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City council sells lot next to site of former Masonic building; approves demolition projects

SHAMOKIN — Shamokin City Council unanimously approved Monday night the sale of a parking lot at 5-7 W. Independence St. for $101,000.

The lot, which is located next to the former Masonic building that was destroyed by fire Dec. 14, was sold to GBT Realty Corporation headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Shamokin Mayor John Brown and Administrator Robert Slaby said they didn’t know what GBT planned to do with the lot, which has an appraised value of $45,000.

Mariano Construction Inc., of Bloomsburg, was the only other bidder for the property at a price of $77,777.

Approving the sale were Brown and council members Barbara Moyer, Scott Roughton, Charlie Verano and Dan McGaw.

After the meeting, Slaby said Clayton Andrews, of Pottsville, owner of the property where the Masonic building was located, is continuing negotiations to sell the land.

In other business, council awarded contracts to Affordable Construction Demolition, of Coal Township, to demolish 692 Bear Valley Ave., 535 S. Seventh St. and 140-142 S. Shamokin St. in the amounts of $11,500, $21,500 and $42,812, respectively.

Affordable Construction was the lowest qualified bidder.

The demolition work will be paid through Keystone Grant funding.

Council awarded a contract for street paving throughout the city to New Enterprise and Lime Co. in the amount of $146,939.75.

Council adopted an amended dumpster ordinance prepared by solicitor Frank Konopka.

The ordinance requires the homeowner to apply for a $25 permit for the dumpster per week with the city’s code officer for a period not to exceed 30 days. At the conclusion of 30 days, the homeowner must reapply for a permit.

The owner of the dumpster must verify that a permit has been granted by the city to the homeowner.

All dumpsters must be identified by the owner of the premises and the owner of the dumpster with contact information included in a visible area of the dumpster.

No dumpsters may be placed upon railroad right-of-way, Route 61 or Route 125.

East Water Street from Eighth to Rock streets is exempt from the ordinance.

The placement of dumpsters must be approved by the code officer or street department foreman.

A dumpster can be placed on private property as long as it is not on the sidewalk or right-of-way for pedestrians.

A dumpster may not be placed on private property if it is in an area that will obstruct the view of traffic.

The city has the legal right to have the commericial owner of the dumpster remove it if it is in violation of the ordinance.

Council unanimously passed a motion to have PPL change lights in the city, excluding the acorn lights on Lincoln and Market streets, to LED lighting at no cost.

Council authorized First National Bank and The News-Item to once again co-sponsor the annual Halloween Parade on Tuesday, Oct. 23, with a rain date of Oct. 24.

On a 4-1 vote, council designated Wednesday, Oct. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. as trick or treat night in the city in conjunction with the same date and hours as Coal Township.

Roughton voted against the date because it is a week night. He recommended holding trick or treat night on Saturday, Oct. 27.

McGaw said the city will give away candy and operate a haunted house at Claude Kehler Community Park on Halloween night.

Council tabled a motion to move the workshops and council meetings to the Shamokin Emergency Squad room behind the police station at Mill Road Square.

Boy Scout Trooper 254 was granted permission to use Claude Kehler Community Park on Saturday, Sept. 15, for a car wash fund-raiser.

Brookside Ministries Church was authorized to use the parking lot on East Independence Street from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, to give away blankets, hats, gloves and other items to needy people in the area.

Council agreed to change its meeting date in November from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14 due to the Veterans Day holiday.

Kenneth Pilkus, a city fire chief, was hired as a part-time code officer.

Vernao, director of streets and public improvements, said city police will continue to crack down on motorists who park their vehicles next to yellow lines.

McGaw, director of parks and public buildings, said the Lawton W. Shroyer Memorial Swimming Pool did pretty well financially despite a rainy summer.

McGaw announced a “Christmas Boulevard” will be created in the Market Street park plot with families or organizations being assigned special areas of the park plot to decorate for $35. He said Christmas trees will be provided by the city.

Moyer, director of accounts and finances, said work has already begun on next year’s budget.

Council agreed with a recommendation by Moyer to erect permanent “no smoking” signs at the community park.

Joseph Leschinskie commended council for amending the dumpster ordinance. He also praised Roughton, director of public safety, for enforcing code violations.

Prior to the meeting, a public hearing was held to discuss the proposed use of $296,249 in Community Development Block Grant funding for 2018 released by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Lynn Dixson, community development director, said the money will be used for administration ($53,325), clearance ($72,877), streets ($125,047), an emergency rescue vehicle ($40,000) and code enforcement ($5,000).

A moment of silence was held at the start of the meeting in memory of former council member Larry “Hap” Kinder, who recently passed away. Kinder’s son, Dave, is the city controller.


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Sec. of Labor and Industry visits Sunbury CareerLink

SUNBURY — The success and importance of the work being done at the PA CareerLink in Sunbury was on display Monday when Secretary of Labor and Industry Jerry Oleksiak visited the area to learn of efforts of hiring local workers.

Oleksiak made the rainy drive from Philadelphia to spend about two hours touring the facility, speak about PA Smart and listening to CareerLink employees and a success story as well as a representative from Dempsey Uniform and Linen Supply to hear how they work with CareerLink to recruit employees.

In addition to learning of the resources available to job seekers and employers in the area throughout the CareerLink building, Oleksiak was given a tour of the Link, a mobile career center. The mobile comes with WiFi, seven computer work stations, and numerous resources that allows staff to hit the road to reach out to communities in the nine counties covered by CareerLink which may not have a local office.

The first of its kind in the state, Megan Bair, operations manager of Central Susquehanna Opportunities Inc., said it was launched as a pilot in August 2017 and has served numerous functions. The mobile has appeared at the site of closing businesses to help displaced workers, at state and local prisoners to help soon to be released inmates begin the search for a job and have assisted new businesses with a way for potential employees to submit online applications.

The mobile is also driven to communities who don’t have local offices to assist those without a means of transportation in applying for jobs. Following Monday’s event, the mobile was parked in front of the Mount Carmel Public Library to provide services locally.

It was Oleksiak’s first opportunity to see the mobile, which he stated was “very impressive” and made note about wanting to create more opportunities such as the Link through the department’s budget to assist with employment in the Commonwealth.

“It’s important to go where the people most in need are,” he said.

When viewing a map of the CareerLink’s coverage area, Oleksiak looked at the nine counties and remarked, “That’s a lot of PA that you’ve got there!”

Of all the work being done in the Tom Wolf Administration, Oleksiak said he’s particularly excited about PAsmart, a new $30 million initiative to help people connect with resources for employment and job training throughout the state.

Out of that budget, $20 million is to be spent by the Department of Education in STEM programs for adults, with the remaining $10 million spent by the Department of Labor and Industry.

The $10 million breaks down to $7 million for apprenticeship programs and $3 million is added to $1.8 million existing from a Next Generation Sector Partnership. Oleksiak said he believes the state is on track to begin releasing the money in early 2019.

A success story

Jennifer Knoll, 45, of Middleburg, has benefitted from the services offered at PA CareerLink in life-changing ways and shared her experience to show what a success story looks like.

Knoll said she’d been employed in the education field for 20 years. Until September 2017, she was employed as a supervisor in a child care center and was university faculty in Philadelphia when suddenly, she was told her job and housing was being eliminated simultaneously.

Feeling defeated and her savings depleted, Knoll ended up in her parents’ basement. She said one of the hardest things about her situation was getting to the place of asking for help.

She recalled walking into the PA CareerLink in Sunbury with her head low to apply for unemployment and was met by a staff who gave her hope.

As part of her qualifying for unemployment, she had to take advantage of the resources offered to help with job seeking and she went to every workshop available.

Knoll received weekly CareerLink emails posting jobs and volunteer opportunities within the area, and in January she decided to apply for a tutoring position with the CSIU to get herself out of the house. That tutoring job led her to applying for a part-time position in June.

A second income was needed to supplement the part-time job, so Knoll said she began looking and that search led to her coming across the full-time adult education bridge instructor position through the CSIU with CareerLink and Watch Program.

The story came full circle for Knoll, beginning with walking through the CareerLink doors to file for unemployment and ending with finding her calling in life again.

Knoll received a round of applause upon finishing her story, and Oleksiak was so moved he asked if she could give her a hug.

To learn more about PA CareerLink and offered services, visit www.pacareerlink.pa.gov.


Trump to attend 9/11 anniversary ceremony in Shanksville

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will mark the solemn 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks by participating in a ceremony at the 9/11 memorial in Pennsylvania today, the White House said.

First lady Melania Trump will accompany the president to the remembrance in Shanksville.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers flew commercial airplanes into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania field in what was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The 40 passengers and crew aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after leaving Newark, New Jersey, en route to San Francisco, are credited with thwarting a strike on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump observed the somber anniversary for the first time as president last year.

He and the first lady, surrounded by aides and administration officials, led a moment of silence on the White House lawn at the exact time that hijackers, executing a plot orchestrated by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, had rammed the first of two airplanes into the Twin Towers.

Trump also participated in last year’s 9/11 observance at the Pentagon.

A native New Yorker, Trump has a mixed history with 9/11. He frequently uses the terrorist strikes to praise the city’s response but has also made unsubstantiated claims about what he did and saw that day.

Trump often lauds the bravery of New York police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders who rushed to the crumbling Twin Towers as an example of the city’s resilience. But he has accused fellow Republican George W. Bush, who was president on 9/11, of failing to keep Americans safe.

Trump has also made dubious claims about Sept. 11. He has said when talking about Muslims that “thousands of people were cheering” in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, as the towers collapsed. There is no evidence in news archives of mass celebrations there by Muslims.

Trump has also said he lost “hundreds of friends” in the attack and said he helped clear rubble afterward.

Trump has not provided names of friends who perished in the attack, but has mentioned knowing a Catholic priest who died while serving as a chaplain to the city’s fire department.


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Visitor at SCI-Muncy taken into custody for allegedly smuggling drugs

MUNCY — A visitor at SCI-Muncy was arrested Monday for smuggling drugs.

At approximately 10:45 a.m. Monday, a male visitor entered the main gate at the prison to be processed for a visit with his daughter.

Upon processing the individual through the metal detector, the security staff conducted a search of the visitor’s outer garment at which time a sandwich bag with an unknown leafy substance was discovered.

The security office was notified and arrived at the main gate and verified what appeared to be a green leafy substance contained in the bag.

State police at Montoursville were notified and a trooper arrived at the facility at 11:40 a.m. A field test of the substance was conducted and was confirmed to be marijuana.

The visitor, who was not identified in a press release issued by the Department of Corrections, was taken into custody by state police.

According to a new policy set in place by corrections Secretary John Wetzel, any visitor who is caught introducing or attempting to introduce contraband into the visiting room will be suspended indefinitely from visiting any Department of Corrections facility.