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December 6, 2012

SUNBURY - Northumberland County’s president judge will rule tomorrow on the City of Shamokin’s request to exceed the maximum property tax allowed by law.  The city is asking to assess 30 mills of property tax, 5 mills above the 25-mill limit set by the Third Class City Code, claiming it is necessary to balance its budget and maintain its fire, police and civic services.  If approved by Judge Robert Sacavage, it would mark the fifth consecutive year the city successfully petitioned county court for the 5-mill allowance. The News-Item reports, Judge Sacavage said no one filed any paperwork in opposition to the request, and no one attended the hearing other than the parties involved.  City officials said no opposition was filed at City Hall, either.
(WGRC)

MIDDLEPORT – Two people were taken to the hospital in an early morning crash in Schuylkill County. The crash happened just after four this morning on Tumbling Run Road in Blythe Township. Police say 23-year-old Arranda Mason of Pottsville and her passenger 21-year-old Lyndsey Stevenosky of Minersville were taken to Schuylkill Medical Center South following the crash. Police say Mason lost control of her vehicle on a curve, hit a tree and the vehicle rolled back onto the highway. Police say they suspect alcohol to have been a factor in the crash and charges are pending.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - An Old Lycoming Township detective is credited with making a major heroin drug bust while assisting Williamsport police Monday afternoon in looking for a bank robbery suspect in Newberry. Charged with felony drug and firearm charges late Tuesday night was 23-year-old David Collins Jr., of Philadelphia, who was a backseat passenger in a car stopped on Interstate 180 near Maynard Street. Collins is wanted in Philadelphia on assault charges. Minutes earlier, the M&T Bank branch office at West Fourth and Arch streets had been robbed by a masked man wearing a dark-hooded sweatshirt. Police pulled the vehicle over for suspicion that the occupants may have been involved in the bank heist. Inside the car were two loaded, stolen handguns and more than 1,200 packets of heroin as well as over six thousand dollars in suspected drug money and other controlled substances. The identities of the two other men in the car were no released. Collins was jailed automatically at the Lycoming County Prison on the Philadelphia assault charges. Police say as he was being taken off to jail, Collins threw a grocery bag on the prison floor, containing an additional 93 packets of heroin. Meanwhile, there are no new developments in Monday's bank robbery.
(WGRC)

UNIVERSITY PARK - A photo of Penn State sorority sisters at a Mexican-themed party, decked out in ponchos and fake mustaches and holding up signs about marijuana some are calling insensitive to Mexican people has them in hot water. The photo, which surfaced earlier this week after it was posted to a student blog, shows a group of about 20 college-age women of the Chi Omega sorority wearing outfits for the party, reportedly around Halloween. The photo went viral. The sorority’s parent organization is said to be investigating, and Penn State officials were appalled at the students’ behavior. The photo has made headlines in the Huffington Post, Daily Mail in the United Kingdom and Fox News. Meanwhile sorority officials have apologized for portraying inappropriate and untrue stereotypes. Meanwhile University officials say while the students in the photo are within their First Amendment rights to express themselves in this way, the University is, “appalled that they would display this level of insensitivity and lack of judgment.”
(WGRC)

MAINVILLE - Rhonda Crawford was surprised to see ex-boyfriend 40-year-old Darrin Bellum of Bloomsburg being interviewed on WNEP about a bear he’d killed. Bellum isn’t supposed to have a gun. That’s part of the protection-from-abuse order Crawford has against him. Crawford called the police, and Bellum’s 15 minutes of fame ended with charges being filed against him. The Press Enterprise reports, Bellum killed the 200-pound bear November 17th and sent a photo of himself and the bear to the newspaper. Main Township Police have now charged Bellum with violating his protection from abuse order, for having a gun.  
(WGRC)

BLOOMSBURG - A part-time Columbia County prison guard accused of having inappropriate relations with a female inmate is working on a plea deal that would drop a felony charge. The Press Enterprise reports, 29-year-old Justin Fike, of Danville, sent his charges on to Columbia County Court yesterday. Defense attorney Timothy Bowers said he is trying to arrange a deal with prosecutors that would drop a felony charge for a plea to lesser charges. The felony carries a possible seven-year term. But indecent assault is a misdemeanor that could bring two years or less. Fike is accused of the3 wrong-doing back in September. He is free on bail.
(WGRC)

STATE COLLEGE - A 31-year-old man already charged with breaking into a State College church and stealing change now faces possible trial in three previous burglaries at the same church. Jason Stover sent his charges on to Centre County Court Wednesday. He’s accused of breaking into Holy Trinity Orthodox Church on South Sparks Street three times between September 15th and October 28th. State College police say Stover was identified after breaking into the church a fourth time on November 15th. Police say Stover stole just over $200 during all the break-ins.
(WGRC)

HEMLOCK TOWNSHIP – A Danville area man stole over $2200 in items from vehicles, then traded some of the loot for heroin, is in the Columbia County Jail on $25,000 bail. Police say 23-year-old Michael Crossley, swiped electronics, gift cards and loose change at the Foxtail development on November 22nd. Police caught him Wednesday after responding to a burglary at a trailer park in Montour Township where he was staying. A rash of vehicle break-ins has been reported in nearby Bloomsburg and Scott Township in recent weeks. A recent story tallied about 80 break-ins in Scott and more than 50 in Bloomsburg. Police believe the sprees are drug-related. Crossley is charged with felony theft in connection with the Foxtail break-ins. He is not charged with others elsewhere.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - A hearing scheduled for next week and a trial set for next month were delayed Wednesday for former Penn State administrators accused of a criminal cover-up in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal. A district judge indicated he needed more time to resolve pending motions before presiding over a preliminary hearing for Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. The January 7th trial of Curley and Schultz for some of the charges they face was also delayed indefinitely. The three deny the allegations, which include perjury, obstruction, conspiracy and failure to properly report suspected abuse. In a related development, Sandusky has appealed a decision to revoke his $59,000-a-year pension, arguing the law did not support the action by the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System. The retirement system yanked Sandusky's pension after he was sentenced in October to 30 to 60 years in state prison for sexual abuse of 10 boys. He maintains he was wrongfully convicted and is pursuing appeals.
(WGRC)

LOCK HAVEN - Take a count, lock them up and throw away what's not needed. They were talking about prescription drugs last night in Clinton County. Those three common sense solutions would go a long way to solving the problem of prescription drug abuse-but only if everybody in the community followed those rules. A crowd of nearly 80 people gathers to discuss the ongoing drug problem in Clinton County. Those in attendance were urged to lock up their prescription drugs in an effort to minimize theft and recreational use. The forum on prescription drug abuse was held on the campus in Lock Haven University's Ulmer Planetarium. The session arrived amid an increasing concern by area doctors, educators, counselors and others about the abuse of drugs commonly found in the medicine cabinet of nearly every home in the community.
(WGRC)

LEWISTOWN - The Concerned Physicians and Practitioners of Mifflin and Juniata Counties, a group opposed to the Lewistown Hospital merger with Geisinger Health System, met Tuesday evening to discuss concerns in response to the merger announcement. In an effort to preserve the community's greatest asset and largest employer, the group said it would like the hospital to consider a number of issues before moving forward with Geisinger. The first is transparency. Though the staff and doctors were informed that a merger would happen, they have still not received any actual information regarding the effects of a merger, the group said. The second is jobs. The group claims Geisinger will bring technological updates which will cost the local hospital jobs. And probably the most important is patient displacement and patient costs. The group claims patients are being sent to Danville or State College to Geisinger clinics by Geisinger doctors, as required by Geisinger insurance. The group claims out-of-pocket copay costs will go up as well. The Concerned Physicians and Practitioners of Mifflin and Juniata Counties declined to reveal its future plans, if any, in opposition to the merger. The Sentinel reports, since October, the group has collected more than 2,000 community signatures in opposition of the merger.
(WGRC)

LEWISBURG - The 2013 budget for the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department is $2,483,900, about 9 percent more than its 2012 spending plan of $2,265,570. East Buffalo Township supervisors approved the budget and their municipal contribution at their meeting this week. The township will pay $1,074,000, or 52 percent, of the force’s budget. Lewisburg’s share is $991,000 or 48 percent of the spending plan. The remaining $418,000 will come from other sources, such as grants, enforcement fines and tickets.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT – Williamsport Mayor Gabriel Campana's wish list in his proposed 2013 budget might get smaller tonight, as City council meets to go over budget figures. The $21.1 million 2013 budget calls for a 0.85-mill real estate tax hike and does not fill three police officer vacancies and two positions in the Streets and Parks Department. The proposed tax millage equates to $85 more per year for a household assessed at $100,000. Council President Bill Hall has hinted the amount of millage Campana has proposed might not be enough to deal with the city's ongoing financial problems. Controller Margaret Woodring said the city faces an additional $1.5 million in costs next year, the majority of it associated with paying for pensions and health care benefits. Campana said the problem is that a lack of concessions by police, fire and other unions representing 218 city employees has created an unsustainable formula of tax increases each year that will drive business out of the city and residents to seek other places to live. Campana said if council does not approve his proposed budget, the city could face an even higher tax millage that could be as much as 3 mills. Tonight’s meeting gets underway at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - Williamsport and Lock Haven mayors are seeking fairer ways for their cities to negotiate during arbitration with unions and to pay for growing pension costs. Williamsport Mayor Gabriel Campana and Lock Haven Mayor Rick Vilello held a news conference Wednesday to share proposals in the state Senate that attempt reform. Vilello, the president of the Pennsylvania Municipal League and a member of the Coalition for Sustainable Communities, explained the pending legislation meant to introduce reforms to arbitration law that have been in place since 1968. Among the points the coalition of 33 communities supports include ensuring any arbitration award is based on evidence presented during negotiation and calculations of new costs are determined by the municipalities' ability to pay. Vilello says, “right now, an award doesn't take into account the municipalities' ability to pay the award, and he agrees the reform should be for any municipal arbitration not just those communities that fall into the financial distress category.” The coalition also wants to prohibit post-retirement health care and pension benefits from being the subject of collective bargaining. Another possible reform is requiring the cost of arbitration to be shared equally by both parties instead of having the community pay all the costs.
(WGRC)

LOCK HAVEN - No one specific topic or issue dominated this week's Clinton County Natural Gas Task Force meeting. And while all the issues were important, the situation underlined a message by the chairman, Clinton County Commissioner Pete Smeltz, that the organization may want to revisit its mission statement for 2013. The topics reflected the fact that the Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Industry activities have been dormant for some months. They also reflected the potential of the industry to drive local economics, with glimpses of actions and programs still on the horizon. Smeltz said now might be a good time for task force members to reflect on what has occurred in the past year and look to the future. Smeltz asked task force members and the public to contact the commissioners and offer their views on what direction the task force might take in 2013.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY - Bogus, bizarre and unacceptable. Those were some of the adjectives used by ailing Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi during an emotional hour-long news conference Wednesday in which he defended himself against allegations made by Commissioner Richard Shoch. The conference got off to a rocky start when Attorney Gregory Stuck of Northumberland, who is currently in litigation with Clausi, pressed the commissioner about whether he was able to read English. Clausi also refuted claims by Shoch that he cost the taxpayers approximately $57,000 in county legal fees. At the end of the news conference, Clausi became emotional and started to cry while stating, "Mr. Shoch is playing politics. This is not right. I can't take this mental abuse anymore. Clausi said he wanted all the commissioners to stop their bickering and move on to serious issues facing the county.
(WGRC)

POTTSVILLE - Four employees in the County Office of Senior Services in Schuylkill County will be laid off by the end of the year due to the loss of state Department of Public Welfare funds. The Schuylkill County Commissioners approved a resolution to leave the state Department of Aging Waiver program in November. Executive Director of the County Office of Senior Services Georgine Federoriska says the county could no longer administer the program because reimbursement changed from federal block grants to billable hours. The program provided in-home care as an alternative to a nursing home.
(WPPA)

ORWIGSBURG - One thing we have plenty of in northeastern and central Pennsylvania is old factory buildings that are no longer in use. One thing we don’t necessarily have enough of is affordable housing for older people. That has inspired a businessman in Schuylkill County. Officials toured a former clothing manufacturing plant in Orwigsburg. Their plan is to turn it into an apartment building for the elderly. The owner of Barefield Development Corporation, Craig Shields, said he is ready to make the investment of six million dollars to turn the old factory into 20 to 25 apartments. The project is still in the planning stages, but officials said turning the former factory into housing for the elderly is the way to go, especially when it comes to location as it will provide easy access for senior citizens. Barefield Development is also in the process of turning a former clothing factory in Pottsville into more housing for the elderly. The construction in Pottsville should be complete by September of next year, and residents should be moved in before the end of 2013.
(WNEP)

LEWISBURG - The Lewisburg Area High School Chorus will be singing this Christmas in Washington D.C. The U.S. Department of the Interior recently chose Lewisburg to perform at the 2012 National Christmas Tree Music Program at a park adjacent to the White House. Choral Director David Cross says he is excited his students are getting this opportunity. They will be representing Pennsylvania as they perform along with groups from across the country. The performance is scheduled for 8p.m. Tuesday, December 11 in Washington D.C.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY - The Salvation Army in Sunbury has helped make Christmas bright for more than 1,000 kids each and every Christmas season, but this year, the demand has grown greater than ever before, while donations aren’t coming in nearly as fast. Major Sharon Cupp says this year the Sunbury Office is about $500 short on donations already, with more families to help this holiday season. Since only half of the overwhelming need this holiday season has been met, the Salvation Army in Sunbury said it is organizing a new event to bring in more donations, so they can hopefully spread more holiday cheer. Cupp says this year the Salvation Army is doing a fill the truck at Walmart on Saturday. They are looking for new coats, clothing, boots and toys.  They’re hoping shoppers at Walmart in Selinsgrove this Saturday find it in their hearts to pick up a few items, helping put presents under the tree for kids in Northumberland County this Christmas. The truck will be at the Selinsgrove Walmart between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday.  
(WNEP)

HARRISBURG - For outdoorsmen and women the Pennsylvania rifle deer season is winding down for another year as Saturday is the last day. That only means looking forward to some good fishing come Spring. And there’s some good news for fishermen across the state. Multi-year fishing licenses are now on sale. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have started to sell three and five years fishing licenses for the first time in the commission's history. The multi-year license will work out cheaper for anglers - as they will not incur added fees. The PFBC is also offering bonuses to anyone who buys a multi-year license. For more information go to fish.state.pa.us.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - The state is on-track to complete its current fiscal year with a surplus. But it’s the coming budget year Governor Corbett’s budget secretary is worried about. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said at his mid-year budget briefing that he’s still expecting to get less federal funding. State agencies have been told any lost federal dollars won’t be replaced with money from the commonwealth’s coffers. As a result, Zogby said, the 2013-2014 budget will likely bring layoffs for state workers. Agencies are being asked to maintain level funding in the next budget cycle, but they’ll actually have to reduce expenses to make up for rising medical and pension costs. Zogby also says he thinks the past two years of cuts and cost-savings in education and public welfare probably can’t be replicated in the coming budget year, though he said much could happen between now and the governor’s budget address in early February. Zogby says the state is working hard to not have to make the level of deep cuts that the state made in the past to areas of education and health and human services.
(WITF)