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Year In Review: May - August

December 30, 2010

MAY

• May 1, PAHS was the scene of the annual mock crash, an event sponsored by SADD, in which the results of drinking and driving are graphically portrayed.

• A fire destroyed a home at 144 Lower Clinton St., in Rossiter. The house was occupied by William Travis Jr., Marie Ondoua and their 19-month-old son, Domenic. It was ruled accidental by Punxsutawney-based State Police fire marshal Mick McCracken.

• May 3, PAHS juniors and seniors named Kaylyn Means as the prom queen, and Kyle Straub as the prom king at the Punxsutawney Country Club.

• Seized from a plane about to fly to the Middle East, a Pakistan-born man admitted training to make bombs at a terrorism camp in his native land before he rigged an SUV with a homemade device to explode in Times Square. Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction charges for trying to blow up the crude gasoline-and-propane bomb amid tourists and theatergoers.

• Workers gathered to begin lowering a giant concrete-and-steel box over the blown-out oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in a risky and untested bid to capture most of the gushing crude and avert a wider environmental disaster.

The well blew open April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded 50 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers.

• District Judge Douglas Chambers arraigned multiple Punxsy residents all facing drug charges, specifically heroin.

Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police reported that Derek Daniel Shank, 21, and Scott Daniel Shields, 23, both of Punxsy, were arrested following the completion of a narcotics investigation, listed on a report as running from December 2009 through May 2010.

• Talk of economic recovery and development caused by Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration came to fruition in Jefferson County, as a leading maintenance and manufacturer of gas exploration equipment, Schlumberger Technologies, announced the opening of an operation near Brookville.

• May 11, President Barack Obama introduced his Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, to the public and portrayed her as a guiding force for a fractured court and a champion of typical Americans. She would be the youngest justice on the court and gave it three women for the first time in history.

• Prosecutors said they arrested more than 30 people as part of an Indiana County heroin trafficking crackdown. Attorney General Tom Corbett said the investigation targeted street- and midlevel dealers who buy the drugs in the Pittsburgh area for distribution elsewhere.

• The Punxsutawney Area School Board announced that the current grade configuration of the district would remain the same.

Board President Gary Conrad said the current configuration — K-3 in the elementary buildings, grades four through seven at Punxsutawney Area Middle School, and grades eight through 12 at Punxsutawney Area High School — would remain for the 2010-11 school year.

• May 13, Brockway area residents, incensed by the news that a convicted murderer would relocate to their town, gathered outside the Mengele Memorial Library to protest the development.

Ernie Simmons, convicted of murder for the strangulation death of an 80-year-old woman in Cambria County in 1992, resided at the Just For Jesus Challenge homeless shelter just outside of Brockway.

The Jefferson County Commission said there’s nothing it could do about Simmons residing at the shelter.

“We understand their plight,” commission Chairman Paul Corbin said. “We know their situation. Our hands are tied on this.”

• May 14, Punxsutawney Borough Council approved an ordinance amending Chapter 235 of the borough code by adding a definition for senior housing, permitting angled and reduced parking for senior housing.

A public hearing was held prior to the meeting for the developer of Grace Place, a proposed senior housing development to be constructed at the corner of North Gilpin and Pine Streets on the site of the former Parentes Recreation Center.

The proposed 24-unit building will be three stories for seniors ages 62 and older.

• Jeff Tech held its 2010 junior/senior prom at the Bellamauro Social Hall in Reynoldsville.

Dillon Brocious of Punxsutawney was crowned the king, and Justina Burr of Reynoldsville was crowned the queen. In addition, Joseph Willis of DuBois was crowned the prince, and Amber Walter of Brookville was crowned the princess.

• May 17, Msgr. Joseph Riccardo celebrated the 35th anniversary of his ordination as a priest during services at SS.C.D. “It’s a call, not a career,” Riccardo said. “People mistake it as a career.”

• May 19, more than 7,000 people — or around 30 percent of registered voters — turned out in Jefferson County’s primary election, as the local voice was heard regarding several state races.

Arlen Specter, 80, lost his bid to return to the U.S. Sentate when the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat lost his party’s Pennsylvania primary.

Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, bested Specter in the Democratic primary.

Dan Onorato handily won a four-way race for the Democratic nomination for governor, and state Attorney General Tom Corbett easily captured the Republican nomination.

• Mike Johnston, who owned and operated Johnston Furniture for the past 29 years, officially retired from the business that had carried his family’s name since 1948.

• May 21, Michael Vick left prison and headed home, broke and reviled for running a dogfighting ring, but hopeful for a second chance at his once-charmed life as a star NFL quarterback. The suspended quarterback served 19 months in prison on the dogfighting conviction.

JUNE

• John Serian, 82, Punxsy’s own music man, band leader, community supporter and Republican committeeman, died at a Harrisburg Hospital.

• The Punxsy baseball team won its seventh- straight District IX Class AAA Championship with a 3-2 victory over St. Marys in Brockway.

• Police executed a search warrant in relation to a double homicide that occurred in April in Snyder Township.

DuBois-based Pennsylvania State Police said troopers executed the search warrant around in Emporium, Cameron County, relative to the investigation into the deaths of James W. and Victoria L. Shugar, both 61, whose bodies were found April 13 at their Snyder Township home along Coal Tipple Road.

April 14, Jefferson County Coroner Bernard Snyder said an autopsy found that Victoria L. Shugar died as a result of a gunshot wound to the trunk, and James W. Shugar died as a result of a gunshot wound to the neck and trunk.

• After almost 19 years as the pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Punxsutawney, the Rev. Kent E. Holmes said he would officially retire when he turned 64 in August after 34 years in ministry.

• After a year that saw the university’s faculty censure him with a vote of no-confidence, Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Dr. Tony Atwater resigned to accept a leadership role with the American Association of State Colleges and Univer-sities (AASCU).

Atwater left the IUP presidency June 30.

• Several weeks after a convicted murderer took up residence in a homeless outreach program in Snyder Township, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) reported an amendment to Senate Bill 1161 to require public hearings to be held in communities where convicted murderers are being released into group homes.

• June 11, Fr. Justin Pino, SS.C.D. parochial vicar since 2007, received a new assignment to serve as the priest of St. Joseph and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, both in Oil City.

With this assignment, Pino became the youngest priest — at age 29 — in the 13-county Diocese of Erie.

• For the third time this year, the Jefferson County Commissioners had to report on damage sustained by a county-owned building when it was discovered that a sewage line at the Jefferson County jail came apart and was discharging sewage under one unit of the jail.

• After a tense two months during which a couple was killed and a convicted murderer moved into a homeless shelter in the same area, Brockway and Snyder Township residents were breathing easier as Jefferson County District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett announced along with Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police, that homicide and related charges were filed against Steven Patrick Rebert, 45, Emporium, in the double shooting deaths of James Wayne and Victoria Lynn Shugar.

• The Punxsutawney Area School Board selected Brookville Junior-Senior High School principal Dr. Keith Wolfe as its new Punxsutawney Area School District superintendent.

The board voted 6-2 to elect Wolfe to replace retiring superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Frantz.

• June 23, the Clearfield Area School District hired Dr. J. Thomas Frantz, the retired superintendent of the Punxsutawney Area School District, as its interim superintendent.

• The Punxsutawney Theatre Arts Guild celebrated its 35th anniversary.

The group officially incorporated as the Punxsutawney Theatre Arts Guild in 1975, but had been performing informally for several years before.

JULY

• The $28 billion state budget that Gov. Ed Rendell signed was part of a deal that boosted state borrowing by as much as $600 million to pay for construction projects such as new public buildings that would be named after U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and the late Rep. John Murtha.

• Upon advice from Solicitor Dave Young, the Punxsutawney Area School Board did not take over the administration of the schools’ crossing guards from Punxsutawney Borough.

Punxsutawney Borough Council responded that the borough would no longer pay for school crossing guards.

Council President Susan Glessner said the problems began when Police Chief Tom Fedigan ran into difficulties while hiring school crossing guards.

• July 10, long time funeral director Wayne Pifer, a two-time cancer survivor who owned and operated the Pifer Funeral Home Inc. at the corner of Jefferson and Union streets, died July 9 at Mulberry Square Elder Care & Rehabilitation Center.

• Joseph M. Neal, 46, the former owner of ACME Machine & Welding of Punxsutawney, died, surrounded by his family after battling melanoma.

• George Steinbrenner, 80, owner of the New York Yankees died in Tampa, Fla., after having a heart attack.

• The Punxsutawney Civil Service Commission found that there was insufficient evidence to support the borough’s reasoning behind firing Punxsutawney Borough Police Officer Brian Andrekovich, and ordered that he be reinstated with the department.

The commission’s decision came 11 months to the day that Stephen Obbish, 48, Punxsutawney, died while in Andrekovich’s custody in the back of a police cruiser Aug. 15, 2009.

The borough fired Andrekovich in November 2009, but in March, the state Attorney General’s office closed the case and said it would not file criminal charges against him.

• The oil stopped flowing in the Gulf of Mexico.

After 85 days and up to 184 million gallons, BP finally gained control over one of America’s biggest environmental catastrophes by placing a carefully fitted cap over a runaway geyser that has been gushing crude into the Gulf since early spring.

• Reveling over a new milestone in his presidency, a triumphant Barack Obama signed into law the most sweeping overhaul of lending and high-finance rules since the Great Depression, adding safeguards for millions of consumers and aiming to restrain Wall Street excesses that could set off a new recession.

AUGUST

• The controversy over whether the district or borough should administer crossing guards continued to be up in the air.

Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe said at a board meeting that there would be no crossing guards for the beginning of the school year. He said the borough made the decision to no longer administer the crossing guards.

• Punxsutawney-based state police reported that a Brookville man was killed in a construction accident at the site of the North Fork Creek Water Treatment Plant in Pine Creek Township.

Police said a steel forming wall fell on Cody Ryan Fyock, 23, Brookville, during construction.

• A Punxsy native serving in the military was found dead in his Killeen, Texas, apartment July 30.

According to The Killeen Daily Herald, Fort Hood officials confirmed that the soldier was Sgt. Bradley Dale Penman, 34, of Punxsutawney.

He was the son of Robert O. and Maxine (Hoover) Penman of Punxsy.

• In an unprecedented move, Punxsutawney Borough Council voted to not offer the two most recently hired police officers — Pat Renwick and Sean Weaver — full-time employment once their probation period was up.

Mayor Jim Wehrle said prior to the vote that both officers had done an excellent job during their probationary period.

• Punxsutawney Borough Council voted 5-0 with one abstention to appeal the ruling by the Punxsutawney Civil Service Commission to rehire fired borough police officer Brian Andrekovich.

Solicitor Timothy Morris presented the appeal regarding the fate of the officer who was first suspended, and subsequently fired based on an internal investigation into the death of Stephen Obbish in a borough police car last August.

• District Judge David Inzana ruled Aug. 11 that there was enough evidence to send double homicide charges against an Emporium man, Steven Patrick Rebert, to trial, but not before the prosecution revealed a signed statement saying the defendant told a cell mate that he had killed “an elderly couple in Pennsylvania about a month ago” for money.

• Dozens of county residents — clad in bright green shirts that read “I’m a Concerned Citizen” — gathered outside of the Jefferson County Courthouse to protest the housing of sex offenders in Brockway.

• Wives of Punxsutawney Borough Police probationary officers Pat Renwick and Sean Weaver spoke on behalf of their husbands in an interview with The Spirit.

Council President Susan Glessner said that “As long as someone is on probation, you’re not considered a full-time employee. I think there’s a misconception out there that we fired or terminated the two probationary officers. ... The fact is, whenever someone is probationary, they’re not full-time until they are hired.”

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