Johnstown Battles Blight

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cambria County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cambria County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

JOHNSTOWN, PA — What was once The Rib Rack restaurant is now an eyesore and a hazard.

The building, located at 405 Strayer St. in Johnstown’s West End, is in a state of decay, with crumbling bricks, broken rain spout, boarded windows and weeds.

Soon, though, the building will be razed.

Its demolition is part of an ongoing effort by City Council and the Community and Economic Development Department to remove blight from the town.

Since the fall of last year, 66 structures have been razed.  The Rib Rack is next on the list.  Work has started in the past few days.

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Altoona Area School District Finalizes Bonds

Map of Blair County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Blair County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Altoona Area School District recently refinanced a bond series of $46 million for a net interest savings of more than $2 million.

The district’s favorable A-plus credit rating achieved by years of good financial management, a Standard and Poor’s rating services report stated, is one reason the district was able to reduce the original 4.36 percent interest rate and obtain the savings.

Market conditions providing 40-year low bond interest rates were another reason.

“The savings are higher than the estimate we had in September,” Business Manager Michelle Krebs said.

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Pottstown Homeless Man Jailed After He Admits To Borough Arson

MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURTHOUSE — A onetime homeless man is now residing in a jail cell after he admitted to starting a fire inside a vacant Pottstown apartment that resulted in a response from Pottstown fire officials.

Brian Jay Staub, 38, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court to 11 ½-to-23 months in the county jail after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of arson endangering property in connection with the March fire at an apartment in the 400 block of Manatawny Street.

Judge William R. Carpenter, who accepted a plea agreement in the case, also ordered Staub to complete four years’ probation after he’s paroled from jail.  The judge also ordered Staub to complete any drug or alcohol treatment that might be recommended by probation officials.

Staub, who court records indicate once listed an address in the 300 block of Chestnut Street in Pottstown, also must pay $1,000 restitution to Spring Hill Realty Inc., of Harleysville, which owned the property.

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‘Hobbit’ Bests ‘Lord Of The Rings’ With $84.8 Million Opening

NEW YORK—Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” led the box office with a haul of $84.8 million, a record-setting opening better than the three previous “Lord of the Rings” films.

The Warner Bros. Middle Earth epic was the biggest December opening ever, surpassing Will Smith‘s “I Am Legend,” which opened with $77.2 million in 2007, according to studio estimates Sunday.  “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” also passed the December opening of “Avatar,” which opened with $77 million. Internationally, “The Hobbit” also added $138.2 million, for an impressive global debut of $223 million.

Despite weak reviews, the 3-D adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s first novel in the fantasy series was an even bigger draw than the last “Lord of the Rings” movie, “The Return of the King.”  That film opened with $72.6 million.  “The Hobbit” is the first of another planned trilogy, with two more films to be squeezed out of Tolkien’s book.

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Valley Forge National Historical Park Proceeds With Deer Culling

English: A white-tailed deer

English: A white-tailed deer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has set off a heated debate, a federal lawsuit, and enough documents to fill a couple of phone books.

But for the third consecutive year, Valley Forge National Historical Park is proceeding with a deer-culling program designed to thin the herd and encourage new plant growth in the park.

And officials at the famed Revolutionary War site say it is working.

The deer population has long been a bane of Valley Forge, they say.  Before the culling began, the park counted 291 deer per square mile.  A “sustainable” population would be closer to 35 per square mile, said Deirdre Gibson, the park’s chief of resources.

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Gas Prices Falling This Holiday Season

Falling gas prices have brought a little bit of holiday cheer at the gas pump where many in the region had grumbled while the price of unleaded hovered around the $4 mark.

The average price of unleaded regular has dropped to $3.75 a gallon in the Buffalo area, down from $3.89 a month ago, according to, which tracks gas price trends across the country.  Nationally, the average price was down to $3.27 a gallon as of Saturday.

The downward trend can be attributed to two things, according to Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for

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Man Charged In Attack On Three Women In Clay Township

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A 22-year-old man has been charged with torturing three elderly women in an act of “rage” against the Mennonite faith Friday at a Clay Township home, police said.

Dereck Taylor Holt allegedly used a stun gun-like device on the women, ages 84 to 90, and punched them, according to Northern Lancaster County Regional police. He then bound their hands and feet with tape, covered their faces and ransacked the house, investigators said.

Investigators allege Holt terrorized the women for at least two hours, during which time he indicated he previously had been a member of the Mennonite community and has anger for its members since he left the faith, officials said.

During the assault, he read various Bible passages and then vandalized the women’s Bible, police said.

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Cumru Township Won’t Fill Vacant Police Positions

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cumru Township is budgeting for a reduced police force for the first time in at least a decade.

The draft 2013 budget that the township commissioners are scheduled to adopt Tuesday plans for 23 officers, officials said.  That’s how many officers are now on the force but two positions are vacant.

“We’ve had 25 officers for the last 11 years,” police Chief Jed G. Habecker said.

Habecker had planned to fill those two vacancies but commissioners voted 3-2 to table the hirings.

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