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December 10, 2016
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Rustic lifestyles, emergency services and roads

LACKAWAXEN, PA — The Lackawaxen township supervisors on February 24 voted approval of an amendment to township zoning, requiring the installation of blue or green reflective signs with four-inch-high white numbers at each registered E-911 address in Lackawaxen.

That seemingly innocuous action caused a lively debate as its universal requirement for reflective signs was questioned by a representative of the Woodloch Springs community.

Nick D’Andrea, director of marketing and sales for Woodloch, asked if any other alternatives existed that would not change community architectural values that Woodloch Springs residents had “bought into.” He asked if a waiver would be considered.

Township Solicitor Anthony Waldron said application for a waiver could be made, but “it won’t be granted just because someone asked.”

Woodloch Springs had been grandfathered last summer when the original E-911 language was added to the ordinance. Supervisors’ chair Robert Cocchi said that last fall the township was told that grandfathering was “not in the interest of public safety.”

Waldron said that while the location of fire calls is seldom a problem, medical calls don’t provide any evidence of location for responders.

A large contingent of firefighters and emergency medical volunteers were on hand to support the amendment. Several of them spoke of the difficulty of finding specific numbers on the multiple-residence, townhouse units on medical calls at night and in bad weather.

D’Andrea said that all the homes in Woodloch Springs were numbered now in non-reflective signage. “We all want a quick response. Is there a better way to accomplish it?”

He noted that Woodloch has strobe lights on the address signs and installed streetlights 20 years ago before anyone else. “I’m sorry you couldn’t find an address, but we’re doing the very best we can while trying to balance the architectural issues.”

One EMS volunteer responded saying, “I don’t think people are going to complain about a sign that saves a life.”

Seeking alternatives, D’Andrea asked about GPS location gear and better maps.

Welcome Lake Fire Department Assistant Chief Tim Knapp said these items are available but didn’t solve the problem. “We don’t get lost on the roads. We get lost finding house numbers.”

Bob Beltramine, vice-president of the Central Volunteer Fire Department, said the house number problem also applies to law enforcement. Lacking township police, state police often have issues finding addresses when responding to Lackawaxen calls, he said.

Responding to Beltramine’s question about legal liability should an address not be found in a timely manner, Waldron said that the township and the fire departments were not liable unless “willful negligence” was demonstrated.

Waldron said that the ordinance makes community management responsible for notifying non-permanent residents, who would have a year to comply with signage requirements.

D’Andrea asked if all 3,500 houses in the township would be checked for compliance to the ordinance.

Cocchi said the township would check when notified of a problem.

The amendment was adopted by Cocchi and Supervisor Mike Mancino’s vote. Supervisor Rich Krochta did not attend the meeting.

Similar growth issues arose in the public comment period that followed the zoning vote.

One resident, who didn’t identify herself, told of the long wait that a stroke victim in her community endured last Thanksgiving because she said Wayne Memorial Hospital did not have the facilities to treat him. “A helicopter couldn’t come and he had to wait for an ambulance” from Scranton’s Community Medical Center, she said.

Saying that hers was an “aging community,” she asked for township support in an effort to “get Wayne Memorial up to snuff.”

She was followed by Lackawaxen business operator Dimtri Zaimes’ complaint about the “super-bad roads…We had better roads in Vietnam,” he said.

Supporting Zaimes, former township supervisor Wayne McHue suggested a moratorium on new building permits until PennDOT does something. “If the state is not willing to fix the roads, don’t let anybody else come here and put themselves in danger,” he said.