Jeff Tech committee refutes claims of discontinuing lumbering

REYNOLDSVILLE — Monday, supporters of the Jeff Tech lumbering program presented their case as to why the program should not be discontinued due to high expenses.

“Lumbering is one of the most dangerous professions, and thanks to the Jeff Tech program, students have learned how to be safe in the woods while logging,” Harry Bressler, a lumbering class advocate, said during the Jeff Tech Joint Operating Committee’s (JOC) meeting Monday.

Bressler said some of the lumbering equipment was donated to the program.
“It isn’t a cheap program to operate, but it teaches safety and other skills that are vital to those who go into the industry,” he said, adding that he has hired 25 students in his lumbering business who were Jeff Tech graduates.

Jessica Moore, a former Jeff Tech student, said without the training she had from the vocational school, she wouldn’t have been hired in the lumbering industry.

Bressler said whatever the problem is, it must be fixed so the program can continue.

Committee Chairman Lloyd McCreight said apparently, someone sent a letter saying the committee planned a vote to eliminate the lumbering program at Monday’s meeting. But he noted the committee had had no such discussions regarding the elimination of any program at Jeff Tech, and that anything in the letter that suggested discontinuing the program was untrue.

“Closing the lumbering program is not on our agenda for tonight,” he said. “We haven’t had any discussions on closing any program.”

Bressler said he knows the committee evaluates every program to save money.

“Lumbering is a viable industry in our area; $30 million in lumber is taken from this area,” he said. “The lumbering instructors are doing a great job of instructing the students.”

In other business:
• Director Marsha Welsh said the school had received a threat from someone’s Facebook page last month.

“All of our administrators met following the threat, which was handled by DuBois-based Pennsylvania State Police, to see what we could learn from the incident,” she said, adding that the school updated all of its emergency plans.

Welsh also said the staff had a debriefing regarding the incident with Linda Holmes of Jefferson County Emergency Management.

• Welsh said graduation will be held Thursday, May 24, with practice scheduled for Saturday, May 19.

• The committee deferred an agreement for Butler Community College to continue to hold classes at Jeff Tech for free.

Welsh said the vo-tech school agreed to allow the college to hold its classes there without a rental fee for the first two years.

Committee member Gary Conrad, of Punxsutawney, said he would not approve another contract with the college unless it paid rent.

Dr. Fred Park, of Brookville, asked how many students have attended classes at Jeff Tech.

Mike Knobloch, adult education director, said the college is using the computer lab and the rest of the room, which amounts to three attending class in the main office.

• McCreight asked about a meeting with the participating districts superintendents regarding the Marcellus Shale industry.

Welsh said the school districts and Jeff Tech are not receiving any money from the industry, and its biggest concern is finding qualified engineers to work in the fracking process, especially with the price of natural gas down.

Most of the people working in the industry are from out of state who may be here for only four years, she said.

Conrad said Punxsy, as a taxing entity, is attempting to put an extraction tax on gas to supplement real estate taxes.

The impact fee is not coming back to schools, he said.