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October 17, 2012

LEWISBURG – A slaying suspect must wear a device that will deliver electric shocks if he misbehaves in Union County Court during his homicide trial, which begins with jury selection Monday.  President Judge Michael Sholley issued the order yesterday during a pretrial conference to address several defense motions, including a request to dismiss first-degree murder charges against Roderick Sims, who is accused of gunning down his estranged girlfriend, 27-year old Charity Spickler, in a Lewisburg apartment on September 28th, 2008.  The Daily Item reports, Sholley noted that Sims has been removed from the courtroom in the past for refusing to follow orders, and he had to make sure Sims remains under control for the public’s safety.
(WGRC)

PORT TREVORTON - The truck and attached trailer belonging to a Snyder County-based performance group was recovered in a San Antonio parking lot, less than a week after it was stolen from the group’s hotel.  Jay Muller, Re-Creation’s director, tells the Daily Item, it was the last thing the group expected since three different law enforcement officials in Texas told them there was no hope of finding the truck and trailer.  The truck was recovered from the parking lot of the same VA hospital where the group performed before the theft and two miles from the hotel the group was staying at when the truck was taken.  Mulller thinks heavy media coverage in San Antonio may have caused the crooks to abandon the truck and trailer before being caught.  They have no idea how much of their equipment and belongings might be missing, although authorities in Texas have told them there are still items in the trailer.  They’ve also been told the truck is heavily damaged.
(WGRC)

PAXINOS – A ministry that looks to save the unborn had a tremendous fundraising event last night in Northumberland County. The Pregnancy Care Center of Shamokin held their annual fundraising banquet at Masser’s Restaurant in Paxinos last night. Director of Development for the center, Sandy Klingler says the event was attended by 230 people who listened to former Rainbow Christian Bookstore owner, Sheryl Weller give the special message. The event, last night, raised $39,000 dollars toward their goal of $40,000. Klinger says they are very close to exceeding their goal as several donations continue to come in. Klinger says all the glory belongs to God.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

MOUNT CARMEL TOWNSHIP - A 27-year-old Mount Carmel man and his female acquaintance, who followed a Marion Heights woman to her home after she cashed in a $500 Lottery ticket at a local store, have been charged with robbing the victim of approximately $50 before fleeing the scene and discarding her purse along a highway. Robert Powers, and 23-year-old Vanessa Steigerwalt, also of Mount Carmel, appeared before District Judge Hugh Jones of Mount Carmel around eight last night and charged with robbery and related counts. They are accused of robbing 53-year-old Lisa Beury, of Marion Heights, on her front porch when Beury arrived home at 6:30 p.m. October 9th, after cashing the Lottery ticket at Boyer’s Food Market. Both are jailed in the Northumberland County Prison.
(WGRC)

MIDDLEBURG – State Police say convicted thief 41-year-old Kurt Keiper continued to steal thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims right up until he pleaded guilty in January to ripping off customers who paid about $340,000 for vehicles he never delivered. Keiper, who is being held in Snyder County jail in lieu of $4.5 million cash after spending eight months on the run to avoid sentencing on 12 counts of theft and bad checks charges, is facing 11 additional counts of theft and deceptive business practices for allegedly victimizing five more individuals and businesses across the country. According to new criminal complaints filed by state police at Selinsgrove, Keiper, the co-owner of Summit Transport Services in Middleburg, stole from customers who paid him for vehicles he failed to deliver during separate transactions that took place between August 2009 and last January. The most recent alleged theft occurred just 11 days before Keiper pleaded guilty in Snyder County Court to prior thefts. Keiper is facing a potential 10 to 20-year state prison sentence when he’s sentenced.
(WGRC)

BRIAR CREEK TOWNSHIP - An alleged burglar led police to a suspected meth lab in Briar Creek Township, Columbia County Tuesday, then stole a vehicle and escaped leading police on a two-and-a-half-hour chase. When all was said and done police nabbed the suspect plus arrested six others. The wild day started with a daylight break-in at 210 Summerhill Avenue in Berwick when a burglar took off when a neighbor called police. The burglar eventually fled to 69 Dairy Road in Briar Creek Township where police caught the six others. The Attorney General's office dispatched a special team to dismantle the meth lab. The Press Enterprise reports, all suspects were jailed and charges were expected to be filed today.
(WGRC)

BELLEFONTE - The defense attorney for accused killer 21-year-old Tyler Marlatt wants a judge to exclude marijuana from his apartment and text messages from his girlfriend as evidence at the young man’s murder trial next month. State College attorney Ed Blanarik filed the motions Monday to President Judge Thomas King Kistler. Trial is scheduled to start November 5th and last the entire week. Marlatt is accused of stabbing and killing 20-year-old Tyler Struble during a fight over $20 in marijuana in Lemont on January 16th. The defense has not contested the Marlatt was the one who killed Struble, but Blanarik has said Marlatt acted in self-defense.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY - A 17-year-old girl charged last week with making three bomb threats to Mount Carmel Area School District was found guilty Friday on two felonies and two misdemeanors during a hearing before Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor. Crystal Clark, of Mount Carmel, a freshman at Mount Carmel Area High School, who police said made the threats October 9th, was charged with terroristic threats, threats to use weapons of mass destruction, and related counts. The charges were filed by Mount Carmel Township Police. Clark will be sentenced October 30th. Clark, who remains in the Lycoming County Shelter Care Program in Montoursville, told police she made the threats because she wanted a day off school and didn't believe police would catch her. The bomb scare forced the evacuation of approximately 1,800 students, teachers and staff.
(WGRC)

BLOOMSBURG - A part-time guard at the Columbia County Prison is accused of engaging in inappropriate contact with a female inmate. The Press Enterprise reports, 29-year-old Justin Fike, of Danville is charged with the incident September first. Prison authorities learned of the alleged incident after a pack of cigarettes was found in the inmate's cell a few days later. When questioned, she said Fike had given her the cigarettes and also had inappropriate contact with her. Fike didn't deny contact with the woman but told police it was consensual. Columbia County Chief Clerk Gail Kipp sayas Fike is expected to be terminated at Thursday's commissioners' meeting. Fike has since been removed from working at the prison.
(WGRC)

MONTANDON – A 60-year-old Milton woman was taken to Evangelical Community Hospital following a crash yesterday afternoon in Northumberland County’s West Chilisquaque Township. Police say Kay Reynolds was stopped to make a turn of Route 405 at Hidden Paradise Road just before two p.m. Police say a vehicle driven by 20-year-old Jeffery Botts of Mifflinburg failed to stop and slammed into the rear of Reynold’s vehicle. Police say Reynolds suffered moderate injuries while Botts suffered minor injuries.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

POTTSVILLE - The Assumption BVM School in Pottsville was put on lockdown Tuesday morning. Shortly after 9 a.m., federal and state law enforcement agents performed a raid of Berks Psychiatry, which neighbors the school at 7th and Mahantongo Streets. Law enforcement officials said they were only searching for files but did not give any further information. The state Attorney General’s office would not comment on the matter. The website for Berks Psychiatry says they specialize in emotional disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and children’s issues. The owner of Berks Psychiatry is Dr. Rahman Khan who operates another office in Reading.
(WPPA)

LEWISBURG - Union County is preparing to roll out a subsidized housing program to provide rent assistance to a handful of parole-eligible inmates and their families as a cheaper alternative to prison. Under the program, the county will pay $100 a month over the fair market price for rent as an incentive to landlords to participate. Even so, the cost of providing the rent subsidies will be substantially less than the cost of incarceration. The subsidy program will cost $7,200 to $12,000 a year per inmate. Incarceration costs the county about $25,000 a year per inmate. Three Union County Prison inmates have been selected for the Housing Authority’s Justice Bridge Housing Program, which subsidizes rent and utilities through a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The Daily Item reports, the program is an initiative of the Housing Authority, which operates independently of the county. The county will run the program, which can handle up to six people, under a two-year grant of nearly $72,000 in federal funds that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency awarded July 1. It will cover rent and utilities and, where needed, provide security deposit assistance to the participants, who will move on to Section 8 housing or earn enough money to price themselves out of the program.
(WGRC)

BELLEFONTE - The Centre County Board of Commissioners opened bids Tuesday for the construction of the county’s new emergency communications/management center. County officials bid out four separate contracts for the project — which calls for a new EMS and 911 call center to be built on the ground floor of the Willowbank building in Bellefonte. If the commissioners are able to accept each of the lowest bids, the project would cost taxpayers approximately $1.7 million. The commissioners gave county officials a week to review the bids and make recommendations. They could vote on bids as soon as their meeting next Tuesday.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - Mayor Gabriel Campana declared Williamsport to have reached a "predistress" financial condition, claiming he must take matters into his own hands prior to presenting a preliminary budget to City Council. Unable to get the concessions on pensions and health care he wanted from the five unions that represent city employees, Campana said he would introduce an alternative revenue plan by November 1st. That plan will include eliminating positions, not replacing workers, laying off employees, restructuring departments and finding alternative sources of revenue. The city faces a $1.5 million deficit and a potential 2-mill real estate tax increase, or $200 more per year for a property assessed at $100,000. City Finance Director William Nichols tells the Sun Gazette, the city has reached a place where raising taxes won't solve the revenue crisis. Nichols says Williamsport’s pension fund is better compared to some other distressed cities but “woefully underfunded.," Distressed cities under state Act 47 passed in 1987 must satisfy at least one of seven criteria, one of them being failure to make required municipal pension obligations. The state law, known as Act 47, provides for the restructuring of debt by financially distressed municipalities. It also limits the ability of financially distressed municipalities to obtain government funding, authorizes municipalities to participate in federal debt and bankruptcy adjustments under certain circumstances and provides for consolidation or merger of municipalities to relieve financial distress.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - The city holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. tomorrow to mark the opening of the first community ice rink inside a stadium where baseball is played during the spring and summer. The ribbon is expected to be sliced by Mayor Gabriel Campana, officials with the new professional hockey team, Williamsport Outlaws, and Williamsport Ice Arena officials, a non-profit organization that will operate the community-end of the rink. The first game is October 24th with the Dayton Demonz. The arena will be for community use throughout the winter months for public skating, youth hockey and figure skating, adult hockey and numerous outside events. Future hopes are that a developer will purchase the YMCA property on Elmira Street and convert the Y's Pickelner Arena into a civic and sports arena with ice and locker rooms at no cost to taxpayers.
(WGRC)

LEWISBURG - Dismantling the 70-year-old East Buffalo Township municipal offices is slated to start today, though the wrecking ball won’t swing until some asbestos is cleared from the premises. Steinbacher Enterprises, a demolition and excavation company from Williamsport, will be at the Fairground Road site this morning. Township Supervisor Thomas Zorn said Steinbacher can’t knock down the building until it conducts an asbestos inspection and possibly also checks for lead paint in the building. The township offices were constructed in 1942, long pre-dating any laws about using asbestos in construction. The building housed the first Pennsylvania Artificial Breeding Co-Op. Site preparations have been under way since last September, when the township moved to a new, temporary location in the Lawson Business Building off Reitz Road. The new three-plus million dollar municipal complex is expected to be ready for occupancy next August or September.
(WGRC)

SPRING MILLS - The Penns Valley school board is expected to put an end to months of back-and-forth discussions at its regular meeting tonight, when it will vote on whether to authorize Superintendent Brian Griffith to enter into negotiations with Ram Centre Incorporated, the non-profit behind the Ram Centre Community Center on Penns Valley school property. The board originally approved a lease with Ram Centre in July 2011. The organization was prepared to construction the building and rent space to a branch of the Centre County YMCA, the Centre County Office of Aging, and officials hoped, Mount Nittany Medical Center physicians group offices in Penns Valley. District officials said they sought the partnership to avoid passing costs on to taxpayers. The plans fell apart in late May — amid vocal opposition from community members — when the school board voted to rescind the 30-year lease it offered for use of district land. Opponents contend the board worked behind closed doors and that certain members of the district had conflicts of interest.
(WGRC)

LEWISTOWN - Lewistown Hospital confirmed on Tuesday that the pharmacy is clean of any contaminated product related to the fungal meningitis outbreak and that the hospital has never worked with the New England Compounding Center. Hospital officials say Lewistown Hospital goes through an extensive review of any prospective pharmaceutical product supplier and all current contracted suppliers for Lewistown Hospital are registered with the FDA, meet or exceed USP Chapter 797 standards and meet cGMP requirements. In addition, any product selected for use on a patient is thoroughly examined for any potential problems and defects prior to administration.
(WGRC)

BERWICK - PPL's Susquehanna nuclear power plant is in the midst of a "culture shift" that includes tightening management controls, training employees how to better do their jobs, and "fundamentally changing the way the plant looks at problems." The Press Enterprise reports the plant is increasing its internal scrutiny under pressure from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC has repeatedly expressed concern with "corrective actions" and "human performance" at the plant during inspections dating to 2010, including the plant's response to flooding in a turbine building that led to a reactor shutdown. "The issue remains open because PPL had not demonstrated sustained improvement in this area," according to NRC documents. Brad Drysdale, the plant's maintenance general manager, described the widespread changes as "multi-year, multi-million dollar procedure upgrades" that Allentown-based PPL has vowed to back with funding. Drysdale said the plant is in the midst of reviewing 6,500 different employee procedures. He said 700 of the plant's highest-risk tasks have already been upgraded, and 400 workers have been trained in those changes. The NRC is "cautiously optimistic" the plant will improve.
(WGRC)

POTTSVILLE - Residents and coal operators have a chance to comment tonight in Pottsville about regulations for recycling coal ash and reclaiming land with it in Pennsylvania. The U.S. Office of Surface Mining will hold a hearing on new proposals for ash reuse at the Ramada Inn, on South Progress Avenue. The hearing is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. States could enforce new federal regulations for ash disposal. Pennsylvania creates more ash by burning coal for purposes such as generating electricity and allows disposal of more ash than any other state. Coal ash is one factor being studied in a search for the cause of an outbreak of the blood cancer, polycythemia vera, in the tri-county area around Hometown. Testimony is limited to three minutes and the office said that testimony about personal experiences is most useful and most likely to influence the final rule. People also can submit statements in writing or by email through Friday to the Office of Surface Mining.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - The Department of Environmental Protection wants kids aged nine to 14 to take part in a poster contest highlighting the effects of Radon. Radon exposure causes nearly 20 thousand lung cancer deaths each year, and nearly half of Pennsylvania homes have elevated radon levels. The deadline to enter is November 2nd. A winner and runner up from each state will be entered into a national contest. For contests rules and more information head to the DEP website at dep.state.pa.us, and type in keyword – Radon.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania state agencies and local governments in places where drilling for natural gas is occurring learned Monday how much money they will get out from a fund that has already collected more than $200 million in "impact fees" from drillers. Checks should be going out from the state treasury over the coming 10 days. All 67 counties get a share of the money, as do the Fish and Boat Commission, the Transportation Department, the Department of Environmental Protection and other state agencies that have some role in regulating or dealing with the drilling industry. But 60 percent of the $204 million fund will go to 35 counties and nearly 1,500 municipalities where drilling occurs, including many rural, sparsely populated areas. The Marcellus Shale drilling boom has been concentrated in a wide swath of the state that runs from the northeast, across the northern part of Pennsylvania and into the southwest corner.
(WGRC)

NARBERTH - Former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter was an "irreplaceable" force who approached politics — and life — with grit and determination, a who's who of politicians and others said Tuesday at the longtime senator's funeral. Among those speaking at Specter’s memorial service yesterday was Vice President Joe Biden who said, "I've never seen as much undaunted courage as Arlen had — both physically and politically. He believed he could change the world, if he just worked hard enough at it." The Associated Press reports, three Pennsylvania governors, federal judges and hundreds of friends and colleagues, gathered at Har Zion Temple in Narberth, a Philadelphia suburb. Specter died at his suburban home on Sunday at 82 after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He had spent 30 years in the Senate before losing his seat in 2010, after crossing party lines to vote for President Barack Obama's stimulus package and later switching parties.
(WGRC)