TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR DECEMBER 23RD, 2021

State Police in Mercer County arrested a New York state man on drug charges following a traffic stop. State Police made a traffic stop on Interstate 80 E in Wolf Creek Township around 7 a.m. Friday and found 43 pounds of marijuana inside the car. State Police arrested 49-year-old Chang Zou following the traffic stop. He was placed in the Mercer County Jail.

A new Sheetz store is coming to Ellwood City. The Ellwood City Ledger reports that Ellwood City Council this week approved three measures for the construction of a new Sheetz at the intersection of Fifth Street and Glen Avenue.  The story did not say when construction will start.

State Police in Lawrence County report a two vehicle accident from earlier this month in Wilmington township. According to police 66 year old Jay Borck of New Castle pulled from the intersection of Route 208 and Old Mercer Road, into the path of vehicle operated by 53 year old Michael Pavelek of Grove Ctiy.  Borck was taken to UPMC Jameson for treatment.

Officials say a Butler County man is facing charges after traveling to Mississippi to allegedly have sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl.  Police in Hernando, Mississippi confirmed yesterday that Samuel Hugg was taken into custody after driving 800 miles to contact the teen.  Authorities said when Hugg was arrested, he attempted to shoot himself and was taken to the hospital with a non-life-threatening injury.  Pittsburgh Police said they have a file on Hugg dating back to 2020 when a model he hired to photograph registered a complaint about inappropriate contact.

The Pennsylvania State Police will be stepping up their traffic patrols this holiday weekend. The official Christmas Holiday Enforcement period will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 24th and end at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, December 26th. The  safety initiative targets drivers who aggressively operate in a dangerous way including speeding, drinking while impaired and seat belt violations. 

Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS are limiting the number of COVID-19 tests customers can purchase at one time. The restrictions come as the omicron variant became the dominant variant in Pennsylvania and the surrounding region this week.  The  Centers for Disease Control statistics have indicated  that 75 percent of all new cases are caused by the potentially more contagious variant.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Wednesday signed a new law into effect that will legalize sports betting in Ohio.  Casinos, stadiums, bars and restaurants will all be able to apply for gambling licenses though the number of applications that will be approved will vary from county-to-county based on population.  The law calls for sports betting in Ohio to be up and running by January 1st of 2023.

One of Pennsylvania’s top political analysts is predicting possible changes in political momentum in 2022. Senior Fellow for Political Affairs at Millersville University, Dr. Terry Madonna says one of the biggest shifts occurred, when Republicans took the Governor’s office in Virginia, and very nearly did so in New Jersey. The GOP also made gains in Pennsylvania, on the courts and at the state and county levels. History, Madonna notes bears out that the following midterm election generally does not go well for the party that holds the presidency.

Western Pennsylvania residents with federal student loans are getting good news from the government.  President Biden yesterday announced an extension of a pause on loan repayments.  The government had previously given borrowers a reprieve from payments through the end of January due to COVID.  The president yesterday said that he recognizes that many are continuing to be impacted by the effects of the virus and has ordered the pause be extended through May 1st.

Another Republican State Senator is reportedly getting closer to formally becoming a candidate for governor. Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, said in appearances online over the weekend that he has reached the fundraising goal he set to officially become a candidate for governor. He told supporters he’s organizing an announcement rally on to take place the first week of January near his home base.  Mastriano is the third state senator to potentially enter the race to replace soon-to-be termed-out Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat.