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January 11, 2012

MCCLURE – Fire crews from Mifflin and Snyder County rushed out to battle a house fire reported around ten this morning at the Mifflin/Snyder County line. The fire was reported along Route 522 just west of McClure. When crews arrived on scene heavy fire was reported coming from the home. Route 522 was closed between County Line Road in Snyder County and Dormantown Road near the Point Store in Mifflin County for several hours as crews battled the blaze.  Route 522 was re-opened around 1:30 this afternoon.
Jim Diehl/John Callahan (WGRC)

JERSEY SHORE – A 67-year-old Jersey Shore man is dead following a head-on collision on Route 44 in Lycoming County. The crash happened around four yesterday afternoon in Watson Township. Police say 20-year-old Tyler Stroble of Jersey Shore crossed the center of the highway with his pick-up truck colliding with a car driven by Robert Maines, also of Jersey Shore. The impact pushed Maines car on top of some guardrails. Maines died at the scene. Stroble was taken to Jersey shore Hospital for his injuries. Police say Stroble will be cited with the crash.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

LOCK HAVEN - A Montoursville woman arrested last July for using a computer to steal over $250,000 from her employer over a two-year period pleaded guilty Monday in Clinton County Court. The Sun Gazette reports 47-year-old Elaine Clark, faces a maximum penalty of 112 years in prison and a $240,000 fine. She pleaded guilty to 16 criminal counts for the thefts while employed as a controller for TA Seeds, of Jersey Shore. The thefts allegedly happened between 2008 and 2011, when Clark was responsible for checking and business accounts for the company. When police interviewed Clark, she told them she used the money for mortgage, car payments, remodeling her home and dealing with financial problems. She remains free on bail pending sentencing in February.
(WGRC)

MIFFLINBURG -  A Beavertown man has been charged with felony forgery charges after cashing nearly $1400 in checks from his grandfather’s checking account. Police have charged 20-year-old Tyler Foster for the incidents happening between October 14th and the 31st.  Police say Foster stole his granddad’s check book from the man’s pick-up truck located at the grandfather’s Mifflinburg area home. Police say Foster cashed the checks for his own personal use.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

LOCK HAVEN – A 20-year-old Clearfield man charged with over 100 criminal counts in connection with an alleged armed robbery last April in Lock Haven, was sentenced Monday to five to 12 years in state prison. The sentence was handed down in Clinton County Court by President Judge J. Michael Williamson after Andrew Greishaw previously pleaded guilty. His co-defendant, 23-year-old William Zimmerman, of Woodland, was sentenced last November to five to 15 years in state prison.
(WGRC)

ORWIGSBURG – In Schuylkill County, a West Brunswick Township man is headed to Schuylkill County Court for his alleged involvement of child pornography in his home. The Republican Herald reports, 54-year-old William Schilbe, of Pinebrook, appeared before District Judge James Ferrier who bound over for court charges of sexual abuse of children-possession of child pornography, and related counts. Schilbe remains free on $50,000 straight cash bail. State Police say Schilbe had the child pornography on his home computer between February 11, 2010, and November 4, 2011.
(WGRC)

UNION TOWNSHIP— A propane delivery went bad in Schuylkill County on Tuesday. A delivery driver from Heller’s Gas arrived at the home of 57-year old John Phillips around 11:30 a.m. and a dispute broke out. Phillips allegedly fired a handgun into the air and made verbal threats toward the driver. He was placed under arrest and arraigned on counts of simple assault, terroristic threats, harassment, and disorderly conduct. Phillips is free on $25,000 unsecured bail. 
John Fellon (WGRC)

BELLEFONTE — The state’s Supreme Court has denied an appeal by Andrew Rogers to toss out murder charges against him in the beating death of a Penn State student in 2006. The ruling, issued Friday and received in Centre County Court this week, did not say why the state’s highest court refused to hear the case. The denial sets the stage for Rogers’ retrial in Centre County. Rogers has maintained he acted in self-defense when the student, Youngcheol Park, and another man he knew only as “Sweet” tried to rob him. Deborah Lux, the public defender representing Rogers, said she intends to move “swiftly” to trial because Rogers has been incarcerated for six years. He’s currently in a state prison in Greene County. State College police charged Rogers with beating to death 24-year-old Youngcheol Park in Rogers’ Nimitz Avenue home during a cocaine-fueled fight in February 2006. Rogers said he was defending himself against Park and a drug dealer he only knew as “Sweet.” Police never located “Sweet,” and former District Attorney Michael Madeira argued at trial that “Sweet” did not exist, but had been invented by Rogers. Rogers was convicted of third-degree murder in April 2007 and sentenced to 20 to 40 years in a state prison. About six months after the trial, Rogers’ defense learned that after Park’s death, police arrested a man, Ronnie Starr, who had a watch that was stolen from Park’s apartment after his death. Starr told police he bought the watch from someone named “B” and gave a description similar to Rogers’ description of Sweet. That information was not provided to Rogers or his attorney. Madeira said the information wasn’t relevant to Rogers’ case, arguing that Starr was unreliable and was trying to cover up his own involvement in the theft of the watch. Rogers’ attorney appealed for a new trial, arguing information about Starr and “B” could have bolstered Rogers’ claims of self-defense at trial. Judge Bradley Lunsford agreed, threw out the murder conviction in December 2008 and ordered that Rogers be given a new trial.
(WGRC)

TOWANDA - The man convicted in the murder of two Bradford County Sheriff's Deputies is expected to be executed on March 8th. Governor Corbett signed an execution warrant for 34-year-old Dustin Briggs convicted in the shooting deaths of Christopher Burgert and Michael Van Kuren on March 31, 2004. The deputies were gunned down outside a mobile home while serving legal papers.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY - Taxes are going up in Northumberland County for the first time in nine years following Tuesday's approval of a 1.95-mill increase under the $71.67 million 2012 budget. The Daily Item reports, commissioners voted unanimously to raise taxes by $1.4 million and reduce the equivalent of nine positions, saving about $268,000 in wages and benefits, to cover a projected deficit. The tax hike means the average resident who owns a house assessed at $15,000 will pay just over $29 more a year. Commissioners say the new board is committed to passing a realistic budget that doesn't overburden taxpayers while keeping the county "from reverting to past management practices that created enormous deficits that have hung like a millstone around the neck of this county for over a decade."
(WGRC)

SELINSGROVE – The Selinsgrove School board has approved a preliminary budget for 2012-2013, totaling $36.39 million. School officials say restructuring will be needed as the district is facing a $1.6-million deficit, despite a proposed 2.3 mill tax increase. With the tax increase, the average tax bill will go up about $62. Teachers have declined another pay freeze requested by the school board.
(WGRC)

MIFFLINBURG – The Mifflinburg Area School District voted last night not to raise taxes for the 2012-2013 school year. School District officials will need to make up a budget shortfall of $1.3 million dollars. School officials say it will depend on what Governor Tom Corbett has in store for public school funding in his upcoming budget.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY – Just a week after the big supermarket chain Wegman’s put a price freeze on numerous products, Weis Markets, based in Sunbury, has sworn to not raise prices through April 2 on 1,700 brand-name products including dairy, meat and beauty items. Weis Markets rolled out the program Monday and it's the retailer's eighth price freeze since 2009. Officials at Weis say the 90-day Price Freeze program is in reaction with food inflation being a factor in a number of key categories. Weis officials say over the three years, the program has saved its customers more than $35 million.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - The possibility of hiring two city police officers has presented itself to the city of Williamsport in form of a COPS grant from the federal government.  Staring with their meeting on January 26th, city council will discuss the $419,000 dollar grant which would allow the city to hire and train two officers. The money would cover the positions over the next three years, but the city would have to come up with the money to keep the officers on for the fourth year of the agreement. The city has been given until March 15th to decide whether or not to use the money.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - It's going to be no sale of the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority, at least as far as the Clinton County commissioners are concerned. At Monday's work session, the board members appeared uniform in their rejection of a proposal to purchase the assets of the Authority. John Moran Jr., owner of the Watsontown-based logistics company, Moran Industries, wants to get into the railroad business and has offered the SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority $12.5 million for its assets. The Express reports, the local board's rejection appears to mirror the sentiments of the authority itself. Jerry S. Walls, chairman of the authority board, said doing so would not be in the public interest, as a private interest might put profits over maintenance or local industry and government interests in a healthy economy. The commissioners said they will be conferring with other representatives of the Authority this week to hear more about the offer, but are more focused on educating themselves on what the Authority provides and how it can be maintained in its current form. The issue of selling Joint Rail Authority came to light in December, when the Northumberland County commissioners approved a recommendation that the Joint Rail Authority be sold.
(WGRC)

MIFFLINTOWN - Juniata County probation officials are pursuing a grant that would sustain a school-based probation officer later this year. The county currently has a grant that funds the position, however, those funds will run out on June 30th, and the 2012 county budget does not include money to maintain the position. Chief Probation Officer Michelle Beaver asked the Juniata County Commissioners permission to apply for a competitive grant through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. If the grant is awarded, the county must provide a 10-percent match of cash or in-kind. The Sentinel reports, the Commissioners also asked Beaver for a report of performance on the last grant the probation department received.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY - Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor, the self-described "children's judge," has been temporarily barred from hearing cases involving Children and Youth Services, pending a review of his recent rulings in light of a simmering conflict involving court-appointed advocates. Saylor said he was notified Monday by President Judge Robert Sacavage that the cases would be handled by Judge William Wiest, although he was not informed of any specific complaints or given a chance to respond. The Daily Item reports, the action comes a few weeks after the county commissioners abruptly removed two Court Appointed Special Advocate employees from an office in the Sunbury courthouse that they had occupied free of charge. Saylor was instrumental in launching the CASA program three years ago. It provides volunteer advocates to represent abused and neglected children involved in custody cases until they are placed in a safe and permanent home. Saylor says no warning was given for the eviction, but claimed it was a "vendetta" carried out as the result of complaints made to the county administrators by Children and Youth Services solicitor Michael Robinson and child advocate Cheryl Humes who were upset about certain rulings.
(WGRC)

DANVILLE—Recent reports from the American Cancer Society suggest that cancer deaths have decreased in the last few years. Geisinger Health System, which has seen a 2% decline in cancer deaths between 2006 and 2009, has also found this to be true. Victor Vogel, the director of the Cancer Institute at Geisinger Health System, says the downward trend is likely a result of detecting cancer earlier and more effective treatments. He believes these findings should give cancer patients a reason to be optimistic.
John Fellon (WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT— Congressman Tom Marino is proud to announce support for Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign. Marino plans to enthusiastically work for his longtime friend and nominee. Marino shares Santorum’s vision of lower taxes, less spending, private sector job creation, a strong national defense, and traditional family values. He says, “Santorum offers our best hope of recapturing the White House and returning this nation to its prior position of strength.”
John Fellon (WGRC)

MAR LIN - Tired of accidents, some fatal, at routes 901 and 209, Norwegian Township supervisors want to see a traffic light installed at the intersection. PennDOT officials say there were 28 crashes from 2006 to the end of 2010. Of those 28 accidents, there was one fatal crash in 2010. Brown said the majority of crashes were minor and most occurred at an angle and were not front-end or rear-end crashes. PennDOT has not received any correspondence from Norwegian Township about a signal at the intersection. Once a request is made, a traffic study will be conducted to see if a light is warranted.
(WGRC)

SHAMOKIN – A hospital in Northumberland County is celebrating 100-years of service to the community. A 100th Anniversary Celebration of Shamokin Area Community Hospital and ceremony recognizing the merger of Shamokin Area Community Hospital into Geisinger Medical Center will be held this morning at nine in the lobby of the Hospital in Coal Township. There will also be a ceremonial tree planting which will symbolize growth, with tree saplings given to all new employees.
(WGRC)

UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State President Rodney Erickson signed a contract Tuesday with the university that calls for him to receive a base salary of $515,000 a year through June 30, 2014. Erickson, who had been executive vice president and provost for 12 years, plans to step down at that time. Penn State made the contract public Tuesday. Erickson’s $515,000 base pay comes with the option of increases based on annual performance evaluations, the use of a university car and what Penn State officials called standard employee benefits. He would receive six months’ pay if the university ends the agreement without cause before the 2014 end date. Erickson does not plan to move into the Schreyer House, the university’s presidential home where ex-President Graham Spanier had lived. Spanier had a total compensation of $800,592 in fiscal 2010, including a base salary of $620,004. Erickson has been at Penn State for 34 years.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG— Lawyers and experts on child abuse were among those named Tuesday to a new panel established to study Pennsylvania's child-abuse laws and propose changes. Legislative leaders and Governor Tom Corbett announced their appointments to the Task Force on Child Protection, which has until the end of November to issue findings and recommendations. The Associated Press reports, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, a former state legislator and former county judge, will serve as chairman. The task force will study how child abuse is reported and responded to; collect input from the public; and report how procedures, laws and training can be improved. The House and Senate set up the task force in response to the child sex-abuse scandal in which former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. Sandusky is out on bail while awaiting trial; he has denied the allegations against him.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - Owners and drillers of new private water wells would need to meet statewide construction regulations under legislation that got a boost Tuesday at a House committee hearing. State environmental officials also urged lawmakers to include minimum licensing standards for water well drillers in the bill. The Consumer Affairs Committee heard mostly favorable testimony for a water well standards bill sponsored by Representative Ron Miller, a York County Representative, from the state Department of Environmental Protection, geologists and well-drilling companies. After a decade-long hiatus, this issue is gaining traction again in part due to the Marcellus Shale drilling boom in rural areas that rely heavily on wells for drinking. The Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommended standards for new water wells, noting pointedly that poorly constructed wells can be pathways for bacteria and contaminants such as naturally occurring shallow methane gas to migrate into water supplies. More than 3 million Pennsylvanians rely on some 1 million private water wells, yet only Pennsylvania and Alaska don't have construction standards for private water wells.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - A bill recently approved by the state House aims to allow easier reclamation of mines and create more jobs in the anthracite coal industry. House Bill 1813, which was authorized by state Representative Mike Tobash, passed by a vote of 193-1, and now goes to the Senate for consideration. While state law requires mine operators to obtain bonding to ensure sufficient funds are available to reclaim a mining site in the event the operator defaults, if passed by the Senate and approved by Governor Tom Corbett, the bill will make the bonding more readily available. Operators will be able to reinvest their own capital into growing their business and re-mine additional abandoned sites. When sites are re-mined they also become reclaimed. House Bill 1813, which has the support of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Council and the Pennsylvania Coal Association, is also supported by environmental advocacy groups including the Schuylkill Conservation District and the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvanians seeking food stamps may soon have to pass an asset test that state officials say will help ensure the program aids those who need it most. But the Associated Press reports, advocates for the poor say it may hurt people who genuinely qualify for the federal benefit. Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman Carey Miller said Tuesday that agency officials are discussing such a test with federal counterparts, but have not set a date to enforce it. The test would bar anyone under 60 from receiving food stamps if they have more than $2,000 in savings or similar assets. The limit would be $3,250 for households with someone who is over 60 or disabled. Houses and retirement savings would be exempt but second cars with a value over $4,600 would count.
(WGRC)