A massive fire destroyed two homes and damaged several others in Bloomsburg over the weekend and now, with one resident unaccounted for, a cadavar dog is being brought in to search through the debris. The fire was reported at about 1 o’clock Sunday morning when a passerby noticed smoke and flames coming from a double-block home at 335-337 Fair Street near Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital. All that’s left of the duplex is a charred pile of rubble. The blaze spread to an adjacent student apartment house at 341 Fair Street, which was gutted by the blaze. The student apartment house was empty, but Bloomsburg Fire Chief Scott McBride tells our news partner Newswatch 16 that only three of four people who live in the duplex that was leveled have been accounted for. A state police fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire, but the fire chief says the damage is so severe, the cause may be never known.
A resurfacing project on Route 42 in Columbia County will continue this week. A PennDOT contractor will pave from Hill Road in Millville Borough to Route 442 in Greenwood Township. Traffic will be reduced to a single lane. While minimal delays are expected, motorists are urged to be alert and drive with caution through the work zone.
The top Republican in the state Senate is calling for movement on his bill which would affect primary elections in the Commonwealth. When Pennsylvanians go to the polls on Tuesday, only those registered Republican or Democrat will be able to vote. That would change under a bill sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, which would open up the primaries to those registered Independent. Scarnati says that would represent a greater percentage of the voting population. The measure is currently before the Senate State Government Committee.
Three people are locked up and police in Berwick are searching for two others after they busted up a drug ring dealing in heroin and methamphetamine, according to our news partner Newswatch 16. Police say 56-year-old Charles Hess Sr., and 29-year-old Charles Hess Jr., of Berwick, are both facing charges following a raid yesterday. Police have also charged an informant, Tyia Starr, saying she warned at least one of the suspects prior to the raid. Police are also looking for Damon Magnuson and Zachary Parker. Authorities warn that Magnuson and Parker are considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information is asked to contact police in Berwick.
After 38 years in Danville, Geisinger is moving its Life Flight 1 base to Snyder County this summer. The move will allow for expansion, giving more space in Danville to the program's maintenance team. Geisinger says the program’s base in Danville, which has been on the GMC campus since 1981, will be relocated to the Penn Valley Airport near Selinsgrove. The Danville location will continue as the helicopter maintenance facility. Geisinger says the move will decrease response times in Juniata, Mifflin, lower Northumberland, Perry, Snyder and Union counties, which are furthest away from specialized treatment. Life Flight averages 2,800 transports per year with nine helicopters spread over a half dozen bases in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania. Life Flight recently transported its 66,000th patient in its history.
PennDOT will host a public meeting about a plan to reconstruct parts of Routes 11 and 487 in the Town of Bloomsburg. The meeting is set for Wednesday, June 5th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Monty’s on Bloomsburg University’s Upper Campus. During the meeting, PennDOT will present plans to reconstruct East Street, Poplar Street and Ferry Road from Main Street to the Susquehanna River Bridge. Columbia Boulevard from 6th Street to Park Street will also be milled and resurfaced. The existing traffic signals at the 5th Street, 6th Street and 7th Street intersections with East Street will be replaced. The Town of Bloomsburg is developing a project to construct sidewalks and street lighting, which will be incorporated into the PennDOT project. The reconstruction will be done in short phases so the entire length of road won’t be closed for the duration of the project. The work is tentatively scheduled to begin in Spring 2021.
Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection joined other state and county officials in Columbia County Thursday afternoon for a tour of Fishing Creek to see the impact of erosion and flooding. And, last night DEP officials held a public open house at the Benton High School to share information about working in streams impacted by flooding and erosion. DEP officials also discussed how the Wolf Administration’s $4.5 billion infrastructure improvement plan known as Restore Pennsylvania can help communities dealing with the aftermath of flooding. Wolf’s is counting on the passage of a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production in order to fund the initiative. Columbia County state Representative David Millard has it made known multiple times that he supports the Governor’s Restore PA initiative.
The enrollment period has ended for the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg’s Survivor’s Compensation Program for victims of clergy child sex abuse. The 90-day enrollment period for the program which began on February 12th ended on Monday. The Diocese says Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation or CMCI for short will making settlement offers between now and the end of June. The Diocese says it’s not involved in the process of determining who is eligible for settlements and the amounts. Bishop Ronald Gainer says when the settlement period ends, the Diocese will release a final report on how many survivors it was able to support. The bishop says the Diocese will continue offering counseling to survivors, whether or not they take part in the compensation program or receive a settlement. The Harrisburg Diocese includes parishes in Columbia and Montour Counties.
A Bloomsburg woman has been charged with stealing nearly $20,000 from her employer last year. Police say 26-year-old Anita Bucher was employed as a cashier at Beer-N-More along Route 11 in Montour Township, Columbia County when she stole the money from her register between late April and early July of last year by voiding transactions.
A bill which seeks to help predator hunters has been advanced by the state House Game and Fisheries Committee. The bill would remove restrictions on the use of night vision equipment for hunting and allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to regulate the equipment. Supporters say the use of night vision scopes on rifles could, for example, help predator hunters to control the coyote population in northwest PA and other parts of the state where there are too many coyotes.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has announced he’s filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the creator of the prescription painkiller OxyContin. While at least 39 state have already sued Purdue, Shapiro says this suit is is the first to specifically detail how the company’s sales force visited PA doctors more than 500,000 times and pushed them to write more and more prescriptions for the addictive opioid. With the exception of California, the suit says, Purdue “made more sales visits in Pennsylvania than any other state.” Shapiro says the company’s sales force would continue to call on doctors who over-prescribed and illegally prescribed OxyContin. Shapiro contends that Purdue misinformed doctors about the addictive nature of OxyContin. All the while, the company made more than $35 billion in revenue. Pennsylvania is one of the states hardest hit by the opioid crisis. An estimated 26,300 people died statewide from opioids between 1999 and 2017.
The state Department of Environmental Protection will host a public open house in the Benton High School Auditorium this Thursday evening from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. to provide information and resources to landowners and municipal officials seeking to work in streams impacted by flooding and erosion. Attendees can speak one-on-one about their stream work and flooding questions with staff from the DEP and other state and county agencies and view educational displays and demonstrations. A short presentation by the DEP will happen at 5:30 p.m. DEP officials say municipal officials and streamside landowners are strongly encouraged to attend Thursday night’s open house in Benton.
A bill that would benefit the families of Pennsylvania National Guard members who re-enlist has been unanimously approved by the state House. The bill would establish the Military Family Education Program or GI Bill for Families. Under the legislation the spouse and/or children of a Pennsylvania National Guard Member who re-enlists for a second six-year term would receive 10 semesters of tuition-free higher education. Representative Stephen Barrar says the bill would also address the re-enlistment problem facing the National Guard which is about 2,300 members short.
Charges have been filed against the man involved in that a four hour standoff with police last week in Bloomsburg. Investigators say 23-year-old David Andrew of Nesquehoning threatened to harm himself and barricaded himself in a bedroom with a handgun early Friday morning inside Hunsuckle Apartments while visiting his girlfriend, who’s a Bloomsburg University student. Officers say Andrew fired two shots during the incident, but no one was injured. Hundreds of residents in the off-campus housing complex were evacuated as a precaution. Andrew, who is not a university student, has been charged with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct. Court papers indicate Andrew was heavily intoxicated and the incident was likely touched off by relationship problems with his girlfriend.
President Donald Trump is coming to Pennsylvania for a rally the day before voters in a congressional district in the northcentral part of the state pick a new representative to go to Washington. Trump’s rally is Monday, May 20th at a hangar at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville. Republican Fred Keller and Democrat Marc Friedenberg are vying to fill an open seat created by Republican Tom Marino’s resignation in January. The district is heavily Republican and voters there backed Trump in 2016′s presidential election by better than 2-to-1 over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Click here for information on tickets. They are being issued on a first come, first serve basis.
With some state officials considering legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, lawmakers recently heard about legalization of pot in Massachusetts. Steve Reilly, who co-founded a cannabis company in Massachusetts, says if Pennsylvania legalizes the recreational use of marijuana it would need a state infrastructure to oversee the program. Reilly says the state would also have to consider setting a tax rate. He says ideally that rate should help to make the final cost of the product equivalent to the black market which eventually would effectively eliminate that market.
A package of bills being proposed would address hate crimes in Pennsylvania. The legislation includes increased investigative authority by the state Attorney General, enhanced training for police officers in how to determine when a hate crime has been committed, and mandatory sensitivity training as part of any hate crime sentence. A news conference announcing the bills was held outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where a mass shooting last October claimed 11 lives.
A non-profit advocacy group for disabled children and adults in Pennsylvania has filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department of Human Services alleging physical and emotional abuse of the kids at the state’s 3 Youth Development Centers including the North Central Secure Treatment Unit (NCSTU) on the ground’s of the Danville State Hospital. The 125-page lawsuit by Disability Rights Pennsylvania details repeated instances of assault, intimidation, humiliation, and the illegal use of restraints as well as subsequent cover-ups by staff and administrators at the facilities. Five of the 11 youth complaints detailed in the suit involve the NCSTU in Danville. Disability Rights Pennsylvania says approximately 70 percent of the children placed at the Youth Development Centers have mental health, developmental, or intellectual disabilities.
A former Berwick man will face the possibility of significant jail time after being convicted in connection with a shoot out with police back in 2015 at the Berwick Industrial Development Association complex. A Columbia County jury rejected 39-year-old James Calderone’s insanity defense and convicted him Friday on the attempted murder of 3 Berwick Police Officers. He was also convicted on aggravated assault and reckless endangering charges. No sentencing date has been set.
A water main project will begin this week along the southbound lane of Route 11 near Danville between Woodbine Lane in Mahoning Township and Ridge Drive in Cooper Township, Montour County. The work will be performed at night along the shoulder of the road. Traffic will be shifted away from the shoulder, but one lane will be maintained in each direction. Traffic patterns will return to normal during non-work hours. The contractor will work Wednesday and Thursday nights this week, beginning at 9:00 p.m. and ending at 6:00 a.m. the following day. The contractor will maintain the same hours Monday through Thursday nights next week.
A top state Senate Republican says the official residence of the Lt. Governor should be sold. State Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati says he's drafting legislation to sell the 24-hundred square foot house, located at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County. It has served as the official residence of Pennsylvania's Lt. Governor since 1969, according to the Dept. of General Services. It was last used by Mike Stack, who was defeated for re-election last year by current Lt. Governor John Fetterman. He has opted not to the use the residence, and instead lives in an apartment closer to the Capitol. Fetterman says the National Guard has expressed an interest in the three-story house.
With the summer months approaching, Pennsylvania’s top health official wants to get the word out about the continuing threat from Lyme Disease. These are the months when people spend more time outdoors, increasing the risk of coming into contact with ticks which can carry Lyme Disease. Symptoms can mimic other ailments, so experts say it’s best to seek a diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible to avoid further complications. As of 2017, Pennsylvania reported close to 12 thousand confirmed or probable cases of Lyme Disease.
Democratic state Representative Brian Sims who has been making headlines recently for recording himself aggressively berating people praying outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic has local ties. He is a 2001 graduate of Bloomsburg University. In 2000, Sims was co-captain of the Bloomsburg University football team, when he came out as gay to his teammates. In doing so, he became the only openly gay college football captain in NCAA history. That was also the year that Huskies were runners up in the Division II National Championship. In September, 2000, Sims and two of his teammates were credited with saving the life of a 15-year-old Berwick boy who was drowning in the Susquehanna River. After Bloomsburg, Sims became a lawyer and activist for LGBTQ rights. In 2012, Sims became the first openly gay elected state legislator in Pennsylvania history.
Real estate taxes in the Danville Area School District will likely be increasing by nearly 3-percent, as the School Board earlier this week approved at tentative budget for the 2019-2020 school year. The $41 million spending plan calls for a tax hike of 2.7-percent. District officials say the increase is needed to cover Danville’s share of the nearly $29-million expansion and renovation project at the Columbia Montour Vo-Tech. Danville’s share will be nearly $7 million or just over 24% of the cost. The Danville School Board is expected to adopt a final budge at a June 12th meeting.
There’s a vacancy on the Danville Area School Board as Vice President Erin Ross has resigned. Ross said in a letter that family commitments and time constraints were the reason for her resignation. The board voted to have board member Josh Seidel to take over as V.P. and take Ross’ spot on the negotiating committee. Board President Kevin Brouse says the board will advertise and appoint someone to fill Ross’s seat in the next 30 days.
Pennsylvania’s Auditor General says a vast majority of cyber and charter schools in Pennsylvania are lacking updated child abuse reporting policies. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says a review by his department found many cyber and charter schools do not have updated policies for reporting suspected child abuse in place. While 80 percent say they will have policies in place this month, DePasquale does not believe that would have happened if his department had not done its review.
The Benton Little League is continuing its efforts to recover from the tornado that hit the area last month. The storm did significant damage at the little league facility. An equipment shed, the concession stand, a brand new scoreboard, and dugouts were all destroyed by the twister. After the storm volunteers were able to get the 3 fields into playable condition. Benton Little League parent and volunteer Natalie Wilson told our news partner Newswatch 16 that the kids are just thankful that they able to play. To help rebuild all that was lost to the tornado, the Benton Little League has set up GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $10,000.
A 3-year-old girl and her great-grandfather are both dead after a one-vehicle crash in Shamokin Wednesday morning. Police say 68-year-old Allen Travitz, Sr. crashed his SUV head-on into a concrete wall along West Montgomery Street. Travitz and his 3-year-old great-granddaughter Mackenzie Mae Garber both died in the wreck. Shamokin police aren’t sure if he had a medical emergency or if the vehicle malfunctioned, but Travitz didn’t use his brakes. Police don’t believe Travitz was wearing a seatbelt. Also, there were two car seats in the vehicle, but police are not sure if the child was strapped into either one of them.
Republican Leader Bryan Cutler and Democratic Leader Frank Dermody scolded the House of Representatives Wednesday regarding their behavior in the wake of a number of controversies involving House members in recent weeks and months. Videos showing state Representative Brian Sims berating people praying outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic is certainly the most recent, but not the only example of House members exhibiting bad behavior. Majority Leader Cutler said the people of Pennsylvania expect better. Minority Leader Dermody’s spokesman Bill Patton said the leaders felt it was important to join forces to “underline the importance of respectful civil discourse.”