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Wyalusing Council Turns to Community to Revive Creek Project

The Wyalusing Borough Council needs some help from local residents to save nearly $400,000 awarded to the borough to prevent erosion along the Wyalusing Creek.

The Growing Greener Grant was awarded to the borough over two years ago, but what's left of the money after paying for various studies and designs, approximately $349,000, could end up being turned back to the state next June if the project doesn't quickly show signs of life.

Gary Matson, a volunteer who has overseen the creek project since the borough and the Taylor family (Matson's employer at the time) agreed to join forces to acquire funding for the project, gave council an update Monday night.

While some stream bank improvements have been successfully completed along property owned by the Taylor family, Matson said other portions have seen no construction work at all.

One reason for this is that borough councilmembers and office personnel, who originally played important roles in the project, are gone. And with council facing serious manpower shortages (it currently has just three active members; down from seven when the project started), current councilmembers are hard-pressed to devote time to the project.

Council President Gary Rouse summed up council's position on the project Monday night. "I just don't have the time to devote to this," Rouse said. "We need to get people from the community involved."

Following up on Rouse's comments, council plans to contact people who have an interest in improving the creek or who have property that would benefit from erosion control. David Burgess, a creek-side property owner, and David Buck, owner of a local canoe livery, were two people specifically mentioned Monday night, but a half-dozen or so other property owners within the scope of the project will also be contacted.

But Matson reminded council that even if the project continues to head toward its original goals, previous cost estimates have shown that additional funding of nearly a million dollars would be needed to complete the work, and there is little hope of getting additional monies.

The irony, Matson explained, is that the project is getting closer to approval, but unfortunately there isn't enough money to do the actual work.

An alternative, Matson said however, would be to take what he described as a "band-aid approach." This, he explained, would include making what improvements that could be completed with the remaining $349,000. He said this would involve acquiring a general permit from DEP, which would provide special permission to put construction equipment into the creek.

This is where Matson said input from property owners along the creek would be needed. "We need to identify areas that need to be stabilized," he said. " We need to identify areas most at risk and places where we could do some good."

Rouse and other councilmembers agreed with Matson's assessment, but cautioned that time was growing short.

"We need to get moving now," Rouse said.

Along with agreeing to contact property owners along the creek, council opened the doors for anyone else who's interested in helping with the project to volunteer.

Matson admitted that his role in the project has been frustrating at times, but urged council to move forward. "At times I feel like washing my hands of the whole thing, but since we're this close, I think we should continue pursuing it," he said.

Other business Monday night included:

—Hearing from Gary Rouse that work would begin this week eliminating a pesky drainage problem near the Wyalusing Fire Hall that's earned the name of Lake Ethel.

—Discussing a request from George Anderson that council receive regular reports showing how its expenses compare to those stipulated in the annual budget. Council agreed.

—Discussing another question from Anderson about whether the borough should remove grass growing through cracks of sidewalks on private properties. Council said no, it's the property owner's responsibility. Anderson said the grass was unsightly and at times made walking dangerous.

—Announcing that council would hold a special meeting with Borough Solicitor Jonathan Foster on Wednesday, Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss pending ordinance changes.

—Hearing that work on installing the borough's new playground equipment could begin this fall. Rouse said installation would involve a workbee of about 10 volunteers. Those interested in helping should contact the borough hall. More specific information will be made available in the future.

—Briefly discussing a request from former school district superintendent James Smith to fill a vacant seat on council. Some councilmembers expressed concern whether Smith, a convicted felon, could legally serve on council. Council plans to put the selection process in the hands of Bradford County Judge Jeffrey Smith.

—Discussing questions over the Wyalusing Community Corp not having proper permits for recent interior renovations at its Main Street building.

—Accepting a $2,900 bid from the Saring Company for a new furnace at the borough garage.

—Agreeing to approve a request for a small boundary adjustment on properties owned by members of the Burgess family.

—Reporting that a letter had been written to the borough's emergency management coordinator David Bonhamer advising him that he needs to update his certification.

The meeting ended with an executive session for personnel matters. After reconvening, council voted to give Borough Secretary Stacy Hart a $1 per hour pay increase.

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