Saturday, December 27, 2008

Today's News-Saturday, December 27, 2008

Diocese OKs plan to mend St. Kieran's

A committee to preserve the history of St. Kieran Church has gotten one step closer to its goal. According to Catherine Clifford, Ashland, a member of the parish committee that recently met with officials of the Diocese of Allentown, the diocese approved a proposal to use the building to preserve the history of the church and the surrounding area known as "Irish Valley." As reported in the Republican and Herald, Clifford said the group submitted a written proposal Oct. 29 regarding the building's use. Irish Echo Online, the Web site of the largest-circulation Irish American weekly newspaper, ran a Dec. 24 article about the St. Kieran building but Clifford said the article may have been premature in its report that the church has been "saved." Clifford said the building would have to be made handicap accessible and brought up to county and local codes before anything can move forward. According to parishioner Joseph "Hap" Anthony, the church was built by Irish miners in 1857 at the direction of John Neumann, the first U.S. bishop to be made a saint. It was one of the churches closed when the Diocese of Allentown consolidated and restructured parishes in July. Although the last official Mass was said at 5:30 p.m. July 12, the church received special permission to host its annual Irish Weekend Mass on July 27 as part of an annual fundraiser for the Clover Fire Company. Parishioners of St. Kieran were merged into St. Michael the Archangel Parish in the former St. Vincent de Paul Church building, Minersville, along with parishioners from St. Vincent de Paul and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Minersville. The surrounding area, known locally as "Irish Valley," is rich in the history of anthracite mining and the railroads.

Workers add hours to remain full time

One by one, employees in the county controller's office are agreeing to work an additional five hours per week rather than have their pay cut and jobs reclassified as part-time. According to the Republican and Herald, at Wednesday's commissioners meeting, Mike Mehalko and James Moll, two controller's office employees, had their positions reclassified after the commissioners said they only worked 30 hours each week, rather than the usual 35. After the move, Commissioners Chairwoman Mantura Gallagher said Moll contacted her and said he would abide by the new hours rather than lose about $4,000 in annual salary. Two other employees, Charity Conrad Copeland and Paul Buber, also avoided the salary hit. Copeland agreed to work the additional hours after sitting down with Gallagher last week, while Buber accepted a newly created financial analyst position in the county commissioners office. Mehalko is now the only employee to potentially see his job reclassified, effective Jan. 1. The dispute stems from a 1998 schedule change, when courthouse hours changed from 30 hours per week to 35. All employees, excluding elected officials, solicitors, first deputies and public defenders made the switch, other than several in the controller's office. Gallagher said Wednesday's vote on Moll's position will be rescinded. The same would happen for Mehalko, if he agrees to work the additional hours. County Controller Melinda Kantner has said her office has been unfairly singled out by the commissioners, but declined further comment earlier this week pending a review of legal options. Mehalko, who will lose about $8,000 per year in pay if he does not comply, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Seniors still have a week for rebate applications

Senior citizens in Pennsylvania who haven't yet applied still have time to file for a rebate on their 2007 property taxes for rent. Don Rooney has this report.


Project Blue Light

The holiday season is a great time to remember those who give all year long. A state lawmaker says there's a way for Pennsylvania residents to honor those who have protected and served to the fullest measure. Roseann Cadau has mor information.


Farms, Communities, & Government Agencies can work together to clean our watersheds

From civic groups to the Secretary of Agriculture, Pennsylvanians are working to preserve the state's water and natural resources. A water quality specialist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences says public-private partnerships hold promise for tackling our state's watershed problems.


Fire Safe Cigarettes to hit Pennsylvania in new year

Representative Tim Solobay of Washington County is hoping the leading cause of fires will be extinguished with a new law set to take effect next month. Roseann Cadau reports from Harrisburg.


PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Mummers Parade in Philadelphia is a go this New Year's Day thanks to last-minute financial help from donors. The 108-year-old parade's funding has been in jeopardy due to the troubled economy. The City of Philadelphia is reducing its support because of looming budget deficits. But other donors have pledged more than $230,000 to ensure the Mummers strut up Broad Street on schedule. Mummers lawyer George J. Badey III says the donors include the Delaware Valley Regional Economic Development Fund; Joey Vento of Geno's Steaks; the Electric Factory; Forman Mills; and Verizon.

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - A minor earthquake has shaken the Lancaster area. The U.S. Geological Survey says the 3.4 magnitude quake hit early Saturday morning, a few moments after midnight. It was centered just outside Lancaster. More than 1,000 people called the Lancaster County 911 center. Many thought there had been an explosion nearby, but there were no reports of injuries or severe damage.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - As gas prices fall, ridership on the Allentown area's public transportation is dipping too. Use of Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority bus service rose earlier this year as the price at the pump skyrocketed. But when gas prices fell, LANTA ridership growth slowed. It slipped into reverse in November, when fewer people hopped on LANTA buses than in November 2007. Executive director Armando Greco said two factors are largely to blame: the declining price of gas, along with fewer commuters due to job losses in the slumping economy. Greco said 2008 still has been a good year overall for the transit authority. Through last month, year-to-date ridership was up 7 percent versus the same period in 2007. LANTA was created during the national gas shortages in the early 1970s.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Philadelphia home fire apparently caused by an exploding kerosene heater has killed seven people, most of whom were found huddled together in the basement. Firefighters say the dead are four adults and three children, including a 1-year-old. Four people survived the fire. Harris Murphy says he was visiting the home when the fire erupted last night. He says a woman at the home had tried to pour fuel into a kerosene heater but it got too hot and she was trying to carry it outside when it exploded. Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers says the fire was at a three-story brick home in a working-class neighborhood in the southwest section of the city, close to the Philadelphia International Airport. He says there was only one exit from the basement and that's a code violation.

JERUSALEM (AP) - The Israeli defense minister says his country won't allow Hamas militants in Gaza to continue their rocket and mortar attacks on Israel. He warns the air strikes on militant targets in Gaza will expand "as necessary." Hamas says at least 192 Gazans have been killed in the hours-old offensive.

BAGHDAD (AP) - A bombing in a busy square in Iraq has left at least 22 people dead. Violence has dropped by more than 80 percent around Iraq and especially Baghdad, but devastating attacks still occur. A separate bombing south of the capital killed three people, including an Iraqi soldier.

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - International aid agencies warn that the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe is getting worse. The cholera epidemic is growing and there's been a sharp rise in acute child malnutrition. President Robert Mugabe's government has acknowledged the country's health care system has collapsed.

CHICAGO (AP) - The good weather news is a break in the Arctic cold across the Midwest. The bad news may be that warmer temperatures and rain could bring flooding in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and elsewhere. Iowa's overflowing Chariton River is already causing minor flooding. Road flooding has also been reported in parts of Missouri.

HONOLULU (AP) - A blackout in Hawaii is affecting thousands of residents and vacationers, including President-elect Barack Obama. A Hawaiian Electric Company spokeswoman says an emergency generator has been dispatched to Obama's beach house. The outage hit during a thunderstorm.


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