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Six display award-winning watercolor art

SHAMOKIN — A group of six ladies presented a unique art display Friday evening at the Northumberland County Career and Arts Center gallery in Shamokin. The display, which featured a collection of approximately 50 award-winning watercolor paintings, was well-received by family, friends and visitors alike.

The artistic group, consisting of Andrea Kratzer, of Lewisburg, Sylvia Denger, of Watsontown, Mary Lesnicki, of Danville, Pat Sosnoskie, of Shamokin, Nancy Shuey, of Coal Township and Michele Heller, of Sunbury, expressed their background and joy of painting prior to welcoming visitors to their gallery display.

“We met about five or six years ago at a YMCA Arts Center Watercolor Class in Sunbury. Our instructor, Jane Albin, has been instrumental in forging our interest and love for painting,” said Kratzer.

The group agreed that the common thread for inspiration is their love of travel, both locally and abroad.

“Most of our paintings are from places we’ve visited,” explained Denger.

Kratzer added, “We travel frequently and draw our inspiration from those experiences. In our artwork, you’ll find depictions of a variety of landscapes as well as different seasons of the year.

“We’re pleased with the gallery room and lighting. The staff here has been wonderful to work with.”

Shuey said that the group, all of whom are retired, typically presents about four gallery displays annually to showcase their artwork. She also noted that they’ve been displaying their paintings collectively for about four years now.

“We want to thank members of the Lewisburg Arts Council and Susquehanna Arts Society, in particular, for their continued support and encouragement of our work,” expressed Denger.

Light amid darkness

A very special work of art, titled “Daisies are Forever: A Tribute to the Victims of the Holocaust,” was created by Denger. It is a series of watercolor-painted postcards which depict a patch of daisies blooming in front of an old, dark wooden fence. Her story behind the artwork is even more impressive.

“Back in 2012, I toured Auschwitz. ... While there, the tour wandered past walls, through chambers and building where the history of torture, horror and unspeakable acts unfolded,” Denger explained.

“At one point, I stepped away from the tour group and walked outside for a moment where I caught a glimpse of a patch ofbright, white daisies and small, yellow buttercups growing in the tall, free-waving grass. It gave me hope and inspiration for this particular painting when I saw those flowers growing in that place of utter darkness,” she noted.

Denger then used her gift of watercolor painting to plant her own seed of inspiration in the hearts of all those who view her work and hear her story of hope.

Visitor impressions

As they walked throughout the gallery, visitors expressed their approval of the collective artworks.

Tom Albert along with his wife, Barb, of Coal Township, were first-time visitors to the Shamokin gallery. The two indicated that they were pleased with the artistic creativity of the paintings as well as the venue itself.

“They’re all very talented with watercolors,” said Barb, with Tom adding, “It’s a good location here and well displayed.”

Gary Heller, husband of artist Michele Heller, provided his own personal insight into the quality of his wife’s artwork, along with that of the other ladies.

“They’ve continued to get better and better. It’s very impressive,” he said.

Another spouse, Chuck Sosnoskie, husband of artist Pat Sosnoskie, spoke of his critical role of assisting his wife in her artistic endeavors adding, “I’m the guy who puts all the hardware on the back of the frame to hang them up.”

Mayor John Brown and councilwoman Barbara Moyer, both of whom were present at the gallery display along with their spouses, were pleased with what they witnessed.

“Overall, I think this is a wonderful display and these gallery displays are great for our community. It’s wonderful to have a local venue like this, which is open to the public and showcases quality artwork,” said Brown.

Moyer also expressed her appreciation toward the ladies for their impressive display.

“I’m thrilled for the exhibition of these lady artists and truly amazed at their talents on display here tonight. I admire anyone who pursues their longtime passion,” she said.

Shamokin-Coal Township Public Library board member Annamae Kanuchok was impressed with the quality of work on hand.

“I think it’s amazing how they’re able to do this type of work with watercolors,” she noted.

Pointing to one of Sosnoskie’s paintings depicting a local rural setting titled “Winter Morning,” Jeff Fromm said, “I really like this one. It’s a beautiful work of art.”

The display is scheduled to run from April 12 through May 17. The gallery room, located on the first floor of the Northumberland County Career and Arts Center, at 2 E. Arch St., Shamokin, is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Hughesville couple charged in dope deal stabbing

WATSONTOWN — A Hughesville couple is facing multiple counts after a man ended up with a stab wound following an alleged drug transaction and altercation.

Eric Venema and Caroline Connolley, both 32, and of 240 E. Water St., Hughesville, face multiple counts as the result of an incident that occurred at 11:15 p.m. March 15 along Middleton Road, Delaware Township, Northumberland County.

Charges lodged against the two, identified in court documents as being a couple, include aggravated assault, robbery, terroristic threats, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, receiving stolen property, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.

The charges were filed this week in the office of District Judge Michael Diehl, of Milton.

According to court documents, Gabriel Rearick was found along Middleton Road with a stab wound to his right abdomen and injuries to his face.

Rearick later told police that Connolley transported him to Milton to purchase cocaine and heroin from an apartment located above Spike’s Bar on Broadway. At the time, Rearick said he wasn’t aware Venema was hiding in the back of Connolley’s car.

After picking up the drugs, Connolley and Rearick allegedly stopped at the Fort Boone Campground to make a drug transaction. However, the individual they were looking to sell drugs to was not there. The car proceeded to Middleton Road, where Venema allegedly appeared from the back and struck Rearick in the face with the butt of a gun.

A struggle between Rearick, Connolley and Venema ensued, with Rearick ending up with a stab wound.

Rearick told troopers that Connolley and Venema allegedly stole $1,300 from him, along with his cell phone and a couple of bags of heroin.

Preliminary hearings for Connolley and Venema have been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. April 24.

Venema was previously charged following an incident which occurred Nov. 29 in the Milton municipal parking lot. He was allegedly found in the car with a loaded rifle, an amunition-style carrier, several AR-style magazines, lack powder, hobby fuse, rocket ignitors and three handmade devices.

A criminal motion hearing on those charges is scheduled for April 22 at the Northumberland County Courthouse.

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Fireworks from the Glen Burn bank back on

COAL TOWNSHIP — The fireworks are back on.

Citizens for a Better Community (CBC) President Rich Jilinski confirmed Friday afternoon that the annual display shot from the Glen Burn bank overlooking Shamokin will occur Saturday, July 6, following an arrangement with property owner Edward Helfrick Jr., which involves officials from the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) patrolling the area.

CBC and Citizens Fireworks Inc. (CFI), which sets off the display, announced in November that they were looking for a new launch site after learning Helfrick intended to mine the area and his insurance would not permit fireworks in the area.

Helfrick, who did not return a message Friday evening for comment, no longer has immediate plans to mine, but had expressed concerns that he could be held liable if non-authorized people on his property were injured while accessing the area to watch the display, Jilinski said.

“His biggest concern — and I don’t blame the man — is liability,” Jilinski said. “His insurance doesn’t cover people with four-wheelers and partying. If someone gets hurt, he could get sued.”

CBC Secretary Angie Arnold explained that CBC pays for an insurance that covers CBC, CFI and Helfrick and all of his entities if property is damaged because of the fireworks. It doesn’t cover trespassers if they were to get hurt, she added.

Jilinski said Helfrick granted CBC and CFI a reprieve when Dave Porzi, director of operations for the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA), volunteered to have staff patrol the perimeter of Helfrick’s property around the time of the fireworks in an effort to keep non-essential people out of the area.

“The AOAA is graciously on board and willing to do it,” Jilinski said. “We are also looking into law enforcement officials riding with (AOAA) officials.”

Jilinski, who previously expressed gratitude toward Helfrick for allowing use of his property for past shows, noted that the arrangement might be a temporary solution as the group explores broader insurance options.

He credited Helfrick, CBC, Citizens Fireworks Inc. (CFI), officials from the City of Shamokin and AOAA for participating in several discussions.

Arnold said that Shamokin Mayor John Brown and Administrator Robert Slaby were instrumental to permitting this year’s show, adding that Helfrick was receptive to the idea of having AOAA patrol the area.

She said Helfrick noticed last year numerous people watching the fireworks display who were not permitted to be on the mountain. She has witnessed trespassers herself while watching the show from the intersection of Arch and Walnut streets.

“(Helfrick) was very open to any suggestions and working with us,” she said. “He wanted to help us in any way he could to keep this going.”


Southern Columbia’s Alyssa Barnes heads to third base in the second inning of play against Sugar Valley Rural Charter Friday at Southern.

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County to pay $363,000 to resolve lawsuit

WILLIAMSPORT — Northumberland County will pay $363,400 to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that found the county violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Plaintiff R. Alexander Acosta, secretary of the Department of Labor, filed a motion Thursday requesting the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania approve a consent judgement agreed upon by both parties.

The Department of Labor says more than 100 former and current employees are owned back pay for paperwork and phone calls made outside the 37.5-hour work week agreed upon in the collective bargaining agreement.

United States District Judge Matthew W. Brann ruled in April 2018 that Northumberland County violated the FLSA by not paying overtime to on-call workers from Children and Youth Services for time spent on telephone calls and paperwork and by not properly recording the time. Brann also denied plaintiff’s claim that the county violated FLSA’s overtime provision by failing to compensate Children and Youth Services caseworkers who worked more than 40 hours a week when not on-call.

Thursday’s filing states that the Northumberland County must release gross back wages in the amount of $160,000 and is liable for $160,000 in liquidated damages to the employees. The county must also pay a $20,000 civil penalty.

The county is required to pay $114,466 (which includes interest) within 30 days, a year and two years of entry of the consent judgement.

The judgment includes an injunction that requires the county to follow applicable law in paying employees, including time and a half for overtime. It must also preserve adequate employee records and conditions of employment, and is prohibited against retaliation against any employee who discloses alleged violations of the FLSA.

The county will have to find the money to pay the settlement because it is reportedly not covered by insurance and there is no money budgeted this year.

Lawsuit background

The DOL stated in the suit filed in May 2016 that the county knew that caseworkers were given workloads that required them to perform job duties outside the standard 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. workday. The county responded it would pay the caseworkers for overtime if they requested overtime pay, and that it also offers compensatory time.

“The county has a clear and flexible policy which allows caseworkers to obtain permission to work overtime and/or adjust their schedules. Further, caseworkers are instructed to report any time they spent working beyond their normal work schedules,” Attorney Benjamin Pratt previously said on behalf of the county. “Further, the county never received any complaints from the caseworkers’ union in regard to uncompensated overtime hours.”

But while the county says it did not receive any overtime requests that it denied, the DOL said the county has been negligent in ensuring employees properly submit their hours worked.

“In April and June 2015, Wage and Hour Investigator Jane E’Del notified the county of the overtime and record-keeping violations,” the DOL said. “Critically, the county did not change its on-call policies until January 2017, more than a year and a half after Wage and Hour notified the county of the violations, allowing continued overtime violations to accrue.”

Overtime violations also accrued for on-call work, the DOL says. According to the union contract, caseworkers in Northumberland County are paid a flat stipend for covering on-call shifts. The two parties appear to disagree over the work included in the stipend fee.

Filings submitted by the DOL indicate its standpoint is that the stipend is payment for the employee carrying a pager and responding to calls — a fee paid in recognition of the employee remaining available to the county. Under this notion, the county still needs to pay the employees at a time-and-a-half hourly rate for the time they work when they respond to calls and complete associated paperwork and phone calls, the DOL contends.

The DOL says the county did not begin tracking caseworker hours worked during on-call duty until the policy change in January 2017.

The county provided several points for not paying workers this additional amount, the first of which is that many phone calls and paperwork take a “de minimis” amount of time to complete.

“Often times, for example, phone calls last a minute or less. Thus, this small amount of work, which would be difficult to accurately track, is not compensable under the FLSA,” said Pratt.

Other reasons include workers opting to wait until normal business hours resume to complete the paperwork and phone calls associated with the incidents occurring in their on-call shifts. Pratt also said some of the work the DOL is seeking to have compensated has already been paid for by the county under the workers’ general overtime hours

Beyond these amounts, Pratt said the stipend is given to compensate employees for the miscellaneous work they complete while on call.

Pratt also previously wrote that the DOL incorrectly calculated the number of workers who would be owed money, if the county was found in violation of the law.

The county has had past wranglings with the DOL over the way it compensates its caseworkers. The DOL cited two previous back wage settlements with the county.

In 2001, DOL claims the county failed to calculate on-call pay into the employee’s time-and-a-half rate. In 2011, DOL claims the county failed to pay overtime to certain employees. DOL claimed the county should be made to pay liquidated damages for being a repeat offender of wage law.


Firefighters and emergency personnel gather in the 200 block of West Walnut Street in Shamokin on Friday afternoon where an accidental electrical fire occurred, leaving three people temporarily homeless.

Walnut Street electrical fire leaves three temporarily homeless

SHAMOKIN — Quick action by police and others prevented an accidental electrical fire in the 200 block of West Walnut Street from spreading to neighboring homes Friday morning.

No injuries were reported.

Shamokin Fire Chief Bruce Rogers said the 9:05 a.m. fire started in an electrical heater mounted to a wall in the kitchen area of 228 W. Walnut St., which is located a block away from Weis Markets.

He said the fire caused heavy smoke and water damage to the half-double home. An adjacent vacant house at 230 W. Walnut St. sustained minor smoke and water damage.

Angel Velazquez and his father-in-law and mother-in-law, Norman and Pearl Hemberger, who all reside at 228 W. Walnut St., were left temporarily homeless until electrical repairs can be made to the house.

Velazquez said he was sleeping in the living room when he smelled smoke before seeing it coming from the wall heater.

Velazquez quickly alerted his in-laws about the fire before escorting them safely from the home just prior to the arrival of Patrolmen Brandon Cohick and Joshua Pastucka.

Cohick said he used a fire extinguisher from a police cruiser to douse the fire at 228 W. Walnut St. before he and Pastucka went next door, kicked in a door and extinguished fire coming through a connecting wall at 230 W. Walnut St.

Assisting the officers in extinguishing the fire were Shamokin Code Enforcement Officer Rick Bozza and AREA Services paramedic Lou Ebersole.

Shortly after, firefighters from Shamokin and Overlook responded to the scene and cleared smoke from both properties.

Lamplight Leasing, of Mount Carmel, is the owner of 228 W. Walnut St. The unoccupied house at 230 W. Walnut St. is owned by Beth Petrovich, of Shamokin, and Richard Zigner Sr., of Mount Carmel.

Rogers said he wasn’t sure if the homes were insured.

Firefighters remained at the scene until 10:20 a.m.

Teen charged with threatening to shoot student

COAL TOWNSHIP — A 13-year-old Coal Township boy, who is a student at Shamokin Area Middle/High School, has been charged by Cpl. Joshua Wynn with threatening to shoot another male student while in a school district van Wednesday afternoon in Shamokin Township.

Police said the teen is accused of causing a disturbance in the van shortly after 3 p.m. and threatening the other student by claiming he would get a gun and shoot him.

The juvenile was charged with misdemeanors of terroristic threats and disorderly conduct through Northumberland County Juvenile Court Services.