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Barnwood Builders film in Emerickville

BROOKVILLE — Old barns are a common sight in Jefferson County where farms have played an important role in the county’s economy and its history.

Many, while well worn, are still in use today. Others are no longer the center of the hustle and bustle of busy farm life but stand as a marker to the generations of hardworking families who toiled the ground or raised dairy or beef cattle. These barns have stood the test of time, and while weather worn, are still viable structures.

It is these long-standing barns, and cabins, that are being salvaged today to be used in a variety of ways. Some may be rebuilt and renovated for use as new homes, others may have their large beams or wood planks incorporated into a modern home’s decor.

For people who follow this trend, there is one television show that comes to mind – Barnwood Builders on DIY Network. The Barnwood Builders crew takes down and rebuilds these structures better than anyone else. Based in West Virginia, the guys from Barnwood Builders travel across the United States salvaging antique barns and cabins.

Crew boss Mark Bowe and his crew – Johnny Jett, Sherman Thompson, Tim Rose, Graham Ferguson, Travis Ferguson and Alex Webb – recently visited the area to salvage an 1853 barn belonging to Norma Schuckers and the late Don Schuckers, of Emerickville. The 90 plus-acre farm had belonged to Don’s great-grandfather. They raised beef cattle, Norma Schuckers said, as well as the hay and more for feed.

Schuckers said she was contacted about selling the barn last year and reached out to her son to see what he thought about it. He told her not to do anything until he got back to her, she said. He then reached out to the Barnwood Builders to see if the show would be interested in the barn. Soon there was a return call and a barn inspection last year to make sure the timbers were salvageable.

Chiara Hollender, one of the producers on DIY’s Barnwood Builders said, “the Schuckers barn is in incredible condition for an 1850’s barn, which isn’t always the case when you’re dealing with antique material.”

“ That simply means that it was in very good shape and just what Bowe is looking for when he scouts out barns and cabins to salvage.

Schuckers said she was told that the barn likely had a few years before it would have begun to deteriorate if nothing was done to preserve it. She didn’t want to see it become like some old barns that deteriorate and fall down but likes the idea of someone new being able to use this structure, which has seen generations of the Schuckers family and is filled with memories.

As the roof of the barn was taken down, Schuckers noted that the experience was “bittersweet.” She’s happy that someone else will use the barn for generations to come but it was hard to see it being taken down. Family members gathered to watch with some of them shedding tears as the roof was taken down and only the four corners remained standing. By the time the crew was finished, even those last timbers were taken down and hauled away.

One has only to watch the crew as they work to know the skill and knowledge these seven men bring to their work. They removed the sides of the barn one week and the roof and corners of the barn a couple of weeks later. The board and beams were hauled to the “Boneyard.”

The “boneyard” is a work site where the crew will rebuild the structure, making whatever repairs are needed and making sure the structure is solid. The wood is processed so that there are no bugs or dirt or anything to prohibit its re-use in a modern day structure, Hollender noted. Once the structure is rebuilt in the boneyard, photos are taken and it is put up for sale. Once a structure is bought, the Barnwood Builders crew dismantles the structure again and transports it to its new location and rebuilds it there.

The demand for repurposed antique barns and cabins has grown so much that the Barnwood Builders are opening a second boneyard in Roundtop, Texas, Hollender noted. The barn, no matter if used as a barn or repurposed into a house, will create memories with a new family. It “ties the past and present together and people together.”

When on a work site, Bowe will travel around the area to see what other barns or cabins are located there, Hollender said. It was noted that this area of Pennsylvania has a lot of barns, many of which look to have been well maintained and are still in use.

The show also looks to celebrate local people, craftsmen, in the areas they visit, Hollender said. While in Jefferson County, they visited The Hardwood Mall in Emlenton that offers hardwood floors, trim, molding and more.

Barnwood Builders first aired on the DIY Network on November 1, 2013. This summer it marked its 100th show. Anyone seeing the camaraderie of the seven men as they work together may think that it can’t be real, but Schuckers said they were some of the nicest people she has ever met, calling them “genuine” and “caring.”

When they would take a break from working on the barn, several members of the crew would stop and talk quietly with some of the Schuckers family members. Jett paused to talk with one family member who had gotten a little teary eyed as the crew took off the barn’s roof. One can see just by observing them that the crew members understand how difficult the process can be for family members watching a piece of their history go away.

This will not be the last time the Schuckers family see their barn. While it is not known at this time where the barn will end up, Schuckers said they would be told when it is sold and where it’s going and eventually they will be able to see what it becomes.

The Schuckers barn episode will premiere on the DIY Network at 9/8C on Sunday, August 18.

Sewage treatment plant nearly finished

BROOKVILLE — The Brookville Municipal Authority received some good news Tuesday afternoon. The new sewage treatment plant is nearly complete.

Engineer Josh Gunnett said he expects substantial completion well before the next BMA meeting, possibly sometime in August.

He said Global Heavy Corporation has completed 98 percent of the work and is finishing up the equipment installation, site excavation, backfilling and concrete work. “They still have some odds and ends inside the building to finish,” he said. Gunnett said a meeting was held with the contractor to discuss remaining items for the substantial completion.

Westmoreland Electric is not far behind, with 92 percent of the electrical work completed. They have also started working on preliminary punchlist items.

Next month the authority will discuss what, if any action, it will take against Global Heavy for the lengthy delays in completing the project. In the contract the substantial completion date was March 19. With the contractor being 147 days behind schedule, the BMA has accumulated additional engineering fees of $66,085.42.

Gunnett also updated the authority on its other projects.

  • Terra Works has begun work on replacing the water and sewer lines on a section of East Main Street to Franklin Avenue. The project is expected to be complete in early October.
  • Approval was given to a request from PennDOT to provide water and sewer service for a new maintenance shed on Route 322. BMA will extend the necessary water and sewer lines at an estimated cost of $200,000, to be paid by PennDOT. “PennDOT wants this to happen fast. They want to be ready for operation by the end of November,” Gunnett said.
  • Work is now underway on the Routes 28 and 322 project. Gunnett said the contractor (Thomas Construction) has discussed some additional areas of work that would benefit the authority and make construction easier.
  • Scheduled for construction next year is an upgrade to water lines on McDowell Road, near Corsica. Approximately 1,400 feet of three-quarter inch line will be replaced with 4-inch line. The authority will contribute 10 percent of the cost, which is now estimated to be $155,000. The upgrade will be paid with county CDBG funds, with Jefferson County currently conducting a feasibility study on the project.

As part of the monthly financial report, the authority approved the transfer of $50,000 from the water and sewer accounts to PLGIT accounts.

The next regular meeting of the Brookville Municipal Authority will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, September 10, in the Borough Complex.

Joy Norwood 


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Alexnelson / Alex Nelson 


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New voting system costs county almost $600,000

BROOKVILLE — It’s official. Jefferson County will have a new voting system in place for the November 5 General Election.

The Jefferson County Commissioners approved paying Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. $597,117.83 for the new election equipment. The equipment includes 40 scanners and 40 ADA-compliant tablets. Voters will once again use paper ballots to make their candidate selections at the polls.

While it may seem a step back into history, there are some changes with the new system over the paper ballots of old. As voters complete their ballot they will place their own ballot into the scanner, which will count the votes.

There will be one scanner and one ADA-compliant tablet at each precinct. There are 37 precincts in the county, so there are three extra scanners and three extra ADA-compliant tablets as backups.

Commissioner Jack Matson said they are working to have one unit at each of the public libraries in the county so that people can get used to the new system before the November election. The commissioners and election staff had wanted to have the new system in place for the November election as a trial run before the presidential election in 2020.

Matson noted that Gov. Tom Wolf has pledged to reimburse the counties 60 percent of their costs to purchase one of the state-approved new voting machine systems. Counties were mandated to make the change to provide security in the election process.

Courthouse update

The painting of the Jefferson County Courthouse has been completed, according to Matson. However, while painting was being done, it was noted that some repairs had to be made to the roof. Those repairs are currently being undertaken and should be done by next week.

The county will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the courthouse on Sept. 13. The courthouse will be open to the public as usual that day with rack cards explaining what each office does. Some people will be in period costumes. Several speakers are planned including Judge John H. Foradora, U.S. Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson, state Sen. Joe Scarnati, state Rep. Cris Dush, Justice Kevin Doverspike, and Commissioners Herb Buller and Jeff Pisarcik. Brookville Mayor Dick Beck will be issuing a proclamation and there will be a proclamation coming from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office.

“The Punxsutawney High School Band will be playing the music and there will be a play performed in the courthouse. It will be the Trial of Judge Heath, an early abolitionist story of Jefferson County where one of our judges was on trial down in Pittsburgh,” Matson said.

“We’ll be having cupcakes made by the bakers at Jeff Tech and we have a new lighting rig to change colors of the bell tower and the clock faces that will culminate the evening with the lighting of the tower and fireworks,” he said.

The original deed of the courthouse has been transcribed and Matson noted that new information has been uncovered such as Alexander Hamilton actually owning property in the Rathmel Run area of the county. There is also going to be a photo exhibit that shows the courthouse across the decades leading up to the celebration and after. Matson noted one of the photos EMS director Tracy Zents showed him Monday was one he had never seen before. Lightning had struck the spire and flames were shooting out of it. He said he was told that it was raining so hard “you couldn’t look up and they couldn’t put men up on top of the ariel (truck). So they were trying to put it out remotely with Tracy running the ladder and someone standing in the Carberry gas station, underneath the canopy, doing hand signals – pointing left, right, up, down – and when they finally hit it, they knocked the spire off and it stuck head first into the roof. But it was out.”

Brockway project

The commissioners approved a request for the county to act as the grant administrator for Route 28/219 intersection project in Brockway. The borough has received two $1 million grants from the state’s Financing Authority Multimodel Transportation Fund Grants.

No date was given for when the project will begin.

Grant agreement

The commissioners approved entering an agreement with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency for $75,000 for the 2019 Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund Program. The money comes from the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee program and can be used for the Jefferson County Housing Emergency Assistance program. It can be used for, but is not limited to, repair or replacement of roofs, furnaces, water heater replacement, electrical repairs and upgrades, plumbing repairs, and foundation repairs. The county expects to be able to provide assistance to 10 owner-occupied housing units with this funding, according to Bill Setree, director of Community Development for Jefferson County.

Liquid fuels money

The commissioners approved an application for county aid under the Liquid Fuels Program for Young Township in the amount of $7,000 for the Doby Road Drainage project. The application was retroactive to July 23.

Hotel Tax funding

The commissioners also approved several projects for funding as presented by the Hotel Tax Committee. Those projects include: $1,400 for the Jefferson County History Center for fall/winter advertising and another $4,384 for the center for Scripture Rocks signage; $2,000 for the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce for a marketing grant; and $2,000 for the Groundhog Club for the 2020 Schedule and Travel Guide.

County veterans emergency fund

Ben Steele, president of the Jefferson County Chapter of ABATE, attended Tuesday’s county commissioners meeting to present the county with a check for $5,342. Another $500 he said will also be coming. The money was raised for the Jefferson County Veterans Emergency Fund.

Jefferson County Veterans Affairs Department Director Krupa Steele said the response from the community has been overwhelming and she is very thankful to all who have donated. More than $10,000 has been raised so far, she said. The fund will offer financial assistance to Jefferson County veterans for the necessities of life. As an example she said a veteran diagnosed with cancer who is awaiting for his insurance to kick in may fall behind on rent or utility payments. It is for situations that are beyond their control, she said.

Any veteran in Jefferson County needing assistance can begin an application process though the Veterans Affairs office. Requests will decided on a case by case basis. The veterans information will be kept confidential within the Veterans Affairs office.

Doe licenses

County Treasurer James “Moon” VanSteenberg said his office is mailing out the first round of antlerless deer licenses. The second round of licenses will be processed beginning Monday, he said, urging hunters to get their applications in the mail by this Friday, Aug. 16. So far a little more than 10,000 licenses have been processed plus 700-800 D-Map tags. There are D-Map tags available again, he said. “They were sold out the first part of July and the (Pennsylvania) Game Commission added another 3,100 tags just for the 30-45 zone and the 34-66 zone. So there are quite a few of those tags available yet.”

The commissioners will next meet at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Jefferson Place.

Kayak launch unveiled in Brookville

BROOKVILLE — The Redbank Valley Trail Association in partnership with Brookville Borough has completed a canoe-kayak launch site in the borough.

The site is located on South White Street (Route 36), adjacent to the bridge and directly across from the Evangelical United Methodist Church. “The launch site is now open to the public for access to Redbank Creek for boating and fishing activities. However, the path from the parking area to the creek is for foot traffic only and vehicles are not permitted,” said Dave Smail, a member of the RVTA board.

The Brookville launch site, he said, was built since the RVTA recognized a need for a quality access point to Redbank Creek in the borough. It is one of the goals of the RVTA to promote recreational activities along the corridor of the trail.

The Redbank Valley Trail Association is a non-profit organization that manages the rail trail, which runs 41 miles from the Allegheny River to its northern terminus in Brookville at the Depot Street parking lot. The lot is across Redbank Creek from the launch site. In addition, the trail has a 10-mile spur from Lawsonham to Sligo.

Smail said the launch site was constructed by a partnership of the Redbank Valley Trail Association board, Brookville Borough and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. “Each organization contributed to the successful completion of the launch site.”

The RVTA demonstrated the need for the site, identification of the specific site, planning and volunteers.

Brookville Borough provided use of a vacant parcel of borough property and the labor and equipment needed for construction.

The Conservancy donated the bulk of the funding for site preparation and signage costs through its Canoe Access Development Fund.

“This project demonstrates that non-profit organizations can work successfully with a government entity to provide a recreational asset for the local community,” he said.