Fire Companies Consolidate In Eastern Berks County

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Three Berks County fire companies that have fought fires together for decades will be merging to form the Eastern Berks Fire Department in January.

The Goodwill Fire Co. in Bally, Volunteer Barto Fire Co. and the Keystone Fire Co. of Bechtelsville will join for what they say will provide better service, according to a news release.

“After three years of talks, negotiations, forms, inventories and legal approval, the three will begin operating as a single department at 4 p.m. on Jan. 3,” Rev. Paul Bartlett of the fire department said in the release.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-berks-fire-company-merger-20111226,0,7133192.story

New Teen Driving Rules Take Effect Tuesday, December 27th

York, PA – Starting Tuesday morning, teens face new driving restrictions, including the number of passengers they can transport in their vehicle, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Here is a rundown of the new rules:

— Drivers under the age of 18 will not be able to transport more than one passenger younger than 18 for the first six months. After six months, junior drivers can transport up to three passengers younger than 18 as long as the driver has not been convicted of a driving violation or has not been partially or fully responsible for a reportable crash.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/local/ci_19621137

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Funds Cut

The federally funded LIHEAP provides cash grants to help income-eligible homeowners or renters pay for home heating fuel.  The state Department of Public Welfare expects the LIHEAP funding from the federal government to be cut in half. Last year, the state received $326 million in funding.  The expectation for this winter is $163 million, said Carey Miller, the department’s spokeswoman.  Thus, the department has changed the eligibility levels for funding, as well as the maximum amounts people can receive.

Read more: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/news/ci_19621104

And The Winner Is? Melanie Amaro Crowned Winner Of X Factor USA

In a star-studded finale that concluded months of competition, Melanie Amaro was crowned the first winner of the American version of X Factor and the winner of a $5 million recording contract.  The biggest prize ever awarded for a singing competition.  Melanie will also appear in a Pepsi commercial.

Star after star graced the stage this evening, Justin Bieber w/ Stevie Wonder, Leona Lewis, 50 Cent, Pit Bull and Neo.  The final twelve returned to perform group numbers and several of the finalists made cameo appearances with the superstars.

Josh Krajcik finished in second place and Chris Rene finished in third place.

Congratulations to all this evening’s finalists. 

X Factor USA will be back in 2012 for a second season!

Adam Lambert Jailed And Released In Finland For Fighting

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American Idol alum, Adam Lambert is known for his “kerfuffles” as well as his singing.

Adam Lambert and his reality TV star boyfriend, Sauli Koskinen, were arrested and jailed Thursday morning for getting into a fight outside a Helsinki, Finland bar.  The duo were released several hours later, and the 29-year-old “American Idol” alumnus says he is ready to move on from the incident.

Read more and watch video: http://wonderwall.msn.com/music/adam-lambert-lesson-learned-after-vodka-induced-arrest-1658912.story

Groundbreaking Kicks Off Reading Sewer Plant Project

As the resident of a “down river” community from Reading, I say Hallelujah to this news!

After years of planning the city’s new sewage treatment plant on Fritz’s Island, dozens of local, state and federal officials gathered Wednesday to officially kick off what will be more than $200 million in construction.

They broke ground for the first of numerous projects, this one a $2.9 million contract for a huge new flow meter and 2,000 feet of new sewer main – the first section of an 8,700-foot replacement for the 50-year-old main that burst three times this year.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=354319

Poor Economy Great For Dollar Stores

Dollar stores have evolved into a go-to spot for holiday shoppers on a tight budget or trying to get more value for their money. In contrast with the often dingy spaces they once occupied, many have undergone renovations and are stocked with a bounty of Christmas trees, wrapping paper, toys and inexpensive electronics for the holiday season. Some even carry steaks.

With the job market and economy still unsettled, dollar stores are predicted to perform robustly as shoppers of all incomes flock there to pick up cheap decor and presents. For the fourth quarter, the category is expected to post a sales increase of 4.2% or higher at stores open at least a year, according to business data firm Thomson Reuters.

Although dollar stores have attracted higher-income customers in recent years, the fallout of the nation’s economic downturn is still especially evident in the aisles of these low-cost stores during the holidays.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/business/la-fi-dollar-store-christmas-20111221,0,3740256.story

Blockbuster Closing More Stores

Blockbuster Video plans to shutter all but one of its remaining Lehigh Valley stores in the coming days, according to several sources.

The beleaguered movie rental chain plans to cease rentals as early as Monday, Dec. 26, at stores at 2221 Lehigh St., Allentown; 2918 William Penn Highway, Palmer Township; and 756 Memorial Parkway, Phillipsburg, according to employees who answered the store phones Wednesday.

Liquidations are planned to start next week, according to the clerks.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-allentown-blockbuster-closing-more-stores-story-20111221,0,4779144.story

Speaker Boehner Succumbs On Tax Deal

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday bowed to pressure from both within and outside his party and agreed to a short-term deal to extend a payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans.

In what could be an end to a toxic stalemate, Boehner informed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he will set a vote in the House on a Senate-passed two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, a Democratic leadership aide said.

Now comes the hard part – getting his often rebellious caucus to follow his lead. He is expected to brief members of his caucus later on Thursday, according to one lawmaker’s office.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/sns-rt-us-usa-taxestre7b827k-20111209,0,557603.story

First Night Scranton Gears Up To Ring In 2012

First Night Scranton, the alcohol-free, family-friendly event will take place for the 13th year Saturday, Dec. 31 at 6 p.m. on Courthouse Square, offering an alternative to the traditional alcohol-soaked ideal of the holiday.

“There aren’t many options for families and younger people to do things on New Year’s Eve,” said Doug Smith, entertainment chair of this year’s event. “You can either go to a bar and there’s alcohol and all that stuff, or you just stay home and then you’re not going out to do anything. So it’s a great thing for families to do and for teenagers to be able to do on their own.”

First Night is a trademarked event held all over the country, promoting arts, culture and family activities. First Night Scranton was established in 1998 by Scranton Tomorrow and was turned over to the city in 2008. Now, it’s a nonprofit run by volunteers that relies on fundraising and corporate sponsors.

Read more: http://www.theweekender.com/cover/Old_times_not_forgotten_12-20-2011.html

J.C. Penney Returns To Franklin Mills Mall

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The J.C. Penney outlet store at Franklin Mills mall was one of 19 outlet stores closed by J.C. Penney.  In March of 2012, J.C. Penney is coming back to Franklin Mills as a full-line department store.  The new 100,000 square-foot store will occupy the same space but feature an updated design.

Franklin Mills Mall, is owned by Simon Property Group and has 200 stores.

Wilmington Man “Wanted To Kill Someone”

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Police today charged a 24-year-old Wilmington man with abducting and murdering a Brandywine Hills woman Monday morning while she was walking her dog.

Dwight L. Smith of the 200 block of W. 36th St., told police he ‘clicked on’ Monday and decided he “wanted to kill someone,’’ a police arrest affidavit said.

So while driving a few blocks from his home, he struck 65-year-old Marsha Lee with his red Hummer SUV and shoved her inside while she pleaded for mercy, a police arrest affidavit said.

Read more: http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20111220/NEWS/111220011/Police-Kidnap-murder-suspect-wanted-kill-someone-?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Local|s

Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania Enacting A Spending Freeze To Keep Budget Balanced!

The temperature isn’t the only thing freezing in Pennsylvania:

Gov. Tom Corbett’s Budget Secretary, Charles Zogby, said today state revenues are on track to miss projections that the current budget was built on by $500 million this fiscal year.

That revenue shortfall, Zogby said, has led Corbett to task him with drawing up options for a mid-year freeze on some state spending to try to keep the overall $27.1 billion general fund budget in balance. He also said it creates a scenario in which there will likely be scant resources for any spending increases in fiscal year 2012-13, which begins July 1.

Read more : http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/12/state_revenues_expected_to_be.html

Harrisburg Receiver Granted Extension To Develop Financial Plan

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The newly appointed state receiver for Harrisburg, David Unkovic has been given an extension by Commonwealth Court to develop a plan to bring Harrisburg back from the brink of financial ruin.  The Harrisburg Authority’s failed retrofit of the city’s incinerator plunged the state capital $317 million dollars in debt. 

Harrisburg entered Act 47 as a first step to recovery.  The Harrisburg City Council and Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson have been at odds with the Act 47 team and each other.  Failure to follow the Act 47 team’s suggestions or come up with their own plan, the Governor of Pennsylvania appointed a receiver to take control of the city’s finances and come up with a plan to untangle Harrisburg from the incinerator debt.

The deadline has been extended from January 2nd until February 6th.  We applaud the wisdom of this decision.  Allowing sufficient time for the receiver to formulate the best possible plan is a “no-brainer”.  Harrisburg didn’t get into this situation over night and rushing to get out could make things worse.

Cedarville UMC Pork & Sauerkraut Dinner January 1, 2012

With so many natural disasters continuing to occur around the world and the need for assistance ever-increasing, Cedarville United Methodist Church has chosen to reach out to an area that has slipped out of the current headlines but continues to be in need.

The Central Gulf Coastof the United States was devastated in 2005 by the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  Today, the people in that area are still hurting and there continues to be much work that needs to be done. Gulfport, Mississippi will be the destination of Cedarville’s 2012 Adult Mission Trip.  In Gulfport alone there were 29,970 homes that were destroyed, 3,600 sustained major damage and 1,800 had minor damage.

To help in our mission of sharing the love of God in ways that make a Christian difference, we are raising funds thru a Pork & Sauerkraut Dinner on January 1, 2012.  Worship service will be at 10:00 a.m. on January 1st The meal will be served from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and all are welcomed to either or both.  Dinner tickets for Adults are $8.00 and Children under 10 are $4.00.  Advanced dinner reservations are being taken by contacting (484) 944-4751 and tickets will be sold at the door.

Pittsburgh Ranks 37th In Best-Performing Cities List

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The Pittsburgh metro area fell five spots but remained in the Top 40 in the 2011 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index measuring economic and job growth.

Pittsburgh was ranked 37 on the 2011 list compared to 32 in 2010. This year’s No. 32 was York-Hanover, Pa; the only other Pennsylvania city in the top 50 was Philadelphia, at No. 49.

Pittsburgh was 30th in the United States when it came to one-year job growth during the recession years of 2009-10, and 60th in terms of five-year growth from 2005 to 2010. It was 50th in terms of job growth from June 2010 to June 2011, the Milken Institute said.

Read more: http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/news/2011/12/19/pittsburgh-37th-best-performing-city.html?ed=2011-12-19&s=article_du&ana=e_du_pub

Delta Plans Two New York Hubs 12 Miles Apart

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ATLANTA — People used to say the airline hubs in Detroit and Minneapolis (once belonging to Northwest, now Delta(DAL) ) were too close.

But now Delta is trying something never tried: operating hubs at two New York airports, LaGuardia and Kennedy, a dozen miles apart.  The carrier said Friday that by summer, it will build its LaGuardia operations into a hub providing 264 daily departures to more than 60 cities.  They include competitors’ hubs in Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, and Miami; key destinations in upstate New York; and small cities such as Wilmington, N.C.

The move represents Delta’s effort to use 132 LaGuardia slots, just acquired in a trade with US Airways(LCC) , to establish itself as the primary airline in the world’s biggest travel market. The slots will enable it to add 100 flights and 26 destinations.

Read more: http://business-news.thestreet.com/the-mercury/story/delta-plans-two-new-york-hubs-12-miles-apart/11348730