THE WEEK IN REVIEW
Here is a look at the top stories of local interest published in The Indiana Gazette during the week of Jan. 12-18:
SUNDAY, JAN. 12
Work on final upgrades could begin as soon as the spring at White Township’s Kennedy King Park, and among the improvements are eco-friendly innovations and an athletic court that will be the first of its kind in the region. The township was recently awarded an $85,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The funding covers half the cost of the $170,000 project, which is the second and last phase of renovations that started at the Josephine Avenue park in 2008. That work, too, was supported by the DCNR. The grant stipulates that the projected be completed with matching funds, meaning the township must put $85,000 of its own — in both money and labor — toward the project.
MONDAY, JAN. 13
The Department of Music at Indiana University of Pennsylvania this spring will add a notable instrument to its already vast keyboard collection. In May, the department will make room amid its 93 Steinway pianos for the Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial Organ, valued at $400,000.
The two-manual and pedal, 24-rank tracker pipe organ will come to IUP via a special renewable lease from the American Guild of Organists. The pipe organ is a bequest to the guild from its original owners, Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee, formerly of Bucks County.
TUESDAY, JAN. 14
A proposal for a large tax increase requiring approval of Indiana Area School District voters has been canceled by the school board. The directors unanimously voted Monday to rescind a vote cast on Oct. 28 that called for asking district residents to approve a 12 mill real estate tax increase in a referendum in the spring primary.
Instead, the board directed district administrators to prepare a budget that would limit the property tax increase to the amount allowed under the local economic index without voter approval. On a divided vote, the board agreed to ask Pennsylvania Department of Education approval of an additional increase to recover excess contributions to the pension plan, without voter approval, under an exception granted in the state school tax law.
At most, the tax increase would be about 4.63 mills, which would increase the bill for the average property owner by $98.62.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 15
Auditors examining the Blairsville Borough tax collector’s office found disorganized and incomplete records, unreconciled bank accounts, and more than $268,000 in undeposited tax payments, some of which dated to August.
The findings are contained in a summary report prepared by the Johnstown accounting and auditing firm Wessel & Co., which reviewed tax collector Carol Tarasovich’s records at the behest of the borough and Blairsville-Saltsburg School District. Tarasovich has vigorously denied there is anything amiss in her office. The borough and the school district, along with Indiana County officials, had commissioned the review over numerous complaints from residents and mortgage companies that tax payments weren’t being processed in a timely manner and on concerns about lagging tax receipts.
THURSDAY, JAN. 16
Indiana police said they found heroin and crack cocaine when they stopped a vehicle Wednesday driven by Rickie Robertson, 27, of Braddock, for a traffic violation in the first block of South Seventh Street. When officers tried to arrest Robertson, he attempted to run away but was subdued a short distance away. During the arrest, he fought with officers and kicked one policeman in the face, according to reports. Police said crack cocaine and a large sum of money also were found in his possession.
Robertson was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver heroin and crack cocaine, resisting arrest, escape and disorderly conduct. He was placed in the Indiana County Jail.
FRIDAY, JAN. 17
The Penns Manor Area school directors have asked Principal Daren Johnston to stand at the district’s helm while it searches for a new superintendent. At a meeting Thursday, the board appointed Johnston, 44, as interim superintendent on an 8-0 vote.
He is taking over for Thomas “T.J.” Kakabar, who resigned last month for the superintendent’s job in the Conemaugh Township Area School District in Somerset County. Kakabar lives in Cambria County, and the move put him closer to home. Johnston has served as the district’s high school principal since the fall of 2004.
SATURDAY, JAN. 18
Indiana County’s American Red Cross chapter is about to go through another leadership change, 2ﾽ years after an extensive administrative restructuring of the organization’s Southwestern Pennsylvania Region.
Donna Pacella, the Red Cross community chapter executive directorfor Westmoreland-Armstrong and Indiana chapters, is resigning to accept a position outside of Red Cross in Las Vegas.
Pacella’s final day with the Red Cross will be Feb. 7, according to Lauren Ashley, the Red Cross’ regional communications officer for western Pennsylvania. Pacella on Sept. 1, 2011, became the community chapter executive of the combined Westmoreland-Armstrong and Indiana Red Cross chapters as part of a reorganization that merged some chapters and consolidated some administrative positions.