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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Parolee on the Loose

Police are searching for a Venango County parolee who walked away from a pre-release community center in Erie on May 9 and hasn't been seen since.

24-year-old Steven Blackmon was confined at the Erie Community Corrections Center as a condition of his parole. In 2006, he was convicted of simple assault and a number of drug charges.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Steven Blackmon is asked to contact state police.

Guilty Plea to Fraud Charges

An Erie man who scammed several St. Marys residents has pleaded guilty in federal court to mail fraud and wire fraud charges.

39-year-old Eric Long induced numerous people to invest about $750,000 in his company, Shepherd Networks, with false promises of huge returns, according to the US Attorney's office.

Long also repeatedly lied to investors about the company's business ventures and prospects for success. Most of the victim investors live in St. Marys.

The FBI and St. Marys Police conducted the investigation.

When he's sentenced on August 27, Long faces a total of 500 years in prison, a fine of $6.2 million or both.

Coudy Wins D-9 Championship

The Coudersport High School boys' baseball team has won the District 9 Class A Championship by beating Clarion 9-4 on Friday.

Coudersport moves on to the next round of the PIAA playoffs and will play Neshannock Monday at 4:30 in St. Marys.

The girls' softball championship game scheduled for yesterday was postponed until today. Coudersport plays Curwensville at Hue Field in Kersey at noon.
I can't seem to find directions to the field, but I do see a ball field in the right, center of this view. Maybe it'll help:

Secret Service Investigating

The US Secret Service is continuing its investigation into the person who placed a classified ad in the Warren Times Observer newspaper insinuating that he wanted President Obama to be assassinated.

The Secret Service didn't identify the person, but did say it's a man.

Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin says it's an ongoing investigation and anything that could be considered a possible threat against the president is taken seriously.

The ad said, "May Obama follow in the footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy!" Representatives of the newspaper say the person who took the ad didn't make the connection that the four presidents had been assassinated.

The newspaper has apologized and did contact police.

Friday, May 29, 2009

DuBois Girls Wins Art Competition

Washington, DC—Deana Marsh, 17, of the DuBois Area High School will see her photography hang in the halls of Congress by the end of June.

She is the winner of U.S. Representative Glenn `GT’ Thompson’s local art contest within the national Congressional Art Competition.

Marsh competed with 24 other students from 9 high schools for the honor of seeing her art work hang on the walls of the tunnel between the Cannon House Office Building and the U.S. Capitol. Congressmen and their guests and visitors have a year to admire the hundreds of pieces of art from congressional districts around the country and then the Congressional Art Competition starts another round for 2010.

“If you look closely at her photograph, you can see other students in the lenses of the sunglasses,” said Thompson. “It is a very interesting piece.”

Marsh is the daughter of Terry and Bob Marsh of DuBois.

The winner was congratulated Saturday May 23rd at a showing of the art works at the Winkler Gallery. Thompson enlisted the help of Marianne Fyda and Richard Kenawell as judges. Fyda owns an art studio and has a fine arts degree from Wayne State University, and Kenawell is a member of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh and has a fine arts degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“All of the art work was amazing to me. It is wonderful to see such talent in those who are so young,” said Thompson. “They are inspiring and I hope this leads other students to enter the contest from throughout the Fifth District when we hold the competition again next year.”

Second Place: Amanda Becher of Montgomery High School

Third Place: Jessica Castle of Williamson High School

Fourth Place: Abby Keck of the DuBois Area High School

Fifth Place: Gavin Luzier of West Branch High School

Photo of Thompson and Marsh courtesy of Thompson's office.

2nd Annual Legislative Luncheon

WESB/WBRR News Director

Federal stimulus money, the intermunicipal sewer agreement and education were among the issues tackled by lawmakers Friday at the second annual Bradford Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon.

As for the sewer agreement, Mayor Tom Riel said it's "finally being moved along – albeit because we were basically under the gun by the DEP that we had to do something or face some very large monetary penalties."

"Unfortunately, it's going to cost a lot of money and everybody's going to have to foot the bill in some manner," he said. "Hopefully it won't be as bad as we thought it would be originally."

But Bradford Township Supervisor Don Cummins said his board isn't ready to sign the agreement until language that could mean as much as a 70 percent increase in sewer rates is changed.

He also said "DEP has held the Tuna Valley hostage for two years" by making the municipalities submit, and re-submit, their plans.

Because of DEP regulations, he said, no houses can built because the agency won't approve Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDU) for residential use.

"You can't have your American Dream" of building your own house, Cummins said.

EDUs are available for commercial development and have been approved for the Hooker-Fulton Building and the former Micale Construction site.

Turning to federal stimulus money, Riel and Cummins did agree that neither the city nor the township is benefiting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Riel gave an example of a grant that was available for municipalities to hire extra police officers. The city had planned on applying for money to rehire Officer Mark Deluca, who was laid off because of the city's financial problems.

But the grant carries a stipulation: While the ARRA money would pay the officer's salary and benefits for three years, the city would have to pay for the fourth year of employment. And, even if another officer retired, the city would have to maintain the same number of officers, so they would have to hire someone else.

Riel also said that, early on, the city was led to believe money would be available to repave local roads.

"We were all gung-ho we were gong to that we were going to apply for some money," he said, but then they learned that the money wouldn't be going toward local roads after all.

"There are misconceptions with the stimulus money," he said, adding that people think McKean County is getting $18 million, but it's all going to projects that had already been approved.

"We're getting money," said County Commissioner Joe DeMott, "but it's all earmarked."

"It's not like the money trickles down to small communities," Riel said. "Very little is available to us locally that we can take advantage of without being committed to spending more money long-term."

Cummins agreed, saying, "We thought it was going to trickle down in short order for shovel ready projects. That hasn't happened."

"I don't think the amount of money that's available for everybody is enough to do anything," he said, noting that less than 5 percent is geared toward infrastructure projects.

"As we are most of the time," he said, "we're on our own."

As for the state's $18 billion in ARRA money, State Representative Marty Causer said lawmakers are "still evaluating what strings are attached."

He said education is a huge part of where the money will go and the debate over that is contentious. He said they are concerned about how to plug that money into the current formula because there's a clause that says once they give out a certain amount of money, they can't cut back on it the next year. They have to give at least the same amount so, after the stimulus money is gone in two years, lawmakers would have to find another funding source to plug the hole.

Before turning to representatives for Senator Bob Casey and Congressman Glenn Thompson, moderator Rick Benton said there seemed to be universal agreement that there's not very much stimulus money and there are all kinds of strings and red tape?

"What can you do to help us?" he asked Thompson's representative Peter Winkler.

"Nuthin," Winkler said, adding that Thompson voted against the ARRA.

But he, along with Casey's representative Kyle Hannon, did say their offices would be glad to help with the application process.

Concerning education, DeMott said the North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission is trying to bring the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Institute to Ridgway.

He said the PMI training program is geared toward industries and run by industrialists, and he has "high hopes we will be meeting that goal soon."

DeMott also talked about the Educational Consortia of the Upper Allegheny that is trying to improve higher education in the 11-county region.

He said they're "trying to coordinate educational opportunities for people here, in part, by increasing the availability of community college courses that may be taught in existing facilities – in our high schools and vo-tech schools and working with universities in our area."

Turning to the state budget, Causer talked about Governor Ed Rendell's proposal to impose a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drillers.

"Energy is the one bright spot we have in the region with the real potential to put a lot of people to work," he said. "Any other industry or any other proposal in our area that would put that many people to work – state government would be running out with cardboard checks and tax abatements and incentives to get this going. Instead, the first thing that happened is the governor … said he wants to place a new tax on the industry. That's the wrong approach."

When asked about cuts to certain programs – some that could be eliminated – including the PA Council on the Arts, the Main Street program and Elm Street program, Larry Persing, representing Senator Joe Scarnati, reiterated that it's a tough budget year.

"Those who were only cut 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 percent … perhaps can thank their lucky stars," he said.

Fretz Middle School, Pitt-Bradford Professor Collaborate on Mural

By Kimberly Marcott Weinberg
Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing

A new mural in the functional life skills room at Floyd C. Fretz Middle School has taught its student artists about more than just art.

The bright new mural was a collaboration between Fretz art teacher Janelle Turk and the 26 art club students she advises, life skills teacher Mike Gow and eight students with disabilities, and University of Pittsburgh at Bradford associate professor of art Kong Ho, who has used braces to walk since contracting polio as a child in Hong Kong.

The students celebrated their new mural at a reception Friday afternoon at the school.

Designed by students with the help of Ho and Turk, the mural features bright silhouettes of students from both the art club and life skills classes in a variety of poses. The silhouettes are arranged with symbols in a dynamic composition that takes up the entire mural, which is about 9 feet square.

The students not only posed for the photos but also determined the layout and colors.

The project came about when Ho contacted Turk about the possibility of organizing a mural workshop at Fretz. In addition to promoting collaborative mural painting, the project allowed Ho to fulfill the teaching requirement of an artist fellowship he earned from VSA Arts, the premier fellowship for teaching artists with disabilities around the country.

At the same time, Gow contacted Turk to ask her to help brighten up the large, dark room where his students spend most of their time taking their life skills classes and therapies.

Turk guided students, taught and prepped for the entire process.

“Co-teaching with a professor is something I’ve never done before,” Turk said. “I’m learning so much.”

For a wheelchair-bound student such as 14-year-old Rodney Jones, there are significant benefits to working with a disabled artist. For one thing, Ho is not uncomfortable around Jones.

Ho takes Jones’ wheelchair and pushes him right up to the table where he is mixing paint.

“You want to mix the color?” Ho asks, and Jones smiles a huge smile, then watches with a look of deep concentration as Ho explains what he’s doing. Jones is fascinated by Ho, never taking his eyes off of him. Perhaps he is concentrating extra hard because of Ho’s Chinese accent.

After the colors are mixed, Gow paints with Jones, guiding his hand. After awhile, Jones gets the hang of it, Gow backs off, and Jones is painting on his own.

“See Ms. Turk? See Mr. Gow?” he asks. “Can I tell my mom?”

With 34 students working on the mural and a limited amount of space in which they can work, only a few can come during each time set aside to work on it. Turk gets the process moving by priming the wall.

The art club students simply cannot soak up enough. The students and Turk enjoy telling Ho about a recent trip to The Mattress Factory art gallery in Pittsburgh, and Ho chats and teaches art lessons as they paint side-by-side. Turk adds to these lessons, too. The students are learning without even knowing it.

Ho said, “I feel that teaching this mural painting workshop is not just about teaching knowledge of mural, it is also about sharing values and attitudes, discovering what others think and experience. From my observation, students are more open in expressing themselves when the social barrier between teacher and students disappears during the collaborative painting process.”

Seventh-grader Naomi Kriner said, “I’m so glad I signed up for Art Club. I love art. If I could stay every day after school to work on the mural, I would.”

In the photos, courtesy of Pitt-Bradford, art teacher Janelle Turk shows sixth-grade student Jordan McKinney how to mix paint; Kong Ho works with Rodney Jones; sixth-grader Hannah Leposa works on the mural in the Fretz life skills room.

Jon & Kate Plus -- the Labor Dept.

Jon and Kate – plus their eight kids – are now the subjects of a state labor investigation.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor says it's looking into whether the hit reality show "Jon & Kate Plus 8" is complying with child labor laws.

The TLC series follows Jon and Kate Gosselin of Wernersville as they raise their 8-year-old twins and 5-year-old sextuplets.

The labor department is looking into a complaint against the show. TLC says it fully complies with state laws and regulations.

Several Area Businesses Could Lose Empire Zone Incentives

About 80 area businesses -- including Olean General Hospital Properties and several in Chautauqua County, could retroactively lose their existing Empire Zone incentives under a drastic plan forced into the state budget that is now being implemented by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), according to Senator Catharine Young (R,C,I – Olean)

"Instead of trying to revitalize the economy and grow our way out of the recession, the State is destroying our most successful economic development tool. We should be fighting for every job, especially now,” Senator Young said.

Senator Young joined her Republican colleagues in opposing the move, which strips businesses of Empire Zone tax breaks that they have previously qualified for under the State’s preeminent job-creation program, and warned at the time that its approval could result in the loss of thousands of jobs.

“Albany is telegraphing a message to potential investors that Upstate New York is now closed for business. We’ve kept and added thousands of new jobs in my Senate district through the Empire Zones program. Now is not the time to use our employers as pawns to fill budget holes,” said Senator Young.

Within the last week, ESDC has issued letters to the approximately 8,000 businesses which qualified for tax breaks and other benefits under the previous Empire Zone regulations. Approximately 80 of those businesses have received letters in Senator Young’s district stating that they have been terminated from the program or are at risk of being terminated.

Senator Young supported an amendment during budget deliberations that would have ensured the State put in place a number of initiatives to create jobs and protect Empire Zone benefits which companies had previously qualified for. The amendment was defeated in a party line vote, Senator Young explained.

"This is what happens when a budget is negotiated in secret by three men from New York City. Upstate suffers and taxes and spending skyrocket out of sight. It is an abomination," Senator Young said.

“We need to invest and build upon the success of the Empire Zone program which has generated billions of dollars in new investment and created thousands of new jobs for our region. I urge the Governor and lawmakers to do the right thing and rectify this problem before it is too late and businesses close up shop for good

Barn Fire Ruled Accidental

A fire that destroyed a barn on a farm in South Dayton early Tuesday morning has been ruled accidental.

The County Fire Investigation Team says the battery on a skid-steer machine overheated at around 2:30 a.m. and sparked the flames at the Perry Farm on Route 83.

The fire went through an open window and into the barn.

AG: Man Wanted to Have Sex with Boy While Dressed in Panda Suit

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett says a state legislative staffer wanted to engage in sex acts with a teenage boy while dressed in a panda costume.

Corbett says 40-year-old Alan David Berlin, of Carlisle, was charged Thursday with attempted sexual exploitation of children and related crimes.

Corbett says the boy's parents contacted the child predator unit after finding sexually graphic messages on his computer. He says agents found a wolf and cat-type costume in Berlin's home.

A spokesman for Senator Jane Orie says Berlin has been suspended. Berlin worked in the Senate for about 10 years – the last seven on Orie's staff.

For more on this story, go to the attorney general's Web site.

SUV Hits Top of Building

Five people were sent to the hospital after a speeding SUV launched from an embankment and hit the top of a building 25 feet in the air.

The accident happened at about 11:30 last night in Jamestown, but the last passenger wasn't removed from the vehicle until about 12:30 this morning.

The driver, 23-year-old Terrance Hubbard, suffered only minor injuries. He's been charged with reckless endangerment, speeding, other traffic violations and having a child younger than 16 in the vehicle without a seat belt.

Police haven't released the names of the passengers or their conditions yet.

PA Soldier Dies in Iraq

An Altoona-area soldier serving with the Army National Guard's 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team has been killed in Iraq.

20-year-old Spc. Chad Edmundson of Williamsburg died Wednesday of wounds he received when an improvised bomb detonated near his unit while they were on a walking patrol.

His death is the second in the 4,000-soldier 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team's deployment.

Soldiers from the Bradford Armory are part of the team.

Corbett Ask sfor Clarification on ANF Oil, Gas Operations

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett is asking for help from the US Secretary of Agriculture to clarify the US Forest Service policy regarding oil and gas operations in the Allegheny National Forest.

Corbett has written to Secretary Tom Vilsack because businesses as well as state federal lawmakers have contacted him concerning people who hold gas and mineral rights and are being impacted by the forest service policy.

A recent settlement between the Forest Service and several environmental groups stipulates that future notices to proceed issued to drillers by the forest service be held up pending completion of requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Corbett's letter says he hopes any delays in development as a result of the forest service policy can be resolved.

Classified Ad Wishes for
Assassination of President Obama

The name of a person who placed a classified ad wishing for the assassination of President Barack Obama has been turned over to federal authorities.

The ad that appeared in Thursday's Warren Times Observer said "May Obama follow in the footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley & Kennedy!"

Newspaper representatives say the employee who took the ad didn't make the connection that the other presidents had been assassinated.

When they realized the mistake, they discontinued the ad and gave the name of the person who placed the ad to Warren City Police, who forwarded the information to federal authorities.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

YMCA Holds Awards Breakfast

Pictured are Richard Castina, President and CEO George Leonhardt and Kerry Payne of Bradford Regional Medical Center, YMCA CEO Jake Steger, Don Fredeen and Dr. Jafar Hamidi. BRMC and Hamidi, received George G. Blaisdell Community Service Awards during Thursday's annual awards breakfast. Fredeen, who is also president of the Olean-Bradford Area YMCA, received the Volunteer of the Year Award.

WESB/WBRR News Director

Don Fredeen received the volunteer of the year award during the 16th Annual Bradford Family YMCA Community Awards Breakfast – and second annual meeting of the Olean-Bradford Area YMCA

Norman Moore, vice president of the Y said picking this year's recipient was easy.

"We're really saluting him today for the activities that he has performed and the stature with which he has handled a very difficult situation and that is, of course, the time we were conceiving the idea of a merger between the two Ys," Moore said.

Fredeen is the first president of the new association and, Moore said, "he led us for the last two years effectively to bring this organization along the path."

He added that it's "critical to consider not only what he's done, but what he's done essentially on his own strengths and merits as an individual. It's really been remarkable."

"As far as I'm concerned, he deserves probably more than just this award. He is the right leader in the right job at the right time," Moore said.

In accepting the award, Fredeen said it's "amazing how much of (the Y) is run by volunteers. So many people make it all come together. For me, it's a real a pleasure to be associated with such a vital, important and positive organization in the community."

"I've always considered volunteerism to be one of the best programs the Y has to offer," he added. "You may not think of it as a program, but it does afford so many opportunities for learning, personal growth, developing new friendships and, of course, service to the community."

"The people in this particular organization – there just aren't enough superlatives to describe the incredible talent and dedication they have," he said.

Also this morning, Dr. Jafar Hamidi and Bradford Regional Medical Center were presented with the 2009 George G. Blaisdell YMCA Community Service Awards.

Jennifer Lau of Bradford High, Jessica and Reba Higley of Otto-Eldred Junior Senior High School, Jordan Stehle of Port Allegany, Kayla Carr of Smethport and Tawnee Cunningham of Kane received the 2009 Ray C. Uhler YMCA Outstanding Youth Awards.

Tynan Shannon, a YMCA Strong Kid, made the introductions.

John Sheehan, Branch Executive Director, also honored the Bradford YMCA Barracuda Swim Team, which sent 24 swimmers to districts, 21 to states and broke 13 records.

"We make champions," he said.

Adam Barnes, one of the record-breaking champions, told the gathering he's not sure he would possess the moral and ethical values he has if he wasn't involved with the Y.

Because I Like Weather ...


Budget Battle Rages On

Kinzua Bridge, Elk, Bendigo, Ole Bull and Clear Creek state parks are among those on the list that the Rendell Administration says would have to close under the Senate Republican budget plan.

They all fall within the 25th Senate District but Joe Scarnati, who represents the district, says he doesn't believe any state parks will close.

The adminisration says the senate plan would close 35 state parks.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Scarnati says, adding that Rendell's budget could be interpreted as closing up to 30 state parks.

"So he put out a press release saying we're closing 35."

"I think this diminishes the ability to get a budget done. It raises very false expectations of what's going on," he says.

Two other parks – including Cook Forest – fall within the District of Senator Mary Jo White, who chairs the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, and has been critical of DCNR.

DCNR spokeswoman Christina Novak says the agency complied the list based on a number of criteria including yearly attendance, income generation and proximity to other parks.

In a letter sent to DCNR and DEP today, White says while senators are accused of imperiling public health by cutting funding for the West Nile Virus program – the Senate Republican budget and Rendell's budget allocate the same amount of money for the program.

The letter also says that while the administration is bemoaning a $1.4 million funding reduction for flood control projects, $90 million of the money allocated for last year hasn't even been spent.

You can read White's letter HERE PDF

City Gets Grant Money

The City of Bradford will be receiving nearly $1 million from the state to replace curbs and sidewalks that will eventually become the Community Parks Trail.

The $911,268 is from the Safe Routes to School Program.

The money will go toward replacing sidewalks and curbs on North Center Street from Barbour Street to School Street; on School Street from Interstate Parkway to Pearl Street; and on Pearl Street from School Street to West Washington Street.

Visitor Center Under Construction

Construction has started at the Pennsylvania Wilds Elk Country Visitor Center, a public-private partnership between the state and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

DCNR has a 30-year partnership agreement with the foundation for construction and operation of an 8,400-square-foot green building that will include interpretive exhibits, wildlife trails, viewing blinds and parking for cars and buses.

Pennsylvania's wild elk herd, the largest in the Northeast, attracts more than 75,000 visitors to the Pennsylvania Wilds each fall.

For more on this story, go HERE.

Scam Alert in Catt County

Cattaraugus County Sheriff Dennis John wants to alert the public about a scam in which people are receiving text messages about unusual activity on their credit and debit cards.

They're told to call a number, which is automated and asks for your credit card numbers.

John says you shouldn't call the number, but should call the credit card security department or your bank.

Bradford Bypass Update

Signal work will start at the intersection of Kendall Avenue and East Main Street next week as part of the Route 219 Bradford Bypass Project.

PennDOT says motorists should be alert for flaggers and be prepared for short travel delays.

The following week, Kendall Avenue northbound will be closed for reconstruction and will be restricted to one lane for southbound traffic only. Northbound traffic should follow the posted detour.

Corry Woman's Body Exhumed

The body of a 21-year-old Corry woman has been exhumed to see if authorities can determine what caused her death six weeks ago.

Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook says Carley Combs was found unresponsive in her apartment on April 14. She was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Cook originally did not order an autopsy, saying there was no evidence of foul play. But when toxicology tests came back negative, he had the body exhumed.

Cook says results of tissue samples sent to a lab for testing will take several weeks.

Renewed Effort to Toll I-80

HARRISBURG - House Republican Leader Sam Smith (R-Jefferson County) and Reps. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) and Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong) strongly criticized members of the House Democrat Policy Committee, who during a state Capitol hearing Tuesday urged Department of Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler and the Rendell administration to resubmit the twice rejected Interstate 80 tolling application to the Federal Highway Administration.

"Having the users and families of I-80 shoulder the transportation costs was wrong last year and is worse now as people are trying to make ends meet," Smith said. "It's easy to support more taxes if someone else is paying, but I don't hear these same folks talking about tolling I-95 in Southeast Pennsylvania."

Most importantly, Smith, Gabler and Oberlander are calling on local residents, commuters, business owners and others to continue voicing their opposition against the tolling of I-80 to policymakers at the federal level.

"Whether it's addressing Pennsylvania's crumbling infrastructure, funding universal health care, or finding additional revenue to pay for some other special interest driven project, the only answer from House Democrats is to tax, spend, borrow and redistribute the wealth of taxpayers who do not live in their districts, and therefore cannot vote them out of office," said Oberlander. "I find it very convenient that absolutely none of the leading House Democrat supporters for re-submitting the I-80 tolling application have any portion of I-80 running through their districts. The most important, short-term solution that could be implemented to 'Put Taxpayers First' in my legislative district, and, over the long haul, tear down the 'closed for business' signs up and down the I-80 corridor, is to repeal Act 44."

Tuesday's House Democrat Policy Committee hearing was chaired by Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), and co-chaired by Rep. Joseph Markosek (D-Westmoreland), who authored Act 44 of 2007, the legislation proposing the tolling. Both Sturla and Markosek also voted in favor of Act 44.

Specifically, Biehler, now the chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, indicated during Tuesday's hearing that his agencies are planning to meet with the Federal Highway Administration to review the deficiencies cited by the federal agency when it denied the application last year. The FHWA said the turnpike commission's application was denied because it did not meet requirements of a federal pilot program that would have made the tolling possible.

"The House Democrat Policy Committee has turned a deaf ear to the voices of citizens on the I-80 corridor. Imposing tolls on this major thoroughfare would be crippling to local residents," Gabler said. "We cannot afford to increase the cost of transportation in this area. Tolling will raise the price of the goods we buy and sell, which will simply cost us jobs and make it harder for local families to make ends meet."

Again, since the ultimate decision on whether I-80 should be tolled will be made at the federal level, Smith, Gabler and Oberlander are asking citizens to contact their federal representatives. Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, along with Congressman Glenn Thompson, can be reached through the following contact information:

· Sen. Arlen Specter, 711 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510. Phone: (202) 224-4254. Web site: His regional office in Pittsburgh can be reached by calling at (412) 644-3400.

· Sen. Bob Casey Jr., B-40 Dirksen Senate Building, Washington, D.C. 20510. Phone: (202) 224-6324. Web site: His regional office in Pittsburgh can be reached by calling (412) 803-7370.

· Rep. Glenn Thompson, 3555 Cannon HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515. Phone: (202) 225-5121. His local office is at 3555 Benner Pike, Suite 101, Bellefonte, PA 16823. Phone: (814) 353-0215.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SO Athletes Headed to Penn State

Twenty-two special athletes from McKean County have been selected to compete at the Pennsylvania Special Olympics Summer Games at Penn State University, June 4-6. The McKean athletes will join more than 2,000 Special Olympians from across the state for three days of competition.

Qualifying to compete in bowling are Stephanie Heffner and Gary Stewart.

Track and field athletes include Charlie Barr, Kim Daniels, Konner Kagarise, Justin Conner, Bailey Kinner, Matt Main and Mike Walter.

The swim team will consist of Susan Parkes, Ashley Peterson, Morgan Nelson, Andrew Wilson and Matt Scott.

Playing golf for McKean County will be Joe Sostakowski, George Burton and Jesse Crum.

Competing in softball individual skills will be Steve McQuone, Sharon Petitt and Lee Dunmire. Competing in basketball individual skills will be Robert Tubbs and Tina Whitford.

Selections for State Games are based on performance in training and in local and regional competitions prior to the state event. Over 370 special athletes are involved in the local program.

McKean County Special Olympics is a year-round program of sports training and competition for mentally and physically challenged athletes. In addition to the State Games sports, programs are offered in bocce and skiing.

Mellow Seeks Recovery of State Money Lost in Credit Crisis

State Senate Democratic Leader Bob Mellow is asking Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rob McCord for a full inquiry that includes possible legal action to recover more than $130 million in state funds lost as a result a securities lending arrangement gone awry.

Pennsylvania lost $133 million as a result of Mellon Bank N.A. exposing taxpayer funds to asset-backed securities issued by Sigma Financial. Sigma Financial—an investment company managed by a London-based manager—collapsed last September amid the credit crisis.

Mellow says the loss of these funds has had a deep and significant impact on key investment funds. Millions of dollars have been lost from the State Worker’s Insurance Fund (SWIF) that benefits businesses, the tuition account program for college students, as well as the Tobacco Settlement Fund that pays for numerous health care initiatives. As a result, he says, a significant imbalance between assets and liabilities now exists.

Gay Marriage Bill in PA Senate

Senator Daylin Leach of Montgomery County today announced plans to introduce a bill that would offer full and equal marriage rights to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania.

Under the new legislation, Pennsylvania would also recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.

Senator Leach noted that after the recent passing of same-sex marriage legislation in New Hampshire and Maine, and the rapidly expanding list of states considering the approval of same-sex marriage, it is time for Pennsylvania to act.

“In the past few weeks, several states have legalized same-sex marriage, and many will soon follow suit,” Senator Leach said. “There has never been a more propitious time for Pennsylvania to embrace equality and enshrine the civil right of all Pennsylvanians to marry.”

While the bill would not require religious institutions to perform any marriage ceremonies or recognize any marriages that they do not wish to sanction, Senator Leach said his legislation would dissolve all of the barriers to building families that gay and lesbian couples currently face, both at the state and federal level.

Senator Leach added that the state legislature cannot force a religious institution to perform a marriage ceremony.

“The alternative to legalizing same-sex marriage is retaining our current, archaic protocol which treats an entire group of citizens as second-class,” Leach said. “This protocol denies the reality of same-sex families, many of whom have children. It provides no vehicle by which society can encourage gay couples to do what it encourages straight couples to do: namely to form permanent, monogamous and committed life-long partnerships.”

Senator Leach’s bill is currently circulating in the state Senate for co-sponsorship. He says he anticipates a lively and contentious debate over his proposed measure.

Young Co-Sponsors Bill to Repeal New, 'Dangerous' Drug Laws

By Dan Toomey

ALBANY - Senator Catharine Young (R,C,I – Olean) today announced she is co-sponsoring a bill that would fix a dangerous problem created by changes to the state’s drug laws enacted as part of the 2009-10 state budget.

Under the budget measure, which takes effect on June 8th, courts may seal the criminal records of certain drug felons when they complete drug court, so there will be no record of their conviction when they apply for employment.

“Cocaine dealers or crackheads could end up teaching your child at school, caring for your toddler at daycare, or attending to you sick grandmother in the nursing home as a result of this shocking new law that hides the past of criminals,” said Sen. Young. “The bill I am sponsoring would repeal this outrageous law so families can know for sure who they are entrusting their loved ones to before tragedy occurs.”

Senator Young said her bill would repeal the new record-sealing provision enacted with the budget, that allows the courts to seal the current felony conviction and up to three prior misdemeanors in order to keep them from being disclosed during background checks for sensitive positions. If this law is left on the books, a criminal could have a total of four convictions hidden from potential employers.

“We have consistently enacted laws in the state requiring criminal background checks to protect the safety of the public by ensuring that people hired to work in certain jobs have no record of criminal convictions and are worthy of people’s trust,” said Sen. Young. “The new record sealing provision undermines these laws.”

“Also ignored was the near unanimous opposition of our State’s District Attorneys, who certainly know more about this issue and its potential negative effects then Albany politicians,” said Sen. Young. “In the end, the three New York City Democrat leaders have capped off a budget that is a fiscal disaster, with a reform agenda that coddles felons and expands the rights of criminals, while turning their backs on our law enforcement experts and ultimately on the law abiding citizens of this state that count on us to protect them.”

Harold Hall Arraigned

The Chautauqua County man accused of kidnapping his estranged wife and taking her to Ohio has been arraigned and is in jail on $200,000 cash bail.

57-year-old Harold Hall is accused of dragging Julie Hall from her vehicle in the Town of Busti on May 12, assaulting her with a hammer and taking her a relative's house in Ohio.

A preliminary hearing had been scheduled for last week, but District Attorney David Foley decided to present the case to a grand jury instead because he says he didn't want to put Julie Hall through the trauma of a hearing.

A pre-motion conference is scheduled for June 15.

2 Accidents Victims Taken to CCMH

An East Smethport man was injured over the weekend in a one-vehicle crash on Route 155 in Liberty Township near Port Allegany.

Police say a car driven by 29-year-old Josh Petruzzi left the road, went out of control, hit an embankment and flipped over.

Petruzzi was taken to Charles Cole Memorial Hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries.


A Galeton man is hospitalized following an accident Tuesday afternoon on Route 449 in Ulysses Township.

Police say a car driven by 40-year-old Ronald Brown was going too fast for conditions on the rain-soaked road, went out of control on a curve, left the road and hit a road sign before coming to rest in a wooded area on an embankment.

Police say Brown suffered major injuries and was taken to Charles Cole Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Kill Buck Man Sentenced

A Kill Buck, New York, man has been sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison for, among other crimes, chasing his girlfriend with a kitchen knife.

Between September 13 and 14, in Great Valley, Vernon Botsford caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to his girlfriend's house while her children were present.

He also caused damage to vehicles and chased his girlfriend with a kitchen knife.

Man Pleads Not Guilty

A Gowanda man accused of shooting at a vehicle, which was within 500 feet of a house, and shooting one of the people in the vehicle, has pleaded not guilty.

38-year-old Raphael Sanjurjo has been indicted on charges of assault, criminal use of a firearm and several related offenses.

The alleged incident happened on March 15, on Queen Street in Olean.

Judge Larry Himelein increased Sanjurjo's bail from $22,500 to $50,000 because he considers him a flight risk.

Fatal Crash in Charlotte

65-year-old Donald Lines of Jamestown is dead and his 69-year-old wife Georgianna is hospitalized at ECMC with head injuries after their SUV collided with a tractor-trailer in the Town of Charlotte.

Police say the SUV crossed the center line of Route 60. The driver of the tractor-trailer swerved to miss the SUV, which hit the rig's axle and trailer.

The 37-year-old truck driver, Roberto Vasquez of Laredo, Texas, was taken to Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk for treatment of neck and back injuries.

Drug Charges in Jamestown

Three Jamestown residents are in jail after police found what they're calling a substantial amount of cocaine in their home.

21-year-old Vanessa Figuerdo, 17-year-old Derrell Taylor and 24-year-old Rashid Jabbar were all charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Officers went to the home to determine if Figuerdo had violated the terms of her probation. Inside the living room, they found about 32 grams of cocaine. After that, they called for a K-9 unit. The dog found 35 grams of crack cocaine in the closet of an upstairs bedroom.

Homicide Charge Bound to Court

Criminal homicide and aggravated assault charges against a Tidioute man have been bound to Warren County Court.

25-year-old Brandyn Bynum is accused of punching Troy McFarland during a fight outside The Pub in Tidioute in the early morning hours of May 9. McFarland hit his head on the ground, fracturing his skull, and died at the scene.

Bynum's lawyer argued that his client was acting in self-defense.

During another hearing for Bynum, bail was set at $100,000. He had been held without bail since the incident.

Op-Ed: Making Ends Meet
With a $3 Billion Deficit

By State Rep. Marty Causer

When the state's current fiscal year comes to an end June 30, the Rendell administration anticipates a deficit of at least $3 billion. While Pennsylvania is in better fiscal shape than many states, this funding shortfall presents some serious challenges as lawmakers work toward adopting our 2009-10 state budget.

Many of you have cut back on your spending this year to make ends meet in this challenging economy, and you expect state government to do the same. After all, state government (unlike the federal government) cannot spend more than it takes in. If we don't cut spending to address the deficit, we have to raise taxes. I don't want to raise taxes, nor do I think that's the best way to recover from a recession.

Yet, the Rendell administration is continuing to push for a $29 billion budget for 2009-10 that actually INCREASES spending by more than $1 billion over what we will spend by the end of this year. Ironically, the governor's budget includes a lot of harsh funding cuts - some programs are even eliminated - but he's just redirecting that money to other programs he favors.

Recognizing that the governor's plan cannot be implemented without a large tax increase - even though we are receiving billions from the federal stimulus package - the state Senate passed its own budget on May 6 by a 30-20 vote. The Senate's plan includes a lot of the same cuts the governor made plus additional cuts to account for the growing economic decline, bringing total spending down to a more manageable $27.3 billion.

I commend the Senate for taking this important step toward adopting a more responsible budget. At the same time, I recognize there are concerns with the plan, especially in the areas of education and health care. It is important to remember that a lot of negotiation will take place before the budget is adopted. While this is undoubtedly not the final plan, we must also remember that no amount of negotiation will erase the huge deficit we face.

When it comes to education funding, we are fortunate that a significant portion of federal stimulus dollars are being directed toward our schools. But we need to be mindful of the impact on our budget when those stimulus funds run out. Under the Senate proposal, education funding would still be increased, but at a more conservative level to protect against a huge state budget deficit in the future that undoubtedly would end up being filled by a tax increase. Also keep in mind that the current state budget dedicates about 42 percent of its funding to basic and higher education - that equates to more than $11 billion.

The key to this year's budget is to spend what we have in a fair and equitable way. The governor's proposal simply fails to do that. Take Community Education Councils, for example. The governor seeks to eliminate their funding but would boost money for Community Colleges. Both serve the same function, but the northern tier has no Community Colleges. The governor's funding choices discriminate against our region.

Similarly, his proposed changes in funding for health care hit rural areas like ours the hardest. He wants to lower the already-low reimbursement rates from Medicaid and Medical Assistance, and proposes to eliminate other vital sources of funding, such as aid for critical access hospitals. Rural hospitals like ours are already struggling to meet the needs of our communities - and with more people losing health benefits, we need to ensure care remains available and accessible to all.

The bottom line of this budget is that we have to live within our means. It's time to go back to basics and support those programs and services that are essential to the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians. Funding anything beyond that will most likely result in a substantial tax increase. I, for one, will not balance the state budget on the backs of people already struggling to make ends meet.

To hear Causer's comments on the budget, tune in to today's LiveLine at 12:30 p.m. on 1490 WESB.

Happy Birthday to ...


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Council Approves HARB Changes

WESB/WBRR News Director

In a brief meeting Tuesday night, Bradford City Council approved a two-for-one appointment to the Historic Architectural Review Board.

George Corignani and Mark Grassi will serve on an as needed basis to fill the seat previously held by Fire Chief Boo Coder.

Corignani is the residential building inspector for the city. Grassi is the commercial building inspector.

"These guys are the ones who know all the laws," Coder said. "When they (HARB) need some direction, it would be good to have these guys to be on the board."

"HARB feels it only makes sense to have the people who are approving the building permit applications be on the board, and they want to have that communication with them," said Deputy City Clerk Teri Cannon.

"Having the inspectors on the board is going to help HARB understand the building permit process a little bit more," she added.

City Clerk John Peterson added that when HARB was created, the fire chief carried the title of building inspector. That's no longer the case, but the ordinance that created the board does require that a building inspector sit on the board.

Also Tuesday, council voted to exonerate the city treasurer from collecting $1,288 in city property taxes from The Friendship Table.

Councilman Bob Onuffer, who's in charge of accounts and finances for the city, said this should have been done in the past. But still, he hopes exonerating this organization doesn't set a precedent.

He said The Friendship Table performs "an extremely important function in our city … I do want to see them be able to have the money to do this."

Mayor Tom Riel added that the organization provides "a lot of good to this community."

"If anybody deserves to be tax-exempt for what they provide to this community, they do," Riel said.

Riel, Onuffer and Councilman Rick Benton voted "yes." Councilman Ross Neidich voted no. Councilman Bob Tingley was absent from the meeting.

In other matters, council awarded a $52,697 contract to IA Construction to pave East Main Street from High Street to East Avenue.

Public Works Director Gary Alcock said the project would probably get underway toward the end of summer.

Council also approved on second reading the "Intermunicipal Sewer Service Agreement" between the city, Foster, Bradford and Lafayette townships, Lewis Run and their sewer authorities.

The longest discussion of the meeting centered on leases at OECD's multi-tenant centers and when the agreements should come before council for approval.

Council eventually decided on the wording the "lease agreement will automatically renew annually unless notified in writing 30 days prior to the expiration date by either party that they do not wish to renew the agreement. Any modifications will constitute a new agreement."

If there are modifications, the lease would need council approval.

Illegal Immigrants Picked Up

Four illegal immigrants are headed back to Mexico after a vehicle one of them was driving almost hit an unmarked state police car.

28-year-old Mario Ortiz Lopez was driving on Route 957 in Warren County Saturday morning when his vehicle crossed the centerline and nearly hit the police car head-on.

Police stopped the vehicle and learned that Lopez and his three passengers were illegal immigrants. They were turned over to US Border Patrol and will be sent back to Mexico.

Ground Broken for Energy Plant

Ground has been broken on the new methane-to-energy plant at the Chautauqua County landfill in Ellery.

County Executive Greg Edwards say the methane will be taken from the landfill and piped into a production facility where the harmful gases are removed. The remaining substance is converted into electricity.

The $12 million project got more than $2 million in federal funding.

Cops: Man Shot Into Camp

A Beaver County man is accused of shooting a gun into a camp in Forest County.

Police didn't identify the 32-year-old man, but say he was camping on an island on the Allegheny River when he fired the gun at around 9:15 Sunday night.

The bullet passed through a wooden door about 3 feet above the head of one of the people in the camp.

The family inside the camp is a 45-year-old man and 43-year-old woman from Prospect, and their three teen-age children. Police didn't give their names.

Dozer Damaged in Hamlin Twp.

Someone damaged a Caterpillar D4 Dozer that was parked on a dirt Road off Kushequa Avenue in Hamlin Township over the weekend.

Kightlinger Excavation of Lewis Run owns the dozer.

Damage is estimated at $3,000.

Barn Fire in Chautauqua County

A Chautauqua County barn was destroyed by fire this morning.

Sheriff's deputies say they were patrolling n the Route 83 area and saw the fire at the dairy farm owned by brothers Dale and Graig Perry.

The barn was fully engulfed in flames when deputies discovered it. They called the Cherry Creek Fire Department. Several other fire departments assisted.

Chautauqua County Fire Investigation Team is continuing its investigation.

Scenes from Memorial Day

The Bradford Area High School Marching Owls Band

10-month-old Dawson Thomas Skaggs rides in a remote control car.

Ron Peters, Commander of VFW Post 212, gives the Memorial Day address as Master Sergeant Kristopher Goll looks on.
Scott Douglas and I broadcast live from the parade and the Veterans Square ceremonies.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Olean Troops Return Home

10 Olean-area soldiers returned from Iraq over the weekend.

The National Guard troops met their families at the Olean Armory late Saturday afternoon.

The returning troops are Kenneth Gordon, Shawn Martin, Angela Granger, Jennifer Quintanna, David Pitts, Shawn See, Joseph Racjack, Christopher Slater, Richard Annarude and William Twoguns.

Three Hurt in Warren County

Three people suffered injuries in an accident Sunday on Miller Hill Road in Warren County.

A car driven by 37-year-old Kristie Wallace of Warren went out of control, hit an embankment, went airborne and rolled over.

Wallace and the front seat passenger, Jason Thomas of Warren, were flown by medical helicopter to Hamot Medical Center in Erie, where they are in stable condition.

Passenger Donald Smith of Warren was treated at Warren General Hospital then released.

Police say charges are pending the completion of their investigation.

Crash in Little Valley

Several people had to be sent to area hospitals after a four-vehicle crash Saturday in Little Valley.

A car driven by 25-year-old Haley Jimerson hit a pickup truck driven by Derek Gassman that was stopped at a red light. Gassman's truck hit two other vehicles after the impact.

Two young children in Jimerson's car were flown to Women and Children's Hospital in Buffalo for treatment of head injuries. A child in Gassman's truck was taken to Bertrand Chaffee Hospital in Springville with head and neck injuries. Gassman and another passenger were treated for neck and back injuries. Karen Farnham, who was operating the third vehicle, was treated for neck pain.

Police are trying to determine whether Jimerson was using her cell phone at the time of the crash.

Three Men Facing Charges

Three people are facing charges after allegedly getting into a fight at the Rixford Well then attempting to run from police.

28-year-old David Holden and 30-year-old Thomas Covert, both of Bradford, and 29-year-old Marc Gross of Eldred, are accused of getting into an argument with 44-year-old Daniel Finlan of Rixford.

As Holden, Covert and Gross were leaving the bar, Foster Township Police attempted to stop them on Looker Mountain Trail. But Holden didn't stop and attempted to elude police by driving on a dirt road without his vehicle's lights on. The gate to the road was closed, so he attempted to run away from police, who eventually caught up with him.

Salamanca Man Drowns

A Salamanca man drowned in the Onoville Marina Sunday morning.

47-year-old Scott Reinhardt was going fishing in a small boat at around 6:30 a.m. At 9:30 a.m., someone spotted Reinhardt's unoccupied boat floating against the shoreline across the bay from the boating docks.

Members of the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Dive Team found Reinhardt's body at about 3:30 in the afternoon in about 26 feet of water. He was not wearing a life jacket.

Deputies say the investigation is continuing but they don't suspect foul play.