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October 2, 2012

HARRISBURG — A judge postponed Pennsylvania’s controversial voter identification requirement today, ordering the state not to enforce it in this year’s presidential election.  The decision by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on the law requiring each voter to show a valid photo ID could be appealed to the state Supreme Court. The law could go into full effect next year, under Simpson’s ruling. However, Simpson based his decision on guidelines given to him days ago by the high court justices, and it could easily be the final word on the law just five weeks before the November 6th election.  The Associated Press reports, his ruling came after listening to two days of testimony about the state’s eleventh-hour efforts to make it easier to get a valid photo ID. He also heard about long lines and ill-informed clerks at driver’s license centers and identification requirements that made it hard for some registered voters to get a state-issued photo ID.
(WGRC)

BENNER TOWNSHIP - No one was injured when a small commercial plane was forced to make an emergency landing Monday afternoon at University Park Airport. Penn State officials said US Airways Express Flight 3564 was traveling from Buffalo, New York, to Philadelphia when an indicator light on the cockpit control panel came on and smoke was seen outside the plane. The smoke was likely caused by an electrical issue. There were six people on board — five crew members and one passenger. All made it off the plane safely. The flight tower received a distress call from the 50-seat plane at about 2:30 p.m. It safely landed at the airport within a few minutes.
(WGRC)

LIME RIDGE – fire leveled a barn in Columbia County. The fire was reported right around six last evening at the barn owned by Todd and Tammy Hampton at 5005 Sweppenheiser Drive, across from the Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech School in Lime Ridge.  All the animals on the farm including a rooster the couple had to rescue on their own were safe. Flames had started to spread on the ground up a hill. They reached out to two buildings nearby and to wooden fence posts. The heat also melted some of the siding on the Hamptons' farmhouse, more than 100 feet away. The Press Enterprise reports, getting water to the structure was an initial problem for crews. No word on what started the blaze.
(WGRC)

POTTSVILLE - A fire heavily damaged a home Monday along West Norwegian Street in Pottsville. Fire crews were called out just after four p.m. to the working structure fire at 1342 West Norwegian Street. Pottsville Fire Chief Todd March said the fire started in the first floor of the home owned by Nicholas and Lisa D'Attilo, who live there with their 2-year-old daughter. Lisa and her daughter were outside the home when smoke was noticed coming from the structure. No one was injured in the fire. Chief March says the first floor was heavily damaged by fire while the second floor sustained some fire damage and the rest of the house sustained smoke damage. Both houses next door sustained smoke damage and a small amount of fire damage on the exterior.
(WGRC)

AVIS - An Avis man was burned seriously in a Saturday night accident. The Express reports, 26-year-old Wade Lehman is in critical condition at the Lehigh Valley Burn Center in Allentown after being flown there. Family members say Lehman and others were enjoying a camp fire on Saturday night when he tripped and fell backwards into the fire. Lehman suffered second degree burns over most of his backside.
(WGRC)

BELLEFONTE - The fire that severely damaged the Hotel Do De and Garman Theatre last month in Bellefonte was arson. Bellefonte police chief Shawn Weaver made that announcement yesterday. Weaver says it was a “deliberate and intentional act” and started in the rear exterior of the building. Meanwhile the investigation into the fire the early morning of September 9th remains open, and a state fire marshal continues to review evidence collected from the scene. Bellefonte Borough officials have told the owner of the building it must come down. Last week, a second downtown blaze destroyed another building, a warehouse behind the Mattress World on Spring Street. But police quickly had a suspect in that fire. 22-year-old Jeff Karg has been charged with arson, but police would not go as far as to say Karg had anything to do with the hotel fire. The fire that devastated the Hotel Do De building was the fourth blaze that damaged an historic building in the downtown since 2004. It also reignited discussions among officials here about ways to protect buildings and prevent future fires.
(WGRC)

DANVILLE – A crash along Stump Road in Montour County’s Liberty Township sends a man to Geisinger Medical Center. The crash happened around 5:30 last evening. Police say 20-year-old Eric Baker of Danville swerved to avoid hitting an animal on the roadway and went off the road hitting a culvert. His vehicle flipped and rolled several times. Rescue crews had to cut Baker free from the wreckage. Baker remains in fair condition at Geisinger.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

BLOOMSBURG - A Bloomsburg University student remained in the hospital Monday after he lost control of his car early Sunday, crossing more than 150 feet of field before smashing into a garage near the intersection of Fifth Street-Hollow Road and Park Street in Bloomsburg. Twenty-year-old Tyler Woerner, of Glenside, was involved in the crash just before three a.m. Sunday. Woerner remains at Geisinger Medical Center in serious condition. The Press Enterprise reports, Police are looking to see if alcohol played a role in the crash.
(WGRC)

BELLEFONTE - Former Centre County Assistant District Attorney 53-year-old Steve Sloane is facing felony charges after allegedly selling marijuana he received from California and sold to employees at the law firm where he worked. Sloane is facing seven felony counts in Centre County Court. Sloane is expected to appear before an out of County Judge today on the charges. Sloane is being charged with selling marijuana in September and October 2011 to two different men. Sloane was a Centre County prosecutor for a number of years until the current district attorney, Stacy Parks Miller, took office in January 2010 and made staffing changes. His time as a prosecutor included working for Ray Gricar, the DA who went missing and was later declared legally dead. Robert Donaldson, partner at Masorti&Donaldson, said Sloane worked at the law firm from July to October 2011. Donaldson says, “When attorney Phillip Masorti learned there was some sort of investigation, he took swift action and terminated Steve immediately.” Donaldson said.
(WGRC)

LEWISBIRG –A Milton man is facing felony drug charges following a traffic stop back in March. Buffalo Valley regional Police say 19-year-old Hakeem Jefferson was one of several people inside a vehicle stopped by police on Route 15 near Furnace Road. In the rear of the vehicle police found a black gym bag containing around 13 grams of cocaine. Jefferson has been charged with manufacturing with intent to deliver cocaine.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

BELLEFONTE – A young woman pleaded guilty yesterday in Centre County Court to drug and robbery charges that stem from the night her boyfriend was accused of killing another man in January after a drug deal that went wrong. Twenty-year-old Fatima Ghoul is facing at least four years behind bars. Ghoul is scheduled for sentencing November 20th. Ghoul’s boyfriend, Tyler Marlatt, is scheduled for jury selection this afternoon. Marlatt is charged with the murder of 20-year-old Tyler Struble. Police said Struble tried to get out of paying Ghoul about $20 for marijuana. Marlatt and others, including Ghoul, then traveled to Struble’s home in Lemont, where Marlatt allegedly stabbed Struble in the neck after a struggle in the backyard.
(WGRC)

BERWICK - An office worker who allegedly embezzled from a dozen Berwick Retirement Village residents may have "a significant number" of additional victims. Police yesterday asked a judge for a continuance as they await word from credit card companies of potential other victims. Meanwhile 38-year-old Sarah Pineda-Scott has been accused of stealing nearly $25,000 so far from 12 residents at the nursing home. But during the ongoing investigation, police say more possible victims were identified. Police say Pineda-Scott falsified spending requests from patients, pocketed the balance from the accounts of some who died, and opened up credit cards using the names of others. Berwick Retirement Village officials said Pineda-Scott worked there from February 2011 until June, when the thefts were discovered.
(WGRC)

LEWISBIRG – Felony forgery and identity theft charges have been filed against a Lewisburg man after he wrote another man’s signature to get nearly $23,000 in student loans. Forty-six-year-old Philip Boehmer has been charged by State Police at Milton. Police say Boehmer defaulted on the loans leaving the victim to foot the bill.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT – State Police in Lycoming County are investigating a rash of vehicle break-ins in Loyalsock Township. Those break-ins happened during the early morning hours Saturday along Clayton Avenue. Police say nearly a dozen vehicle were entered and valuable items taken. Police remind residents to not store valuables in vehicles while unattended and be sure to lock them.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

TREMONT – Police in Schuylkill County are investigating a burglary Thursday at a local market in Tremont. Around 3:30 a.m. police say two individuals smashed the front window of Kreiser’s Market on South Tremont Street to get inside the building. Once inside the bandits stole cigarettes, money, and a small lock box containing keys. Anyone with information on the break-in is asked to call state police.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

COAL TOWNSHIP - A pit bull that killed a cat Friday afternoon in the 1000 block of West Montgomery Street has been returned to its original owner, who does not live in Coal Township. Meanwhile, a neighbor who shot at the dog in an attempt to save the cat, chase it away and prevent residents from being harmed, has been cleared of any wrongdoing. Coal Township Police Chief William Carpenter said state dog enforcement officer Allen Fegley informed him Monday that the brown pit bull that killed a 3-year-old cat owned by Richard Dilliplane, of West Montgomery Street, has been returned to its original owner, whose identity and hometown have not been revealed. Neighbors said Nick Graboskie initially used a pellet gun in an attempt to scare the dog off, but after that didn't work, he retrieved a handgun and fired at the dog. He’s been cleared of wrongdoing and will not be charged with firing the guns. Another neighbor, Tim Neary, who hit the dog over the head with the flat end of an ax in an attempt to save the cat, also will not be charged. Twenty-seven-year-old Kristine Raser, who possessed the pit bull at the time it killed the cat, will be cited for allowing the dog to run at large.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY – In Northumberland County, Bill Brown, The Upper Augusta Township fire chief, unveiled his company’s new $101,000 mini-pumper truck to township supervisors at Monday’s night’s meeting. The truck is the culmination of five years of fundraising for the company. Brown says their company serves a, “rural area and some residences are hard to get to, driving on some rural roads that are very narrow. That’s why a vehicle this size — a mini pumper, is ideal for us.” The new truck can pump 375 gallons per minute. The Daily Item reports, the vehicle was purchased with funds from the Upper Augusta Volunteer Fire Company Relief Association.
(WGRC)

CATAWISSA - Southern Columbia Area School Board will be advertising to fill the superintendent position following the acceptance of Charlie Reh's resignation Monday night during a special meeting. Reh's official retirement date is February 4th, 2013, but his last day on campus will be January 18th, 2013, the last day of the first semester. The deadline to apply for the position has not been set because the board wanted the advertisement in a Pennsylvania School Board Association letter twice. Director Rick Steele suggested that starting the process would determine whether an acting superintendent would be needed between Reh's last day and the last day of school. An acting superintendent could fill in between Reh's last day and the next superintendent's first day. The News Item reports, that so far Director of curriculum, instruction and technology, Brenda Monick, and Elementary school Principal Joseph Shirvinski, are both interested in the position.
(WGRC)

BLOOMSBURG - More than 325 homes damaged by last year's flood now have carpeting donated by one of Columbia County's largest manufacturers. Bloomsburg Carpet Industries estimates the value of its contribution to local flood relief at about $1 million. The plant along Route 11 between Bloomsburg and Berwick is usually busy doing historical carpet preservation, as well as weaving new carpeting for high-end homes, yachts and aircraft, 5-star resorts, restaurants and theaters. Carpeting made at the local plant can be found in the halls and offices of the Supreme Court, Senate and House in Washington. But after the historic flooding caused last September by Tropical Storm Lee, employees at the plant were among the many area residents who found themselves faced with a huge mess. The Press Enterprise reports, the firm's owners and managers decided to donate carpeting to whoever applied, no questions asked. They made the offer not only to their own employees hit by the flood, but throughout the region.  
(WGRC)

ELYSBURG - It's officially fall, and time for the 31st annual Covered Bridge and Arts Festival. The event will be held October 4th through the 7th at Knoebels Amusement resort in Elysburg. The celebration runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. It will feature an array of arts and crafts, turned and carved wood, glass, prints, sewn and woven textiles, jewelry, photography, paintings, and holiday décor. The nearly 350 crafters will be joined by more than 30 food vendors. On Thursday and Friday, enjoy an agri-tourism fair with domesticated animals ranging from donkeys and ducks to red deer, camels and alpaca; plus local produce vendors selling apples, pumpkins, gourds, decorative corn, corn stalks, mums and more. The event is put on by the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau. Parking and admission to the festival is free. Go to www.iTourColumbiaMontour.com for up-to-date information.
(WGRC)

SHAMOKIN DAM - Evangelical Community Hospital is turning up the heat on awareness by kicking off National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with Cookin’ Men, an event where local celebrity men come together to create culinary delights for people to enjoy while raising funds to support free mammograms for women in our community. The event will be held Thursday, October 4th, from 6-8 pm at the Susquehanna Valley Country Club, tickets are $25 each or 5 for $100. Join the Valley’s Cookin’ Men as they don aprons to create dishes ranging from appetizers, to entrees, to desserts. Tickets can be purchased visiting www.evanhospital.com/cookinmen. All proceeds from the event support Evangelical’s Thyra M. Humphreys Center for Breast Health, in Lewisburg.
(WGRC)

CARISLE - Giant and Martins food markets have issued a recall on a certain brand of popcorn. The grocery stores have removed ready-to-eat bags of Indiana White Cheddar Popcorn due to possible Listeria contamination. Bags of the popcorn with all dates are covered in the recall. No illnesses have been reported to date. Customers who have purchased the product should discard any unused portions and bring their purchase receipt to Giant or Martins for a full refund.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - The state has drained the reservoir at a lake next to Ricketts Glen State Park and plans to start draining the lake itself, so it can breach the dam. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission found problems at the dam at Mountain Springs Lake. Commission engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection routinely inspect the dam, and during a recent inspection they found large cracks in the concrete, and excessive seepage has also been observed through the embankment. The dam is more than 100 years old and was designed and built prior to current dam safety regulations and engineering standards of practice. The drawdown is expected to begin in mid-October and may take more than a month to complete. The actual breaching of the dam is not expected to occur until late 2013 or early 2014. At this point, the Fish and Boat Commission has no plans to rebuild the dam.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - A court-imposed deadline is looming for a judge to decide whether Pennsylvania's tough new law requiring voters to show photo identification can remain intact. The ruling could swing election momentum with Republican candidates trailing in polls on the state's top-of-the-ticket races. The Associated Press reports, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson is under a state Supreme Court order to rule no later than today, just five weeks before voters decide whether to re-elect President Barack Obama, a Democrat, or replace him with Mitt Romney, a Republican. Simpson heard two days of testimony last week and said he was considering invalidating a narrow portion of the law for the November 6th election. An appeal to the state Supreme Court is possible.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by an organization that includes atheists and agnostics over a Pennsylvania House resolution declaring 2012 the "Year of the Bible" but criticized the language endorsed by lawmakers as "proselytizing and exclusionary." The Associated Press reports, U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner on Monday agreed with House Republicans that the suit filed by the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation should be dismissed on the grounds of legislative immunity. But the judge suggested that the resolution approved in January was at worst "pandering designed to provide a re-election sound bite" and resources would be better used in "meaningful legislative efforts" to benefit all. The Philadelphia Inquirer says House GOP members expressed satisfaction with the decision, and a foundation leader said he was glad that the judge acknowledged injury to nonbelievers.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - Relying more on state sales tax revenues to support local education will mean increased emphasis on state efforts to collect that tax from online retailers, said the presiding lawmaker at a joint House-Senate committee hearing Monday on school property tax replacement bills. The lion's share of replacement revenue for property taxes would come from an expanded sales tax, said Representative Kerry Benninghoff, of Bellefonte, chairman of the House Finance Committee. The hearing focused on measures by Senator David Argall, of Tamaqua, and Representative Jim Cox, of Sinking Spring, to increase the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and subject more goods and services to the sales tax. The state personal income tax rate would increase from 3.07 percent to 4 percent under the bills. Benninghoff said trends clearly show that more consumers are making purchases online and that brick-and-mortar stores are adapting to online sales, too. An analysis by the state Independent Fiscal Office finds that combined revenue from the replacement state sales and income taxes under the bills as currently written would fall $1.5 billion short in meeting school district aid distribution requirements in the first fiscal year. The Associated Press reports, Argall has asked area taxpayer groups to study the analysis and recommend where they think additional revenue could be generated to bridge the revenue gap.
(WGRC)