Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - March 5, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania
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© Copyright 2001
MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2001
500 newsstandTHE SERIES
Today: Many schools don’t play by public access rules, but there are some exceptions.
Tuesday: Getting your hands on a supposedly public court document can be difficult.
Wednesday: Your tax money helps local municipalities pay their bills, right? So getting a look at those bills should be no problem, right?
Thursday: There’s a proposal on the table to strengthen Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law.WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
The Mirror is seeking reader reaction to our series on access to public records in the region.
Have you had an experience where you couldn’t get a document that you thought should have been public record? Contact Mirror Staff Writer Jay Young at 946-7535 or [email protected] and tell us about it.
Most school districts fail test for Right to Know compliance
Although character education is a big part of the curriculum at public schools, some school officials have skipped the lessons when it comes to providing public information.
“I was hoping I could view a copy of the superintendent’s contract,” said Altoona resident and Mirror reporter Jay Young, dressed in jeans and wearing a baseball jacket and hat during his visits to 13 school district offices.
Young’s requests were part of a six-month Altoona Mirror investigation of public officials’ compliance with state Right to Know laws.
SECOND OF FIVE PARIS
Stories by Jay Young
Although schools expect their students to be good citizens, seven districts failed to comply with the law.
In the investigation, Young dressed casually and identified himself as an Altoona resident — not a reporter — to test a resident’s ability to obtain public information.
In the Northern Cambria School District, Young’s request turned into a question-and-answer session with the
superintendent — and ultimately a violation of the law.
Superintendent Joseph DiBartola denied a request to see his contract. He later claimed he feared that Young might be “off his rocker” and possibly was “scoping out” district employees for the purpose of stealing from their homes.
“Who are you?” DiBartola asked when Young appeared at the district’s office and asked to see a copy of the superintendent’s contract.
“My name is Jay. I’m from Altoona,” Young said.
Please see Test/Page A4
■ Altoona and Hollidaysburg school districts took the long road to comply with open records laws.
■ Chestnut Ridge’s
superintendent welcomed an opportunity when he read a request for information.
■ How local school districts responded when asked for documentation.
PAGES A3, 4
Convention center spawns property suit
By Ray Stephens
The view outside Pepper Center’s front window has changed.
There used to be trees and brush, providing a habitat for birds, squirrels and rabbits as well as a place where children could play.
Now she looks at a hill as imposing as a strip mine highwall, topped by the Blair County Convention Center and the accompanying Courtyard by Marriott hotel.
“This has all happened within the last year,” Genter said as she walked through the yard of her home at 711 Sprankle Ave., a block away from Logan Boulevard behind Dental Care Associates, between Lakemont and Sylvan Hills.
The Allegheny Township resident decided 21 years ago to buy her two-story frame house because she liked the property.
Despite its proximity to busy Logan Boulevard, the property seemed rather rural, with mature trees, hedges and other plantings, bordered by the lightly wooded area that led to wetlands, an area unlikely for development.
“I hadn’t even gone inside the house and I knew I wanted this place because of the property,” Genter said.
Now, because of the Blair County Convention Center, Genter would like to move.
For the last two years, she watched contractors work in the area across from her house, digging into a hill, piling up dirt in preparation for construction of the convention center and destroying what was a wooded area. Her house has been a front-row seat to watch the building of Convention Center Boulevard between the center and Logan Boulevard.
While that went on, Genter watched several neighbors pack up and move away, using money the Blair County Convention Center Authority paid them for their properties to buy other properties.
Genter initially thought the authority was going to buy her property. But as the project moved forward, she learned that plans were made to provide her with another access road, not to take her property. So she called an attorney.
Attorney Harvey Pasternack, State College, said he raised objections on Center’s behalf and tried to seek a settlement. But with little success so far, Pasternack and Genter have filed a lawsuit with the Blair County Court of Common Pleas.
“If they change the condition of a property, even though they don’t touch it, that’s inverse condemnation, and in this case, there was a clear taking,” Pasternack said.
Please see Suit/Page A5
Kylie Edwards, 7, Altoona, picked a fine day to go roller skating at the Jaffa Mosque parking lot.
The snow goes on... and on...
The area is blanketed, but the worst is yet to come, forecasters are saying
A ‘RUFF DAY
Mirror photo by Kelly Bennett
Linda and Ed Johnson of Grampian walk their English bulldogs Dozer, Fern, Cookie and Bubba Roo, in the snow behind the Jaffa Mosque at the Altoona Area Kennel Club Dog Show Sunday. An Australian shepherd owned by Marty Strawmire of Altoona won best puppy in show at the event. The best of show dog was a long-haired dachshund owned by Elaine Corbin of Monroeville. A total of 160 purebred dogs and owners took part in the competition.
Above: Altoona teens Rod Kruis and John Balliet roll giant balls of snow to make a fort Sunday afternoonat Columbia Park in Altoona. Below: A snowplow makes its way down 14th Avenue in Altoona Sunday before the heaviest stuff came down.
By Tiffany Shaw Staff Writer
(eports of heavy snow didn’t deter many area drivers i Sunday morning, but as the day wore on, forecasts proved true and conditions worsened, residents got off the roads.
Restaurants on Plank Road and Pleasant Valley Boulevard were busy for the lunch rush, store parking lots were full of vehicles and video rental stores were packed as people slogged through slushy parking lots and messy roads to get what they wanted.
The snow came and went during the day in a trend expected to continue through Tuesday, according to Accuweather meteorologists, who still are predicting 12 to 18 inches for the Altoona area.
As the storm took a turn toward central Pennsylvania, shoppers
Mirror photos by Kelly Bennett
took forecasters at their word and raided Lowe’s of Altoona around noon.
“We definitely had to dig out the salt and snow shovels,” assistant manager Randy Raley said. “They were pretty much packed away since it was up close to 50 degrees for a while.”
Another popular item was replacement pins for snowblowers as owners prepared their snow-removal equipment.
Some Lowe’s employees weren’t anticipating the rush of people in the store early in the morning, although the crowds tapered off as the heavier snow arrived after noon.
“I was kind of surprised that ifs the end of the winter and people still need snow shovels,” Raley said.
Please see Snow/Page A8
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