Here is a look at the top stories of local interest published in The Indiana Gazette during the week of Nov. 17-23:
SUNDAY, NOV. 17
Over the next couple of weeks, some residents may look up and see a specially designed helicopter sent out by First Energy Service Company to trim trees and vegetation along its right of ways. Efforts started this week and will continue at various times over the coming weeks, depending on weather conditions, according to those at the Akron, Ohio-based energy parent company of Penelec.
The trimming will stop this week.
MONDAY, NOV. 18
Police continue to investigate two strong-arm robberies that happened just minutes apart, and one block away from each other, early Friday morning in Indiana. Around 2 a.m. Friday, an unidentified man was assaulted and robbed when at 655 Church St. Two assailants pushed him down a flight of steps, punched him and hit him in the head with a glass liquor bottle, and took his wallet, according to police.
About 10 minutes after the first assault and robbery, an unknown man attacked a woman at the intersection of South Carpenter Avenue and Gompers Avenue. The suspect stole her cellphone and her purse, then fled, according to police.
TUESDAY, NOV. 19
IUP officials have decided to pay off the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex’s construction debt and increase a tuition surcharge as a means to mitigating a projected $19.5 million deficit in a few years. In a letter to the university, President Michael Driscoll said the actions, made in conjunction with the University Budget Advisory Committee, are necessary if IUP is to make the deficit more manageable.
IUP officials figure that if they leave things the way they are, IUP will have to contend with a $7.7 million difference between income and expenses in 2014-15, growing to $14.1 million the next year and $19.5 million the year after that.
But if university officials take steps now, Driscoll said he believes they can knock that difference down to $2.6 million in 2014-15 and to $9 million in 2015-16 and $14.4 million the year after.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 20
Indiana Borough council in December may act to create a new planning department for the borough and hire a director. At council’s monthly work session Tuesday, borough manager William Sutton said a five-member ad hoc committee for several months has been studying the possibility of separating the functions of code enforcement and planning and at council’s Dec. 3 meeting will bring forward items for action.
THURSDAY, NOV. 21
Initial results from a high-tech diagnostic test have Indiana Borough’s arborist feeling confident that a rare American elm tree discovered this summer can be saved. Robert Crusan, owner of Urban Forestry Consultants Inc., in Shelocta, on Wednesday used acoustic tomography to inspect the internal condition of the giant elm on borough property in the 1200 block of Oak Street.
He estimates the tree is between 89 and 112 feet tall. It’s about 5 feet in diameter at chest height, and Crusan speculates it may be 150 years old. Crusan was surprised by the discovery of the tree because most big America elm trees died long ago, victims of Dutch elm disease that ravaged the species starting in the 1930s. He is not sure why this tree survived.
FRIDAY, NOV. 22
The nation observed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, and locally the Indiana County commissioners hosted a short commemorative program on the front steps of the Indiana County Court House.
Anthony Frazier, a data management specialist for the county, led the audience in a moment of silence at 2 p.m., the time of the president’s death in Dallas (1 p.m. CST), followed by a benediction, and the program ended with Indiana County auditor Donna Cupp singing “God Bless America.”
SATURDAY, NOV. 23
A man is facing charges after police say he chased down a teenager who threw corn at his vehicle and then allegedly struck him and handcuffed him.
According to state police in Indiana, the incident occurred around 9:40 p.m. Thursday as Jack O. Edmundson Jr., 43, of Saltsburg, was driving down a stretch of Route 286 known as Leech Avenue in Conemaugh Township. Police said two boys, both 15, were walking along that same stretch of road, “corning” passing vehicles.
Police said Edmundson shouted “police!” at one of the boys, causing him to stop running. Edmundson then tackled him, struck him and handcuffed him, police said. Edmundson was charged with felony counts of unlawful restraint and false imprisonment and simple assault, impersonating a public servant, harassment and disorderly conduct. Both boys were cited for criminal mischief, police said.