Tri County Report For February 20th, 2017

A house fire in New Castle Saturday morning is being treated as arson. According to city officials firefighters were called to a home at 935 Maryland Avenue just after 3:30am. The house was vacant at the time of the incident, but police say a woman and six children did live in the home. Heavy damage was done to the outside of the home but not as much damage inside. New Castle police, who work as U.S. Fire Marshals for the city, have listed the cause of the fire as suspicious. No injuries were reported.

An Ellwood City man was killed early Sunday morning in a one-vehicle crash. The Ellwood City Ledger reports Police were called to Mercer Road in Daugherty Twp. around 3 a.m. in response to a single vehicle accident.The Beaver County Coroner’s office said 44 year old Wilbert Kennedy of Ellwood City died of blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso. Police in New Brighton investigated the crash.

State environmental regulators are warning about the link between fracking operations and a series of small earthquakes in Pennsylvania.  A report was released Friday connecting the April 2016 quakes in Lawrence County to work at a nearby natural gas well owned by Hilcorp Energy. The company stopped fracking at the pad after the quakes and says it has no plans to resume.  The quakes were weak and did not cause any damage.

Years of pressure by Pennsylvania Democrats could yield a state minimum wage increase this year, although it likely will require substantial concessions in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing hiking the hourly minimum from $7.25 to $12. He is tying the proposal to his budget plan as a way to provide more tax revenue. Some Republicans say a minimum wage increase could be acceptable, but at a much lower figure.

Knoch High School administrators are mulling a random drug-testing policy.  Superintendent Dr. David Zupsic discussed the move Friday explaining the testing would apply students who participate in extracurricular activities or who drive to school.  Zupsic says many districts have punitive drug and alcohol policies but claims “A drug testing policy that can help deter students from using drugs is more preventative and supportive.”  The issue will be discussed at the South Butler County School Board meeting in March.

Penn State students are celebrating after raising more than ten-million dollars for pediatric cancer patients.  The total was announced yesterday after “Thon,” the annual 46-hour charity dance marathon, wrapped up.  The amount was more than last year, but still not as much as three years ago, when students raised a record-breaking 13 point-three-four million dollars.

The case of a former Farrell patrol officer  accused of patronizing a prostitute and trying to cover it up with a fake police report will be heard in Greenville district court on Wednesday. The Sharon Herald reprots 34 year old Tyler Valimont was fired from his part-time post in December for conduct unbecoming a Farrell police officer. Charges include  patronizing prostitutes, tampering with and fabricating evidence, obstruction and offical suppression. The charges, all misdemeanors that carry potential prison time, were filed after an investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police Organized Crime Task Force.

It will be a fairly quiet day around western Pennsylvania  as the nation observes President’s Day.  Many government offices, schools and banks will be closed today.  Mail delivery is on hold until tomorrow, but most other businesses will be open.

A candlelight vigil is scheduled for a missing Duquesne student last seen nearly a month ago.  Dakota James was last seen January 25th in downtown Pittsburgh.  Bring Our Missing Home is hosting the vigil tonight at 7 o’clock in Agnes R. Katz Plaza.  The area was one of the last places James was seen before disappearing.