Thursday, March 22, 2007

Local News-Thursday, March 22nd

Wednesday night, the lights went out in Frackville. Around 9pm, half of the borough lost power. PPL utility crews worked late into the evening to fix the problem. About 2 thousand people were reportedly without power during the outage. PPL officials tell WPPA/T-102 News that all customers had their service restored around 2:20am. A cause has not yet been determined. They expect to know later today.

Additional details have been released in the shooting death of a Tamaqua man. Robert Hartranft is charged with homicide after David Ruhl died in an East Elm Street home Tuesday evening. Reports say the shooting happened after Hartranft went to the home to break up a fight between Ruhl and his girlfriend. Court records say that Ruhl taunted Hartranft by saying that he wasn’t man enough to shoot him. Ruhl then grabbed the barrel of a shotgun and placed it in his own mouth. Hartranft is lodged in Schuylkill County Prison.

Shenandoah police and surrounding departments had to chase a borough man while attempting to serve an arrest warrant Tuesday night. Officials say that they received a tip that 21-year-old Jesse Hernandez, who was being sought by the court for not showing up at a hearing in October last year, was in the borough, at a home on Oak Street. When police arrived, Hernandez bolted out the back door of the home. Officers gave chase through alleys and between homes. Hernandez broke a window in a home on Center Street and ran from rooftop to rooftop until he disappeared. Hernandez is believed to be in the country illegally. The original crimes is charged with stem from a break-in and assault on October 6th, 2006 at a Shenandoah home. He was captured at that time, but never showed up for his hearing.
If anyone has information about Hernandez’s whereabouts, call Shenandoah police at 462-1008.

The Schuylkill County Commissioners, at Wednesday’s work session, approved a request by Child Development Inc. to submit a continuation grant for subsidized child care services. The grant is for just over $3.7-million-dollars, an increase of almost $900-thousand-dollars over last year’s funding. The grant will serve more than 16-hundred children. In other business, the commissioners approved a request from Mark Scarbinsky of the county Economic Development office to buy the Union Street parking lot from the City of Pottsville for $1.00. The lot is be used in the development of the county’s Intermodal Transit project. In a related matter, the Commissioners approved a request by Scarbinsky on behalf of STS, to authorize a “Notice to Proceed” for phase two of the Intermodal Transit Project. Scarbinsky said this allows the design team to proceed with work tasks as required by the Federal Transit Administration. The cost is estimated at $300-thousand-dollars which is fully funded through the grant program. The office of Senior Services asked approval to accept a low bid of $144-thousand-dollars from Bognet Inc. of Hazleton for renovation of the Tremont Senior Center. Rest Haven asked authorization to award a linen and personal laundry services contract to Paris Healthcare Linen Services, Dubois for a period of two years at a cost of just over $509-thousand-dollars. The County Election Bureau received approval to hire Diebold Election Systems for preparation work needed for the primary and general elections at a cost of $84,500.

Court Room Number-One in the Schuylkill County Courthouse is in line for restoration and rehabilitation work. The County Public Works Department is seeking County Commissioners approval to apply for a $100-thousand-dollar grant from DCED to begin the work. No county matching funds are required. At Wednesday’s work session, it was estimated that a total restoration and rehabilitation would cost $355-thousand-dollars. However, other grants may be available to complete the work. The ornate court room has many unique features, such as large murals which need to be restored. Commissioner Gallagher said it’s the second largest court room east of the Mississippi River, and is used for mostly ceremonial events.

To build or not to build a pre-release center was discussed again during Wednesday’s County Prison Board meeting held at the prison. Patricia Paxson of the Prison Society asked if any decision has been made on building the center. A Committee appointed by the Commissioners is presently in discussions with firms who are analyzing the County’s prison system and will make recommendations. The County is also awaiting word on a loan from the US Department of Agriculture for the project, and a decision from the head of the state prison system on whether he will grant permission to build on state-owned land ground near the Frackville State Prison. Commissioner Mantura Gallagher, who conducted Wednesday’s meeting in the absence of Judge William Baldwin, said the USDA is awaiting a decision from the county on the Pre-release center. County Administrator William Reppy said discussions are ongoing with the prison union over possible staffing at a center. If a pre-release Center is built, about 100 eligible inmates would be transferred there, freeing up space in the prison that most times is over-capacity. Paxson received assurances from the prison board that enough space would be available within the prison for rehabilitation programs for long term inmates if 100 inmates are transferred to a pre-release center.

The County Prison recently underwent its annual inspection from the Department of Corrections. Warden Eugene Berdanier told the prison board at its Wednesday meeting that all areas of operations were evaluated and discussed and a copy of their findings will be made available when the report is finalized. Berdanier also said that due to overcrowding, particularly among the female population, additional cots were borrowed from SCI Frackville on approval from Superintendent Robert Shannon. The Warden said a group presentation for female inmates was scheduled for Wednesday by an organization from New York State on various topics including drugs, alcohol, prostitution and criminal activities. The Warden said the group was at the prison last year and was invited back again because of the favorable response to their program. Berdanier also said he is working on security issues for another female- only outreach program entitled “Realize Your Potential”, sponsored by the New Start Foundation from the Philadelphia area.


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