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Big Run Fire Department plans construction of new fire station

BIG RUN — The Big Run Volunteer Fire Department will soon have a new home, with expanded capabilities.

In March of 2018, the fire department decided to purchase the former Big Run Carpet building located on Thompson Street and have been renovating it ever since, according to fire Chief Scott Bowers.

The current station has been located at the corner of Main Street (Route 119) since 1953.

Fire department officials have been trying to find a new location for more than 10 years, said Bowers, noting firefighters have difficulty pulling in and out of the station parking lot. Even with their lights and siren on, there have been accidents directly in front of the station.

When the former carpet building was for sale for the first time a few years ago, the fire department didn’t have the money to purchase it. But when it was for sale a second time, the fire department did not want pass up the opportunity.

“This has been an opportunity that fell into our lap,” said Bowers.

The current building they are renovating will be the social hall and event center. Once it is completed, they will begin construction of the new fire hall, which has already been approved.

Prior to making the decision to move, the fire department made a list of pros and cons. The result was a whole page of pros but only one con — the cost.

“This took a lot of commitment from our own members, because this is big,” Bowers said. “You don’t see whole stations and social halls built every day.”

The construction of the new station is expected to go much faster than the renovation being done for the event center. The new station will include offices for the administration, training rooms and, most importantly, larger doors, he said.

“Everybody is looking forward to the new bay doors,” department Treasurer Marcia Bowers said.

The new hall will have 12 by 12 foot doors so they have no problem pulling their trucks in, she said. The department has to be careful what size truck they buy with their current station because the doors are too small, said Marcia Bowers. They also don’t have room for other stations to park their truck in their bay if they get assistance from them on a call.

“We’ve been fortunate with the fundraising ... our community takes care of us,” said Chief Bowers. “It’s not easy. It’s not easy for any fire department.”

The fire department is optimistic about the future of their station, however, he said.

The current fire station has already been sold, with an agreement that the fire department can continue to use it until the construction of the new station is finished in the fall.

Jefferson Co. Fair
Jefferson Co. Fair: Rocking horse honors Krista Reitz

BROOKVILLE — Krista Reitz is being honored at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds with a wooden rocking horse in her memory.

Krista Reitz was an 11-year-old girl who died in a Marchand house fire on Dec. 30, 2018. She was very involved in the Jefferson County Fair, participating in the Jefferson County Fair pageants, and showing animals in the fair each year. She won Princess first runner up in the 2017 Princess Pageant.

She won many awards, and had a love for all of her animals that she raised to show. During the Jefferson County Fair Pageant on Sunday, there was a moment of silence in between the Princess and Junior Queen competition to honor Reitz. This would have been her third year participating in the pageant.

The wooden rocking horse donated in her memory was displayed by the stage for all who came to see. The rocking horse was donated by Dr. William Wise and the Wise Veterinary Clinic in Punxsutawney.

The Reitzes were good clients at the vet clinic, so when this happened to their family Dr. Wise wanted to help in some way.

“Neighbors in need,” Dr. Wise said about his reason behind donating the rocking horse in Reitz’s memory.

Krista’s sister, Calista, participated in the Princess Pageant this year. Afterwards, she stopped over to see the rocking horse in memory of her sister.

Big Run VFD building new event center

BIG RUN — A new event center is being built in Big Run by the Big Run Volunteer Fire Department.

The event center, to be located in the former Big Run Carpet building on Thompson Street, will serve as the social hall for the fire department.

The fire department has set up a committee for the project which includes Chief Scott Bowers, Treasurer Marcia Bowers, Glenn Pearce, Kali Toven, Ryan Gearheart, Matt Powell, Chuck McElwain and Andrew O’Harah.

Currently, it is difficult for the fire department to host many social or fundraising events at the fire hall because it has a capacity of approximately 75 people, said Scott Bowers.

It is expected that once the renovations are complete, the new center, which will have an occupancy of more than 350 people, is where all events will be held. The building project is expected to be complete sometime in August, Bowers said.

The fire department is excited about this because there are not many places in the area that can hold that many people, Bowers said.

“We wanted to make sure that it works for us and our gun raffles,” Marcia Bowers said.

Since most fundraisers currently have to be held at other locations, everything they need has to be transported from the fire station. They have a trailer filled with their kitchen supplies for when they have to go somewhere for fundraising. In addition, some stainless steel kitchen supplies were donated to them by Sheetz — which has been a huge help, according to the fire department. They also received some of the supplies from the auction at the Punxsutawney school.

The new center is expected to have a stainless steel kitchen, air conditioning, new bathrooms, a surround sound system and moveable stage. There will be a lot of freedom to the layout of the main room for events this way.

“It wasn’t a 10-year plan that we went out and solicited funds for,” said Chief Bowers. “We just decided to do it.”

Bowers also said, as with any renovation project, they ran into hidden problems to resolve. Some of it has ended up costing them more than they anticipated, but they believe the event center will pay off in the end.

“I’m here every day talking to the [workers],” Chief Bowers said.

The new event center, which will be available to the public to rent, is already in high demand. People have been asking when it will be open and two weddings have already been scheduled.

To keep up with the building progress, or to inquire about renting it, people can follow the Big Run Event Center on Facebook or call 814-503-0187.

Weedville man creates metal masterpieces through plasma-cutting business

WEEDVILLE — A Weedville man with a passion for metalworking and teaching what he loves recently built a shop to house his plasma cutting business.

Ben Schneider, who is a metalworks and precision machining teacher at St. Marys Area High School, started his plasma cutting business in his friend’s basement, he said.

Schneider also recently built a shop for his “Imagine Plasma Cut Art LLC” business right next to his Weedville home. His products are also on display at the “Jeeppinn” on River Road and Chicken Hill Distillery.

“I have been dreaming about a shop like this since I was 7 years old,” Schneider said.

Using a CNC (computer numerical control) plasma cutter and his “imagination” and creativity, Schneider creates customized signs for businesses, fire pits and enclosures, monograms and more, he says, designing 95 percent of it himself.

Schneider has been making things his whole life, he says. Some of metal items have American flag or elk-themed designs. He expanded into sheet work once he became a teacher in 2012, he said.

Schneider, a St. Marys native, was a tool and dye maker for much of his life. He now makes signs for former students, such as the sign at “Dream Float,” a St. Marys flotation therapy business owned by Zak Breniman.

He recently created the new light-up sign for The Pour House Bar and Grill on South Michael Road, and custom tap handles at the new Straub Brewery Visitor Center and Tap Room.

It’s a rewarding sight to see people take photos in front of signs he created, Schneider said.

He also has a “drawing room” in his new shop, where he takes his time creating designs.

He enjoys passing on his passion for metal working onto his students, Schneider says, and seeing them make gifts for people or be proud of something they made with their hands.

“It gives them a sense of pride to know they can make something that looks professional,” he said. “I show them stuff that I make, too, to keep their imagination going.”

Schneider’s metal products will be on display at the annual Jeep Ride, benefiting the “Grieving After Suicide Support Group” Saturday, July 27 in Elk County.

For more information on IPCA, visit the Facebook page, email or call 814-389-2797.

Elk County
Johnsonburg man charged in Ridgway shooting heads to Elk County Court

RIDGWAY — A Johnsonburg man accused of shooting and killing a man at a Ridgway bar will face formal arraignment at the Elk County Court of Common Pleas Aug. 5.

On May 5, Ridgway Borough Police charged Brian Allen Martin, 35, of Johnsonburg, with criminal homicide, discharge of a firearm into an occupied structure and reckless endangerment, following an incident at Cully’s Bar on West Main Street.

Martin’s preliminary hearing was held July 10 at the office of Magisterial District Judge James L. Martin, where his case was held for court, or put on the trial list. He has been confined in the Elk County Jail on denied bail.

Police responded to Cully’s bar on West Main Street in Ridgway Sunday, May 5 around 2:15 a.m. for reports of shots fired. When officers arrived, Martin was being detained by another man, who reportedly claimed him as the shooter. A Ruger 9mm handgun was empty at his feet, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

When police entered Cully’s, they observed a man lying on the floor in front of the entrance. Several people were tending to his injuries, according to the affidavit. He reportedly had suffered two gunshot wounds to the chest. The man was taken to Penn Highlands Elk, where he later died.

Martin was interviewed around 6:25 a.m., and reportedly told officers he carried his 9mm handgun in the back of his waistband, as he was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

Martin reportedly claimed self defense during his interview with police at 6:25 a.m., stating the victim allegedly struck him several times in the head, so he grabbed his handgun and began firing.

Police reviewed surveillance video from Cully’s, which was consistent with the statements of witnesses and Martin, according to the affidavit of probable cause. An altercation between Martin and the victim, as well as several “bangs” consistent with gunshots, were noted.