while Alo increases his focus on the district’s work-based learning program.

Knolles cited Pichany’s and Vesci’s backgrounds as key reasons for the moves, explaining that Pichany has a background in elementary education that makes her a good fit at the middle school, and Vesci’s high school background makes him a prime candidate to join the high school.

“It’s just about making the right fit for everyone,” Knolles said.

Presidential candidates partner with Tom Reed on bipartisan bill

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Reed has teamed up with two 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on a bipartisan bill that he says will support family caregivers in New York and across the country.

“How often do you see two Democrat Senators running for President partner with a Republican House Member? Forty Million Americans provide unpaid care to a friend or relative with a long-term illness or medical condition, often juggling this work with other obligations resulting in a significant financial burden,” Reed said in a press release. “We all care about ensuring our aging loved ones get the assistance they deserve and want to ensure any financial pain put upon caregivers are eased. We are pleased to put partisan labels aside to work together to help people.”

Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are cosponsoring the bipartisan legislation in the Senate, while Reed and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) are introducing a similar bill in the House.

“Millions of Americans care for loved ones who are ill or have serious medical conditions, often taking time off of work or juggling work, care, and other family responsibilities. Washington should be fighting for these families, which is why I am calling on Congress to pass this modest tax credit to make life just a little easier for them,” said Warren.

“Millions of Americans quietly bear the immense responsibility of caring for loved ones day-in and day-out, with little recognition or financial support — dedicating countless hours of care and covering costs so family members who are aging or otherwise in need of support can live their lives with independence and dignity,” added Bennet. “This bipartisan tax credit will help ease the burden of the significant expenses that family caregivers shoulder. We should recognize and support the important work of family caregiving by passing this legislation.”

The AARP has endorsed this piece of legislation.

“AARP is pleased to endorse the Credit for Caring Act and appreciates the bipartisan leadership of the bill’s Senate and House sponsors to support family caregivers,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer. “Nationwide, 40 million family caregivers are assisting loved ones so they can stay in their homes and communities. In 2016, family caregivers spent an average of 20 percent of their income, or nearly $7,000, on care-related expenses. The Credit for Caring Act would provide some much-needed financial relief to eligible family caregivers. We look forward to working with the bill’s sponsors and Congress to enact this important legislation.”

The Credit for Caring Act would provide working family caregivers with a nonrefundable tax credit up to $3,000 to assist with out-of-pocket expenses related to caregiving. This tax credit for caregivers can be used toward expenses such as transportation, home modifications to accommodate a family member, medication management services, and training or education for the caregiver.

About the Credit for Caring Act

  • Creates up to a $3,000 nonrefundable tax credit adjusted to inflation for family caregivers.
  • Applies to incurred family caregiving expenses greater than $2,000.
  • Qualified care recipients must have been certified by a health care practitioner to be in need of long-term care for at least 180 consecutive days.
  • Eligibility is limited to a caregiver of a qualified care recipient who must pay for caregiving expenses and has earned income in excess of $7,500.
  • Credit is phased out when income exceeds $150,000 for joint filers or $75,000 for individual filers.