TOWANDA – Children who attend Towanda Elementary School will be learning virtually through the end of the month as a precautionary measure after three children tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a message sent out by Superintendent Dennis Peachey Thursday, the change in learning will allow the district time to clean the building and curb any potential spread of the virus on the grounds.
“With no current cases at the high school or J. Andrew Morrow, those two buildings will continue with in-person instruction,” he added.
The first positive case, a sixth-grade student, was reported to the district Wednesday. Peachey said the student was last in school on Friday, Oct. 16, and started showing symptoms by Sunday, prompting the student’s family to keep them home.
“The family did a nice job,” Peachey said.
On Thursday, the district was notified that two siblings – a fourth-grade and sixth-grade student – had tested positive. Peachey said they were last in school on Monday.
The district moved the elementary school to virtual learning following conversations with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Students were sent home with their laptops and what’s expected of them during time of virtual learning.
Teachers will begin live streaming lessons today and continue through next week. Breakfasts and lunches will be delivered by bus or van to those who normally ride the bus, and will be available for pickup along State Street for students who are walkers or are driven to and from school.
“Please know that protocols are in place to keep all students and staff as safe as possible,” Peachey said. “Our facilities are cleaned daily, including high touch and high traffic areas. We ask that parents continue to screen children daily before coming to school and keep them home if they are sick. If you have a COVID-19 related issue, please call building principals, and they can assist you.”
He encouraged the community to continue working together in order to preserve the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.
Bradford County’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to date in has more than doubled over the past two weeks.
From when the Pennsylvania Department of Health recorded its first positive case in the county in March until its reporting on Thursday, Oct. 8, the county had been home to 250 confirmed cases. On Thursday, two weeks later, the DOH reported that the county confirmed COVID-19 total had increased by 270. One-hundred-forty-three of these cases were recorded in the past week, and 55 were from the previous two days.
Thursday’s reporting also included the county’s ninth COVID-19 death, which the COVID-19 dashboard shows happened Oct. 16.
The DOH’s nursing home or personal care home data shows that five Bradford County facilities have been impacted by the virus to date. Since Tuesday’s reporting, 16 new cases have been reported among residents and two among staff. Wednesday’s reporting also updated the number of deaths attributed to nursing or personal care homes from two to four.
According to Bradford County Manor Administrator Jim Shadduck, the facility has had six new confirmed cases among residents and four new cases among staff this week. Twenty-nine residents have recovered since the outbreak first began last month and 26 other residents are expected to soon join them. Of the 47 staff that have tested positive to date, Shadduck said 34 have recovered.
The DOH continues to stress the importance of regular mask wearing in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Officials encourage people to also regularly wash their hands, wear masks where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, and stay home if they experience symptoms such as fever or chills, a cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, congestions or sore throat, nausea, or diarrhea.
Work to transform the old Ben Franklin store into a home for the Bradford County Sheriff’s and Domestic Relations offices is ready to move forward after commissioners accepted a trio of bids for the first round of work Thursday.
Streeter Associates of Elmira beat out three other companies for general contractor with a bid of $874,000. Additional work will be performed by AFT Mechanical of Elmira with a bid of $85,000, and Spectrum Electrical Service of Montrose with a $13,424 bid.
This initial phase of work, which includes updates to the facade, new concrete flooring, new roof, new mechanical and HVAC, and new electric, is expected to be completed before the end of the year, according to Commissioner Chairman Daryl Miller. The second phase of work to complete the office spaces will be started in 2021.
Asbestos remediation was performed during the summer.
“What that does is helps relieve some of the crowded areas of the courthouse,” Miller explained. Because of that, the county will be able to fund renovations using federal COVID-19-related CARES Act funding.
In addition to housing the Sheriff’s Office and Domestic Relations, the building will also be used to store elections equipment.
The county purchased the former craft store last year for $300,000.
Ben Franklin closed near the end of 2018 following a few years of declining sales due to businesses such as Amazon.com and discount chains, the store’s owner, Gary Peck, said at the time. In addition, he was unable to find a buyer to take it over.
Once a W.T. Grant store, the Ben Franklin store had done business from the Main Street location since 1976.
Earlier this month, commissioners approved a $115,275 agreement with AJH Design, effective Sept. 22, to create the conceptual design and bid documentation, and perform construction administration.
Coroner’s office move
Commissioners also used CARES Act funding for the purchase of the former Western Alliance EMS building in Wysox from the Wysox Fire Department for $260,000.
The building will become the new office for Bradford County Coroner Tom Carman, who has worked out of Troy for many years.
“This is in central Bradford County,” Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko said. “The fit is perfect to do that. … It’s something that we’re trying to do for the future of Bradford County, so it will be there for coroners to come. And no better time to do it than when we have CARES Act (money).”
According to county Planning Director Matt Williams, the coroner’s office move qualifies for CARES Act funding since it will be moving from a “high risk” location where a daycare and other offices are located to the former Western Alliance EMS building in Wysox.
The building will undergo minor office renovations and have a cooler installed. Miller said the transition is expected to be complete soon.
CANTON — More accusations, and responses to accusation were brought to the table during a Canton Borough Police Committee meeting last week.
Mayor Richard Porter informed that a complaint had been filed from Canton Borough Police officer Michael Northrup which stated that Canton Borough Police Chief Doug Seeley is “watching (the borough building) constantly” through the cameras inside the building that he has access to on his phone.
Porter stated that while he “(doesn’t) care” if the Chief watches the cameras from home the issue is that Seeley’s wife, Canton Borough Administrator Amy Seeley has access to the video as well.
“What happens in the police department is none of her business,” Porter said.
Doug Seeley agreed that police department business is not of Amy’s concern, and stated that he does not watch the cameras at home unless there is an issue in the borough or he knows the police department is holding “prisoners.”
“I can’t watch it because to me it’s against the law unless you have an incident that happened...then we can check the cameras, but it’s against the law to see what’s on that screen (the computer screen when other officers are working),” Seeley commented.
When asked by Porter if he can access the cameras on his phone, Seeley stated, “yes I can, but I don’t watch it unless something is happening in the borough or in the office, if they have prisoners, I do watch it. But I watch the holding area, not the office camera, holding, where they hold the prisoners, that’s what I watch...not (while) they’re doing their paperwork and stuff like that because I’m not saying it’s against the law to read what’s on the screen but I don’t do that.”
Two citizens were also present, representing complaints that had been voiced at the October Canton Borough Council meeting including citizen Shawn Miller.
Canton Borough Solicitor David Brann stated that many of the complaints, including those made by Miller were “far removed in time” and that he “probably shouldn’t have even brought up the two by the Millers that happened in 2018” during the board meeting.
“As a borough council we deal with current events and if somebody brings something up in 2018, 2017, 2015, 2011 and the 1990’s then what we’re doing is we’re kind of starting...to become an inquisition court so anybody, you can go out and recruit people and say hey, if you’ve got anything bad to say about somebody come on it. Now I’m real worried about going that route...I’m just worried about people coming in here and because at that point you might have a personal beef with somebody and you have to question the motivation when you go back over a course of time whether it’s a year or two years, five years, ten years, what’s the motivation for coming in at that time,” Brann stated. “And if somebody’s out there recruiting people to do that then you have ask what the motivation is for that person there. The Spanish did this for 350 years, it was the darkest history in their period of time. Salem, Massachusetts did this, it was a bad, dark period in their time. I don’t want to get in that situation.”
Brann stated that if a community member has a “legitimate issue” within the last few months council should discuss it “but if it’s going past that period of time I’m worried that we’re going to get consumed with becoming a court of inquisition and not focused on the here and now. What we do here is to benefit Canton Borough and I’m just afraid that if we get off that track and we start going back...really what are we doing? What’s the motivation? It’s basically like hey, I see that there might be somebody vulnerable because there was a bad article in a newspaper, I see they’re vulnerable, guess what, I’m going to come in here and now I’m going to have an issue and I’m going to bring it up. My question is why wasn’t it brought up back then when it was relevant?”
Miller asked “what happens when we do bring it in and you don’t get an answer,” noting that he made statements regarding issues in the past, though Brann stated that Miller did not make his complaints through the proper channels.
Shawn Packard, a Canton resident, stated that he feels discussing past complaints is “establishing an ongoing course of conduct.”
“He can go back as far as he needs to, to establish a pattern,” Packard added.
Miller accused Seeley of intemperance and neglect, while Seeley claimed he handled the situation Miller was addressing properly.
Brann told Miller that “at this point (he is) harassing” Seeley.
An anonymous citizen that told council in a former meeting that her son deals drugs in Canton and that she has told Seeley but he has not taken action stated that she had shown Seeley video of drugs being sold in town and he “did nothing.”
Brann, as well as officer Andy Krise told the woman that her report is not enough probably cause to arrest her son.
“What is enough evidence for us to do something about the drug problem in our town?” she asked, also asking if reports were enough evidence for the police to “start watching” those in question.
Seeley commented that Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman has started a new drug task force that is “hoping to get out and start helping everybody.”
Councilman Chris Schrader stated that “nothing’s obviously still going to get done here and it’s sad” and added that he believes Seeley “checked off” multiple reasons he could be fired.
“And again the Solicitor is going to argue in his defense for whatever reason,” Schrader said.
Brann stated that represents Canton Borough, not Seeley and that he is attempting to ensure the borough is not sued by Seeley if he is fired and the termination is found to be unlawful.
Brann added that while Schrader has moved to terminate Seeley in prior meetings, because Seeley is a civil servant he would need to be presented with written notice of the termination and given a hearing in which evidence is presented and he is permitted to respond.
Speaking specifically of accusations that Seeley asked Canton street department employees to dispose of drugs and drug paraphernalia, Brann stated that Schrader would have to prove it was an act of illegality or inefficiency and that after speaking with Bradford County Detective Kyle Wisel and attorney Al Ondrey, Brann does not feel it is either.
“I want to make sure if you’re going to do something and you’re going to take drastic action that you have very good evidence to do that because if you do not on either procedural grounds or substantive grounds something bad could happen to the borough and I don’t want to be the one that has to sit there and say yup, I’m sorry I didn’t tell them to act out of abundance of caution,” Brann commented.
Former Canton Borough President Michael Shultz questioned if a photo of drug paraphernalia and alleged illegal substances reportedly destroyed by street department employees that was published in a prior edition of The Daily Review was verified to have been taken in Canton and who submitted the photo (the individual who submitted the photo has asked to remain anonymous.)
“Given your language Chris, especially dealing with the complaints issue, I think it’s safe to say for anyone here that your intent is to punish Doug Seeley regardless of any factual basis and look into investigation, is that correct? It’s a yes or no question,” stated John Raub, who noted that he was speaking as citizen and not within his role as Canton Borough Codes Enforcement Officer.
Schrader answered “no” and Seeley asked “you don’t like me do you?”
Schrader stated that he “has no personal issue” with Doug, to which the Chief commented that he “has to give him credit” because Schrader was “very nice the other day” when the two interacted at Schrader’s place of employment.
“You wanted to terminate him based on a picture in a paper with no actual knowing who submitted it or where it came from. I can see his (Raub’s) point of view on that,” pressed Shultz.
“What’s more concerning with that was the fact that even if he knew who took it and he knew when it was taken, so what? There’s a picture, according to the newspaper Doug asked the street department folks to destroy some evidence back in January of 2016 and if that was true, we don’t know if that is exactly true, but let’s say that was true, what’s the problem with it? How is that inefficiency? How is that illegality? What was he supposed to do,” Brann continued, adding that Schrader “drew a conclusion” with “no analysis of facts or the law to indicate that that was anything illegal.”
Seeley stated that he had been granted permission by the District Attorney to destroy the evidence, that he did not did paperwork and that he had the incident “on record” while Canton Borough President Dave Groover said that he was told “by other police officers” that the officer has to be present, no substances could be with the evidence and that those destroying it were supposed to be shown paperwork.
Seeley questioned if the white substance shown in the photo was in the bag was in the bag when he put the drug paraphernalia in it and said he was present while it was being destroyed while Groover claimed the Chief was not present the whole time but instead handed the evidence to employees, left and came back after it was demolished.
Raub pressed Schrader again asking where he thought illegal activity was taking place and when Schrader did not answer asked, “do you have any idea what you’re even doing or are you just showing your obvious bias again?”
Schrader stated that he was “trying to come up with a politically correct answer” and that it would be an issue if Seeley wasn’t present the whole time evidence was being destroyed which he “didn’t know if that’s the fact of the matter.”
“You just stated you didn’t know but you still called to terminate the man’s employment, do you see what a moron that makes you sound like,” Raub retorted.
Citizens responded to Raub’s comments passionately, stating that they were “uncalled for” and Raub answered saying he “could care less” what they think.
Schrader stated that Raub was “not going to let me finish” and did not give another statement.
When asked why he feels false accusations are being brought against him, Seeley did not respond but Amy Seeley stated “I would say no comment” and added that other responses that the Seeleys have given to the accusations “are sufficient at this time.”