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Coal Township police officer retires after 20 years of service

COAL TOWNSHIP — Patrolman Chad Yoder, who retired Tuesday after 20 years of service with Coal Township Police Department, treated his last day of work like all the others — doing his job to the best of his ability.

“I’ve always treated people the same no matter what their status was in the community,” Yoder said during an interview Tuesday morning in the Coal Township Municipal Building meeting room. “I served the community to the best of my ability and always tried to be fair and respectful with the people I dealt with, whether they were regular citizens, defendants or victims.”

The 45-year-old officer is a native of Mifflinburg. He graduated in 1991 from Mifflinburg High School and served in the United States Air Force from 1993 to 1997, including 101 days in Saudi Arabia.

During his military service, Yoder spent four and a half years in law enforcement.

In 1997, he graduated from Harrisburg Area Community College Police Academy and was hired as a Coal Township patrolman in March 1998.

He served under former police chief Richard Higgins and current chief William Carpenter and described the officers he has worked with through the years as “fantastic guys who were very dedicated to their profession.”

Yoder, who said he had a great deal of respect for Higgins and Carpenter, said he enjoyed serving and protecting the citizens of Coal Township for 20 years.

“I am grateful for my long career in law enforcement, but I’ve been doing this long enough,” he said. “It’s time to do something else. I plan to explore a few options, but they aren’t related to police work.”

Yoder and his wife, Tess, reside in Coal Township with their two daughters, Kirsten, 23, and Chloe, 16.


Chuck Souders / By LARRY DEKLINSKI THE NEWS-ITEM  

Mount Carmel Area graduate Maura Fiamoncini, a freshman at Bucknell University, competes in the women’s javelin during the Bucknell University Classic earlier this year.


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Shamokin City meeting

SHAMOKIN — City council adopted at its regular monthly meeting Monday afternoon at City Hall an ordinance that will tack on a $25 charge on code ticket violations.

The revenue will be used for the purchase of materials the city uses on privately-owned dilapidated properties. The money to buy those materials currently comes out of the general fund.

Voting in favor were Mayor John Brown, councilmen Scott Roughton, Dan McGaw and Charlie Verano and councilwoman Barbara Moyer.

Council also approved the first of two readings of Ordinance 18-05 that, if adopted, would extend the stop-time of the farmer’s market from noon to 3 p.m.

The ordinance states that the market is permitted to be held Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday beginning at 7 a.m. along the south curb of Independence Street, between Orange and Market streets, and the east curb of Market Street near Water Street.

The amendment would be the first change to farmer’s market ordinance since 1963. The action is a result of pleas from Bill Stewart, known as “Farmer Bill,” and several supporters who spoke at a previous meeting in support of the change.

During the public comment section of the meeting, Stephen Druckenmiller, of East Sunbury Street, stated that he should not be required to fill out a Right-To-Know form to receive an ordinance. He argued that ordinances should be made available during normal business hours.

Brown agreed, but described the current filing system as “a mess,” which sometimes requires extra time to locate ordinances. He gave an example of an ordinance that had five contradictory versions. Contributing to the disorganization are several ordnances that are outdated, he said.

“We still have an ordinance that defines which days you are allowed to swim in the creek,” Brown said. “We desperately need to go electronic.”

Brown said the city is hoping to work with students from Bucknell University to reorganize the filing of the ordinances.

Druckenmiller then suggested hiring another person for the code enforcement office as a way to increase revenue, but city officials said they have been told by the Act 47 coordinator not to hire additional manpower in the department.

“We agree with you. I would hire someone in a heartbeat,” Brown replied.

Judy Milbrand Allen asked council when Eighth Street would be reopened, which has been closed since Dec. 14 due to rubble from the former Masonic building.

Later in the meeting, Charlie Verano, director of street and public improvements, said he has received complaints from residents that the rubble still remains.

Slaby defended the owner, Clayton Andrews, of Pottsville, by stating Andrews’ insurance company is “dragging their feet” by refusing to pay the claim.

“The city has nothing to do with that, other than to enforce the ordinances,” Slaby said. “We have had one conference call after another with the owner, which is more than I can say about the owner’s insurance company. “

Slaby added that Andrews is “trying his best” under “difficult conditions” and is running out of personal funds.

“The City of Shamokin is in no financial condition to hire and bring in equipment to go down there and clean it as quickly as everybody at this table would like to,” he said of council. “So, we’re stuck with what we have. Just bear with it and suck it up for a few more days.”

Slaby concluded the conversation by stating Eighth Street would be open by 4 p.m. Tuesday. However, as of Tuesday evening, the street remained closed to traffic.

Tim Vincent, a coordinator of the Community Service Program, announced that work to repaint the tank along Water Street has been postponed due to grass cutting at dilapidated properties and vacant plots. The group, which consists of volunteers and those mandated by the court to complete community service hours, worked 130 man-hours in six days. He complimented Allen, who was in attendance, for purchasing lunch for the group on Monday.

Joe Leschinskie, of West Pine Street, reasserted claims made at council’s workshop on July 3 that the city has not come up with a plan to fight drugs and has not rectified the condition of a next-door property of his that he claimed contains rats and garbage.

The Republican committeeman for the Fifth Ward stated at the workshop that he was “going to stop paying” his taxes until he sees results, adding that people with complaints who “aren’t getting results for years need to stop paying, too.” He also made a request to hold a meeting of the Landlord/Tenant Board of Appeals.

At November’s regular meeting, Leschinskie read a letter to council stating his intentions to resign from the board. Council took no action on Leschinskie’s resignation request.

Leschinskie claimed at Monday’s meeting that his request to hold a meeting was denied because, according to Slaby, he was no longer a member. He challenged the opinion based on a letter rescinding the resignation that was received by city officials.

Brown then stated, “You came to a public meeting and quit.”

Brown and solicitor Frank Konopka allege a vote by council was not needed to approve the resignation, adding that other people have resigned from similar boards without formal approval by council.

The mayor added that the purpose of the board is to conduct hearings brought on by a property owner who has challenged a decision made by the code enforcement officer, adding that is the only time the board will convene.

In other business, councilwoman Barbara Moyer recognized the top five students from the Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School Class of 2018. Receiving certificates of academic achievement were Dawson Williams, C.J. Reichard, Nora Rompolski, John Daniel Kerris and Selina Albert.

The top five students from Shamokin Area High School were also recognized. Honored were Maryssa Erdman, Kali Rebuck, Kelsee Dunn, Colton Pollock and Alexandra Campbell.

Brown swore in patrolman Joshua Pastucka as his fiancee, Morganna Semanchyk, held the Bible and his parents, Jill and Rich, looked on. A ceremonial swearing-in was held for officer who officially began his duties in June.

McGaw, director of parks and public buildings, stated several businesses have approached the city to sponsor a free swim at the Lawton Shroyer Memorial Pool. The city has received correspondence from UGI Utilities, St. Francis Club, Olvany Insurance, Royal Order of the Moose and Widows Sons Masonic Riders Association.

A free swim sponsored by the city on July 4 attracted 600 people, the city’s ceiling on occupants. The next free swim, which will be sponsored by UGI, is set for noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.

On the recommendation of former Mayor William Milbrand, McGaw announced that the city will attempt to use a $72,000 grant from the PPL Foundation to repair the roof of the American Legion building as a match for another grant. The councilman said the city will seek a waiver from the state Department Community Economic Development to use the PPL grant in the interim.

Brown said Leschinskie arranged a meeting between himself, McGaw and representatives of TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, which has agreed to assist the community with certain projects. McGaw said students from the youth academy have already painted parking meters along Water Street.

In other business, council:

• Approved a lone bid of $889 from Bayridge Motors, Stanton Island, New York, for a retired 2011 Ford Crown Victoria police vehicle.

• Announced that advertisement for bids for demolition of the former Shroyer building will soon be made.


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Commissioners approve purchase for new judge's office in Milton

SUNBURY — Magisterial District Judge Michael Diehl and his staff will be getting a new office possibly by the end of the year as the county commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday to purchase a property at 45 Locust St. in Milton.

Diehl’s current office at 1 Broadway St., Milton, is small compared to the other three magisterial district judges’ offices in the county and plans for expansion or a new location have been in the works for about a year.

Commissioners Sam Schiccatano and Richard Shoch agreed to purchase the property owned by Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg for $130,000. Minority Commissioner Kym Best voted against the purchase and referred to the process of obtaining a new home for the judge’s office as a “debacle.”

She said 45 Locust St., which is located a few blocks from the Susquehanna River, is in a flood plain like the current office, which is located across the street from the river.

Schiccatano said a day care center, which is operating at 45 Locust St., plans to relocate to Watsontown in the near future.

He said initially the commissioners considered an offer by the landlord of the present judge’s office to remain at the site if it was expanded. He said the landlord purchased an adjacent building and planned to consolidate it with the judge’s office into one building with the appropriate remodeling.

But Schiccatano said the landlord wanted to increase the rent and make the county responsible for the renovations.

After passing on that option, Schiccatano said the county considered purchasing vacant land next to the Milton Senior Action Center from Northumberland County Housing Authority at a total cost of approximately $570,000.

In addition to being too costly, Schiccatano said issues developed over parking and a basketball court at the site.

The commissioner said by purchasing the property at 45 Locust St. and making interior renovations, the county will save significant money in the long run when compared to the other two options.

Schiccatano said moving the office to the Locust Street site, which has ample parking, is expected to cost approximately $200,000.

Shoch said there’s a chance the new office will open by the end of the year.

In other business, the board recognized the accomplishments of 23 scholar athletes from the county from 12 different schools.

Joseph Klebon, chairman of the Northumberland County Recreation Commission Scholarship Committee, introduced each student who received $100 and a certificate from the commissioners.

Klebon, the commissioners and recreation commission chairman Tom Aber congratulated the scholar athletes and their parents.

Scholar athlete award winners included Gracie Crone and Brenan Ryan of Danville Area School District; Sierra Bobb and Wesley Long of Line Mountain School District; Kaylee Wanamaker and Nicholas Doresky of Milton Area School District; Nicole Varano and Manus McCracken of Mount Carmel Area School District; Selina Albert and Dawson Williams of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School; Maryssa Erdman and George Zalar of Shamokin Area School District; Abigail Walter and Gabriel Tilford of Shikellamy School District; Breanna Burd and Elijah Hoffman of Southern Columbia Area School District; Rosaria James and Gage Anzulavich of Warrior Run School District; Trey Baughman of Meadowbrook Christian Academy; Hosannah Ilgenfritz and Ethan Underkoffler of Northumberland Christian School, and Jenna Stuck and Seth Kabonick of Northumberland Christian School.

T.J. Aikey, of the Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, asked the commissioners to support an application for a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) in Milton.

She said the parcels being proposed for KOZ status are 230 Lower Market St., Industrial Park Road, 250 Mahoning St., five parcels on Marsh Road, North Industrial Park Road and 201 Industrial Park Road.

Aikey said nine of the 10 proposed parcels are accessible by rail and cover a total acreage of 186.368. Most of the proposed parcels are in Milton Industrial Park.

She said Sept. 1 is the deadline for the application to be sent to SEDA-COG. She said Oct. 1 is the deadline for the state Department of Community and Economic Development to receive the application, which will then go before Gov. Tom Wolf for approval or rejection by Dec. 31.

Aikey said there will be 12 new KOZ designations awarded in the state in 2018.

Aikey said the application process began in March.

She said Northumberland County is one of five counties in the central region of the state vying for KOZ designations covering a total of 375 acres.

Aikey said Milton Borough, Milton Area School District and Northumberland County must approve the KOZ application before it can move forward.

Shoch told Aikey the commissioners expect to pass a resolution next month approving the application.

The commissioners unanimously approved five of six travel requests and attendance at workshops/seminars in accordance with the county’s personnel manual travel reimbursement policy.

Shoch and Schiccatano voted in favor of a request for one employee from the planning department to attend the Industrial Management Forum in Philadelphia on Sept. 15 to Sept. 19. Best voted against the request.

Best asked if anyone was keeping track of the travel expenses since the budget was passed in December.

Budget director Steve Cook said all the departments were within their budgets in terms of traveling expenses, but he didn’t have a total of the expenses incurred this year available. Cook told Best he would supply her with an expense total after the meeting.

The five requests receiving unanimous approval came from Children and Youth Services, Drug and Alcohol, Elections Office, Register and Recorder’s Office and Tax Claims.

Chief clerk Maryrose McCarthy announced Jim Brumbach will conduct a public auction at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Northumberland County South Campus.

Janice Kotwica was reappointed to SEDA Foundation Inc. for a term ending April 24, 2019.

Meghan Shambach was appointed to the Local Emergency Planning Committee for a term ending Dec. 31, 2018.

The board approved 2018-2019 funding in the amount of $7,371 for the Mount Carmel Borough/Lower Anthracite Transportation System (LATS).

The commissioners adopted a resolution for an intergovernmental agreement with the state Department of Corrections to provide a staffing survey, offer recommendations regarding CERT and chemical munitions, conduct K-9 searches and other searches or recommendations concerning safety and security at the new county prison being constructed in Coal Township.

The board approved honorary letters and certificates for Mr. and Mrs. Allen Spigelmeyer, of Sunbury, for their 50th wedding anniversary, and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Kasinowski, of Shamokin, for their 70th wedding anniversary.

Mr. and Mrs. Kasinowski are the father-in-law and mother-in-law of Commissioner Schiccatano, who read a special commendation to them during the meeting.


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'Happy Holidays' the theme for this year's Camp Dost

MILLVILLE — As they rode bicycles around an asphalt path at Camp Victory near Millville, a group of young campers were laughing and smiling as they were singing the Christmas classic “Jingle Bells.”

Although temperatures were in the 80s Tuesday morning, it was Christmas at Camp Victory.

“Happy Holidays” is the overall theme of this year’s Camp Dost, being held this week at Camp Victory for 97 campers from across Pennsylvania and New York. Each day of camp will feature activities based on a different holiday, such as Christmas, July 4, Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

Camp Dost, founded in 1983, is held each year by the Ronald McDonald House of Danville for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings.

Chris Lehman, Camp Dost coordinator/program assistant, said this year’s camp may be bittersweet for brothers Sam and Will Barrick, of Lewisburg.

“The Barricks will be graduating (from camp) this year,” Lehman said.

Sam is 13, while cancer survivor Will is 12.

Lehman explained that cancer patients and their siblings can attend Camp Dost for five years after the patient has completed cancer treatments.

She said graduating from camp is bittersweet for many as they enjoy camp so much they’re a bit sad to leave. However, they are also happy to be cancer free.

“In a couple years, they can come back as counselors,” Lehman said of camp graduates. “Many of our counselors are former campers.”

That’s the case with Terry Ketchem, the volunteer assistant camp director.

“My sister had leukemia when she was 2,” Ketchem said.

When he was 5, he attended the camp with his sister.

“She is doing well now,” Ketchem said of his sister. “I want to make sure the kids have the same experience at camp that we did.”

Devon Gulick, the volunteer camp director, has been volunteering with the camp for the past 13 years.

“I had always wanted to work with kids,” she said. “When I was in kindergarten, a little boy had cancer. I always remembered that.”

Gulick works as a Child Life specialist at a local hospital.

“I work with kids like this at my job,” she said. “This is an extension (of my job).”

Lehman noted that children attend the camp at no cost. Most are Geisinger Medical Center patients and are familiar with the doctors and nurses who staff the camp.

“That’s probably the reason parents are so comfortable leaving their kids at Camp Dost,” she said.

Traditional camping activities such as swimming, fishing, boating, archery, biking, arts and crafts, singing and nightly entertainment are a part of the camp.

Activities also center around the weekly and daily themes.

In keeping with the Halloween theme, Lehman said members of the Susquehanna Valley CARTS car club will be decorating their cars and handing out treats during a “trunk-or-treat” event being held this week at the camp.

As part of the festivities, Lehman said teenagers will be creating a haunted house for younger campers to enjoy.

“Everyone is really excited for Halloween,” Lehman noted.

She said Camp Dost would not be possible without the approximately 70 volunteers who give their time to help with the week.

“We have somebody from Texas who comes every year (to volunteer),” she said. “We have a brother and sister from Florida who come every year.”

Several years ago, a fashion designer who once participated in the camp flew to Pennsylvania from Paris to volunteer with the camp.

“The only thing (volunteers) get here is a lot of s’mores and a lot of smiles from campers,” Lehman said.

According to information provided by the Ronald McDonald House of Danville, Camp Dost operates on a $31,000 annual budget. Of the budget, $21,000 goes to rent the Camp Victory facilities.

Funds for the camp are provided by donors and fundraising activities.

Planning for the camp is a year-round effort for Lehman. Over the past year, she said she’s been “dumbstruck” by the generosity of donors.

“People’s willingness and enthusiasm to take part or be hands on... has blown me away,” Lehman said. “(Camp Dost is) a big hook that grabs at your heart.”