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Early amounts of drugs seized in bust released

ATHENS TOWNSHIP — Some of the amounts of drugs seized in last week’s Valley-wide drug bust were released Wednesday by the Athens Township Police Department.

Thus far, 22 suspects have been arrested from the Valley and surrounding regions as part of the operation, which took place over seven months and involved numerous law enforcement offices and other agencies from both sides of the state border.

According to Athens Township Police Chief Roger Clink, the following approximate amounts of illegal substances have been recovered so far in the bust:

• 28 grams of fentanyl

• 28.7 grams of heroin

• 66.2 grams of marijauna

• over 50 prescription pills.

Clink added that the approximate street value of the drugs collected is $27,000.

Police are also searching for four more suspects in connection to the operation — all of which have ties to the Valley.

Those suspects are:

• Chase Carpenter, 35, of Waverly

• Anthony Stuzenstein, 39, of Athens

• Harley Platt, 23, of Athens

• Joshua Chapman, 27, of Sayre.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the aforementioned suspects is asked to contact Athens Township Police at (570) 888-2200.

BeST Transit to provide transportation to Pickett's Senior Expo

ATHENS — The 19th annual Senior Expo hosted by State Rep. Tina Pickett is set for Friday, June 21 at Lynch-Bustin Elementary in Athens.

In order to make it easier for senior citizens to attend the event, Pickett’s office has once against teamed up with BeST Transit to provide transportation to and from the venue.

“Transportation is available via BeST Transit’s door-to-door Senior Shared Ride and Persons with Disabilities transportation programs and the general public fixed-route (Route 15 and Route 10),” a press release stated. “Registered seniors (age 65 and older) and registered (Persons with Disabilities) passengers must call by 11 a.m. the business day before to schedule their respective trips to the Expo.”

The general public fixed route will also be available for transportation to the Senior Expo, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Passengers can catch the 9:30 a.m. bus at the Sullivan Terrace. The bus will arrive at Progress Building in Towanda at 10 a.m. Passengers will then need to transfer to the northbound Route 10 bus that leaves the Progress Building at 10:30 a.m. The bus will travel to Greens Landing and travelers will need to transfer to connect with the 11 a.m. Valley loop bus. The bus, on this particular day, will deviate to Rep. Pickett’s Expo at Lynch-Bustin Elementary School,” the press release continued.

Passengers needing to return to Sullivan County will need to catch the 1:45 p.m. Valley Loop bus from the Expo southbound to Greens Landing.

There are nearly 80 exhibitors signed up to participate in the event, according to a press release from Pickett’s office.

“I encourage all seniors, their family members and caregivers to make plans to join us and learn about the various services available to them in our area,” said Pickett. “This information can sometimes be difficult to obtain. Our expo makes it easier and more convenient by bringing service providers and seniors together at the same time, under one roof.”

Information will be provided on health care, insurance, nutrition and exercise, financial planning, fraud protection, government services, veterans benefits and more. Refreshments will also be offered.

At 11:30 a.m., Pickett will hold a town hall meeting in the school’s cafeteria to provide an update on state budget negotiations and discuss her legislative priorities during the current session.

The school, which is air-conditioned, is located at 253 Pennsylvania Avenue in Athens. From Route 220, take the second Athens Business Exit to Pine Street. Signs will be posted directing participants to school parking. Shuttle service will be provided from the school’s parking lot to the building’s front door.

Anyone with questions about the expo can contact Pickett’s Towanda office at (570) 265-3124 or her Sayre office at (570) 888-9011. To prepare for the Expo, Pickett’s district offices will be closed all day on Thursday, June 20.

GOP pushes back on cash governor seeks for voting machines

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican lawmakers are refusing to commit to the millions of dollars sought by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to back up his demand that Pennsylvania’s counties buttress election security by replacing their voting machines before 2020’s presidential elections.

Republicans who control Pennsylvania’s Legislature say that a roughly $34 billion budget counterproposal they are finalizing does not include the $15 million Wolf requested, and that they want Wolf to back off his stated intention to decertify voting machines in use last year.

Republicans never agreed to require counties to replace voting machines, and helping finance the purchases is Wolf’s problem, not theirs, said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre.

“This was a crisis that the governor created, and he needs to resolve it,” Corman said in an interview. “I feel bad for the counties because he put a huge unfunded mandate on the counties, but that’s his responsibility.”

Wolf last year began pressing counties to buy machines with a paper-based backup, following warnings by federal authorities that Russian hackers had targeted Pennsylvania and at least 20 other states during 2016’s election.

Wolf’s administration has warned lawmakers that Pennsylvania could otherwise be left as the only state — and certainly the only presidential battleground state — without voter-verifiable paper systems that allow a voter to double-check how their vote was recorded.

Wolf’s office said in a statement Wednesday that the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections “is everyone’s responsibility” and that it would continue pushing for lawmakers to support aid to counties.

“If they elect not to support protecting Pennsylvania’s votes, Governor Wolf will assess the best path forward for the commonwealth,” Wolf’s office said.

Pennsylvania is one of about a dozen states where some or all voters, until recently, have used machines that store votes electronically without printed ballots or another paper-based backup.

The so-called direct-recording electronic machines in wide use in Pennsylvania make it almost impossible to know whether they’ve accurately recorded individual votes or if anyone tampered with the count.

But Republican senators have complained that Pennsylvania is rushing to buy machines at considerable taxpayer expense when there are logistical hurdles and no legitimate example of an election irregularity in the state.

“This is sort of the governor buying into the whole national narrative that Trump stole the election,” Corman said. “There’s zero proof of that.”

Wolf’s administration, however, contends that the Trump administration supports its position.

Since 2016, a wide range of election integrity advocates and computer scientists, as well as former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have urged states to switch to machines that produce an auditable paper trail.

The total replacement cost could exceed $100 million in Pennsylvania. Wolf’s plan, issued in February, is for the state to pay $15 million to counties each year for five years, for a total of $75 million.

Information provided by Wolf’s administration Wednesday showed 33 of 67 counties, including Philadelphia, have plans to start using new voting systems on or before the April 2020 primary election. Several of the state’s most populous counties were not among them.

A particular sticking point for Republicans is Wolf’s administration forcing all 17 counties that already use machines with a paper-based backup to replace them.

Wolf’s administration has maintained that those machines are aging, lack continuing support for their software and hardware and will be more expensive in the future to replace.

Spencer residents voice concerns over condition of Burheight Glen Road

SPENCER — At the beginning of the Spencer Town Board Meeting on Tuesday evening, several residents of Burheight Glen Road spoke during the open floor about the conditions of the roadway.

Since the flooding last fall, this road has been unusable and has continued to erode. The residents are aware that many other roads and bridges also desperately need repair. However, they are stressing the need to take action soon because the materials to build up the road again are able to be salvaged from the creek at little expense with permission from the New York Department of Conservation up until September.

One resident in particular, Susan Garrison, mentioned that if repairs to not take place before winter, it is likely that a good portion of the road will erode away altogether, making repairs much more expensive in the future. Town Supervisor Randy Thayer responded that he would meet with Dick Smith, the head of the Highway Department and make sure he looks at the road.

Another concern related during the open floor was the future of the Town and Village of Spencer Joint Planning Board. The Town Board plans to withdraw from the Joint Planning Board, officially disbanding it.

The village will then form their own Village Planning Board. Sufficient notice must be given before the town pulls out of the Planning Board, though. Until the disbanding takes place, several village residents are willing to act as town representatives for the Joint Planning Board. Details and further decisions are to be discussed at a special meeting taking place in the near future.

In discussion over increased health insurance rates, the board revealed that the town will only offer single coverage options for its employees and not family plans. Health insurance rates have been increasing and these changes will be considered when budget planning begins later in the year.

Tensions in Tioga: Discussion surrounds future of middle school position

TIOGA — Discussions became slightly tense Wednesday as Tioga school board members and district administrators focused on the potential future of a middle school teaching position that was left open from a recent resignation.

“Every time there’s a resignation or a retirement, we take a hard look at whether or not we need to refill that position,” district Superintendent Dr. David Hamilton said.

Hamilton explained that the next school year’s fifth-grade class will be smaller, so he was not recommending that the board refill that position.

“I’m not asking to abolish the position, just to shelve it, so to speak, so maybe we can use that position elsewhere in the future or something like that,” he said.

Hamilton noted that there would be no budgetary impact made by position, as it’s already been budgeted for in next year’s spending plan, and would not change the middle school’s programming.

However, board members were hesitant to make the change.

“I know this is technically a reduction in staff, but we worked hard to get those staff positions back,” member Pam Zwierlein said.

New board member Scot Taylor, who was sworn in prior to the meeting, also expressed doubts that not filling the position would not reduce the services provided to the middle school.

“If I saw a need for it in any area, I wouldn’t recommend this,” Hamilton said. “But I will not recommend that we fill that position.”

“I just see teachers as the most important,” Taylor said. “They’re the boots on the ground interacting directly with the students the most often. So I just value that over a top heavy system where we have more administrators than before.”

After a lengthy discussion, the board opted to table the subject for executive session.