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Vets honored in Six Mile Run

Sunny skies and mild November temperatures prevailed Monday as veterans from all over Bedford County assembled at Six Mile Run for the annual Bedford County Veterans Day Services. The Six Mile Run American Legion Post 556 hosted the services this year.

Six Mile Run American Legion post adjutant Greg Crooks served as master of ceremonies. He introduced guests including Bedford County Commissioners Paul Crooks, Barry Dallara and Josh Lang.

He also recognized Bedford County Commissioner-elect Deb Baughman and World War II veterans Everett “Junior” Miller and Albert N. Masood.

G. Crooks also introduced guest speaker retired Lt. Col. Mark Bollman. Bollman is a Six Mile Run native and 1976 Tussey Mountain High School graduate.

Bollman said it was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that the guns of World War I fell silent so ending the war. That date was when an armistice was signed that ended the fighting, but the treaty was not completed until July 1919.

Living in relative comfort and prosperity 100 years later, Bollman said it’s hard to understand the sheer jubilation and relief felt by the world on that day. For many, he said Veterans Day is just a day off from work or school and that folks know something happened long ago that involved veterans but the magnitude of that day so long ago escapes us.

In order to fully understand and appreciate the significance of that day, Bollman said it is important to remember what it was like. The word had just spent four long years gripped in a devastating struggle that had affected most of the countries of that day.

Bollman said the ingenuity of mankind at bringing death and destruction knew no bounds. So when this all ended, the jubilation, sense of relief and sheer joys was unsurpassed.

“Our soldiers, called doughboys, were so grateful for it to be over and to make it home,” said Bollman, noting it no doubt made them appreciate what their country had to offer them for the rest of their lives. “And that is why we have Veterans Day.”

Shortly after the war ended this group of soldiers formed the American Legion so that not just themselves, but all veterans would have an organization that would always remember them and look after their best interests.

Bollman said he had a grandfather and great-uncles who fought in World War I.

“I can remember as a child the old fellows from around town who had been there. I was always in awe of where they had been and what they had done in their youth, for many of them gave up their tomorrow that we would have today,” he said.

Bollman said a lot has happened in the last 100 years. World War I was to be the “war to end all wars,” but sadly that was not the case.

“A short 20 years later our country experienced another great war in World War II where our casualties were even greater,” he said. “Since that time the U.S. has fought in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, two stints in the Persian Gulf and most recently Afghanistan where thousands of men and women are serving in harm’s way yet today.”

He said in the last 100 years, there’s been a man on the moon, the Internet was created and cars can practically drive themselves.

“The talents and ingenuity of mankind have no limits when channeled in the right direction,” said Bollman.

He pointed out that society has also changed.

“Today we are so busy that we seldom take time to even talk to our neighbors unless it is on some gadget or on social media,” he said.

Through all these changes over the past 100 years, Bollman said one constant has been the American veteran. Their sense of duty, their sacrifice on behalf of their nation has never wavered.

Regardless of when they served, how long they served or whether they served in war or peace, every veteran swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, to defend their country against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the orders of the President of the United States.

Bollman said they not only swore an oath, but they live by it. He urged the audience to spend time with a veteran and they will tell you what they think.

But during their service, he said all veterans will put their opinions aside. They don’t protest but instead perform their duty because our country is more important than themselves.

Bollman said he recently saw the saying, “Until you have risked coming home in a box with a flag draped over it, you have no right to disrespect that flag that so many have died to defend.”

Bollman said he believes he speaks for most veterans when he says that the rights and desires of a few individuals should not supersede the rights of the majority.

“How do you thank a veteran?” Bollman asked. What they have sacrificed goes far beyond what mere words could express.

Instead, he said the best way to say thanks is by actions. By actions, he means in how people live their lives.

Bollman said he is reminded of John F. Kennedy’s words in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

He said these words are as true today as they were when he spoke them in 1961.

“For all of us it should be living an honorable life. It is raising a good family, it is how we treat others and rather than criticizing, be complimenting ad rather than complaining, pitch in and help,” concluded Bollman.

The Rev. Tim McIntyre pastor of the Riddlesburg Bible Church offered the invocation and benediction while members of the Tussey Mountain Choir under the direction of Sarah Johnson performed a few musical selections during the event.

Adam can be reached at dnews@huntnigdondailynews.com.

TMSB members to propose changes

When the Tussey Mountain School Board directors gathers next Monday night for their voting session several motions will be on the agenda calling for administrative changes in the district maintenance department.

The district personnel committee is proposing the creation of a new maintenance foreman position having a prorated salary of $42,000 for 2019-20. The board will also act on a job description next week for the position.

Also scheduled for action is a motion to change long-time maintenance supervisor Jim Mitchell’s title to HVAC maintenance foreman, also recommended by the board personnel committee. Along with the motion the board will be asked to sanction a job description for the HCAV maintenance foreman position.

As for the reason for the proposed administrative changes, acting district superintendent Dr. Jerry Shoemake answered, “the district wants to maximize the maintenance positions so that we cover all areas connected with maintenance work in the district.”

The board will also be asked to approve the advertising for a day shift full-time custodian position at the Tussey Elementary building.

In other personnel matters next week, the board will accept three resignations, all related to sports, and will add individuals to the district of substitute school nurses list and substitute driver list.

Appearing before the board Monday night was Davelyn Smeltzer, senior director of governance services with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), who spoke briefly about the need for the district to upgrade its policies making sure that the documents are in line with all state and federal rules and regulations.

Smeltzer said that the last time the district policies received a evaluation was in 2003-04. She went on to explain that the PSBA’s Policy Maintenance Program is an important planning tool in providing a comprehensive review of all the district’s policies contained in the current adopted Policy Manual. The review also calls for an analysis of supporting internal documents.

The board is expected to approve the review and policies’ update at a total cost of $6,800, which will be paid over a three-year period, with each payment being $2,266.

Once the policy changes have been changed or updated the board will examine the language before giving final approval to the documents, noted Smeltzer.

Board member John Baughman cited the need to review and update all the district’s policies and make changes as needed, adding, “the policy committee is on board to doing this.”

During Monday night’s workshop session board members briefly spoke about several policy issues, potentially in need of upgrading.

Next week, the board is also slated to approved several building use requests, the monthly athletic fund report and the awarding of a bid to Creekside General Construction of Mill Hall, for the replacement of the roof on a district storage building (formerly the Quality Manufacturing Plant in Saxton) at a cost of $119,024.

The district administration was also asked to investigate classroom procedures regarding the use of restrooms by students.

At the end of the meeting, board president James L. Hodge called for an executive session for personnel matters.

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Leaders enroll in class action suit

At Monday’s monthly Alexandria Borough Council meeting, borough solicitor Chris Wencker brought to the council’s attention a class action notice regarding a national opioid lawsuit.

“It’s vast, and very interesting. It’s the first class action I’m aware of where a judge has taken such an active hand in defining the class and expanding the potential scope of the litigation.”

In this the class is defined as all counties, parishes, borough, incorporated places, cities, towns, townships, villages and municipalities.

There is a potential class fund of close to $5 billion.

The defendants are pharmaceutical companies, including CVS prescriptions services incorporated, Rite-Aid Corp., Walgreens and Walmart.

“They were pushing opioids for their own profit...many of those defendants were acting in concert to get Americans hooked on opiates and to profit immensely off of it. The claim is that they misled the physicians and the public about the need for the addictiveness of prescription opiate medication,” said Wencker.

Wencker recommended staying in the class instead of hiring an entity to litigate on their behalf.

“With very, very little effort on your behalf we would look to receive a percentage of the money that would go to Huntingdon County...we are already automatically entered into the class,” said Wencker.

The borough has until Nov. 22 to decide whether to stay in the class.

Also Monday night, council planned to hold a meeting at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at the Alexandria Library to review the borough’s yearly budget. The meeting is open to the public.

A large portion of Monday’s meeting revolved around approving changes to the September minutes, which council member Judy Scott called into question.

“We did not get through all the changes that needed to take place and since that’s September and we just received it and we can’t review it, I can’t approve it. We didn’t get through it last month,” said Scott. “We need the final minutes a week prior to the meetings.”

“I asked very specific questions in regards to correspondence, had any been given to the council and I know quite specifically that that was a lie,” said Scott. “You both (secretary John Casas and president Mike Smith) denied the fact that there was correspondence (from NFIP and Penelec).

“I requested that letter to be sent to me personally as a copy from Wencker...you did not ask me specifically. I requested that from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency),” said.

This issued was not resolved.

The motion to approve the minutes was approved, with council members Jane Pilch, Tori Wilt and Judy Scott voting no.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

MUASD shares plan to close Mapleton school

Mount Union Area School Board members are weighing the potential benefits of reconfiguring the district’s elementary program, a plan that would close the Mapleton-Union school and split the remaining buildings between early and intermediate grades.

An audience of roughly 40 parents and staff sat in on Monday’s building and grounds committee meeting where superintendent Dr. Amy Smith presented the board with the reconfiguration plan. In her presentation, she addressed staffing, population projections, school performance and how she believes the plan is one that will best serve students.

Smith said the plan is driven by student achievement. By pulling all K-2 students into Mount Union-Kistler and all 3-5 students into Shirley Township, Smith said her hope is class size will drop and teachers will have increased opportunity to collaborate and share best practices.

Further, Smith said the move pool the district’s intervention services, thus giving students better access to Title I teachers and other specialists.

Speaking after the meeting, Smith said the above changes will create balance, noting the district’s three elementary schools are not, at present, performing in sync with one another on state assessments. Neither Mapleton nor Shirley Township are meeting targets for language arts and math; Mount Union-Kistler is currently meeting those goals. Getting all teachers in the same building by grade, and on the same page, will hopefully turn those testing results around, she aid.

“We’re creating equal opportunity for all of our students and providing a quality education,” she said.

Mike Hummel, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said during the meeting that he too believes the plan will create a level playing field for students.

“I want everyone to have the same opportunities no matter where they live in the district,” he said.

Smith said the district does not intent to furlough staff. Instead, Mapleton’s staff, should the closure follow through, will be reassigned to one of the other elementary buildings. Mapleton employs 10 people, including teachers plus cafeteria and custodial staff.

Hummel said the district isn’t in a position to let go of staff.

“These people are all hands-on-deck,” Hummel said. “They’ll be utilized in some way. They’re definitely needed.”

Smith said if the reconfiguration moves forward, the teaching staff can be utilized in various ways, as classroom teachers, as intervention specialists or as full-time substitutes to more around the buildings as needed. The district currently employees two such subs, one at the secondary level and one for the elementary schools.

At present, Mapleton operates one classroom per grade. As of Monday, there were 81 students in grades K through 5 with class sizes ranging from 11 to 17 students.

Smith reported the school’s population has been dropping steadily since 2014, when the number of students decreased to 149 from 158 the previous year. In 2015, there were 137 students; 2016, 129; 2017, 124; 2018, 119; 2019, 106.

At Shirley Township and Mount Union-Kistler, there are three classrooms per grade, and more students per class compared to Mapleton. At present, there are 234 students enrolled at Mount Union-Kistler and 264 at Shirley Township.

She pointed out that as a whole, the district’s student population is dropping, from a total enrollment of 1,517 in 2013-14 to 1,294 for the current school year.

“This isn’t just Mount Union, it’s happening in all districts in the our area,” she said.

She said another issue all local districts are grappling with is the availability of substitutes. She said bringing all K-2 under one roof, and 3-5 under another roof, will create better opportunity for staff to cover classes while the substitute shortage continues.

On the financial end, Smith said Mapleton’s annual overhead cost, not including staff, was at $58,314 for the 2018-19 year.

She said that compared to the district’s overall budget, which runs over $21 million, Mapleton’s day-to-day costs aren’t an issue. She did report that the building is looking at several major projects in the next few years, including replacement of the heating system and roof.

Board member Duane Gearhart, identifying himself as someone who is “not a fan of central planning” when it comes to schools, said he’s concerned that families will lose school choice opportunities if the plan goes through, since there will be but one school for k-2 and one for 3-5.

Smith and Hummel said the trade off is creating an environment where opportunities are the same for students across the district and not dependent on which school a student attends.

Board member Andrew Ketner asked if there is enough time to enact the plan and meet all state requirements in time for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Solicitor Nicholas Newfield said the state suggests districts plan for a four- to six-month process.

Newfield said the board’s next step, if they are interested in the proposal, is to schedule, by a vote, an Act 780 hearing. He said the board could take such a vote as early as December if it chooses.

During the Act 780 hearing, community members will have opportunity to present their input on the proposal. Newfield said a three-month cooling off period follows before the state will allow the board to take a final vote.

He said the state will take one last look at the plan follow the board’s vote to ensure due process.

Smith said the plan, if executed, would untimely lead to the sale of the Mapleton property.

Rebecca can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Lake visitors continue in off season

Just because the seasons are changing doesn’t mean Raystown Lake has stopped getting its share of visitors.

“We still do get significant visitation,” said Allen Gwinn, park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Raystown Lake. “The only thing we really close through the off-season is the campgrounds and some of the restroom facilities to prevent the pipes from freezing.”

In fact, for those who prefer peace and quiet, visiting outside of the summer months may be ideal for exploring the surrounding areas.

“Many people think that once you close the campgrounds it’s all closed, but it isn’t. A lot of people walk the pathways in Seven Points. It’s a good time for those secluded lake visits. People like going out to walk and enjoy the scenery,” said Gwinn.

Local sportsmen, in particular, like to take advantage of the coming months.

“The boat launches and all of the recreation facilities remain open, except the camping. Boaters and fishermen come through, too. As long as the lake is not frozen you can boat. We have hunters that take boats across the lake to access the more secluded areas. That’s a very popular activity. There’s also a couple of fishing tournaments, like the striped bass tournaments, but you won’t see a lot of events or activities again until April and May,” said Gwinn.

Pam Prosser, sales and marketing director at Seven Points Marina, agrees that, while not for everyone, fishermen come out in full force after the warm weather is long gone.

“Some of the best fishing is off-season,” she said. But a lot of people are fair-weather boaters. The general public isn’t going to go out in 40-degree weather.

As of now, the majority of boats at Seven Points Marina have vacated, although some are still waiting to go into storage.

“There are some boats left here because we’re waiting to store them in our rack storage building,” said Prosser. “They have to have the service work done for the winter. There will be no boats in the water within the next month.”

It won’t be until spring that big crowds return to Raystown Lake, but in the meantime, there are still plenty of reasons to visit and explore.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

'Hometown Heroes' honored

A large crowd gathered outside of the Huntingdon Borough Office Monday to celebrate Veterans Day with the dedication of the Huntingdon Borough Hometown Heroes Banner Project.

Banners featuring deceased veterans from the Huntingdon area went up on Washington Street yesterday.

Mayor Dave Wessels began the ceremony.

“It is my great honor and privilege to present to you the dedication of a new program to Huntingdon,” he said. “There are several other communities in the state that have started this program, but it’s a first for us.”

The Huntingdon County Chamber of Commerce and Huntingdon Borough have worked together on the project.

Currently, 12 banners have been completed, though only six were able to go up Monday.

The additional banners will go up on Washington Street in the near future.

“Our goal after this opening debut is to have 200 banners throughout the county by next Memorial Day,” said Wessels. “They will go up for Memorial Day and stay up through Veterans Day.”

Rep. Rich Irvin was on hand to remind the audience the sacrifices made by veterans, including those deceased and those still living.

“This is a great program. I’m glad to see this start here in Huntingdon Borough,” said Irvin. “We walk down the streets of Huntingdon and Huntingdon County and there are American heroes walking among us, and we don’t really know that. Here we’re recognizing that many have given the ultimate sacrifice and their lives. Though many are no longer with us, but as we go through our daily lives there are many, many true American heroes who have served in the armed forces.”

Huntingdon County Commissioner Mark Sather expressed his appreciation for the veterans, as well as being part of a community that is so actively involved in bringing to people’s attention to what is important.

“It’s a proud moment to be here in recognition and in honor of our veterans who have served. We are very fortunate to have the company and a community that is very active. Again it’s in appreciation of our veterans,” he said.

The color and honor guard from the Frank P. Hommon American Legion Post 24 and the Standing Stone VFW, both of Huntingdon, also participated in the event.

Tim Corbin, a truck driver as well as veteran who served with the National Guard and the U.S. Army, first brought the idea of the banners to Wessels a year ago after he spotted similar ones while driving through the state.

Wessels thanked everyone who helped bring the project to fruition.

“There were about eight of us...I put everybody in the same room together and when that many good minds come together, we can’t fail,” said Wessels.

Corbin said he first spotted the banners in Shamokin, Northumberland County.

“I was just driving through the town and saw these things and I thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing that here?’”

Sharon Anderson, a Huntingdon native who now lives in New York, was part of the committee that worked on the project.

“My dad was a D-Day vet. He went onto the beach. I always wanted to honor him and honor the soldiers,” she said. “We need to remember them. I’m really excited about it.”

The six banners that went up on Washington Street Monday honor Captain John D. Gutshall who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, Kenneth Lee Harker who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Chester O. Grissinger who served in the U.S. Navy during the World War II and Vietnam era, Robert Eugene Itinger Sr. who served in the U.S. Army during the Cold War, Captain Carl F. Brown Jr. who served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and Arnold Carl Grubb who served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Applications for the banners are still available at the Huntingdon Borough Building and the Huntingdon County Chamber of Commerce, and the plan is to eventually have them available at American Legions throughout the county as more municipalities become involved.

With enrollment ongoing, applications for banners cost $150, as well as an extra fee of $35 if a bracket needs to be purchased for the banner.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.