CLARION – The first day of summer was also the first day of business for Clarion Cigar & Pipe, a new shop located at 509 Main Street, near the town’s square. In addition to selling cigars, wood pipes, pipe tobacco and related accessories, the shop also features a smoking lounge.
Ahmed Bilal, the shop’s owner, credits his father, Ahmed Ayaz, with the idea for the business.
“There was no cigar shop around from Butler until maybe up north,” Bilal said. “So we decided that we would give it a try.”
Bilal and Ayaz, who between them own several University Korner convenience stores in the area, sell an assortment of products. The shop carries more than 60 different kinds of cigars and 150 types of pipes. Bilal, noting that the store just recently opened, reported there are plans to expand inventory. To date the most popular products have been cigars and pipe tobacco.
“People need fresh [cigars]. If they [customers] don’t have choices they buy from the internet. But we have the fresh cigars,” explained Ayaz, discussing the quality of the shop’s offerings. “The fresh cigar is one that when you touch the cigar you won’t break the leaf. When you are in business you have to follow things in the professional way. Tobacco doesn’t have an expiration date. Once it starts to get crunchy, your tobacco is old.”
The smoking lounge, located in the rear of the shop, gives customers the opportunity to sample their purchases in a comfortable setting. The lounge has a stated capacity of six to prevent overcrowding. In addition, the shop has three air purifiers running continuously to limit residual smoke and keep the ambient atmosphere comfortable.
“Customers can come in, they can enjoy what they want, grab a cigar and relax,” Bilal said.
“Yesterday, I saw two female customers,” Ayaz said. “They sat here and played chess and also smoked cigars.”
No one under 18 is permitted in the shop.
“Under 18, it’s strictly not permitted in here. We want to make sure we focus on the group of people that this business is intended for. We don’t want minors coming in...and buying the stuff,” Bilal said.
Bilal and Ayaz also honor customer requests, ordering products which might not be in stock.
“We always listen to the customer. What they want us to carry, you know, that’s most important. If we don’t carry what they want, then they’re not going to come in,” said Ayaz, noting that the shop currently has a two-page list of requests that are in the process of being filled.
“We have very competitive prices, you will find we are selling for less than what people are buying online. If they think that a retail store like this on Main Street will be expensive, that’s totally wrong,” Bilal said.
Clarion Cigar & Pipe is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
RIMERSBURG – At its monthly meeting on July 2, the Rimersburg Borough Council passed a resolution to apply for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to help renovate the Rimersburg Community Building.
The CDBG is a federal grant that is governed by local counties to provide “communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs.” Distribution of funds is based on the project itself and the financial eligibility of the community.
Based on the recommendation of council president Roger Crick — who attended the mandatory county-wide meeting for municipalities interested in applying for CDBG money — the council agreed to focus exclusively on the needs of the community building.
“The [Rimersburg Borough Municipal] Authority is putting in for several projects to do with water,” Crick told council members. “I think we [the borough] should restrict ourselves to things other than water and sewage.”
Crick said further that the meeting was only the first step in the process to secure a grant. The next step, he said, is to break the larger community building project into smaller manageable projects that would stand a better chance of getting county support.
“I think a good starter would be what [councilwoman] Pam [Curry] got pricing on — get rid of the mold and mildew,” Crick said, noting that the council already has three bids for mold relief.
After brainstorming some other possible projects related to the Rimersburg Community Building — which included eliminating water from the basement, repairing windows and repointing masonry work. Council members also discussed fixing up the main community room inside the building, making it more and functional for events.
“We want to make it attractive and appealing so people want to use that building,” councilman Tim Yeany said.
Following the discussion, the council decided to hold a work session on July 3 to begin work on the application before the July 26 deadline.
“You might get two projects in one year,” Crick said of the potential for CDBG funding. “We’ve got a five-year window of opportunity, and we need to make use of it.”
In other business, New Bethlehem Police Chief Robert Malnofsky provided an update on his department’s response to a complaint about a residence that is reportedly housing at least 14 people, with children on the street, and overrun by cats.
Malnofsky said that the issue with the children has been discussed with the parents, and the department is currently trying to find alternative housing for the cats. The chief did, however, note that no one in the local police department is certified to enforce building codes regarding occupancy.
“Roger Wright is no longer certified...but I’m going to talk to him to see if he’s willing to do it again,” Malnofsky said, noting that Wright, a former New Bethlehem police officer, recently returned to the local department on a part-time basis. “We have the ordinance parts, but you have to have a certification to enforce the building codes set up by the state.”
Also during the meeting, borough council members approved an agreement to allow Southern Clarion County Ambulance Service employees to obtain insurance through the borough at the employees’ expense.
“This agreement was drafted by our solicitor and includes suggestions from the insurance agent,” Rimersburg Borough secretary Dana Solida noted.
SLIGO – Sligo Borough Council granted approval at its July meeting for a committee to look at the replacement or refinishing of signs welcoming visitors to the town.
Rick Smerkar of Licking Township approached council about a sign project at the June meeting, but there were not enough members present for quorum so no action could be taken.
“We’re seeking approval to put together the four elements of a sign committee,” said Smerkar, who attended the Council meeting with Connell Kindel of Sligo. “We would look at the design, and the committee could do this and bring it back to you guys.”
The four elements, according to Smerkar, would be:
• Look at the design and types of signs — the committee could do this in any format and is looking for volunteers.
• Looking at the cost of typical signage.
• Finding funding sources — where is the money going to come from and “there are places out there to get it.”
• Doing background work and contacting other communities about their signage. Emlenton has done that and had it funded by another party.
Smerkar said at last month’s meeting that communities have different types of signs that often project a community identity. Many are professionally produced on different material from the original Sligo wooden painted sign, to colorful molded plastic. Costs could range from $500 to more than $5,000.
“None of the group has moved forward on anything until we kind of have a blessing on a small committee that I don’t think would last very long,” continued Smerkar. “You’re probably looking at a couple of months to get through most of those issues. I’m looking for feedback. The article created a lot of interest in signage and I think it’s appropriate that it did.
“I’d like to do it, but once again I don’t live in Sligo — I’m in Licking Township,” he added.
Council member Chuck Marsh said he liked the current signs.
“I personally like the signs that we have, and all of the feedback that I got from probably eight people that I’ve spoken to in town is that they also like the ones we have,” said Marsh. “They need painted again and cleaned up and repaired. I think we could do that at a small expense. I like them the way they are. I don’t appreciate somebody coming from a different municipality and telling us what we need to do in our town with our signs.”
“I don’t think I told anyone what to do, but left it as a possible solution,” replied Smerkar.
“You live in Licking Township. Are you doing anything with Callensburg signs?,” asked Marsh.
“Yes, I am, as a matter of fact. This isn’t about me and that’s not why I’m here,” Smerkar said.
Council member Kerry Graham weighed in.
“I kind of find it interesting that somebody is actually showing some concern about our town. Our town needs some work,” he said.
Council president Sherry Laughlin welcomed Smerkar’s proposal.
“We need all of the volunteers we can get because the people in town don’t always volunteer,” said Laughlin. “I appreciate that you’re willing to come in town. If you’re willing to spearhead it, I say go for it because every volunteer is needed no matter what you do or where you’re from. I personally feel the signs need to be updated and modernized. We don’t do an Irish Festival anymore.”
Marsh noted that reason for no Festival is a lack of volunteers.
Laughlin called for a motion to let Smerkar form a committee and anyone who wants to volunteer be on it and bring back suggestions and funding suggestions for council’s decision.
“I see myself as the project manager, because that’s my skill set (a civil engineer),” said Smerkar. “The solution really needs to go through you and all of you decide. Once again, the status quo is always one solution. We’ll try to do a good job and you can fire us at any time.”
“And my goal is to improve Sligo as much as we can,” said Laughlin.
Laughlin updated Council on efforts to replace the footbridge connecting Sligo Borough and Sligo Elementary School and the COG Pool Park. Allen Williams of PennDOT met with Sligo officials to help with a DCED Commonwealth Finance to secure funding for repair of the footbridge through a Multimodal Transportation Fund Grant Application. Applications are due by July 31 and Clarion County Commissioners have been asked for a letter of support.
In another matter, Sligo Borough Council is requesting the appearance of a Comcast representative to appear at the next meeting of borough council to discuss reasons for eliminating the complementary provision of Internet service for the Sligo Rec Center. The Rec Center is a designated disaster center and would need the connection for emergency services. In the past, Internet service was provided to the borough office, but a new stipulation and cable franchise agreement eliminates the complimentary Internet service. Sligo must still approve a new 10-year franchise agreement with Comcast.
In Other Business:
• Grant’s Plumbing is scheduled to test the backflow assembly at the Sligo Rec Center as required by Pennsylvania American Water.
• Electrical work was completed at the COG Pool Park by James Troup. Sligo Presbyterian Church paid for the work, and the church has funds to assist the COG with waterline upgrades. Advanced Disposal also donated trash collection service for the COG, and trees were cut down in the park by Halteman’s Tree Service. According to Marsh, repair of the baby pool or an alternative are being considered.
• Eleven vendors are already signed up for the Homes for the Holidays. Council released a $750 donation to the Sligo Development Council.
• Council decided to utilize the Costars program in the search for a new pickup truck. Costars is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s cooperative purchasing program. Council had hoped to purchase a used pickup truck, but after no favorable bids were received, it was suggested to consider a new vehicle that could also serve as a backup vehicle for snow plowing.
• Councilman Buck Wyant reportedly roped off an open borough street or borough alley and corrected no trespassing signs by the cemetery near the trailer he occupies. Wyant has missed five consecutive monthly meetings of borough council.
• Notice was received from Southern Clarion County Ambulance Service that Rimersburg Borough has agreed to let SCCAS employees sign on with the borough’s health insurance. SCCAS is asking municipalities where they serve to consider extending a monthly donation amount to offset the cost their employees have to pay. Sligo Borough currently donates $250 per year for the ambulance. No action was taken.
• Hager Paving, Inc. was the low bidder for milling portions of Morris Street, paving a portion of Front Street Extension, and seal coating a portion of Lyon Street. Hager was awarded the contract for $38,181.
Attending the meeting were: Laughlin, Marsh, Michele Elder, Graham and Mayor Jeremy Shumaker.
NEW BETHLEHEM – Sandwiched between two executive sessions at Monday night’s meeting of the Redbank Valley School Board were some personnel actions and discussion about changes in the 2019-2020 Parent/Student Handbook that outlined penalties for violation of the district’s tobacco and vaping policy.
High School Principal Amy Rupp explained that the handbook bans the use or possession of all tobacco products, “look-alikes,” vaping supplies and paraphernalia from school property.
The first offense includes a 30-day suspension from a sport or other extracurricular activity. A second offense triggers a calendar-year suspension from the activity. Additional punishments, depending on the level of offense, could include an in-school suspension. The first possession is a three-day suspension.
While the handbook covers all extracurricular activities, most of the discussion from the board centered on the impact of school athletes. Board members Jason Barnett, Dee Bell and Darren Bain all raised questions on the impact on the athletes. Depending on the sport, a 30-day suspension could mean the end of the season for the athlete. A suspension could also trigger a lack of interest in classes and jeopardize their future.
In addition to school policy, tobacco and vaping are illegal.
The board did approve the new handbook with a 7-1 vote. Bain cast the lone vote in opposition.
Other Action Included:
• Hired Lyndsey Blystone as a guidance counselor rate of $44,457 at MS Step One. Total cost of the employee is $70,620.
• Hired Julie Aaron as a musical-Dramatics director at a total cost is $3,359.
• Hired Larry Ortz as a 260-day custodian/maintenance employee at a starting hourly rate of $12 for a total estimated cost is $48,521.
• Hired Gretchen Fenstermaker as a 182-day custodian employee at a starting hourly rate of $10 at a total estimated costs are $36,804.
• Appointed Cheryl Motter as board secretary at a cost of $300 a month stipend. The total cost is $4,065.
• Hired Angela Stewart as speech pathologist for the extended school year rate of $32.61 an hour for a total of 15 hours and a total wage of $552. The total cost is $623.
• Rescinded a vote from May 6 to enter into an agreement with Ignite Education Solutions for a part-time speech pathologist. The rescission was the result of a grievance filed. The vote passed 7-1, with Jason Barnett casting the no vote.
• A motion to grant permission to the superintendent to advertise for part-time, three-days-per-week speech pathologist at an anticipated salary of $26,903 for a total cost of $48,972 failed with a 1-7 vote. Board president Dr. Chad Shaffer voted in favor of the motion.
MAHONING TWP. – Two men were killed from injuries sustained in a two-vehicle crash on Wednesday, July 3, along Route 28/66, just north of Deanville Road, in Mahoning Township.
According to reports, Tyler J. Zeigler, 26, of Butler, was traveling north on Route 28/66 at approximately 6:05 a.m. when his 2016 RAM 2500 truck crossed into the oncoming lane and collided head-on with a 2019 Ford F-250 pick-up driven by Mark L. Kirkpatrick, 59, of Summerville.
Following the crash, police said, Zeigler’s and Kirkpatrick’s vehicles came to uncontrolled stops in the northbound and southbound lanes respectively. Both vehicles sustained disabling damage.
According to Armstrong County Coroner Brian Myers, Zeigler was pronounced dead at the scene. Kirkpatrick was transported to Armstrong County Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The causes of death were multiple blunt force traumas, and the manner of death was ruled accidental.
Although Zeigler was reportedly wearing a seatbelt, Kirkpatrick was not.
The crash is still under investigation by the Armstrong County Coroner’s Office and Pennsylvania State Police.
Funeral arrangements for Zeigler are being handled by Fox Funeral Home in Saxonburg. Arrangements for Kirkpatrick are under the direction of Alcorn Funeral Home in Hawthorn.
An autopsy and toxicology tests are pending.
State police, Dayton District Volunteer Fire Department, Distant Area Volunteer Fire Department, New Bethlehem Fire Co. and Clarion EMS assisted the coroner’s office at the scene.
There sure were a lot of folks in New Bethlehem last Wednesday enjoying time along Red Bank Creek in anticipation of that evening’s Independence Day fireworks display.
The large crowd wasn’t disappointed as the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce once again delivered with a fantastic celebration for the Fourth of July.
Thank you to the chamber and all the fireworks sponsors for the great patriotic event.
* * *
Be sure to look inside today’s paper for The Leader-Vindicator’s annual special section dedicated to the Clarion County Fair, which runs July 21-27 at Redbank Valley Municipal Park in Alcola.
Highlighting the week’s events, the special section includes full daily schedules, stories about the various shows and much more to get you ready for the 81st edition of the fair.
Also, be sure to stop by The Leader-Vindicator’s booth all week at the Clarion County Fair for your chance to sign up to win a brand new grill, courtesy of Redbank Chevrolet. We will also be running a fair week subscription deal for new subscribers and renewals.
See you at the fair!
* * *
Speaking of fairs, the neighboring Jefferson County fair gets underway this weekend in Brookville.
This year’s fair kicks off on Sunday, July 14, and continues through Saturday, July 20. Featured events include the full-sized horse pull on Sunday evening, a concert by Against the Grain on Monday, a truck and tractor pull on Tuesday, ATV races on Wednesday and a mud bog on Thursday. Friday’s events include the Rawhide professional rodeo followed by a concert by A Day Awaits. The demolition derby and Ray Lantz’s Final Cut Concert will round out fair week on Saturday evening.
For full details, visit www.jeffcofair.com.
* * *
If you’re looking for a fun, family event this weekend, the Fort Armstrong Horseman’s Association will host the 23rd annual Fort Armstrong Professional Rodeo July 12 and 13 at Crooked Creek Horse Park in Ford City.
Gates both nights will open at 4:30 p.m., and the rodeo will begin at 8 p.m.
There will be live music from 6 to 8 p.m., and the Kids Calf Scramble will take place at 5 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for adults; and $5 for children ages 4-12. Children under 4 years old are admitted free. A portion of the proceeds from this year’s event will benefit Pacing for the Cure.
Come out and enjoy great food, music, commercial exhibits and rodeo entertainment!
For more information on the event, contact Jeff Altmeyer at (724) 545-1271, or visit www.fortarmstrongrodeo.com.
* * *
The Verna Leith Sawmill Theatre in Cook Forest will celebrate Christmas in July this week with performances of “All She Wants For Christmas — the Musical” presented by the Enchante’ Cabaret.
The curtain will rise at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 11, and Friday, July 12.
It’s Christmas Eve and Mrs. Clause is home with the elves awaiting Santa’s return. While baking her famous cookies, she reminisces about all of the things that make this season her favorite; especially the music. All of the holiday cheer is put aside when Santa gets caught in a winter storm threatening his return home for the first time ever. This fun and classy Christmas show is packed with all your favorite holiday songs and more.
If a laugh is what you are after, the Sawmill will host “Music Magic & Mayhem” on Saturday, July 13, at 7 p.m.
Comedy musician Auggie Cook and magician Eric Thompson will tickle your funny bone with a family-friendly evening of laughs presented by Slapstick Productions.
Tickets for both productions are $15 and can be reserved by calling (814) 227-6655, or visiting www.sawmill.org/theater.
* * *
Looking ahead in the coming weeks, the East Brady Area community will once again celebrate life along the Allegheny River, while marking the borough’s 150th Anniversary, with its annual Riverfest event at Graham Field.
Riverfest will be held Thursday through Sunday, July 25-28, and feature a full carnival and games, food vendors, live entertainment, parade, fireworks and more.
Check back with The L-V in the coming weeks for special pages dedicated to Riverfest and the many events that are planned.
For more information, visit www.eastbradyareariverfest.com.