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Friday, March 21, 2014

Man Who Tampered with Wells Gets ARD

A graduate student from Arizona who vandalized three gas and oil wells in the Allegheny National Forest in August has been accepted into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program.

21-year-old Jeffrey Branham of Prescott had been working to clear a trail with others from the Student Conservation Association when he broke off pressure gauges at wells owned by Howard Drilling, just west of Route 321 in Hamilton Township.

About one barrel of oil – or 42 gallons – spewed into the ground and onto nearby trees.

If Branham successfully completes the ARD program the charge of risking a catastrophe will be cleared from his record.

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AG's Office Takes Over Case of Probation Officer
Accused of Sexually Abusing Three Women

The state attorney general’s office has taken over the case of the Warren County probation officer accused of making sexual advances toward at least three women he was supervising.

37-year-old Jeffrey Collins of Sheffield is accused of exposing his genitals and engaging in sexual activity in front of one of the women while she was in his office. He also allegedly asked them to take photos or videos of themselves having sex in exchange for favorable consideration involving their probation.

Collins is charged with six counts of harassment, three counts of official oppression, two counts of indecent assault without consent, two counts of indecent assault with forcible compulsion, one count of indecent exposure and one count of open lewdness. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 30, 2014 at 1 p.m.

Attorney general Kathleen Kane says, "Probation officers have a duty to protect and serve our local communities and there is no excuse for this type of conduct."

Collins is suspended without pay.

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947

World Down Syndrome Day 2014
A Father's Tribute to his Son

Thanks to the Taylor Family for sharing their lives with everyone in attempt to raise awareness about Down Syndrome.

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Port Allegany Man Jailed for
Sexually Abusing 5-Year-Old Boy

A 44-year-old Port Allegany man, who is already a convicted sex offender, is accused of sexually abusing a 5-year-old boy.

Police say Charles Kontz was left alone with the child on the afternoon of January 31 when the sexual assault happened. The boy’s grandmother told police she has seen significant changes in the little boy since the incident, including his fear of men and wetting the bed, according to papers filed in District Judge Bill Todd’s office. According to court papers Kontz was alone with the child for 10 to 15 minutes.

Kontz is charged with indecent assault, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor.

Kontz is in McKean County Jail on $25,000 bail.

He was convicted in 2003 for indecent assault of a child.

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Roulette Man Charged with Indecent Assault

A Roulette man is accused of indecent assault against a child younger than 13.

25-year-old Paul Bethlehem is also charged with corruption of minors and harassment in connection to the alleged incident that happened on the afternoon of March 13 at a home in Roulette Township.

Bethlehem is jailed on $10,000 bail.

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947

Sex Offender Charged with Welfare Fraud

A man who pleaded guilty earlier this week to not registering with the New York State Sex Offender Registry is now also charged with welfare fraud.

42-year-old Darryl Myers of Olean is accused of not report his income from scrapping to the Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services.

Sheriff’s deputies say he received $795 in cash assistance and SNAP benefits he wasn’t entitled to between October of last year and earlier this month.

As for the sex offense, Myers sexually abused a 14-year-old girl back in 2001. He is scheduled for sentencing on May 27 for not registering with the state.

Probation Officer Facing Third Set of Charges

A third woman is claiming that an adult probation officer had inappropriate contact with her.

She is a 23-year-old Pittsfield resident and says the incidents happened in October.

37-year-old Jeffrey Collins of Sheffield was already charged with indecent assault, harassment and official oppression for alleged incident involving a 35-year-old Clarendon woman and a 50-year-old Warren woman.

Collins has been suspended without pay from the Warren County Probation Department pending the outcome of the court cases. His preliminary hearings are scheduled for April 30.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Senate Approves Community College Plan

The State Senate today by a vote of 42 to 4, approved legislation introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) to create a Rural Regional Community College in Pennsylvania.

Senator Scarnati, who introduced Senate Bill 1000 in June of last year, explained that the legislation is a bi-partisan measure which is based largely on recommendations by a Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) study completed in December 2011.

“I am very pleased to represent the 25th Senatorial District which includes eight rural counties in north western Pennsylvania,” Scarnati said. “The needs of residents in rural Pennsylvania are vastly different from suburban or urban districts, especially when it comes to post-secondary educational opportunities. Senate Bill 1000 will help set the foundation for establishing rural public community college opportunities in Pennsylvania, to help meet the educational needs of students in rural areas.”

The LBFC study which helped provide a framework for SB 1000, concluded that there is a significant need for public community college programs in rural Pennsylvania. According to the report, 25 of the 26 rural counties in Pennsylvania had no community college programs and by 2018 most jobs will require post-secondary education training.

“Providing rural communities with access to affordable higher education is critical to providing new career opportunities for students and improving the economy,” Scarnati said. “We want to help provide cost effective educational opportunities to students so that they have the necessary skills to meet the demand for new jobs.”

According to Scarnati, the Secretary of Education will designate a region for the college and also appoint a Board of Trustees to oversee the institution. The Board will be tasked with instituting a college curriculum that facilitates programs that address the future workforce needs of the region including technology training programs.

“Senate Bill 1000 received an in depth review by the Senate Education Committee at the October hearing,” Scarnati stated. “Thanks to input by education, business and community leaders we were able to ensure that the legislation will provide a solid foundation for rural regional community colleges. This initiative will help rural students and families and I’m grateful that it has received widespread bi-partisan support.”

Senate Bill 1000 will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Boot Jack Hill Crash Update

Three people were hurt in a crash that closed Route 219 between Mountain Laurel and Rocky Top roads south of Ridgway today.

Police say at just after 11 a.m. a car driven by 24-year-old Robyn Scharf of Kersey crossed the center line and into the path of a Freightliner that was carrying a load of coal. The truck went out of control, rolled onto its side and spilled the coal. The top portion of the truck’s dump bed hit a car driven by 55-year-old Christine Moore of Ridgway.

62-year-old Richard Bussard of Reynoldsville was driving the truck. He and the women were taken to Elk Regional Health Center for treatment of moderate injuries.

The road re-opened at about 1:45 p.m.

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Woman Allegedly Crashes in Parking Lot,
Threatens Nurses, Cop While Drunk

Staff at Bradford Regional Medical Center, along with a city police officer, were threatened last night by a woman whose blood alcohol content was nearly 4 times the legal limit.

Police say they went to the Tops parking lot at about 11:45 last night to assist city ambulance personnel and soon determined that Tanya Cornelius of Concord, North Carolina, who will turn 40 on Monday, had been involved in an accident in the Best Western parking lot, where she allegedly hit a parked tractor trailer hauling a car carrier. They say they followed the damage trail to her car in the Tops lot.

Police also determined Cornelius was drunk and, when she was in the lab at BRMC for testing, she told police to kill her and attempted to slam her head through a large glass window. She was later taken to the emergency room, where she attempted to kick the nursing supervisor in the head, and made the threats, according to papers filed in District Judge Dominic Cercone’s office.

Cornelius is in McKean County Jail on $20,000 bail.

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Committee Examines Deer Management

HARRISBURG – The House Game and Fisheries Committee, chaired by Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint), heard testimony Wednesday about deer management and a half dozen pieces of legislation related to deer management and hunting policies in the Commonwealth.

“As legislators, we hear from our hunters quite often about how they aren’t seeing many – or any deer – in areas they have hunted for generations,” Causer said. “They are understandably frustrated, and have been for a very long time. They deserve answers and solutions.

“We held this hearing today to gather information about a half dozen proposals that have been put forth by lawmakers to address some of the concerns raised by our sportsman community,” he added.

The hearing featured testimony from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.

A recurring issue raised by members during questioning of Calvin DuBrock, director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management, was the soundness of the science used to manage the state’s deer population. Members questioned whether sufficient studies have been done on issues such as predation and forest regeneration to back up policies and decisions made by the commission.

Another significant concern is a lack of harvest reporting, both by individual hunters and by property owners in Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) areas. Without accurate reporting, there is little faith in the accuracy of the commission’s harvest reports and population estimates.

“The commission says its data shows a well-balanced deer population and good harvest numbers,” Causer said. “Our hunters who are actually out there in the woods during hunting season are telling us they aren’t seeing many deer. I’ve experienced that myself. So it’s no wonder people are calling the commission’s numbers into question.”

Members also expressed skepticism about the commission’s surveys of the general population about deer numbers, rather than focusing on hunters, citing a statistic that 66 percent of residents were satisfied “with opportunities to view or watch deer in Pennsylvania.”

In addition to general testimony about deer management, testifiers were also asked to offer their thoughts on six bills currently before the committee that address deer management and deer hunting policies. Those bills include:

House Bill 1870 (Rep. Deberah Kula, D-Fayette/Westmoreland): Excludes public land from the DMAP program.
House Bill 1146 (Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny): Removes antler restrictions for senior hunters.
House Bill 1370 (Rep. Deberah Kula, D-Fayette/Westmoreland): Establishes a separate three-day antlerless deer season following the regular rifle antlered deer season.
House Bill 1724 (Rep. David Maloney, R-Berks): Designates wildlife management units and issuance of antlerless deer permits on a county basis.
House Bill 1726 (Rep. David Maloney, R-Berks): Directs the Pennsylvania Game Commission to use the maximum sustained yield method of game and habitat management.
House Resolution 576 (Rep. Greg Lucas, R-Crawford/Erie): Urges the Pennsylvania Game Commission to study the possibility of starting the rifle deer season on a Saturday.

In touching on each of the bills, DuBrock seemed to indicate each measure was unlikely to achieve the results intended by the members who introduced measures. He did not offer a position on the resolution.

In his testimony before the committee, Randy Santucci of the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania indicated support for the initiatives, with the exception of the resolution because he believes a Saturday start would be damaging to the state’s deer hunting heritage.

Melody Schell testified on behalf of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, indicating their opposition to all of the bills “because we do not support wildlife management via legislation.”

Approximately 50 people attended the hearing, as well as 20 lawmakers.

“The attendance at today’s hearing shows just how passionate our sportsman community and the legislators who represent them are about this issue,” Causer said. “As a committee, we will be reviewing the testimony offered today and taking a closer look at existing proposals as well as any others that may help restore and protect our Commonwealth’s hunting heritage.”

Video of the hearing, as well as copies of the testimony, are posted at

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Hannah Penn Portrait Unveiled

Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett, along with First Lady Susan Corbett today unveiled a portrait of Hannah Callowhill Penn that will be placed in the Governor’s Office. This is the first time a portrait of a woman will be displayed among the portraits of Pennsylvania’s founders and former governors.

Hannah Callowhill Penn was William Penn’s second wife. She played an instrumental role in the development of Pennsylvania. Raised to believe that men and women were created equal, Penn governed the Pennsylvania colony for six years after her husband was incapacitated by a stroke in 1712. After William Penn died, she governed for another eight years in her own name.

Since the fall of 2012, First Lady Susan Corbett has led a team to examine Hannah Penn’s legacy. The team includes The State Museum of Pennsylvania, The Capitol Preservation Committee, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Pennsbury Manor, the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

“In researching Hannah Penn’s legacy, it was quickly determined that she deserved her rightful place in the Governor’s Office with all the men who came before and after her,” said First Lady Susan Corbett. “I am proud to see this day become a reality for Hannah Penn and all of the women of Pennsylvania who can learn and be inspired by her hard work, perseverance and dedication.”

Photo provided by PA Internet News Service

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947

Study: Merger Could Save Millions

A study released today says a merger of the state Game Commission with the Fish and Boat Commission could save Pennsylvania nearly $5 million a year.

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report says the two agencies could cut about 52 jobs. The study does say, however, that a change would mean additional costs in the short term such as the need for new uniforms, vehicle identification and a logo.

Pennsylvania is the only state that divides management of fish and wildlife resources into two agencies.

State Rep. Marty Causer called for the study on a possible merger.

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Crash Closes Boot Jack Hill

UPDATE: The road re-opened at about 1:45 p.m.

Route 219 south of Ridgway had to be closed late this morning because of a crash on Boot Jack Hill that spilled about 20 tons of coal onto the road.

Four people were hurt in the crash between a tri-axle and two passenger vehicles that happened at about 11 a.m. The extent of their injuries hasn’t been released yet.

We’ll have more information as it becomes available.

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lawmakers to Game Commission :
Make Changes or Resign

Governor Tom Corbett and several high-ranking state lawmakers -- including Senator Joe Scarnati and Representative Marty Causer -- are demanding that members of the Pennsylvania Game Commission make changes or resign.

They sent a letter today to commission president Bob Schlemmer saying the agency should rescind an agreement to pay former executive director Carl Roe $220,000, and that William Capouillez should not be named as Roe’s successor.

Capouillez has drawn scrutiny for work negotiating oil and gas leases for private landowners with companies he dealt with as a Game Commission employee.

In a joint statement, Scarnati and Causer said, "The Game Commission Board of Commissioners has promptly responded to our letter and agreed to implement our recommendations. The public’s trust must be restored and we are ready and willing to work with the Board of Commissioners to ensure the best interests of our sportsmen and sportswomen are served."

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Three Burglars Appear in Court

Three people appeared in Cattaraugus County on burglary charges.

20-year-old Wayne Wright of Randolph will spend a year in jail for breaking into a Town of Randolph building between June 3 and 9 of 2012.

29-year-old Tarik Ramadhan of West Valley will spend 5 years on probation for breaking into a Town of Yorkshire building on May 1 of last year.

34-year-old Sandra Sherlock of Olean pleaded guilty to breaking into a Town of Allegany building and stealing property on October 17. She is scheduled for sentencing on May 27.

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Sex Offender Admits to Not Registering

An Olean man has pleaded guilty to failure to register with the New York State Sex Offender Registry.

Darryl Myers did not register between July 16 and August 1 of last year. He is scheduled for sentencing on May 27.

In 2001, Myers sexually abused a 14-year-old girl.

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947

Man Headed to Prison After Neighbor Dispute

Shrapnel from a gunshot hit and injured a man during a neighbor dispute last October in Steamburg, and now the man who fired the gun will spend one to three years in state prison.

36-year-old James Newell was sentenced Monday in Cattaraugus County Court on charges of attempted reckless endangerment. On October 28 he and his 53-year-old neighbor were arguing on Route 394 when he fired a round from his rifle into concrete, causing shrapnel to hit the neighbor.

The neighbor was flown to ECMC in Buffalo, where he was treated and released.

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Casey Urges US Army Corps of Engineers to
Find Solution to Asian Carp Problem

Senator Bob Casey and a bipartisan group of 10 other senators are urging the US Army Corps of Engineers to aggressively work toward implementing short term measures, and finding a long term solution to stop the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

Casey says fighting the invasive fish is important to the economy of Northwestern Pennsylvania, and getting this right will protect the region’s tourism industry and play a substantial role in future economic growth.

He says Lake Erie’s coastal region supports more than 1.2 million Pennsylvania jobs and is an integral part of Pennsylvania’s economy.

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Several in Court on Drug Charges

Several people appeared in Cattaraugus County Court on drug charges.

Curtis Ford of Olean was sentenced to three years in prison for selling hydrocodone on March 28 and April 6 of last year in Olean. Michael Osby of Allegany was sentenced to a year in prison for selling crack cocaine in Olean on September 14. Demario Watkins of Buffalo was sentenced to a year in prison for selling a narcotic drug on November 10, 2011, in Salamanca.

Giovanni Salmonson of Olean pleaded guilty to possession with intent to sell a narcotic drug on November 20 in Olean. He is scheduled for sentencing on June 9.

April Kuhn of Salamanca, along with David Dickinson and Robert Harris, both of Buffalo, all pleaded not guilty to possession with intent to sell narcotics on September 6 in Salamanca. Their cases have been adjourned for motions.

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947

Man Pleads Not Guilty to Attempted Murder

A man charged with attempted murder for throwing gasoline in the faces of two people in an attempt to set them on fire has pleaded not guilty.

41-year-old Chris Sherlock of Olean allegedly threw the gasoline at the people in the early morning hours of September 5. He was in violation of an order of protection during the alleged incident.

Sherlock is charged with two counts each of attempted murder attempted assault as well as reckless endangerment, criminal contempt, stalking and menacing.

The case has been adjourned for motions.

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Fighting the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the United States Forest Service (US Forest Service) are organizing a workshop aimed at training volunteers to identify and report new hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) infestations in northwestern Pennsylvania and southwestern New York.

The workshop will be held on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford, Fisher Hall Room 107. The training will take place at 300 Campus Drive, Bradford, Pennsylvania. The workshop will feature presentations by Dale Luthringer of DCNR about eastern hemlock values and threats, by Rick Turcotte of US Forest Service on the adelgid’s biology and the threat it poses to local hemlock forests, and by Sarah Johnson of The Nature Conservancy on the High Allegheny Plateau Conservation Strategy. Participants will gain experience in detection, monitoring, and reporting protocols for hemlock woolly adelgid. Participants will also have the opportunity to volunteer in the “Adopt-a-Hemlock” program to conduct surveys and report new infestations in local hemlock forests.

This newly arrived invasive insect threatens eastern hemlock trees and the biodiversity they support in the Allegheny National Forest, and in Pennsylvania and New York State Forests, Parks, and Game Lands.

This destructive pest, introduced from Asia, was detected in Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks in the spring of 2013, and in locations on the Allegheny National Forest, including the Clarion River, Allegheny River, Webb’s Ferry, and the Tionesta Research Natural Area. Tionesta Research Natural and Scenic Areas represent one of the only remaining patches of the original six million acre forest that once covered the Allegheny Plateau. Together, they comprise over 4,000 acres of remnant, original forest and are considered the largest contiguous old growth area between the Adirondacks and the Great Smokey Mountains. HWA has been in the northeastern United States since the 1950s and was found in southeastern Pennsylvania in the 1960s. It has recently spread to northwestern Pennsylvania.

Early detection of new sites is a high priority, and organizing volunteer surveys as a critical first step in managing this destructive invasive species in northwestern Pennsylvania and on the Allegheny Plateau. Most of northwestern Pennsylvania remains the only part of the state that does not have known hemlock woolly adelgid infestations.

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Arrest Made in Vineyard Case from 2010

An investigation into criminal mischief at a winery that started nearly four years ago has ended in the arrest of a Dundee, New York, man.

Back on June 4, 2010, employees at Bully Hill Vineyards discovered extensive damage to property and called police. Now, 22-year-old Aaron Richardson is charged with felony criminal mischief and will answer the charge March 24 in Town of Urbana Court.

If you don’t know why we’re doing a story about Bully Hill Vineyards, you need to be introduced to “Sweet Walter.”

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947

Monday, March 17, 2014

Probation Officer Facing More Charges

A Warren County probation officer already facing charges for allegedly groping a woman he supervised faces more charges for allegedly harassing another woman.

State police charged 37-year-old Jeffrey Collins of Sheffield with two counts each of indecent assault and harassment along with official oppression for sending "lewd text messages" to and grabbing the "breasts and buttocks area" of a 50-year-old woman on probation he oversaw through the Warren County Adult Probation office between Dec. 18 and March 6.

Collins was already suspended without pay for a similar situation police say happened between Feb. 10 and March 2.

Police say they uncovered the newest occurrence of apparent harassment while investigating the other incident.

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947