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INTRODUCING ACE: DuBois selects K-9 dog to help fight drugs

DuBOIS — When DuBois City Police Officer Zayne Rhed completes his training in late March or early April, he will have a new partner — Ace, a Belgian Malinois — in the fight against drugs in the community.

“This brings us one step closer to getting our K-9 Unit,” said city Manager John “Herm” Suplizio.

Suplizio said both Rhed and Officer Casey Doherty visited Phillips Command Dogs in Olean, New York, where Ace has been purchased. The firm will be responsible for the training of both the dog and Rhed, his K-9 handler.

“It’s extremely exciting for me and the police department,” said Rhed, a city police officer since 2012. “It’s something that I have always wanted to do.”

Ace will be trained as a dual-purpose K-9 for narcotics apprehension and tracking, said Rhed, noting that the Belgian Malinois breed is known to be successful in the military and in any facet of police life.

“They have a little bit more energy than a German Shepherd or a Dutch German Shepherd,” said Rhed. “They are extremely hard-working. He’s (Ace) really going to help out the police a lot.”

Narcotic training for Ace began the week of Feb. 3 and is expected to be completed between March 8-15.

Once Ace completes narcotic training, Rhed will start his 80 hours of intensive training and certification at the facility.

“Once my training is finished, the dog and I are certified and ready to work,” said Rhed, estimating that will be sometime between March 23-April 6.

Rhed expressed appreciation to Sgt. Mike Shaffer, the K-9 handler for the St. Marys City Police Department, who has been helpful with answering his questions and providing information about starting a K-9 Unit.

“Once I’m certified, we are both going to train together back and forth,” said Rhed. “I’m just excited and looking forward to serving the DuBois area. It’s going to be a good thing.”


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St. Marys deli owner serves up quality meats, acoustic music

ST. MARYS — Johnsonburg native Bill Thompson connects with the community through offering both quality meats and acoustic-music entertainment.

Thompson, owner of Thompson’s Deli at 63 Erie Ave. in downtown St. Marys, approached Family Food and Deli in Johnsonburg in 1996 about buying the business, adding some of his own homemade products along the way. He also worked at the meat shop Market Basket for five years.

Thompson moved the deli to St. Marys in 2007, where he was welcomed with open arms, he said.

“I had a lot of St. Marys customers when I was in Johnsonburg, and I knew I’d be okay here,” Thompson said.

Growing up, Thompson learned a bit about the butcher trade on his uncle’s farm, he said, but that wasn’t what he grew to love about it.

“I just enjoy meeting and working with people,” he said. “It’s better to work to serve other people.”

He started out just offering meats and cheeses, but wanted a greater variety, Thompson said. He began adding prepared foods like his stuffed-chicken breast and pork chops, a community favorite, and Italian wedding soup. In the winter, Thompson says he will make around 50 quarts of soup per week.

Other popular deli items include sausage, homemade meatballs, beef-on-wick — a high-selling item during the holidays — and baked ziti. There are also some Italian grocery products, such as canned sauces, for sale. Thompson will make trays and take-out foods for occasions like graduation parties as well, something he says is a big part of his business.

Slicing homemade meats isn’t Thompson’s only noteworthy skill. He plays bass and sings in the popular DuBois-based band “The Ride.” He also performs a solo and acoustic act, “Bill Thompson Unplugged,” regularly, playing at DuBois locations like The Hitching Post and The Gateway Cafe. He will perform at Greenlite Restaurant and Lounge on Brusselles Street in St. Marys at 9 p.m. Feb. 28.

Thompson said he is grateful for the friends he has made through the deli business, and for people who support local businesses.

“I have some great regular customers — that’s what keeps me going,” Thompson said.


State lawmakers to examine agencies' spending, performance

HARRISBURG — The budget battle between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature is set to begin Feb. 18 as the House and Senate begin budget hearings.

Wolf unveiled his $36 billion spending plan Feb. 4. Democrats praised the plan for its emphasis on gun control, education and a proposal to raise the minimum wage.

Some Republican lawmakers criticized the plan, saying in a statement the budget address was “filled with flowery language but lacked an actual plan to resolve systemic financial problems Pennsylvania is facing.”

Wolf is asking for $2.6 billion in new spending, but did not include a property or income tax increase in his proposal. He based his numbers in part on a projected 4.5 percent increase in tax collections. He is also asking for a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production to fund infrastructure projects and for a $1 increase on municipal waste hauling.

Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, and Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, took a direct strike this week at Wolf, accusing him and his administration of overspending that has led to cost overruns. The two are asking all of the House’s standing committees to review the state’s executive agencies and make recommendations on how to improve efficiency.

“Taxpayers should be getting a break during these times of economic prosperity, but instead, this governor continues to ask for more from Pennsylvanians’ wallets,” Saylor said in a statement Tuesday. “Our committee leaders will take thorough looks at all state agencies and expenditures, examining which programs are helping move our Commonwealth forward, and which are only holding us back.”

Republican senators have criticized the $1.5 billion increase in the budget saying now is the time to be fiscally disciplined.

“The Governor’s budget proposal contains large spending increases over the previous year of 4.5 percent, which is well over the rate of inflation and considerably higher than previously enacted budget spending increases,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne said. “That, coupled with a significant number of supplemental increases by the Governor, creates a risky financial profile for the future of the Commonwealth.”

Legislators will zero in on several key components in budget hearings next week.

Education

Wolf is proposing to take $204 million from the Race Horse Development Trust Fund and establish a college scholarship program. That would “bankrupt” the horseracing industry, Rep. Sue Helm, R-Dauphin, said.

“It would mean the end of horseracing in Pennsylvania,” Helm said in a statement. “The simple fact is that the governor’s proposed budget is fiscally irresponsible.”

Several Republican lawmakers say Wolf is proposing a 75 percent cut in school safety programs.

“All parties understand the need for this funding, and all parties should understand its importance to school districts,” Sen. Scott Martin said in a statement. “This issue should not be a point of contention in budget negotiations, nor should it be used as a bargaining chip to win concessions on other budgetary issues.”

The governor is also seeking money to expand kindergarten to full-day. He has not estimated how much that will cost.

Charter schools

Wolf is proposing a statewide tuition fee for the state’s cyber and charter schools, a plan he says would save local school districts about $133 million.

State Police

Wolf wants local municipalities who do not have a police department to pay a fee for protection by the state police, a move he says would raise about $136 million. Several of the cities and townships affected have said they cannot afford the fee.

Minimum wage

Wolf wants lawmakers to agree to raise the minimum wage from the federal level of $7.25 an hour to $12 an hour by July 1.

The House and Senate budget hearings will continue through March 5 and will be streamed live online.


Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

DuBois senior Ed Scott, right, is all smiles as referee Randy Evans raises his arm following the Beaver’s nine second pin of Punxsutawney’s Vincenzo Scott Wednesday night. With the fall, Scott became DuBois’ all-time wins leader with 141 while also setting a new District 9 career record for pins with 95. MORE ON PAGE B1

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Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati announces retirement

HARRISBURG — Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, has announced his retirement from the Pennsylvania Senate at the end of his fifth term in office. Scarnati represents the 25th Senatorial District, which includes Cameron, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter and Tioga counties and portions of Clearfield County.

“Today I am announcing that I will not be seeking a sixth term as senator for the 25th Senatorial District. At the end of this year, I will have served the people of the 25th Senatorial district for 20 years. With the support of my Senate colleagues, I have spent the last 14 of those years in the position of President Pro Tempore and served as Pennsylvania’s 31st Lieutenant Governor from 2008 to 2011. I have worked with five governors and throughout this time I am proud to have been a leading advocate for rural Pennsylvania values.

“While I am greatly humbled by those who have once again supported my petition to have my name on the ballot, after many conversations with family and close supporters I have made a personal, and not political, decision that I will not be filing my petitions,” he said. “My concern with leaving office has always been in large part wanting to ensure the 25th Senatorial District is well represented after my departure from the Senate.”

“I came to Harrisburg in 2001 as the first senator elected as an independent. I was disappointed by the choices that our sitting Senator at the time had made, and could not support his candidacy. My independent streak never ended there in my tenure. I have always believed that both sides of the aisle must work together on behalf of our constituents and compromise on issues without compromising on our values. At the same time, I have always sought to protect working families and their hard earned tax dollars,” he said.

“I thank my family for their unwavering support over the last two decades. Serving in public office is not something that you do alone. I am looking forward to traveling and spending more time with my wife Amy, our children and grandchild. I also look forward to helping my parents who are both in their 80s.”

“I sincerely thank my constituents for the honor of representing them. While the announcement of my future departure comes today, I will still be actively engaged in serving my district and the Senate for the next nine months. I also look forward to continuing to lead the effort this year to maintain our Senate Republican Majority. Following my departure from the Senate, I will be taking a more active role in my business and evaluating other opportunities.”