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Floods cause boil water advisory for area residents

EAST BRADY – A boil water advisory was issued Saturday, Jan. 13 for water customers in the East Brady, Rimersburg and Petrolia areas, after the East Brady water system may have been compromised by flood waters.

East Brady Borough secretary Susan Buechele explained on Monday that wells 2 and 3 may have been affected by significant flooding last Friday evening.

“We couldn’t get to wells 2 and 3,” Buechele said, noting that the borough stopped pumping water from those two wells when the flooding began. “We had to assume that ground water may have gotten in.”

Because East Brady couldn’t know for sure whether or not the water system had been contaminated, Buechele continued, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommended that the borough err on the side of caution and advise its water customers to boil their water before they drink it.

“We are being overly precautious just so no one gets sick,” she said, adding that the boil water advisory was issued to all East Brady water customers — including the Rimersburg service area and Petroleum Valley Regional Water Authority, which purchase bulk water from East Brady for their customers. “It is certainly an inconvenience for all of us, but we can’t be too careful.”

According to Buechele, East Brady must get the go-ahead from DEP and complete two days of “good testing” before the boil water advisory can be lifted. Due to the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday, however, DEP could not meet until Tuesday to give the green light for testing.

While it remains unclear how long the advisory will be in effect, Buechele said it could be as late as Friday before it can be lifted.

Due to the boil water advisory, Union School District implemented an early dismissal for Tuesday while it waits for word from the state Department of Agriculture on whether or not school lunches can be served safely with the advisory in place.

“Since breakfast and lunch are not being served, we wanted to send the students home with an early dismissal before or shortly after lunch time,” Union superintendent Jean McCleary said of the decision to release students early, noting that the holiday also prevented the district from getting answers from the state on Monday.

The advisory affects students and employees at the high school and Rimersburg Elementary. Sligo Elementary was not affected because its water comes from Clarion.

Although the schools can operate with running water “as long as precautions are taken,” McCleary said the Department of Agriculture’s response regarding food preparation will determine whether the district can hold a full day of school and serve meals or continue with early dismissals over the next few days.

“The rest of the week will be determined in the future,” she said. “We are taking one day at a time.”

In the meantime, McCleary has followed the policies and procedures for a water boil advisory according to the district’s Crisis Procedures and Mobile Emergency Management Plan (MERP).

As part of the plan, McCleary said bottles of hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap were purchased and placed in hand washing stations, along with posters demonstrating the proper washing procedures during the advisory. Additionally, bags were placed over the schools’ water fountains with signs indicating the fountains were not usable at this time due to the boil water advisory.

The district also purchased bottled water for student and employee consumption at the high school and Rimersburg Elementary until the advisory is lifted.

Residents in Rimersburg Borough were notified that they should not drink their water without boiling it first just before 11 a.m. on Jan. 13.

A notice on the borough’s website states that “under a boil water advisory, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that water be brought to a rolling boil for one minute before it is consumed in order to kill protozoa, bacteria and viruses.”

According to the website, boil water advisory fact sheets are available at the borough office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or online at Fact sheets will also be available outside the borough office door in the event the office is closed.

Updates regarding the advisory will be posted on the Rimersburg Borough website, ExploreClarion, KDKA-TV, WTAE-TV, WPXI-TV and the borough office voicemail at (814) 473-6519 after hours.

East Brady residents will receive updates on the advisory from the borough’s Public Alert software.

SEVERAL PROPERTIES ALONG the Allegheny River in the village of Rimer in Madison Township (Armstrong County) sustained ice and water damage on Friday, Jan. 12, as above-freezing temperatures and heavy rain the night before caused flooding in some areas along the river.

Josh W / By JOSH WALZAK L-V Editor 

TRAILERS, SHEDS, CAMPS, boats and other items were bombarded with rushing water and large chunks of ice as the Allegheny River at East Brady swelled and spilled over its banks last Friday. Among the hardest hit were the Bradys Bend Township properties just downstream from the bridge (pictured).

RV Board considers financial status for next five years

NEW BETHLEHEM – During their monthly meeting on Monday, Jan. 8, members of the Redbank Valley School Board received a five-year projection for the financial condition of the school district.

“The five-year projected budget represents costs and revenues based on the actual spending and revenue that was released in the 2016-17 annual financial report that the district sends to the state Department of Education,” Redbank Valley School District superintendent Michael Drzewiecki said following the meeting, adding that the plan also represents projected spending as of December 2017 for the current school year. “Based on the costs and revenues of prior years, we are projecting future budgets to facilitate fiscal planning for the future.”

The information was presented by district business manager Stephanie Smith and Drzewiecki based on yearly increases of 3 percent for salaries, 5.85 percent for healthcare benefits, 2.2 percent for charter, private and vo-tech school tuitions, 2.2 percent for transportation expenses and a set amount for retirement benefits from Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) and other pertinent item-specific increases across the board. The projected budgets, Smith said, include no rate increase in local property taxes and an unchanging rate of state and federal financial support from 2018 through 2023.

“We have set this up so we are able to easily put in different scenarios and see what their results will be,” she explained of the five-year plan, noting that with the exception of the PSERS information, all other figures are estimates and not set in stone. “Mike [Drzewiecki] and I went over every single line item and these are the assumptions that we made.”

With each year resulting in deficit spending, district officials pointed out that the projected budgets will have to be balanced using money from the $6.2 million general fund balance.

According to the five-year plan, the projected budget for the 2018-19 school year is $18,756,964 with an approximate $1.2 million deficit. This leaves a fund balance of $5,051,543. Following this trend, the projected budget for the 2021-2022 school year is $20,776,760. With a projected deficit of $2,632,950 and a starting fund balance of $1,091,593, the district is left with a depleted fund balance and an overall deficit of $1,541,357.

“At some point, following the pattern of the five-year projected budget, if we continue the same pattern, the fund balance will be depleted and this will no longer be an option for balancing the budget,” Drzewiecki recently said, explaining that the district will have to continue to explore fiscal strategies to increase revenue, decrease spending or a combination of both to balance the budget.

Following the presentation and a recommendation from Drzewiecki, board president Chad Shaffer asked for volunteers to serve on a financial committee.

The purpose of the active financial committee, according to Drzewiecki, is to “develop long-term fiscal planning strategies to ensure [the district] can continue to provide the resources for a strong learning community.”

Reminding the board that budgeting can finally be affected by a number of variables, Smith said that local real estate revenue “definitely affects the bottom line.”

“It’s very important for the district to continue to look at our budgets and our actuals to stay on top of the changes and make informed business decisions,” she said.

Redbank Chamber takes festival in new direction

NEW BETHLEHEM – Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce officials announced last week that the leadership structure for the group’s signature event, the Peanut Butter Festival, will take on a new look this year.

At the chamber’s Jan. 11 meeting in New Bethlehem, members discussed plans to abandon the traditional festival chairperson approach, instead opting to bring the festival back under the chamber board’s oversight.

“Since this is a chamber event, the board of directors needs to be the overseers,” board member and long-time festival co-chairperson Dianna Brothers said following the meeting.

She explained that the event, held each September, had grown too large in recent years for one, two or only a small handful of people to oversee it. Now, with the new plan in place, each of the chamber’s 12 board members will be assigned one aspect of the festival to oversee.

“I think it’s the best answer to our problem,” Brothers said, adding the the idea was first brought to the chamber board in November where it garnered support.

Chamber president and last year’s festival co-chairman Gordon Barrows said he favored the new approach, saying that it provides more even distribution and delegation of duties, taking the full burden off one or two people.

“I think it will work well,” he told the chamber members.

Brothers later explained that under the plan, the existing committees for each aspect of the festival will remain intact under the new leadership. The board members will work with the committees, including committees for various events, entertainment, the parade, wine walk, fireworks, vendors and more.

Brothers noted, however, that the committees are always in need of volunteers to help with both planning and work during the festival itself. She said that the board hopes to begin committee meetings in late February or early March to get everything up and running for the Sept. 14-16 festival.

“We’re excited about it and think that it will work,” she said.

Members at the meeting also expressed hope that the chamber can work with the high school this year to avoid a conflict between the festival and the school’s homecoming football game and dance, which occurred last year and impacted attendance and involvement with the festival.

In other business at last week’s meeting, chamber members took time to look into different options for the chamber’s annual dinner.

After a closed door session, Brothers said the group decided to hold this year’s dinner at the Hawthorn Fire Hall, rather than a local restaurant as it has done for a number of years. She said the main reason is because the chamber’s membership has grown so much in the past few years that they needed more space for the dinner crowd.

“We’re just busting at the seams,” she said. “That gives us more room.”

The dinner, scheduled for Saturday, March 24, will be catered buffet-style by Zack’s of New Bethlehem.

Brothers said the new venue will also give the group additional space for its Chinese auction, awards presentation and new after-event entertainment provided by a DJ.

She said the chamber will soon be asking businesses to donate items toward the Chinese auction, and will soon be seeking nominations for the awards presented to the Citizen of the Year and Business of the Year.

Also looking ahead, the chamber board set the dates for the Community Yard Sales as June 1-2, as well as July 3 for the Independence Day fireworks display.

Union grad helps with school's big buck contest

RIMERSBURG – With the first day of deer hunting season treated like a major holiday in this area, and with school’s closed for a day or two each year due to buck season, it’s no secret that hunting remains a popular pastime for many local youngsters and their families.

To tap into that hunting fever, a Union High School teacher, with the help of a former student who is now licensed in taxidermy, held a big buck contest at the school last month.

This contest has a twist, however, compared with other contests that crown winners by the weight of the deer.

“Everyone around here does the big buck contest, but instead of doing it on the weight, I wanted everyone to have a chance,” Union teacher Ken Gibbs said last week, noting that he wanted to encourage all young hunters to take part.

All they had to do was submit a photo of their deer, which were posted in the school through the Christmas break.

More than 25 students were successful with their hunts this year, with many girls as well as boys.

“It’s not a boys’ sport in this school,” Gibbs said. “We had a lot of girls too.”

From all the entries, three prize winners were randomly selected.

Seventh-grader Roger Blystone was the first place winner, with Emma Pritchard receiving a second place prize and Doug Lawrence finishing in third.

Blystone, who said he bagged both a buck and a doe this year, was the lucky winner of a free European-style taxidermy mount of his deer’s skull and antlers.

The gift was donated by 2016 Union graduate Jonathan Best of Rimersburg.

Best, a hunter himself, said he got into taxidermy because his hunting successes were getting too costly for him to pay to have them mounted. He learned how to do the European-style taxidermy work, obtaining his state license a couple of years ago.

Best explained that his style of taxidermy differs from the traditional mounts which preserve the animal, fur and all, from the antlers down to the shoulders. While those mounts can cost upwards of $600 each, Best said the European-style mounts run closer to $50 and preserve the skull and antlers.

Another advantage, he said, is that his style of taxidermy doesn’t take up as much space.

After perfecting the art, Best said his friends started coming to him to have their deer turned into trophies, and he is using the extra income to help pay for books and gas during his semesters studying petroleum engineering at Clarion University. Now in his sophomore year, Best said he did more than 100 mounts this year as part of his business, Best European Taxidermy.

Gibbs said he spoke with Best in October about the school’s contest, and Best volunteered to donate a free mount to the winner.

Gibbs said that outdoor sports like hunting are very big in the Union area, and that the school works a lot with the Rimersburg Rod & Gun Club to promote the sports to the young generation.

“It’s nice to celebrate it and get that support,” Gibbs said, noting that he hopes to continue the buck contest next year.

Leisurely Visits

Mother Nature put on quite a show last Friday, first by turning 50-plus degree weather back into the winter freeze in just a matter of hours.

Those higher temperatures that we enjoyed for a day or so, led to substantial ice and snow melt in the area, which combined with the rains of last Thursday night and Friday morning. All that water forced the ice on the Allegheny River, Red Bank Creek and other local streams to break up and move out, but not before flooding some low lying areas in the East Brady, New Bethlehem, Lawsonham and Rimer areas, among other communities.

Now, with freezing temperatures back as the norm, the huge chunks of ice remain on stream and river banks, having to be removed from some roadways in the region.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures could reach back up into the 40s by Saturday, with rain showers predicted for Saturday night through Monday.

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After the recent roller coaster of weather, we sure are ready for some small sign that spring may be just around the corner.

Marty Smith of Parker reports that a flock of about 20 robins visited her yard last Friday before the temperatures dropped.

Smith reports that she knows that the robin sighting doesn’t mean that spring is at hand, but it was nice to see the birds frolicking on the unfrozen ground, at least for a few minutes.

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If you need something else to help get your mind off the weather — and the Steelers’ recent exit from the playoffs — we have a tasty way to do just that.

Local Girl Scouts are now in the midst of their annual cookie sale, offering eight varieties of the annual treat.

Not only are all the favorites such as Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Samoas, Tagalongs, Trefoils and Savannah Smiles back, but the scouts are also once again selling the new and popular Girl Scout S’Mores cookies and the gluten-free Toffee-Tastic cookies.

Almost 1 million Girl Scouts participate in the cookie program each year, generating nearly $800 million in sales during the average season. And all of the net revenue raised — 100 percent of it — stays with the local council and troops.

Councils use cookie earnings to power amazing experiences for girls through their programming, while girls and their troops decide how to invest in impactful community projects, personal enrichment opportunities, and more.

To buy cookies locally, contact troop leaders Cathy Walzak at (814) 745-3832 or Jessie Truitt at (814) 229-6652.

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The ballots for our annual Readers Choice Awards are pouring in, but we want to see even more people in our area take part in the voting this year.

To that end, we are offering everyone who submits a completed ballot a chance to win one of three $50 gift cards to local businesses. Once all the votes are tallied at the end of the month, we will draw three winners from all the ballots that have been entered. The winners will enjoy $50 to spend at Tom’s Riverside, Sunoco and the Outlook Inn.

The ballot can be found inside The L-V each week through the end of the month. They can be mailed in or dropped off at our office, so don’t delay for your chance to win while you also help your favorite businesses win this year’s awards.

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Rather than fight it, why not embrace the winter season? The annual Marienville Winterfest will be held on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Venture to the Snowmobile Capital of Pennsylvania for food, raffles, bingo, chili cook-off, children’s games, Chinese Auction, scavenger hunt, snow sculptures, snowmobile torch-light parade, and sky lanterns to heaven.

For more information, call (814) 927-8218, email or visit