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Dealing with rough roads

As the snow and ice reluctantly recede from area roadways, the pavement beneath looks quite a bit worse for wear after a long stretch of nasty winter weather patterns.

“What made this winter more difficult than usual is the snow storms that start with snow, turn to freezing rain and end with bitter cold,” said Huntingdon Borough manager Dan Varner. “There’s been only a small window of opportunity between to get out to work on the streets.”

Potholes and cracks are caused by the continual cycle of the earth freezing and thawing — contracting and expanding — beneath the pavement.

“This year has been especially bad,” said Mike Peachey, PennDOT Huntingdon County maintenance manager. “There’s been an increase due to several cycles of freezing and thawing. We’ve seen a lot more potholes this year than in previous years.”

Mount Union Borough manager Adam Miller said the condition of the streets was been a concern voiced at a recent council meeting.

“The winter took a tremendous toll on our road infrastructure. We’ve definitely bore the brunt of vicious freeze and thaw cycles,” Miller said. “At our last council meeting, we discussed the importance of preserving and repairing roads. Unfortunately, this winter has not made that job any easier. You just can’t beat the weather.”

In addition to the direct damage caused to the pavement from temperature fluctuations, secondary damage can result from the necessity of making repairs to broken water lines and storm sewer lines, also caused by the freeze/thaw cycle.

“It’s been frustrating to have water line breaks and storm sewer breaks along with snow, freezing rain and sleet. The warm up and then bitter cold we’ve had creates all kinds of problems. Pipes break and the storm sewer pipes separate as the ground shifts. The past five weeks or so have been difficult,” Varner said. “It’s been frustrating, but for the most part, people have been patient and our guys work hard.”

Ironically, the cold patch used to make temporary repairs to pavement damage doesn’t really work that well when the temperatures are cold.

“Cold patch is a temporary fix,” Peachey said. “It will pop out when the plow grabs it.”

Varner added that Huntingdon Borough employees have been applying cold patch to some of the potholes, but without a great deal of success.

“There are a lot of potholes. We’ve been cold patching, but it doesn’t always stick. Sometimes, it can be a waste of money because it doesn’t work,” he said. “These kinds of winters are really hard on the streets. We are filling in the potholes as we can, but we need it to warm up a little bit so the patches will stick.”

Once spring arrives and materials are once more available to “hot patch” the damaged pavement, Varner looks forward to being able to conduct more durable repairs.

Peachey said the same applies to Huntingdon County as a whole.

“Whenever we’ve had a break in the weather, they’ve been out patching,” he said. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of potholes due to these big temperature swings back and forth, so we’re addressing them as we can.”

Potholes can be reported to the county office of PennDOT or may be reported online at customercare.penndot.gov/.


Local
Declarations can expedite repairs

Weather events in the county have allowed municipalities to sign declarations of disaster emergencies, which can help expedite the process of needed repairs as a result of weather events.

Joe Thompson, Huntingdon County Emergency Management director, explained that in the past several months, with not only snow events, but rain events, he’s received at least 10-12 reports from municipalities that have had reports as a result of storm damages.

“The incidents range from individuals on private property to larger things, like a rock slide in Juniata Township, portions of roads being lost in Cromwell and Porter townships and a mudslide in Henderson Township,” he said, also noting that storm damages reported also date back to last summer when another portion of the Muddy Run caused more of a subsidence to collapse near Ninth and Moore streets in Huntingdon Borough.

While there’s no guarantee of any state funding, Thompson said declarations of disaster emergencies allow municipalities to expedite the process of repairing any damages related to storms.

“It allows them to do it without going through the normal bidding process of getting estimates and quotes, going out to bid and getting approval at a public meeting,” he said. “It does not guarantee any state or federal funding. These are instances where they have to hire someone to repair something and they had to devote a lot of equipment and expenses to a project.”

Though this is only Thompson’s second winter as EMA director, he said he’s received more reports from municipal emergency management coordinators (EMCs), as more people learn about this process.

“I think it’s partly because of trying to get the word out about the process of a declaration of disaster emergency,” he said, noting that when it comes to that at the county level or municipal level, Thompson assesses the situation closely before a declaration is signed.

“I look at the forecast from the National Weather Service, and I get guidance from the state Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to see if something is going to impact an area as far as infrastructure, utilities and how it will impact the community,” said Thompson. “At the county level, if I feel there should be one signed, I’ll go to the commissioners, get a county declaration, and we’ll work together at the EMA center, and at the same time, I suggest EMCs do the same on their level.”

Before any funding can come from the federal level to reimburse for events, the state has to reach its threshold of damages for a storm event, which hasn’t happened recently.

“If we hit the county threshold of $130,000, we can submit that to PEMA, but the state threshold is $17 million, and we haven’t reached that yet.


Local
Annual Wing-Off event to be held Sunday

A weekend warmup is heading this way with the approach of the 16th annual Huntingdon County PRIDE Wing-Off Sunday, March 10, at the Smithfield Fire Hall.

From 1-3 p.m., chicken wings — in flavors ranging from mild to wild — will fill the plates and take-out containers of eager participants armed with enthusiastic appetites.

“You can almost smell the wing sauce in Smithfield right now,” said PRIDE executive director Adam Pfingstl. “The Wing-Off is my absolute favorite event. I look forward to it every year.”

As in past years, the event is sponsored by Brenneman’s Meat Market, which provides vendors with wings for the event.

“We are so grateful to Brenneman’s for sponsoring the event each year and donating the wings to each of the vendors,” Pfingstl said. “We also want to thank Smithfield Fire Co. for hosting the event and Boy Scout Troop 28 for bussing the tables and keeping the napkins and wet ones available.”

Just like all the previous years, getting ready for the event involves an impressive amount of chicken wings.

“We sell somewhere in the range of almost 1,500 pounds each year. We go through about 35 cases of wings on average and each case weighs about 40 pounds,” he said. “That comes to a little over 500 dozen sold at the wing-off.”

This year, 10 vendors will participate with entries in three categories — hot, barbecue and specialty.

“The 10 vendors we have for this year are Smithfield Fire Co., All American, Wingman Brew-n-que, Riverbillys, Memories, Mill Creek Fire Co. and Big Belly Deli,” said Pfingstl. “Also, returning after a hiatus is McMurtrie’s Tavern — they were here at the very first wing-off — and Main Street Café. Brand new for this year is the Edgewater Inn and Riverside Grill.”

A panel of 12 “secret” judges will taste test the wings in each category and rate the submissions for flavor, amount of sauce and how well the wing has been prepared.

“The judges remain nameless so that they can’t be influenced,” said Pfingstl, laughing. “Their names are kept secret so there is no buying off the judges by any of the vendors.”

In addition to the judges’ determination, Wing-Off diners will also be afforded the opportunity to vote for the winner of the annual Peoples’ Choice Award, with one voting ticket provided for every dozen wings purchased.

“Everything but the Peoples’ Choice Award will be announced at the Wing-Off,” he said. “The winner of the Peoples’ Choice Award will be announced on live television during the Telethon at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 23.

Since the event originated, popularity has grown exponentially, with hundreds of people flocking to the fire hall to enjoy the offerings.

“When we were setting up the very first one, we had no idea what to expect. We were overwhelmed by the excitement people showed,” said Pfingstl. “We ended up having to go to Walmart to buy wings during the event because Brenneman’s ran out. We sold out again and some area restaurants donated more, even though they then didn’t have any when they opened later that day. It’s grown and grown and grown ever since.”

The secret to the success of Wing-Off is in the sauce — and the overwhelming community support year after year.

“We have some dedicated wing cookers who stand outside the whole time to make sure we have wings for everyone,” he said. “Nice weather is a plus for them. It helps if it’s not too cold.”

Eager diners typically begin to queue up outside the fire hall around noon, but no wings will be served until 1 p.m.

“The wings are the best part,” Pfingstl said. “There is great fellowship. Everyone sits down cafeteria-style with people who might be strangers when they start. They get to know them, which is especially great after being cooped up inside for months of snow, snow and more snow.”

The Wing-Off is an “appetizer” of sorts to the much anticipated Huntingdon County PRIDE Telethon, which will be begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, and run through Saturday, March 23.

The PRIDE calendar has many events scheduled in the weeks leading up to the Telethon, so for more information, visit the agency’s website and Facebook page and watch The Daily News in the coming weeks for a full list of events.


Local
Internet hoax prompts internet safety reminder

In recent weeks, social media has been abuzz with news about the “Momo Challenge,” an internet game where a creepy woman tells kids to hurt themselves.

While the entire thing appears to be a hoax, with no evidence of a game existing or anyone being hurt by the challenge, school administrators have addressed the issue with their students.

The Momo Challenge first gathered attention last summer, when newspapers in India and Argentina reported students receiving messages through WhatsApp, a social media app, reports Larry Magid in an article on the Connect Safely website. However, officials never found evidence of connection to any game.

The legend of Momo regained popularity in the United Kingdom in 2019, and continued when Kim Kardashian warned her Instagram followers about it in February. However, The Atlantic reports Momo is no more true now than in 2018.

The image of a woman’s face comes from a sculpture by a Japanese special effects company that started circulating on the internet in 2016, according to Vox. It most likely got attached to the rumor through Reddit, an internet forum, according to Magid. The fervor around Momo seems to be driven more by parental and media panic than any evidence.

Though the challenge was a hoax, some schools gave parents warnings about internet safety with their children. Parents of Southside Elementary School students received a letter this week, making them aware of the challenge.

Southside Elementary officials could not be reached for comment as of time of press time.

Juniata Valley School District did not have any official statement on the challenge, according to school social worker Stephanie Galloway-Maslanik. However, they are in the process of releasing an edition of their Valley Soup podcast discussing this challenge, similar challenges and other social media related topics.

“I’ve only had a couple people bring (the challenge) up in casual conversation, but not necessarily to a concerning degree.” she said. “Even the ones who brought it up were more wondering if I’ve heard about it or mentioned seeing something about it, but it has not raised alarm in our school district from what I’ve been told.”

Galloway-Maslanik explained that when people were concerned about the idea of clown presence several years ago, she met with many children who were concerned about it. However, very few people have asked her about the Momo challenge hoax.

However, the hoax still offers parents a chance to consider how their children approach internet safety.

“Parents just need to be aware of what their children are hearing about, reading about and seeing on the different social media platforms and the internet in general,” Galloway-Maslanik said.

If a child is not aware of the challenge, Galloway-Maslanik said parents should not feel compelled to tell them about it.

“If their children aren’t necessarily bringing it up, I don’t think it’s something that has to be brought up unless there is a reason to believe the children are aware of it and aren’t talking about it,” she said. “Perhaps ask them if they have heard about anything unsafe happening on their apps. If they do know their children have knowledge of it, or a child is asking about it, it is really important to have the conversation with them about safety and precaution. (Tell them that) if they see something that would be inappropriate, where someone or something is telling them to do something unsafe, they should go to the nearest adult and report it so the adult can address what has been seen. Parents should address the topic by educating kids about what to do if they encounter something unsafe and providing reassurance.”

She added, “I don’t think we need to create alarm in kids if they aren’t aware and aren’t affected, but if they know about it because other kids are talking about it or they saw it on the news or (social media) posts/videos about it, then I don’t think (parents) should ignore it. They need to have some open dialogue about it. Reassure (kids) that nothing can do harm to them or their families through a video or chat or make them do anything unsafe, even if it seems real. Encourage them to come to an adult if something like this happens in a video or chat.”

Parents also should keep themselves well informed so as not to cause panic around hoaxes like the Momo challenge.

“Parents need to make sure they are aware of what their kids are coming into contact with and that they are looking at good sources to be able to give facts and reassurance instead of increasing the alarm,” Galloway-Maslanik said.

She recommended Shape The Sky, which has a website and Facebook page dedicated to giving parents resources on how to help shape their children’s smartphone usage in responsible ways.

“It has very good resources on having conversations with kids, what apps they are using, knowing what they are searching, and knowing what conversations they are having,” she said.

In the end, though the hoax caused a social media stir, it may have provided parents with a good reminder of how to help their kids approach the internet.

“The most important things are open conversation, monitoring and awareness of social media/app usage,” Galloway-Maslanik said.

Jesse can be reached at jrice@huntingdondailynews.com.


Local
Gov.'s proposal not supported

IRVIN

State legislators have been hearing from residents and municipal leaders, expressing their opposition to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal to charge municipalities for state police coverage.

In the past, Wolf proposed a $25 per person charge, but this year, he’s proposing a sliding fee scale based on population. Some reports say costs could range from $8 to $166 a person, depending on the population of the municipality.

State Rep. Rich Irvin said his office has done some calculations as to what municipalities might pay if this passes.

“For example, Smithfield Township would pay $33 per person, Shirley Township would pay $17, and other townships would be around $8 per person,” he said. “This would ultimately come back on the municipality having to pay for it, and they would have to pass this on to the individual.”

State Sen. Judy Ward said cash-strapped municipalities can’t afford to pay such a fee, which would force them to push this expense back on taxpayers.

“I see this as a form of double taxation,” she said. “There are tax dollars there to fund state police, and a small, rural community may not have the wherewithal to pay. It’s a great concern.”

Ward said some potential problems it could include forcing municipalities to choose between dealing with infrastructure and dealing with police coverage.

“I think about Williamsburg, and they are a community that’s struggling to meet their needs on infrastructure and all sorts of things, but they don’t have the tax base to support (a lot of revenues),” she said. “If you put this on top of it, I’m not sure what they would do.”

Though Irvin doesn’t support charging municipalities for police coverage, he wants people to understand why Wolf is pushing this proposal.

“Over the last number of years, the amount of money coming out of the transportation fund to support state police has been increasing steadily,” he said. “Roughly $800 million was set to come out of the transportation fund this last budget year to support the state police budget, and that’s money that should be used to maintain bridges, highways and roadways in our state.”

Irvin said the state legislature set parameters in the most recent budget to lower the amount of money taken from the transportation to fund state police from $800 to $500 million, but that’s still money that can be used to fix infrastructure.

“That’s why it’s become an issue with the governor,” he said.

Irvin has a couple of things that he feels the legislature should look at before charging municipalities for police coverage.

“I feel state police is admin-heavy in Harrisburg, but because they deal with sensitive materials, it’s hard to get any kind of performance audit,” he said. “There’s only about one third of those who work for state police that are those with boots on the ground, but every agency should be transparent, and we need to find out if there’s a way to efficiently operate and cut costs. This is something I’ve heard from retired state police troopers. Before we tap into municipalities, we need to make sure they’re performing as they should as an agency.”

Another suggestion Irvin has is to potentially pass a bill that allows sheriffs and sheriff deputies to have more power in the state.

“I know the sheriff deputies help in municipalities like Orbisonia, but that could be another way they could help,” he said. “Rather than just being the arm of the court, they could have additional powers that a municipal police force does.”

Ward agrees with Irvin there needs to be another way to deal with the issue of funding state police partially through the transportation fund.

“We have to think outside of the box a little bit,” she said.


Local
Applicants sought for local internships

Local college students will have the opportunity to gain experience and make some money at the same time through an internship program offered through Huntingdon County CareerLink.

“It’s a great opportunity and a wonderful program,” said Denise Hancock, CareerLink lead career placement specialist. “We had the program last year and it was a great success.”

Made possible by a grant from Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development (SAP&DC), the funds will allow for eight internships for Fulton County residents and 20 in Huntingdon County residents.

“This is designed for college students,” Hancock said. “It gives them a chance to do an internship for the summer. We try to match them up with whatever their major area of interest is so that they get a chance to work within that field.”

By partnering with a variety of businesses, agencies and organizations throughout the region, interns gain valuable, real-world experience within their chosen fields.

“Students work with a variety of employers here in Huntingdon County,” she said. “Last year, we had great support and interns went to Containment Solutions, J.R. Wald, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, Area Agency on Aging, the district attorney’s office and the visitor’s bureau.”

A partnership with Juniata College also provides instruction in professional development.

“It’s mandatory that they attend the three-hour class through career services at Juniata College,” said Hancock. “They conduct the training for us free of cost. They do a wonderful job with it.”

Those college students accepted into the program will work for eight weeks and will be paid $12.94 an hour for up to 40 hours a week.

“The students come in and complete an orientation and then we put them to work,” said Hancock. “This gives them a chance to see if this is what they would like to do or for them to determine what direction they want to go in.”

The internship opportunity may also satisfy college internship requirements as participants complete 320 hours over the summer.

Applicants who are currently enrolled in college are encouraged to submit a letter of interest and resume to their local CareerLink office by May 1. Interested employers are likewise encouraged to contact CareerLink about the possibility of hosting an intern.

For more information, contact Hancock at dhancock@emp-trng.org or 641-6408.


IRVIN