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Local
Officers consider climate

Law enforcement has come under the national spotlight since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25 while under police custody, with the ensuing public reaction ranging from peaceful protests to rioting and looting.

While rioting and looting have occurred across the country, such civil unrest has taken place almost exclusively in urbanized areas. Small town America has had its peaceful demonstrations but little of the pockets of destructive behavior. Law enforcement officials in Huntingdon County are of course aware of the national attention but are focusing on protecting and listening to the citizens within their jurisdiction.

Huntingdon Borough Police Department (HPD) Police Chief Jeff Buckley highlighted the extent to which his officers are integrated into the Huntingdon community, which may provide benefits that a big city police force might not have.

“I think we’re a community-oriented department,” he said. “The majority of our guys are local and invested in the community, guys who coach Little League, participate in fundraisers and give back to the community. We know our community and I feel like we try to give back and try to be cognizant of people’s needs. I don’t feel like we see the problem some of the bigger cities have. But we are constantly mindful of what other departments are doing and learn from their mistakes.”

Another tight knit community’s leader, Mount Union mayor Tim Allison, who doubles as the head of the Mount Union Police Department, also believes in always looking for ways to improve how the department serves citizens.

“We at Mount Union care about our people and we strive to treat everybody fair. We will continue to do that and will be looking into better ways of serving the community. I think that’s the right thing to do,” he said.

State police Trooper Joseph Dunsmore, community service officer with Troop G which covers Huntingdon County, told The Daily News about a longstanding tradition established in 1929 that aims to instill an attitude of equality under the law.

“During an individual’s time at the Pennsylvania State Police Academy, we have an ongoing tradition. Every single day at the academy every cadet, whether from 50 years ago, 70 years ago, or one who has just graduated six months ago, recites the Call of Honor.

We do that in unison, as a collective group made up of many different races, religions, genders. One line in particular says, ‘It is my duty to obey the law and to enforce it without consideration of class, color, creed or condition,’” he said.

Regardless of the amount of social turmoil or what the public sentiment may be to law enforcement, Dunsmore says state troopers will continue to hold themselves to the high standards set forth by the U.S. Constitution.

“We recognize everyone is going through troubling time right now in our society. We’re still going to go out and do our job to protect our citizens, and protect our individual constitutional rights every single day,” he said.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.


Local
HCBI elects officers for new year

Huntingdon County Business & Industry (HCBI) elected officials for the upcoming year and heard updates from board members at their monthly board meeting yesterday.

Cory Sisto was reelected as president, as was Courtney Lang to treasurer and Clay McMath as secretary. Virginia Cooper was elected as vice-president, filling a position which had been vacant for the past year. After the four were nominated, each were voted in with an unanimous vote.

The board unanimously approved a motion to convey emeritus status to president Cory Sisto and treasurer Courtney Lang so they could serve an additional year, as they had already served two terms, which made them non-voting members.

Susan Penning, the marketing director for the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau (HCVB), spoke about how HCVB has changed their approach moving forward in the wake of COVID-19.

“We decided to bring to the table a shift from our member structure to a partnership structure. Our board just approved that last Wednesday. We are moving towards a partnership benefits structure, with the first tier being a complimentary business subscription. If you’re Raystown Lake business and you haven’t participated in the Visitors Bureau in past for monetary reasons or this year is not good for monetary reasons you can still connect with us. We’re going to offer that free of charge,” she said.

“We’re doing this to offer the services to the Raystown Lake region that are appropriate to the business, everything from professional marketing advice to graphic design and layout to professional photography. We’re here to help and doing it in a very economical way that we think is going to really help our businesses move forward and be wildly prosperous over the next year.”

HCBI executive director Debra Clark noted that Randy White, a keynote speaker at the Huntingdon County Agritourism Conference and leading consultant in the field, was slated to provide consultations for aspiring agritourism entrepreneurs, but his services may not be available for some time.

“He is not willing to travel at this time. Basically, he wants any and all restrictions to be lifted and even possibly a vaccine before he would be prepared to travel. So we have no timeline to when he would be able to complete the grant projects for us,” she said.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.


Local
MUASB member submits resignation

The Mount Union Area School Board bid farewell to one of its own members Monday night and heard from administrators on plans for the Class of 2020’s remaining milestones.

Region 2 representative Sylvia Morris submitted her letter of resignation Monday, citing relocation as impetus for her withdrawal from the board. Morris was elected to a four-year term in the November 2017 election and was sworn in that December, succeeding the late Jane Wagner.

In her letter to colleagues, Morris said her departure is a disappointment but that she views her time with the Mount Union board as a “privilege and honor.”

“I have tried to serve with dignity and integrity,” she wrote. “I am particularly honored as the first Black American to be sworn in as a Mount Union school board director. It is my desire that more young men and women of color will take an active role in their community and serve.”

Morris said in her two-plus years on the board, the district has seen major changes and the board has faced touch choices, noting she believes all are “in the best interests of our students, our staff, our community and our taxpayers.”

She also wished all district officials “God speed as you move ahead in the challenges and in particular the present challenge that COVID-19 has brought.”

Board members and administrators thanked Morris for her time and efforts while serving the district.

“You will be missed and it’s been a pleasure serving with you,” board member Andrea Christoff said.

“You’ve always been open and willing to listen and have the best interests of our students at heart,” board member Brandee Dodd.

Superintendent Dr. Amy Smith said that serving on a school board takes a lot of time and effort.

“We appreciate the effort you put into the board,” Smith said.

Morris, who attended Monday’s meeting, held via Zoom, again stressed that serving on the board is a valuable opportunity and urged persons who are interested to seek out that opportunity.

She thanked colleagues for their professionalism and thanked the voters for their confidence.

The district’s Region 2 covers Mount Union Borough; Morris represented the region alongside Andrew Ketner and Carol Jackson.

Prom

Mount Union Area High School’s juniors and seniors will get a prom after all, at the end of next month.

Administrators, including senior high school principal Maurine Hockenberry were weighing a variety of options this spring, amid restrictions on large gatherings in the wake-of COVID-19.

The prom will take place at the Lake Raystown Report, as originally planned, from 5-10 p.m. Friday, July 31. The resort was initially booked to host Mount Union students May 23.

Graduation

In light of the success of the diploma ceremony held May 29 for the 87 graduating Trojans, plus the COVID-19 restrictions still in place, Mount Union Area High School will not host a second graduation ceremony, Hockenberry announced.

During the May workshop session, district officials discussed the possibility of holding a more traditional commencement ceremony during the summer, as a follow-up to the drive-through diploma ceremony.

Hockenberry reported Monday that the district has received positive feedback about the May 29 event, held in the high school parking lot. Although the ceremony looked much different than previous years, the district put as many familiar customs in place as possible. Students donned their caps and gowns, administrators wore their ceremonial gowns. A professional photographer was on hand, as were professional floral arrangements.

Hockenberry said at present, gatherings are restricted to 250 people. If the high school wre to go away with a traditional ceremony, each graduating senior would be permitted only two to three guests each, in order to meet the guidelines.

Under current restrictions, the ratio of graduates to guests would be less than what students were afforded during the May 29 event, Hockenberry said, noting each student was allowed an escort of two vehicles.


Local
People urged to look for insect

In the midst of a global pandemic and ongoing social unrest, Huntingdon County residents may have forgotten the county is one of 12 added to the quarantine area for the Spotted Lanternfly in March.

Those eggs are now hatched and, if they are around, they’re much easier to spot.

“They’re now up to about a quarter of an inch long,” said Shannon Powers, “They’re in the second phase of being a nymph, which means they’re black with white spots. Some of them may have already matured to the red and black phase, and we’ll likely start to see adults next month.”

When Huntingdon County was added to the list of quarantined counties for the Spotted Lanternfly in March, Powers explained the reasoning for it.

“The previous 14 counties (already in a quarantine area) had widespread insect populations,” she said. “But, you’ll see clearly how the insect travels. It travels by hitchhiking with people. It doesn’t fly. It didn’t fly across several counties to get to Allegheny and Beaver counties. It got there by traveling people.

“The 12 added counties had very isolated infestations,” added Powers. “That’s part of the reason we expanded the quarantine area. We wanted to tamp down isolated areas where it traveled along transportation corridors.”

Thanks to the efforts from the state Department of Agriculture and the Penn State Cooperative Extension, people are more aware of the Spotted Lanternfly.

“There’s been a huge effort,” said Powers. “It’s personal when it’s affecting them in their home.”

Powers estimated that 10,193 reports have been made between Jan. 1 and June 18, whereas there were only 1,607 reports between Jan. 1, 2019, and June 18, 2019.

“That’s not a reflection of how much more widespread it is, but how much more aware people are of its presence,” said Powers. “It’s really hard to truly gauge how widespread it really is.”

This is why Powers recommends people go online and familiarize themselves with the different stages of the Spotted Lanternfly and learn more of what to expect when they look for it.

“This is especially if you’re traveling in and out of the quarantine area,” she said.

This is also why people who are traveling in and out of the county specifically for business reasons are required to have a permit if they are in a quarantine area for the Spotted Lanternfly.

“A company is required to identify those who have a permit and those traveling for business,” said Powers. “If someone takes the training online, they can, in turn, train other people.”

The training to have a permit to travel for a Spotted Lanternfly is not an extensive process, but merely identifying what the insect looks like, where to look for it and how to destroy and not take it when leaving a quarantine area.

“If you work in the transport industry, that would be a part of a regular stop at a weigh station,” said Powers. “That’s one of the inspections that are completed at a weigh station. If you work in an industry that transports agriculture goods like nursery plants or trees, they’re used to those kinds of inspections. This is just one more aspect of it. They can keep their documents and permit in their vehicle.”

There are also checklists available for homeowners at agriculture.pa.gov/spottedlanternfly on where to look for, destroy and report potential infestations.

With less people traveling due to previous stay-at-home orders may have prevented some spread of the Spotted Lanternfly, but right now, it’s still too early to tell, said Powers.

“It’s important for people, especially if they’re camping, which is something you can do safely right now,” said Powers. “It’s very important to check your vehicle, so not to take the fly in and out of a camping area and not take it home with you.”

If anyone finds a potential infestation, Powers encourages people to call 1-888-422-3359, and she said strike teams from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the PDA will come to the site for further inspection.

“They follow up on every report and treat the area appropriately, depending on the stage its in,” said Powers. “If you report and can verify, please be sure to take a photo as well. Those help.”


Local
Tussey board hires new business manager

Meeting Monday night in the high school, the Tussey Mountain School Board, by a roll call vote of 6-1, hired a new board secretary and business manager and set in motion plans to refinance 2015 general obligations bonds that is expected to save the district around $85,0000.

The board agreed to hire Brenda Fluke-Garber of Martinsburg as the new board secretary and business manager at a salary of $70,500, with an effective starting date of Sept. 1. The contract is for a five-year period.

The new hire will fill the shoes of long-time board secretary/business manager Lisa Rankin who is retiring in February 2021.

Fluke-Garber holds a four-year degree in accounting and has been working in that profession for the past 28 years. The new position at Tussey will be a first for Fluke-Garber as board secretary/business manager.

The vote to hire Fluke-Garber was 6-1, with board member Chad Myers casting the lone no vote. Supporting the hiring were board members Harry Watkins, Jimmy Hodge, Roy McCabe, Brad Rouser, Adam Baker and board president James L. Hodge. The board session was attended by Baker, Rouser and Hodge with the remaining board members voting via Zoom. Not present were board members Brenda Folk and John Baughman.

Looking to save money, the board unanimously agreed to approve an engagement letter with Eckert Seamans Attorneys at Law which will act as bond counsel in the transaction of the refinancing the district’s General Obligation Series 2015 bonds used to pay for building improvements at the high school and former elementary schools at Robertsdale and Defiance in 2015-16.

In a related matter, the board unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds on a parameters basis to refund the district’s General Obligation Bonds, series 2015. Board secretary Lisa Rankin said that by refinancing the bonds, totaling $5 million, the district will save around $85,000.

The In other matters the board accepted a proposal from the Providence Engineering Corp. which will provide the district with structural engineering services involving a review of a cracked masonry flue and chimney at the Tussey Mountain Elementary Center at a cost of $6,700. The work also involves the preparation of repair documents for the project.

The board voted unanimously to utilize the services of Liberty Mutual Insurance “to resolve and settle” a complaint filed against the school district a few months ago regarding the denial of “free and appropriation public education,” to a student, alleged by the Office of Civil Rights. Because the matter is a student issue, no other information was available.

The board approved a Phased School Reopening Health and Safety Plan based on state COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines. Details will be forthcoming as the district prepares for the opening of the 2020-21 school term.

The board agreed to combine July’s work session and regular meeting, set for 7 p.m., Monday, July 20 at the high school.

Prior to the board session Monday night, the district transportation committee briefly discussed several back-to-school matters with appropriate action to be taken later. Among the topics included road, tile and bridge projects taking place or scheduled for start-up at Ravers Road near Marysville, a mud slide along Route 26, near Riddlesburg; and at Robertsdale where a bridge replacement project over Trough Creek is in progress.

The board discussed a proposal to hold a prom for the Class of 2020 which had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 threat.

The district will be contacting members of the graduating class to determine how many are interested in participating in the proposed prom to be held at Lake Raystown Resort. The board would like to see about 50 percent of the class participate.

The district transportation committee will also address state formula rates and fuel adjustment matters in the coming weeks.


Local
Juniata investigates anonymous email

Juniata College is currently conducting an investigation into an anonymous email that was sent out to an unspecified number of Juniata College community members June 26.

According to an email sent out by College president James Troha the same evening to the Juniata community, the anonymous email allegedly, “contained slurs, hateful language and intimations of violence directed at members of our community on the basis of their identity.”

The content of the email was condemned by Troha as having “absolutely no place at Juniata.”

A second email was sent out by Troha June 27 which stated that a student believed to be the author of the anonymous email had been identified and suspended, pending further investigation.

Troha’s email said the anonymous email left “many of our community members feeling afraid, angry, vulnerable and unsafe” and continued on to say, “The appropriate law enforcement agencies are continuing their own investigations of the matter.”

Matthew Damschroder, vice-president for student life and dean of students, was only able to comment that the student in question would be afforded due process as required by the Student Code of Conduct.

“I can say our college ethos is to afford due process to all students based on findings of responsibilities. It’s in our best interest that everyone has that same opportunity,” he said.

When a student is accused of being in violation of the Student Code of Conduct at the college they are entitled to an “administrative hearing,” a private meeting to gather information about the alleged incident.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.