Saturday, February 16, 2008

Today's News-Saturday, February 16th

House committee met here in the county yesterday to hear testimony about property taxes. Jay Levan reports:
That’s Pottsville resident Judy Barket, who is also a real estate agent and appraiser, offering her opinion about property taxes in the county and Pennsylvania.
She was one of the presenters at a hearing of the House Local Government Committee at Penn State Schuylkill Campus yesterday. The panel gathered to hear about spot assessments on property owners by local taxing authorities to raise taxes on their homes when ownership changes hands. The practice, which is legal, is being conducted across the state. School districts are filing assessment appeals on properties when they are sold in order to raise additional tax dollars. State representative Tim Seip, along with fellow House members Neal Goodman and Dave Argall, are co-sponsors of two bills to deal with these practices. A countywide reassessment was mentioned as a possible solution. The last time that took place was 1997. Its estimated that it would cost $10-million-dollars to conduct another one. About 40 people came to the hearing. Presenters from the legal community, real estate and government testified before the panel, co-chaired by Northampton County legislator Robert Freeman and Stan Saylor of York County. Representative Dave Argall summed the problem of property taxes best:

A 47-year-old Northumberland County man accused of killing his wife last year has been ordered to stand trial. Steven Wolfgang of Mount Carmel is charged with criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He was ordered to stand trial after Friday's preliminary hearing. Wolfgang is accused of beating his wife to death, placing her remains inside a metal box and dumping them in Mahanoy Creek. Sherry Wolfgang's remains were discovered June 8, five months after her sport utility vehicle was found in flames near the creek here in Schuylkill County.
Steven Wolfgang torched the vehicle as part of a suicide attempt. He is serving a 1- to 2-year prison sentence in connection with the vehicle fire.

Several charges against a Tamaqua man in connection with a shooting death last year have been dropped by a Schuylkill County Judge. 33-year-old Robert Hartranft was facing first or second degree murder charges in the death of David Ruhl. Now, Judge D. Michael Stine has ruled that the shooting was not pre-meditated and has dropped those charges. The Republican and Herald indicates that Hartranft can face third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and other offenses. David Ruhl died at the home of Edward Sestakaukas on March 20th, 2007. Hartranft shot him with a 12-gauge shotgun. Ruhl and his girlfriend, Kimberly Leary had been arguing and he pushed her down. Sestakaukas called Hartranft to the home, and Ruhl was shot in the mouth.

A fire heavily damaged a bar in Tamaqua early Friday. The cause is arson. Firefighters were called to the Hang Loose bar on East Broad Street around 3:45am.
State police Fire Marshal John Burns conducted an investigation into the blaze, and determined that it was intentionally set in an office on the second floor. A burned out Molotov cocktail was found at the scene before the fire started. The building had been recently renovated. Damages are estimated at more than $75-thousand-dollars. Reports indicate that a patron at the establishment was giving an employee trouble, and had been asked to leave the bar earlier in the morning. The business is owned by Ashley Bachert of Enola. The building is owned by Clyde Bachert of Tamaqua. One firefighter was injured when he slipped on the ice. The investigation continues.

The icy weather we’ve been experiencing this month not only affected motorists. It has also affected blood donations. The American Red Cross Blood Services, Northeastern Pennsylvania Region is hoping to recover from a plunge in blood collections due to the recent storms. For the first two weeks this month, officials estimate more than 5-thousand potential blood products have gone uncollected due to canceled blood drives and low donor turnout. Northeast Region chief executive Tony Ferlenda said that they may have to cut back on supplying hospitals with blood products if the deficit continues. As an incentive, presenting donors will be eligible to enter a drawing to win a month’s heating bill payment up to $500 dollars.
If you are able, call to make an appointment to give blood at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. You must be at least 17 years old to give blood, but 16 year old may donate blood if they present a parental consent form. ID is required.

The Schuylkill County Commissioners appointed 13-people to two boards and one committee during their bi-monthly board meeting Wednesday. Diana Beausang of Pottsville and Lanie Gehres of Llewellyn were appointed to five year terms on the board of the Schuylkill County Municipal Authority by a vote of 2-1 with minority Commissioner Frank Staudenmerier voting no. At last week’s work session, Staudenmeier asked his fellow commissioners to consider reappointing Frank Zukas to the Authority saying his departure would be a significant loss to both the board and the county. Chairwomen Mantura Gallagher said at that time that the majority commissioners would consider the request but Zukas’s name was not included on Wednesday’s agenda for reappointment. The remainder of the appointments were unanimous. Pat Caufield, Dan Koury, Keith Masser and Joseph Palubinsky were appointed to the County Zoning Advisory Committee. The committee was created through approval of a resolution for the purpose of assisting with the preparation of an amendment to the county zoning ordinance. Six people were appointed to one-year terms on the County Fire Chiefs Advisory board. They are Jack Messner, John Kellman Jr, Art Connely Jr, James Krammes, Joseph Kufrovich and Glenn Sattizahn.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A man and a teenager have been ordered to stand trial on homicide and aggravated assault charges in the death of a 12-year-old Pittsburgh girl who was killed when bullets tore through a relative's house. Police accuse 30-year-old Anthony Wilson, and 15-year-old Michael Gist of firing at least 40 rounds into the house on Jan. 28, killing Jolesa Barber and wounding her mother.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A 61-year-old western Pennsylvania man has been sentenced to six months of home detention and three years' probation for selling a tiger skin to an undercover agent. Barry McMaster of Greensburg pleaded guilty in November.

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) - A Butler County school board member accused of assaulting a woman at his tavern has resigned. Mark Rowe of Saxonburg says he's innocent, but the allegations against him were distracting the South Butler school board.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Elizabeth Forward School District in Allegheny County has agreed to pay $52,500 legal settlement to the family of a former third-grade student. In their lawsuit, Ryan and Jennifer White accused former William Penn Elementary principal Marlene Whitby of humiliating their daughter, Katy, in September 2005. The Whites claimed Whitby paraded Katy from class to class after the girl was falsely accused of stealing $5.

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) - A volunteer firefighter shopping at the Wal-Mart store in Punxsutawney on Valentine's Day wound up helping to deliver a baby in the greeting card aisle. David Hau says he asked the woman if she could wait until an ambulance arrived, but she said this was her seventh child and delivery would be no problem. The store gave Hau a pair of gloves and 15 minutes later, the woman delivered a baby boy.

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) - A friendly exterior hid a troubled past for a 27-year-old man who fatally shot five people before killing himself Thursday on the campus of Northern Illinois University. A former professor says Steven Kazmierczak was a "gentle" and "quiet guy." But a woman who worked at a Chicago psychiatric center where he was admitted after high school says Kazmierczak used to cut himself and resisted taking medication.

ACCOKEEK, Md. (AP) - Police in Maryland say as many as eight people have been killed in an accident this morning near the town of Accokeek. A tractor-trailer and several other vehicles collided. An undetermined number of survivors have been flown to hospitals.

COTONOU, Benin (AP) - President Bush is on his way to Tanzania after a three-hour stop in Benin, where he kicked off a five-nation tour of Africa. Bush will also visit Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. He's stressing Africa's achievements but says he'll also be talking with its leaders about trouble spots.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans and Democrats are bickering ahead of tonight's expiration of an eavesdropping law that makes it easier for the government to spy on foreign phone calls and e-mails passing through the U.S. President Bush says Congress' failure to extend the law is putting the country "in more danger of an
attack." Democrats accuse the president of fear-mongering.

ATLANTA (AP) - The flu season is getting worse and health officials say it's because this year's flu vaccine turns out not to protect against most of the bugs. The flu shot is fighting only about 40 percent of this year's flu viruses. Forty-four states have reported widespread flu activity this week.


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