Thursday, April 26, 2007

Local News-Thursday, April 26th

The county's request for the state Auditor General's office to investigate the REDCO controversy has been accepted but the County will not hear anything about its progress until it's complete. Commissioner Mantura Gallagher said that they received a letter explaining that the investigation would take place, but that no updates on their progress will be given until the work is complete. The Auditor General's office in Scranton will handle the investigation into more than $439-thousand-dollars in overpayments to ReDCo through the county's MH/MR program.


We have a correction to a story we aired yesterday about a proposed duck farm in Washington Township. Reports had indicated that the state DEP provided final approval for the Stoltzfus duck farm. However, we have learned that is not the case. Opponents of the farm, from Township Residents Asserting Control of Their Community Inc. emailed WPPA/T102 news to report the error. The Pottsville Republican states that DEP has not signed off on the project, and do not expect to do so until after they finish their study, and a hearing is held, possibly in June. We apologize for the error.

It was a time to honor businesses and individuals who’ve helped Penn State Schuylkill students attend college. Schuylkill's Scholarship and Awards dinner was held at the Schuylkill Country Club last night, to thank several dozen donors who have contributed to help deserving students further their education. John Hillkirk, Executive Editor of USA Today newspaper was the guest speaker. As the man in charge of the nation’s largest daily newspaper in terms of circulation, Hillkirk said that the newspaper is challenged on a daily basis to provide accurate and timely in the era of 24-hour-a-day news cycle. He said that the media's tendency to get news out immediately can sometimes compromise accuracy. One student from New York City said she feels very fortuate to receive financial help to continue her education at Penn State Schuylkill:
More than 150 people attended last night's dinner.

The Schuylkill County Prison Board had a lengthy discussion Wednesday on the problem of over crowding at the prison. Chairman Judge William Baldwin said he must respond to a state inspection of the prison that found some deficiencies. He said that some deficiencies that go unresolved could lead to citations which presently carry no serious consequences, but he said regulations are being studied that would decertify prisons that are cited three years in a row.
Judge Baldwin said one of the deficiencies was a third person in a cell sleeping in a cot that does not allow for the cell door to fully open. The discussion led to prison overcrowding, a possible pre-release center and the status of a study being done by consultants on the county's needs in all those areas. The County Commissioners are the ones who have the final say on what course of action will taken, and the Republican Majority Commissioners want to have a business plan in place before any action is taken. County Administrator William Reppy said the present study includes staffing, renovations to the present facilities and a pre-release center, among other things, but not building a new prison. The Commissioners assured Judge Baldwin a decision will be made by the end of the year on what direction to go.

The Schuylkill County Commissioners held their board meeting at Pottsville Area High School Wednesday. Annually, the Commissioners take to the road to honor the Schuylkill County Outstanding Athlete, chosen by Chapter 25 of the National Football & College Hall of Fame.
Pottsville High's Brad Hallick was this years Outstanding Athlete. Hallick said holding the meeting at high schools gives the students an opportunity to see government in action. This is only the second time in the history of the Chapter that a school has had three Outstanding Scholar Athletes in a row. Ryan Pilconis won the honor in 2005 and Dave DeMarkis was chosen last year.

The state's Keystone Opportunity Zone program has provided numerous tax incentive programs for businesses across the state. Now, the PA House wants to take a closer look at its effectiveness. Representative Dave Argall and Luzerne County Representative Todd Eachus worked together to request a study to analyze the effects of KOZ's on rural areas. The pair hopes that the study will determine if KOZ's are really effective, and how successful they are in bringing employers and jobs to rural areas. Argall, who earned his PhD from Penn State, studied KOZ's as part of his doctoral dissertation.


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