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Altoona Mirror: Thursday, March 29, 2001 - Page 1

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   Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - March 29, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania                                Sports: Pirates' top prospects ready for AA ball Life: Instruments, voices deliver message of life Dl JUto0na mirror Copyright 2001 THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2001 newsstand Conflict stalling Amtran shelters BY WILLIAM KIBLEH 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 dis- agreements. At a City Council meeting Wednesday, council member Wayne Hippo urged staff to accom- modate 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 But the zoning ordinance due to be superceded around the end of the year-to reflect a new Land Use Plan really doesn't deal with the placing of bus shelters or the plac- ing of ads in them, planning office chief Larry Carter said. "The bottom line is the zoning and the sign ordinance are con- flicting and haven't been enforced, and nobody knows quite what to said Tom Klevan, Amtran business development director. Amtran was hoping to swerve around the zoning complications by invoking the Municipal Use Exemption that is part of the zon- ing ordinance. It would allow the authority to substitute its own dis- cretion in siting the shelters sensi- bly and absolve it of the need to comply with zoning, Amtran General Manager Eric Wolf said. But city solicitor Bob Alexander disagrees with Amtran solicitor Dave Andrews that Amtran quali- fies. "The interpretation proposed by Amtran would permit all the authorities to ignore the zoning Alexander stated in a memo to. the council. "The bus shelters should comply with the applicable regulations, and if relief from the zoning ordi- nance is sought, it should be pur- sued 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. Klevan is not happy, especially when the council has supported the concept, which he believes ben- efits Amtran, its customers and the city as a whole. Please see AS HIRING THE DISABLED Mirror photo by Kelly Bennett Rob Walls works at his desk at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital. Ready, willing and very able Most disabled Americans want to work; local groups want to help them. BY WALT FRANK Staff Writer Rob Walls' job description at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital doesn't include "provid- ing inspiration to but it could. Walls simply shows up for work each day in the admissions depart- ment and gets down to work from his wheelchair "We see people with devastating health concerns, and when they see someone [like Walls] in a wheelchair, that offers them a ray of 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 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 AS Disabled: This includes people who have difficulty performing functional activities such as hearing, seeing, hav- ing one's speech understood, lifting and carrying, climbing stairs and walk- ing, or difficulty with activities of daily living. Severely disabled: This incluldes peo- ple 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. Statistics H One in three disabled aduiis, com- pared to just one in eight nondis- abled Americans, live in very low- income households with less than in annual income. B While 82.1 percent of the general working age population is employed (ages only 52.3 percent of all people with disabilities are employed. H Among those with severe disabilities, only 26.1 percent are employed. H There are 4 million children and ado- lescents, or 6.1 percent of the popu- lation under 18 years of age, who have disabilities. Sources: U.S. Census, National Organization on Disability, Harris poll. WHOM TO CALL For more information about disabled residents looking for employment and employers inter- ested 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. Legal 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 dissolu- tion 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 sys; tern] is a work in progress. Can they tell me today what it will be like in 15 months? No, they Peoples said. He said MidPenn has suggested that Blair County start a pro bono program. Pro bono, Peoples said, means "for the but practi' cally it means Blair County attorneys will pro; vide services to the poor for free. "It takes a spirit of willingness on the part of the bar association to make it Peoples said. Blair County lawyers Wednesday had a var- ied 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 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 ser- vice] where people truly cannot afford legal ser- Hollidaysburg lawyer Dan Ratchford was adamantly opposed to pro bono services. Ratchford, for months, has contended that Southern Alleghenies Legal Aid Inc. has pro- vided 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 their time to help out the new MidPenn pro- gram, he became angry. Please see A7 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 address- es 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 avail- able to any resident upon request. A rul- ing 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 AS tax system, as part of an endeavor to pro- vide 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 dissemi- nated 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 and just demand the information, unless the information being sought is for some purpose that is 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 Ody said. State open records laws make no men- tion 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, it's 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 argu- ment in this case at all that Mr. Wargo is seeking to look into people's tax 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 dis- trict isn't found in violation of the taxpay- er 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 he said. Outside the courtroom, McDowell and Superintendent David Leckvarcik have said the district likely would have provid- ed the information had the taxpayer pro- tection laws not been in place. Please see AS DEUVEKY Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 287-4480 BNFOUR 4 0 0 4 I Lottery numbers, A2 WEHHER Cloudy with rain, Forriast, A2 Altnnna iHtrrnr THE GREAT COMBINATION Call us today...Make money today. Ask for THE GREAT COMBINATION of MIRROR CLASSIFIEDS and HOT-ADS Phone (814) 946-7422 or fax us at (814) CJ LOCAL Business Comics Obituaries Opinion WOHTS Local Scoreboard 1 A9 passes Bush budget C1   

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