CLARION – Local attorney Sara Seidle-Patton is on track to become Clarion County’s first-ever female judge of the Court of Common Pleas as the Clarion-area resident secured both the Republican and Democratic party nominations for the position in yesterday’s primary election.
Seidle-Patton, a one-time reporter for The Leader-Vindicator who now operates law offices in New Bethlehem and Clarion, topped long-time Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron of Limestone Township on both party ballots.
On the Republican side, Seidle-Patton captured 54 percent of voters to Aaron’s 39 percent. And on the Democratic ticket, Seidle-Patton garnered 53 percent of votes to Aaron’s 31 percent.
The three-way race for the judgeship also included current Clarion County public defender Erich Spessard who finished with 6.6 percent of the Republican vote and 14 percent of the Democratic vote.
With both major party nominations secured, it appears Seidle-Patton will take over from current Clarion County President Judge James Arner who plans to retire at the end of this year after serving two 10-year terms on the bench.
In the race for the district attorney seat being vacated by Aaron, Drew Welsh, currently the assistant district attorney, won the Republican nomination with 52 percent of the vote. His challenger, Maria Battista garnered 47 percent of Republican ballots. More than 570 write-in votes were recorded on the Democratic side of yesterday’s election; however, it was unknown as of press time who the winner of that party’s nomination is.
Sticking with the courts, incumbent District Judge Jeffrey “Zelmo” Miller breezed to re-election on both party ballots, topping challenger Michelle “Shelly” Ritzler 76 percent to 23 percent on the Republican side, and 66 percent to 32 percent on the Democratic side to secure both nominations.
Miller oversees District 18-3-04 which includes New Bethlehem, Rimersburg, East Brady and other southern Clarion County communities.
In the hotly contested race for the district judge post in District 18-3-03 based in Knox, Jarah Heeter appears to have won both party nominations. She captured nearly 38 percent on the Republican ticket, and 42 percent on Democratic ballots.
For Clarion County Commissioner, the three incumbents did well, with Republicans Wayne Brosius and Ted Tharan receiving their party’s nomination, and Ed Heasley receiving the Democratic nomination.
Brosius finished as the top voter-getter on the Republican side, finishing with 41 percent. Tharan ended the night with 34 percent and challenger Kirke Wise finished with 23 percent of the Republican vote.
Brosius, Tharan and Heasley will move on, along with a Democratic write-in winner that will be announced in the coming days. They will compete in November for the three commissioner positions with the county.
Incumbent Register and Recorder Greg Mortimer, incumbent Prothonotary Jeff Himes and incumbent Treasurer Tom McConnell, all Republicans, were unopposed on yesterday’s ballots.
Three names were on the two ballots yesterday for the three county auditor positions. Republicans Sue Leonard (54 percent) and Jolene Weaver Frampton (45 percent) will advance along with Democrat Pamela Zahoran.
In municipal races, only a handful of contested races could be found across the county. Locally, in the race for the Republican nomination for Redbank Township supervisor, challenger Kenneth Lee defeated incumbent Douglas Minich, 80 percent to 17 percent. Also, incumbent Sligo mayor Jeremy Shumaker secured the Republican nomination with 86 percent of the vote, fending off former mayor Susie Wyant who received 12 percent.
Voter turnout in Clarion County was at 41.6 percent.
Incumbents prevailed in yesterday’s primary elections in Armstrong County, as the current county commissioners, controller and treasurer all secured nominations to move on to the November general election.
In the race for county commissioner, incumbent Jason Renshaw and newcomer Don Myers secured the Republican nominations. Myers was the top Republican vote-getter with 27.47 percent of the vote while Renshaw was a close second with 27.17 percent. Greg McKelvey finished with 20 percent of the vote, while Deb Whiteman finished with 14 percent and Jorn Jenson with 9 percent.
On the Democratic side, incumbent Pat Fabian and Anthony G. Shea Jr. were the only two candidates and will move on to face Renshaw and Myers in the fall general election for the three county commissioner seats.
A Republican race for county controller saw incumbent Myra Miller win handily against the challenge from Billie Marconi-Kirkpatrick. Miller secured the nomination with 68 percent of the vote to Marconi-Kirkpatrick’s 31 percent. Miller will face Democrat Calvin Creighton in the general election.
Incumbent county treasurer Amanda Slagle-Hiles won the Republican nomination with 77 percent of the vote, fending off challenger Wendy Edmonds who received 22 percent. Slagle-Hiles will face Democrat Jean Stull in the general election.
As for municipal races in the northern section of the county, few choices were presented to area voters.
Among the only contested races in the primary was a supervisor race on the Republican ticket in Bradys Bend Township in which James Mortimer finished with 57 percent of the vote to William Guntrum’s 40 percent. Many of the municipal races had only one candidate, while the majority of positions had none and will be filled by a write-in vote winner.
In the special election for the area’s state Senate seat, Armstrong County voters largely favored Republican Joe Pittman who finished the night with 71 percent of the county’s vote to Democrat Susan Boser’s 28 percent. Pittman was the winner across the 41st Senatorial District as well, and will take over from retired state Sen. Don White (R-Indiana).
Voter turnout in Armstrong County was at 25.6 percent.
All results are unofficial until certified by county elections officials. Write-in winners will be listed in a future issue of The L-V.
NEW BETHLEHEM – As New Bethlehem voters went to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots for the latest wave of borough council openings, an additional open position was announced a couple of blocks away from the polling precinct as council members met for their May meeting.
Citing health issues, councilman Ron Geist resigned for the elected office. Geist was not present at the meeting but his fellow council members approved his resignation with regret and appreciation for his service.
Geist started on the council January 2018 after being the top vote-getter in the November 2017 election to fill four four-year borough council seats.
Now, borough officials said they would advertise the opening and accept letters of interest with the hope of appointing a new council member in June to finish out the remaining two-and-a-half years on Geist’s term.
Council president Sandy Matter noted that the council had already received one letter of interest, from resident Bryan Ruth.
Other business at last night’s meeting included a discussion about an upcoming Route 28 study and concerns of New Bethleehm being bypassed by traffic, as well as a proposal for street paving this summer in the borough. Additional details from the meeting will be published in next week’s edition of The Leader-Vindicator.
SARAH FURNACE – Proclaiming hope for the future and a celebration of the past, several local and state officials joined hiking and biking enthusiasts Monday morning for a groundbreaking ceremony kicking off the start of the Brady Tunnel renovation project.
Once completed, the Brady Tunnel renovation project, which is spearheaded by the Allegheny Valley Land Trust (AVLT), will close a major gap in the proposed Erie to Pittsburgh Trail and is expected to have major recreational and economic impacts on the region.
“This project helps our department meet its goal of having a trail within 15 minutes of every citizen by closing the openings in Pennsylvania’s current trail system,” state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said in her opening statements Monday morning at the project site near Sarah Furnace.
According to Dunn, recreation is identified as a top priority in recent surveys regarding the needs of the state.
“In the last statewide rec plan, trails came up as the top thing people think the government should spend money on,” she said. “When we invest in trails, we feel very confident that we are doing what Pennsylvanians asked us to do.”
In addition to the recreational benefit, Dunn also highlighted the economic boost that accompanies the creation and renovation of trails.
“The Great Allegheny Passage alone brought about $40 million a year into the towns along the trail,” Dunn said. “It generates a lot of local economy.”
Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan not only shared Dunn’s optimism regarding the economic boost the area could see with the tunnel’s completion, but also mentioned the importance of restoring the past.
“If we don’t protect what was given to us, the next generations will have nothing,” Tharan said. “We need to show future generations just how hard our ancestors worked.”
Tharan said the restoration of the Brady Tunnel will accomplish this connection to the past. He closed his remarks by thanking everyone who is participating in the project.
“It will bring great things; it will bring the future to Clarion County,” he said. “That’s why we protect our past.”
Although the tunnel renovation will take place in Clarion County, Armstrong County Commissioner Pat Fabian said that the outcome of the project would impact Armstrong County as well.
“It’s important for neighboring counties that a project like this gets funded and completed,” Fabian said, noting that the project is an important step toward the goal of completing the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail. “We are committed to filling those gaps in so we can make that dream happen.”
Well-wishes and support for the project also came from Tina Gibbs on behalf of state Rep. Donna Oberlander and Sen. Scott Hutchinson.
Also attending the ceremony were representatives from Francis J. Palo Inc. — who will be completing the renovation work — Young & Associates, the AVLT Board of Directors, Career Track, the Armstrong Rails to Trails Association and the Armstrong Conservation District, as well as Clarion County Commissioners Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley and Armstrong County Commissioner Jason Renshaw.
According to a press release issued by DCNR, the connection of the 5.5 miles of the Armstrong Trail from the southern portal of the Brady Tunnel to the end of the AVLT property will require between $6.9 and $10.4 million to stabilize and rehabilitate the tunnel.
Owner of both the Armstrong and nearby Redbank Valley Trails, the release continues, the AVLT maintains the integrity of the inactive railroad corridor in accordance with the National Trail Act and the Pennsylvania Rails to Trails Act. AVLT purchased and railbanked the corridors on which the Armstrong Trail and Redbank Valley Trail exist.
“Over the past seven years, DCNR has invested $773,400 in grant funds to facilitate renovations and help close what it sees as a vital Armstrong Trail gap in a proposed trail system that would eventually stretch from Erie to Pittsburgh,” the release states.
“The Brady Tunnel project creates opportunities for economic growth, health and wellness, power in partnerships, time with out friends and family, and a celebration of our roots,” Allegheny Valley Land Trust executive director Chris Ziegler added. “You cannot create any of these things without a solid foundation.”
RIMERSBURG – While Union School District officials are faced with making more spending cuts before the end of June, Union property owners will be faced with a tax increase to help the district balance its 2019-2020 budget.
At the school board’s May 16 meeting, members gave approval to the tentative $12,311,651 budget as well as a 3.5 percent property tax increase that will raise the millage by 1.7 mills to 50.508 mills.
Despite the tax increase — the most allowed by law without state approval or a voter referendum — the district is still facing a budget deficit of just over $1 million.
“We need to continue to look and find ways of paring that number down,” school board member Steve Wiencek said, noting that without further changes, the district will need to use $1,009,258 from its fund balance to meet projected expenses in the new school year.
“We’re eating into our fund balance,” Wiencek said. “That’s still a problem.”
He told fellow board members that while plans to close an elementary school will help, “it’s not going to solve everything.”
Work on the budget continued indirectly throughout the meeting, as questions were raised about several proposed positions.
Wiencek questioned a motion to appoint Jean Steele as the board’s treasurer at a salary of $4,125, suggesting that the duties instead be performed by a board member with help from the district’s business manager. Wiencek said he would be willing to fill the role.
The board unanimously agreed to table the decision and look further into the possibility.
Directors also tabled a motion to advertise an opening for a special education secretary following the approved resignation of Emily Rush from that position.
“Why would we even do this?” Wiencek asked, questioning why the district would hire and train someone for the job when it was looking at possibly eliminating a secretarial position in a year with the closing of an elementary school.
The board agreed to delay a decision on the matter until the June meeting so that options can be examined.
Other items on the meeting agenda that survived a split board vote included transportation to and from the Sligo pool for students enrolled in Union’s Summer Academy (Weincek and Terry Rush voted against the motion), and the approval to give the high school guidance counselor pay for 15 extra days of work this summer to fulfill end-of-year duties and work on scheduling for the new year (Wiencek voted against the motion).
Local residents also questioned the board on some of its spending decisions at the meeting. Shelly Atzeni asked members how they could justify giving pay raises to sports coaches while at the same time proposing to cut $500 from the budget for community outings for life skills students. She suggested talking with coaches to see if they would continue working without raises.
Officials noted that the raises for all the coaches combined total only $16,000, and that the coaches do a lot for the students throughout the year.
A current Union student also challenged the board on why sports coach raises are easily approved, but several members recently voted against continuing to hire a director for the school musical.
The proposed budget is currently available at the business office for public inspection. Formal adoption is expected at the board’s June 20 meeting. A work session has been scheduled for June 13 at 6 p.m.
• As required by the state, school directors approved a 10 cent increase in school lunch prices. The new rates will be $2.40 for elementary lunches and $2.65 for high school lunches. The cost of double lunches was increased from $1.80 to $2.
• With the number of Union students attending the Clarion County Career Center next year expected to increase significantly, the board approved an increased career center budget with Union’s share listed at $332,842, up from $219,774 this year.
• Kristen Smith was appointed to a two-year term as the board secretary at a salary of $1,550, with Megan Hepler named the assistant board secretary during that timeframe.
• Rick Hawk was hired as the district’s local auditor at a cost of $10,000 plus $4,000 for a peer review in the first year, $10,200 in the second year and $10,400 in the third year.
• The board approved an agreement with Moore Physical Therapy to provide athletic trainer services for the upcoming school year at a total cost of $38,294.
• Board member Mark Rummel was appointed as the board’s representative to the Union Foundation.
• Members unanimously approved a junior high football cooperative agreement with A-C Valley for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.
• Josh Meeker was hired as the head junior high girls basketball coach at a salary of $1,690 and Courtney Wiant was hired as the junior high cheerleading coach at a salary of $1,000.
• The board approved the resignation of assistant strength and conditioning coach Lacey Magagnotti.
Memorial Day weekend may signify the unofficial start of the summer season for many, and while there is still plenty of time this holiday weekend for backyard cookouts, boating and other fun events, we hope you can also find time this weekend to remember the men and women who served our nation.
Our communities will host a number of Memorial Day programs this weekend, and we encourage everyone to attend one of these programs. Details about the New Bethlehem and Rimersburg services can be found inside today’s paper.
We also offer a salute to all those who answered this country’s call to serve, as well as those who continue to keep their memories alive by organizing Memorial Day programs and tributes each year.
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Local high schools are ending their terms a little later than usual this year due to the number of snow and cold weather days we experienced this past winter — but be sure to pick up a copy of next week’s Leader-Vindicator for our special Graduation 2019 photo pages.
The special pages will feature the senior photos from the Class of 2019 at Redbank Valley, Union, Clarion-Limestone and Karns City high schools.
Don’t miss this great keepsake edition for our many area graduates.
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The late end to the school year has also pushed back the opening of the Union Pool Park in Sligo.
The pool will open on Saturday, June 8 and will be open daily through the summer months, weather permitting, from 1 to 7 p.m.
Admission is still $5 per person, with a $1 entry cost after 5 p.m. Mondays are also half-price days at the Sligo pool.
And remember that the park is the only one around that offers pavilion rentals and a swimming pool, so be sure to support your local facility and book your pavilion now for the season by calling the Sligo Borough office.
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The Redbank Valley High School Greenhouse season is coming to an end soon.
The local greenhouse still has plenty to choose from, including geraniums, bedding plants, vegetable plants and more.
The greenhouse is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on school days through the end of May.
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Summertime means yard sales, and the East Brady area will host its annual Attics and Cellars Day this Saturday, May 25, with yard and garage sales throughout the community.
A chicken barbecue will also be offered at the East Brady Fire Hall starting at 11 a.m., with proceeds benefitting local community projects.
The meals will include a half chicken, two sides, bread, beverage and dessert for $10. The fire hall is located at 101 Graham Street.
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If you’re planning to go away for the Memorial Day weekend, even if it’s just a day trip, don’t forget to Take The L-V With You and submit your travel photo!
The L-V is once again asking readers to take along a copy of our newspaper on your summertime travels. All you need to do is take a photograph of you and your travel companions with the paper at a memorable stop along your journey, and submit your photo and trip information to us at email@example.com. You can also drop off a photo at our office, send one to us via our Facebook page, or mail a picture to us at The Leader-Vindicator, 435 Broad Street, New Bethlehem, PA 16242.
The photos will be published in our Take The L-V With You pages at the end of summer. We can’t wait to see where you take The L-V this year!
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With the Memorial Day holiday weekend, The Leader-Vindicator office will be closed on Monday, May 27.
Deadlines for social and church page news, as well as letters to the editor, have been advanced to noon on Friday, May 24.
Also, remember that post offices and government agencies will be closed on Monday.
And the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has announced that all driver license and photo centers will be closed Saturday, May 25, through Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day.