A1 A1
Park land fight continues

After learning at their August meeting that a proposed land swap for a portion of the Woodcock Valley Park to be used for an office and maintenance shed had been rescinded by the state, Walker Township Supervisors told residents Tuesday night there is no new information to report on the proposal.

“Our legal counsel is still talking to DCNR (the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources),” said board chairman Rodney Johns during the monthly meeting. “We have nothing to discuss. DCNR has the ball.”

Despite no information, residents who filled the room Tuesday night and voiced their concerns.

Township resident Edna Querry addressed Johns and supervisor Joe Harford. Supervisor Steve Felton was not present.

In addition to reviewing residents’ fight to safe the park from development and the options presented to the supervisors, she also discussed DCNR’s decision to rescind the land swap that proposed taking three acres at the south end of the park to add to the two acres at the end that was already deeded for use of a municipal building, resulting in a total of five acres to be used for the new building.

“Aug. 1, DCNR sent the township a letter rescinding their tentative approval based on additional documentation they had received,” said Querry. “DCNR had never received a copy of the original 1949 deed for the four-plus acres that shows the restrictions of the land use to recreational activities.”

Reading a portion of the letter from DCNR, Querry pointed out the supervisors were asked at the Aug. 20 meeting if they would comply with the June motion to move on to the next viable land option.

“The answer was no — the supervisors now believe the four-plus acres of land do not have restrictions on them. It was stated they are going to contact DCNR to fight the denial. When asked what they were going to base that belief on, the response was that they listen to the advice of the solicitor, but did not share what that advice was,” she said. “It is still hard to understand how the supervisors can now say there are no restrictions on this land, when on Nov. 30, 2018, the heirs of the former owners of the four-plus acres were asked to sign a legal document to lift those restrictions that the supervisors now believe don’t exist.”

Querry told the supervisors the residents of Walker Township are committed to saving the park.

“The attorney we have contacted provided us with a solid legal basis to show the four-plus-acre parcel legally continues to have the restrictions from the original 1949 deed and agreement,” she said. “And DCNR agrees there are still legal restrictions on this land as stated in their denial letter. How many other legal opinions are needed before we move away from taking away the park land?”

Querry also spoke of a survey conducted at the park.

“It is also my understanding there was some type of survey conducted on the five acres at the south end of the park,” she said. “If this is correct, how much money was spent on this survey that was moved on so quickly? This money could have been used towards another parcel of land, particularly the fire company property on fairgrounds.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, township secretary Julie Johns told The Daily News a survey was conducted at the park as required by DCNR for the land swap to move forward. The survey was approved at the July meetings of the supervisors and the municipal authority and was conducted the day the DCNR denial letter was received. Although it was not publicly stated Tuesday night, the supervisors approved payment of the survey during the meeting at a cost of $5,596.13, with two-thirds of that total being reimbursed by the municipal authority.

Prior to Querry’s address Tuesday night, R. Johns opened the meeting by stating that, at the suggestion of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS), those attending meetings will be given a limited amount of time to address the supervisors on agenda items only. An additional public comment period will be offered at the end of meetings for items not on the agenda. Scheduled guests, as Querry was, will be given a reasonable amount of time to address the board.

“This is not a question and answer session anymore,” said R. Johns. “Joe and I agreed this is how it’s going to be. There will be no questions asked, just comments.”

During the latter public comment period, other residents shared comments on the park and the new policy.

“I’ve sat through my share of meetings and (the public comment policy) is nothing more than something put in place to shut people up,” said resident Alex Oswald.

Resident Russell Kyper commented on funding for the proposed project.

“A budget should be developed and you should know how it will be funded,” he said. “I assume you’ve done your due diligence and I think it would be good for you to share that with the residents because we’re all going to pay for it in the end.”

Resident Tracy Gibson told the board a Facebook group, titled “Save the Park,” was created earlier this month and already has 119 members.

“That’s more than a few,” she said. “Everyone here is in favor of saving that park. It’s disheartening to think you want to destroy our park.”

Ron Detwiler, whose family originally deeded the property to the township, was met with applause after he pleaded with the supervisors.

“This is one of the smallest townships and we have one of the most beautiful parks around,” he said. “Why do we want to lose that? Think about it. Let’s not destroy the legacy that two people left. We can’t even think about losing it.”

The supervisors also noted that meeting agendas will be made available on the township website ahead of meetings and can be emailed upon request.

“If there will be a decision (on the park), it will be on the agenda,” said solicitor Nick Newfield.

Becky can be reached at bweikert@huntingdondailynews.com.

Dedicated citizen receives Meyash Award

Long-time Huntingdon resident Richard Dixie Myers was awarded the annual Wanda Meyash Award for outstanding citizen last night at the Huntingdon Borough Council meeting Tuesday night.

Huntingdon Borough mayor David Wessels noted Myers has served the community his entire adult life, “so it’s not so much an outstanding citizen award as, in this case, a lifetime achievement award.”

Upon receiving the award, a visibly moved Myers was at first speechless.

When he did speak, his voice was filled with deep emotion.

“It’s been such an honor, and it’s something that I’ll never forget. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart,” said Myers.

The award caught Myers unawares, as he had been told before the meeting that it was being given to someone else.

“David kept asking me if I had a speech ready. I didn’t know what I’d need a speech for to honor Dan Varner. But I had it all ready.”

The award was well deserved, as Myers’ list of accomplishments is staggering.

He is a 66-year member of the Huntingdon Regional Fire & Rescue, with 30-plus years as president of the former Huntingdon Fire Co. No. 1, 17 years as fire chief and co-chairing dozens of community parades, including the largest parade in Huntingdon history, the 1976 bicentennial parade.

He was instrumental in acquiring new fire company vehicles and established the first rescue vehicle in Huntingdon, was one of the founding fathers of Farm League Baseball, was Little League manager for five years and he and his wife, Shirley, managed the Little League food booth for over 10 years.

On top of that, he served on Huntingdon Borough Council for 23 years and currently serves on the Huntingdon Water and Sewer Authority.

Myers is a father, grandfather and great grandfather.

“His acts come without want, without need and without need for pomp and circumstance. That’s why we do this; that’s why we make sure that the people that support this community and have been an integral part of it for so many year are recognized where it is justly so,” said Wessels.

Borough manager Chris Stevens gave a quick update on the completion of the work being done on Washington Street.

“There are three more holes to dig on the 700 block of Washington Street, and they’ll start putting the rough patch in, so you won’t have to drive on gravel downtown much longer,” he said.

Assistant borough manager Dan Varner commented on the fire company’s response to the fire on Washington Street a few weeks ago.

“I’d like to say the fire department saved a block of Huntingdon by their quick action and knowing what to do and how to do it. They need to be commended. Although we lost a couple of buildings, we could have lost the better part of a block,” he said.

Huntingdon Borough Police chief Jeff Buckley said the Huntingdon Police Department will host an event in conjunction with the FBI Nov. 7 at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church to address the scams against the elderly.

Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee Robert Jackson said a poll will soon be on the borough Facebook page and borough website asking the public for ideas about what they would like to see changed or added to the parks in town.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Art exhibit connects community, wildlife

The Juniata College Museum of Art (JCMA) and the museum Artist-in-Residence, Lauren Strohacker will have an exhibition opening for “In the Fabric of the Woodland,” from 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, public art project that explores experiences and encounters with wildlife.

Strohacker spoke about “turning the museum inside out,” placing LED message boards at different public venues in the county to evoke the imaginations of residents regarding their relationship with local wildlife, whether extinct, endangered or simply ignored.

“Over the past five or six years it has been important for me to involve the community, especially now when it seems many people feel closed off,” she said.

At the opening, there will be five message boards with rolling texts designed to “conceptually bring these species we’ve displaced into our everyday lives.”

After the opening, four of the message boards will move to locations at Shaver’s Creek, Portstown Park, the Juniata College Field Station at Raystown Lake and the Mount Union ArtsFest at varying dates between this Saturday and the beginning of October.

“The goal is that once the boards move out of the gallery we can archive the community’s response to the boards,” said Strohacker.

JCMA will house the evolving exhibition of community responses to the different installations, which Strohacker says can range from anything from stories of animal encounters, paintings, poems or whatever individuals feel moved to create.

“You never know what a community is going to come up with,” she said.

“This is new and experimental,” said JCMA director Kathryn Blake. “We’ve been intentional in trying to find exhibitions that engage the community as well as the college campus. There are a lot of people in town who don’t know we have a museum or they think it’s not open to them.”

“What I really think about is every board is hyper site-specific to the place it’s at. When I go to Shaver’s Creek, I’m looking at that particular installation. There’s a stage area that has banisters, so using that environment to imagine a wood rat running across. Portstown Park is really going to be great because it’s right along the river. So people could be thinking about deer drinking from the river, a beaver creating a dam, or an otter swimming through,” said Strohacker.

The exhibition will run through to December 13.

Strohacker will have her first installation hosted at the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, with talks at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

She says the responses so far have been positive.

“They never ask me about aesthetics or color, they come and talk to me about their experiences with wildlife. I get caught up in my own human life and issues and excitements, so it’s easy to forget we share our space with animals and at the very least could be more aware of them.”

Apart from the installations, other events will be held that allow community members to engage in hands-on activities. Monday, Sept. 23, art professor Robert Boryk will host a drop-in “Maker Space” event where visitors can create animal silhouettes to decorate and contribute to the exhibition.

Bucking the stereotype of the outsider artist, Strohacker looks to connect communities by connecting them with the wildlife they share.

“This is what all my work does, across media, connecting us with animals. There is a bridge between the animal and the human world and that is the gift of attention.”

For more information about other exhibition related events you can contact JCMA or visit their website at: https://www.juniata.edu/academics/museum/

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com,

Grant approved for recycling

The Huntingdon County Commissioners approved the awarding of a 901 Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act grant for electronics recycling advertising and education for the county at their weekly meeting Tuesday morning.

County recycling coordinator Lou Ann Shontz said the grant is for $25,256 for a $31,570 project for 2018 and 2019.

“This will help us pay for advertising and printing costs for electronics recycling,” said Shontz. “This is in conjunction with the solid waste plan, but just for educational materials and advertising.”

Shontz added she’s working on grants for 2020 and 2021.

Additionally, she said the remainder of funds not covered by the grant will come from the South Central Solid Waste Authority, and no funds to pay for advertising or educational materials will come from the county’s general fund.

Also Tuesday, Brent Kendrick was approved to be hired for an open position as mapping specialist for the Huntingdon County Mapping Department. His start date will be dependent upon mapping director Sean Houck conferring with Kendrick to see when he can start.

Additionally, the purchase of four service agreements were approved for Children and Youth Services Tuesday.

The first agreement was with the Bair Foundation of Pennsylvania of Altoona for foster care services, the second was with Families United Network Inc. of Muncy for foster care, as well as residential, transitional and shelter care services, and the third one was with Adelphoi Village Inc. of Latrobe, with local offices in Huntingdon, for residential, foster, shelter and transitional care services and the fourth was with Perseus House of Erie for residential treatment facility services.

All of the agreements are for the 2019-20 fiscal yea and are renewals from the previous fiscal year.

‘OddityFest’ returns to Clifton theater

The Buskopolis Festival of Cinematic Oddities returns to Huntingdon Cinema’s Clifton 5 with a two-day screening Friday and Saturday, Sept. 20-21.

This year’s festival features 47 juried short films representing 13 countries, plus a curated collection of feature films and documentaries representative of various eras in cinema history and technique.

“There’s an assumption that art films are pretentious and inaccessible but you can do art and being entertaining,” festival director and Huntingdon resident Tim Busko said. “And the same holds true for international films. When you clear a language barrier or a cultural barrier, you have access to all these different stories that can move you in so many ways.”

The festival will welcome a half dozen short-film directors who will speak with audience members about their work during post-screening Q&A sessions.

Among highlights is Saturday night’s screening of “Wings of Desire,” German director Wim Wenders’ 1987 masterpiece about the angels who watch over the citizens of Berlin and the plight of ethereal observer Damiel who falls in love with a lonely trapeze artist.

Wenders says he was inspired, in part, by the prevalence of angels throughout the city’s architecture. The film’s German title, “Der Himmel über Berlin” translates into “Heaven Over Berlin.”

Busko said the “humanity of the angels and the gritty world the humans inhabit” are striking and he counts the movie among his favorites.

Festival producer Paula Seguin calls the movie “pure magic.”

“It is such a lovely story filled with romantic fantasy and heart-wrenching beauty,” Seguin said. “The cinematography captures the city of Berlin in such a fluid way. It is very dreamlike and flows effortlessly throughout the city. It is a true love letter to Berlin with all the aches and pains of being madly in love.”

Through arrangement with Janus Films, OddityFest will screen the film’s 4K restoration.

OddityFest is pleased to welcome Jennifer Jones, former Huntingdon resident living in Cologne, Germany, on board this year as guest programmer.

Jones, who has spent the last 20 years working with film festivals in Germany, has arranged a screening of “Draussen (Outside), ”a documentary exploring homelessness in Cologne. In the film, four of the city’s homeless men share their stories about life on the fringe of society.

“Having a guest programmer helps bring to the festival a perspective outside my own cinema experiences,” Busko said, adding he’s eager to share Jones’ recommendation with festival audience.

“Homelessness affects us, no matter where we live,” Busko said.

Buskopolis continues its trek around the European continent with “The Fabulous Baron Munchausen,” Czech filmmaker Karel Zeman’s 1961 fantasy adventure that incorporates innovative special effects which continue to charm and inspire today’s audiences.

Two French films — “The Red Balloon” (1956) and “Microcosmos” (1996) — are included in Satruday afternoon’s all-ages screening, along with eight short-subject films from Canada, Hungary, the United Kingdom and the United States. Audience members 18 and under are admitted to the screening free of charge.

Also included in the line up are Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 silent classic “Modern Times” and Brian De Palma’s 1974 rock-musical-horror-comedy “Phantom of the Paradise.”

Juniata college professor Peter Goldstein returns to OddityFest to introduce “The Fabulous Baron Munchausen” and “Phantom of the Paradise.”

Preparing for OddityFest is almost an year-long process. Busko starts screening short subject films in December when the call for entries launches. This year, the festival received close to 200 entries.

“It’s exciting because you’ll get films that people have put a lot of money into and those where someone has just set up a camera and filmed him- or herself acting,” Busko said. “Both kinds of films are relevant, no-budget and big budget, depending on how the filmmakers makes us of their resources.”

Busko also noted some of this year’s short film are played at major festivals around the world while, for others, OddityFest marks their theatrical debut.

Busko thanks Dave Peoples, Heather Stewart and the rest of the folks at The Clifton for providing Oddity Fest with a home and for their help during the two-day event.

The festival also receives much-appreciated support from Boxer’s Cafe, Rothrock Outfitters, Standing Stone Coffee Co., Thompson Candle Co. and Raystown Beverage.

The feature film schedule is as follows:

Friday, Sept. 20: “Modern Times” at 7:30 p.m. and “The Fabulous Baron Munchausen” at 10:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 21: “Draussen” at 12:30 p.m., “The Red Balloon” and Microcosmos” at 2 p.m.; “Wings of Desire” at 7 p.m. and “Phantom of the Paradise” at 11 p.m.

The festival box office opens at 4 p.m. Friday and at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Clifton lobby.

For more information, including the short film schedule, prices and advance tickets, visit buskopolisfilms.com or look up the Buskopolis Festival of Cinematic Oddities on Facebook.

Rebecca can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

SH board members talk security concern

Members of the Southern Huntingdon County School Board discussed a potential issue regarding those who were hired to do event security at sporting events at the monthly meeting Tuesday evening.

“Last year, if you remember, we had a discussion on how we do our insurance so those who do event security were covered by liability insurance,” said superintendent Dwayne Northcraft. “We followed (state Department of Education) guidelines, and we thought we were all good. But, with the passing of Act 67, this requires security personnel to get 40 hours of training.”

Act 67 of 2019, passed by the state House and Senate and signed into law in July, requires that anyone working as a school security guard, “must complete the Basic School Resource Officer Course of Instruction or an equivalent approved by Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.”

Those currently serving as security guards have six months to complete the training from the effective date of this requirement.

“If we put someone in a vest and hat that says school security, we’re implying they can do something in a situation that gets out of control, but they really can’t,” said Northcraft, noting that without training, all those who were hired can do is report an incident to the proper authorities, but they can’t actively engage in diffusing any potential situations.

Northcraft also mentioned a concern with those who were already hired is that they may not want to do the training, as many who were hired already have full-time jobs and may not be interested in taking a week off to do 40 hours of training.

“If they say no, we may need to contract with a security company that has training,” said Northcraft. “I don’t want to think we’re not appreciative of those we hired, and it’s not their fault we’re considering this, but it’s because of the law that’s changed.”

Northcraft said this is something the board needs to consider, but he’ll notify those hired as event security to see if they’re willing to do 40 hours of training, and he’ll also get quotes for hiring security firms.

Northcraft said he’s also working with EI Associates, the firm that conducted the feasibility study regarding the elementary schools, about a potential contract for official design of one elementary school, which will presented at the October meeting.

Maintenance supervisor Stanley Hall said the roof project at the middle/high school is nearly complete.

“Contractors are working on the final punch list, and once that’s completed, we’ll do a final walkthrough,” he said. “After that, all that will be left will be the curbing for rooftops for the dehumidification project.”

The dehumidification project will begin very soon, said Stanley, as the 150-day workday contract officially began Sept. 16.

“Work will tentatively start next week,” said Hall. “All of the work completed will be during the second shift, and the majority of the work will be done above the hallways on the ceiling. They will be doing five to seven days of welding, so there will be a time where we will have to disarm the fire alarm system.”