Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Local News-Wednesday, Marcy 28th

A month and a half after the Valentine’s Day ice and snow storm crippled a good portion of the state, a consultant’s report says there was enough blame to go around. Governor Ed Rendell hired former Clinton administration FEMA chief James Lee Witt to examine what happened when a mix of ice and snow forced a 50-mile backup on Interstate 78 in Berks County, and the closure of I-80 and 81, making travel and snow removal a nightmare. The report cited serious communication problems between PennDOT, State Police and emergency management officials, among others. Lack of accurate road conditions, a shutdown of the statewide computer systems and delays in getting plows, and a lack of them on the roads, all contributed to the mess. The Schuylkill County House and Senate delegation are calling for a further investigation into the debacle. Their main concerns center around the lack of privately-contracted snow plows to aid PennDOT’s fleet. The report noted that PennDOT officials have the authority to hire contractors when needed, but there were none available to combat the storm. State Representative Dave Argall said that trying to hire snow plows at the height of the storm is like “suggesting municipalities should wait to hire police officers until the bank is being robbed.” The state paid Witt’s firm over $100-thousand-dollars for the study.

The issues between Schuylkill County and its largest services contractor may come under the scrutiny of the state Auditor General. The state’s financial watchdog, Jack Wagner, tells the Pottsville Republican that he and his staff may conduct a further review of ReDCo’s dealings with the county that were called into question during a three-year financial review by Parente Randolph. That study found that over $439-thousand-dollars in expenses were over charged to the county for services rendered between 2002 and 2004. ReDCo offered a check for about $400-thousand-dollars to settle the matter, with a stipulation that the state Bureau of Financial Operations and the county hold ReDCo harmless from any future scrutiny for those years. The county and BFO have not yet signed off on that request. Schuylkill County Commissioner Mantura Gallagher provided Parente-Randolph’s findings to Wagner’s office. Other state agencies may also take a look at the report for any possible wrongdoing. The county contracts with Pottsville-based ReDCo for more than $8-million-dollars in services annually.

A Mahanoy City man, wanted by Luzerne county authorities, was apprehended last night. The events took an interesting turn as a borough officer saw Ronald Kennedy, who had outstanding warrants for aggravated assault and robbery in neighboring Luzerne County, walking on South Street. They tried to contain him, but he fled on foot. Officials thought that Kennedy got into a car, so a dragnet and roadblocks were issued for the car they though he was driving. That wasn’t the case, since Kennedy was still on foot near the spot where he was first located. Police were able to apprehend Kennedy without incident a short time later. Additional charges are expected to be filed.

No one was injured in a two vehicle crash near the entrance to Lake Wynonah Monday afternoon. Heidi Fique was southbound on Route 183, attempting to turn into the development when she ventured into the path of a Mustang driven by Michael Paulin of Schuylkill Haven, which was headed north. The cars collided, moderately damaging both vehicles. Neither driver complained of injuries, but Schuylkill Haven State Police expect to charge Fique in the incident.
The crash happened after 3pm.

A routine traffic stop near Tamaqua nabs a Pottsville man wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant. James Lempfert was stopped on Route 209 Monday afternoon by state police. When they checked his registration on the computer, police discovered Lempfert was wanted by Summit Township Police, Somerset County, for DUI and other charges. Frackville troopers took him into custody, and sent him to Schuylkill County Prison to await extradition to Somerset County.


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