Archives for February 2017

Alternative School to Charge Tuition

This week, the Altoona Area School Board approved a proposal to charge outside districts tuition to send their students to the William P. Kimmel Alternative School.
Board members agreed to set the standard tuition rate at $65 per day, while the rate for special education students from other districts will be set at $75 per day. Blair County school districts that don’t already have alternative education programs for students with behavioral concerns are required to engage the services of private companies. The tuition proposal has reportedly been well received by administrators, and the school’s enrollment could potentially grow to 45 students next school year, depending on the level of participation from other districts. Initially, the Board thought there may be cost savings involved with closing the school, but after a hearing in May, they overwhelmingly supported keeping the school open.

Officer Retiring, Headed to PSU

A Logan Township Police Officer who spent 26 years serving the people of Blair County is retiring, but apparently not for long. Patrolman Chris Bender is retiring, but on Monday– hopefully after a nice relaxing weekend– he’ll start his new job with the Penn State University Police Department.
Bender is a graduate of Penn State. He said there will be a bit of a learning curve, getting adjusted to the department’s policies, but he’ll rely on the skills he’s developed over his law enforcement career.

BCCA Helping Vets In Need

66-year-old Jim Miller served his country with distinction in the United States Marine Corps and Navy for 9 years, then became a Merchant Mariner for 32 more, but a few years back, he couldn’t renew his seaman’s license due to problems with his hearing. In 2009 he said he was homeless. He said he kept hearing something that many veterans have heard before; that his military background didn’t qualify him for employment.
So, he traveled from campsites to state forests for years, saying you stay there for two weeks at a time and then move to another state forestry area. But last year, he came to Altoona, and found the Blair County Community Action Agency, which offers housing programs for veterans.
Case Manager with BCCA Kyle Easly is working with Miller to help him integrate back into the work-force.
Easly said they work on things like resume building, job searching, even character building exercises, helping the men and women who have defended this country to find their place in it’s workforce. The agency is funded by the Veteran’s Administration.

Altoona Man Acquitted of Criminal Mischief

An Altoona man has been acquitted of criminal mischief charges by a Blair County jury. James George, who lives on 29th Avenue, says the allegations were the result of an ongoing dispute with his neighbor, Ronald Wendall, who made the initial complaint. Wendall claims George placed nails at a right-of-way between their properties which required him to replace two tires on his vehicle. Wendall testified that he and George have a long-standing feud over the right-of-way.
In her closing statement, Public Defender Julia Burke suggested to the jury that Wendell had motive, based on their dispute, to make false accusations against his neighbor.
District Attorney Richard Consiglio attempted to counter George’s defender’s argument, saying it made no sense for Wendall to flatten his own tires, and replace them at his own expense. However, Consiglio admitted to the jury that he had no evidence proving George put the nails in the right-of-way.

Bellwood Rallies For Childhood Cancer Awareness Day

A Blair County community is rallying behind two Bellwood students battling cancer. On Wednesday, Meyers Elementary School held an assembly in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Day, while simultaneously celebrating their courageous classmates and raising community awareness. Second grader Maddie Shura and Antis High School senior Alexis Kensinger may be fighting for their lives, bur delighted in their Bellwood school’s rallying together to promote appreciation for childhood cancer.
Shura was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year, and Kensinger recently found out she has thyroid cancer.
Students at the assembly wore colors associated with cancer, each worth a number of points, and the more colors they wore, the more points they earned. Winners got a chance to embarrass teachers with silly string and whipped cream. Meyers Elementary third grade teacher Erin Kelly said it was a fun way for the school to show their support.

PSU Fraternity President Resigns

On Wednesday, Penn State University Intra-fraternity President Alex Frederick resigned, along with other members of the IFC executive board. The move comes nearly two weeks after the death of Timothy Piazza, a Penn State sophomore and fraternity member. The decision was reportedly made based on opinions expressed by other officers, according to a statement from a representative of the Penn State IFC, who said the officers’ credibility was compromised and it was not in the best interest of the organization to continue their term. They claim the move is unrelated to the death of Beta Theta Pi member Timothy Piazza. A Police investigation is ongoing into what role fraternity hazing and excessive drinking might have played in Piazza’s death.

Blair County Sheriff Looking For Federal Grants

Blair County Sheriff Sam McClure says police departments in the county are looking forward to the opportunity to receive a $55,000 federal grant.
He said the Sheriff Department is looking to buy patrol car computers and tasers for county law enforcement, by applying for a U.S. Department of Justice Reinvestment Initiative grant and an Innovative Policing grant to pay for the equipment. The tasers would be earmarked for the Blair County County Sheriff Department and the Adult Parole and Probation Office. The computers would be divided among local police departments.
Sheriff McClure says the computers make law enforcement more efficient by finding information faster, but will also make the job safer for the officers. He said less time entering information during a traffic stop means less time out on the side of the roadway, keeping patrol officers safer.

Budget Would Charge Municipalites Without Police

While citizens of Altoona already pay taxes for local police protection, Governor Wolf’s proposed budget for next fiscal year includes a fee for the Pennsylvania municipalities that rely on patrols and protection from the State Police. The governor’s office said that places like Altoona pay hundreds of dollars for their local police services, and while the proposed fee may not be in the final budget, if it were to pass in the legislature, it’s not yet clear how it would effect taxpayers. The current proposal suggests a fee of $25 per person in the municipality’s population, going towards funding State Police services that cover areas without local police. 67 percent of municipalities reportedly rely upon some measure of State Police assistance, like responding to crashes or domestic calls that would otherwise be handled by local police.
The governor’s office said it would be up to individual municipalities to decide whether or not there would be an increase in taxes to cover the additional cost.

Spring Cove to Cut K-4 Services

In Blair County; the Spring Cove School District will cast their votes to end the district’s K-4 services– or kindergarten for 4-year-old children– at the end of the school year. The program was established two years ago, not as a preschool, but as an early introductory kindergarten program. Dr. Betsy Baker, Spring Cove’s Superintendent says the district won’t be able to afford the $350,000 to operate the program due to increased needs in traditional K-through-12 education. Dr. Baker said she doesn’t think any educator would underestimate the value of early childhood education, but their primary objective as a district is to serve the needs of the majority of school-aged students. Dr. Baker said she wishes the district had the money to keep the program running.

PSU Testing Ground for Driverless Vehicles

If you’ve ever wondered where in the world they’re actually testing those driver-less cars, look no further than Penn State University. One of just 10 designated proving ground pilot sites, researchers at Penn State’s Larson Transportation Institute will be among those testing autonomous vehicles. The research is intended to help foster innovation and make safer and better functioning self-driving vehicles. Heavy vehicles will reportedly be a key part of the Penn State study.