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Athens woman arrested in connection with June drug bust

ATHENS — One of the suspects named in the Bradford County Drug Task Force undercover operation that yielded 26 criminal complaints back in June has been apprehended and now sits in the Bradford County Jail.

Athens resident Harley Platt, 23, is facing felony counts of delivery of a controlled substance and criminal use of a communication facility after she allegedly sold crystal meth to an undercover officer and a confidential informant back in April.

According to police, an undercover officer with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office and members of the task force met with the informant on April 4 for the purpose of purchasing six grams of crystal meth from Platt.

The informant made numerous contacts with Platt by “voice calling and texting her,” police said. The CI made arrangements to purchase the meth for $160. They set a meet at a local church parking lot in Athens Township.

According to police, at 6:32 p.m. on April 4 the suspect walked up to the vehicle — which was occupied by both the informant and officer — and handed the CI “a baggie of suspected crystal meth in exchange for $160 in pre-recorded (Office of the Attorney General) buy money.”

Platt then allegedly spoke with the informant about “making a future run to Ohio” with the CI to pick up large amounts of controlled substances to distribute in the future.

The baggie of suspected meth was weighed in at 6.22 grams with packaging. It field-tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine and was then secured by the Athens Township Police Department for future transport and drug testing, police said.

Platt was arraigned in front of Magisterial District Judge Larry Hurley on Monday and sent to county jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. She is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 20.

DPost / Dave Post/Morning Times  

The 2019 fall sports season kicked off on Monday in Pennsylvania as teams from Athens and Sayre hit the fields for the first day of practice. Pictured here, a pair of Athens High football players go through a drill during the Wildcats’ first official practice of the season.

Athens Borough Council OKs purchase of new fire truck

ATHENS — The Athens Borough Council unanimously voted to allow the borough’s fire department to pursue the purchase of a new truck during Monday’s meeting.

The fire department said it will be looking for a new rescue engine to replace a 1992 truck they are currently using.

“It’s very important to the fire department. We are using trucks that are over 20 years old. We just need to update, get with the times and it’s going to help us out all the way around,” said Athens Borough Fire Chief Mike Polzella.

The council approved the department to look for a truck with a value of up to $450,000.

Polzella explained during the meeting that the department would be able to pay off the truck in 15 years with payments of $30,000 per year.

“We have the funds. We’ve saved them up because we haven’t bought a truck (in so long),” Polzella said.

Now that the council has approved the purchase, the fire department will look for bids from different companies.

Also during Monday’s meeting, Bradford County Emergency Management Coordinator Sarah Neely honored councilman Scott Riley for earning his advanced certification through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. Riley is the borough’s emergency management coordinator.

“Scott has gone through countless hours of online and classroom training for this award. It goes through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency along with a recommendation from myself, so I’m really excited to be able to present this to him in person today,” Neely said.

Governor wants answers on 4 kids separated from families

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s governor says at least four children from his state were recently separated from their parents by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and wrote Monday to demand the agency halt the practice until it has a plan to ensure the welfare of children.

Gov. Tom Wolf asked Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan to account for all children separated from their parents this year in Pennsylvania and to tell him how long they were kept apart and about any steps the federal government took to ensure their well-being.

Wolf said in the letter that the four children are U.S. citizens and come from at least three migrant families. He said that “information relayed” to state officials indicated federal agents did not make sure that the children had adequate temporary guardianship.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman in Philadelphia said in an email that any response to Wolf’s letter “would come through the appropriate channels.”

Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said the separations occurred in Philadelphia in late July, and at least two of the kids have since been reunited with their parents.

He said the administration has been working to get more details about what happened in Philadelphia, including exactly when and where the separations occurred.

“We know that at least two, their parents were eventually released, and the families were reunited,” Abbott said. “But I don’t believe on the other two we had any finality of the result.”

The emailed statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency “exercises discretion” when arresting someone with children to ensure someone is available to care for the children, “consistent with local, state and federal law enforcement conventions and protocols.”

In June 2018 — days after President Donald Trump retreated amid an international uproar — a federal judge ordered that the practice of splitting up families at the border be halted except in limited circumstances, such as threats to child safety. The judge left individual decisions to the administration’s discretion.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s practices regarding children drew scrutiny again last week, after 680 migrants were arrested at seven Mississippi chicken processing plants.

Trump said Friday the Mississippi raids served as “a very good deterrent” and defended the lack of sufficient advance preparation for dealing with the children whose parents were detained.

“The reason is because you have to go in, you can’t let anybody know, otherwise when you get there, nobody will be there,” Trump said.

Wolf, a Democrat, told McAleenan that state government is willing to help to place asylum seekers in communities and make sure any separated children are adequately cared for.

Wolf said children can’t be left to fend for themselves “while your department prioritizes overly aggressive enforcement over their health and safety.”

“This is absolutely irresponsible. Even worse, we are not aware that proper child welfare protocols — or even common sense — were used to ensure safe and legal temporary guardianship for these minor children,” Wolf wrote.

After the Mississippi raids, three Democratic congressmen sought more information about how many parents were separated from their children and whether any remain separated.

Wolf told McAleenan that putting children through separation was likely unjustified unless both parents were a threat to the children or others.

“Was this the case? If not, this is as unnecessary as it is callous,” Wolf wrote.

Barton Town Board continues to talk in circles over railroad crossing project

BARTON — For two years and counting, the Barton Town Board still has not made a concrete decision on what to do about the safety issues concerning the Ellistown Road and Emory Chapel Road railroad crossings.

During Monday’s monthly meeting, a Barton resident addressed the board with concerns over the Emory Chapel railroad crossing, providing a photo of a car carrier stuck on the tracks from the July 19 edition of the Morning Times.

“I think to ignore those crossings and the shape they’re in, is absolutely wrong, in my opinion,” the resident said.

Supervisor Leon “Dick” Cary stated the town’s attorney, Kimberlee Middaugh, was in talks with the state and railroad company, Norfolk Southern, about extending the proposed plans.

The deadline for the railroad projects to be completed is Aug. 30.

Deputy Town Supervisor Donald Foster suggested in response to the safety concerns and trucks unable to drive over the railroad crossings is to upgrade the town’s traffic and vehicle laws.

“There is something we can do about this right now, we could upgrade our vehicle and traffic laws that are on the books right now,” Foster said. “And regulate the length of these tractor trailers and car carriers that are going from where the houses are on Emory Chapel Road down towards the church and crossing down there.”

Foster and board member Kevin Everly believe putting in traffic signs and updating the traffic and vehicle laws could help alleviate some of the safety issues.

“Do you think it will take away the safety hazard of the crossing?” the resident asked Foster.

“I think it will help,” Foster responded.

“The point is why have those crossing when you don’t need to? There’s been a big movement to take two of them out and put a good one in. If you had a good grade crossing on Broad Street Extension and you took the other two out, they couldn’t get hung out on them because they would be gone,” the resident said.

Foster responded with one of the board’s main concern with the railroad crossing project: who’s fronting the bill for the project? Foster stated the town board has not seen any paperwork regarding the project cost and who will be funding it.

“That’s not my point. I’m here tonight as a citizen of the Town of Barton and if you’re going to ignore it and you’re going to say those crossings are ok, I wouldn’t want to be in your village liability wise,” the resident said. “My whole point in being here is if you just think status quo is going to stay the same, the only way to make those crossings safe is to remove them and take them out. They’re not safe the way they are. The plan that has been put in place to take those two out and put a good one in would work. You wouldn’t have a truck getting hung up on the tracks if they were out. And to leave them there is negligent as far as I’m concerned. It’s negligence and unsafe on the town board’s part to leave them the way they are.”

“If you are going to leave those crossings the way they are, I’m saying you’re being negligent. You can talk around it all night, you can say who’s going to pay for it? That’s a whole different story. I’m just saying those crossings aren’t safe the way they are. The longer you leave them, it’s like playing Russian Roulette. One of these days, a train is going to cut one of them in half and everybody can say, why didn’t somebody do something?”

Foster responded with a reiteration of the need to update the town’s traffic and vehicle laws.

The board moved on with the meeting agenda, letting the town attorney discuss having the board approve an extension of the railroad crossing project to continue conversations with the state and Norfolk Southern.

Middaugh stated Norfolk Southern has “expressed frustration” with the setbacks of the project.

“The railroad attorney asked for an extension perhaps to allow some additional time to have some discussions,” and come to some agreement on the project, Middaugh said.

The town board would need to pass a resolution to allow for an extension, according to Middaugh.

Foster asked if Middaugh could ask for representatives from the New York State Department of Transportation and Norfolk Southern to attend another meeting with the board to discuss the project again.

Midduagh responded by saying to allow for the board to speak with representatives in a timely manner, the board would need to seek an extension on the project deadline. The attorney with Norfolk Southern and the state have people willing to come and talk with the town board about their concerns, according to Middaugh, but she reiterated the need for an extension.

“We’re going right around in circles unless something changes,” Foster commented.

If the deadline passes, the board will need to restart the entire process of fixing the railroad crossings, which could take years. Letting the deadline pass and/or asking for an extension could result in the state and/or Norfolk Southern in putting more funding into the project, lessening the financial burden on the town, according to Middaugh and Cary. However, that is not guaranteed.

Foster asked again if representatives could come and speak with the board, to which Middaugh stated the board would need to ask for an extension to have those conversations.

Cary first made a motion to allow Middaugh to ask for an extension of two years. No town board member seconded the motion.

The board members continued to bring up concerns they have extensively talked about during previous board meetings, however, Middaugh expressed to the board these concerns they wished to discuss with representatives from the New York state DOT or Norfolk Southern would require an extension on the project deadline.

Middaugh continued to express concern over liability the town could face if they did not fix the crossings or ask for an extension. Foster responded that “you can sue anybody for anything in this world.”

After more discussion, board member John Tryon put forth a motion to ask for an extension of six months. Board member David Shipman seconded.

Cary, Tryon and Shipman voted aye for the motion. Everly and Foster abstained from voting.

“We’re still open-minded to upgrading, either build up that crossing there or the other crossing they’re proposing. But nobody seems to want to listen to what we have to say here,” Foster said. “The state has not shown us or anybody, even the town supervisor, has not shown us a detailed plan of who’s paying what here and we’re right in front of deadline here at the end of the month.”

“The original resolution that we put to the state, DOT and the railroad, was to close both crossings and open one new one. The judge came in and said no, that’s not acceptable, you need an emergency access (road). And that’s where everything fell apart,” Everly said.