Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - April 28, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania
Sports: Pens’ Jagr questionable for Game 2Life: Getting the garden ready for spring planting DIAltoona Mirror
© Copyright 2001SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2001
SOC newsstandGeist requests STB hearing on NS
By Kay Stephens Staff Writer
State Rep. Richard A. Geist, R-Altoona, has asked the federal Surface Transportation Board to schedule hearings in Altoona on Norfolk Southern Corp.’s decision to close the Hollidaysburg Car Shop.
If the board grants his request, it would the first time the board has held a hearing outside Washington, D.C.,
said Nancy Beiter, STB staff attorney.
The board will review Geist’s request and is interested in the issue.
“But this board has never held a hearing outside D.C., and there’s really no budget for it,” Beiter said Friday.
Geist, who chaired two hearings of the state House Transportation Committee this month, said he wants the STB to hear how Norfolk Southern’s broken commitments are affecting the lives ©f car shop employees
and their families.
“We want the STB to hear firsthand what we’ve heard,” Geist said.
In hearings in Altoona April 12 and in Harrisburg Thursday, Geist and his committee members heard rail workers and rail union leaders challenge Norfolk Southern’s decision to shut down the Hollidaysburg Car Shop.
Railroad union and state officials filed a petition last week with the STB, complaining that the railroad is not
fulfilling its commitments to keep the Hollidaysburg and Juniata shops open for three years, to further invest in the shops and to service 1,000 CSX Corp. cars.
Norfolk Southern officials responded by claiming they made projections, not commitments. They also said the Hollidaysburg closing is just one of many difficult decisions that economic conditions and serious financial challenges require.
The STB is an independent regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation. The three-member board adjudicates disputes involving interstate surface transportation, primarily railroads.
Its mission is to ensure that competitive, efficient and safe transportation services are provided to meet the needs of shippers, receivers and consumers.
Please see Hearing/Page A5
Pa. can’t help pay for Blair security
By Phil Ray
Three lawmakers representing Blair County said that state funds to improve security at the courthouse in Hollidaysburg are not available — and probably won’t be in the future.
State Reps. Jerry A. Stern, R-Martinsburg; Richard A. Geist, R-Altoona; and Larry 0. Sather, R-Huntingdon, have stated in a letter to county Controller Richard J. Peo that “courthouse security has traditionally been, and continues to be in almost every county in Pennsylvania, the province of the county sheriff.
“In many cases, counties have increased staff and budget to the sheriff to provide for enhanced security measures.
“With a staff trained to fulfill a law enforcement/peace officer role, it would seem the sheriffs office is perfectly situated to assist with those efforts in Blair County,” according to the letter.
In March, Peo asked lawmakers if money was available to help pay for increased security at the Blair County Courthouse.
The inquiry came after the office of District Justice Elizabeth Doyle almost was set on fire, and the courthouse was closed a week later for most of a day after a bomb threat.
Some courthouse employees have complained about the lack of security. It was an issue in labor negotiations between county commissioners and the United Mine Workers of America, the union that represents court-related workers.
Judge Thomas G. Peoples also became embroiled in the debate, contending he has been asking for improved security for years.
County Commissioner John J. Ebersole said it would cost $500,000 to improve courthouse security, and that expenditure wouldn’t be enough to eliminate potential violence. Peo decided to ask about the availability of state funds.
Stem, Geist and Sather said that in 1995, the General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting unauthorized individuals from entering courthouses with firearms.
Please see Security/Page Al2
SPRING GOBBLER SEASON
Turkey biologist aide Doug Little
measures the beard length of a bearded hen turkey in the Michaux State Forest near
Fayetteville in 1999. State turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena and her
colleagues have trapped 120 female turkeys in the South Mountain area and fitted each with a backpack-style radio transmitter that’s about the size of a 9-volt battery.
The Associated Press
Feast or famine
Biologists studying why wild turkeys are plentiful here while the numbers are paltry to the east
From Mirror staff and wire reports
On a gravel road inside the Michaux State Forest, state turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena is listening for signs of life.
The beeping on her radio telemetry receiver tells Casalena the turkey she is looking for is probably half a mile away, roughly the same direction her antenna is pointing. The steady, unwavering signal tells her the turkey isn’t moving.
“It might be nesting,” Casalena said. “It might just be cooling off in the shade. These hot afternoons can be hard on turkeys.”
As hunters geared up for today’s start of spring turkey season, Casalena and her colleagues hunted for clues that would explain why turkeys — abundant throughout most of the rest of the state — have struggled in south-central Pennsylvania.
Over the last 40 years, wild turkey populations have rebounded throughout much of the Northeast, with about 350,000 of the birds living in Pennsylvania. When Pennsylvania first allowed spring turkey hunting in 1968, only 1,600 birds were taken during the six-day season.
Please see Turkey/Page A14
Man avoids jail for attacks on partner, fetus
By Phil Ray
HOLLIDAYSBURG - An Altoona man will not serve time in jail on charges that he assaulted his girlfriend and the couple’s unborn child in July.
Judge Jolene G. Kopriva said this week that 26-year-old Anthony Kofalt will be assigned to Blair County’s Intermediate Punishment Program, which provides treatment rather than jail for certain drug or alcohol abusers.
Kofalt allegedly was intoxicated July 14 when he came home from a local tavern and argued with his girlfriend, who told Kofalt that they were about to be evicted from their apartment on the 1600 block of lith Street for not paying rent.
Police said Kofalt slammed his girlfriend against the wall, struck her and kicked her, stating that he never wanted their baby.
The girlfriend, nine months pregnant, escaped and went to a nearby home to call police. Later that night, she gave birth to their child.
In January, Kofalt pleaded guilty to aggravated assault of an unborn child and simple assault of his girlfriend. Kofalt originally was charged with aggravated assault of the girlfriend, and he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge as part of a plea bargain.
Kofalt’s attorney, assistant public defender Mark Zearfaus, and assistant district attorney Wade Kagarise agreed that Kofalt should be enrolled in the IPF instead of serving time in jail.
Kofalt was the second Blair County man prosecuted under a 3-year-old state law imposing criminal sanctions for assaulting an unborn child. The U.S House passed a similar law Thursday.
Kagarise said Friday that his office wanted to see a jail term imposed in the case, but Kofalt’s girlfriend was hesitant to testify.
The district attorney’s office intended to pursue the prosecution with or without the victim’s cooperation, but prosecutors agreed to the IPP because it was recommended by the county’s assessment team.
AT A GLANCE
■ Anthony Kofalt was the second Blair County man prosecuted under
a 3-year-old state law imposing criminal sanctions for assaulting an unborn child. The U.S House passed a similar law Thursday.
■ Under court sentencing guidelines, aggravated assault of an unborn child carries with it a minimum 9- to 16-month sentence.
■ Instead of jail time, Kofalt will be assigned to the county’s Intermediate Punishment Program, which provides treatment rather than prison for certain drug or alcohol abusers.
“We wanted to get a conviction under the new law because we believed in it,” Kagarise said. “He’s now under court supervision. God forbid if he would assault her again.”
A criminal defendant is not automatically enrolled in the program even though the prosecution and defense agree he should be. His appl ication is reviewed by an assessment team, which evaluates suspects and makes recommendations.
Individuals charged with certain crimes, such as aggravated assault, are not eligible for the program, IPP Director Thomas Shea said.
But a charge of aggravated assault of an unborn child is not one of the crimes that would bar IPP participation, Shea said.
As part of the plea bargain, prosecuting attorneys agreed to drop the aggravated assault charge on the girlfriend, making Kofalt eligible for IPP.
Even under IPP, Kofalt could have spent up to three months in jail, but the plea agreement indicated that instead of spending time in jail, Kofalt would be placed on electronic monitoring for 90 days.
Under electronic monitoring, Kofalt will wear an anklet that enables authorities to confirm he is at home.
Please see Attacks/Page A6
m Nuisance ordinance annoys residents
Cambria County Courthouse employees are saddened by the closing of the basement lunch counter.
State Attorney General Mike Fisher speaks as part of the county’s Law Day Friday.
By Beth N. Gray
For the Mirror
SCHELLSBURG - A proposed property maintenance and nuisance ordinance intended to establish health and safety requirements for Napier Township drew the ire of almost everyone in a crowd of 125 at a special supervisors meeting.
The residents got their first chance to respond to the proposal
at Shawnee Valley Firehall Thursday.
With a show of hands, many more residents expressed concern for an ordinance designed to regulate motor vehicle nuisances, storage of construction materials and building and property maintenance than to establish restrictions on racetracks.
But there also were residents present to voice concerns over an
ordinance designed to regulate a motorcycle racetrack.
Neighbors’ objections to construction of a dirt motorcycle racetrack along Hoover Road pressured supervisors to complete the ordinance, which has been under study and in preparation for some time.
But residents were concerned mostly about property maintenance.
“The issue is telling us how our
ground should look,” said resident Dave Delozier, speaking for a sometimes noisy contingent of jeans-and-T-shirt-clad men in ball caps. “I think we’re going in places the majority of people don’t want to go.
“Is my junk worse than your junk?” he asked. “Maybe it’s none of your business. I could care less about your junk car or shrubbery.”
Please see Nuisance/Page A3
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