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Leaders talk Cabinetworks' improvement plan

A local manufacturing plant’s $23 million plan for building improvements and workforce expansion were the focus of a special meeting Friday afternoon hosted by Shirley Township officials.

Cabinetworks is preparing for construction of a 16-door dock and parking area on the westside of its plant along Lenape Drive in Riverview Business Center, Route 522 just south of Mount Union. The company is also working toward exponential workforce growth.

In October, the company announced that its multi-million dollar investment will shift the 206,000 square-foot plant’s focus from comments to advanced assembly, with the ability to build and ship fully assembled cabinets.

Dan Heintzelman, manager of facilities, said the plant employs 100 people; the company’s goal is to increase up to 460-490 workers.

He said the company is currently hiring at a gradual pace, “trickling in two or three employees a week so as not to overwhelm ourselves.”

Wayne Klingensmith, director of manufacturing engineering, said Cabinetworks’ goal is “by the second quarter of 2024 to be in full production” and noted the mild winter weather has created an eagerness to begin work.

Klingensmith said Cabinetworks is ready to break ground pending approval from the Shirley Township Board of Supervisors and from the state Department of Environmental Protection which is processing the company’s NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit.

Nick Long of Livic Civil, engineer for Cabinetworks, said he will be re-submitting the NPDES application next week.

“We have a meeting on Monday and are hoping to have it resolved by the end of the week,” Long said.

Engineers for the township, Brian Wiser and Ben Piper, both with Keller Engineers, are requesting Cabinetworks to submit documents that verify the facility is equipped with sufficient sewer capacity to support its plans.

Judy Hicks, secretary for the general authority, said she doesn’t anticipate there being any issue with existing capacity, but agreed it should be documented as part of the plan.

Heintzelman said the plan doesn’t include adding anymore toilet facilities or sinks and noted that the building, under Berg in the 1990s, was equipped to handle a workforce of 1,200.

Long agreed to gather up the information for submission to the township and said he expects to have the necessary documentation in hand in time for the board of supervisors’ next meeting, Thursday, March 30.

Long asked if the township supervisors would entertain granting conditional at their March 30 meeting.

“We won’t have the NPDES approval by then but we might have the sewer cleared up,” Long said. “If we can have the sewer figured out next week, we can attend that end-of-the-month meeting.”

He said such a move could save time.

Township solicitor Jim McClure said the process “is a lot cleaner if we do it all at once” and suggested, as an alternative, that the township’s planning commission could give conditional approval, pending the NPDES permit.

McClure also asked the township board of supervisors if they had any reservations about granting conditional approval prior to receipt of the NPDES permit; the trio confirm they had no objections.

Long, McClure and the board ultimately agreed to stay in touch on the two outstanding issues, with Long instructed to contact township secretary Kathy Varner once he obtains the sewage documents.

At that point, Long can then advise if he wants to be on the Thursday, March 30, agenda or Thursday, April 27 agenda.

McClure said the township can also schedule a special meeting for mid-April to keep the project moving along.

Other issues touched on during Friday’s meeting were the retention basin included in the project.

Long said the five-foot deep pond is an evapotranspiration feature designed to drain within 72 hours after a rain event.

He said the basin will remain dry most of the time.

In addition, supervisor Andy Blair asked if Cabinetworks is anticipating any traffic flow issues once it reaches its 460-490 employee capacity.

Klingensmith said the employees will, as now, be spread out over two shifts, so the entire workforce won’t be arriving at and departing from the facility all at once.

Heintzleman referred again to the plant’s Berg era and noted Cabinetworks traffic flow will be much lighter.

“Huntingdon County needs employment bad, especially the southern end of it,” township chairman Gary Frehn said. “This meeting was to get everyone on the same page, so we all understand where we’re at and what’s going on.”

Frehn said he sees the project as beneficial to all parties.

Klingensmith said the current plan is the first step of many aimed at improving the Mount Union facility and said it’s “a key project for us and our organization.”

Klingensmith told the board he’s appreciative of the support.

“I really appreciate the support and the communication between all the groups. These projects can be a really arduous thing in timeframe…we’re trying to move this thing along to have a really good impact for this area and be able to provide for some of the folks in this area.”

“We appreciate you guys are doing it here,” supervisor Danny McKeegan said.

The Cabinetworks Group, formerly ACPi, purchased the Mount Union facility in 2016 for $10.7 million.

Klingensmith said Cabinetworks is the second-largest cabinet manufacturer in the nation.

From the control booth at the Smithfield Fire Hall, technician Jim Grace had perhaps the best view in the house of the Huntingdon County PRIDE Telethon Friday night. Dozens of volunteers spent Telethon week behind the scenes and in front of the camera, keeping the auction flowing. Bidding came to end Friday; today the Telethon is dedicated to local talent. The show goes live at 1 p.m. on Comcast Channel 17 and online at

Planners hear ordinance concerns

A contingent of Walker Township residents who are pro-poultry sought information from the Huntingdon County Planning Commission Thursday night regarding pending amendments to the zoning ordinance currently before the Walker Township board of supervisors.

Since the Walker Township residents weren’t on the agenda to speak, the commission voted to include them and kicked off the meeting by hearing their concerns.

“We should at least hear what they have to say,” chairman Ron Rabena said.

Jim Ardrey and Connie Householder, who both keep chickens, spoke for the group of roughly 10 township residents and said they are most concerned with how the proposed changes address poultry.

They said they came to the meeting to hear the planning commission’s comments on the amendments.

Planning director James Lettiere said the planning department has not yet received a final version of the amended ordinance, so no comments were available for review at Thursday’s meeting.

“We’re anticipating getting that, once we get it we will comment on it and provide that back to the township for consideration.”

Friday, township solicitor Larry Lashinsky said he was in the process of preparing the amended ordinance and letter for submission this coming week to both the county and township planning commissions. He said clarification for another proposed zoning amendment — restricting single unit RVs to the conservation district — which was addressed by the supervisors at a special meeting March 7, delayed the submission.

Lashinsky said that as far as poultry is concerned, the current draft of the amended ordinance requires a property owner to have at least three quarters of an acre of ground to keep chicken or ducks and gives permission to keep up to six birds. At two acres, between nine and 12 are allowed, he said.

Lashinsky said that, based on his observations, the issue which has caused the most debate between all parties is the setback requirement.

In its current draft, the proposed ordinance requires chicken coops and chicken runs to sit at least 5 feet from a side boundary and 10 feet from a rear boundary.

“It’s the same as any other (yard) accessory,” he said.

Lashinsky said the township planning commission has recommended the township to consider a greater setback distance.

With the two planning commissions set to receive the ordinance next week, Lashinsky said review and comments will likely be made at their April meetings. He said he anticipates the township supervisors hosting a public hearing on the matter no sooner than the end of April.

It will be up to the board to review comments from the planners and public and decide if further changes needed for the amended ordinance are advertised ahead of the final vote, Lashinsky said.

“This is a process, it takes a little bit of time to go through those steps,” he said.

Thursday night, Ardrey told county planners the matter has been the subject of back and forth discussion among supervisions township planners and residents since September. He said that as the months have passed, he felt the board of supervisors and poultry-owning residents like himself had reached an agreement on reasonable regulations but remains concerned about some recommendations suggested by the township’s planning commission. He said at different points in the months-long discussion, a 150-foot setback was proposed, as well as required for a manure management program.

Ardrey challenged the need for imposing manure management regulations for a handful of small animals.

“You’re going to have more manure from a great dane in a week than six chickens,” he said. “We’re not talking about a massive chicken farm, we’re talking about six chickens to three-quarters of an acre.”

Lettiere asked the Walker Township group to appoint a contact person and said that when the planning department receives the amended ordinance and conducts its review, he will reach out and share those comments. He said the group would then be welcome to attend a county planning commission meeting to discuss the comments.

“That’s reasonable to us,” Ardrey said.

“We’re trying to make this more fair for all of the residents of the township,” Householder said.

Lettiere and planning commission chairman Ron Rabena both advised the group that the planning commission’s role in Walker Township’s ordinance amendment is limited. They explained their job is to review and comment; whether comments are taken to heart is entirely up to the township’s elected officials.

“They have the ultimate say,” Rabena said.

The township’s own planning commission is scheduled to meet Monday, March 20, followed by the monthly meeting of the board of supervisors Tuesday night, March 21.

Residents concerned about traffic change

A decision by Huntingdon Borough Council to change all of 15th Street to two-way traffic was the topic of discussion by several members of the public at the recent March meeting of councils public safety committee.

Fifteenth Street is currently one way west going from Moore to Mifflin on the block where the 15th Street United Methodist Church is located, then one way east traveling between Moore and Oneida towards the Weis store.

The proposal to change the 15th Street traffic pattern was recommend by the Huntingdon Borough public safety committee and approved by the council last month by a 6-1 vote.

Since the February meeting, including at the public safety session, a couple of council members have indicated they are taking another look at the proposal and may reconsider their decision.

David Fryer, a member of the 15th Street United Methodist Church, asked what the urgency and necessity is of changing 15th Street to a two-way thoroughfare.

“You have to understand the impact this change will have on the 15th Street United Methodist Church and the elderly membership of the church,” Fryer said as he opposed the potential of limiting even more parking on Moore Steet in the area of 15th Street. And he had more concerns about any additional parking that may be squeezed onto Fifteenth Street.

“It may seem likes there’s plenty of room, but it won’t be safe for someone with a walker getting out of their car with the car door open,” Fryer told council members. “This will have a serious impact on some people being able to attend church regularly if it isn’t handled correctly as far as what’s restricted and not restricted, including handicapped parking.”

Fryer pointed out that parking is already tight in the area of the church as he repeated his question about the urgency and necessity of the change and asked council to reverse their decision, especially about allowing two-way traffic between Moore and Mifflin streets.

Ginny Gill lives on the corner of 15th and Mifflin streets. She’s lived there over 30 years and has seen four traffic patterns on 15th between Mifflin and Oneida.

“The current traffic pattern works,” Gill began. “I don’t see why it needs changed and what the sense of urgency is.”

She presented a petition from residents along 15th Street opposed to the change. She also called on council to rescind their ordinance altering the 15th Street traffic pattern.

Answering a question from another resident, borough officials answered that there was not a traffic study done prior to considering this proposal.

But borough manager Chris Stevens said council isn’t planning to rush into this change.

“We’re looking at several other options and safety steps like lighting, additional signs, maybe flashing lights, perhaps a stop sign on Moore Street at 15th,” Stevens said.

He explained one of the main reasons the change came up was the intersection and area around Moore and 14th streets.

“That’s where we have the most traffic accidents on Moore Street,” Stevens said “and with another college going in the old Alfarata school building, the potential for the bank reopening at some point, and some other businesses currently in or possibly opening in that area, we’re concerned with the traffic at the 14th and Moore intersection.”

Stevens continued, “There is a lot of traffic across 14th Street to the Weis store, and a lot of that is delivery trucks going to and from the Weis store.”

He said with this change, motorists could simply come up Mifflin Street, turn and go across 15th Street straight to the Weis Market.

“Then, when they leave they could come straight out 15th Street to Washington Street,” said Stevens.

He said other traffic, including trucks going to and from the Weis Market, also take Scott Street to get to and from there, but this change could provide a more direct route for Weis traffic of all kinds.

There is currently no parking on the north side of 15th Street (the side towards the college). Borough officials and council members suggested they’re considering allowing parking on the side of 15th Sunday mornings. Stevens repeated that council isn’t going to rush into any changes, taking time to consider all the safety steps that can be taken before switching the 15th street traffic pattern.

“We’re concerned that the traffic and potential for accidents at 14th and Moore may get worse in the future than it is now,” Stevens said. “So if trucks leaving the Weis store can leave and go onto 15th straight across to Washington, that’ll take a lot off of 14th Street.”

Mayor Tom Yoder added that he’s hearing from a number of people about the speed of traffic on Moore Street, especially vehicles traveling down the roadway. Yoder said one idea has been to place stop signs on 15th Street at Moore Street, and as that idea was considered the idea of changing the traffic pattern on 15th Street came up in the conversations.

Residents at the committee meeting suggested installing a traffic light at 14th and Moore streets.

“That is pretty much out of the question,” Stevens responded. “PennDOT won’t allow it, but they will give us permission to place stop signs on Moore, for example at 15th.”

Rev. Barb Servello also spoke about concerns for those coming to the 15th Street UMC for various services, functions and programs.

“The traffic pattern change and resulting no parking restrictions would really hinder the church,” Servello told council members.

Several of the guests who spoke at the committee meeting expressed concerns about the safety of children along the two-block area of 15th Street that will be impacted, saying a traffic pattern change and the potential increase in traffic from both directions could spell danger for youngsters.

Others who attended voiced worries about how two-way traffic will be able to pass safely if there is parking on both sides of 15th Street.

The 15th Street traffic pattern ordinance change is expected to be a topic of discussion again at the monthly meeting of Huntingdon Borough Council Tuesday, March 21.

Joe can be reached at

School optimistic about proposed budget

In the weeks following Gov. Josh Shapiro’s 2023 proposed budget address, area school administrators are optimistic about the potential benefits for education.

“As a district superintendent, I am very happy to see education as a topic of conversation in the budget and a call to action,” said Jennifer Mitchell, superintendent of the Huntingdon Area School District. “Education is the foundation needed for society and all careers and is really important to our future. Investing in education is investing in our future.”

“I appreciate the efforts of the basic education fund (BEF) increase,” added Amy Smith, superintendent of Mount Union Area School District.

Superintendents Dwayne Northcraft of Southern Huntingdon County School District, Mike Zinobile of Juniata Valley School District and Jerry Shoemake of Tussey Mountain School District agreed with their colleagues.

“We’re extremely appreciative of the steps the governor is taking,” Northcraft said.

“It is positive for public schools,” Zinobile said.

“We were encouraged by not only the governor’s proposal for increased funding, but also his desire to move forward with developing an equitable funding plan for all the schools in the commonwealth,” Shoemake said.

Shoemake said he is particularly encouraged by the proposed increase in special education funding (SEF.)

“We are hopeful that budget negotiations will leave this level of proposed funding intact,” Shoemake said. “As a small, rural school district with a small tax base, we have no shortage of uses for increased state funding.”

Northcraft also greatly appreciates the teacher incentives proposed by Shapiro, as his district has had difficulty filling math and science positions as well as retaining teachers who leave to work for other school districts with more competitive wages and benefits.

Zinobile appreciates the potential to allocate more funding towards mental health services in schools, as his district has had to utilize grants for the school’s psychologist and social worker.

“We’ll have to account for those positions through our budget, so we’ll be looking for ways to fund them,” Zinobile said.

Mitchell said that how schools are funded can be confusing to the general public.

“It is important for everyone to understand how it works and the complexity of funding,” said Mitchell.

She said the funding formula impacts districts differently across the state.

“In the Huntingdon Area School District, the 2022-2023 budget was made up of 11.6% of federal monies, 47.3% of state monies and 41% of local monies,” said Mitchell. “We were considered to be a school that was one of the 100 underfunded districts in the state.”

She said based on funds received, it’s important to see the burden put on the local community based on the funds.

“In a small rural area, it’s extremely difficult to continue to keep up with rising costs and provide high quality educational opportunities. The governor appears to be understanding this complexity and is asking for this to be examined and determine changes that could assist with the inequities long term,” said Mitchell. “I am hopeful this will bring about change that is not about just increasing money, but examining how money is distributed more equitable to schools across the commonwealth.”

Mitchell and Smith both appreciate the increase in BEF, but took issue with some education matters that weren’t addressed in the budget, like allocating for charter schools the same as public schools.

“Allowing for school choice is not a problem, but the inequitable costs of charter schools is something that we hope is examined and discussed during the development of how public schools are funded in the future,” Mitchell said.

Smith was disappointed that the Level Up funding initiative wasn’t restored, but appreciated the proposed increases for special education, early intervention and pre-K funding. She’s also hopeful for the school safety and security increase to help pay for training, equipment and lighting upgrades.

“We’ve utilized school safety grants in the past,” Smith said. “They’ve really helped us.”

Fred Foster, CEO for New Day Charter School, is generally enthusiastic about the governor’s proposed budget.

“Career and technology (CTC) funding and supportive grants are a win for all,” Foster said. “CTC brings all schools in the county together and serves almost like a community college. Increased funds for BEF and SEF are crucial; special education hasn’t seen a lot of increase over the years. The continuation for school safety and mental health support grants would be welcome and wonderful and the addition of free lunches for those that qualify at reduced prices would be a nice new addition.”

Man seeks Republican nomination

John “Ted” Simpson is proud to announce his candidacy as a Republican nominee for Huntingdon County Commissioner.

“I have had the privilege and honor to serve our community in other elected positions in recent years, and I am guided by a professional background involving criminal justice, firearms and tactics instruction, authorship and small business ownership,” said Simpson. “These experiences have given me a unique perspective and have served to strengthen my love and respect for our community.”

Simpson said his political focus is simple and atypical.

“The matters that are important to you are important to me. I am grounded in the ideology that I, too, am a constituent, and representing your needs and interests is a true reflection of my values and priorities,” he said. “I understand the challenges and opportunities facing our community, and I am committed to addressing the issues that matter most to us all.

Simpson’s vision for Huntingdon County is one of safety, accountability, economic growth and protection of constitutional rights.

“Owing to my professional experience, I know firsthand the importance of public safety, effective crime prevention, and transparency,” he said. “I will work tirelessly to ensure that our community remains a safe, secure and enjoyable place to live, work and raise a family.

Simpson said he stands passionately committed to promoting economic growth by supporting small and local businesses.

“As a small business owner, I understand the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and the vital role they play in our local economy,” he said. “I will work to ensure erroneous and burdensome regulations are not obstacles and ensure a business-friendly environment that encourages growth and prosperity.”

Simpson is a staunch supporter of constitutional rights and the Second Amendment.

“I will always fight to protect our right to keep and bear arms and ensure we can enjoy all the rights guaranteed by our forefathers,” he said. “Our Constitution guarantees unalienable and fundamental rights, and I will fight to ensure these are not eroded or undermined in any way.”

Passionate about helping others, Simpson is committed to serving the people of Huntingdon County with honesty, diligence and dedication.

“I am one of you, and I will always put your needs and interests first,” he said. “I ask for your support in the upcoming election, and it is my promise to work hard every day to make Huntingdon County a better place for all of us.”