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Wood-Mode closes

LEWISBURG — The reported closure of Wood-Mode in Kreamer, Snyder County did not go unremarked at a Monday night meeting meant to discuss the economy.

Rep. Fred Keller (R-85) and Bob Garrett, Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce president/CEO each lamented the sudden news at the start of the Susquehanna Valley Conservatives meeting. Both men were on the meeting schedule prior to the developments.

Keller called the news of the cabinet maker very sad and estimated that 900 employees would be affected immediately.

“Let’s be sure to keep them in our prayers,” Keller said. “I’ve been in contact with Sen. (John) Gordner (R-27). Rep. Lynda (Schlegel)-Culver (R-108) and I have been working very closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, with the chamber and Bob Garrett and also with the US Department of Labor and Snyder County commissioners to make sure we can get resources to the people affected by this terrible news.”

Keller said working together for the future was a serious responsibility.

“We want to make sure everyone can succeed in a good economic environment,” Keller said. “Unfortunately, it’s been some devastating news today.”

Garrett noted that Gordner had contacted a special team headed by Gov. Tom Wolf and also credited Keller for taking action.

“It is hard to imagine the greater Susquehanna valley without Wood-Mode in it,” Garrett said. “Somehow we’ve adjusted to imagining the Susquehanna valley without Pennsylvania House or without Butter Krust. That’s the tug and pull that comes with the economy. We’ll adjust to this.”

Garrett said the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way and Joanne Troutman, president and CEO, were committed to quickly working with families affected.

“These kind of announcements are extremely stressful,” Garrett said. “(They) can have very adverse effects on people.”

The United Way was setting up a local appeal for people who would like to help.

“The community is rallying,” Garrett added. “We need to let the families of Wood-Mode know that we have their backs and that our community will come together to make sure they are just fine.”

Jim Persing, Susquehanna Valley Conservatives president, noted that national economic numbers remain strong, but acknowledged the news about Wood-Mode was a challenge.

Keller offered his office phone number, 570-966-0052 and www.repfredkeller.com as a resource. He noted that Schlegel-Culver, who represents a portion of Snyder County, would also take calls at 570-286-5885.

A public relations firm representative listed on the Wood-Mode website declined comment. An email to a company marketing director based in Kreamer was undeliverable.


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Snyder Co. commissioner slams Wood-Mode

MIDDLEBURG — Joe Kantz, Snyder County commissioner chair, issued a written statement after it was learned that Wood-Mode in Kreamer was closing.

He noted he was doing what he could to ensure the more than 900 employees affected would have a rapid response to unemployment applications, job search resources and basic needs.

“I’m very disheartened by the fact that Wood-Mode management did not give any local or state government officials a notification of this terrible turn of events,” Kantz wrote. “The hundreds of employees of Wood-Mode and their families deserve better. I have received many phone calls from inside and outside our county, and I’m asking everyone to pray for the employees and their families.”

Kantz was hopeful that neighbors would help one another and show the nation the spirit of the small, rural county. He was also hopeful that Monday’s developments were not the final chapter for the business.

“One would hope a restructuring would happen,” he added. “And many employees would be hired back, but that all remains to be seen.”

Kitchens, baths and other wood cabinetry was first produced by Wood-Mode in 1942. The company grew from a location in a former planing mill into a 1.3 million square foot facility. It was the country’s largest manufacturer of custom built cabinetry with most of the production done in Kreamer.

As noted in a 2013 Standard-Journal “Progress” article, Tom Morgensen, vice president and director of human resources, said the fortunes of the company depended on the strength of the housing industry. He conceded the company had ups and downs, but had weathered both the Great Recession and the savings and loan bailout of the 1990s. The company introduced Brookhaven, a semi-custom line of cabinetry at a lower price point, during the mid-1990s.


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Students from four counties take part in 21st annual Envirothon

WASHINGTONVILLE — From tapping into a tree to extract maple sugar, to boiling the product down and enjoying the taste, students from four counties received a lesson on the process of making maple syrup during an educational day held Tuesday for middle school students.

Students from 10 schools, and one home-schooled group, participated in the 21st annual Susquehanna Valley Middle School Envirothon, held at the Montour Preserve. Maple sugaring was one of several stations students visited as part of their day of environmental education.

Judy Becker, Northumberland County Conservation District manager, said middle students from Northumberland, Union, Snyder and Columbia counties participated in the annual event.

Students visited stations which focused on aquatics, soils, wildlife and forestry.

At each station, Becker said a presenter spoke for a few minutes on the subject area. The students then took a test on what they learned.

Becker noted that the middle school Envirothon isn’t as competitive as the one held in April for high school students. However, she said a variety of prizes would be awarded to the middle schoolers based on their test results.

“We want (students) to really gain a better appreciation for their outside environment,” Becker said. “It’s an opportunity for the kids to unplug and get outside. The Montour preserve is such a beautiful location.”

She said the maple sugar station was not included in the testing areas. Instead, the station presented a learning opportunity for the students.

With a light rain falling on Tuesday morning, a group of students from the Warrior Run, Lewisburg and Millville school districts watched with interest as Greg Bonsall, of the Union County Conservation District, described the process involved in making maple syrup.

“You are taking a product that’s 100% organic ... and you can use it on your pancakes or sausage,” Bonsall told the students, of the syrup.

Participants even had the opportunity to taste the syrup.

Between sessions, Bonsall said he hoped students would learn to appreciate the process of making maple syrup.

“I hope they can find an outdoor hobby that’s rewarding to them,” he said.

Kris Ribble, of the USDA-NRCS, was heading up a station focused on soil.

“Our objective is to teach the kids how important soils are and their functions to us,” Ribble said. “There’s only a limited amount of land and soil. It’s good to learn this early.”

Presenters manning the stations at the event included the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, USDA-NRCS, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and conservation district employees from Northumberland, Union, Snyder, Columbia and Montour counties.


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Descendant of Hessian soldier to address historical society

SUNBURY — In December 1776, the Battle of Trenton ended when more than 900 Hessian soldiers “agreed to lay down their arms,” Gen. George Washington later told John Hancock, president of the U.S. Congress. King George III had hired the Germans to help in suppressing the American Revolution.

Following their defeat at Trenton, many of these Germans were taken to Pennsylvania as prisoners of war. One of them was Johannes Schwalm, who after the war remained in the state and established a large family. One of the soldier’s descendants — N. Daniel Schwalm, a retired Line Mountain school teacher — will tell members of the Northumberland County Historical Society about the experiences of his ancestor

Schwalm, a Shamokin resident and long-time officer of the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association (JSHA), will speak at the society’s meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday. The public is invited to attend the free program at the society’s headquarters at 1150 N. Front St., Sunbury.

“My plan is to share the history of JSHA and the story of Johannes Schwalm and to encourage others of Hessian descent to document and share their stories,” said Schwalm, who contributed to the association’s 1977 book, “Johannes Schwalm, The Hessian.”

Many of the former POWs settled among the Pennsylvania Germans who lived in lower Northumberland County. The Stone Valley Cemetery near Dalmatia is said to have “the highest number of Hessian soldiers … of anywhere in the USA,” Schwalm said.

“The more I work with genealogies, the more I discover that birds of feather flocked together and inevitably during the first two generations in America, intermarriages with one or more other Hessian families occurred,” he said.

Schwalm said that there may be many other families in the region whose ancestors include a Hessian soldier. “In my mind, we have only touched the tip of the iceberg in documenting other families’ Hessian stories locally,” he said.

Schwalm said that the JSHA is a non-profit organization dedicated to researching, collecting and disseminating data relating to German auxiliaries to the British Crown who fought in the Revolution and to their descendants. All objects, documents, books and materials owned by the association are available for research and examination, subject to their normal rules of access at Martin Library of the Sciences, Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster.

For more information, go to www.northumberlandcountyhistoricalsociety.org or call 570-286-4083.


Larry Deklinski / LARRY DEKLINSKI/STAFF PHOTO 

Shamokin’s Brian Hornberger puts the shot Friday at the Purple and White Invitational at Kemp Memorial Stadium in Coal Township.


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Ralpho Township supervisors approve more than $314,000 in road work

ELYSBURG — The Ralpho Township Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday more than $314,000 worth of bids for projects intended to improve township streets.

Supervisors unanimously approved at their regular meeting low bids to pave three streets, tar and chip two others and make various improvements to Horizon Drive, which has experienced runoff issues for more than 10 years.

Supervisors opened four bids that included a base bid for paving Somerset Avenue, Alpha Avenue and Hickory Street and an alternate bid to pave an area near the Elysburg Playground.

The base bids ranged from $60,230 to $77,790; the alternative bids ranged from $56,465 to $77,375.

After some discussion whether to accept one or both bids, supervisors approved the combined low bid of $118,440 ($61,975 and $56,465) from New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co.

Supervisors noted that the township will be reimbursed approximately 75 percent of the base bid ($46,481) from the Municipal Authority of Ralpho Township due to upcoming sewer line work.

In a separate bid request, supervisors approved a low bid of $60,522.08 from Hammaker East LTD to tar and chip Jepko Road and Romanoski Lane. The other bid was $66,512.32 submitted by Midland Asphalt Materials Inc.

The township received six bids for Horizon Drive improvements, including storm sewer installation, upgrades to drainage, and pavement and shoulder restoration. Supervisors approved the low bid of $135,877.50 from Sikora Brothers Paving.

The project is intended to eliminate excessive water runoff that has affected yards for more than 10 years. Township officials previously said that some yards get overtaken by stone, debris and runoff because storm water boxes were not installed in the area.

During citizen comments, supervisors approved a request from Scenic Drive resident Rick Roughton to have the township install a sign instructed motorists to slow down.

He informed supervisors vehicles often travel at speeds around 40 mph and that residents are concerned someone may get hit. He said Ralpho Township police officers patrol the area, but cannot be there at all times.

In other business, supervisors discussed a variety of topics, including the status of several dilapidated properties in sheriff’s and tax sales, and possible changes to a road cutting ordinance to alleviate “rough” driving conditions during utility work.


Larry Deklinski / HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEM 

Three people were transported for medical treatment as a result of a T-bone crash Tuesday afternoon at Route 61 and Bridge Street in Ralpho Township.


Brynn Anderson/ap photo  

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks about his environmental budget at the Everglades Holiday Park during a news conference, Jan. 29, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.