TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR JANUARY 28TH, 2022

The former treasurer of the Union Township Fire Department was sentenced to one year of house arrest after paying restitution to the department for money he reportedly stole while he was treasurer. According to the New Castle News 68 year old Carmen Merolillo was also ordered to have no further contact with the fire department. Merolillo was accused of stealing nearly 40 thousand dollars from the department while he was treasurer. The money has been paid back in full.

The White House says that President Biden will talk about infrastructure during an appearance in Pittsburgh today.  Air Force One is expected to fly into Allegheny County Airport and the president will then travel in his motorcade to an event at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill-19 center in Hazelwood.  Governor Tom Wolf and Democratic Senator Bob Casey are scheduled to accompany the president during his time in the Steel City.

Construction of Shell’s cracker plant in Beaver County is entering its home stretch as the company says the plant is almost 95 percent finished.  For the next two weeks, crews will be cleaning the piping units for operation, which will cause low levels of noise that nearby residents may hear.  The plant will convert natural gas into plastics.

Pediatricians at Penn State Health say they’re seeing a lot of respiratory-involved illnesses in children. Not only is there a rise in COVID cases, but they’re also diagnosing many instances of regular colds, infections of the respiratory track, strep throat and bronchitis. Doctors say it’s that time of year where people are mostly together inside, so the spread of these kinds of illness can be quick. Many can be transferred with just a sneeze. 

Whiskey fans have until 5 p.m. today to enter for their chance to purchase some very rare bottles of whiskey.  More than 12-hundred bottles of the beverage including Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve and other whiskeys will be available. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is running the special lottery to determine who will have the ability to buy the booze.  More info can be found in the events section of www.finewineandgoodspirits.com.

Governor Tom Wolf says the state is allocating new funding to help groups in Pennsylvania who have been the victims of hate crimes.  Wolf said today that four-point-five-million dollars would be made available to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other non-profits targeted for their beliefs.  Data from the State Police’s Uniform Crime Reporting System shows an increase in hate crimes in Pennsylvania starting in 2016, with an average of 88-per-year.  Authorities say that number had gotten worse, with 111 hate crimes reported in 2020 and 219 reported in 2021.     

The state Department of Education is giving nearly one-million-dollars in funding so schools can purchase new food equipment.  Officials say around 945-thousand-dollars in competitive grants will be awarded to 44 elementary, middle, and high schools in 23 counties.  The money comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for schools on the National School Lunch Program.  Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Dr. Noe Ortega said the grants will help schools upgrade equipment, including refrigerators, stoves, freezers, and dishwashers. 

Passengers may soon be able to enjoy adult beverages again on board Southwest Airlines flights.  The airline, with service out of more than 120 American cities including Pittsburgh, suspended alcohol service in March of 2020 following a number of in-flight incidents involving intoxicated passengers.  A spokesperson for Southwest said yesterday that the airline is considering bringing back alcohol service in the next few months.

After Governor Tom Wolf vetoed a proposed congressional redistricting map, a Butler County group has forwarded its own proposal.  The group — called Citizen Voters — includes the support of two Butler County Commissioners.  They say their map tries to avoid splitting counties, communities and school districts.  The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court could choose one of the numerous proposed maps if an agreement is not reached by Sunday.