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Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - March 28, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania Nation: Consumer confidence on the rebound life: Oils offer a variety of flavors in cooking, baking Dl Copyright 2001 WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2001 newsstand Area man sued over request for list BY JAY YOUNG Staff Writer HUNTINGDON Robert Wargo is head- ed to court today to defend himself against a lawsuit filed because he requested some- thing he thinks is a public document. The Juniata Valley School District is going to court because it doesn't know how to respond to Wargo's Right to Know request. Wargo, a resident of that Huntingdon County school district, is being sued for wanting to see a list of taxpayers. The law- suit is in response to a Jan. 11 written request made by Wargo for the information. "It's a strange Wargo said. "My thing was to try and help the lower-income property taxpayer to get a break, and the school board 13 totally opposed to doing that" The district is asking a judge to decide if the information is public record since the Local Taxpayer Bill of Rights forbids the release of information provided by taxpay- er, Superintendent David Leckvarcik said. Violation of that law can result in the loss of office or up to a fine. "My first inclination was 'Let's give it to him.' It's no problem for us to generate Leckvarcik said. "I just didn't want to lose my business manager and school board members over it." Wargo, a Petersburg resident, wants the information for research he is doing on Act 50, or the School Property Control Act. The law allows school districts to reduce the tax burden on homeowners and place more of it on the shoulders of wage earners. Wargo is pushing to place such a proposal on the November ballot. Please see AS Blair's bed tax could double BY KAY STEPHENS Staff Writer It likely will cost more to stay overnight in Blair County starting in July. Blair County commissioners John J. Ebersole and John H. Eichelberger Jr. said Tuesday that they will consider doubling the 1.5 percent bed tax that lodging prop- erties charge their guests and for- warding it to the county for tourism promotion. But before commissioners can do that, they must advertise their intention to adopt a higher rate and allow time for public comment. Cheryl Ebersole, director of the Allegheny Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau, asked com- missioners Tuesday for the higher rate to help pay debt at the Blair County Convention Center, which is opening in May. While federal and state grants covered major portions of the cost, Cheryl Ebersole estimated that it will take five to seven years to pay off the million difference between those grants and the expense of building the convention center. While donations and pledges are expected to cover more than half the million difference, some of the pledge money is not readily available because it's anticipated in increments. John Ebersole and Eichelberger said they would not have a problem supporting the higher bed tax, but both offered concern about what happens after the debt is paid off. John Ebersole asked if the tax would be reduced. Cheryl Ebersole said no. She pro- posed that once the convention center's debt is paid off, the 3 per- cent tax could be divided so that 1 percent is dedicated for marketing and sales, 1 percent is used to pay for a shuttle bus services to the convention center and the other 1 percent is used for tourism promo- tion as determined by the bureau. Please see AS RELIGION ON THE ROADWAYS Mirror file photo by Gary M. Baranec State police collect information about a accident on Route 164 in East Sharpsburg. The accident on Jan. took its toll on the horse in the background, who had to be euthanized because of its injuries. Wheels of justice Amish at a 50-family settlement in northern Cambria County have run afoul of traffic laws. Amish claim triangle violates their beliefs I A Mirror graphic by Tom Worthington [I From Mirror staff and wire reports I reflective orange triangle I could become more than a I safety emblem it could beconie a symbol of religious free- dom in Pennsylvania. Last week, five Amish men reported to district justice offices in Cambria County and were fined each for failing to mount the triangles on the backs of their slow- moving wooden buggies as required by state law. Ten more members of the Swartzentruber branch of Amish are scheduled to receive similar fines for the same offense. But all of the .men and women said they win not pay the fine. Instead, they are seeking help from the American Civil Liberties Union and want to bring the case to the state Supreme Court. The Swartzentruber branch is a strict 88-year-old group of Amish who started a 50-family settlement in northern Cambria County in 1997. While other Amish branches', including those in Blair County, have followed with Pennsylvania law and agreed to place the trian- gles on their buggies, the Swartzentruber branch will not. Please see A7 Activists advocate execution suspension BY ROBERT IGOE Staff Writer The conflict between carrying out justice and the moral dilemma of punishing one killing with another remains one of the most divisive topics in society. It is a topic that surfaced again Tuesday in Harrisburg as death penalty opponents urged the pas- sage of a Senate bill to temporarily halt executions in Pennsylvania. Sister Helen Prejean, the Louisiana nun who wrote the book "Dead Man joined Pennsylvania's leading death-penalty foes at a Capitol rally urging support for the bill. The rally's organizers also released the results of a survey showing that Pennsylvanians generally favor capital punishment but that many also harbor mis- givings about whether it is applied fairly. Speakers noted the growing number of death-row prisoners who have been freed because of prosecutor- ial misconduct or DNA testing of evidence used to convict them. In Pennsylvania, three death-row inmates have been freed in the past 15 years. The Senate bill calls for an immediate two-year moratorium on executions while an, independent commission studies death penalty administration. The commission must ensure the death penalty is applied only to persons convicted of first-degree mur- der in a trial in which they are provided with an ade- quate defense counsel and that the penalty is imposed in a consistent manner throughout the court system. Please see AS AT A GLANCE Facts about the death penalty in the United States and Pennsylvania: States that use the death penalty: 38 in addition to the U.S. military Methods used (some states use more than one Lethal 38, including Pennsylvania Electrocution Lethal gas Hanging 3 Firing squad 3 Pennsylvanians on death row: men, 5 women By race: White, 74; Black, 151; Asian, 2; Hispanic, 14 Last Pennsylvania-execution: July Gary M. Heidnik Last death warrant signed: March Anthony Fletcher Source: Stats Department of Corrections Developer expresses dismay with zoning requests' denial BY WILLIAM KIBLER StaffWriter A developer has accused the city of Altoona of economic shortsight- edness after the Zoning Hearing Board denied variance requests on three Pleasant Valley Boule- vard projects. The board merely is following zoning ordinances as required, solicitor Bill Stokan said. The denials will kill two of Brinton Simington's proposals but not necessarily the third. "Years ago, they drove the con- tractors said Simington, who developed Simington Plaza on Pleasant Valley Boulevard at 10th Street. "They seem hellbent on making the same mistakes." Simington should take his gripes to City Council, Stokan said, which has the power to change zoning designations from residential to commercial. Simington can take those com- plaints to hearings the city Planning Commission will hold later this year on changes to the zoning ordinance and planning and subdivision ordinance that Please see AS Merger of legal services groups for poor taking effect Monday BY PHIL RAY Staff Writer Blair County Judge Thomas G. Peoples said Tuesday that he will closely monitor a new legal ser- vices program f9r the poor that will begin operations Monday. If the program doesn't work.an alternative program will have to be developed, he said. And that could mean appointing attorneys at taxpayers' expense or asking attorneys to work for free. "We'll have to find someone to represent them [the poor] in the Peoples said. Peoples will receive more infor- mation today about the future of legal services in Blair County when he meets with Michelle DeBord, executive director of MidPenn Legal Services Inc. of Harrisburg, the agency assuming responsibility for legal services for the poor in Blair and Bedford counties. The merger of legal services agencies statewide stems from state and federal initiatives to cut costs and to provide more sophisticated legal services to the poor. Please see A12 DEuvnr Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 287-4480 0 805 Lottery numbers, A2 WHtHR Mostly sunny, Forecast, A2 Altonna mirror THE GREAT Call us today...Make money today. 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