KULPMONT — A McKeesport man wanted in Allegheny County was taken into custody late Tuesday night after fleeing from police and possessing a stolen pistol.
Melvin Howard Harris III, 29, faces charges of receiving stolen property, possessing a firearm without a license, resisting arrest, possessing a controlled substance and possessing drug paraphernalia.
The charges filed by Kulpmont Police Chief Nathan Foust relate to incidents that began at 11:16 p.m. in the 1500 block of Oak Street, where the chief was summoned to investigate a report of a suspicious vehicle.
Upon arriving at the scene, Foust located a Ford Fusion bearing Georgia registration that was occupied by Harris, who exited the front passenger seat after spotting Foust.
After providing the chief with his name and date of birth, Foust requested a license check and warrant check and was informed that Harris was wanted on warrants in Allegheny County.
After searching Harris, Foust said he saw a small blue wax paper bag with a stamp on it that is commonly used for the transportation and distribution of narcotics.
Upon informing Harris that he was going to be detained, Foust said the suspect leaned to drop his cellphone on the trunk of the car before fleeing on foot while refusing to obey commands by Foust to stop.
The chief was able to catch up to Harris a short time later and discharged his Taser on his back, which knocked Harris to the ground. But before Foust was able to gain physical control of Harris, the suspect fled again before stumbling and falling. He was then taken into custody by the chief.
During the pursuit, Foust’s cellphone was damaged.
When searching the Fusion, Foust removed the blue wax paper stamped “Punish” and also discovered a loaded black Springfield .45-caliber 1911 pistol under the front passenger seat that was reported stolen.
Upon being strip-searched at Kulpmont Police Station, Harris was found in possession of a sandwich bag containing five small pills that were identified cyclbenzaprine hydrochloride, which is a non-controlled substance.
Harris was transported to Northumberland County Jail, where he is being held pending his arraignment.
KULPMONT — Changes in a pair of ordinances were approved to be advertised by a 6-0 vote at Wednesday evening’s Kulpmont borough council meeting.
Joseph Dowkus, who heads the borough ordinance committee, made the motion, noting that the verbiage in each ordinance, specifically ordinance 2020-01, which deals with reserved parking, and 2020-02, a quality of life ordinance, is outdated.
The board moved by unanimous vote to purchase 35 American flags and six poles at a cost of $775.09 for display within the borough. It was agreed that council would seek out donations for the items to potentially offset some of the cost.
Council also unanimously moved to service the engine of the borough’s primary fire truck, which is 20 years old, at a cost not exceeding $6,500.
“The bottom line is the truck belongs to the borough and the borough needs a fire truck,” said President Robert Slaby.
Slaby then asked Kulpmont Fire Chief Jeffrey Gilotti about the truck and Gilotti noted that it has held up well over time.
“It’s 20 years old. It’s the first truck that goes out in emergencies,” Gilotti said.”
Councilman Robert Fanella, service and facilities committee chairman, made a motion for repairs to the department’s backhoe which, was approved, 6-0, at a cost of $1,279.97.
Fanella said there has been a recent issue with the backhoe and noted that nobody broke it; it was simply a mechanical issue.
New uniforms — three jackets, three hooded sweatshirts and seven pairs of jeans — were approved 5-1 to be purchased for borough workers at a cost of $701.18, with Councilman Robert Chesney dissenting.
Borough Supervisor Bruce Graff informed council that he’d been working with jeans that were literally taped together when it was questioned how important the new uniforms were needed.
“I can’t believe this is even being discussed,” said Mayor Nick Bozza, who was in support of the new uniforms.
In the mayor’s report, Bozza said littering of cigarette butts is getting out of hand at school bus stops.
“I’m sure it’s kids, too, but mostly it has been parents,” said Bozza, adding those who litter will be cited in the future by police.
Council discussed the need for two new computers for the police department upon the request of Police Chief Nathan Foust.
“The old computers are shot,” said Foust, adding a newer computer works fine at the station.
Treasurer Paul Niglio said that it should be determined exactly what would be needed on the new computers and to seek out bids before purchasing any.
A 50-cent pay increase for borough Secretary Rhonda Wilk was approved 6-0 and the board also approved Good Friday as a full-day off for Wilk instead of the typical half-day.
In old business, Chesney reiterated the importance of proper use of bins at the borough’s recycling facility.
“We continue to find things in these bins. We have to stay on top of using them properly,” Chesney said.
Chesney noted he recently met with Rep. Kurt Masser regarding ideas of areas in the borough that could use some help via grants. Chesney said the meeting went well and “we should be getting some help soon.”
Chesney said that council continues to look into different grants that would be best suited to aid different matters within the borough, while also not being wasteful.
The board made a $100 donation to the Kulpmont100, praising the organizations continued efforts within the community. Council also nominated the organization for a PPL Bright Lights grant, which recognizes nonprofit groups that are transforming their communities through the work they do to improve education outcomes and make their community vibrant and sustainable.
Councilman Michael Sinopoli was absent.
KULPMONT — By a 4-3 vote, a motion to reorganize the Kulpmont-Marion Heights Joint Municipal Authority board failed to pass at the organization’s Tuesday night meeting.
The motion to reorganize was made by board member Walter Lutz and seconded by fellow board member Tony Greco. Before a roll-call vote could be taken, a subsidiary motion was made by Stephanie Niglio and seconded by Robert Slaby to appoint only a vice chairman.
After Niglio’s motion failed to pass, Lutz’s original motion was voted upon. Voting in favor to reorganize were Lutz, Greco and Stephen Bielskie. Opposed were Niglio, Robert Slaby, Joseph Miriello Jr. and Chairman Bob Fanella, who cast the deciding vote.
For a brief moment, Niglio took exception with the manner in which the dismissal of former authority Chairman Bruno Varano and Vice Chairman Bernie Novakoski was handled.
“I’d like to call your attention to a letter that I recently received, signed with the initials W.L. Have any other board members received this or does it look familiar to any of you,” she asked.
“As evidenced in this letter, which I believe came from Mr. Lutz, it states, and I quote, ‘It took a long time to get the improperly appointed dead weight off the authority board,’” she read.
“So if we want to get really technical about this, board members Tony Greco and Joseph Miriello were also appointed in the same fashion as all of the other board members here,” she said.
“I don’t know, but I believe that they should be removed as well because they were also, and I quote, ‘improperly appointed,’” Niglio said.
Niglio then presented copies of correspondence that the authority board received back from Marion Heights Borough Council dated Dec. 11, 2018, and Dec. 17, 2010, indicating that both Miriello and Greco, respectively, were also reappointed by that borough council at its December meeting, prior to the expiration of their terms, in the same manner as Varano and Novakoski’s appointments were made.
The letter also stated that he planned to make additional motions that municipal authority employees who fail a drug or alcohol test would be immediately terminated, all cellphones must be left in one’s vehicles, the time clock must be used every day, activity logs for plant workers using the pickup truck must be maintained, plant workers must answer the phone when the office is unattended, and a request to replace authorization to engage the bank and see what can be done about changing the loan repayment schedule.
Niglio questioned whether or not statements made in Lutz’s letter violated the Sunshine Act, since they deal with personnel matters and were made to board members in advance of the meeting, rather than discussed privately.
“It’s no secret here on this board and as most of you in this room already know, the reason that Mr. Lutz searched and found a loophole to unseat those two board members was strictly for personal reasons,” she said.
Lutz could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
SHAMOKIN — H&R Block is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a business in the Shamokin community. Located at 24 S. Market St., H&R Block, which is known for its income tax preparation and financial planning services, also offers a full range of financial services, including stocks, bonds, loan and refund advances, bookkeeping, payroll services, investments like 401k rollovers, IRAs, mutual funds and most financial services that people would need or ask for.
Lamont Masser, who is a partner and owner of the Shamokin H&R Block franchise, spoke of the longevity of his business in the local community and its significance.
“The business was originally started by Chester and Ann Gard, of Kulpmont, back in 1970,” Masser recalled. “I think their first office was located on East Independence Street. From there, they moved around a little bit. They relocated to Spurzheim Street and from there to West Independence Street before finally settling in here for the past 40 years.”
Masser, whose family has agricultural roots, began working for the Gards in 1992.
“My father and most of my family are involved with agriculture. We had a family farm over in the Mahantongo Valley and in 1991 he decided that we needed to learn how to prepare our own taxes. At the time, I was volunteered to go take the H&R Block income tax course,” Masser said.
“He was having a problem with the firm that was preparing his taxes and he thought we should be able to learn a little bit more about it and do it ourselves. I took the class and Ann Gard was my teacher. When I completed the income tax class with her, I found out they needed some employees at that time, so during the winter months on the farm I began working in the tax office,” he recalled.
Masser said that he worked for the Gards for nearly 10 years.
“It was a really good learning experience for me,” he said. “Working here in the wintertime and on the farm the rest of the year.”
In 1999, when the Gards were ready to retire, they indicated that they still wanted to prepare tax returns but didn’t want to deal with the day-to-day necessities involved with running the business.
“That same year, my brother Nolan and I formed a partnership and purchased the business from them. Chester and Ann continued to work with us for a number of years after that until they fully retired. They were very helpful in teaching us more about the business, as well as assisting with the transition,” said Masser.
The staff at H&R Block consists of many longtime employees, whose commitment to serving customers well has helped build a trusted business relationship over the years in the Shamokin community.
Masser said he appreciates every member of his staff. He believes they are all dedicated and knowledgable employees.
“Our oldest and most experienced employee that we have here is Brenda Reiner, who has been with the office for 42 years,” Masser said. “Loretta Snyder has been with us for 34 years, Sue Potts has 26 years here and this is Deb Lesher’s 23rd year.”
Masser pointed out that those four H&R Block employees alone have a combined total of 125 years’ experience working with the same company in the Shamokin office.
“Most of us have a great deal of experience. When you find the right person that fits, they stick with it. Over the years H&R Block has been very good to us as employees. Each year they hold a national convention in the fall, which we’re invited to attend and where we get to meet with leaders of the company,” he further explained.
When it comes to what he enjoys most about his job, Masser didn’t hesitate.
“Helping people out is what I enjoy most about working here,” he said. “We tell our customers, if we prepare your tax return, we’re here for you all year long. Come back in and see us anytime. There’s no charge to ask a question. We’d much rather help someone now, than fix a problem later.”
Masser said H&R Block provides “second looks” for people who’d like to know if they could get a better refund on their tax return or want to make certain their final numbers are accurate.
“If we can get them a better refund, we can file an amended return for them,” he said.
Masser said that while customers can build and file a tax return themselves online at https://www.hrblock.com, many have a desire for assistance with specific parts of their return.
“We allow them to upload their documents to a secure server. From there, we can download them here and finish preparing them the rest of the way,” he explained.