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Altoona Mirror: Wednesday, August 22, 2001 - Page 1

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   Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - August 22, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania                                INSIDE TODAY BUSINESS: High-speed train off to a slow start A13 NATION: Fugitive's 3-year-old son found dead Cl o offensive vlmemem Alt00na mirror i Copyright 2001 WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2001 500 newsstand No butts about it: Smoking banned at school games New state law will change policies at area high school venues, including Mansion Park. BY JAY YOUNG StaJTWriter The only lighting up at public school athletic events this school year will be on the Scoreboard. A new state law prohibits smoking within SO feet of school property. That means the caged area at Mansion Park, where smokers once ran for a few puffs, will be removed. Those still looking to smoke must make a real effort because the sidewalk outside the stadium is the nearest nonschool district property. District spokesman Tom Bradley said extra security will be placed around the former designated smoking area during Friday's football scrimmage and the first few regular season games. "It's a real culture Bradley said. "I would imagine there are going to be some people that won't be too happy." Those leaving athletic events for a smoke will not be given pass-out checks and will have to purchase another ticket. The same policy will apply at basket- ball games, where before smokers were directed to an area on 14th Street under the pedestrian bridge. Bradley said allowing people to come and go as they please leads to numer- ous other problems, such as going to cars for alcohol. Please see All EMERGENCY SERVICES Mirror file photo AME1J personnel transport a patient to a local hospital in this 1999 file photo. Emergency medical technicians are express- ing concern that a policy forbidding them to carry defensive weapons on the job could compromise their safety. DANGER DANGER BY MICHAEL EMERY StqffWrtter During a recent call in Portage, an emergency medical services team had to restrain a violent patient. In another situation, an EMS crew was confronted by a family member who believed the crew wasn't doing enough to help the patient. Carl Moen, assistant director of the Southern Alleghenies EMS Council, remembers another emergency call one he responded to as a Pittsburgh EMS member about eight years ago. "I responded to a call that simply stated a 64-year-old male was ill and needed Moen said. "Unfortunately, EMS crews don't always know what they're getting into when they're called to an emergency. "When I got to the apartment, instead of finding an ill 64-year-old male, I found a 30-year-old male who had been brutally stabbed. Whoever called for the emergency aid obvious- ly didn't want to say someone had been stabbed because he didn't want to alert police to the situation. Please see A8 No-weapons policy puts emergency workers on edge Blair hiring process may violate law BY PHIL RAY Staff Writer HOLLIDAYSBURG Blair County commissioners have been hiring department heads behind closed doors for almost 20 years, a practice that may be illegal. Commissioners said Tuesday that they have asked their solicitor to determine if hiving employees, including major department heads, in private is a violation of Pennsyl- vania's Open Meetings Law. The practice definitely violates the stale's Sunshine Law, an attor- ney for the Pennsylvania News- paper Association said Tuesday. Kara Beem said commissioners are permitted to hold executive ses- sions to discuss personnel, but the law requires them to announce the purpose of the closed-door meeting either before or after holding it. "They can talk about hiring and review applicants, but they have to give the public an opportunity to comment, to voice then' opinion on the Beem said. The last department director the commissioners hired was county prison warden John O'Connor of Duncansyille. Commissioners don't know when they agreed to the hire and said no minutes of the meeting were taken. But the hire was made after O'Connor's July 25 interview. Commissioners did not reaffirm his hiring at any of their weekly meetings, and they did not announce the hiring publicly. O'Connor's hiring became public Thursday when he attended a prison board meeting. On Monday, the salary board, which includes the commissioners and Controller Richard Peo, estab- lished O'Connor's annual wage at but by then, he had been working for a week. Commissioner Donna D. Gority said she saw nothing wrong with the way O'Connor's hiring was When commissioners hired prison warden John O'Connor, they took no minutes of the meeting and did not announce his hiring publicly. handled, saying counts' commis- sioners have been hiring depart- ment heads in private during her 18 years on the board. Commissioner John H. Eichel- berger Jr. said there was no secret that O'Connor was hired. If some- one would have asked, commis- sioners would have revealed the information. Commissioner John J. libersole said the way O'Connor was hired "was the right way." He agreed with Gority that the same proce- dure has been followed for at least 18 years. During hiring procedures, com- missioners conduct interviews with applicants, then decide who to hire. A background check is conduct- ed, and the employment details are worked out between the county per- sonnel director and the new hire. Commissioners defended the pri- vate process, saying applicants may not want present employers to find out they are looking for or have found another job. Please see A14 Officials lobbying to put Springs projects higher on PennDOT list BY BETH N. GRAY fior, the Mirror BEDFORD Bedford County qfffpials are asking that two road and pedestrian projects for the Bedford Springs Resort be moved to the top of PennDOT's Trans- portation Improvement Project Jist for 2003. -'A total of million 80 per- cent federal funding and 20 per- cent PennDOT funding already is earmarked for improving Business Route 220 from Bedford Borough south to the resort's hotel and for developing a pedes- trian a bridge or tunnel for safe passage across the road between the hotel and golf course, county Planning Director Jeff Kloss said. Although the projects have been on PennDOT's 12-year plan for some time, they've sunk to the bottom of the list because no development of the resort has occurred. "If something breaks open on the Springs project, we'll be poised to go Please see A3 McDuped: Eight arrested in scheme to steal game prizes from fast-food chain WASHINGTON (AP) Federal authorities working with McDon- ald's broke up a criminal ring they say rigged the popular Monopoly and "Who Wants to be a Million- aire" games played by millions of the fast-food chain's customers during the past six years. The FBI alleged Tuesday that the ring fixed winners of million and other big-money prizes, who then shared the cash with mem- bers of the group. In all, the ring "won" more than million in prizes. Authorities said it was not clear whether there ever were any legitimate winners of large prizes in McDonald's Monopoly and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" games. Eight people have been arrested so far. At the center of the scheme was Jerome Jacobson, 58, a security employee of Simon Marketing Inc., a company hired by McDonald's to handle game promotions and secu- rity, authorities said. Jacobson had almost total con- trol over the distribution of win- ning game pieces, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in .Jacksonville, Fla. The complaint alleges that Jacobson embezzled winning game pieces and distributed them to friends and business associates who found others to take the win- ning pieces and claim the prizes. The "winners" then paid money back to Jacobson and his associ- ates. SEES Subscription or home delivery questions: or (800) 287-4480 Lottery numbers, A2 .J Partly cloudy, Forecast, A2 Mirror QpopbO' O n Bucks JJ3 LOCAL Business Movies Obituaries Opinion Scoreboard A13 i Classifieds C4-16 AS AID I Comics_____ D5 Community news D2 _ B4 Puzzles D4 B5 Television D4 IKUfl Corn on the cob is one ol the favorite fresh foods of summer. Get some tips on selecting the best ears of corn and how to prepare them. PAGE D1   

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