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SAFE-T Center marks one year

The partnership between Penn Highlands Huntingdon and the Penn State SAFE-T (Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth Center) was commemorated with a celebration and program update at the Penn Highlands Huntingdon Education Center Monday morning.

The partnership with SAFE-T began one year ago as part of the Penn State University College of Nursing through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime. In addition, Juniata College, which received its own DOJ grant for an on-campus initiative, contributed some of its funding to J.C. Blair to assist with training.

Through telehealth technology, expert forensic nurses from Penn State College of Nursing assist Penn Highland Huntingdon’s team of sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) via live feed to assist with victim examinations; the experts also provide peer review, plus professional and emotional support for SANEs.

There are a total of three SANEs at Penn Highlands Huntingdon, with two more currently in training.

Shawn Bookhammer, chief nursing officer, noted this program has been a great benefit to Penn Highlands Huntingdon.

“Just because we live in a rural area, that doesn’t mean we should have less services,” he said, noting the SAFE-T Center program is one they didn’t know the area needed it until it truly got underway.

“It’s also great to see the community partners come together, like the hospital, Juniata College, the Abuse Network, the district attorney’s office and police officials, to help make this possible,” said Bookhammer.

Candy Sonnenberg, SANE team coordinator for Penn Highlands Huntingdon, gave some highlights of the work they’ve been doing in the past year.

“We’ve done a lot of continuing education,” she said, noting that some that continuing education included participating in a mock trial so they could learn how to be expert witnesses in a sexual case, trained on how to use state-of-the-art equipment that will allow for better evidence collection and attended the International Association of Forensic Nurses Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“This allowed us to network and learn from nurses across the globe,” said Sonnenberg.

As SANEs, they are now officially trained to deal with sexual assault cases for adults, adolescents, those with mental health issues, intellectual disabilities as well as pediatric cases.

“We’ve had 10 calls since we’ve started the program, and that includes nine consultations and one telephone consultation,” said Sonnenberg. “That is double the number of cases we’ve had in the previous year.”

Sonnenberg said this program has allowed county agencies and officials to form the Sexual Assault Response Team, which creates a protocol to allow all agencies and law enforcement officials locally to establish consistent and compassionate guidelines for response to sexual assault victims.

Beth Birch, executive director of the Abuse Network, said the success of this program can’t be understated, and the SANEs, including Sonnenberg, Stephanie Stratton and Joann Goodman, have been champions of this from the beginning.

“It’s difficult to quantify something like this by number, but more importantly, what long-term impact this will have on a community,” said Birch. “Survivors of sexual assault will feel more positive because of the collaborative efforts we share.”

Jeff Buckley, Huntingdon Borough Police chief, gave credit to Det. Charles Streightiff Jr. for helping borough police lead the way to be a part of the Sexual Assault Response Team for borough police.

“It’s like what Shawn said, we didn’t know we needed it until we were in the process,” he said.

Dan Cook-Huffman, associate dean of students and Title IX coordinator at Juniata College, said they were proud to be part of this initiative.

“We saw this need on campus,” he said. “We saw reports, but we also knew (sexual assault) incidents weren’t being reported through official channels. We’ve tried to do things to make it safe to report, but we weren’t doing enough. This creates structures to make it safer to report.”

Sheridan Miyamoto, director of the SAFE-T Center at PSU, explained the origins of the program, and talked about the overall successes in its first year at the three sites where the program has been implemented.

“We’ve had 50 calls, 40 case consultations, seven that we’ve given advise and only three refusals,” she said.

Additionally, they’ve established paid on-call systems for all SANEs at the three locations, and established a system where advocates are called immediately when they’re dealing with sexual assault victims.

Two other facilities, including Penn Highlands Healthcare in DuBois and Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Wellsboro, have participated, and Miyamoto said three other sites will go online with the SAFE-T Center soon.

Residents look to revitalize town

Huntingdon Landmarks Inc. leaders hosted the first of many meetings to discuss the revitalization plan for the community Monday evening.

The meeting mainly focused on opening up the discussion about what the community needs in terms of business, culture and economic growth. By focusing on what residents are looking for in their community, this discussion will help make decisions easier and allow changes to be executed in accordance to the communities wants and needs.

Landmarks Inc. board member Matt Price started off the meeting with a simple introduction about his organization as well as what the attendees can expect from these meetings.

“Huntingdon Landmarks Incorporated, which is a charitable nonprofit based in Huntingdon, was founded about 10 years ago or so, and our mission is to revitalize Huntingdon’s landmarks in a way that makes them economically viable. It could be buildings, it could be monuments, it could be any landmark we can think of in the Huntingdon area. That’s kind of what we’re concerned with,” he said.

Price said the organization is partnering with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center to help residents visualize and properly plan the expansion and growth of their community.

“We reached out to the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, which is a nonprofit based in Harrisburg, that is the administrator, statewide, for the Department of Community and Economic Development for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and for the Main Street and Elm Street program. Main street is the downtown revitalization program and Elm Street is the neighborhood revitalization program.”

According to Price, depending on the needs in Huntingdon neighborhoods and commercial businesses, both programs may be considered for the area.

These meetings will give residents the opportunity to have a say in the future of Huntingdon, as well as the development of the downtown areas.

Julie Fitzpatrick, executive director for the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, wants the community to start coming together and coordinating all the projects that are taking place by other groups and organizations to create a cohesive community.

“Where this magic happens is in building consensus, theres a lot of different groups, different organization and different entities working on lots of different things, but you might not all be coordinating,” said Fitzpatrick.

Although the community has many establishments and associations available to the area, all of them are competing for the same board members, fundraising opportunities, and grants to kick off their own projects.

“Our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. In our tiny little borough, we have a disproportionate amount of nonprofit organizations, and some might think that’s great. You have the capacity, you’ve got the organizations, but unfortunately they’re not talking to each other,” said Fitzpatrick.

She wants to make sure everyone is on the same page in order to see results. She urged people to stay involved and participate in the public meetings in order to keep the initiative alive.

“We’re going to have five public meetings. They’re going to be held monthly, there’s never a great time to hold a public meeting, but we’re just going to do it and facilitate these meetings in November, December, January, February and March,” she said.

The point of these meetings is to come up with commonalities from the locals perspectives and also what they want their community to look like in the future.

“When we look at revitalization, it is very grounded and rooted in historic authentic unique communities. We’re going to work in core communities, work in boroughs, work in cities, work in historic older core centers,” said Fitzpatrick.

Their mission statement is to build and support the capacity of local, nonprofit organizations, municipalities, and individuals to enhance the overall well-being and sustainability in Pennsylvania’s core communities.

Fitzpatrick encourages residents to look into their favorite downtown areas and neighborhoods and think about duplicating what they’re doing.

“In the Main Street community, it’s R and D ... rip off and duplicate,” she said.

On top of finding inspiration from other towns, Fitzpatrick explained that these plans are solely dictated by the residents. She says most times when a town fails to make changes it’s because, “They’re stuck in the past and still want the downtowns to be the community that their grandparents talked about when they were kids.”

Their goal is to help the community create a vision that they will implement by using action strategy. Folks in attendance pointed out items the community is lacking in, like public transportation and walking distances, the lack of dining and retail options, as well as the lack of family-friendly events and downtown nightlife.

Fitzpatrick said the only way to make these improvements a reality is to connect with your neighbors, friends and family and get them out to a meeting.

“We just ask that you pass this on and share this with your network,” she said.

For more information and latest updates about upcoming meetings, follow Downtown Huntingdon Opportunities on Facebook to join the journey from vision to revitalization.

The group’s next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9. A location has yet to be determined.

Jordan Frederick can be reached at jfrederick@huntingdondailynews.com

HASB members bid farewell

At Monday night’s brief meeting of the Huntingdon Area School Board, topics of discussion were in short supply but there was plenty of praise for the outgoing members.

“Welcome on board to the new members and I’m going to miss the ones going off the board,” said board vice president Tammy Peterson.

Incoming board members Denise Felton and Heather Fox were among the audience in attendance Monday.

“Every time we gain, we lose, and when we lose we gain,” said district superintendent Fred Foster. “The information and what we learn from you all help shape the team. So, without a doubt, your impact on each other, you guys always agree to disagree at times and you treat everybody professionally. You don’t know how much that means when you go across the state and hear horror stories from other boards.”

Outgoing board member Ian Thompson expressed his gratitude to those present.

“I’ll miss every last one of you. It’s been a great experience. Thank you,” he said.

“This district has been very fortunate regardless of who sits in these seats that they do treat people with respect. They listen, they communicate, they seek to understand, and, in the end, they weigh in and vote and that’s all we can do,” said Foster. “I’m really going to miss you guys, so thank you all for what you’ve done for the district.”

Board president Danyle Shea and board member Carolyne Payne are also leaving the board.

It’s been a good learning experience on this end. I’ve been on the other end,too. But It’s been a good learning experience,” said Payne.

“It really has,” added Shea. This will be my last adjournment.”

The board will have a reorganization meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, in the high school library.

In one of just a few items discussed, a motion was made for the approval of the district’s membership with Huntingdon County Business & Industry (HCBI) at a cost of $250.

“What do we gain from this as a district?” asked board member Cindy Dell.

“From my perspective of a district and being part of the community, we’re trying to support each other,” said Foster. “We have projects, they have projects that inner workings throughout, so I feel as a district you guys (HCBI) are a viable contributor to this community and those two small memberships from here and the chamber are relevant to the impact of this community. That’s just my lens.”

The motion passed with a vote of 8-1.

Dell offered the lone ‘no’ vote and board member Debra Clark, director of business development at HCBI, abstained from the vote.

The board also unanimously approved a contract with C&S Contract Speech Language Pathology Services Inc. for a speech pathologist for Standing Stone Elementary School for the 2019-2020 school year.

“We’re very lucky to have found anybody,” said board member Janice Metzgar. “The IU (Intermediate Unit) is having trouble finding a speech pathologist for themselves. At the moment, they’re very difficult to come by.”

“I even checked with IU 8, to see if they had anybody to spare because our IU doesn’t have anybody. We don’t have a lot of other options,” said director of student services Chris Evans.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Emergency! star paid special visit

Directors from the Los Angeles County Fire Museum joined volunteer firefighters, paramedics and local students at Westminster Woods Monday to pay tribute to Michael Norrell, who played Capt. Hank Stanley in the hit 1970s TV show, “Emergency!”, as he signed two door panels from fire engines used in the show.

“About a month ago we heard from Joe Woyjeck from the LA County Fire Museum and he said, ‘We really want to fly the door over from the original 51 engine.’ Mike’s very self-effacing. He couldn’t figure out why,” said Linda Schultz-Long, director of community life at Westminster Woods.

“Emergency!”, which originally aired in 1972, followed firefighters and paramedics from Station 51 as they worked with hospital staff from Rampart General Hospital in LA, inspiring a generation to become firefighters and paramedics.

“I said, “Hey, we can’t bring the whole truck so we’ll bring the door panels to the truck,” said Joe Woyjeck, vice president of the Los Angeles County Fire Museum, who himself served with the Los Angeles County Fire Department for 37 years, including 17 years as captain.

Engine 51, as known on the show, was actually two different engines, a 1965 Crown fire engine and a Ward LaFrance fire engine.

“It’s a pleasure and an honor, I’m very pleased to be here. Thank you all very much for coming,” said Norrell.

Norrell has fond memories of spending time with the paramedics on staff at the show.

“I enjoyed coming to work and shooting the breeze with the real paramedics. They were good guys and I had fun with them. They had good stories,” he said.

Woyjeck’s uncle was one of the paramedics who consulted with the actors on “Emergency!”.

“The actors would ride around with the real paramedics and learn how it was really done,” said Woyjeck. “When I was 15 years old I would watch them film the TV show “Emergency!” and little did I know that later on in my career I would become a paramedic. Most of the storylines were written around real incidents. They were Hollywood-ized, but they really happened sometimes.”

Huntingdon County Career and Technology Center public health and safety instructor Crist Fellman said the show changed the course of his life.

“When I saw the show, it was like, “Wow, that’s kind of cool.” So then I joined the volunteers in Orbisonia and that was my first fire engine I ever worked on. Then I graduated and moved to Florida and became a paid firefighter for 31 years,” he said.

The show also had a profound impact on how fire stations were structured throughout the country, said Fellman.

“One of the biggest influences that this show had was prior to this show only the really large cities like LA, Chicago, New York, had such a thing as paramedics in the fire service,” he said. “And all of the sudden “Emergency!” comes on and people start watching the show and are like ‘that’s a good idea!’ Now all the departments have EMS (Emergency Medical Services) within their department and EMS is like 85% of the business. It was really a new concept and people saw it and said that could really work.”

Students from HCCTC, volunteers and EMS personnel lined up in droves to get autographs and pictures with Norrell.

When asked why he thought the show was so adored by fans, he said he wasn’t sure, but that it might have showed viewers careers many didn’t know much about.

“It was an adventure show and there was very little on television about firemen and paramedics,” said Norrell. “The show was half about the firefighters and half about the hospital and people seemed to really like that.”

Though best known for his acting, Norrell also wrote for several television shows, including episodes of “Emergency!”, “The Love Boat” and “The Magnificent Seven.”

He also collaborated with his brother, James Norrell, on several projects, including the television movie, “The Incident.”

“I was a good writer,” he said. “People always asked me if I liked writing. And I would tell them, I like having written. And having a little notoriety didn’t hurt.”

Norrell, originally from Idaho, moved to the Huntingdon area 12 years ago to be closer to his brother, who has since passed.

“I like living here, it’s a great town,” he said.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

TMSB members act on personnel matters

The Tussey Mountain School Board Monday night acted on several personnel matters including three resignations and hired two full-time aides.

On the board agenda were three letters of resignations which were accepted with regret: Erin Lashinsky, junior high school football cheerleading coach, effective the end of the 2019 football season; Jason Kendall and Wendy Kendall, both assistant soccer coaches, both effective Nov. 7.

The board unanimously approved the hiring of a full-time special needs aide, Sherry Lewis, who will be assisting a student. Her effective starting date is Nov. 20.

Authorization was also granted for the administration to hire a second full-time special needs aide who will be assigned to a new student. The hiring will be effective as soon as feasible.

Also, under personnel matters the board made some changes to the district maintenance department including the creation of the new position of maintenance foreman. Board president James L. Hodge noted that interviews for the position are slated for this Friday.

In preparation for the hiring, the board approved a motion authorizing the administration to fill the position based on the recommendations of the personnel committee. The board also ratified a job description for the new position as recommended by the personnel committee.

In a related matter the board changed current maintenance supervisor Jim Mitchell’s job title to HVAC maintenance foreman, which was also based on the recommendation of the personnel committee as well as a job description for Mitchell’s new position.

The board agreed to advertise for a full-time, day shift custodian who will work at the Tussey Mountain Elementary building.

By a roll call vote of 7-1 the board recognized Abigail Foor as a substitute driver for Snyder Bussing (the lone no vote was casted by board member Jimmy Hodge with these board members voting in the affirmative: Wes Crooks, Brad Rouser, John Baughman, Roy McCabe, Harry Watkins, James L. Hodge and Adam Baker.) Not present for the voting was Brenda Folk.

Also, under personnel matters motions were approved to:

— add Kala Hess to the district list of substitute nurses.

— approve the following personnel: Damon Lemin and Brady Villa, both volunteer wrestling coaches and Anthony Beveridge and Bethany Hershberger, both Class of 2025 advisers both at the stipend of $298.

After listening to brief comments from a district parent, Luke Melius, the board indicated that it is looking into some revisions to the district’s policy on student testing and grading procedures. Hodge said that changes will be made, but not for the 2019-20 school year.

Melius felt that the district needed a more level “playing field” in overseeing testing results and suggested the district look into the weighed grade system used by several other school districts.

Board member Baughman told Melius that the board was examining the matter closely and hopes to come up with some changes, adding that parents and the community would be asked for input.

The board, by a roll call vote of 6-2 awarded a low bid of $119,024 to Creekside General Construction for the replacement of a roof at the district’s storage building in Saxton (former Quality Manufacturing building). Voting no were board members Jimmy Hodge and Wes Crooks.

Approval was also given to a transfer $15,000 from the general fund to the athletic fund to cover supplies and other expenses related to the winter sports season at Tussey.

The board accepted an estimate of $10,483 from West PA Productions LLC to replace three lighting control panels at the high school for outside lights and hallways lights that are not working.

Approval was also given to pay $3,055 for the cost of copyrights associated with the Drama Club’s upcoming play, “Into the Woods.”

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Cleanup continues

Cleanup continues at a part of the gasoline spill that was found on the Laurel Pipeline about 500 feet west of Mountain Road in Penn Township early Monday morning.

According to officials from Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency, crews from Marklesburg Volunteer Fire Co. and EMA were dispatched to the area shortly before 8 a.m.

Pipeline officials were unable to disclose at this time how much gasoline has been spilled in the area at this time.

“It was discovered when pipeline worker crews showed up about 7 a.m. to begin work, and they noticed a strong odor,” said EMA director Joe Thompson. “That’s when they saw what they thought was the potential for a leak.”

Immediately after EMA was dispatched to the scene, notifications were made to the state Emergency Management Agency watch center, and crews began to secure the area and identify the issues.

“The first efforts were to identify where the problem may be and to isolate the immediate area,” said Thompson. “This is where we noticed it was around Mountain Run, where a small stream of gasoline was quickly identified and coming out of a drain area and going into an area already protected by pipeline workers to prevent anything from going further. There were already booms in place.

“Mountain Road was promptly closed between Redstone Ridge Road and the top of the mountain for safety reasons,” he added. “We didn’t want anything that could be a spark or ignition source in the area, given the potential for gasoline that may be present. There will also be a lot of pipeline vehicles, state officials and cleanup crews on site.”

It was also determined at that time that no evacuation of homes was necessary, and there was no immediate danger for those living in the immediate area, said Thompson.

Thompson further explained the leak is not a result of the entire pipeline breaking, but it’s more like a break in the line.

“It has been shut down, but there was still product coming out, but they brought vacuum trucks in to get as much of the product out so they can get to the actual site of the leak,” said Thompson.

As work done Monday at the site was to stop any further contamination, but Thompson said they hope to fix the leak and begin cleanup efforts of the contaminated area in earnest.

Thompson also credits crews from Marklesburg Volunteer Fire Co. for their quick action.

“They placed booms in the area to make sure there were no streams that were impacted,” he said. “We’re not seeing any contamination in the streams currently.”

Also, officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection as well potential federal officials will be on site, along with PEMA officials, to oversee cleanup efforts today.

Additionally, Thompson thanked officials from Laurel Pipe Line Co. for their cooperation with EMA, fire company officials as well as DEP and other officials on scene.

However, Thompson said he’s also working with Penn Township officials to keep them informed of any changes in the situation.

Officials from Laurel Pipeline Co., which is an affiliate of Buckeye Partners L.P., said the pipeline will be shut down until the leak is repaired.

The Laurel Pipeline, which has been underground in this area since the 1950s, and it has historically been used for the movement of petroleum east to west from Philadelphia-area refineries.

The state Utility Commission, however did approve in August allowing the initiation of bi-directional service of petroleum products along the Laurel Pipeline, while preserving the existing east-to-west capacity that enables transportation service from points of origin near Philadelphia to delivery points in western Pennsylvania.