Saturday, February 24, 2007

Local News - Saturday Feb. 24, 2007

Shields to Plead

Documents were filed in Schuylkill County Court on Friday indicating longtime high school sports coach Daniel M. Shields Jr. will admit to several crimes against female athletes only a week before jury selection was to begin. According to the Pottsville Republican and Herald, Shields will plead guilty to five counts each of corruption of minors and invasion of privacy, four of sexual abuse of children and one of indecent assault, according to the documents submitted by prosecutors. The charges resulted from what prosecutors said was his videotaping of the girls' locker room at Nativity BVM High School and an assault of one girl. The possible maximum combined prison term on all charges is 66 years. Prosecutors will drop a charge of aggravated indecent assault - which had the potential to carry the longest sentence - when Shields is sentenced, according to the submitted documents. Shields is scheduled to enter his pleas at 9:30 a.m. Thursday before Judge D. Michael Stine. Jury selection for the high-profile trial had been scheduled for March 2. The trial was to start March 5. Shields will not be sentenced immediately; instead, Stine will order the county Office of Probation and Parole to prepare a presentence investigation, with the judge setting a sentencing date after its completion. Shields also will be evaluated by the state Sex Offender Assessment Board before sentencing, according to the documents. Shields remains free on 10 percent of the $50,000 bail set on the night of his arrest, Aug. 16, 2005.

Cardinal Brennan parents receive letter about school's future

The future of Cardinal Brennan High School is being studied by the Diocese of Allentown. A letter was sent home to parents outlining problems with declining enrollment, money and not enough new students coming to the school. Parents, students and educators of the Fountain Springs parochial school are worried that the high school will close. There are about 200 students attending Cardinal Brennan. Some parents believe what is happening in the Diocese of Allentown is a repeat of what happened in the Diocese of Scranton: schools closed and consolidated after having a meeting with parents. Officials at the diocese contend that no decision has been made about the school's future. A final determination is not expected until after a meeting with parents in March.

Argall says investigation about storm far from over

"It was a systematic failure in our emergency response system." That was the assessment of one of Schuylkill County's legislator's after the first day of hearings about problems during the Valentine's Day storm. Argall said that the state needs to do more than just ensure we're better prepared for the next snow storm, but also that Pennsylvania is prepared to respond to any and all emergencies we face in the future.

Mammography inspections

Three Schuylkill County healthcare facilities were among the 111 mammography sites that were inspected by the Department of Environmental Protection in the final quarter of 2006. Good Samaritan Health Center North and the Medical Center in Pottsville, and St. Catherine's Medical Center in Fountain Springs were all found to be operating within the guidelines set by the US Food and Drug Adminstration. DEP inspects each of Pennsylvania's approximately 400 certified mammography facilities annually under a contract with FDA, which sets standards for these facilities under the federal Mammography Quality Standards Act. The inspections are part of an ongoing effort to ensure a high-degree of proficiency in the maintenance and operation of sophisticated equipment used to conduct these tests. DEP has released these quarterly reports since April 2004.

Help needed for brush clearing on State Game Lands

Calling all Schuylkill County hunters and sportsmen, the Pennsylvania Game Commission needs your help. Saturday, March 3rd, volunteers and Game Commission personnel from the Southeast region office will be doing border-edge cutting on State Game Land 229 in Reilly Township. Commissioner Gregory Isabella said that the event will give hunters and sportsmen an opportunity to do some habitat work to benefit wildlife, and to get in some scouting prior to the upcoming spring gobbler season. Officials say that the trees in many woodlots have reached a growth in which they no longer furnish food and cover for certain small wildlife and birds. From the Pottsville area, travel on Route 209 south for 6 miles through Newtown. About one-half mile past Newtown, turn on to a gravel lane with signs out front about abandoned mine reclamation projects. Go back the lane and meet at the parking area. Participants will car pool to the cutting location.

PPL increases dividend

PPL Corporation has announced an increase in its common stock dividend. The Allentown-based, international energy conglomerate bumped their cash dividend by 11 percent, to a total of $1.22 per share annually. The increased dividend is payable April 1st to shareholders who owned the stock as of March 9th. With this increase, the dividend will have risen 130 percent over the past five years. John Biggar, PPL's executive vice president and chief financial officer, expects that that the growth rate of its common stock dividend over the next few years will continue to exceed the growth rate in the company's earnings per share from ongoing operations, and, therefore, PPL will continue to maintain a dividend payout ratio above 50 percent. All future dividend decisions, Biggar noted, are subject to quarterly dividend declarations based on the company's financial position and other relevant considerations at the time.

Whitman to speak at Schuylkill

A former Bush administration official will speak at Penn State Schuylkill Campus next month.
In the final installment of the Alcoa Distinguished Lecture Series, former New Jersey Governor and EPA Secretary Christine Todd Whitman will deliver a speech entitled "A Healthy Environment and A Healthy Economy: Finding the Green in Being Green". Whitman is now President of the Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm serving both government and business clients on environmental and other public policy issues. The lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Morgan Auditorium at the campus in Schuylkill Haven.


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