Tri County Report For June 14th, 2017

Police in Neshannock Township say a burned body found on Old Pulaski Read Monday night is that of 26-year-old Melissa Barto.  The Butler woman was reported missing last Friday when she didn’t show up for her child’s kindergarten graduation.  Police arrested Barto’s boyfriend, 21-year-old Ishemer Ramsey, and 23-year-old James Howard-George for the murder  Investigators believe Ramsey shot and killed Barto after an argument. Also charged was Joshua Bowser with crmininal conspiracy and tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse, and obstruciton of justice. All three are in the Butler County Prison.

The Shenango Area School District passed it’s operating budget Monday night for the 2017-2018 school year that includes a property tax increase that will cost the average home owner an additonal forty dollars per year.  According to the New Castle News, the board was unanimous in it’s vote. The district faced a nearly 195 thousand dollar deficit and will use it’s 3.6 million dollar fund balance to help erase the deficit. Board member Dean Owery said retirement costs, special education/special needs and alternative education costs and state mandated expenses remain significant.

Strong storms are being blamed for flash flooding and minor damage around the region.  Kennywood Park closed early yesterday and some visitors reported a few feet of water in the park’s tunnel at one point. Lawrence County was under a flash flood warning.  Beaver County reported  hail  and multiple trees came down there and in Westmoreland County.  About nine-thousand Duquesne Light customers also lost power due to the weather.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey is asking President Trump to put money in the budget for work on locks and dams on the Monongahela River.  Casey made the request Monday and also criticized Trump for suggesting tolls be placed on the locks.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been overseeing the work but Trump’s current budget proposal would cut 976-million dollars from the Corps’ allocations in 2018.  Casey told Trump that over 200-thousand Pennsylvania jobs depend on the proper functioning of the locks and dams.

A West Virginia man is facing charges for allegedly streaming the sexual assault of a 14-year-old on social media.  Steven Pursell was arrested Friday and is accused of picking up the Beaver County teen at her home, taking her to the Super 8 Motel in Coraopolis and then raping her multiple times while filming the encounter.  When he dropped her at home afterwards, he allegedly told her never to contact him again.  The pair met on Facebook and the teen says Pursell knew her age.

Pennsylvania is not getting disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The agency denied the money for a second time this week and Governor Tom Wolf says the state is now out of options.  The request for help came after a March storm that dropped over 30 inches of snow on parts of northeastern Pennsylvania.  Wolf says it is unfortunate that the taxpayers will now suffer the financial impact of the decision.

Senator Pat Toomey is downplaying the investigation into ties between Russia and President Trump’s campaign.  The Republican was asked about the ongoing probe yesterday and called it “overblown,” explaining he’s not really paying any attention.  Toomey also said he has seen no evidence of collusion.

The state Department of Health is getting ready to start issuing permits for marijuana growers, processors and dispensaries.  Spokeswoman April Hutcheson said yesterday that the state is on track to issue the permits by the end of the month although medical marijuana will not be available right away.  Applicants who receive permits will have six months to become operational.

Lawrence County Commissioners plan to join state legislators and Shenango Township officials in voicing concerns about the potential sale of a state-owned property just outside of New Castle. According to the Ellwood City Ledger Earlier this month, New Jersey-based Hira Educational Services of North America was awarded the bid for the Youth Development Center property in Shenango Township. The company, based in Newark, is an educational consulting firm that works with Islamic schools and organizations. In their letter, the legislators said that the company hasn’t remained in good standing with New Jersey officials, with officials revoking its corporate status because owners hadn’t submitted annual reports for two consecutive years.

A record crowd of about 500-thousand people are expected downtown this morning to celebrate the Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship.  That would break last year’s attendance record of 400-thousand people who celebrated the Pens’ NHL title.  The only thing that could put a damper on the crowd is the weather.  There’s a 30-to-40-percent chance of rain and the high is expected to be in the upper 80’s today.