Thursday, December 27, 2007

Today's News-Thursday, December 27th

The official vote whether to shut down Norwegian Township's police department is scheduled for this evening. The ongoing battle began early in December when supervisors voted to layoff Sgt. John Zuratt, and turn police coverage over to Pennsylvania state police. Zurratt is the lone officer on the payroll. Concerned citizens in Norwegian Township have been canvassing homes, asking for residents to sign a very simple petition, asking for reconsideration of the shutdown before it takes place on Tuesday, January 1st, 2008. One of the canvassers we spoke last week said they feel confident in their efforts, and they have picked up 12 hundred or so signatures going into tonight's meeting at 7pm. The public hearing will be the final word in determining the department's fate. The township supervisors have gone on record stating that the state police coverage will be much better for residents than the current situation.

A New Jersey man is being extradited to Pennsylvania today on charges stemming from a 2005 armed robbery in Kline Township. Township police went to New Jersey to pick up 22-year-old Ronald Lassiter, who is implicated in the armed robbery at M&A Sunoco Mini Mart on Kennedy Drive in December, 2005. Police charged Lassiter after a DNA match came up from the crime scene and a sample provided last summer. He is charged with robbery, theft, simple assault, terroristic threats and related offenses, and is expected to be arraigned later today in Tamaqua.

A Lansford man is under arrest after he attempted to pass a forged prescription. Kline Township police picked up 29-year-old William Barnes around 3pm at DeBalko's Standard Drug Store. He passed a forged script for Oxycontin, which was stolen from a doctor’s office in Palmerton. Barnes was charged with forgery, theft, receiving stolen property and drug law violations. He was arraigned before District Judge Stephen Bayer, and lodged in county jail. His hearing is scheduled for January 4th.

Two cars were involved in a crash on Route 61 this morning outside of Pottsville. 19-year-old Joshua Petrozino of St. Clair was driving north on Route 61, near Brokhoff Road when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car, traveling across the center line into the path of a car driven by Joseph Wallace of Port Carbon. The cars hit head on, then down the left side of Wallace's car, disconnecting the axle of his car. Petrozino, Wallace, nor their passengers accepted medical treatment on the scene. The crash happened around 8:30am this morning.

Schuylkill County fire departments receive over 100 thousand dollars in national grants. Last night, Congressman Tim Holden awarded 4 grants to volunteer fire companies. To apply for the grant, each department was required to state an immediate need to which they dedicate the money. Rescue Hook and Ladder of Shenandoah determined that an air breathing fill station and exhaust extraction system were among their greatest needs. With the help of local government officials including Senator Jim Rhoades, Representative Tim Seip and Commissioner Mantura Gallagher, the Newtown Fire Company received funding for an in-house training program. New England fire department will purchase a thermal imaging camera and an air and gas monitor to more efficiently serve victims of fires. And the Good Intent Fire Company of Pottsville will apply the money toward physicals and fitness equipment for its volunteers. The money came from a program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security. It awards 550 million dollars to fire departments nationwide. 53 percent of this money is required to go to volunteer companies. Pennsylvania received about 10 million dollars from this grant annually.
(Samantha Wertz)

County Commissioner Bob Carl and County Controller Gary Hornberger said their final goodbye's during Wednesday's County Commissioner and salary board meetings.
Carl lost a bid for a second four-year term during November's general election and Hornberger did not seek re-election for a fourth four-year term. Carl thanked the citizens for what he said was one of greatest honors ever bestowed on him in choosing to have him serve them for the last four years……

Carl #1 (6090)

Carl also talked about his future employment plans after a few days of vacation…

Carl #2 (6091)

Hornberger also thanked the citizens of the county for electing him controller to three terms.
The swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected County Board of Commissioners will be held Friday December 28th at 10am in Court Room number-one. A new Democratic majority will assume control of the county on Monday, January 7th during the Commissioner's re-organizational board meeting. The new board will include incumbent Democrat Mantura Gallagher, newly elected Democrat Frank McAndrew and Republican incumbent Frank Staudenmeier as minority commissioner. The Courthouse will be closed Tuesday, January 1st, 2008 in observance of New Year's Day.

The Schuylkill County Commissioners adopted a $44-point-4 million dollar budget during Wednesday's meeting, which calls for no increase in taxes. the spending plan holds the line on property taxes for the fourth year in a row and keeps the tax rate at 11 point 98 mills. A $5.00 per capita tax will continue to be collected. Rest Haven and 9-1-1 Communications department budgets were approved, both of which are considered separate entities. Rest Haven's budget is nearly $10 Point 6 Million Dollars and the 9-1-1 department budget totals almost $4-point-7 million dollars. In other business, the commissioners approved selling a $ 4-Million Dollar tax and revenue anticipation note to First National Bank of Pennsylvania, at a fixed rate of
3 Point 1-3 Percent. Commissioner Gallagher abstained from voting because she is a member of the bank's Board of Directors. The Commissioners also approved a Matrix adjustment of 3-Percent effective January 1, 2008 for all county employees not otherwise covered by a collective bargaining unit agreement.

BALTIMORE (AP) - An environmental group says the federal spending bill President Bush signed Wednesday could harm efforts to improve the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says the $555 billion omnibus bill includes cuts to programs that are critical to bay cleanup efforts. The State Revolving Loan Fund saw the biggest cut. It provides communities with low-interest loans for sewer-treatment plant upgrades. The foundation found that the program's funding for states in the bay watershed fell by $44 million, to about $151 million, for the 2008 budget. The foundation's federal affairs director says the decrease means some communities might do without the sewer plant upgrades. The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, West Virginia and D.C.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A spokesman for the planned SugarHouse casino in Philadelphia says a 1907 law gives the city the right to determine how to develop its own waterfront. But a lawsuit says the city's licensing authority applies only to docks, wharfs and other harbor structures - not casinos. The lawsuit says Philadelphia officials usurped the state's authority by issuing a license to build part of a slot-machine casino over the submerged banks of the Delaware River. Historically, a state legislator has introduced legislation to grant use of submerged lands to a private business in his or her district. They haven't done so in this case.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's newly licensed slot-machine casinos sucked in billions of dollars in bets in 2007 - and spit out a jackpot of controversies. As four more slot-machine casinos opened around the state, a grand jury investigation into one casino owner sprouted in
Harrisburg. In Philadelphia, showdowns erupted over the location of two prospective casinos. And a politically connected casino investor went to court to try to eliminate restrictions on the
industry's political influence. The year offered reason for optimism for those who say gambling
revenues can eventually yield at least $1.5 billion a year for the state. At the same time, critics didn't back down from their contention that casinos create a windfall of addiction, personal
tragedy and ruined neighborhoods.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says it will no longer seek a tax break from the city in exchange for a $100 million scholarship program for high school students. UPMC announced the pledge to the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program earlier this month, but included a stipulation that it would not give the full amount if it were ever required to pay the city money in lieu of taxes. After UPMC made its pledge, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl asked the City Council to give the medical center a break if some form of tax-like
payment were to be levied on nonprofits. In a statement Wednesday, UPMC says it was waiving the tax-break condition and would make its initial $10 million contribution and
$90 million in matching donations to Pittsburgh Promise.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A corporation that ran a defunct suburban Pittsburgh nursing home will be dissolved. An Allegheny County judge on Wednesday ordered the dissolution of the nonprofit Alzheimer's Disease Alliance of Western Pennsylvania. The company operated the Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Robinson Township. The home closed in early 2004, nearly three years after an 88-year-old Alzheimer's patient died after being locked outside in near freezing temperatures. The home's former administrator, Martha Bell, was sentenced up to 44 months in prison for the death. Bell was also sentenced to five years in federal prison on charges the home got more than 7 million dollars in Medicare and Medicaid funds for services not rendered. Bell is awaiting another state court trial next month on charges
she stole payroll funds.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The father of two children who were missing for hours last night says he's extremely grateful to Philadelphia police for finding his kids unharmed. The children were sleeping in the back seat of a sport utility vehicle when it was stolen with them in it. Police later found the children, still in the vehicle. The children - 3-year-old Kaliopi Hionas and 6-year-old George Hionas - had been left alone in the car with the engine running in West Philadephia.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh police have accused a man and a teenage boy of setting fire to an old print shop and two more vacant buildings on Sunday night. Police say they charged 20-year-old Robert McComb and a 16-year-old boy with arson and other offenses in connection with the fire which began in the former Stobie Printing building in the city's Spring Garden neighborhood. Police say they believe the suspects entered the former print shop to strip its copper pipe and set fire to the building before they left. The fire spread to two adjacent buildings. Officials say the fire caused $100,000 damage. A listed phone number for McComb could not immediately be found. The teenager's name has not been released.

EFFORT, Pa. (AP) - State police in Monroe County say a man whose car went off the road and crashed into a tree had been shot several times. The 22-year-old Effort resident was found inside a Toyota Camry that went out of control on a curve in Chestnuthill Township at
about 1:20 p.m. on Christmas Day. The car left the road, continued 380 feet into a wooded area and hit the tree. Paramedics were treating him at the scene when they found he had been wounded by gunfire in his left arm, left leg and right foot. Fern Hill trooper Daniel Zaykowski says no bullet marks were found on the vehicle. The man was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in stable condition. Police are trying to find out where he was coming

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Police in Upper Darby say they want to question a man they call "armed and dangerous" in connection with the Christmas Eve murder of a taxi driver.
Police say the 19-year-old man is being sought on charges unrelated to the murder. They include illegal weapons possession, receiving stolen property and related offenses.
But Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood says authorities want to talk to him about the murder of 42-year-old Gregory Cunningham of Clifton Heights. His body was found before sunrise Monday on a walkway of the Park Lane East Apartments in Upper Darby.
Investigators say Cunningham was shot in the back of the head. They say his body was discovered after someone used the cab's two-way radio to boast about the killing at about 3 a-m Monday.

GRANTSVILLE, Md. (AP) - Maryland Natural Resources Police say a Pennsylvania man hunting deer near Grantsville, Md., was accidentally shot by another hunter who apparently mistook him for a deer. Sgt. Ken Turner says 64-year-old Larry Resh, of Confluence, Pa.,
was wounded by a shot from a 50-caliber muzzleloading weapon shortly after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Turner says the shot was fired by 47-year-old Jeffrey Orr, of Oakland, Md.
Turner says Resh was wearing a fluorescent orange vest and hat while hunting on private land.
He says the incident remains under investigation and no charges have been filed.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Police say a 20-year-old Marine accused of trying to take a 13-year-old Pittsburgh girl out of state might have thought the girl was 15. Lance Corporal Johnathan Plaisance is charged with interfering with the custody of a child and child concealment.
Plaisance met the girl online and came to Pittsburgh to meet with the girl. City police say the girl's parents reported her missing and police traced her relationship to Plaisance after examining the family computer and the girl's MySpace account. Police say Plaisance met the girl at a local hotel before they hopped on a Greyhound bus headed to North Carolina, where Plaisance is stationed at Camp Lejuene.

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - A Susquehanna County man is accused of crashing his car into his ex-wife's car twice - then following her and crashing a third time. Scranton police say the man then tried to pull their two daughters from her car. No one was hurt in Wednesday afternoon's
incident. The 29-year-old man was arrested and will be charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child. He lives in Hop Bottom, a little more than 25 miles from Scranton.

ANNVILLE, Pa. (AP) - State police say two men impersonating police officers ripped off a 75-year-old woman on Christmas Day. Troopers say the fake officers stopped Etsuko Wells of Annville when she was driving in East Hanover Township, Lebanon County. One of the men told Wells she was speeding and had to pay $50 or go to jail. She paid the man. Police say the impersonators were wearing dark, security-type uniforms with patches and were driving a blue Ford with a yellow light on the roof. No arrests were immediately made.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The state is defending a plan to to expand the use of all-terrain vehicles in state forests. The plan would use township roads to connect ATV trails. A spokesman says they're mostly in townships that already allow ATVs to use township roads. A land conservation group says the plan is a bad and dangerous idea. The Pennsylvania Forest Coalition says the plan will put unlicensed ATVs on roads and highways, increasing the likelihood of accidents.

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Civil War buffs are hoping to draw tourists to Missouri for the 150th anniversary of the war. They say Civil War tourists spend more time and money visiting
historic sites than pleasure tourists. Jim Robertson of the Missouri Civil War Heritage Foundation is encouraging local tourism bureaus to create a statewide list of Civil War sites and use it to promote the state. Civil War enthusiasts say more battles or engagements were
fought in Missouri than in any other state except Virginia and Tennessee. States such as Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania are working to promote the Civil War anniversary with driving trails, marketing campaigns, Web sites and maps.

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (AP) - With the Iowa caucuses just a week away, there's no time for a long Christmas break from the campaigning. The candidates are back for what John Edwards
describes as "crunch time." Barack Obama returned quickly to Iowa after the holiday. He's blaming negative ads and mail sent by unnamed opponents for planting "seeds of doubt" about him.

CARNATION, Wash. (AP) - A relative says a woman who's under arrest in the slayings of six people at a home near Seattle was carrying a grudge against her family, and felt that "everyone
didn't appreciate her." Media reports indicate that the woman is the daughter of two of the victims, and that the others were from two other generations of the family.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - The mother of the man who was killed by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas day is asking, "How did this happen?" Investigators are still trying to find out
whether the tiger escaped by itself from its enclosure, or whether someone let it out.

BAGHDAD (AP) - U.S. military forces have carried out the deadliest raids in months against breakaway members of the Mahdi Army militia. The militia's leader had announced a six-month freeze on activities in August, and it's not clear if today's raids will affect that.

WASHINGTON (AP) - "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Dances With Wolves" are among 25 classic American films being added to the national registry of the Library of Congress. There are also some older classics -- like "Grand Hotel" and "Wuthering Heights." Films on the registry are carefully preserved.


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