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Commissioners approve feasibility study on Athens Borough, Township police merger

A possible merger of the Athens Borough and Athens Township police departments is closer to becoming reality after the Bradford County Commissioners approved a feasibility study on the topic during Thursday’s meeting.

During a monthly meeting held virtually on Thursday, Bradford County Commissioners agreed to pay the Central Bradford Progress Authority $15,000 “to develop a feasibility study for the consolidation of municipal services for Athens Borough and Athens Township.”

Bradford County Commissioner Daryl Miller stated that the feasibility study is being completed “at the request of those municipalities working through the Progress Authority.”

When asked if “municipal services” includes the Athens Borough Police Department and Athens Township Police Department, Central Bradford Progress Authority Economic Development Manager Chris Brown confirmed that law enforcement will be the first municipal service to be considered for a merge.

“The first municipal service is the police force, other municipal services will be looked at as well,” Brown stated.

Brown explained that the $15,000 allotted to the study will help the Progress Authority develop both a site plan and a utilization plan for a building that a newly merged Athens Police Department could be based in.

The new building was formerly a Williams Company property, according to Brown.

“After the study we will have a plan for the municipal services that are efficient and able to be consolidated,” Brown said.

“(The feasibility study is) looking to understand what the efficiencies are and if it is more efficient to close down those buildings (the Athens Borough and Athens Township police departments) ... however what this feasibility study will do is determine whether or not that is (an) appropriate and feasible action,” Brown added.

Brown stated that while “the exact staff” that will carry out the feasibility study “hasn’t been identified yet,” the team will be composed of individuals from both the progress authority and outside contractors.

Brown estimated that the feasibility study will be completed within the next three months.

Sayre Borough received a donation from First Citizens Community Bank for the annual Sayre Borough Christmas Parade on Thursday. First Citizens has been the title sponsor for the event for the past nine years. Pictured here with Sayre Borough Manager Dave Jarrett (right) are Cathy Pientka (left) and Joy Darrow (center) of First Citizens Community Bank. The Sayre Borough Christmas Parade is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 27. Sayre Mayor Henry Farley will be the grand marshal. Musical participants this year include Downbeat Percussion, which is the official drumline of the Buffalo Bills, Penn York Highlanders, Pat Haggerty Dance Studio and Doc Possum. Social distancing and masks are encouraged for this year’s parade due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The parade will be live streamed by the Morning Times at www.morning-times.com.

Trump, allies make frantic steps to overturn Biden victory

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and his allies are taking increasingly frantic steps to subvert the results of the 2020 election, including summoning state legislators to the White House as part of a longshot bid to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.

Among other last-ditch tactics: personally calling local election officials who are trying to rescind their certification votes in Michigan, suggesting in a legal challenge that Pennsylvania set aside the popular vote there and pressuring county officials in Arizona to delay certifying vote tallies.

Election law experts see it as the last, dying gasps of the Trump campaign and say Biden is certain to walk into the Oval Office come January. But there is great concern that Trump’s effort is doing real damage to public faith in the integrity of U.S. elections.

“It’s very concerning that some Republicans apparently can’t fathom the possibility that they legitimately lost this election,” said Joshua Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky who researches and teaches election law.

“We depend on democratic norms, including that the losers graciously accept defeat,” he said. “That seems to be breaking down.”

Trump’s own election security agency has declared the 2020 presidential election to have been the most secure in history. Days after that statement was issued, Trump fired the agency’s leader.

The increasingly desperate and erratic moves have no reasonable chance of changing the outcome of the 2020 election, where Biden has now received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history and has clinched the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win.

But the president’s constant barrage of baseless claims, his work to personally sway local officials who certify votes and his allies’ refusal to admit he lost is likely to have a lasting negative impact on the country. Legions of his supporters don’t believe he lost.

“It’s about trying to set up the conditions where half of the country believes that there are only two possibilities, either they win or the election was stolen,” said Justin Levitt, a constitutional law scholar and professor at Loyola Law School. “And that’s not a democracy.”

The two GOP canvassers in Michigan’s Wayne County said in a statement late Wednesday they lacked confidence that the election was fair and impartial. “There has been a distinct lack of transparency throughout the process,” they said. But there has been no evidence of impropriety or fraud in Michigan, election officials have said.

Trump’s allies have homed in on the way that the president’s early lead in Michigan and some other states on Election Night slipped away as later votes came, casting it as evidence of something nefarious.

But a massive influx of mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic leaned largely to Biden, who encouraged his supporters to vote by mail, and those votes were the last to be counted. So it appeared Trump had an edge when he really didn’t.

In fact, Biden crushed Trump in Wayne County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Detroit, by a more than 2-1 margin on his way to winning Michigan by 154,000 votes, according to unofficial results.

Earlier this week, the county’s two Republicans canvassers blocked the certification of votes there. They later relented and the results were certified. But a person familiar with the matter said Trump reached out to the canvassers, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, on Tuesday evening after the revised vote to express gratitude for their support. Then, on Wednesday, Palmer and Hartmann signed affidavits saying they believed the county vote “should not be certified.”

They cannot rescind their votes, according to the Michigan secretary of state. The four-member state canvassing board is expected to meet Monday and also is split with two Democrats and two Republicans.

Trump appears intent on pushing the issue. He has invited Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders, Senate Majority Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, to the White House, according to two officials familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly. The two have agreed to go, according to one official, but they haven’t commented publicly, and it’s not clear what the purpose of the meeting is.

The Michigan Legislature would be called on to select electors if Trump succeeded in convincing the state’s board of canvassers not to certify Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in the state. But both legislative leaders have indicated they will not try to overturn Biden’s win.

“Michigan law does not include a provision for the Legislature to directly select electors or to award electors to anyone other than the person who received the most votes,” Shirkey’s spokeswoman said last week.

During a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday, Biden said Americans are “witnessing incredible irresponsibility, incredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions.”

He added, “I just think it’s totally irresponsible.”

A few hours earlier, Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and others had held a press conference to allege a widespread Democratic election conspiracy involving multiple states and suspect voting machines. But election officials across the country have said repeatedly there was no widespread fraud.

Many of the allegations of fraud stem from poll watchers who filed affidavits included with lawsuits in battleground states aimed at delaying vote certification. Those affidavits lean into innuendo and unsupported suggestions of fraud.

For example, they refer to suitcases in a polling place, but make no suggestion that ballots were being secretly counted. There are allegations of ballots being duplicated — something routinely done when a ballot is physically damaged. There are claims that partisan poll watchers were too far away to observe well and therefore something fishy was probably going on. But they don’t have proof. Poll watchers have no auditing role in elections; they are volunteer observers.

Giuliani cited a few sworn affidavits that he said showed a vast Democratic conspiracy, but added that he could not reveal much of the evidence. One he cited was from Jessy Jacob, identified as a city employee in Detroit who said she saw other workers coaching voters to cast ballots for Biden and the Democrats.

A judge who refused to block certification of Detroit-area results noted that Jacob’s claims included no “date, location, frequency or names of employees” and that she only came forward after unofficial results indicated Biden had won Michigan.

Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis, who joined Giuliani, said more evidence would be forthcoming and that Trump’s allies would have more success in courts going forward. But so far, most of their legal actions have been dismissed.

Chris Krebs, the Trump administration election official fired last week over the comments about the security of 2020, tweeted: “That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest.”

In Pennsylvania, where the Trump campaign is challenging the election results in federal court, a legal team led by Giuliani suggested in a filing Wednesday that the judge order the Republican-led state legislature to pick delegates to the Electoral College, potentially throwing the state’s 20 electoral votes to Trump. A judge canceled an evidentiary hearing in the case.

In Arizona, the Republican Party is pressuring county officials to delay certifying results. The GOP lost a bid on Thursday to postpone certification in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous. In northwestern Arizona, Mohave County officials postponed their certification until next week.

Judge John Hannah ruled without explanation, except to bar the party from refiling the case. The judge promised a full explanation in the future.

Maricopa County officials are expected to certify elections results on Friday.

Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes, and Maricopa County put him over the top. The county performed a hand count of some ballots the weekend after the election, which showed its machine counts were 100% accurate. The same was found Wednesday during routine post-election accuracy tests.

In Georgia, where officials have been auditing the results of the presidential race, Trump has repeatedly attacked the process and called it “a joke.”

He has also made repeated incorrect assertions that Georgia election officials are unable to verify signatures on absentee ballot envelopes. In fact, Georgia requires that they be checked.

The Associated Press called Biden the winner of Georgia and its 16 electoral votes on Thursday night.

A top Georgia election official said earlier Thursday that a hand tally of ballots cast in the presidential race had been completed, and that the results affirmed Biden’s narrow lead over Trump. The secretary of state’s office planned to release results of the audit later Thursday.

During the hand tally, several counties found previously uncounted ballots that the secretary of state’s office has said would reduce Biden’s lead to just under 13,000 votes, with roughly 5 million total votes cast. Georgia law allows a candidate to request a recount within two business days of certification if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. That recount would be done using machines.

Tioga County reports three deaths connected to virus

Tioga County reported three more deaths connected to the coronavirus on Thursday.

“It is with deep regret that Tioga County Legislative Chairwoman (Martha) Sauerbrey reports the loss of three more deaths due to COVID-19 Virus complications. Our thoughts and sympathy go out to family and friends of the lost individuals,” a press release said.

The county is now up to 54 deaths related to COVID-19.

Tioga County also reported 25 new cases over the last two days, bringing its total to 1,003 since March.

There are currently 232 active cases, while 717 individuals have recovered and another 569 are in mandatory quarantine at this time.

Chemung County is now up to 31 deaths related to the virus.

The county has had 2,698 confirmed cases with 176 currently active.

There are 38 individuals currently hospitalized as they battle the virus, while 2,491 Chemung County residents have recovered.

Across the border in Pennsylvania, Bradford County has added 84 confirmed cases over the past two days.

The county is now up to 1,384 confirmed cases, while 166 other cases are considered probable by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Bradford County has lost 29 residents due to complications of the virus.

The Sayre ZIP Code (18840) has added 18 confirmed cases since Tuesday, bringing its total to 280. There are also 12 probable cases.

Athens (18810) is up to 180 confirmed cases after adding 14 cases over the past two days. There are also 14 probable cases.

Other confirmed case numbers across the county include:

• Gillett — 88

• Columbia Cross Roads — 60

• Milan — 18

• Ulster — 60

• Troy — 169

• Towanda — 186

• Canton — 85

• Wyalusing — 67

• Wysox — 21

• Rome — 43

• Monroeton — 36

Bradford County to continue using CodeRED system

The CodeRED public alert system will continue to be used in Bradford County for the next three years after commissioners recently renewed a three-year subscription at a cost of $38,050 per year.

The new subscription, which begins Dec. 1, includes the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System put out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that will warn those in the county about crucial emergencies, even if they aren’t signed up for CodeRED, according to Matt Williams, the county’s director of planning and public safety.

Williams said it would alert anyone within the geographic area that’s being targeted.

“That gives us the ability to reach more people under extreme emergency situations,” Williams said.

“Any device that would get alerts of some other type would be tied into this,” Commissioner Chairman Daryl Miller added.

Commissioner Doug McLinko said the CodeRED program has saved lives over the years. Two years ago, after an EF2 tornado had whipped through some communities in Granville, LeRoy, and Franklin townships, commissioners and Sheriff C.J. Walters highlighted several circumstances in which CodeRED alerts were able to warn people in time so they could get to safety.

“We’d like to make sure everyone is signed up. It’s a valuable service whether it’s weather related, police related — a whole host of things,” McLinko added.

The service is free and people can enroll at www.bradfordcountypa.org/emergency-notifications.

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2020 file photo, Grant Enfinger (98) and Brett Moffitt (23) lead the field for a restart during the NASCAR Truck Series auto race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. NASCAR'S Truck Series will return to Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, N.Y., in the summer of 2021 for the first time in just over two decades. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)