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  • 09/24/11--17:39: Noteworthy 09-25-11
  • Relay for Life Meeting slated

    ELYSBURG - A reorganizational meeting for the Relay For Life of Southern Columbia will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the library at Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church, 599 W. Center St.

    This meeting is open to everyone. Anyone considering becoming involved in the fight against cancer by serving on the committee to help organize the event or starting a team is asked to attend.

    Life Flight open house Oct. 2

    DANVILLE - Geisinger's Life Flight 1 base will open its doors to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, at its base on the Geisinger campus. The open house is in recognition of Life Flight's 30 years of service.

    Visitors will have the opportunity to meet the Life Flight staff, tour a state-of-the-art helicopter and enjoy light refreshments with the crew.

    This rain-or-shine event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Lisa Weston at 271-6217.

    Children's Roundtable Summit held

    SUNBURY - Leaders in serving and protecting the youth of Northumberland County participated in the Children's Roundtable Summit this week. The team was led by Judge Charles H. Saylor and Karen Miller, director of Northumberland County Children and Youth Services.

    It included Judy Jones, court-appointed special advocate director; Cheryl Humes, guardian ad litem for children in foster care; and Cathy Gemberling, director of permanency services for Children and Youth Services.

    The conference featured national experts on children's grief and loss, and also the topic of the impact on children of the addiction issues of their parents.

    Saylor led a discussion group on teens in court and transitioning from foster care to independent living.

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    SHAMOKIN - A state and federal disaster recovery center is operational in Shamokin, and area property owners impacted by Tropical Storm Lee are urged to pay a visit.

    The center offers flood victims face-to-face guidance in applying for federal aid, and even those who show up with a blank form will get help in filling it out.

    It also allows them to meet with representatives of six state agencies, providing services from administering tetanus shots to obtaining copies of vital documents, including vehicle titles and salvage certificates, birth certificates and welfare and medical benefits paperwork.

    For those with private wells, water testing kits are also available.

    And while it will help property owners move toward a sense of normalcy, emergency assistance offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency won't replace all damages incurred.

    "What people have to understand is that going through FEMA is only for assistance and is not meant to replace insurance," said Steve Reiner, Northumberland County's acting director of public safety, while visiting the disaster recovery center Saturday at Northumberland County Career and Arts Center, Eighth and Arch streets.

    Mike Sweet, FEMA public information officer, agreed and added, "It won't put you back to the way it was before because the agency is not designed for that." In fact, Sweet said FEMA representatives encourage visitors to the disaster recovery center to look into purchasing flood insurance if they're not already covered.

    Tropical Storm Lee passed through the area nearly three weeks ago, causing Shamokin Creek to overflow in parts of the city's First, Fourth and Fifth wards, as well as in Coal Township, including parts of Ranshaw and Tharptown.

    The storm also caused severe flash flooding and the overflow of creeks throughout Northumberland County, which, along with 18 other Pennsylvania counties, was declared a disaster area Sept. 13 by President Obama. On Saturday, FEMA announced seven more counties were added to the declaration, raising the total to 26.

    Housing a priority

    The top priority since, Sweet said, is to get those displaced by the storm into proper housing, a sentiment echoed by other FEMA officials in the days since flooding began.

    On average, he said, it will take about five days for a flood victim to receive rental assistance, which is good for as long as 18 months.

    For those whose properties were condemned as a result of the storm, Sweet said they can request a buyout through municipal officials, who in turn will send the process up through the state and federal disaster agencies.

    Fair market value will be offered for any home approved for a buyout.

    "It is not a quick buyout," Sweet said, saying it could take, on average, two years for a property owner to receive a check when approved.

    Grant funding and low-interest loans, both of which are administered by the Small Business Administration, are available to cover losses of essential items - appliances, beds, food, for example - and emergency repairs to homes and businesses.

    Grants, loans available

    Sweet said those approved for grant funding, which is available to low-income applicants, are eligible for up to $30,200, which includes rental assistance. This funding can come as quick as seven to 10 days, but could be delayed if proper paperwork, such as SBA loan applications, are not submitted in a timely manner.

    For those deemed financially sound enough to repay a disaster loan and are declared ineligible for grant funding, an appeal process exists. However, if a disaster loan is a flood victim's option, they are eligible to apply for a variety of loans, including home, business and economic disaster.

    Home loans are financed between 2.5 percent and 5 percent and are limited to $200,000, along with up to $40,000 to repair and replace personal property.

    Business loans are financed between 3 percent and 3.25 percent and are limited to $2,000,000, which can be used to replace machinery, inventory and real estate and other physical losses. Economic disaster loans are available up to the same amount and are financed at 4 percent.

    Business loan interest rates for nonprofit organizations are lower.

    These SBA loan applications must be filled out and returned, even if a property owner does not wish to take out a loan, in order for federal financial assistance to be processed, FEMA officials have said.

    If approved, property owners may also receive additional funds for disaster mitigation improvements such as retaining walls and the purchase of sump pumps.

    The president's disaster declaration marked the beginning of the 60-day window to seek assistance.

    The disaster recovery center, which is open to anyone living in any of the counties designated a disaster area, will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week for the immediate future; no date has been set for its closure. However, it will likely close as it receives less and less visitors.

    State departments with representatives on site are PennDOT, health, welfare, community and economic development, emergency management and environmental protection.

    Individuals and business owners seeking federal disaster assistance may also register by calling FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (TTY: 1-800-462-7585) to file a claim. Claims may also be filed online at or via smart phone or tablet at

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    International demand for anthracite coal is spurring an uptick in surface mining in Northumberland County.

    Nearly 90,000 tons of coal was extracted by four operators from four county surface mines in 2010, according to state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) mining activity reports.

    And while that figure dwarfs the 20,000-plus tons reported in 2009, Mike Menghini, district manager of DEP's Pottsville office, said tonnage reporting discrepancies have more to do with the difference than actual mining. Still, output doubled from 2009 to 2010, representing a 100 percent increase.

    Menghini said the increase in Northumberland County can be attributed to expansion of operations by both Mallard Contracting and Farragut Anthracite, which operate out of the same Mount Carmel office.

    Farragut, Menghini said, operates a mine in the area that had once been home to "The Mile" stripping pit in Coal and Zerbe townships - a pit that no longer exists due to the mining operation.

    46 employed

    The county's four strip-mine operators, which also include D. Molesevich and Sons and Keystone Anthracite, employed 31 workers in 2010, with 61,697 hours worked at their mines.

    In comparison, three Northumberland County underground mine operators - Bear Gap Coal, FKZ Coal and Robert Shingara - worked three mines and extracted more than 10,800 tons of anthracite last year, an increase over the nearly 7,800 tons reported in 2009.

    The underground mines employed 15 who worked a total of 20,601 hours in 2010.

    Neighbors up, too

    The surface mining tonnage increase was shared to a varying degree in neighboring Schuylkill and Luzerne counties, where more than 907,000 and 1,524,000 tons were extracted in 2010. Those operations are clearly larger and operating mines more plentiful, with eight operators working 11 surface mines in Luzerne and 31 operators working 42 mines in Schuylkill.

    Strip mining employed a combined 381 in those two counties.

    'Demand strong'

    And while the uptick should hardly be considered a hard coal renaissance, it at least reassures that the industry locally isn't a relic of coal region past.

    "We expect demand to be strong for the next few years," said Duane Feagley, president of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Council.

    Both Menghini and Feagley said a substantial amount of anthracite is exported to China, with Menghini citing steel markets in Quebec and Belgium and Feagley citing South America as another destination.

    "There's less volatility in the market and more demand," Menghini said.

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    ASHLAND - When it comes to Saturday's DARE Mile, age didn't seem to matter, with runners and walkers ranging from children in kindergarten to senior citizens.

    The annual race, now in its 19th year, had another successful run, with 125 participants heading downhill along Walnut Street on the one-mile long course under an overcast sky.

    "We have a lot of kindergarten kids here today, which is different, but a very good thing," said Schuylkill County Deputy Sheriff Dennis Kane, who coordinates the DARE (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education) program in area schools.

    Kane said 80 people pre-registered, with about 50 registering before the race.

    Numbers were down from last year's race, which was dedicated to the memory of John "John A" Anczarski, who at 19 was killed after being struck by a car in New Laguna, N.M. during a fundraising bicycle run to raise awareness about breast cancer and raise funds. While at North Schuylkill High School, he had served on the DARE Advisory Board.

    Running his second DARE Mile was John W. Hetherington, 80, of Ringtown, who was in the second heat with the first group of runners. The first heat was for walkers and young children, while the third was for the elite runners.

    "I want to do a 10-minute mile," said Hetherington with a laugh. "I just started running three years ago, so I'm just a beginner."

    It was the tribute to Anczarski last year that prompted Hetherington to race in 2010.

    "I was involved with the Boy Scouts and he (Anczarski) was a Boy Scout, so that's why I came last year. Before then, I didn't even know this race existed, and I go to races all over. I'm usually in 5Ks, mostly in the Stroudsburg area where my daughter lives."

    Hetherington was asked why he started running.

    "I was heavy and since then I lost about 20 pounds," said Hetherington.

    Hetherington finished second in the 60+ age category.

    Also participating were DARE graduates Crystal Reichwein of Pittsburgh and Tara (Scheuren) Bahn of York, who traveled back to run. Both originally from Ashland, Reichwein and Bahn are 1997 and 2000 graduates, respectively. Reichwein's fiance, Bob Fenwick, also was runner in Saturday's race.

    "I've been back to race in the past three years, but I've also been here other years," said Reichwein. "It's a fun race, and I get to come home for a weekend."

    "At least for the past seven years," said Bahn. "My husband and I started the year were we married, and tomorrow is our anniversary. It's kind of a tradition now to come back. And it's a good chance to run a fast time. You can brag about your time without saying it's downhill."

    Bahn said her father, Russell Sheuren, has been in the race for many years. He finished in first place on Saturday in the 60+ age category at 6 minutes, 11 seconds.

    The DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), which is coordinated locally by the Schuylkill County Sheriff's Office, was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and came to the county in the early 1990s. Working with schools, DARE provides kids with the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, alcohol, gangs and violence. The DARE Mile helps raise funds for the program in local schools.

    The course begins at the 2400 block of Walnut Street, with the runners/walkers moving east to Fifth Street. The first two blocks are slightly uphill, then the rest of the way is a steep decline.

    After reaching the finish line, everyone moved to Devito's Italian Eatery for the announcement of winners and awards. First place winners in each age category are given a trophy, with those placing in second and third receive medals.

    Kane thanked the sponsors for their generous support of the race each year.

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  • 09/26/11--13:45: Noteworthy 9/27/11
  • Lane restriction this week on I-80

    MONTOURSVILLE - A short-term lane closure on I-80 west in Northumberland and Montour counties began Monday morning and will last through Friday morning.

    According to PennDOT, the closure will be between the Danville and Limestoneville interchanges. The contractor will be flipping lanes periodically to apply epoxy-coating to three bridge decks, along with sawing and sealing cracks.

    Motorists can visit or call 511 from any phone to check interstate traffic conditions.

    Disaster loan paperwork due

    HARRISBURG - Disaster applicants who registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance and received a Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan application must complete and return it, even if they do not want a loan.

    A completed disaster loan application is the gateway to determining the type of assistance a homeowner or renter may be eligible for, according to FEMA.

    Filling out the disaster loan application does not mean an applicant will be approved for a loan, nor does it mean they must accept a loan if they are approved. If the applicant is denied a loan, they may be considered for other FEMA programs. Insurance does not have to be settled before submitting a completed SBA disaster loan application.

    Assistance in completing the application and more information is available locally at a disaster relief center operating 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week on the second floor of the Northumberland County Career and Arts Center, Eighth and Arch streets, Shamokin. Help is also available by calling SBA at 1-800-659-2955, by emailing, or visiting

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    SUNBURY - A 32-year-old Coal Township man, who was charged in connection with what is believed to be the largest seizure of drugs from a single dealer in the local area, had his bail significantly reduced Monday afternoon, but still remains in Northumberland County Prison.

    Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage reduced the bail of Jeffrey J. Persavage Jr. from $100,000 to $25,000 unsecured, meaning the defendant only needs to post 10 percent ($2,500) to be set free. But as of early Monday night, Persavage remained incarcerated at the county jail.

    Persavage's attorney, Peter Campana, argued that his client had been imprisoned since early January in Monroe and Northumberland counties and was entitled by law to nominal bail since he had not yet gone to trial. Sacavage granted Campana's request despite objections by Senior Deputy Attorney General David Gorman, who is prosecuting the case.

    More than $65K in drugs

    Persavage was charged by Mount Carmel Sgt. Todd Owens and Sunbury Patrolman Travis Bremgien of the Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force with possessing more than $65,000 worth of drugs after undercover officers made a drug purchase on June 22, 2010, on West Second Street in Mount Carmel.

    The officers bought an eighth of an ounce of cocaine and some marijuana from Persavage, who was later stopped just outside the borough and had his car searched. The search revealed a large amount of narcotics, including more than three pounds of marijuana, more than a half-pound of cocaine, more than 300 MDMA tablets, more commonly known as ecstasy, and two forms of hashish, known as "Black Tar" and "Golden Nugget."

    Persavage was charged with 10 felony charges and five misdemeanor charges of possession with intent to sell controlled substances.

    He was held for court on the charges by Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones of Mount Carmel on Aug. 3.

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    SUNBURY - A 21-year-old Wilburton man charged with numerous offenses relating to a May 7 chase in which he rammed the side of a Mount Carmel Township police cruiser pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to several charges, including a felony of fleeing or attempting to elude police.

    Jeramy Allen Deeter, of 18 First St., who remains incarcerated at Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury, pleaded guilty to fleeing or attempting to elude police, one count of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under suspension and resisting arrest before Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage.

    The fleeing charge is a felony of the third degree and carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment and $15,000 fine. The misdemeanor DUI charge, which reportedly is Deeter's first DUI offense, carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and $1,000 fine. The driving under suspension charge is a summary that carries a maximum penalty of 90 days imprisonment and $200 fine. The resisting arrest offense is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and $5,000 fine.

    Northumberland County Assistant District Attorney William Cole, who is prosecuting the case, said Deeter also will be required to pay full restitution for damage done to a police car involved in the chase. The restitution amount will be determined before Deeter is sentenced within 90 days.

    Additional charges of aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, flight to avoid apprehension, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, a lighting violation, driving without insurance, criminal mischief and restrictions on alcoholic beverages will not be prosecuted at the time of sentencing.

    The charges were filed by Mount Carmel Township Patrolman Kelly Campbell.

    Deeter was apprehended following the vehicle chase and ensuing foot pursuit that began at about 2:10 a.m. after Campbell observed Deeter driving erratically on the Locust Gap Highway.

    Campbell, who suffered minor injuries after his police car was struck by the Jeep Cherokee operated by Deeter, underwent emergency room treatment at Shamokin Area Community Hospital before being released.

    Deeter and three passengers in the Jeep Cherokee escaped injury.

    The police car, which is a 2010 Dodge Charger, sustained extensive damage and was towed from the scene.

    The vehicle, which was purchased by Mount Carmel Township supervisors for the police department, had been in use since January and only had 14,000 miles on it.

    The Jeep Cherokee sustained severe damage and was towed from the scene.

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    SHAMOKIN - This weekend, a video camera was lowered into the deep hole left by a mine subsidence along Route 125, but a plan to stabilize the area remains in the works and the highway is expected to remain closed in the area for a few more weeks, according to PennDOT.

    Community Relations Coordinator Rick Mason said the camera was used to learn more about the situation under ground.

    The hole opened late Wednesday night, prompting PennDOT to close the road.

    The subsidence is at least 200 feet deep and approximately 20 feet wide, and is along the edge of Route 125 south of the city, between the "bus barn" and the village of Burnside.

    The highway is closed between Bear Valley Road and Upper Road (Route 2044) in Gowen City. Traffic is being detoured via Upper Road to Trevorton, then onto Routes 225 and 61 into Shamokin.

    Mason said PennDOT is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation to determine the next course of action.

    A concrete air shaft is located in the center of the subsidence, which contains water at the bottom.

    PennDOT employees have erected signs and piled several huge mounds of dirt across the highway in both directions near the subsidence to prohibit motorists from entering the area.

    "Our experts have recommended to us that we keep the road shut down, at least for a few weeks more," Mason said Monday.

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    BLOOMSBURG - An empty container from Joe's Homemade Pierogies. A half-eaten apple dumpling with cinnamon ice cream from Bissingers. The delicious aroma of Vince's Cheesesteaks.

    If you didn't know any better, you would think the Bloomsburg Fair had never been canceled, but on Route 11, several businesses have opened their properties to vendors for a smaller version of the popular county fair, which was canceled because of extensive flood damage. People such as lifelong fair attendee Shawn McShea couldn't be more pleased.

    "It's like paradise. The stars aligned," he jokingly said.

    McShea and his wife, Anitra, both 36, of Mountain Top, have been going to the fair every year since they met almost 15 years ago. Shawn McShea even joked that they shortened their honeymoon to attend the fair. They were looking forward to taking their 17-month-old son to see the animals.

    Unfortunately, the Flood of 2011 caused significant damage to the fairgrounds, and the 157-year-old event was canceled for the first time in its long history. It would have opened Saturday, Sept. 24.

    However, some vendors, who have surpluses right now, are selling their products at various parking lots along Route 11.

    In the Renco Ace Hardware parking lot, patrons can find Vince's, Bissingers, Denny and Pearl's Pizza, Joe's Homemade Pierogies and DP's Apple Dumplings. In the Alexander family car dealership parking lot, there's Mr. Sticky's and Gunzeys. At Stolz Stove Sales parking lot, there's Jumbo Waffle Ice Cream, Cactus Taters and Ron's Fresh Squeezed Lemonade.

    Started with John the Greek

    It all started with John Koutoufaris, who set up his "John the Greek" stand along Route 11 to sell his food last week.

    At Renco, co-owner Julie Lown said they are allowing the vendors to rent the space and use their electricity for free, as long as they donate what they would have paid in rent at the fair to flood victims in Bloomsburg. Renco owners encouraged the vendors to keep their profits, but donate more if they are able.

    "It's for a good cause," Vince Cocca, owner of Vince's Cheesesteaks, said while cooking the meat for his famous sandwiches.

    "The whole idea is not just to get rid of the stock, but help the flood victims, too," he added.

    It would have been Cocca's 35th year at the fair, where 35 people would have been working for him and he would have made 35 to 40 percent of his income for the year.

    "It's a big impact. It's not just what I don't make, but what my employees won't make either," he said.

    Over the next week, Cocca anticipates he will make 10 percent of what he would have made at the fair, but said he's glad to be a part of what's happening.

    "I hope what we do will help the community," he said.

    Dale Peters, owner of DP Apple Dumplings and Funnel Cakes, was able to cancel his order for apples, but has plenty of funnel cake to sell.

    "I'm very grateful. I'm grateful I'm not one of the victims, but I feel sorry for the people that were," he said.

    With six years of fair experience, he said he would have sold 1,000 funnel cakes and 1,000 apple dumplings.

    While the "mini-fair" is only a fraction of the size of the Bloomsburg Fair, Anitra McShea said, "It doesn't feel like fall without the fair."

    Husband and wife were surprised at the size of the crowd of people walking around. In fact, there was a line for cheesesteaks, just as there would have been at the well-known fairgrounds.

    "It's a fair feeling. It's not the same, but it will keep us until next year," Anitra McShea said.

    "You still have the people, you still have the food smells, and it still feels like the fair on a smaller scale. It's more than I expected," said Shawn McShea.

    The fair at Renco starts daily at 10 a.m. with no specific end time through Saturday, Oct. 1. Anyone donating at least $5 to the flood victims will receive 20 percent off anything inside the hardware store.

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    SUNBURY - The president of Fairview Gun Club in Coal Township, who is charged with gambling and liquor violations, has applied for acceptance into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.

    James R. Williams, 79, of 1439 W. Gowen St., Coal Township, who has no prior criminal record, applied for the program in an attempt to expunge the charges of unlawful use of illegal gambling devices and two counts of unlawful acts relative to malt or brewed beverages and licensees from his record.

    On Aug. 23, Williams waived his right to a preliminary hearing on the charges and also waived his arraignment in county court after reportedly reaching an agreement with the county district attorney's office to seek acceptance into the ARD program.

    Northumberland County Assistant District Attorney Michael Toomey, who is prosecuting the case, confirmed Monday that Williams applied for the ARD program. Toomey said if Williams successfully completes the program, the charges will be expunged. He said the defendant is required to pay the costs associated with the program and must pay fines and costs connected to the charges before he can complete the ARD program.

    Fairview Gun Club, 4000 W. State St., Coal Township, which was charged with the same misdemeanor offenses, had its preliminary hearing continued Aug. 23. No new hearing date has been set.

    Thousands in fines

    Williams, who is being represented by Attorney Marc Lieberman of Elysburg, and the organization were charged in July following an undercover investigation by the State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE). The charges were filed by Officer Scott D. Berdine in connection with a July 18 incident at Fairview Gun Club.

    If convicted, Williams could face a fine of $5,000 and up to two years in jail, while the club could also be fined $5,000 and face sanctions that include fines of $2 per fluid ounce of the confiscated beer, which included 10 partial kegs, 163 bottles and 692 cans. Not counting the kegs and assuming the cans and bottles were 12 ounces, the fine would be $20,520.

    According to a criminal complaint, Berdine visited the club and found five individuals: Four of them were playing poker for money and the fifth person was playing a video slot machine. Berdine said he saw a board listing the names of winners of daily small games of chance drawings, but no license was posted at the premises.

    The officer said he sat at the bar and noticed a tap system with five types of beer available, glasses and two stand-up coolers filled with canned and bottled beer, along with an open table drawer with money in it. On the bar was a table-top video slot machine. Two empty kegs were behind the bar, he reported. Berdine said a sixth person entered the bar, took eight cans of beer and placed a $10 bill in an open cash drawer.

    Berdine purchased two cans of beer from the bar, as Williams showed three video cameras recording the activities inside. Berdine left the gun club after an hour and returned a week later, when he counted 20 people inside, most of whom had either cans of beer or mugs containing what appeared to be draft beer. Two patrons were seen playing one of the bingo machines, Berdine said.

    On June 15, another officer met with Williams at his home, where he told police about the club's operation, selling beer and having the gambling devices, according to the LCE. Williams consented to a search of the club, where he showed police the "knock-off" methods for the devices, Berdine reported.

    After the search, officers seized two video gambling devices, a six-card gambling device, the kegs, bottles and cans of beer, $966 in currency and miscellaneous documents.

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    SUNBURY - A 70-year-old Trevorton man charged with sexual-related offenses involving a 14-year-old boy was sentenced Monday afternoon to 30 days to 12 months in Northumberland County Prison and given three years of intermediate punishment, including six months of house arrest.

    Willett Edgar Earnest, of 345 S. Coal St., received the sentence that also included an order by Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage to pay $1,000 in fines and an assortment of costs.

    The judge's ruling came after the defendant's attorney presented character witnesses and said her client had received 30 letters of support, while the prosecution noted an eight-page petition from Trevorton residents requesting the maximum sentence had been submitted to the court.

    Earnest, who began his sentence immediately, was given credit for two days previously served in the county jail.

    Earnest, who doesn't have a prior criminal record, pleaded guilty to first-degree misdemeanor offenses of indecent assault and corruption of minors on May 26, the same day he was scheduled to go to trial.

    He was given the prison sentence on the indecent assault charge and sentenced to undergo the intermediate punishment supervised by the adult probation department on the corruption of minors offense. The sentences will run concurrent to each other.

    A felony charge of solicitation to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and an additional misdemeanor count of indecent assault were withdrawn at sentencing.

    The incident

    Earnest was charged by Trooper Kevin Kearney of state police at Stonington with allowing a 14-year-old boy to drive his car in exchange for sexual contact.

    According to a criminal complaint filed Feb. 9, 2010, Earnest committed the offenses with the boy at his home between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m. Dec. 27, 2009.

    The complaint states the victim, who was employed by Earnest to do part-time work, was taken to lunch by the defendant, who allowed the boy to drive his Mustang after lunch.

    Upon returning to Earnest's residence, the defendant told the victim he would allow him to have his Mustang until he turned 16 years of age if he performed sexual acts with him.

    Police said Earnest and the victim then went upstairs, where the defendant allegedly grabbed the boy's buttocks and groin before the victim kicked Earnest and ran downstairs and outside the home. The victim then planned to go home, but Earnest reportedly convinced him to allow the defendant to drive him home by allowing the boy to drive part way.

    Police reported Earnest told the victim he was sorry and urged him not to tell anybody about the incident.

    The victim reported the incident to police on the same day it occurred.

    Probation sought

    Earnest was initially committed to Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury in lieu of $100,000 cash bail, but later posted bail.

    The standard sentencing range for each offense is probation to a minimum of nine months incarceration.

    Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and $10,000 fine.

    Earnest's attorney, Karen Gwyn Muir of State College, was seeking probation for her client, but understood Sacavage's sentence. "He could have gotten a worse sentence," she said.

    Family members of the victim declined comment after sentencing.

    Support, petition

    Prior to sentencing, Earnest told the court he was sorry for his actions and apologized to the victim and his family. He noted his actions were a one-time occurrence and will not be repeated in the future.

    Muir pointed out that Earnest received 30 letters of support from friends and has cooperated throughout the investigation and criminal proceedings. She also noted her client was found not to be a sexually violent predator after undergoing an evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.

    The defense attorney said Earnest was a high school rifle coach for 30 years and had a positive influence in helping his shooters qualify for the Junior Olympics. She said her client, who also was involved with the Boy Scouts, moved to Trevorton a few years ago after retirement. She said he worked for U.S. Steel in Bucks County for 23 years.

    Muir presented Earnest's wife, Billie Jo, who reportedly is very ill, his daughter, Elisha Robertson, of New York, and one of his rifle shooters, Leo Funk, an Eagle Scout from the Sunbury area, as character witnesses.

    Robertson called her father a "role model" who taught his shooters respect, honor and honesty. Billie Jo Earnest said her husband had a positive influence on many people over the years and commended him for his strong work ethic and sportsmanship in high school rifling.

    Funk commended the defendant for helping him get accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

    Assistant District Attorney Melissa Norton, who was representing the commonwealth at sentencing for Assistant District Attorney Ann Targonski, told Sacavage an eight-page petition signed by Trevorton residents had been submitted to the court requesting Earnest receive the maximum penalty under the law.

    Norton also pointed out the seriousness of the offenses and the young age of the victim.

    Just before sentencing Earnest, Sacavage said, "These are significant charges involving a 14-year-old boy. The court's purpose is to find the proper balance to symbolize the appropriateness of the offenses."

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  • 09/26/11--19:21: County judge hospitalized
  • SUNBURY - Northumberland County Judge William H. Wiest reportedly suffered an infection Monday morning at the county courthouse that made him very weak and required him to be transported by ambulance to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

    The veteran judge, who fell ill shortly after 10 a.m., was escorted in a wheelchair from the second floor in an elevator to the sheriff's office on the first floor. He was then taken through a side exit in the sheriff's office to an awaiting ambulance, which transported him to Geisinger.

    A nursing supervisor at Geisinger reported Wiest was still undergoing medical treatment at the facility at 8 p.m. Monday.

    All of Wiest's court cases scheduled for Monday were either reassigned to county President Judge Robert B. Sacavage or continued.

    The judge is expected to miss at least one day of work from his illness.

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  • 09/27/11--12:41: Noteworthy 09-28-11
  • Location of Fall Fun Fest moved

    SHAMOKIN - Saturday's third annual Fall Fun Festival and Car Boot Sale will be centered around the 100 block of Independence Street (the area of the Fun Shop and the pharmacies) instead of the municipal parking lot at Rock and Independence streets.

    The event is sponsored by the Northumberland County Council for the Arts and Humanities (NCCAH) and will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    In addition to the boot sale (a yard sale from vehicles), there will be food vendors, crafters, horse-drawn hayrides, a haystack hunt, face painting and pumpkin painting. Children and adults are welcome to bring masks, scarecrows and painted chairs for judging at noon. There are cash prizes.

    For more information, e-mail

    Open house at cancer society office

    HUMMELS WHARF - An open house is scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the new location of the American Cancer Society, 1420 N. Susquehanna Trail, behind the Wendy's across Routes 11-15 from Lowe's.

    The East Central Divison, headquartered in Williamsport, combined its Lewisburg, Bloomsburg and Shamokin offices at the new site to better use its donor dollars.

    For more information, contact Tessa Bieber at

    Candidate hosting dinner Saturday

    ELYSBURG - Stephen Bridy, an independent candidate for Northumberland County commissioner, is hosting a free dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Elysburg Fire Company on Mill Street.

    To RSVP or for more information, call 274-7676 or 274-7677.

    Bridy said he's having the event in an effort to meet voters, but that it is not a fundraiser. Still, donations are welcome to cover the cost of the food, which he said is being catered by Mattucci's Willow Street Cafe.

    SAT tests at Shamokin Area

    COAL TOWNSHIP - The SAT Reasoning and the SAT Subject tests will be administered to pre-registered candidates on Saturday. Check-in and room assignment will begin at 7:30 a.m. in the auditorium lobby for individuals who bring all required admissions documents and materials. All candidates must present photo/signature identification or an official letter of identification on school letterhead signed by either the school's principal or school's counselor.

    Students should consult their Registration Bulletin or for additional information regarding test-day procedures. The doors to the test center will close at 8 a.m. Candidates are reminded to park their vehicles in either of the side parking lots. Travel arrangements should be confirmed prior to the test date. Candidates are reminded that cell phones are not permitted in the test center.

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    Considering the severity of the flooding in the Bloomsburg area, the decision, though lamented by many, was inevitable.

    For the first time in 157 years, the Bloomsburg Fair, scheduled to open Saturday, Sept. 24 and close Saturday, Oct, 1, was canceled.

    The decision not to hold the 2011 fair was made following a meeting of the fair board that was held one week after Bloomsburg was hit with a record-breaking flood. The National Weather Service in State College reported the Susquehanna River in Bloomsburg crested at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at 32.75 feet, breaking the previous record of 32.7 feet set on March 9, 1904. The Press-Enterprise reported some parts of the fairgrounds were covered in 10 to 12 feet of water.

    The flood prompted Bloomsburg University to cancel classes and urge students to go home until the following week. That was easier said than done. Because of road and bridge closings, the trek to Bloomsburg proved to be a major challenge for students' families. In many cases, they were detoured many miles out of their way. Whereas a normal trip from Shamokin or Mount Carmel might take a half-hour, the journey during the flood, made longer for safety's sake, took several hours in some cases.

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    DANVILLE - Members of Our Lady of Lourdes High School Class of 1961 gathered at the Pine Barn Inn Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their high school graduation.

    The weekend festivities began Friday with a Mass in the chapel at Lourdes, lunch in the school cafeteria and a tour of the school. All activities were coordinated by classmate Mary Ellen (Kasenchak) Candelora.

    An informal get together on Friday evening was hosted by Al Smokowicz and Carol (Catino) Smokowitz at their residence in Danville.

    On Saturday, a memorial Mass was held to remember deceased classmates.

    Reunion chairperson Elizabeth (Startzel) Higgins and committee members welcomed 38 class members from the original 88 who graduated on June 5, 1961, to a formal dinner on Saturday evening.

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    SELINSGROVE - EconomicsPennsylvania announced the addition of Stacy Butler and J. Donald Steele Jr. to its Susquehanna Valley Regional Board.

    Butler is an agent for State Farm Insurance and Steele is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Northumberland National Bank.

    Sheri L. Hoffman, EconomicsPennsylvania vice president, said all three are longtime volunteers and benefactors of the organization who each bring to the board a "breadth of experience, expertise, enthusiasm and commitment to our important mission and vision for area teachers and students."

    The board is chaired by area realtor Art Bowen.

    EconomicsPennsylvania, headquartered in Selinsgrove, is the single largest not-for-profit economic education and financial literacy organization in the state.

    For more information, visit

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    Several rounds of thunderstorms that dumped heavy rain in the area Tuesday put residents on high alert for the second time in nearly three weeks.

    The National Weather Service in State College issued a flash flood warning through 10 p.m. Tuesday for much of the area, including southern Columbia County and east central Northumberland County. A flash flood warning means flooding is imminent or occurring.

    A flood warning was also issued until 10:45 p.m. for urban areas and small streams in northwestern Northumberland County.

    At 8:30 p.m., the Penn Valley Airport in Selinsgrove reported 2.42 inches of rain on Tuesday.

    Although Shamokin Creek did not come close to reaching the record flood level set Sept. 8, it was enough to flood the basements of some residents living on Water Street in Mount Carmel.

    At 7 p.m., water had risen over the deteriorated walls that channel the creek. Several residents expressed frustration over the condition of the walls and said they are soon going to put up signs that say, "help."

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    KULPMONT - A 38-year-old Kulpmont man allegedly pulled a handgun from an officer's holster and punched the patrolman in the face as police attempted to take him into custody following a disturbance at his home Monday.

    Jason Michael Johns, of 1229 Scott St., was arraigned at about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday by Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones on felonies of aggravated assault, robbery and disarming a police officer, and misdemeanors of simple assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct relating to the altercation with police.

    The defendant was committed to Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury in lieu of $30,000 cash bail and is scheduled to face a preliminary hearing on the charges Oct. 5.

    Police said the altercation with police followed incidents in which Johns became upset over a recent breakup with his fiance. Johns cut himself while smashing items inside the residence and produced a 9mm handgun, police said.

    The charges were filed by Kulpmont Police Chief Richard Wilson III.

    According to a criminal complaint, Johns' stepfather, Lee Konjura, came to Kulpmont Police Station at 5:40 p.m. Monday to report that Johns was acting erratically after becoming upset over the recent breakup with his fiance after 11 years of living together. Konjura told police his stepson had suffered an arm laceration from smashing items inside the home.

    Konjura reported Johns was arguing with people on the telephone and allegedly produced a 9mm handgun that he cocked and placed on a table, which prompted Konjura to exit the home for his own safety.

    Wilson and Officer Cade Holden then responded to Johns' home, where they observed the defendant throwing items over a porch railing onto a pile of debris on the sidewalk.

    Wilson said Johns went back inside the home as the officers approached the residence. After Wilson knocked on the front window, Johns' mother, Barbara Konjura, came to the front door and was told by police that they needed to talk to her son.

    At that point, police said Johns exited the front door and began yelling on the front porch about his fiance breaking up with him. Johns then turned to go back inside the home, but was instructed by Wilson to come down to the sidewalk and talk with him, and also was ordered to stop yelling.

    At that time, Wilson said Johns approached him in an aggressive manner, yelled at him and pointed his finger in his face. After Wilson advised Johns twice to step back and move his hand away from his face, Johns shouted, "Go ahead and (expletive) arrest me."

    Wilson said he then advised Johns to step toward the street between Holden and himself. Johns placed his hands behind his back and was ordered by Wilson to get down on his knees. Wilson, who noticed Johns had his right forearm wrapped in a blood-soaked rag, then approached the defendant, who grabbed onto Wilson's right leg. After Wilson forced Johns to the ground, Holden was able to handcuff his left wrist. But Johns continued to resist arrest even more, forcing Wilson to spray him with pepper spray.

    Wilson said he noticed that Johns had pulled Holden's handgun from his holster, which fell onto the sidewalk before being retrieved by Wilson, who called for assistance.

    Police were then able to handcuff Johns' other wrist before taking him into custody.

    As emergency medical personnel were summoned to treat Johns and Wilson, the defendant became unruly again and began shouting and cursing despite being warned to stop.

    While Johns was resisting arrest, the defendant punched Holden in the face. Holden also suffered abrasions to his elbows and knees while Wilson suffered an injury to his left hand, which was bleeding near the knuckles.

    Wilson said the uniforms of both officers were torn and will require replacements. The police chief said a wrist watch and gloves also were damaged during the altercation.

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  • 09/27/11--19:29: PA WEIGHS OWN DISASTER AID
  • HARRISBURG - As emergency officials grapple with the aftermath of massive flooding in the Susquehanna River Basin, state lawmakers are giving new scrutiny to proposals to create a standing state disaster relief fund for situations in which federal aid isn't available.

    The contrast between dealing with the current disaster and planning for future ones was evident Tuesday. Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), outlined the ongoing disaster relief response to Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene while suggesting that discussions have already taken place about the need for a state disaster fund and special "surge" outlays to pay the costs for early deployment of Pennsylvania Army National Guard troops and other personnel.

    "These two issues have been on the radar screen," Cannon said during a joint hearing by Senate and House committees with oversight over emergency preparedness.

    Addressing immediate needs first, Cannon said temporary housing for homeless flood victims in Northeast Pennsylvania is in the works. He added that there is a shortage of housing in Bradford County because of natural gas drillers. Specific locations for the temporary housing is still being determined, said PEMA spokesman Corey Angell.

    About 25 mobile units will move this week from a staging area in Harrisburg to assist individuals mainly in the hard-hit flood zone of the Northeast, said Cannon. He said that another federal housing program will be tapped to relocate the last 114 individuals staying at emergency shelters mainly in the Northeast. "They've been there too long," said Cannon.

    The transition shelter assistance program will help those individuals rent from landlords or stay at motels or hotels.

    $130 million in damages

    So far, Pennsylvania has documented about $130 million of damages to public works based on assessments of one-third of the affected counties included in presidential major disaster declaration that opens the federal aid pipeline, said Cannon. More than $59 million has been approved in federal disaster assistance for individuals, he added. These sums are well above the $16.5 million damage threshold that Pennsylvania needs to meet for a single disaster in order to get federal aid, he said.

    The issues facing lawmakers are how to structure a state fund, determine eligibility and assure that the money is properly spent, said Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp., chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

    "Proposals to eliminate the state store system typically call for the elimination of the Johnstown Flood Tax," Baker said. "Instead perhaps this tax can be redirected toward financing a state disaster assistance fund. Or, as an alternative, Gov. Corbett recently indicated that unallocated funds in this year's budget could be directed to disaster relief."

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    DANVILLE - Northumberland County Judge William H. Wiest, who suffered an infection Monday morning at Northumberland County Courthouse in Sunbury and had to be transported by ambulance to Geisinger Medical Center, was listed in serious condition Tuesday night, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

    The veteran judge, who fell ill shortly after 10 a.m., was escorted in a wheelchair from the second floor in an elevator to the sheriff's office on the first floor. He was then taken through a side exit in the sheriff's office to an awaiting ambulance, which transported him to Geisinger.

    Northumberland County Deputy Court Administrator Kevin O'Hearn said Wiest will be out of work the rest of the week. He said the vast majority of the judge's cases have been continued.

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