Rice Board Passes Budget, Approves Change To Develop Woodberry Phase III

The Rice Township Board of Supervisors closed out their yearly business Tuesday December 17 passing the 2014 Budget, approving a change for Presidential Land to develop Woodberry Phase III in segments and approving additional payments to two attorneys for $5311.46.

Supervisor Marcia Thomas initiated discussion on the future of the decertified Rice Township Volunteer Fire Company, now organized as the Independence Fire & Rescue Co. No. One. “I have a question about something I read in the newspaper today relative to the Attorney General’s office. Have we received correspondence on this?” began Thomas.

Solicitor William Higgs replied, “I have been in touch with the Attorney General’s Office, they called months ago about the decertification of the fire company was advised and that they were proceeding with this petition. They have petitioned to have the Independence Fire Company dissolved and the assets dealt with by the court,” said Higgs.

The Rice Township Board of Supervisors sent a letter to The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General on July 29, 2013 notifying them that the Rice Township Volunteer Fire Company was decertified for fire service to the township on June 25, 2013. A copy of the township’s Ordinance was attached. The letter was signed by Miller Stella, Jr., Chairman, Board of Supervisors.

Thomas asked, “When did all that take place, Bill, because I never saw anything or received anything. I never knew a thing about this until I read about it today (December 17, 2013) in the paper.”

Higgs said he got the copy of the petition last week and Secretary Don Armstrong said he thought he had a copy in his office.

Thomas again complained that she had learned about it in the newspaper. Higgs replied, “There were a lot of people who read about it in the newspaper.” Higgs said he provided the information to the township secretary.

Thomas countered, “You have my email address, you could have communicated with me. I certainly don’t appreciate hearing something that drastic about something going on in the township by reading about it in the paper.”

Armstrong said he did have the petition document in his office and it was 28 pages after he printed it. Armstrong did not offer to make the petition available to Thomas or to the public before the meeting was adjourned. The Eagle obtained the document showing that the Petition for Citation to Show Cause for dissolution and distribution of the fire company’s assets was filed in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas on November 20, 2013.

2013 Legal Bills Total $54,062

The board approved additional compensation to two attorneys in a total amount at the December meeting of $5311.46. The bills were for William Higgs in the amount of $1142.42 to Heslop road-Unpaved Section, Polonia Estates and Hayden Rezone. Attorney Donald Brobst from Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald will be paid $4,169.04 for litigation matters relative to Thomas Vs. Rice Township for October and November invoices. Higgs was paid a total of $27,841.91 in 2013 and Brobst billed a total of $24,717.22. Rice Township paid $54,062 to attorneys in 2013. The budget for legal services in 2013 was $8,000.

Budget Carry Over $200,000

The board passed a 2014 Budget for $980,000. As of January 1, 2014 cash and securities carried over from 2013 approximate $200,000.

Taxes including Earned Income, Property, Real Estate Transfer and Local Services Tax are estimated at $800,000 based on previous years’ income. Liquid Fuels Receipts are $84,049. Police Contract Services amount to $30,000 paid by Nuangola Borough for police protection.

On the expense side the Police Department is the largest expense at

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