ELYSBURG — A crowd of nearly 700 visitors attended State Rep. Kurt Masser’s ninth annual Senior Expo held Thursday at Ralpho Community Park. The event featured 50 different vendors who provide valuable resources for seniors in a variety of areas.
Registration began at 8 a.m. and while the official start time of the expo was slated for 10 a.m., by 9:30 a.m. the parking lot was already half full. The large turnout spoke volumes of the public consideration given to the event, with many non-local visitors coming from Northumberland, Danville and other areas.
“This event is certainly one of the highlights of the year for our office,” said Masser. “We have hundreds of people here today and it’s great to be able to provide our seniors with these resources to let them know what services are available and assist them in any way we can.”
State Sen. John Gordner added, “It’s a tremendous event. At my table I’ve had seniors stop by asking for a variety of resources. This expo is literally a one-stop shop for our seniors.”
In addition to the many popular “freebies” available at each table, such as pens, tote bags, flyers and business cards, the real power of the expo was in the communication it provided between vendors, seniors and their families who were searching for answers to specific questions regarding quality of life issues which they are or may be facing. Verbal knowledge, informational pamphlets and contact numbers were provided to inquiring seniors as they walked throughout the building.
The variety of vendors represented was also impressive. Geisinger Health System, Veterans Affairs (Northumberland and Montour counties), State Attorney General’s Office, American Red Cross, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 129, Northumberland County Behavioral Health/Intellectual Disabilities, VNA Health System were among the many state, county offices and medical providers. There were also a variety of private and local businesses such as Archie’s Shoe Store and Shimock’s Furniture, both of Kulpmont, and Emmanuel Home, of Northumberland.
At the Geisinger Health System stand, Autumn Albertson was offering a special grip test for seniors at her stand.
“Today we’re offering what we call ‘grip strength testing,’ where we use a hydraulic dynamometer to measures the overall strength of their grip by squeezing the device, which in turn shows us their overall body strength,” she indicated.
Robert Delbo, of Emmanuel Home, a personal care facility, spoke of what the expo means to his organization.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to talk with our seniors about the personal care that our facility has to offer,” explained Delbo. “Our facility has 30 rooms located on approximately 13 acres of land. We offer personalized care in a Christian environment and believe strongly in honoring the Lord in all that we do.”
Standing outside the main expo hall, U.S. Navy and Korean War veteran William Brady said that he was looking forward to finding out what services are available to seniors.
Jack Gerst, a 68-year-old retired U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1970 to 1975, expressed his appreciation toward Masser and his team for all their hard work.
“Kurt and his team are amazing. I used to work closely with him when he and I were both commissioners in Northumberland and Montour Counties respectively,” said Gerst. “I like to look around here and see what’s available. I personally use a hearing aid and there are hearing services available here today which I’m interested in learning more about.”
Sitting on a bench outside the expo hall, retired nurse Kathy Connaghan, of Elysburg, sat next to her 85-year-old mother, Eleanor Moyer.
“It’s a great thing for people to be able to come out here and have their needs met. It also involves our Southern student athletes which we appreciate very much,” said Connaghan.
The student athletes to which Connaghan referred were the Southern Columbia Area High School football players and cheerleaders, who were on hand to assist and interact with seniors throughout the day. They helped park cars, registered visitors and served up free, hot lunches to everyone who came.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to come out here and do community service like this,” said Gina Gratti. “These people have been taking care of us since we were born and it’s great that today we can be here to help take care of them.”
Football players Ian Yoder and Lear Quinton were busy helping out at the dining room pavilion.
“It’s nice to come here and help serve these people, giving them a free meal and seeing how much they appreciate it,” said Yoder.
A total of four different guest speakers covered a variety of topics during live seminars:
UPPER AUGUSTA TOWNSHIP — A utility van collided head-on with a school bus Thursday morning on Route 61 near the entrance to Oaklyn Elementary School.
Close to 30 children were onboard the bus at the time of the 6 a.m. crash; however, the students and driver were unhurt. Following the crash, the students were reportedly escorted on foot uphill to the school by the bus driver — an unidentified female — along with school district officials and first responders.
The driver of the utility van was trapped inside the vehicle and had to be extricated by firefighters from Upper August Township, Stonington and Sunbury. He was subsequently transported to a hospital for treatment.
The van, owned by Shamokin Dam Self-Storage, appeared to have crossed over the center line, then crashed head-on with the bus. State police impounded the van, which was towed from the scene by Sunbury Motors.
Route 61 was closed for an extended period of time as troopers investigated. As of 10 p.m. Thursday, state police had yet to release a public information report.
SHAMOKIN — PennDOT has provided its reasons for declining the City of Shamokin’s application to use five city blocks of Route 125 for a “Taking It to the Streets” ATV ride on Sept. 21.
The state agency had cited “state policy” and ATV, pedestrian and vehicle “safety concerns” when it declined a special event application that requested ATVs utilize Route 125 (Market Street) from Commerce to Spruce streets between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
In an email response to The News-Item this week, Kimberly Smith, safety press officer for District 3, explained that the policy states PennDOT does not allow ATVs to share state-owned roads with vehicular traffic due to safety concerns.
Smith provided statistics on reportable crashes involving ATVs on state highways, ATV manufacturing labeling and recommendations from the Consumer Product Safety Commission as PennDOT’s reasoning for not allowing ATVs on it’s highways.
The state Vehicle Code allows a governmental agency to designate any highway, road or street within its jurisdiction an ATV road and may, in its discretion, determine whether ATVs may share the designated road with vehicular traffic.
According to Smith, there were 1,148 reportable crashes involving ATVs on state highways in the commonwealth, including 119 fatalities. The numbers do not include crashes that occurred along municipally-owned roads where ATV operations may be legal, she noted.
“ATV’s are specifically labeled by all manufacturers for off-road use only,” she said. “The industry-backed Specialty Vehicle Institute of America has called for the prohibition of ATVs on public roads, except for the purpose of crossing them.”
She also explained that the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends ATVs not be driven on paved roads. The commission’s 2016 annual report, she continued, listed 14,653 on- and off-road ATV fatalities in the country between 1982 and 2016, with the commonwealth being the fourth highest at 665.
According to the Vehicle Code, an ATV may make a direct crossing of a street or highway, if it is made at an angle of approximately 90 degrees to the direction of the highway at a place where no obstruction prevents a “quick and safe crossing.”
PennDOT, in its review comments for the application, recommended two options: that the application be resubmitted that only requests “a couple” Route 125 intersections be used during the event or reapply as an ATV procession (conducted like a parade).
PennDOT discouraged using the intersection of Arch, Lincoln and Market streets, adding that designated crossing points be controlled by certified flaggers, and have good sight distances and narrower approaches that would make it easier to control.
The single procession option, PennDOT stated, would require side streets be closed and a detour of Route 125, which would need to be approved, signed and manned with flaggers.
Smith said that special event permits are handled at the district level. In District 3, the first approval is in the Traffic Unit.
“In the case of Shamokin’s request to allow ATVs to be driven on (Route) 125, previous discussions were held with representatives from the statewide Bureau of Maintenance and Operations, city officials, representatives from the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) and a representative from Rep. Kurt Masser’s office,” she said.
Shamokin Mayor John Brown said Thursday that city leaders expected PennDOT to turn down the application. Hopes are also low that Route 125 from the AOAA to the city will eventually become ATV joint-use.
“After talking to people at the department (PennDOT), there is probably no realistic way of getting that accomplished,” he said of some local interest in having a large portion of Route 125 become ATV friendly. “We were fully expecting that there would be no way to get ATVs on the state road, but you give it a shot and see if you get anything out of it.”
Brown, who was at the AOAA Thursday to review the upcoming ride, said the route will follow a similar path that previous car cruises followed. He said the approved route travels on sections of Independence, Water, Commerce, Anthracite and Diamond streets. Riders will not be permitted to cross or use Route 125.
“For the time being, riders won’t be able to drive to businesses west of Market Street,” he said. “We will be sitting down and looking to see how we can access the rest of our businesses. The next ride, in October, is the same day as the Food Truck Frenzy. So, we are planning rides one at a time and making adjustments as we find problems.”
Brown said anyone who wants to be heard is welcome to attend his office hours, which are the second, third and fourth Wednesday of each month from 4 to 6 p.m.
Brown said the event hinges on riders having access to an existing dirt trail in a wooded area between the Fifth Ward and Academy Hill. The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) has proposed using the trail to allow riders access to downtown as a means to stimulate tourism dollars.
Dave Porzi, director of the AOAA, said Thursday that he expects a three-event lease between the AOAA and the city Housing Authority, the upper-most owner of the approximate mile-long trail, to be executed no later than Monday. Once authorization is given, work will begin to remove a near vertical embankment east of the Raspberry Hill Complex.
“As long as the AOAA gets a lease, we will start working,” he said. “I am very positive we should be able to get the trail opened.”
Porzi also assumed the city’s event application would be declined, which led to the approach of attempting to open the dirt trail from the AOAA to Terrace Avenue, off Lincoln Street.
“It’s the better route to go and the better way to approach it,” he said of bringing riders to downtown Shamokin. “We are keeping machines on a managed piece of property, where (riders) are traveling on a dirt trail to get to the city. From there, it’s less than a mile of asphalt.”
MOUNT CARMEL — Two vacant buildings in Mount Carmel have been targeted for further investigation as potential sites for a proposed community center.
A group of residents has been meeting monthly since June to determine the feasibility of establishing a community center. During the latest meeting, held Thursday evening at Shops on the Corner, plans were made to have representatives of the group tour the two buildings to assess their feasibility.
The residents’ efforts thus far have been in the exploratory stage. No final decisions have been made about forming a new permanent organization to oversee the process for acquisition of a site and operation of a facility.
In the past two months, members of the group toured three other buildings in Mount Carmel, all of which were determined to be impractical because of their size and potential purchase cost.
The group discussed the need to undertake a fundraising campaign to secure money for purchasing a building and, later on, undertaking renovations. The need to develop a financial strategy will be discussed in greater detail at a meeting in October.
The informal community center group meeting Thursday consisted of representatives of Mount Carmel Downtown Inc., Mount Carmel Borough and the Mother Maria Kaupas Center as well as individuals not affiliated with these organizations who believe there is a need for establishing the center.
As part of the exploratory process, some in the group made a visit to the Regional Engagement Center (REC), a community center in Selinsgrove.
The monthly discussion meetings are always announced in The News-Item. These meetings are open to anyone with an interest in the community center initiative.