2011-01-06 / Front Page

Year In Review

Poor economy continued; year marked by tragedies
By Jean Snyder
STAFF WRITER
1. ECONOMY
2. CONSTRUCTION/ RENOVATION
Water treatment upgrade
FCMC Specialty Services Building

Fulton County began 2010 much in the same way as 2009 ended, with a sluggish economy and unemployment in double digits that continued throughout the year. Fulton County remained firmly in the 66th spot out of 67 counties during the entire year with respect to high unemployment rates. Only Cameron County posted higher rates from January-November 2009. The county posted a 13.3 percent unemployment rate in January and a preliminary November rate of 13.6 percent. Eleven and four-tenths percent was as low as the rate dipped throughout the year.

In spite of the poor national, state and local economy, a few jobs were spared at JLG due to military contracts that were completed in June 2010. A multi-billion dollar contract for 8,079 M-ATVs boosted sales for the company and in July, Oshkosh announced its towing and recovery vehicle manufacturing company, Jerr-Dan Corp. in Greencastle, would combine with JLG to make Jerr-Dan-branded products. Jerr-Dan’s two plants in Greencastle closed, some employees were expected to be laid off and the remaining employees moved to JLG’s Mc- Connellsburg, Shippensburg and Hagerstown locations.

In other JLG-related news, on July 1, 2010, JLG Industries President Craig Paylor retired from the company. Paylor, a Mc- Connellsburg native, began his employment at JLG in 1978 as a district sales manager and was named to JLG’s top position in May 2007. Upon his retirement, Oshkosh, JLG’s parent company, credited Paylor with “growing JLG internationally as the leader in the access equipment market with operations around the world.”

In other economic news, at year’s end, all three school districts announced they would raise taxes in their 2010-11 budgets. The Central Fulton School District hiked real estate tax rates by 1.0339 mills in order to offset a projected deficit of $1.5 million. The Forbes Road School District, facing a budget shortfall, raised property taxes 1.4 mills over last year’s rate of 33.63 mills. The Southern Fulton School District bumped taxes by .63 mills to a new rate of 23.13 mills.

In both the Southern Fulton and Forbes Road school districts, the boards of directors rejected the factfinders’ reports with regard to the unresolved negotiations between the board and the teachers’ unions.

The past year saw the completion of two construction projects, the near-completion of another and the unveiling of plans for a fourth major upgrade.

Although work began in September 2009 on the Mc- Connellsburg Water Authority’s new water main and treatment plant, the project was not finished until 2010. The $7.5 million upgrade included the construction of a 5,700-square-foot treatment plant next to its 500,000 gallon reservoir at Lions Park Drive and Reservoir Lane. The plant now has the capacity to treat 400,000 gallons of water a day. The upgrade also included the installation of a 10,500-footlong, 12-inch water main around the borough. The upgraded system doubles the capacity of the former system and can be expanded with growth and development, according to authority officials.

Less than one year after breaking ground for its new Specialty Services building, Fulton County Medical Center (FCMC) held the official ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of the new building on June 22, 2010. Located on the new FCMC campus, the opening of the new wing brought all FCMC offsite services to the campus located off Peach Orchard Road west of McConnellsburg. The construction of the $4.5 million 16,000-square-foot addition, located at the southwest corner of the hospital, was strictly on schedule. It is a two-story structure, with the main floor consisting of specialty physician and Home Care services. Complete with 15 exam rooms, two procedure rooms and a spacious general waiting area, the new addition will assist FCMC in attracting more physicians to the area. The center’s current specialists include cardiology, general surgery, behavioral health services, midwifery, neurology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat), orthopedics, outpatient surgery, plastic surgery, podiatry, pulmonology, and urology. In addition, the second floor houses administration, accounting, the business office, managing information systems, human resources, community relations and development, and the FCMC Foundation. There is also a community conference room. The general contractor for the project was Palmer Construction of McConnellsburg.

County renovations

Bids were awarded in March for a renovation of the county’s courthouse complex. Palmer Construction was awarded the general contractor’s bid for nearly $1.5 million. The multi-phase renovation included: a geo-thermal heating-air conditioning system for the courthouse, the Neighborhood Service Center and the jail, demolition of the extra jail cells located on the western side of the jail and elimination of the exercise yard; constructing a connecting walkway between the second story of the courthouse and sheriff’s office; reconstruction of the handicapped accessible ramp at the courthouse to allow additional accessibility to the sheriff’s office; new paving and parking areas; creation of an underground stormwater retention area on the former Shelly & Witter property; renovation of the basement of the Neighborhood Service Center facility to house probation offices; eliminating existing firstfloor bathrooms in the courthouse and relocating to the former commissioner’s office area; installing new flooring as well as wall and ceiling coverings in the main courthouse hallway; renovation of the courtroom to include new and more accessible lighting, new wall and floor coverings; and sidewalk repairs and landscaping in McConnell Park. The total project when completed was estimated to cost $4,545,000. At year’s end, although much of the work had been completed, some construction is still under way, including the refurbishment of the clock tower. Also, significant structural damage was discovered in the old jail which has resulted in plans to possibly raze the old building and replace it with a new building.

Sewerage plant upgrade

At year’s end, contracts had been awarded for a $5.4 million upgrade to the existing plant south of Mc- Connellsburg, with work scheduled to begin shortly after the new year. Officials said the authority is forced to make the upgrade in order to be in compliance with new laws and regulations that mandate a reduction in nitrogen and phosphorous (nutrients) flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. The general contractor bid was awarded to Galway Bay of Mt. Braddock, Pa., for a total of $3.43 million. The electrical contract was awarded to B&B Design of Orbisonia for $372,000. An additional $1.4 million will be spent for equipment, engineering costs and land acquisition. After the 2011 upgrade, physically, the plant will still look much the same. A new lift station will replace the old one, and an 80-foot-by-80 foot composting building will also be built. That building will allow the plant to mix sludge with wood chips and produce a Class A sludge that can be spread on farmland, gardens, etc., without a permit. The authority also announced that because of the upgrade, customer rates will increase from $30 per month to $40 per month beginning in January 2011. Customers will not see this reflected on their bills until April when billing is received for January, February and March. Quarterly bills for single dwellings that now total $90 will go to $120. It is the first rate increase in five years. All 180 plants in Pennsylvania that are mandated to upgrade are given until May 2012 to complete the upgrades and come into compliance.

3. CRIME

Drug busts and crimes against children dominated the news in 2010.

Drug busts

At year’s end, a 17-yearold McConnellsburg teen was paroled on prior infractions in both Fulton and Franklin counties in order to be directly remanded to a state correctional institution on unrelated charges. Ryan Jefferson was remanded to Pine Grove state correctional institution (SCI) where he will complete between two and four years for taking crack cocaine into the Franklin County Prison after having been picked up on a bench warrant. He was recommended by the court to participate in the Youth Offender Program at the SCI.

In June, Carolyn Spoonire, McConnellsburg, was sentenced to 4-10 years in a state correctional facility after a Fulton County jury found her guilty of delivery and possession of crack cocaine in a school zone and criminal conspiracy.

Spoonire’s then-boyfriend and co-defendant Roger Barnett, also of Mc- Connellsburg, was sentenced in September to complete between 24 and 60 months in a state correctional institution in connection with the delivery of a controlled substance within a school zone. In a separate case involving criminal conspiracy to deliver, Barnett will complete an additional 18- to-60-month sentence. Barnett had waived his right to arraignment and entered a guilty plea.

Also in September, a Fort Littleton man was charged with possession of 10 pounds of marijuana inside his home. Nathan Duvall faces two counts of violating the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act in connection with the search of his home on September 10.

At year’s end, Beverly Spriggs and son Christopher Spriggs both pled not guilty to drug charges filed against them in late October. Christopher Spriggs pled not guilty to one count each of criminal attempt, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, delivery of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance, while Beverly Spriggs was charged with two counts each of delivery and possession of a controlled substance. She waived her right to a preliminary hearing and will appear in the Court of Common Pleas for mandatory arraignment.

Crimes against children

In November, a Hustontown man was arrested and charged with three counts each of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault; two counts of rape and one count of statutory sexual assault, indecent exposure, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor relating to alleged ongoing sexual encounters between Dennis Lane, 62, and a minor boy, who is now 15 years old. The time line for the offenses is September 26, 2007, through November 5, 2010. A preliminary hearing originally scheduled for Monday, November 22, was rescheduled for January 10.

A McConnellsburg man accused of sexually assaulting and molesting several young boys over a five-year time frame entered a not-guilty plea in Fulton County Court of Common Pleas in December to all 55 criminal offenses filed against him during the summer. Woodrow “Woody” Keefer plead not guilty to a long list of charges that included six counts of rape, nine counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, three counts of unlawful contact with a minor, three counts of statutory sexual assault, 24 counts of indecent assault, four counts of indecent exposure and three counts of the corruption of minors. The charges against the 63-year-old man came to light earlier in 2010 after three young men, ranging in ages 16 to 22, provided Pennsylvania State Police officers from the Mc- Connellsburg barracks with information regarding the alleged acts that occurred between January 1999 and December 2004. Keefer will next appear in court on April 12, 2011, for call of the list. At that time, he will be able to enter a plea of guilty to any or all of the charges or maintain his not-guilty plea and request a trial.

In October, Dale Arnold Newton, Warfordsburg, was charged with six counts of simple assault; two counts each of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, recklessly endangering another person; and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with allegations that he struck a 2-year-old boy and the boy’s 4-year-old sister with a broken wooden stick in addition to his hands. The 25-yearold man stands further accused of punching the children’s mother in the chest, pushing her onto the floor, kicking her in the head and side of the body and striking her in the face with a pack of cigarettes. The 2-year-old male suffered “fresh bruising to both ears and his face” and also had several older bruises on his face, lower back, chest and biceps. His groin area was also swollen from recent physical injury, the charging documents state. In addition, documents show the girl suffered recent bruising on her legs and buttocks and an apparent recent bruise to her head and forehead. The alleged assaults are believed to have occurred between August and October 21. Newton waived his right to a preliminary hearing and will next appear in the Court of Common Pleas.

In March, Max William Miller III was sentenced to serve six to 18 months in the Franklin County Prison for unlawful contact with a minor as well as a six- to 18- month sentence for statutory sexual assault. The charges stem from a clandestine relationship between Miller and a 14-year-old girl that spanned a two-year time frame. In addition to the jail sentence, Miller was ordered to have no contact with the victim.

In December, Nicholas McKee, a Warfordsburg man, was sentenced to a total of 30 years for a firstdegree child abuse charge as well as an additional 10 years for involuntary manslaughter. The manslaughter sentence also carries a five-year suspension, bringing Mc-Kee’s prison term to 35 years for the child abuse death of 5- week-old Bella Appel- McKee, who allegedly suffered fatal brain injuries on January 3, 2010, while in McKee’s care. The incident occurred in Hancock, Md., and McKee was sentenced in Washington County, Md., Circuit Court.

Locally, Shane Pittman, Needmore, charged with the 2009 death of 2-yearold Kylie York, was granted a continuance for his trial, which is now scheduled for the January 2011 term. Pittman, who has pled not guilty, was charged with one count each of criminal homicide and endangering the welfare of children in the December 2009 death of the toddler who was in his care at the time of her injury. York died at Hershey Medical Center after the failure of various treatments that were used to reduce brain swelling. A series of tests completed showed Kylie lacked brain activity and nerve function. She died on December 5, three days after arriving at Hershey Medical Center where she was taken from Fulton County Medical Center.

4. TRAGEDY

Fire and highway accident deaths brought sadness to the county in 2010.

A two-vehicle accident on Thompson Road took the life of Needmore area resident Myrle Trail, 68, in June. Trail was killed when his southbound pickup was struck by an oncoming car driven by Melvin J. Bowman Jr., 27, also of Needmore, after it crossed the Thompson Township road and collided head-on with Trail’s truck. Trail was pronounced dead as a result of blunt force trauma at the accident scene. Bowman was returning to his home from his job in Williamsport, Md., and told state police he had “nodded off” as he drove. Neither man was wearing a seat belt and both were just minutes from their homes when the collision occurred. Bowman has been charged with homicide by vehicle, driving on roadways laned for traffic, reckless and careless driving and restraint systems. In December, Bowman waived his right to a preliminary hearing and will next appear in Fulton County Court of Common Pleas for mandatory arraignment.

In July, Cordell Carbaugh, 21, of 447 Horton Drive, McConnellsburg, died at Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital two weeks after he fell from an all-terrain vehicle along High Germany Road in Union Township and was run over. He suffered major injuries to the chest and was flown to Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hosipital in Johnstown, where he remained in an induced coma until his death.

In November, a mother and her daughter died when a fire swept through their mobile home in southern Fulton County. Twenty-fiveyear old Jessica Ann Brewer and 5-year-old Trinity Lynn Nicole Swope of 203 Hunters Lane, Warfordsburg, died of asphyxiation due to carbon monoxide poisoning after inhaling smoke from the fire that erupted at approximately 4 a.m. on the morning of November 17. Three adults and a 7-year-old female were able to escape the fire of undetermined origin, and police believe that Jessica and Trinity may have become disoriented by the fire and smoke conditions and were unable to make it to safety.

A 17-year-old Wells Tannery girl died November 9 from injuries received in a one-vehicle car accident on a Wells Township road. Victoria “Tori” Lynn was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident and the cause of death was listed as blunt force head trauma. A passenger in the car, 18-yearold John Wesley Woy of Hustontown, suffered various injuries and was flown to Altoona Regional Hospital, where he was listed in fair condition the following morning.

Two Southern Fulton High School students died in September in a one-vehicle accident on Route 522 near the village of Dott. Destiny Knable, 15, and Matthew Weller, 17, suffered blunt force trauma injuries and were pronounced dead at the accident scene on September 27. The two teens were on their way to school at the time of the accident.

A McConnellsburg woman suffered fatal injuries during a collision with a tractortrailer on September 30 in Franklin County. Lana Group, 56, was pronounced dead at the accident scene located on the 12000 block of Lincoln Way West. Group was a passenger in a truck driven by Daren Wink also of McConnellsburg. Police say that Wink lost control of his truck on the rain- soaked roadway and struck the side of a westbound tractor-trailer. Wink suffered serious injuries in the accident.

A Burnt Cabins woman died as the result of a Thanksgiving Day car accident on Great Cove Road in Dublin Township near the intersection of Breezy Point Road. Police say Elizabeth Nahory was driving a Jeep that collided head-on with a 2000 Kenworth tractortrailer driven by Mc- Connellsburg resident Larry Franco.

On December 21, a Needmore area man succumbed to injuries suffered in a logging accident in southern Fulton County. Melvin Powell, 62, died as the result of multiple blunt force trauma incurred while he was cutting down a large oak tree on private property along Bethel Church Road and the tree fell on him. Powell was employed on a part-time basis by M&C Lumber of Needmore.

5. OTHER TOP STORIES

Other top stories making “News” headlines in 2010 included:

Pig deaths

In November, nearly 900 pigs were found dead on a Buck Valley farm purchased by Daniel and Kerron Clark in 1992. According to reports, the couple had separated in recent years, and Kerron Clark had left the farm. However, in September, sole ownership of the farm had been transferred to Kerron Clark, and Daniel Clark had apparently left the farm approximately one month earlier. The Union Township property includes two hog finishing barns. When found, the pigs were said to have been in various stages of decomposition. In December, Daniel Clark was cited by police for 832 counts of animal cruelty in that he failed to protect and provide for approximately 832 animals (hogs), by neglecting them to die, without rendering assistance in regards to shelter, food, water and subjecting them to cold/freezing conditions. Results of testing showed that the pigs exhibited signs of post mortal dessication and indicated they were dead for an extended period of time prior to discovery on November 8, 2010.” Clark told police that he experienced a malfunction with his liquid manure system that caused a “die off” of hogs.

Palmer lawsuit

More than three years after its filing, in November, a judge sustained preliminary objections seeking to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed against 16 local individuals by Fulton County Medical Center former CEO Diane Palmer. On October 6, 2010, Judge Eugene E. Fike II, a Somerset County judge who was appointed to hear the matter due to possible conflicts of interest locally, handed down his ruling on preliminary objections filed by each of the defendants’ attorneys. Although most of Palmer’s claims were dismissed, Fike did leave the door open in some instances for amended complaints to be filed within 20 days. However, as of press time, none have been filed. The defendants in the suit were Jamie Greathead, Fulton County News publisher; Jean Snyder, Fulton County News reporter; Donald Bard; Stanley Kerlin, Esq.; Howard Kaplan; Helen Overly; Drs. Sharon Martin, William Milroth, James Rintoul and Michael Donahoe; John C. Duffey; Carol Jean Johnson; and commissioners Dan Swain, Ellis Yingling and Bonnie Mellott Keefer. In her suit against the “News,” its publisher and reporter, Palmer alleged that a series of articles written about the meetings organized and held in 2006 contained “defamatory statements” against her. Fike sustained the “News” attorney’s preliminary objection on the grounds of legal insufficiency. He dismissed all counts of Palmer’s case against the paper’s publisher and reporter with prejudice, meaning that the court’s October 6 order amounted to a final dismissal of the lawsuit against the “News” defendants with no right to amend.

Elvey’s fire

An early morning March fire destroyed a longtime county business and displaced four residents who occupied apartments above Elvey’s Flowers and Greenhouses in Knobsville. During the month of February, Patty and Benny Ramsey had reached a lease-to-own agreement with longtime florists and business owners Roger and Faye Elvey. Prior to her taking the reins of the business that has been offering potted plants, arrangements and gifts to Fulton County residents since 1944, Patty had been an instrumental part of Elvey’s for the last 22 years as an employee. Cause of the fire was linked to a pellet stove flu pipe. Subsequent to the fire, the remains of the building were removed, and in November work was completed on a new store on the same property. Ramsey, who had temporarily moved the business to Fort Littleton, is now open for business in the new Knobsville location. The overall loss was set at an excess of $1 million for the building and contents, according to the fire marshal.

Animal welfare group forms

A concern for stray, abused and neglected animals has led a group of concerned citizens to form an animal welfare group dedicated to developing resources to make it easier for concerned people to report abuse, rescue strays and get help in their effort to assist animals in need. With nearly 30 in attendance at meetings, the group is focused on addressing supportive services currently being provided for the cruelty/ neglect cases in Fulton County on a voluntary basis; initiating a community education/ awareness campaign; establishing a foster care network; and identifying a possible location for a temporary holding kennel. The Better Days Animal League (BDAL) of Shippensburg and Chambersburg has opened a thrift shop in the former Oliver Oil building on Lincoln Way West and further short- and long-term goals include: research/ development for establishing a Fulton County shelter, education/ awareness for animal protection and fundraising.

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