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January 29, 2013

SHAMOKIN – A fire heavily damages three vacant buildings and one occupied home in Shamokin overnight. The fire was reported around 10:30 p.m. in the 600 block of Sunbury Street in Shamokin, in the neighborhood were several other suspicious fires were reported recently. Northumberland County Communications tell us the occupants of the home were able to get out safely and there were no injuries reported. That fire is under investigation. This is the fifth fire in that area of Shamokin since September and some residents think there’s a fire bug loose in the city.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

COAL TOWNSHIP - Several animals perished and a home was gutted in Northumberland County last night. It was the area's second fire call Monday, this time at the intersection of Wabash and Sherman streets in Coal Township. The fire was reported around 7:30 p.m. at 1479 Wabash Street. The home was in the process of being renovated and tenants Mike Borich and Lizzette Velezquez had just moved in last weekend. While Borich managed to save one dog, two other dogs, along with a cat and some snakes, could not be saved. When crews arrived the first floor was fully involved. The fire is under investigation.
(WGRC)

KULPMONT - Four row homes were destroyed, four other buildings damaged and as many as seven families left homeless in a two-alarm fire along Chestnut Street (Route 61) in Kulpmont that started just before five Monday morning. The double home which is where the fire is believed to have started collapsed just minutes after the fire was reported. All occupants were able to escape, although two residents were injured, one of them requiring hospital treatment, and a firefighter suffered a hand injury. The News Item reports, the injuries were minor. Kulpmont Fire Chief Raymond Siko says there was no cause, and he said determining one is unlikely because of the extensive damage. The American Red Cross reported volunteers were on scene Monday, helping those who were displaced by the fire, and will be making sure that those affected have food, clothing and shelter and will follow-up to help meet any additional disaster needs. Four blocks of Route 61 were closed for much of the day while the scene was cleaned up and power restored. It reopened to traffic just after four p.m.
(WGRC)

UNDATED – Icy roadways caused numerous crashes yesterday as a wintry mix fell across the region. The Northbound lane of Route 42 in Columbia County between Aristes and Numidia was closed after PennDOT reported multiple vehicle crash on that roadway in Columbia County. In Northumberland County both lanes of Interstate 180 westbound near Turbotville was closed and traffic detoured after two rigs crashed. No injuries were reported.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

LEWISBURG – No one was hurt when a car and tractor trailer collided at the intersection of route 15 and Moore Avenue at Bucknell University, yesterday in Lewisburg. The crash happened just after eight a.m. and caused some traffic delays in the area. Haz-mat teams from Minuteman Spill response were at the scene cleaning up spilled diesel fuel from a ruptured fuel tank on the rig. Both vehicles had to be towed from the scene.
(WGRC)

MAHOANOY CITY – A 24-year-old Mahanoy City man was taken to Geisinger Medical Center following a crash yesterday in Schuylkill County. The crash happened around two yesterday afternoon on Bowman’s Road near Mahanoy City. Police say Michael Klinger suffered moderate injuries in the crash when he lost control of his vehicle on the icy roadway and crossed the center of the roadway hitting a vehicle driven by a 17-year-old Mahanoy City boy. Neither the 17-year-old, nor his 18-year-old passenger was hurt in the crash.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

MIFFLINVILLE — An SUV driver lost control on a slushy road near Mifflinville in Columbia County and landed in an icy pond Monday morning. The crash happened on Route 339 around 11:45 a.m. The SUV rolled along the side of the road into Drake Pond, near the Columbia/Luzerne county line. Neither the passenger nor the driver was seriously hurt.
(WGRC)

TROUT RUN – Pending favorable weather and road conditions today, a hazmat contractor will be working at the scene of a previous crash along Route 15, a few miles north of Trout Run in Lycoming County. To get access to the crash scene, the contractor tentatively plans to close one of the southbound lanes for approximately 90 minutes starting around 9 a.m. Once the equipment is in place off the roadway, the lane restriction will be lifted. When the cleanup is completed, the lane restriction will be reinstated for approximately the same length of time to remove the equipment from the scene.
(WGRC)

LEWISTOWN - A month-long investigation by Lewistown Police has resulted in the arrests of two Mifflin County men and seven juveniles in connection with a December burglary and an unrelated vehicle arson. Police say 18-year-old Henry Banks, of Lewistown and 21-year-old Seth Leister, of Burnham were involved in the December 3rd burglary of Glick's Shoe Fly in Lewistown. Police say shoes and sports apparel valued in excess of $1,500 were stolen from the Market Street business through a roof hatch. Five juveniles, ranging in age from 12 to 17, also were arrested and charged with burglary, and related counts. Banks is also charged with the December 29th theft and arson of a pickup truck stolen from Union Avenue in Lewistown that later was found in a wooded area of Granville Township. The Sentinel reports, both Banks and Leister are jailed in the Mifflin County Prison.
(WGRC)

SHAMOKIN – A Shamokin man has been arrested on charges of rape. Police have charged 47-year-old Kenneth Wertz for the incident Sunday night involving a 29-year-old woman at a home in East Cameron Township, Northumberland County. Police say Wertz allegedly admitted to the incident. He‘s locked up in the Northumberland County Jail on $100,000 bail.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

AUBURN – An Auburn man is charged with breaking into the VFW post in Auburn and stealing over $4,000 dollars. The break-in was reported back on December 20th at the Auburn VFW on Pine Street in the borough. Police say Oliver Schaeffer got into the building through a basement door and opened the safe to the establishment and stole the money. Police say Schaeffer has since returned the cash and is free on bail.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

SUNBURY - The Northumberland County Prison board voted Monday to reinstate a former correctional officer who had been accused of selling copper pipes from the lockup for personal profit. The former guard, 40-year-old Shane Hoffman, of Sunbury, was acquitted of theft and related charges in July. The Daily Item reports, he will now receive up to $95,000 in back pay, and he has the option of getting his old job back. Hoffman was found not guilty of institutional vandalism, theft and receiving stolen property by a jury of eight women and four men at the conclusion of a three-day trial. The investigation started in February 2009 and took nearly four years to proceed through the court system. It took the jury 90 minutes to clear Hoffman’s name.
(WGRC)

SELINSGROVE – Taxes are expected to rise in the Selinsgrove area school district. The School Board Monday voted to approve not going over a 2.2 percent increase for the 2013-2014 school year. That means an extra $35 dollars in taxes for those in the Selinsgrove area school district. The Daily Item reports, next year’s budget will be $38 million a two million dollar increase over the 2012-2013 school year’s budget. The major source of the budget increase is due to teacher’s pensions.
(WGRC)

JERSEY SHORE - After again announcing that the Jersey Shore Area School District's grade restructuring plan will be delayed for two years, the school board allowed the public to ask questions and voice concerns on Monday evening. Jersey Shore Borough resident, Burt Francis, was one among others who said he was disappointed the district never sought advice from the state on the plan prior to presenting it. The Sun Gazette reports, other residents were upset that the plan did not address a space for students with multiple disabilities.
(WGRC)

STATE COLLEGE — At a public forum last week on the State College Area High School renovation and construction project, a few people had a burning question. Is the district going to consider two separate high schools, or is that off the table? The participants were insistent the community would support two smaller high schools. Some students get lost in the crowd at the 2,400-student, two-building State High, they said. The Centre Daily Times reports, Superintendent Bob O’Donnell, said a two-high school system would not support the educational programs the district has in place. Nevertheless, the interaction from the public last week has caused school officials to give the two-high school option a closer look before it is completely ruled out. On Monday, during a school board meeting, that the district reports it will get projections to see what it would cost to staff two high schools.
(WGRC)

STATE COLLEGE - The State College Area school board approved a new teachers’ contract Monday, a move that ends two years of deadlock between the district and the teachers union and forces teachers to shoulder more health care costs. The contract, which has a plan that doubles teachers’ deductibles before their insurance kicks in, is retroactive to July 1, 2011, the day after the last contract expired, and goes through June 30, 2015. The Centre Daily Times reports, Union President Holli Jo Warner would not say she was pleased with the contract. Instead, she said she was “optimistic that teachers can go forward in building productive and collaborative relationships.”
(WGRC)

UNIVERSITY PARK - The NCAA is now facing more pressure from lawmakers to lessen the blow of its sanctions against the Penn State football team. U.S. Representative Glenn Thompson, of Howard Township, co-signed a letter with Representative Charlie Dent, of Allentown, asking the NCAA to reconsider the Penn State football team’s 40 scholarship reduction as part of the sanctions that were levied against the university in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and the release of the Louis Freeh report. Thompson, who publicly opposed all the sanctions, said the scholarship penalty is particularly irksome because it may deny young men the chance to get a college education. This is the third letter that Thompson has co-signed and sent to the NCAA. The first two involved keeping the $60 million fine in Pennsylvania. Thompson said, based on the previous correspondence with the organization that the letter most likely won’t sway it, but it’s something he hopes the NCAA takes seriously.  Also Monday, the state Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously advanced to the full Senate a measure sponsored by panel chairman Senator Jake Corman, that would require the $60 million in fines assessed on Penn State by the NCAA to remain in the state. A full Senate debate and vote could occur as early as Wednesday.
(WGRC)

BLOOMSBURG - If things fall into place a vacant lot across from the former Bloomsburg Mills complex on 6th Street in Bloomsburg could see a lot of construction activity early next year. Town Council announced plans Monday night to construct a three story, 40 unit apartment complex for low income elderly. The proposed project is funded with state dollars. And if the funding is approved and permits granted ground could be broken in about a year.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - It was a festive red ribbon-cutting occasion last April when the 350-space Church Street Transportation Project in Williamsport opened amid hoopla as dignitaries expressed hope for a parking solution in an expanding city needing parking and a terminal for Susquehanna Trailways. The mood has changed, however, as last week the city learned it was being sued by the Dillsburg contractor, Lobar Incorporated that built the facility. Lobar claims it's owned more than $538,000 in final payment related issues for work performed. The Sun Gazette reports, the lawsuit claims the city has failed to fulfill the terms of the contract and change orders. The city is disputing the claims.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG – The state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Krancer announced Monday that DEP has submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency its final 2012 Integrated Waters report, a biannual assessment of the state’s rivers and streams required by the federal Clean Water Act. The report describes the health of various waterways in the state and, where needed, the state proposes listing waterways as impaired. Krancer says “Based on the science and law, we do not believe that the main stem of Susquehanna River should be proposed as impaired under the Clean Water Act. While we recognize that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and others had requested that DEP propose to impair a 98-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River, as we have pointed out on many occasions before, that view is based on very limited, piecemeal data and is not supported by the existing data or the law. But DEP takes the concerns expressed about the Susquehanna very seriously and we are doing something about it. We will be taking, separately, a comprehensive and strategic approach to ensure that the Susquehanna River is protected. The report showed that there were no water quality issues that showed why small mouth bass particularly were experiencing young fish die-offs or inter-sexing of the species. Krancer says, “The DEP is dedicated to finding the answer through a disciplined scientific approach.” Krancer also says the Fish and Boat Commission has not reported any diseased young-of-year in the lower Susquehanna this past summer. Sampling will continue at 30 locations throughout the Susquehanna River basin to develop more data and consult with scientists at Michigan University and the U.S. Geological Survey.
(WGRC)