Thursday, January 25, 2007

Local News-Thursday, Jan. 25th

A routine traffic stop last night turned into a three-hour search for suspected illegal immigrants. An officer from Kline Township stopped a van on Route 309 in Rush Township for a traffic violation. While taking the female operator’s information, a dozen men and women ran into the woods, heading south towards Barnesville. The officer was able to stop one of the passengers. Both of them were taken for questioning. The others are suspected of being in the US illegally because of comments made by the driver. A collective search by several police departments, state police and other personnel continued the search for several hours before being called off around 9:15pm. Kline Township is accepting any information on the whereabouts of these people, call them at 929-2354.

Peter “PJ” Symons announced his intention to seek re-election as Prothonotary for Schuylkill County. However, he will not be running as a Republican. He is switching parties, and will run as a Democrat. Symons contends that some members of the county Republican party are out of touch with voters, and his disagreements with them led to his decision to switch parties. Among the accomplishments cited by Symons during his twelve years in office are significant technological advances, including microfilming of documents and optical scanning of information for view on the county’s website.

There will be a meeting Friday, and all the parties involved will be there. The ongoing saga of the Schuylkill County MH/MR preliminary audit will hopefully come one step closer to resolution after a meeting in Wilkes Barre on Friday. At issue are possible overpayments made by the county to ReDCo, a service provider, for MH/MR services from 2000 through 2003. The accounting firm of Parente Randolph has been conducting the audit for several years, in consultation with the state’s Bureau of Financial Operations. County Administrator Bill Reppy said that representatives from Parente Randolph, ReDCo, the state Bureau of Financial Operations and the county will attend, and it is hoped that the issues in the audit report will be worked out and a final report issued by month end. ReDCo issued a statement to the media last evening regarding the audit. Virginia Schenk, Chief Operating Officer said that responsibility for the apparent lack of progress in completing the Mental Health/Mental Retardation audit by Parente Randolph belonged to the auditing firm. The company refutes charges that they “stonewalled” during the review, and stresses that they cooperated in every reasonable way with the Parente Randolph auditing team. Schenk went on to say that they received a fax from the county on January 2nd, but contained no specific accounting documentation. ReDCo said they were instructed to respond by January 19th. Finally, the company said they were prepared to respond by January 11th, but a meeting date with Parente was not set until the 25th. The county was reportedly made aware of that date. It was previously reported that county was unaware of the meeting. The audit will cost $48-thousand-500 dollars to complete.

The proposed prison release center was again a topic of discussion during Wednesdays Schuylkill County Prison Board meeting. Prison Board Chairman, Judge William Baldwin said if a commitment isn’t soon made by the county on the facility, he will have to withdraw a promise of $150-Thousand Dollars a year for the project to hire more staff beginning next year. He said the money comes from the Adult supervision fund and must be used for adult supervision. He said there is no room inside the prison to do the rehabilitation and more staff would be required to do the job outside the prison. Judge Baldwin said the electronic monitoring program has saved 11,334 inmate incarcerations in 2006 alone but his staff is tied up with that program and more people would be required to do the outside rehabilitation work that could be done in the prison release center. The proposed center would allow about 100 inmates to be transferred there and help reduce the prison population. The County has consultants looking at the county’s needs and Commissioners Robert Carl and Frank Staudamier favor waiting for the study to be completed before making a decision.

The investigation into a fire-truck crash during a parade for the Pottsville football team on December 16th is complete. State police at Frackville say that David Womer, the driver of the Mount Carbon Fire Company vehicle, is charged with driving too closely during the parade for the Crimson Tide following the state championship game. The truck collided with the rig from the East End Fire Company of Palo Alto. Both vehicles sustained significant damage in the crash. Those vehicles are in the process of being repaired.

Pottsville police report that a woman was found dead in her car in the city last night. According to the Pottsville Republican, the unidentified elderly woman was found in front of her home on Arch Street around 6:30pm. Police have not released information about her identity until her next of kin are notified. Apparently, she died of natural causes, but an investigation is ongoing.

A Pine Grove man was injured in a crash in Pine Grove Township Wednesday morning. 50-year-old Ralph Graham was southbound on State Route 645 around 6:30am when he lost control on ice while negotiating a right curve. His truck went off the road and struck a tree. After impact, the truck continued on and rolled over, coming to rest right-side up. Graham complained of back pain. His truck was severely damaged and had to be towed from the scene.

Two Pottsville linemen will represent Pennsylvania in the Big 33 Football Classic in June. The Pottsville Republican reports that Brad Hallick will join Gary Bardzak on the state squad at the all-star game in Hershey. The classic contest pits the best players from Pennsylvania against all stars from Ohio.


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