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NEW BETHLEHEM – A quick response by local fire crews, and a little luck, kept one of Clarion County’s landmark sites from going up in smoke yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.

At around 3 p.m., firefighters were called to the Red Bank Mills complex along Liberty Street for a report of a fire in the basement of the oldest part of the mill, dating back into the 1800s.

When crews arrived, smoke could be seen coming from a basement window of the green, four-plus story large wooden building.

Firefighters from New Bethlehem, Distant, Hawthorn, Limestone and Rimersburg arrived at the scene during one of the most difficult times of the week to get crews because so many firefighters work outside of town.

New Bethlehem Fire Chief Barry Fox said that it appears that an auger in the basement of the mill, which transports the grain into the upper levels of the building, jammed, causing the friction to start the grain smoldering and smoking.

“It was in a bad spot in the basement,” Fox said of the difficulty in getting firefighters, hoses and water into the building. But, he noted, the location probably helped save the structure.

An employee of the business said that luck also played a factor as the fuses for the machine burned out, shutting off the machine before it could spark the dust and possibly cause an explosive situation.

“That could be explosive,” Fox said of the old building, which is one that firefighters keep a close eye on.

“This is one of our fears,” Fox said of a fire at the mill. “It’s the oldest part of the mill.”

“Fortunately it was contained in the basement.”

It appeared that there was no structural damage to the building, and that the machinery was also not damaged badly.

Crews were starting to leave the site around 4 p.m., thankful that a major disaster had been averted.

New Bethlehem Fire crews were back in service at 5 p.m.

RV Board hears reports on first week of school

NEW BETHLEHEM – During their meeting last Tuesday evening, Redbank Valley School Board members heard reports on the first week of school as well as an update on the flood-damaged heating system at the primary school.

“Three weeks ago, I would have never believed we would be where we are today; six weeks ago I really wouldn’t have,” said elementary school principal Cheryl McCauley of the primary school, commending the district’s maintenance staff and teachers’ efforts to ready the building for the first day of school following the July 19-20 flood. She also said that several community members and the Clarion-Limestone School District have donated books, games and other items that teachers need for the classroom. “Watching the primary school, the best word I can come up with is metamorphosis.”

McCauley also thanked the PTO for its efforts to replace 16 classroom carpets, which were obtained through RMS Furniture at wholesale price.

“We got the rugs at a great price, and they came on the first day of school,” she said, explaining that the rugs were delivered to the classrooms and unrolled by the students. “The kids were so excited. It was a make-your-skin-crawl kind of moment.”

McCauley ended her report by saying that there are currently 609 students enrolled in the elementary schools, which shows that the district is growing.

High school principal Amy Rupp began her report by discussing enrollment from 2016 to the current year.

“You can see its peaks and valleys depending on the number of students in each class,” she said, adding that the high school’s enrollment this year is 487 students, including 12 new students. “Next year...we’re projected to be back up to the little over the 500 mark.”

In addition, Rupp said that the high school is continuing efforts to contact district students currently enrolled in cyber school programs outside of Redbank Valley to reenroll in the district.

“We’re slowly hearing back from about one a week,” she said.

Rupp also reported that she kicked off the school year by challenging students in her building to get to know a new student each week, to join a club or play a new sport, and to attend and watch an athletic event. She also encouraged students to stand up for anyone being mistreated and to always be kind.

“It seemed to go over well,” she said. “I feel the school year got off to a good start.”

In his report, district superintendent Dr. John Mastillo updated the board on replacement of and service contracts for the heating system at the primary school, which was affected in the July flood.

After some discussion about the competing bids, the board voted unanimously on two motions to enter an agreement with Johnson Controls for the complete replacement of unit ventilators in the amount not to exceed $234,100, and to enter an agreement with Combustion Service and Equipment Co. to repair boilers at the primary school for a cost of $13,200 per boiler, totaling $26,400.

Mastillo also noted that results from the latest round of air quality tests in the primary building were even better than previous tests, which showed the air quality to be in the good range.

“The numbers were even lower this time than what they were previously,” he said.

Mastillo concluded his report by saying that after receiving numerous complaints about changes to this year’s dismissal schedule at the primary and intermediate buildings, the district decided to revert to the dismissal process from previous years.

“This will eliminate the crossover and transfer between Intermediate and Primary,” Mastillo explained. “It will reduce the seat time for students coming out of Primary and Intermediate.”

The updated dismissal procedures were set to take effect Wednesday, Sept. 4.

Other Business

• Three board members were recognized for multiple years of service on the board. Dee Bell and Ann Kopnitsky received certificates for 16 and eight years respectively, and Bill Reddinger received a plaque for 24 years of service. The awards were presented by Jim Summerville of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

• Board members voted to enter into an agreement with the New Bethlehem Police Department and New Bethlehem Borough Council to provide traffic control services at the high school at a revised rate of $15 per hour.

Bell abstained from the vote.

• A motion to enter into an agreement with New Bethlehem Borough permitting the use of New Bethlehem Police Department officer services for events and extracurricular activities failed in a 1-7 vote, with Bell abstaining.

• In an 8-1 vote, with board member Darren Bain voting against the motion, the board approved the hiring of Armstrong Lock and Security for events and extracurricular activities at a rate of $34 per hour.

• The board also approved a resolution to request permission from New Bethlehem Borough for the district to have its own school crossing guards.

• The resignation of high school math teacher Eric Painter was accepted. The district will hold Painter for 60 days or until a replacement can be identified.

• Wendy Smith was hired as a part-time speech therapist for 110 school days as a substitute therapist at the district’s daily rate of $90.

Smith’s permanent hire is contingent on her obtaining the required continuing education courses to activate her state certification. Upon official activation, the cost will be based on step one of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for a total cost of $48,972.

Commissioners provide update on fire-damaged building

CLARION – “We had a tragedy, as everyone well knows, our building caught fire. We want to acknowledge and thank the first responders...for getting it out so soon.”

With these words, Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan began his report on the fire and subsequent damages sustained by the county office building along North Sixth Avenue in Clarion. The recently purchased building, which houses the joint office of the Clarion County Probation Department and District Judge Duane Quinn, caught fire on Thursday, Sept. 5 at approximately 5:40 p.m.

Although the official cause of the blaze is pending an investigation by the state police Fire Marshal, Tharan said on Tuesday morning that from all video accounts, it appears that an outside “cigarette pot” started the blaze.

Tharan said that while the full extent of the damage is not yet known, it appears that the front entryway, both public bathrooms and both office waiting rooms were destroyed.

“The fire was so intense that it just blew out the front doors, melted the aluminum frames, [but] was contained to the foyer and public areas,” he said, noting that the building’s construction prevented the fire from moving to other parts of the building such as the attic or the district courtroom. “[The building’s] construction kept it from being a total loss.”

Tharan mentioned a county ordinance that prohibits smoking within 40 feet of a building.

“I don’t ever want to see one of those smoking pots anywhere near a building again,” he said, adding that the county may have to revisit its smoking policy.

As for the county services displaced by the fire, both the probation and district judge’s offices are operating temporarily out of the second floor lobby of the Clarion County Courthouse and District Judge Tim Schill’s office in Shippenville respectively. Tharan said the probation department hopes to move their facilities to the back part of the damaged building by the end of next week.

“The front [entrance] will probably not be operational for two to three months because of the damage out there,” he said.

As a follow-up to the report, Tharan and fellow commissioners Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley, during their Sept. 10 meeting, approved an emergency declaration stating that “the damage [from the fire] was sufficient to require immediate restoration and repair protect the property from further exposure and damage, remove dangerous conditions created by the fire and return the building to serviceable condition.”

According to the declaration, county officials contracted Service Master by Bell to start clean-up efforts, which include the removal of drywall and insulation and a thorough cleaning of the entire building due to excessive smoke damage.

Tharan concluded the report by thanking the specific groups for their rapid response to the scene the evening of the fire. They included Limestone Township and Clarion fire departments, as well as the Clarion Borough Police Department, Clarion University Police Department and Clarion Hospital EMS.

He also praised the county’s IT department for its quick action in reconnecting computers and phones at the temporary office locations, as well as the maintenance department for staying overnight at the scene to watch for any signs of rekindling.

“The fire departments did a fantastic job in getting the fire out for as hot as it was burning,” Tharan said.

Other Business

• September was proclaimed as Recovery Month.

According to Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission executive director Kami Anderson, one in four families in the United States is affected by addiction.

“It’s quite a few,” she said. “[But] people do recover and go into treatment to get better.”

• The commissioners approved Resolution No. 19 which authorizes the submission of an application for a $1 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to fund activities associated with the Clarion Hospital Emergency Room renovation and addition project.

• A $46,868.82 grant was awarded to Nonprofit Development Corporation from Developmental Disabilities Funds for repairs and work to the DD House.

• The commissioners granted a request to waive $1,500 in GIS fees for the state Department of Environmental Protection to get updated Clarion County tax parcel GIS data.

The motion was approved with the condition that DEP must agree not to sell, share or use the information for monetary gain outside of its office.

• County officials approved the purchase of five new seven-passenger transportation vehicles and one wheelchair van at a total cost of $328,415 pending legal review.

• After the salary board created temporary jobs of part-time interim director of central accounting and full-time interim human services fiscal director, the commissioners repositioned Rose Logue and Sandy Ion respectively to fill the positions.

Logue was hired at a rate of $25.42 per hour, and Ion was hired at a salary of $45,100. Both positions are effective Sept. 9 through Jan. 31, 2020.

The check's in the mail

SLIGO – The Sligo Borough Authority is apparently the victim of identity theft.

A check for Dumbaugh Electric was in the mail, but someone decided to steal the check from Dumbaugh’s mailbox and make their own checks from the Sligo Authority.

“Last month on Aug. 6, we approved a payment to Dumbaugh Electricity for $3,900 for pump repairs we had done,” said Sligo Borough secretary Janey Corle. “On Aug. 7, I mailed out the checks and apparently on Friday or Saturday somebody got into Dumbaugh’s mailbox and stole four pieces of mail, our check included.”

However, the thieves didn’t steal the check so they could cash that check and keep the money. They stole it to get Sligo’s routing number and account number and make their own checks. Thanks to technology, they made their own Sligo checks and copied the signatures off of the check they took.

Whoever stole it worked fast. The bogus checks were cashed Aug. 12.

“It looks like an original check,” said authority chairman Chuck Marsh. “Two checks were made to Robert Allen Pittman of Pittsburgh.”

Marsh said that so far, only two checks have been written and they total almost as much as the original check for Dumbaugh.

“What happened was the guy that was doing this had the checks when he was stopped on the interstate and the Maryland police realized he had other people’s mail and they started researching and found out what was going on,” said Corle. “They called Dumbaugh to let him know and then Dumbaugh called me.”

At Monday night’s meeting, the authority closed its operating sewer fund and opened a new sewer fund checking with Northwest Savings Bank and designated signers as Chuck Marsh, Jeff Elder and Janey Corle, with two signatures required on all checks.

Corle talked with state police in both Maryland and Pennsylvania.

It is not quite sure if the Sligo Authority will lose any money, but Corle said some related expenses could include the cost of ordering new checks, the time required researching the situation, and just sorting out things.

Leisurely Visits

You may have noticed a little something extra with this week’s newspaper. Our 72-page full-color Kickoff 2019 Football Magazine is included with this week’s issue.

Last year, we published the magazine and sold it separately from the newspaper, prompting many readers to ask for it to be included in the paper. And so we listened, and are proud to present a great look at our local teams and players, including those from Redbank Valley, Union/A-C Valley, Clarion/Clarion-Limestone, Karns City, Brookville and more.

We hope you enjoy this special keepsake edition and that you continue to cheer on your local team this football season!

* * *

Time is running out to give your hometown some love and to make sure it makes it into our upcoming I Love My Hometown special section.

And, the best part is you could win a $100 gift card and other prizes just for submitting a small writing about your hometown.

If you love your hometown, let us know the following:

• What makes your hometown a great place to live and work?

• What are some of your favorite memories from your hometown?

• What is something you miss about your hometown?

• What is something you are looking forward to in your hometown?

• And anything else you may wish to include about your hometown.

Photos from the past and present are also being sought to showcase our hometowns.

We want to feature New Bethlehem, Rimersburg, Sligo, East Brady, Hawthorn, South Bethlehem, Clarion, Dayton, Summerville — ANY HOMETOWN in our readership area!

Send us your submission and photos to by noon on Friday, Sept. 13, and you’ll be entered in to win a $100 Gift Card, as well as tickets to the Pittsburgh Zoo. Three prizes total!

Don’t delay — And make sure your hometown is not left out in this very special section in The Leader-Vindicator.

* * *

The Brick House Bed and Breakfast in Oak Ridge, just north of New Bethlehem along Route 28, will host its 7th Annual Open House and Fall Festival this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15.

Festivities include local crafters, vendors and great food music on the grounds of the historic 1820 Brick House.

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, with 80 Degrees with Alex Shumaker performing from noon to 2 p.m. and Jake Shumaker from 2 to 4 p.m. On Sunday, the festival is open noon to 4 p.m. with performances by Billy Corbin throughout the day.

There will also be Army truck hay rides both days, and drinks by Trails to Ales Brewery.

For more information, visit

* * *

Kudos to the volunteers in the Sligo area who have brought their dream of creating a Veterans Memorial Park in that community to reality.

The park will be dedicated at a ceremony this Saturday at 11 a.m., located at the park at the corner of Colerain and Bald Eagle streets.

The park and its monument to our local veterans look fantastic and will be a great addition to the Sligo area.

We not only salute the local veterans who served, but all those who put in the work to bring this project to life.

* * *

You won’t want to miss next week’s issue of The Leader-Vindicator as we not only bring you a special third section dedicated to the upcoming New Bethlehem Peanut Butter Festival, to be held Sept. 20-22 in Gumtown Park, but we will also feature our annual Fall Sports Posters.

The posters will include photos of the fall sports teams from Redbank Valley, Union, Clarion and Clarion-Limestone.

Be sure to pick up your copy and proudly display the posters at your home, in your business and throughout the community to show support for our student athletes!

* * *

Award-winning speaker and best-selling author Kerry Magro will be on hand on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at the Clarion Area High School auditorium.

Diagnosed with autism at age four, Magro rose to the challenge and is now a doctor, professional speaker and author.

Magro will speak from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by a book signing at 8 p.m.

The event is sponsored by Clarion County Human Services and Clarion Area Title I.