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Zerbe Twp. board officially welcomes new police officer

TREVORTON — Zerbe Township supervisors officially welcomed the newest member of the Zerbe Township Police Department at their Monday meeting.

Patrolman Russ Dawson was officially hired as a part-time police officer at an hourly rate of $15.50, following a motion that was unanimously approved by all three supervisors.

“Congratulations, and we want to officially welcome you here,” board president Mike Schwartz said to Dawson.

In the absence of Zerbe Township Police Chief Mike Kreischer, Dawson updated the board on the monthly police report, which included a total of 80 calls responded to and 386 patrol miles.

AOAA Fight the Blight Benefit Ride

The supervisors unanimously approved a motion to allow riders from the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) to use portions of East Coal Street, Greenwood Street and Sportsmen Park Road to access the Zerbe Rod and Gun Club for the second annual Fight the Blight Benefit Ride to be held Sept. 7. A formal letter of request was submitted to the board by AOAA Director of Operations Dave Porzi, who attended the meeting in person.

The letter, which represented both the AOAA and Housing Authority of Northumberland County (HANC), read: “It is our intent to have our riders come into Zerbe Township to be served lunch at the Zerbe Rod & Gun Club for a one day event.”

Last year’s Fight the Blight Benefit Ride raised $6,800 for the HANC with nearly 400 riders participating.

Porzi said the AOAA is working on mapping out a 20-mile loop, which would take riders from the trolley line to East Coal Street in Trevorton on part of the AOAA trail system that is not normally utilized. The AOAA will also have volunteers on hand to direct riders where they need to go once they access Coal Street and is requesting help with the road crossing on Route 225.

“We’re also looking into the possibility of offering access for Zerbe Township riders to the AOAA park from the trolley line,” Porzi said.

Correspondence

In a July 11 letter addressed to the supervisors, PennDOT District 3-0 requested a response as to whether or not the board would allow it to act as the lead agent for bridge inspections using an agreement created in its Engineering and Construction Management System.

Following a brief discussion, Supervisor Mike Mazer voted to allow PennDOT to serve as the lead agent, which was seconded by Bulchie and unanimously approved by all three supervisors in a roll-call vote.

Trevorton Fall Festival

The Trevorton Fall Festival is scheduled to take place at the Trevorton Recreation Area from noon until dusk on Saturday, Oct. 12 with a rain date of Sunday, Oct. 13.

A parade will kick things off at 11 a.m., with live music provided by Memory Lane, and fireworks at dusk.

For participating vendors, it was noted that a setup fee of $20 is due by Sept. 1. The fee increases to $30 if paid after that date, including on the day of the festival.

Electricity will be available and provided as needed and limited inside space is available upon request. Tables and canopies will not be provided. Money will only be refunded if the festival is cancelled both days.

For more information, applicants may call 570-797-1974.

Movie night

Mazer announced that the Zerbe Township Recreation Committee will hold a free movie night at dusk on Friday, which will feature the showing of Disney’s “Wonderpark.”

Other business

Three paving bids for Coal Street, originally discussed at a July 25 meeting between the supervisors and township clerk, were rejected by the board due to excessive cost and maintenance factors.

The Franklin Street paving project cannot begin until an environmental review study has been completed and approved. The paving project will most likely be finished sometime next spring.

With regard to proposed work on the Eleventh Street Bridge, Schwartz noted, “The county has indicated there are no grants currently available for that project.”


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Trail connecting AOAA to Shamokin is 'next revolution' to sustaining tourism dollars

SHAMOKIN — The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) is proposing using an existing dirt trail on a hillside west of Shamokin Creek to serve as a portal into the city.

Dave Porzi, director of operations for AOAA, presented to city council at their regular meeting Monday a map of the proposed route, which would start east of the Raspberry Hill Complex and terminate on an improved lot next to the former Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

He said the AOAA’s main concern with the two previous events that brought riders into the city via various streets was “consideration of residents.” Although the events went “very well,” he added that the AOAA wants to establish a more permanent route into the city to sustain “tourism dollars.”

Porzi informed council that the majority of the parcels between the creek and Academy Hill are owned by the City of Shamokin Housing Authority, which operates the complex, Michael Guarna and the City of Shamokin. The Shamokin Cemetery Co. owns “a few feet” of the property where the existing trail is located, Porzi said.

A main obstacle is where the trail comes to a dead end east of the complex. He described the embankment as nearly vertical and consisting of concrete, ash and other debris.

“Currently, that is the blockade that we have found,” Porzi said. “It is probably going to take three or four days of excavation work.”

Porzi noted that the AOAA would do trail work, but only after it obtains permission from the above-mentioned property owners. He indicated he will attend the authority meeting Thursday to discuss the proposed route and has already been in contact with Guarna and William Milbrand, president of the cemetery.

“A majority of it is already there,” he said of the existing trail. “It’s already being used by everyone and their brother. … If we get leases on these properties and get this portal open, then you’re looking at somebody that’s going to clean it up, make it presentable and make people proud that we have this coming into the city.”

He told council that with the state grant money recently awarded for hotels, an off-road trail connecting the AOAA to the city is the “next revolution.”

Porzi was unsure whether the trail would be an option for the next ride into the city, scheduled for Sept. 21. Opening the trail would depend on whether the AOAA gets permission from property owners and good weather to do trail work, he said.

Mayor John Brown suggested Porzi meet with Kevin Richardson, foreman of the city, to discuss parcels owned by the city.

He later explained that maps produced by AOAA and its surveyor show there is a paper street from Lincoln Street to Patsy’s Bridge, which cross Shamokin Creek a block south of the Friendship Fire Co.

In a follow-up interview with The News-Item, Porzi said the city has a right-of-way 30 feet back from Shamokin Creek from around Patsy’s Bridge to Terrance Avenue, where homes were located until the early 1970s.

He said there is also a pinch-point between the creek and ash piles south of the bridge that crosses the creek at the Lawton Shroyer Memorial Pool.


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Woman pleads no contest to aggravated assault; daughter suffered brain damage when left in car

SUNBURY — A 25-year-old Watsontown-area woman, who is accused of leaving her 21-month-old daughter in a locked car with the windows up for more than five hours last summer, pleaded no contest Monday to a felony charge of aggravated assault.

Tonia Lee Sones is scheduled to be sentenced within 90 days after entering the plea before Northumberland County President Judge Charles H. Saylor, who ordered a pre-sentence investigation.

By pleading no contest, Sones is neither admitting nor denying guilt but concedes that the prosecution has enough evidence against her to gain a conviction at trial.

The defendant entered the plea just prior to jury selection in her case.

Sones, who was represented by defense attorney Kyle Rude, was charged by state police at Milton with aggravated assault (three counts), simple assault, endangering welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person as the result of an alleged incident that occurred between 7 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. June 1, 2018, outside her residence.

All other charges will not be prosecuted at sentencing.

Trooper Joshua Kendrick said in court papers that he and Trooper Joel Follmer arrived at Evangelical Community Hospital, Lewisburg, at 2:20 p.m. June 1, 2018, after receiving a report of an infant who was being treated for heat stroke.

Kendrick said he was informed by Dr. John Devine that Sones’ daughter had been left inside of a car for over five hours. Troopers were told the girl’s temperature was 103 degrees upon her arrival at the hospital.

The girl was subsequently flown by helicopter to Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, for more extensive treatment.

Upon questioning, Kendrick said Sones indicated picking her daughter up from a sitter after working her 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. shift as a welder at Great Dane.

According to court papers, Sones said her daughter did not sleep well while she was being cared for while Sones was at work. The girl did fall asleep on the car ride home.

“Sones stated that she thought she would let her sleep in the car since she didn’t sleep very well overnight,” Kendrick wrote in the criminal complaint. “Sones made sure all of the windows were up and the doors were locked on the car at this time.”

Sones allegedly told troopers that she went inside her home and fell asleep. She did not wake up until around 12:30 p.m.

Court papers indicate Sones found her daughter inside the car, having a seizure. She called an ambulance for assistance.

At 6:54 that morning, Kendrick wrote that the recorded air temperature was 71.1 degrees. It reached 84.9 degrees at 12:54 p.m.

Kendrick said medical records from Geisinger Medical Center stated the girl suffered brain swelling and brain damage, consistent with heat stroke. She had a feeding tube inserted due to not being able to be fed by mouth due to the brain damage she suffered in the alleged incident.

According to court papers, the girl was transferred to Penn State Rehabilitation Hospital in Hummelstown for physical, occupational and speech therapy.


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Danville man who fled police in truck loaded with livestock is sentenced

SUNBURY — A 38-year-old Danville man charged in a high-speed chase, involving a truck loaded with livestock, was sentenced by video Monday on multiple charges by Northumberland County President Judge Charles H. Saylor.

Jarrett Castelonia reaffirmed his previous guilty plea to a felony of fleeing police, a misdemeanor of criminal conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals and summaries of driving under suspension and reckless driving.

The defendant was initially charged with 81 offenses and planned to take his case to trial.

He received a lead sentence of 12 to 24 months in state prison on the fleeing offense and a concurrent sentence of 12 to 24 months for criminal conspiracy. He also was ordered to pay $200 in fines plus costs and make restitution of $600 to state police and $241.52 to the SPCA.

Prior to being sentenced, Castelonia, who was represented by defense attorney Michael Morrone, told the court, “I’ve finally grown up and I apologize for my actions.”

Castelonia and Morrone both apologized to Saylor for multiple delays in the case.

Castelonia was given credit for about 780 days served in prison, which exceeded his two-year maximum sentence in Northumberland County. But he was still being held in SCI-Coal Township on a detainer for receiving stolen property in Virginia in 2015.

Following sentencing, Castelonia waived his right to extradition to Virginia.

A co-defendant, Peter Rory Birster, 27, of Marion Heights, was previously sentenced by Judge Hugh Jones to nine to 23 months in county prison and two years consecutive probation on multiple charges including 11 counts of cruelty to animals, resisting arrest and recklessly endangering.

Birster was ordered to make more than $21,000 restitution in the case and pay a $1,400 fine plus costs.

Castelonia, who was the driver of the truck, and Birster were charged by Mount Carmel Township Police Chief Brian Hollenbush relating to a 27-mile chase on June 15, 2017, that resulted in the deaths of four goats that were in the enclosed bed of the GMC truck. Twenty-five goats and six sheep were being hauled.

The pursuit from Marion Heights to the Herndon area involved state police and officers from five municipalities.

Hollenbush said the livestock belonged to Castelonia’s mother, who owns a farm in the Danville area.

The chief said Castelonia and Birster fled after spotting police because Birster believed there was a warrant for his arrest for burglary. There wasn’t a warrant at the time, but he was being investigated in connection with a burglary for which he was later charged.


Larry Deklinski / LARRY DEKLINSKI/STAFF PHOTO  

Members of the Shamokin Area junior high football team run drills during a practice last week at Kemp Memorial Stadium.