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December 27, 2012

WILLIAMSPORT – The worst is over, but not before hundreds of motorists got stuck on icy roads or ended up sliding into ditches. The powerful winter storm that claimed at least six lives in the Midwest arrived early Wednesday in Central Pennsylvania, packing high winds and heavy snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain. Our region saw anywhere from three to eight inches in areas north of Interstate 80. One troubled area was in the 1900 block of Route 973 West in Lycoming Township, Lycoming County where two oversize-load flatbed trucks carrying equipment became stuck. The road was shut down for at least three hours because it was impassable until the trucks could be moved. PennDOT crews remain vigilant, removing snow from major roadways and continuing their clean-up of secondary roadways.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

HARRISBURG – PennDOT has lifted the speed limit restrictions that were in place on several roadways in the region. Due to the winter storm impacting the region, speed limits were reduced yesterday afternoon to 45 mph on Interstates 80 and 81 in the WGRC listening area. Although PennDOT has crews treating roadways around the clock, the department’s primary goal is to keep roads passable, not completely free of ice and snow. PennDOT will continue to treat roadways until the roads are clear. Although PennDOT recommends not traveling during winter storms, motorists can check road conditions on more than 2,900 miles of state roads by calling 5-1-1 or visiting 511PA.com. 511PA provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, average traffic speeds on urban interstates and access to more than 670 traffic cameras. The 511 site also provides easy-to-use, color-coded winter road conditions for all interstates and other routes covered in the 511 reporting network.
(WGRC)

STATE COLLEGE - The State College Borough Manager has declared a snow emergency.  All vehicles must be removed from Borough streets until the snowfall has stopped and the streets have been plowed to the curb. The downtown parking garages and parking lots remain open and all patrons of the downtown are encouraged to use the garages or public parking lots. Cars parked in posted snow removal zones or cars parked in violation of any ordinance of the Borough may be towed at the owner’s expense.
(WGRC)

ASHLAND - Four people were taken to Geisinger Medical Center following a one car crash on Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County. The crash happened around eight yesterday morning on the Interstate’s northbound lanes at the intersection with Gordon Mountain Road in Cass Township. Police say a family from Orlando, Florida lost control on the slush covered roadway and went into the media of the highway becoming airborne landing on its roof on Gordon Mountain Road. All four were taken to Geisinger with what police call moderate injuries.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

REINERTON – A crash in Schuylkill County sends a Tremont man to the hospital Christmas night. The crash happened just after six p.m. on Route 209 in Porter Township. Police say 23-year-old Eric Ossman spun off the roadway on a curve. Ossman then went over an embankment rolling several times before crashing into a tree. Ossman was thrown from his vehicle during the crash and was flown to Geisinger Medical Center.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

CLARKS FERRY – Four from Lewistown were hurt in a DUI crash last Thursday in Reed Township Dauphin County. The crash happened just after eight Thursday night on Route 322. Police say a pick-up truck driven by 54-year-old James Rich of Palmyra slammed head-on into a car driven by 37-year-old Kirk Earnest of Lewistown. Earnest had to be cut free from the wreckage and was flown to Hershey Medical Center with what police called major injuries. His passengers, 33-year-old Jamie Earnest was taken to Hershey where she was treated and released. Two boys ages 12 and eight suffered minor injuries in the crash. Rich was not hurt and is facing aggravated assault while DUI charges.
(WGRC)

BLACK FOREST - The pilot of a single-engine Piper Cherokee who crashed in a wooded area in northern Lycoming County Sunday remains in serious condition at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. Vincent Mow, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, crashed just off Route 44 near the Black Forest Inn, missing several homes by about 100 yards. Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration say, Mow was destined for a small, privately-owned airport in Kingston, New York, when his plane went down. It took emergency crews about an hour to free Mow from the wreckage. He was flown to Geisinger by helicopter. Arlene Salac, a spokeswomen for the Federal Aviation Administration, said Wednesday that the accident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. She said the NTSB will issue a preliminary report in early January.
(WGRC)

STONINGTON – Paul Shingara’s mobile home on Route 61 outside Shamokin is nothing but a pile of rubble and twisted metal following an early-morning fire on Christmas. The trailer was fully engulfed when fire crews first arrived at the scene. Shingara and his girlfriend were able to get out of the home safely. Investigators believe a wood stove caused the Christmas day fire.
(WNEP)

MAHANOY CITY – An apparent murder-suicide is under investigation in Schuylkill County. Mahanoy City Police say, the bodies of 37-year-old Richard Weikel, and his wife, 28-year-old Stephanie Weikel, were found early Christmas morning. Officers went to the apartment on North 10th Street after receiving a call from Richard Weikel’s ex-wife. She told police that Weikel said he had just killed Stephanie during an argument. Police say the preliminary evidence indicates that Richard Weikel shot his wife and then shot himself. Mahanoy City Police say the apparent murder-suicide happened sometime shortly after 12:30 a.m. on Christmas Day.
(WNEP)

MIFFLIN – Police are looking for the people involved in an incident in which an ambulance was broken into and damaged in Juniata County. It happened sometime between Friday night and Sunday evening at Central Juniata Emergency Medical Services building on Mower Street in Mifflin Borough. Police say the vandals broke into the building and rifled through the ambulance and then started the vehicle putting it in gear slamming into the wall of the building. Troopers say both the building and the ambulance were damaged. Anyone with information is asked to call state police, Lewistown.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - A Williamsport man is in Lycoming County prison after being caught breaking into another city home on Christmas Day. 23 year old Zachary Cummings allegedly forced his way into a home on Second Street by using a hatchet to break through the back door. He allegedly stole a small amount of marijuana and was stopped by city police in the 800 block of West Third Street.  He is jailed in Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $100,000 dollars bail.
(WGRC)

NEWTON HAMILTON – A Newton Hamilton woman was charged Christmas Eve with theft and placed in the Mifflin County Jail on $25,000 bail. State Police charged 18-year-old Naomi Gano for the theft of a box containing nearly $900 dollars, several collectable coins, a digital camera and two blank checks from a home along Poplar Road in Wayne Township.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

CATAWISSA - A special education teacher at the Columbia-Montour Vocational-Technical School was fired earlier this year after a two-year investigation into charges he had improper Internet conversations with two former students. The Press-Enterprise reports 33-year-old Scott Shaffer, who was terminated September 18th from his job as a math and special education teacher, asked two 17-year-old girls to send him photos from their beach vacation and offered to buy them alcohol. He said they were his "favorites" and that he missed them during the summer of 2010. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has filed a public reprimand against him, but stopped short of suspending or revoking his teaching license. That means Shaffer is free to get another teaching job, although other schools will see the disciplinary action on his file. Shaffer claims he opened a Facebook account to post a memorial for a friend, and that the two girls sought him out. He also said he never asked for any photos of the girls.  
(WGRC)

SUNBURY – Sunbury City Council narrowly passed a $4.3 million dollar budget Wednesday that include no new taxes for City residents. The 2013 budget also includes a two percent pay raise for city employees. And a boost for the Sunbury Redevelopment Authority was announced at Council’s meeting, the sale of the city-owned property at 202 Washington Street that had failed to garner a bid two weeks ago, has been sold. Council would not identify the buyer but they say the house sold for $157,000.
(WGRC)

POTTSVILLE - Schuylkill County will buy the former Empire Beauty School at the corner of Market and Laurel streets in Pottsville in 2013 as the board of commissioners looks to relieve the overcrowded human services complex just across the street. The board gave County Solicitor Attorney Al Marshall approval to move ahead with eminent domain seizure during a public meeting Wednesday. The county will pay an amount not to exceed $740,000. Commissioners say the goal is to move Children&Youth Services to the location. Empire Education Group, which has had a presence in Pottsville since 1985, recently finished construction of a new building across from the Fairlane Village mall in East Norwegian Township.
(WGRC)

LEWISBURG – Union County has bought the former Army Reserve Building on Hafer Road in Kelly Township. It will become the permanent home for the Union County Day Reporting Center. The Army is giving the property to the County for one dollar under what is known as a quick-claim deed. Commissioner Preston Boop says the Commissioner have been waiting four years for the good news. The Day Reporting Center will provide therapy, education, life skills, mental health services, and job training among other services for non-violent convicts who would otherwise be held in the Union County Jail.
(WGRC)

DANVILLE - Montour County Commissioners will meet in Danville today to approve their proposed 2013 budget. The proposal calls for no property tax increases, but it does contain a 2% cost of living raise for all county employees including commissioners. What's helping make ends meet in 2013 is a $193,000 surplus which will be carried over from the 2012 spending plan.
(WGRC)

JERSEY SHORE - Jersey Shore Hospital officials are not allowing a bump in the road in the way of an operating loss of $770,000 in the past fiscal year stop them from moving ahead with plans to grow and serve patients in the community. Last fall it was revealed that the hospital failed to realize a profit margin for the first time since about 2007, in part due to taking on additional patients unable to pay for services. Hospital President and CEO Carey Plummer blames the influx of the gas industry and those who lack insurance. Plummer says many of the big gas companies provide health coverage for their employees, but many subcontractors of the industry do not. That's brought increasing numbers of uninsured people seeking care at the hospital. Overall, more than $3 million in patient care was provided to those unable to pay; the highest it's ever been for the hospital. In the midst of the financial challenges, Plummer noted that the hospital has maintained its employee staff of about 300 people.
(WGRC)

BLOOMSBURG - The Bloomsburg Fair Association says paying more than $150,000 in local taxes each year is “excessive” and is asking a court to lower its assessments. The fair — formally the Columbia County Agricultural, Horticultural and Mechanical Association — has five separate tax parcels, the largest of which includes its nearly 227 acres of fairgrounds and 53 structures ranging from sheds to large exhibit halls. Fair officials say they are taxed about $146,000 for those sites alone. Fair officials filed appeals after being turned down for tax relief this fall by Columbia County commissioners, who serve on the county’s assessment board. The Press Enterprise reports, a pre-hearing on challenges to the assessments will be heard January 29th before Columbia County President Judge Thomas James.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - U.S. Senator Pat Toomey made an appearance in the city of Williamsport today to announce the Senate’s unanimous confirmation of Bradford County Attorney Matthew Brann of Canton as the new United States District judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Brann will sit in court at the Federal Building in Williamsport. He was nominated in May and confirmed on Friday night. The announcement took place this afternoon at the Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Building on West Third Street in Williamsport.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY - A pilot program will expand next month in an effort to keep troubled military veterans on the straight and narrow. The Magisterial District Judge Diversion program, believed by state officials to be one-of-a-kind to Pennsylvania, is patterned after a program already established in the Court of Common Pleas in 13 Pennsylvania counties, including Northumberland, where incarceration can be avoided through supervised treatment. The state cites drug and alcohol abuse, anger management and post-traumatic stress disorder as issues that could trigger criminal behavior. The hope is that by intervening in cases handled by the lower courts, veterans in trouble with the law won't find themselves repeating that behavior. The pilot program began last month in Centre County. It will expand to Monroe and Westmoreland counties beginning New Year's Day.
(WGRC)

LEWISTOWN - Whether it is an oversized bag of Hartley's Potato Chips, a giant beaver, a sprint car or a kettle falling from the sky - one thing is for sure, the people of the Juniata Valley know how to ring in the New Year. Executive Director of Community Partnerships RC&D and one of the masterminds behind the creation of the Great Chip Drop in Lewistown, Sam Price says the theme for this year's celebration is "make 2013 better for those in need." There will be a table for people to drop off their food donations at Monument Square in Lewistown until midnight. In Port Royal the annual Sprint car Drop event will be held from 10 p.m. till midnight, on Milford Street, in Port Royal. In Snyder County the Beavertown, “Beaver Drop,” gets underway also at ten p.m. and continues till the giant stuffed beaver is dropped at midnight. That event is held on Sassafras Street in Beavertown. And in the Borough of McClure the Inaugural Kettle Drop kicks off at 9:30 p.m. till midnight, at the McClure Fire Hall.
(WGRC)

UNIVERSITY PARK - Cheesemaking, beekeeping and important policy issues surrounding the sustainable food movement will be topics at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s conference in February on Penn State’s campus. The conference will be held February 6th through the 9th at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, and registration is open. The sustainable agriculture association, based in Millheim is expecting more than 2,000 people who include farmers, chefs, students and business leaders from the United States and abroad. The theme of the conference is “starting fresh, starting local, starting now.” The conference starts with two days of sessions with topics that include farming for beginners, beekeeping and cheesemaking. Workshops follow the last two days of the conference, with topics like marketing to restaurants, communicating with policymakers and financial planning. For more information visit conference.pasafarming.org.
(WGRC)

WASHINGTON — Four national retailers agreed to recall more than 150,000 Nap Nanny baby recliners after at least five infant deaths and dozens of reports of children nearly falling out of the recliners. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports the recall covers Nap Nanny Generations One and Two, and the Chill model infant recliners. All were sold between 2009 and 2012. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warned parents and caregivers that the Nap Nanny contains defects in its design, warnings and instructions. The agency said the product poses a substantial risk of injury and death to infants. The four retailers — Amazon.com, Buy Buy Baby, Diapers.com and Toys R Us/Babies R Us — agreed to voluntarily participate in the recall of the Nap Nanny. The manufacturer, Baby Matters of Berwyn, Pa., told The Associated Press earlier this month that it had gone out of business. At the time, the company's website carried a statement from owner and founder Leslie Gudel that the company didn't believe the consumer complaint had merit and that its products were safe when used as instructed.
(WGRC)