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Buses return to roads

As county students head back to the classroom this week, school buses will return to the roads and drivers are urged to pay particular attention to the roads in the coming days.

“Drivers need to be very vigilant as far as where the students are, and not to rush by the buses,” said Linda Grubb, president of Grubco Bussing in Hesston. “We need them to realize that they need to have a set of eyes to see where the children are, because drivers are often in a hurry to get to work.”

Grubb said it’s up to drivers to be wary because students often aren’t.

“The kids don’t recognize the danger of oncoming traffic, especially the grade school kids. Some of them get so excited the bus is there they forget what you tell them,” she said. “The new, youngest kids are excited cause they feel like they’re grown up now. Then there are some running up because they’re late for the bus. They come running up with one shoe and a piece of toast.”

Decreased visibility in the morning is another factor for drivers to keep in mind.

“Basically I want to ask people to be very vigilant as far as the students go, and especially when the time changes, because it will still be dark in the morning. Some of these kids are getting on the bus at 6:45 a.m.and it’s still dark,” she said.

Slowing down when the yellow lights come on and keeping your distance when a school bus has stopped is important said Grubb.

“You want to be at least 15 feet from the bus. That’s the safest thing, gives the kids a chance to come off the bus and get onto the roadside safely,” she said.

“We try to instruct the kids to go immediately to their safe spot. Don’t stop at the mailbox, don’t stop and get the mail. We try to watch to make sure they are at least 50 feet in the driveway,” said Grubb.

Students are taught safety measures, but ultimately it’s the responsibility of drivers to ensure children get home safe and sound.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

HASB members hire new AD

During Monday night’s Huntingdon Area School Board meeting, members approved the hiring of a new athletic director at a salary of $70,000.

John Bilich will begin his full-time duties upon release from his current employment. Part-time employment may begin today, Tuesday, Aug. 20, at an hourly rate.

Susan Grainey was the sole board member to not support the motion.

“I’m not going to support this, and it’s not a commentary on John, it’s not a commentary on (superintendent) Fred (Foster), it’s not a commentary on any of that. But simply because we continue to say that we don’t have money and yet somewhere we find money for certain things,” she said. “I took a lot of heat when we hired Dean (Grenfell) at (a salary of) $55,000. If we had that extra money maybe we could have funded that gymnastics program. And we told them, no, this isn’t the time.”

Grainey said she feels the allocation of money could be handled in a different manner.

“We talk about making hard choices but, to be honest, I don’t see that we make hard choices. We’re constantly looking for ways to save money and if I had that extra money, I’m not sure I would want to use it to fund this. I might want to use it to do this in a different fashion, and then maybe to fund the gymnastics. That’s just my personal thing about this, but that’s not a commentary on any administrator we’ve already hired.”

Board solicitor Ron Repak brought up recent changes to ACT 67, which allows security guards to be armed “but they have to be specifically trained in lethal weapons and things of that nature.”

Andrew Grove, a coach for the Woodcock Valley Colts peewee football team, requested the board waive the fees for their yearly use of War Vets Field for two of their games.

“It’s only because we had some damage last year to our field and our food booth and we’re struggling to meet our operational costs to start the season,” he said. “We’re struggling this year from the flood last year.”

Superintendent Fred Foster said Grove would simply need to fill out the proper form and present it before the next meeting so the board could approve waiving the fee.

High School principal Travis Lee “is really excited for the start of the school year” and mentioned there is new digital signage in the front lobby.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

TMSB members approve SRO deal

Meeting in its regular monthly session Monday evening, the Tussey Mountain School Board unanimous approved an agreement with Saxton Borough Council for School Resource Officer (SRO) services utilizing borough police officer Dave Buseck.

The board also gave its blessings to a job description for the SRO position as well as numerous back-to-school motions necessary for the start of the 2019-20 school year which will begin for students Wednesday, Aug. 21.

The SRO position, which expired the end of last school year, has been the topic of numerous discussions between representatives of Saxton Borough Council, the school district administration and the school safety committee.

Casting affirmative votes for the SRO agreement were board members Roy McCabe, Brenda Folk, John Baughman, Harry Watkins, Brad Rouser, Wes Crooks and board president James L. Hodge who conducted the session. Board members not in attendance were Adam Baker and Jimmy A. Hodge

The SRO will be on duty starting Wednesday, Aug. 19, reported district superintendent Dr. Gary Dawson, who described the SRO’s job goal as follows, “To help empower students for life-long success by providing students with a safe and secure place to learn, play and develop.”

Returning to the SRO position for a third year is Saxton Borough Police Officer Dave Buseck who is widely respected and liked by school district staffers and students. Buseck’s position is for a nine-month period that includes only days school is in session, reported Saxton Mayor Alan Smith.

“The discussions leading up to the new agreement was very positive and the borough police department looks forward to working with the school district during 2019-20,” said Smith, adding that talks between the two parties began in mid-April.

Briefly, the agreement calls for the school district to contract with the borough for SRO services costing $195 a day covering only the days Buseck is working at the school, said Smith. “That may sound like a lot of money, but the figure includes the cost of health insurance, Workmen’s Compensation, Social Security and Unemployment Compensation for the period our officer is at the school.”

The agreement also requires the school district to pay the borough $100 a month for the use of the police cruiser, added Smith.

Turning to other matters the board approved an agreement between the school district and Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 which will provide school psychologist services for one day a week during the new school term at a daily rate of $430 plus travel expense. Also, required reevaluations will be billed $50 each.

In a related motion the board agreed to contract with Stepping Stones Grove to provide school psychologist services for two and a half days a week for 2019-20 at a cost of $73 an hour. Superintendent Dawson noted that it is difficult to find a full-time person for the position.

Also approved by the board was a motion to set a High Priority Substitute rate of $220.64 a day.

The board accepted a resignation letter from Head Boys Basketball Coach Jeffrey Swope, effective immediately. Dawson said the position will be advertised this week.

The board accepted a quote of $12,350 from Henderson Painting and Line Striping for the painting of the field house locker rooms and associated areas. The work will be performed in two phases with the first phase involving the weight room and locker room area.

The board approved $4,471 for the purchase of a new stage curtain for the Tussey Elementary School. The curtain will be purchased from the North State Co.

In preparation for the start of the 2019-20 school year the board ratified nearly two pages of district staffers and volunteers as well as several building use and field trip requests. Also, on the agenda was a list of bus stops and school bids for the new school term which received board approval.

The board permitted Tussey FFA (FFA) students to take part in the Southern Huntingdon County School District’s FFA Program at no cost to the Tussey district. Last year, Tussey students participated in a similar program with the Forbes Road School District in Fulton County. The program involves online activities, said Dawson.

The board granted permission for the “Lady Titans” soccer team to conduct a fundraiser at the athletic field to aid the Huntingdon County Humane Society. In addition to money, the organization will accept animal food for use at the Humane Society headquarters.

School district officials announced that a PRIDE Community Movie Night will be hosted by the school students at the athletic field 8 p.m.-midnight, Saturday, Sept. 14. In addition to middle and high school students, the public is invited to attend the event. Serving as supervisor will be Amanda Adams.

Other motions approved last night included:

— utilization of Nikki Gephart, Bradley Morse and Valerie Morningstar as school Site Coordinators for the 21st Century Program (after school activities) for 2019-20.

— accepted with regret the resignation of Amy Minnick, part-time special needs aide at the Middle School.

— contracted with Melody Toth who will provide athletic trainer services for fall sports (the district continues to search for someone to handle those choirs for winter and spring sports).

— recognized a list of Band Boosters and/or Football Booster Concession Stand workers for the new school term.

President Hodge called for an executive session for personnel matters following the close of the regular board meeting.

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Solicitor gives some answers

There was a large gathering at the monthly meeting of Todd Township Supervisors Monday evening to learn more about what they could potentially do to change the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) that would allow them to make particular amendments for concentrated animal feeding operations.

Larry Lashinsky, the township’s solicitor, said he’s still in the process of researching options; however, when it comes to current laws regarding what he called “intensive farming operations,” they are bound by current laws.

“I’m researching options right now, but we’re bound by what the state law pre-empts regarding the SALDO,” he said. “But, we need more flexibility locally when it comes to intensive farming operations.”

Lashinsky was asked to research ways they could amend the SALDO after the state Attorney General’s office deemed an ordinance, the Community Bill of Rights, that involved limiting CAFOs in Todd Township, especially in response to a swine CAFO operation in the township, earlier this year.

Because of this, Lashinsky suggested members of the Todd Township Community Action Group who attended the meeting reach out to elected officials to discuss their issues.

“Perhaps we need to invite (state Rep.) Rich Irvin to our next meeting,” said Stephanie Perez, a member of the Todd Township Community Action Group. “We also need to invite other groups, like the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, to see how (CAFOs) can impact them. We need to get people involved.”

Lashinsky recommended they designate a separate time to hold a town hall meeting for elected officials, including Irvin and state Sen. Judy Ward.

Perez asked Lashinsky if he would be able to attend, and he said if a time was scheduled where he was free, he may be able to attend.

Township secretary Catherine Harshberger noted the township would not pay for Lashinsky to attend any town hall meeting, and Perez noted a fund for the Todd Township Community Action Group was around $1,200, so that money could be used to pay Lashinsky for his time.

Geri Gabrielson told The Daily News after the meeting that township supervisors are no longer involved in seeing what they can do to change laws to limit CAFOs in the township, but if they wanted to find ways, they are free to do so.

In other business, Luke Stake, a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources park ranger from Trough Creek State Park, who expressed concerns about those who go to the park speeding in front of the ranger’s office.

Harshbarger told supervisors they are awaiting to hear if they were awarded any grant funding from the Multimodal Transportation Fund from PennDOT to do extensive work with the intersections of Route 994 and New Fording and Bunn Mountain roads.

Pathogen may have spread to some plants

The state Department of Agriculture put out a warning earlier this summer that rhododendron plants that may have been infected with a particular plant pathogen this spring.

Shannon Powers, spokesperson for the state Department of Agriculture (PDA), explained what this pathogen is and how it could impact rhododendron plants.

“It’s a pathogen that causes several diseases,” she said. “It’s called phytophthora ramorum, and these are known diseases that are known to affect species that are popular in the state, like rhododendrons, lilacs and mountain laurel.

She further explained this pathogen can cause what is called sudden oak death, but it’s not known to impact oak trees in the state.

“It’s not known to affect the kinds of oak trees we have in Pennsylvania,” said Powers. “It’s been devastating out west, but we don’t know how it would affect (oak trees) in Pennsylvania.”

The directive to pull rhododendron plants off the shelves was issues initially by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so Powers said the PDA isn’t aware of what areas could or may have been impacted in Pennsylvania or any retailers where these plants were sold.

“I know the symptoms of this disease mimic symptoms of other plant diseases,” said Powers, explaining that visible signs of the disease include black spots on leaves as well as sheet dye back of leaves.

Because of this, the best way to know if this is an issue is to get the plant tested if there are any visible signs of the pathogen.

“As wet as it was, there were plants that were suffering from all sorts of problems that are often exasperated by wet weather,” said Powers. “If anyone has black spots or any sort of sheet dye back on their leaves, particularly if they purchased a rhododendron plant this spring, they should call their county’s (Penn State Cooperative Extension) office, and they would give instructions on how to send in a sample for testing.”

Powers said if a sample tests positive, officials from the Penn State Cooperative Extension will aid people in how to deal with the issue.

“If this is what your plant has, they will give you instructions on what to do with that plant and the plants surrounding it so it doesn’t spread more broadly,” she said.

Parts of county impacted by outage

Area residents living and working along the Route 22 corridor in Huntingdon County were surprised when they were left without power just before 9 p.m. Monday evening.

Places from Brady Township to Porter Township lost power due to what a Penelec spokesperson called a “downed sub transmission line.”

“Most customers were impacted just before 9 p.m.,” according to Christy Hajoway, Penelec spokesperson. “We were able to switch a portion of those customers to another line, so their power was restored, but we had around 1,000 people without power until just before 3 a.m.”

About 3,400 customers initially lost power, according to Hajoway, but according to a report from the Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency, which received a report from Penelec, at its height, nearly 6,500 customers were affected by power outages in Huntingdon County, including places like Allenport, Mapleton, Huntingdon/ Smithfield, Alexandria and the Warriors Ridge Dam area in Logan Township.”

After power was initially restored in most of the areas in the county, residents in the village of Smithfield, and businesses along Route 22 in Smithfield, were the ones still without power until just before 3 a.m.

According to Hajoway, the affected sub-transmission line was in the Warrior Ridge area.

As of daylight this morning, there were less than five customers without power in Oneida Township. Fewer than five customers were without power in Huntingdon Borough, and 22 customers were without power in Smithfield Township. For those still affected, power, according to the Penelec website, was expected to be restored before 9:30 a.m.

According to a report from the Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency, there were no incidents related to the outage Monday evening, as reported by local emergency management coordinators, and there were also no issues at any critical facilities in any of the impacted areas.