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Vetter Road problems symptomatic of mass soil erosion

ATHENS — Continued stream bank erosion culminated in the closure of Vetter Road earlier this week, but Athens Township Public Works Director Susan Seck says the road should be opened back up today.

Seck got a $3,700 quote from M.R. Dirt for the road repair, but citizen action saved the municipality from a much more costly endeavor.

Heavy soil erosion of the road has led to moving the road away from the stream — a project that the township was going to pursue.

However, due to recent soil collapse, Seck said it would’ve taken weeks to get their equipment moved to the site, which would keep the road closed for quite a while.

“Secrist Lumber is up there and they have to have that road to bring in the wood and take it out,” Seck explained. “We went through a whole process where he allowed us to get an easement on his land, and they — John Johnson, James Secrist and Donny Mattison — brought their excavator in.”

“Johnson supplied some (dump) trucks, and they hauled the whole bank away — that saved the township a lot of money,” she said. “They took hundreds of loads of dirt out the there, so they got it prepared for us.”

For their diligent work, the township is very grateful, she said.

Secrist has attended the last several township meetings, stressing the needed urgency and danger of the deteriorating roadway — and, that it has been a developing problem for years.

“It comes from the fact that the creeks — you can’t clean them anymore,” Seck explained. “It’s hard to keep the water from eroding the banks. The streams take a different path and cut directly in.”

“(The stream) is right at the base of the roadway,” she continued. “The water keeps pounding in there, and you’ve got the clay above the bedrock that starts oozing and slipping.”

Because it takes the stability out, things start sliding, she said.

“It would drop 36 inches when it first started, and we’d take material in, monitor it and then it’d drop six to eight inches,” said Seck. “We’ve been doing this since last July or August.”

Seck said all that fill material has ended up in the creek, making the waterway even smaller.

“Trees continually fall down, that pulls considerable amount of material out of the bank and leaves another void,” she explained. “Water can definitely do a lot of damage.”

Stream bed stabilization work started earlier this week, conducted by M.R. Dirt, with Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s blessing.

Project documents explain that 170 feet of the left (road-side) bank of Orcutt Creek will be rehabilitated with binned block to help maintain the slope and guard against future erosion.

“It’ll be a lot safer coming off that hill; through winter there’s a lot of accidents up there,” Seck said. “Hopefully, we can get some guide rails in there.”

“Our trucks have been going like crazy (today) getting sludge out of there and they’re filling it with rock, putting aggregate over it,” Seck said. “It’s on schedule. We’ll line it with rock and put some (driving surface aggregate) over it.”

“There will but some settling (off the surface),” she said, but the road will have a much better base than normal.

Next year, the township plans to put down the final road surface.

Water-damaged roads cost “an awful lot of money,” Seck added.

A Den for learning

WAVERLY — Waverly Central School District officials held their latest work-based learning program advisory board meeting on Thursday with business leaders from around the Valley region — and hosted them in the student-operated Wolverine Den.

The multi-service operation serves as a coffee shop, IT help desk, credit union and, possibly soon, concession stand for staff and students, and is completely managed and operated by students at the high school, according to assistant principal Ryan Alo. The Den even has two fish tank — one saltwater and one freshwater — that is used for marine biology learning.

However, district staff allowed the students to do most of the presentations in terms of work-based learning and how the Den has benefited them.

“When we started this last year, we had maybe between 20 and 25 students involved, and now we have up to 60 kids,” Chief Student Officer Jake Sackett said. “So we’ve grown enormously. We have to keep each period staffed. We learn and maintain professionalism and courtesy. It’s been such a huge learning experience for me.”

Sackett acknowledged that challenges would be coming up for the Den, such as refilling the staff and management positions once those students graduate, but added that he was excited to see that process unfold.

Chief Marketing Officer Abigail Bonning echoed Sackett’s comments regarding the Den as a positive learning experience, noting that she drove towards developing creative ways to market the establishment to students.

“We were always looking for ways to grow,” she said. “We introduced new coffees and spirit gear. We adjusted pricing to make the Den more inviting. We want to make it more than just a cool hangout spot.”

Like Sackett, Bonning outlined the unique challenges in managing what essentially operates as business.

“But we face our problems,” she said. “It’s ok to mess up, as long as you own up to it and make a true learning experience.”

Sackett’s 15-year-old brother, Cody, is in charge of the Den’s concessions, which has now grown from a few students staffing it to approximately 12.

“The progress has just been tremendous,” he said. “We’ve expanded the food choices. We’re working on even getting Mooney’s involved. We’re also working on having the concessions here in the Den during winter sports.

“I’m just extremely thankful for this experience,” Cody Sackett continued. “I really feel like I can take this and look back on it for the future.”

Alo then updated the room on the Den’s Code Red help desk on behalf of senior Ryan Talada, who was unable to attend the meeting.

“We don’t want to just be student-focused. We want to be student-driven,” Alo said. “And that’s what we have with the help desk. It’s entirely staffed by students, who can help other students with low-level issues with their school-owned laptops.

“The really cool thing about this is that even the teachers use it,” he continued. “They come in. They drop off their device and get a replacement device so they, student or teacher, can continue to work while their laptop is getting fixed. They can then come back later and pick up their original device, or the student will track them down and deliver their laptop back to them. We have a growing tech base here and it’s the students that are doing it.”

Rachel Shambo walked through the different aspects of the Ingersoll-Rand Federal Credit Union branch that is open at the Den, along with the options available to students.

She explained that students can learn about banking and accounting operations, how to open a credit card and other forms of financial education.

“Only five states require a half-year of personal finance education,” she noted.

Coffee shop manager Devin Searles boosted up the real-life work environment that students experience, which he said would help kids get jobs by teaching them how to operate a cash register, take orders, problem-solving skills and professionalism.

“All of this that we’re talking about is entirely developed and driven by the students,” Alo emphasized. “We want our managers to manage and lead. They have developed their own procedures, which has led to students doing what I think is one of the hardest things to do as a student, which is call out your peers in a professional manner, which I think is a very valuable lesson.”

The Den is also branching out into the arena of catering, which is being led by student Amber Davis, who said much of her focus has been on planning for Tinsel N’ Lights.

“But overall, I think my favorite part of this experience has been listening and seeing how different people interact behind the scenes to get these events off the ground,” she said.

The next meeting of the advisory board is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 20. The public is invited to attend.

Smoking out tobacco use

SAYRE — Students at Sayre Area High School received more education on their health during their lunch periods Thursday, as Guthrie hosted its Great American Smokeout, a public awareness event spearheaded by the American Cancer Society since 1976.

The event featured Dr. Anthony Grippo, assistant chief to Guthrie’s Section of Occupational Medicine, who spoke with students and provided them with information about the risks of tobacco use and vaping.

“We have a display for the Great American Smokeout,” he said. “I’m here during the lunch period to give the kids some idea of the dangers of tobacco use and vaping. I’ll also be giving some personal stories to the students that impacted by own life with respect to tobacco use.”

Grippo said young people are the most vulnerable in terms of abusing tobacco and especially vaping.

“I think that children need to understand that, obviously, vaping can be harmful to their health, and I wouldn’t recommend that they start it,” he said. “And the second, very key point about vaping is you see kids modifying what’s going into the vaping devices, and that’s where we’re seeing a lot of problems with that. So if young adults were to try to vape, I would strongly suggest they would not modify the e-cigarette in any way, shape or form.”

Grippo added that there is a perception of safety surrounding vaping that is misconstrued.

“I think that’s a big communication piece where young adults and even adults think vaping is safer than tobacco, and it’s really not as safe as they think,” he said.

For those struggling or wanting to quit using tobacco or vaping products, Grippo asked them to keep their loved ones in mind.

“Think about their families, and they impact that it has on them,” he said. “I’ve already had a few kids here tell me how much they wish they could get their parents to stop smoking and chewing. And coming from a family who used tobacco, that was just something that was always on my mind.”

Sayre Borough Council adopts 2020 budget

SAYRE — The Sayre Borough Council approved a budget on Wednesday that will keep taxes steady for the 10th straight year.

The council first unanimously adopted Ordinance No. 961 which established the 2020 millage rate at 10.37 mills, which is the same as it has been for the last decade.

The next unanimous vote approved the proposed spending plan that was presented last month. Council member Gene Cerutti was not present at Wednesday’s meeting.

The total 2020 budget for Sayre is set at $9,294,142, which is a decrease of $925,345 from the 2019 plan.

The 2020 spending plan breaks down as follows:

General fund — $5,294,972

UDAG fund — $240,250

Parking lot fund — $100,780

Sewer fund — $2,558,330

Capital reserve fund — $905,465

Liquid fuels fund — $194,345

There will also be no increase in sewer fees in 2020 after they increased from $137 to $141 per quarter this year.

In a letter to the council last month, Borough Treasurer Elizabeth Fice explained the process the borough went through to make sure there were no increases for next year.

“There were many challenges in preparing this budget, especially with the general and sewer funds. Major increases presented themselves in the areas of fuel, landfill fees, pension obligations, borough pack insurances and benefit costs for the general fund and infrastructure projects and debt service in the sewer fund,” said Fice. “We sharpened our pencils and tightened up all general fund expenditures as much as possible without having to cut any services.”