TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR MARCH 17TH, 2022

A New Castle man was found guilty yesterday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court on drug charges. The New Castle News reports 36 year old Christopher Donafrio of Lutton Street was found guilty of two counts each of possession and possession with intent to deliver controlled substances and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. Donafrio was arrested in September of 2020 at the Eldorado Hotel in Shenango Township following a domestic dispute. No sentencing date has been set.

Officials are reporting a large fire at the Butler Steel Works plant in Butler Township.  Crews responded to the blaze just after 9:30 last night.  The fire started in a hot mill at the plant according to WPXI-TV.  Fire officials say no plant employees were injured.

Senators from  Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation are giving wide approval to a speech by Ukraine’s president.  Volodymyr Zelenskyy [[ VLO-doe-meer ze-LEN-skee ]] on Wednesday addressed the U.S. Congress via the Internet to plea for help for his country after its invasion from Russia.  Senator Pat Toomey in a statement says the American people stand with Ukraine.  Toomey says the U.S.  must help the Ukrainian people as they heroically fight for their lives. Senator Bob Casey also said the U.S. supports the Ukrainian people and will work with our allies to support their needs.

Candidates who want to run for state senate and house offices can start to circulate nominating petitions starting Friday. That’s after the state Supreme Court rejected a series of challenges Wednesday to a newly approved set of legislative maps. The court ruled that the new maps are not contrary to law, as had been cited by Republicans who opposed them, who said the districts were unfairly drawn. 

Governor Tom Wolf is calling on lawmakers across Pennsylvania to authorize spending to support Ukrainian refugees.  Wolf said Pennsylvania has the second-highest population of Americans with Ukrainian ancestry in the nation and wants the Keystone State to welcome Ukrainian nationals fleeing their country.  The Governor was the state legislature to approve two-million-dollars towards creating a New Neighbors Fund to help refugees.  The United Nations estimates that three-million people have now evacuated Ukraine. 

Three universities in north-central Pennsylvania have been given permission to merge.  Bloomsburg, Mansfield and Lock Haven Universities will soon become one entity, known as the Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania, after a decision was announced Wednesday by the  Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Each campus must carry the name of the one organization on its diplomas,  although each also will be allowed to continue to use its individual name, mascot, and logos.

Kennywood is set to begin its season on Easter weekend.  The park will open gates to season passholders on Saturday, April 16th and to the public the next day on Easter Sunday.  New owners, Palace Entertainment, say refurbishments are underway including a rebuilt gift shop and restrooms, over 43-hundred gallons of fresh paint, and the return of the Kangaroo ride on May 28th.  Park operators are opening the season with “Swing Into Spring’ weekends through May 22nd, featuring live music and specialty food items.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Education Secretary wants to remind people about  an upcoming deadline to apply for federal student aid.  Doctor Noe Ortega says the Free Application for Federal Student Aid  deadline is May 1st.  Submitting the FAFSA [[ faff-suh ]] is the first step toward receiving both federal and state student aid, including the PA State Grant Program Current and prospective undergraduate and graduate students should submit the FAFSA to the U.S. Department of Education to determine eligibility for federal aid.

Two Pennsylvania lawmakers are promoting legislation that would prohibit smoking at all inside workplaces, including casinos.  State Senator Jay Costa and Representative. Dan Frankel, both Allegheny County Democrats, detailed their plans at a news conference on Wednesday.  State casinos were forced to go smoke free for about a year during the pandemic, but Costa says most have gone back to allowing smoking.