Coal Hill issues heat up
ZERBE TOWNSHIP - At Monday's Zerbe Township meeting, Zerbe Township Police Chief Robert John presented information about a joint effort between Reading Anthracite Company, Zerbe Township Police and Pennsylvania State Police that resulted in 14 people being cited for trespassing.
One ATV was also confiscated by state police after being identified as stolen by its scratched off VIN.
The efforts sought to curb multiple behaviors that have become out of control on Reading's property in Zerbe Township. Reading security and Zerbe Township police worked to enforce Reading permitting and rules while a state trooper on the Auto Theft Task Force checked vehicle identification numbers for stolen ATVs.
The group arrived at the area of Reading's property known as Coal Hill in the morning of May 31. Within a few minutes, awareness of security's arrival spread throughout the area and non-permitted riders began loading up their vehicles to head elsewhere.
By 11 a.m., a group of riders without permits were cordoned off. Trespassing citations were issued to the riders and the state police officer got to work checking the ATV VINs on the vehicles that did not have visible Pennsylvania DCNR tags.
Many of the ATVs, dirt bikes and other vehicles at Coal Hill lacked proper documentation. To ride legally on public and many privately-owned permitted lands, like Reading's property, DCNR tags are required, partially to prove legal ownership of the vehicle.
The state police trooper, who asked to not be identified due to the undercover nature of his work, emphasized that people purchasing ATVs and other off-road vehicles needed to get a title and registration to ensure the vehicle is not stolen. He said that Craigslist was a hotbed for stolen vehicles and buyers should be especially careful when purchasing from a private party.
Richard Morgan, security manager for Reading Anthracite Company, said during the operation that this was the first time Reading, Zerbe Township and Pennsylvania State Police had united to monitor riding on Reading's property.
"There hasn't been anything like this in the past," said Morgan.
Morgan said last year he only distributed warnings on Reading's property.
Although he issued more than 200 warnings, he did not notice a drastic increase in permit sales.
This year, he is citing.
Morgan's team posted warning signs around the perimeter of Reading's property in advance of the crackdown. He's had signs posted before, but most are removed or destroyed by the renegade riders.
"The guards at the flats are making sure they're not tearing the signs down," said Morgan.
John said he visits the property every weekend he is on duty. Reading has given him permission to venture onto their land issue citations to anyone without a valid permit.
He brought more than 250 blank citations with him Saturday.
John said that he knows illegal riding is a problem and he would like to stop it, but he is unable to keep up with the level it has reached.
"There's a shortage of manpower," said John.
Morgan said Reading's shortage of manpower prevents it from self-enforcing the rules. He said he'd like to have security on the site every week but only has enough resources to do one more sting of this type this summer.
"We're a seven-man team," said Morgan. "You have to use them wisely."
Reading's seven-member security team enforces permits and prevents theft at all of its properties, which covers multiple counties and more than 20,000 acres. Morgan was unavailable for additional comment following Monday's meeting.
Zerbe Township supervisors said they appreciated the efforts and hope for similar enforcement of Reading's rules in the future.
"That's something I'd like to see ongoing," said supervisor Mike Schwartz.
A petition was presented at the meeting regarding the Coal Hill issues. Zerbe Township residents are welcome to add their names to the petition and can do so by contacting the municipal office at 570-797-1974 or by visiting during business hours.
In other news:
A motion to approve Kreco Electric, Inc., changing of wiring from three-phase to one-phase at the recreation area at a quote of $1,335.62, was passed.
Motions to approve requests by LMES-Social Worker, the LM CSIU, LMES Barb Manning and LMES were passed.
A donation from the Anthracite Trail Riders for $703 to the Trevorton Fire Company was passed. Supervisor Gene Geise amended the original proposal to split the money between the fire company and Trevorton Ambulance due to only the fire company providing support during the fundraising ride, which resulted in the approval. Geise then abstained from the vote due to his affiliation with the ambulance company.
A request from St. Patrick's Church to use the picnic tables from pavilions B and C for their annual block party on August 8 and 9 was passed.
Supervisors passed a request from Trevorton Ambulance to take the company's side by side to Sunbury on July 12 to assist Americus Ambulance from 8 to 11 a.m. was passed with Geise abstaining.
A request from Trevorton Heritage Society to remove non-supporting interior cinder block walls at the former pool building was passed. Supervisors were assured a structural engineer had examined the walls and determined they were non-supporting.
Supervisors approved Oct. 11, 2014, for this year's Fall Festival. The parade will kick off the festival at 11 a.m. and the events will end at 6 p.m. Cristy Stiely is the chairperson for the event.
Purchasing a gear reduction box for the sewer, with a cost not to exceed $5,000, was passed. The equipment will not work with the new sewer system but the current treatment system will not work without the part.