Altoona Mirror, March 29, 2001 : Front Page

Publication: Altoona Mirror March 29, 2001

Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - March 29, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania Sports: Pirates’ top prospects ready for AA ball    life:    Instruments,    voices    deliver    message    of    life    DIAltoona Mirror © Copyright 2001 Conflict stalling Amtran shelters By William Kibler Staff Writer The 60 ad-bearing bus shelters that Amtran and Lamar Advertising want to place along its routes are simple — three clear walls, a roof, a bench and a two-sided advertisement. But getting them installed in a deal with Lamar that won’t cost Amtran or the city anything is proving more complicated than anyone expected, mainly because of zoning uncertainties and disagreements. At a City Council meeting Wednesday, council member Wayne Hippo urged staff to accommodate Amtran by working through the difficulties. But the zoning ordinance — due to be superceded around the end of the year to reflect a new Land Use Plan — really doesn’t deal with the placing of bus shelters or the placing of ads in them, planning office chief Larry Carter said. “The bottom line is the zoning and the sign ordinance are conflicting and haven’t been enforced, and nobody knows quite what to do,” said Tom Kievan, Amtran business development director. Amtran was hoping to swerve around the zoning complications by invoking the Municipal Use Exemption that is part of the zoning ordinance. It would allow the authority to substitute its own discretion in siting the shelters sensibly and absolve it of the need to comply with zoning, Amtran General Manager Erie Wolf said. But city solicitor Bob Alexander disagrees with Amtran solicitor Dave Andrews that Amtran qualifies. “The interpretation proposed by Amtran would permit all the authorities to ignore the zoning ordinance,” Alexander stated in a memo to the council. “The bus shelters should comply with the applicable regulations, and if relief from the zoning ordinance is sought, it should be pursued in front of the Zoning Hearing Board.” Clearly, Amtran should qualify, Amtran Board Chairman Jeff Covino said. Staff will try to work through it as quickly as possible, City Manager Joe Weakland said. Kievan is not happy, especially when the council has supported the concept, which he believes benefits Amtran, its customers and the city as a whole. Please see Amtran/Page A8 THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2001 HIRING THE DISABLED 50C newsstandLegal services debated By Phil Ray Staff Writer HOLLIDAYSBURG — If Congress continues to cut funding used to provide legal aid for the poor, Blair County lawyers will be asked to pick up the slack by donating their services, Blair County Judge Thomas G. Peoples said. The judge talked about legal services funding after a meeting Wednesday with Michelle DeBord, the executive director of MidPenn Legal Services Inc. of Harrisburg, which becomes the legal services agency for Blair and Bedford counties Monday. Peoples, who has sternly opposed the dissolution of the Southern Alleghenies Legal Aid Inc., which until Monday will provide services to the poor in the two counties, described his meeting with DeBord as “courteous.” She said the meeting with Peoples “went well.” DeBord told Peoples that for the time being, there will be almost no changes in the legal aid program. The downtown Altoona office will remain the same, and two veteran staff lawyers, Diana Ingersoll and James Adams, still will handle clients in the Altoona office. The future, in the face of probable funding cuts at the federal level, Peoples said, is much less certain. “The sense I get, it [the new legal services system! is a work in progress. Can they tell me today what it will be like in 15 months? No, they can’t,” Peoples said. He said MidPenn has suggested that Blair County start a pro bono program. Pro bono, Peoples said, means “for the good,” but practically it means Blair County attorneys will provide services to the poor for free. “It takes a spirit of willingness on the part of the bar association to make it work,” Peoples said. Blair County lawyers Wednesday had a varied reaction to the pro bono suggestion. “I don’t think they have much choice. Everybody is entitled to an attorney, but it might be difficult to get volunteers,” said veteran Blair County lawyer John Woodcock, a former public defender and assistant district attorney. Attorney Margaret Dallas of Hollidaysburg, who handles many family law cases, said, “I think it has got to happen. I definitely think if legal services is going to cut these people off at the knees, we need to pick them up in court.” The president of Blair County’s Bar Association, J. Michael Dorezas, said, “I wouldn’t say the bar association wouldn’t go along with it. ... This is part of a lawyer’s obligation [free service! where people truly cannot afford legal services.” Hollidaysburg lawyer Dan Ratchford was adamantly opposed to pro bono services. Ratchford, for months, has contended that Southern Alleghenies Legal Aid Inc. has provided good legal services for the poor in Blair, Bedford, Cambria and Somerset counties. He said the dissolution of Southern Alleghenies is wrong, and when he heard about the proposal that Blair County lawyers donate their time to help out the new MidPenn program, he became angry. Please see Legal/Page A7 Definitions WHOM TO CAU For more information about disabled residents looking for employment and employers interested in hiring disabled workers, call the Altoona Office of Vocational Rehabilitation at 946-7240 or toll free at (800) 442-6343 or Skills of Central Pennsylvania at 949-4800, extension 822. I Most disabled Americans want to work; local groups want to help them. Disabled: This includes people who have difficulty performing functional activities such as hearing, seeing, having one’s speech understood, lifting and carrying, climbing stairs and walking, or difficulty with activities of daily living. Severely disabled: This includes people who are unable to perform one or more activities of daily living have one or more specific impairments or are long-term users of assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches and walkers. ■ One in three disabled adults, compared to just one in eight nondisabled Americans, live in very low-income households with less than $15,CXX3 in annual income. ■ While 82.1 percent of the general working age population is employed (ages 21-64), only 52.3 percent of all people with disabilities are employed, ■ Among those with severe disabilities, only 26 1 percent are employed * There are 4 million children and adolescents, or 6.1 percent of the population under 18 years of age, who have disabilities, Sources U S Census, National Organization on Disability. Hams pollReady, willing and very able By Walt Frank Staff Writer Rob Walls’ job description at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital doesn’t include “providing inspiration to others,” but it could. Walls simply shows up for work each day in the admissions department and gets down to work — from his wheelchair “We see people with devastating health concerns, and when they see someone [like Wallsl in a wheelchair, that offers them a ray of hope,” said Paul Mills, manager of the facility’s outpatient clinic. “When they see someone else who is in a wheelchair doing the job, they see they could suc ceed the same way.” Walls is one of about 26 million disabled Americans. He’s also one of the lucky ones who’s employed. According to the National Organization on Disability, only 52 percent of all disabled people and 30 percent of those who are severely disabled, have jobs. And it’s not for lack of desire. A recent Harris poll showed three out of four say they would prefer to be working. “My problem is my legs,” Walls said. “My upper body and the rest of me work just fine. As long as the job doesn’t involve the disability, I don’t see any reason why the person can’t do the job and do it well.” Please see Able/Page A5 Mirror photo by Kelly Bennett Rob Walls works at his desk at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital. County judge hears case over access to taxpayer information By Kevin Ott Staff Writer HUNTINGDON — Attorneys argued before a county judge Wednesday to find out whether a school district resident has the right to know the names and addresses of other school district residents. At issue is whether a list of taxpayer names and addresses is covered under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law and whether that information should be available to any resident upon request. A ruling is expected within the next two weeks. Robert Wargo, who lives in the Juniata Valley School District, asked the school board for a list of the names and addresses of district residents who receive tax returns. He said the list is to facilitate an analysis he is doing of the district’s current ■ Conflict in laws leads to resident being sued / Page A8 tax system, as part of an endeavor to provide a possible taxing alternative. Wargo needs the list to double-check the names of residents who live in the district who may qualify for certain tax exemptions. The school district said the information is protected under state laws that protect taxpayer information from being disseminated to the public. Huntingdon County Judge Stewart Kurtz said the burden of proof lies with Wargo to show he wants the information for a purpose that would cause state Right to Know law to supercede taxpayer confidentiality laws. “I don’t think you have the right to just walk into the Juniata Valley School District rn DELIVERY Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 287-4480 rf 22910 doosqf 4 BIG FOUR 4    0    0    4 ■ Lottery numbers, A2 WEATHER Cloudy with rain, 40° ■ Forrjast, A2 ACCESS DEMSKO I and just demand the information, unless the information being sought is for some purpose that is legitimate,” Kurtz said. David Ody, Wargo’s attorney, said he meets that burden since he is a district resident searching for information about how his school district taxes its residents. “Mr. Wargo is entitled to lobby for, or campaign for this change.... As a citizen, he is entitled to scrutinize the activity of the Juniata Valley School District,” Ody said. State open records laws make no mention of lists of names and addresses, but judges have granted access to various lists in the past. Ody also said that the information Wargo seeks is not sensitive information that could be gleaned from a return; in fact, ifs administrative information provided to tax collectors from an outside source. School district officials at the hearing said the names and addresses of taxpayers are compiled via census data, returns filed by employers, the district’s archives and taxpayers themselves who file returns. “I don’t think you can make any argument in this case at all that Mr. Wargo is seeking to look into people’s tax records,” Ody said. Kurtz asked school district attorney Tom McDowell whether the district has a stake in keeping the information from Wargo or if district officials need a court order to give the information so the district isn’t found in violation of the taxpayer protection laws. The information is a public document, McDowell said, but giving it to Wargo would violate the Local Taxpayer Bill of Rights. “We wouldn’t turn it over on our own, and the only way we would turn it over is on a court order,” he said. Outside the courtroom, McDowell and Superintendent David Leckvarcik have said the district likely would have provided the information had the taxpayer protection laws not been in place. Please see Access/Page A8 Altoona iRirror I THE GREAT COMBINATION I Call us today...Make money today. .A.sk for THE GREAT COMBINATION of MIRROR CLASSIFIEDS and HOT-ADS Phone (814) 946-7422 or fax us at (814) 946-V^47 □ local |3 NATION Business A9 Classifieds C3-12 Comics A4 Obituaries AU Opinion A6 03UFE [TJ SPORTS Dear Abby D5 Movies D3 Local B4 Puzzles OS Scoreboard "I5 Television D5 INSIDE NATION House passes Bush budget Page Cl ;

  • Bob Alexander
  • Dan Ratchford
  • Dave Andrews
  • David Leckvarcik
  • David Ody
  • Diana Ingersoll
  • J. Michael Dorezas
  • James Adams
  • Jeff Covino
  • Joe Weakland
  • John Woodcock
  • Larry Carter
  • Margaret Dallas
  • Michelle Debord
  • Paul Mills
  • Robert Wargo
  • Stewart Kurtz
  • Thomas G. Peoples
  • Tom Kievan
  • Tom Mcdowell
  • Wayne Hippo

Share Page

Publication: Altoona Mirror

Location: Altoona, Pennsylvania

Issue Date: March 29, 2001

RealCheck