ST. MARYS — State and local representatives and community members gathered for the 23rd Elk County Farm Bureau Legislative Farm Tour Friday.
The annual event began at St. Marys Stone, Mulch and More on Locust Road with ECFB Governmental Relation Director Ernest Mattiuz welcoming attendees.
Representatives from several agencies and entities, including the Elk County Conservation District, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Deborah Pontzer from U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office, North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission, Ridgway Borough Council and Ridgway Mayor Guillermo Udarbe, Elk County Sheriff Todd Caltagarone, Elk County Treasurer Peggy Schneider, Fritz Lecker for Elk County Commissioner and Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Gabler, took part in the tour.
“This is the largest grassroots organization in Pennsylvania that advocates for legislation to enhance agriculture and way of life,” Mattiuz said.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has more than 58,000 members statewide, he said, and there are 54 county farm bureaus.
Mattiuz said the tour would move from St. Marys to Chicken Hill Distillery in Kersey, where he would discuss “issues for action” that the PFB is following in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C.
Chris Kline, owner of St. Marys Stone, Mulch and More, said the current property was formerly Babcock Lumber, and sat empty for 10-12 years after it closed.
The business does a lot of house coal services, Kline said, and he can remember shoveling coal into people’s basements when it first started. He also built houses for eight years.
St. Marys Stone, Mulch and More sells everything by the pound except for mulch, which is sold by the yard.
Kline said the business expanded by purchasing nearby properties, and he also bought Nussbaum Feed Store after moving to the area.
“All the work we have done here, we’ve done ourselves,” Kline added.
Kline delivers sheds as well, which are made from wood cut by the Amish. Another interesting fact he mentioned is St. Marys Stone, Mulch and More provides the wood used for cooking at Italian Oven of DuBois.
Chicken Hill Distillery Co-Owners Dan Meyer and Chris Kline welcomed attendees to the facility at 277 Fairview Road, where they discussed how to make locally-sourced moonshine, and the importance of farming to the process.
Mattiuz talked about the “birth of moonshine,” before Kline took attendees inside for the other half of the tour.
“Here we are 225 years later, standing at a distillery in western Pennsylvania,” he said.
A tasting and gift bag was offered the tour goers before Mattiuz gave his legislative speech at the picnic tables set up outside.
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney Airport Authority Chairman Rick Young pilots an old stick and rudder plane from 1943.
Young attended the Bell Township School located near the airport, and can remember watching from the windows of the school as planes took off. He says he always thought about how cool it would be to fly a plane, and wanted to do it someday.
Today he is a licensed pilot who owns several small planes and flies them as often as he can. He is also the chairman of the Punxsutawney Airport Authority the governing body for the same airport that sparked his interest in planes.
Young has had his pilot’s license since the 90’s and flies as often as he can.
One of those planes, a small Cessna, was originally used as a World War II training aircraft. It was commonly used for training pilots since aviation was still so new.
“It barks and it smokes and it carries on and leaks a little bit of oil, but it flies,” Young said.
He said the biggest difference between this plane and the ones popular today is the tail wheel. Planes today have a nose wheel instead of a tail wheel, which makes them much easier to control, he said.
The nose wheel puts the center of gravity ahead of the two main wheels. With a tail wheel, the wind is more likely to kick the tail out, and spin the plane sideways. Young said it gives the plane a natural tendency to want to “pendulum.”
There are also not many electronics inside the Cessna plane, just the basics.
Another difference related to the tail wheel is how the plane sits. The nose points skyward, so the pilot has little vision forward until the tail lifts off the ground.
“It’s kind of an interesting plane to fly because as you can see, when you’re sitting in it you have no forward vision,” Young said of the plane.
He explained that he has to get it going down the runway, and gain enough speed to lift the tail before he has any forward vision. Then the plane is balancing on two wheels while going about 60 miles an hour down the runway, Young said.
Young takes the plane out flying occasionally and enjoys it despite how different it is from today’s planes. He considers flying to be an engaging hobby, and plans to continue for as long as he can.
KERSEY — Elk County Farm Bureau Legislative Farm Tour attendees learned about several “issues for action,” including the decline in Pennsylvania dairy farms and Sunday hunting restrictions, during Friday’s event.
ECFB Governmental Relation Director Ernest Mattiuz gathered tour goers outside Chicken Hill Distillery for lessons in farm legislation, ones the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is following closely in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C.
To begin with, the PFB is working with lawmakers on two separate pieces of legislation that would provide relief for farmers operating agritourism enterprises. “Civil Liability Reform,” or House Bill 1348, would “set a higher bar for a plaintiff to collect damages from injury that occurred while participating in an on-farm agritourism activity. Relief from Requirements for Indoor Sprinkler Systems, U.S. Senate Bill 453 and House Bill 1037, which concerns exempting barns and farm buildings from having to install sprinkler systems when hosting an event.
The second “heavy” topic, Mattiuz said, is Sunday hunting. The PFB is not satisfied with U.S. Senate Bill 147 in its current form, Mattiuz said. The requirement for “hunters to obtain written permission from the landowner in order to lawfully hunt on private property on Sunday” is missing from the bill.
Municipalities in several counties have “imposed harsh and costly stormwater management fees on farmers, the PFB says. The PFB supports Senate Bill 679, which would establish a stream-cleaning program for counties.
High-speed broadband service to rural areas was another topic of discussion.
Christine Perneski of the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission told attendees this is an issue on which her agency is currently working.
Dairy was the concluding topic Friday. It generates $14.7 billion in annual revenue, 52,000 jobs and plays an important role in diets, according to the PFB.
Dairy farms are struggling, Mattiuz said, with at least 30 Pennsylvania farms going out of business this year.
“Seven percent of dairy farms ceased operations in 2018, while in Pennsylvania, we lost about six percent of our dairy farms, which amounts to 370 farms,” according to the PFB.
The new USMCA agreement, which will provide increased access for dairy products to Canada, can provide benefits to dairy farmers. If passed, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019, School Milk Nutrition Act of 2019, Dairy Pride Act and Milk in Lunches for Kids laws all address issues faced by the dairy industry.
Other topics that were a part of the conversation included the NAFTA economic and trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, state royalty laws, agricultural labor reform, chronic wasting disease in deer, the use of ATVs on farmland and others.
For more information on these issues, visit www.pfb.com.
ST. MARYS — High winds and heavy rainfall resulted in downed trees and power lines across St. Marys Sunday evening.
A National Weather Service alert Sunday included St. Marys, Ridgway, Johnsonburg, Force, Benezette, Medix Run, Brandy Camp, Portland Mills, Hicks Run, Kersey and Weedville, and warned residents to move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building.
The “Elk County Alerts” Facebook page, which updates Elk County residents on fire and emergency-response incidents, weather emergencies and road conditions, said trees were reportedly down and blocking traffic on Chicken Hill Road, the intersection of Taft and Johnsonburg roads, Pennsylvania Route 66, Lockes Hill Road in Wilcox, Louis and Walnut streets in St. Marys and others Sunday evening.
Power lines were also reportedly blocking Penn Avenue, Lincoln Street and Portland Mills Road.
All fire companies were requested to “man their stations” throughout the evening beginning shortly after 6:30 p.m.
St. Marys Police Department Chief Tom Nicklas said Elk County Emergency Management received 16 calls related to Sunday’s storm.
“More were likely encountered by responding agencies as they moved around town,” he said.
The SMPD, Crystal Fire Department, City of St. Marys Public Works and West Penn Power were all busy clearing roadways of downed trees and power lines, Nicklas said.
The DuBois Area School Board, at last week’s meeting, hired Brigette Matson as the assistant superintendent of schools at a salary of $115,000, effective Aug. 19 or thereafter. Her contract of employment, through June 30, 2024, was also approved.
The hiring of Matson, who is currently the Brookville Area School District’s assistant superintendent, was approved in an 8-0 roll call vote. Those voting included David Schwab, Albert Varacallo III, Larry Salone, Jeffery Madinger Sr., Gilbert Barker, Patty Fish, Mark Gilga and Sam Armagost. Lee Mitchell was absent.
Matson’s salary is to be prorated for the 2019-2020 school year.
At their Monday meeting, the Brookville Area School Board accepted, with regret, Matson’s resignation, effective date to be determined, no later than Oct. 15 (60 days).
The DASD assistant superintendent position has been vacant since Wendy Benton was appointed substitute superintendent Dec. 31, 2018, as a result of former Superintendent Luke Lansberry’s paid leave of absence.
With Lansberry’s retirement, effective May 29, the board appointed Benton superintendent of schools, effective May 30, at a salary of $140,000. Her five-year contract is effective through May 29, 2024.
In other hirings, the board approved:
The board also designated the following individuals to act as School Police Officers for the district: William Mostyn, Mary Jane McGinnis and Michael Pisarchick. Benton was authorized, through the solicitor, to apply to the Judges of the Courts of Common Pleas of Clearfield and Jefferson counties to appoint these individuals to act as SPOs for the district, and upon receipt of appropriate clearances, certifications and approval by the Courts, to enter into an employment agreement.
The board appointed department chairpersons for curriculum/instruction for the 2019-2020 school year as follows, as per contract: Sarah Hoare, English/Language Arts, middle school (grades 5-9); Dorothea Hackett, English/Language Arts, high school (grades 8-12); Kelly Roush, mathematics, middle school; John Wayne, mathematics, high school; Jamie Henretta, science, middle school; Jennifer Keith, science, high school; Robert Anderson, social studies, middle school; Jacqueline Norris, social studies, high school; Melinda Swauger, arts and humanities (music), kindergarten through 12; Rebecca Sensor, arts and humanities (music), K-12; Melissa Lingenfelter, nursing, K-12; Amy McCullough, nursing, K-12; Kim Thomas, nursing, K-12; and Cory Hand, health/physical education, K-12. Note: Where there is more than one name in the same department, the salary will be divided.
The board rescinded the action from the May 16 board meeting to hire Kyle Bish and Todd Stiner for the extra-duty positions of varsity assistant for football for interscholastic fall sports for the 2019-2020 school year, as per contract, to be split 50/50. The board then approved their hirings for the same extra-duty positions, as per contract.