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Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - March 11, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania Copyright 2001 SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2001 newsstand IN LIFE Altoonan pens Pennsylvania Dutch book IN BUSINESS Calling card users pay more than expected Blair's rising suicide rate raising concerns BY PHIL RAY StqffWriter Homicides and traffic fatalities often receive a great deal of public attention and occasionally gener- ate outcry for reforms. And over the past few years, the rising number of drug overdose deaths has resulted in public meet- ings and a demand for police action. But a report issued recently by Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross shows there is another prob- lem that has gone almost unno- ticed: suicide. Ross' annual report shows there were 21 suicides in Blair County during 2000. That compares with four homicides, 16 traffic deaths and 11 drug overdose deaths, excluding those drug deaths that were ruled suicides. Nine of the suicides occurred in one month March. Three of the suicides in 2000 were committed by teen-agers. Those were a youngster with a long mental health history, a girl who was "just a very lost person" and a young man who was on the outs with his parents and his girl- friend, Ross said. But Ross' report showed that in Blair County, suicide was a prob- lem with older persons as well. While four of the suicides in 2000 were committed by people 21 years old or under, five were committed by people between 64 and 87 years old. Twelve of the deaths were committed by people between the ages of 26 and 57. Ross said suicide is becoming more of a problem. Blair's suicide rate in 2000 was 16.1 deaths per residents, compared to the national rate of 11.3 per as reported by the National Vital Statistics Bureau. The national figures were in a report issued in July but actually were figures from 1998. Not an option Ross and others in Blair County, while acknowledging the increas- ing suicide rate, don't accept sui- cide as an option for people who are depressed. Suicide is not an option, and that's the message they want to get across. Please see AS 26 Mirror graphic by Tom Worthington !l BY CRAIG WILLIAMS Staff Writer Four years into energy deregu- lation, area consumers are reeling from a midwinter blizzard of rejection letters and company warnings that their business is not wanted or it's too expensive to support at the current price. In a twist of bureaucratic logic, to encourage competition in a free market, the state government included rate caps to control the price of electricity. It's a reversal in market dynam- ics that recently backfired. Many independent electric companies found they couldn't compete with the guaranteed prices, and cus- tomers who switched to the inde- pendent power producers have been told to take a hike in more ways than one. The Electric Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 1996 made energy deregulation a household word. Under the act, new power plants would be able to hook onto the Pennsylvania power grid and offer electricity at a cheaper rate. The old power monopolies, par- ticularly the big five GPU Energy of Duquesne Light in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Power in Greensburg, PECO of Philadelphia and PPL of Allentown were to open their K. distribution systems to outside companies such as Allegheny Energy Supply of Hagerstown, Md. The power companies also were mandated to be the supplier of last resort if no other power company would sett it to the customer. This last feature of the law also requires each company to provide power at a stabilized rate, or a rate that is capped. How many years each former Pennsylvania monopoly must comply with the rate cap was negotiated with the Public Utilities Commission on a per-company basis. For example, even though GPU sold off its power plants, it must provide electricity to its cus- tomers until about 2010. On the other hand, Duquesne, which sold off its power genera- tors, must provide power under a specific price for the next three years. Please see A7 CONTACTS for help with electric 'problems: Pennsylvania Consumer 'Advocate Sonny Popowsky represents utility customers before the Public Utilities Commission. Call GPU customer service line: (800) 545-7741 Allegheny Energy Supply customer service: (888) 232-4642 Public Utilities Commission to comment on GPU rate cap request or any other consumer concern: Mirror photo illustration by J.D. Cavrich and Tom Worthington II Consultant says GPU Energy shouldn't be allowed to raise its electricity rates READING (AP) GPU Energy Inc. should not be permitted to raise electric rates to recover increased costs of buying power, according to testimony present- ed to the Public Utilities Commission by an energy con- sultant for the state Office of Consumer Advocate. "The companies [GPU and sub- sidiaries] assume that because they sold their generation the wholesale market prices are outside of their con- trol and can be passed through to Richard La Capra said in written testimony. "The companies ignore that their choices left them in this position, and that their own pur- chasing strategies, as implement- ed over the last several years, which are clearly within their control, have placed them in the position that they now wrote La Capra, a Boston-based Please see A7 Poconos see biggest jump in population BY JOANN LOVIGLIO The Associated Press DELAWARE WATER GAP After living in Brooklyn for three decades, Bud and Barbara Andrews decided 10 years ago it was time to leave the bustle of the city for a kinder, quieter way of life. There was one hitch: Because Bud Andrews is an actor, he couldn't be too far away from Manhattan's theater district. "We got a map, then we took a compass and drew a circle that showed everything within a 90- minute drive from New Barbara Andrews said. "We had been to the [Delaware] Water Gap area before. It's beauti- ful, quiet, the taxes were low. That was it for us." The Andrews who settled in the rural town of Bushkffl, Pike County are not alone. The influx of city dwellers seek- ing solace in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains region has made Pike, Monroe and Wayne counties the fastest-growing in the state, according to the 2000 figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The figures show Monroe tt Census 1000 LOCAL flGURES County 1990 jama Bedford Blair Cambria Centre Clearfield Huntingdon County's population jumped 44.9 percent in a decade, from in 1990 to in 2000. Pike County increased 65.6 percent, from to and Wayne County increased 19.5 percent, from to "There are plenty of places in Pennsylvania that would love to have the growth we're Monroe County planning director John Woodling said. "But you do pay a price." Please see A4 YOU WANT SPORTS? WE GOT'EM! Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Bishop Guilfoyle's Sarah Neff (54) grabs a rebound during the Lady Marauders' game against Rochester. BASKETBALL: Girls' teams from Bishop Guilfoyle, Williamsburg and Bishop Carroll advance to the next round of the PIAA playoffs. PAGES Penn State loses big to Iowa, while Pitt drops one to Boston College. PAGES WRESTLING: Eric Gibbons of Bedford takes home the silver medal at the PIAA wrestling finals; more coverage of action at Hershey. PAGES NASCAR: Joe Nemechek takes the checkered flag at the Busch series Aaron's 312. PAGE C6 COMING MONDAY IB MIRROR: Glendale student interviews Pirates Chief Executive Officer Kevin McClatchey about the status of the franchise. DBJVHTY Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 287-4480 4 912 Lottery numbers, A2 Chance of rain or snow, Forecast, A2 Altoona mirror I We're white-hot! I THE GREAT COMBINATION Call us today...Make money today. 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