THE WEEK IN REVIEW
Here is a look at the top stories of local interest published in The Indiana Gazette during the week of April 27-May 3:
SUNDAY, APRIL 27
Windy conditions played havoc with volunteers from six northern Indiana County fire departments on Saturday afternoon — first, by apparently snapping an electric power line, and second, by whipping the flames of a wildfire over almost 5 acres of ground in Green Township, a local official said. The fire first was reported about 3:45 p.m. in a hilly, wooded area along Allison Road, about three-fourths of a mile north of Route 286.
Fire Chief Mike Aikens, of the Clymer Volunteer Fire Department, said the flames came within 50 feet of a house in the area but caused no structural damage. No one was reported to be injured.
MONDAY, APRIL 28
A teenage girl died of injuries she suffered April 18 when a car ran into a pond along South Sixth Street in White Township. Alyssa Stancombe, 16, of Ernest, died shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday at Allegheny General Hospital, officials said.
Her sister, Skye Stancombe, of Ernest, said she was a passenger in a car that crashed. The driver, identified by police as Kevin Vasbinder, 21, of Mentcle, was involved in a police chase. According to a police news release, troopers responded to a report of shoplifting at Walmart in SouthTowne Plaza. Vasbinder, 21, is accused of fleeing from investigators in his car and leading troopers on a pursuit northeast along Oakland Avenue, then east on Indian Springs Road to Route 954 (South Sixth Street), police said. Prosecutors are considering upgrading charges against the driver.
TUESDAY, APRIL 29
Teachers and school directors on Monday ratified a new three-year labor agreement for the Indiana Area School District to take effect July 1. The deal between the district and Indiana Area Education Association creates a new entry-level step called Instructional 1 on the teachers’ pay scale with a salary of $48,000, about $11,000 lower than the current starting pay rate, district officials said.
A contract summary provided by Business Manager Jared Cronauer shows the district could save $231,000 if 21 new teachers are hired for the 2014-15 school year. Overall, salaries will increase an average of 1.08 percent, 2.9 percent and 2.3 percent in the three years of the contract. Combined with savings in health care costs and the reduced entry-level salary, the contract will cost the district $554,000 over the current pay scale, according to the summary.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30
In a major anti-pollution ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday backed federally imposed limits on smokestack emissions that cross state lines and burden downwind areas with bad air from power plants they can’t control. The 6-2 ruling was an important victory for the Obama administration in controlling emissions from power plants in 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states that contribute to soot and smog along the East Coast.
That includes the Homer City Generating Station, which has been cited as a major polluter of the air in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The power plant also served as a face in the litigation — all of the related cases were consolidated under a complaint against the plant.
THURSDAY, MAY 1
The state Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill drafted by Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, that would give school districts the option to contract for police service as a way to improve safety in classrooms and reduce response times in the event of an emergency. Specifically, Senate Bill 1194 would give public and nonpublic school districts in communities where police services are furnished solely by the Pennsylvania State Police the option to contract with municipal police from nearby jurisdictions to provide security as well as school resource officers in their schools.
The legislation was driven in part, White said, by the efforts of Indiana Area School District officials to arrange for Indiana Borough police to respond first to incidents reported at Indiana Area Senior High School and East Pike and Ben Franklin elementary schools, all in White Township.
FRIDAY, MAY 2
Paul McGregor Park at North Second and Water streets in Indiana Borough was designed with kids in mind, so who better to redesign the new playground than local children? Indiana Borough recently held a My Dream Playground coloring contest, where kids at local elementary schools were encouraged to draw and color a picture of their dream playground.
The playgrounds could include anything — swing sets, jungle gyms and seesaws, to name a few. In addition to the $20,000 grant from KABOOM, a division of Dr Pepper’s Snapple, donations were made by local businesses and the community to help make the project possible. As of now, more than $30,000 has been raised for the project. A winner from three categories, kindergarten and first grade; second grade; and third and fourth grade, will be selected.
SATURDAY, MAY 3
The Indiana County Municipal Services Authority lifted a boil water advisory Friday that had been in effect since April 25. The authority had issued the advisory after finding that two filter membranes at its Crooked Creek water treatment plant weren’t performing up to expectations, leading to a slightly increased risk of contamination. The advisory was issued as a precaution — even though the filters weren’t working as expected, water quality was still meeting regulations, authorities said.