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March 6, 2013

LOCUSTDALE – Fire crews from Schuylkill, Columbia and Northumberland County were called out this morning to fight a two-alarm fire in the village of Locustdale. The fire was reported just before three a.m. at a double home at 3107 Hill Street. Schuylkill County 9-1-1 tells us the homes were vacant and an investigation into how that fire started is underway. Schuylkill County 9-1-1 also tells us there was a fire right across from the Rangers Fire Company in Girardville which was reported just before five this morning. No word as to what was involved in that fire.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

LOCK HAVEN - A multitude of firefighters and other emergency responders arrived at the First Quality Tissue plant in Lock Haven just after eight Tuesday morning to grapple with a nasty and difficult fire, which kept them at the scene for several hours. Fire officials say the fire began in a paper machine and spread into the complex's duct system. The firefighters braved windy and cold conditions, some of them climbing aerial trucks outside, four stories high to access to the emergency from the roof. No injuries were reported.
(WGRC)

FORKSVILLE – The state police along with the Sullivan County Coroner’s office have released the identity of the body of the man found in a fire that destroyed a home near Forksville on February 25th. Police say the body is that of 67-year-old Michael Miles. The fire was reported just before eleven a.m. at 486 Norton Road. When crews arrived on the scene they found the home fully engulfed in flames with three-quarters of the home already burned to the ground. It’s not known what the cause of the blaze might have been.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

NORTHUMBERLAND – Police in Point Township were hot on the trail of two suspected burglars yesterday in Northumberland County. Police say during the mid-day burglary, one thief wearing a ski mask forced his way in through a window of a home on Ridge Road just before noon and came face-to-face with the homeowner. Police say both the robber and the homeowner fled the home simultaneously, with the robber heading toward a waiting car and the homeowner going to a safe location to call police. The thief did get away with some jewelry from the home and got into a waiting car. Police say the car was light to medium blue in color and was a station wagon or hatchback. State police investigators processed the crime scene and recovered some evidence. Police say there have been several break-ins in Point Township recently and are asking residents to keep their homes locked.
(WGRC)

LEWISBURG – Two Bucknell University students face felony burglary charges after Bucknell security discovered they had stolen laptop computers from other students and the sold them over the internet. Police have charged Jeffrey Finegan of Phillipsburg, New Jersey and Carter wells of Branford, Connecticut, both 20-year-olds with the theft operation. Police say the two stole the laptop computers between February eighth and the 17th from on campus dorms.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

POTTSVILLE – A Schuylkill County Jury yesterday found 19-year-old Jarvin Huggins guilty in the murder of a Mahanoy City man last April. Huggins will spend the rest of his life behind state prison bars when he is sentenced. The jury deliberated about one-and-a-half hours before coming to the verdict following the second day of Huggins trial. Huggins was charged with killing 48-year-old Gene Slavinsky in the basement of his home by Huggins during a break-in. Judge John E. Domalakes, who presided over the two-day trial, scheduled Huggins' formal sentencing for 11 a.m. April 3 - exactly one year to the day that Huggins murdered Slavinsky.
(WGRC)

LOCK HAVEN - A 20-year-old Jersey Shore man faces multiple charges following a high-speed chase that took police through Avis and into Pine Creek Township, Monday. Kyle Keller was charged by police with recklessly endangering others, trespassing on posted agricultural land, fleeing or attempting to elude police, and numerous other charges. Keller is jailed in the Clinton County prison on $25,000 bail. Police say they tried to pull Keller over for a broken brake light when he took off exceeding speeds of 90 miles-per-hour and at one point passing a stopped school bus. Keller and a passenger bolted from the vehicle after it became stuck in a farm field. Keller was later found hiding in a pole barn along Ninth Street in Pine Creek Township. Police said Keller attacked the owner of the pole barn and hit him in the chest while trying to avoid capture. Troopers arrived at the scene and took Keller into custody without further incident.
(WGRC)

MIDDLEBURG – A Beaver Springs man pleaded guilty to charges in which he provided drugs for sex with a 14-year-old girl. 22-year-old Robert Hannick Jr. avoided a trial in Snyder County Court by pleading guilty. Hannick faces a minimum of four years in state prison and as many as 10 years when he’s sentenced. Hannick will also have to register as a Megan’s law offender. An evaluation by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offender’s Assessment Board will determine whether Hannick is a sexually violent predator requiring a lifetime registration. The victim’s mother, 39-year-old Brandi Baumgardner, has pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child for admittedly getting her daughter hooked on drugs at the age of 12. Baumgardner remains in Snyder County jail and is scheduled to be sentenced next Wednesday. Charges against Baumgardner and Hannick were filed last summer after the victim told counselors about the abuse while receiving treatment at a Montgomery residential treatment center.
(WGRC)

DANVILLE - A woman has admitted giving her family members large discounts at the daycare center where she worked in Montour County. 54-year-old Karen Kruleski pleaded guilty to theft charges Tuesday. Investigators say she gave discounts totaling more than $16,000 without the permission of the owner of Busy Little Beavers daycare near Danville. At the time, she was in charge of billing clients. In court Tuesday, a judge said he would consider Kruleski’s request for house arrest.
(WNEP)

HARRISBURG - Former Northumberland County Commissioner 53-year-old Allen Cwalina, who sued the state for more than $75,000 in pay and benefits, lost his appeal in Commonwealth Court. The court Tuesday affirmed the dismissal of the breach-of-contract complaint Cwalina, filed following his October 2009 suspension from his $122,000-a-year position as a deputy secretary for the Department of Labor and Industry in the wake of a DUI conviction. Cwalina had been working for the department a little more than a year in November 2008, when he was involved in a hit-and-run crash while driving a state-owned vehicle. He was convicted of drunken driving — his second DUI conviction in nine years — and suspended without pay and benefits in October 2009. Cwalina claims he was forced to quit and filed the lawsuit alleging the state breached an agreement allowing him to remain on the job if he successfully completed an employee assistance program, which he did. The Commonwealth Court found the trial court properly dismissed Cwalina’s complaint, which they also determined was filed several months too late.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - A Lycoming County jury found a Wolf Township man guilty on Tuesday afternoon of 10 charges, including three felonies, stemming from a standoff with state police in July, 2012. State police say they were called to a domestic disturbance call at 1342 Horn Hill Road around 9 p.m. There they found 46-year-old Robert Lyons, standing on his porch with a Remington 12-gauge shotgun. No shots were fired before Lyons came out his front door after a two hour stand-off and was taken into custody. The jury found Lyons not guilty on three aggravated assault charges and guilty on seven misdemeanor counts and three felony counts of aggravated assault by putting officers in fear, charges for which the state will seek a sentence of six to 12 years jail time. Lyons will be sentenced in May.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - Local and regional health care providers gave their input Tuesday, in Williamsport, about possible Medicaid expansion that would cover hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians with health insurance under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. Their testimony was accepted by several members of the state House of Representatives' Democratic Policy Committee that met at Lycoming College's Welch Honors Hall. The mee4ting was chaired by Representative Rick Mirabito of Lycoming County. Governor Tom Corbett said in his budget address last month that he opposed the state's entry into Medicaid expansion because it would burden taxpayers. States that choose to be included in Medicaid expansion would have 100 percent of the costs paid by the federal government for the first three years. After that, 90 percent would be paid by the federal government. Lawmakers say if Pennsylvania doesn't participate, such as 24 states already have done, its money the state never will see again. One of those who gave testimony was Charles Santangelo, chief financial officer of Susquehanna Health, who urged lawmakers to enact Medicaid expansion. He said that the health system - which has one of the busiest emergency departments in the state at the Williamsport Regional Medical Center - will continue to lose money while providing care for uninsured patients without reform. Santangelo said that 40 percent of patients seen in the emergency room receive Medical Assistance, while another 11 percent are uninsured. He added that on a combined basis of health system hospitals, 65 percent of the services provided were to Medicare, Medical Assistance and uninsured patients. He went on to say the health system makes up shortfalls by reducing operating costs and cutting services. Mirabito said information gathered from the hearing will be taken back to Harrisburg and shared with other legislators.
(WGRC)

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State could see funding cuts from the U.S. government sequestration upward of $30 million, but it is too early to say exactly what lies ahead. The $85 billion in across-the-board cuts started Friday, and their broader effects are expected to be layoffs of federal workers, delays in air traffic, reduced food inspections and the loss of Head Start programs for preschool-age children. At Penn State — where faculty are awarded grants from organizations funded by the federal government — researchers and administrators face uncertainty in preparing for what was thought be something that never would come to fruition. Hank Foley, the university’s vice president for says conservative estimates have the university losing $30 million to $40 million in funding from federal grants. That could mean layoffs or a loss of research opportunities for students and assistantships for graduate students. Officials say research centers may have to be downsized and workers furloughed.
(WGRC)

LEWISTOWN - Attorneys representing Mifflin and Juniata County school districts in a lawsuit regarding the future of the Mifflin-Juniata Career and Technology Center gave impassioned arguments Tuesday during a hearing at the Mifflin County Courthouse. Mifflin County School District terminated a long-standing agreement with Juniata County School District regarding the tech-school during a school board meeting in July. Shortly thereafter the Mifflin County School District filed a lawsuit asking the court to award ownership of the land to the district. Visiting Centre County Senior Judge David Grine gave no indication on how long it would be before he would rule on the outcome of the case. Two more hearings are scheduled to take place on May 9 and 10, in the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas.
(WGRC)

DANVILLE - The Danville school board unanimously rejected a fact-finder’s recommendations for a new teachers contract Tuesday night. The fact-finder was called in after the two sides failed to make progress on a new pact, months after the previous contract expired. The Press Enterprise reports, the terms of the fact-finder’s recommendations, as well as what each side is seeking, have yet to be disclosed. The fact-finder was appointed by the state.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY - A Right-To-Know request filed Monday by Northumberland County Commissioner Richard Shoch to obtain copies of all audio recordings from commissioners' meetings between January 1997, and February, 2013, has delayed his fellow commissioners' plan to erase tapes from the same time period. Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy believe maintaining the tapes is unnecessary and cumbersome and only provides more of an opportunity for the county to be sued. Both commissioners pointed out that the county is not bound by law to tape any of its meetings, while federal law requires records to be kept for only seven years. Clausi said making copies of the recordings for Shoch would cost the county over $57,000. But Shoch believes maintaining tape recordings of the meetings is important to county citizens. The News Item reports, the debate over the tape recordings angered Clausi, who with Bridy's assistance, brought out several boxes of tapes from county meetings to illustrate the volume of recordings that would have to be copied per Shoch's request. Clausi and Bridy said they plan to approve a motion at a future meeting to delete or erase tape recordings from all salary board, election board, retirement board and commissioners' meetings from January 1997, to the present.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY - Northumberland County will save approximately $24,000 by consolidating 21 voting precincts into 10 in Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Township, Shamokin and Zerbe Township. Commissioners Richard Shoch and Vinny Clausi passed a resolution Tuesday authorizing Alisha Herb, chief registrar of the county board of elections office, to petition the Court of Common Pleas to consolidate the precincts. Commissioner Stephen Bridy, who realizes the consolidations will save money and are probably needed, still opposed the plan because he believes too many of the affected precincts are located in the Mount Carmel area. He said the consolidations should have been done more equitably throughout the county. Herb said the resolution must be posted for 10 days. The News Item reports, Herb says if there is no opposition to the move, the consolidations will take effect for the May 21 primary election.
(WGRC)

MIFFLINBURG - PennDOT will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at the Mifflinburg Area Middle School regarding the Route 45, Chestnut Street, reconstruction project. The purpose of the meeting is to update the public of the status of this project, scheduling, and detour routes. Route 45 is being rebuilt, widened, new curbs and sidewalks installed and large trees removed from along the roadway.
 (WGRC)

HARRISBURG - The state Department of Public Welfare's acting secretary says about 3,000 people who had been bumped off Pennsylvania's Medicaid rolls were found to be eligible for the health care program. Bev Mackereth has told the Senate Appropriations Committee her agency made the discovery after sending more than 100,000 letters to people who'd had their cases closed. The letters were sent to settle claims that families were improperly purged from the health insurance program for the poor and disabled. State figures show there's still 88,000 fewer children on Medicaid since August 2011, when caseworkers began an eligibility review. Mackereth defends her agency as doing its duty to contact people who had lost coverage. Federal officials last year said they suspected caseworkers didn't appropriately review information before closing cases.
(WGRC)