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Industries look to high school grads to fill skills gap
 
 09.12.17

CARLISLE — There are a lot of construction projects and not enough construction workers. A workforce task group in Cumberland County is hoping to change that, starting at the high school level.

“Oh, I can’t name off the top of my head,” Jim Gleim said, talking about all his current projects in Cumberland County.

Gleim is the president of John W. Gleim Jr. Inc., an excavating company in the Carlisle area.

“A couple hundred projects a year,” he estimated, “easily.”

But he doesn’t always have the workers to keep up.

“Now, I believe we’re about 20 people short today,” he said. “We’ve been running lean for a long time. Our guys are running a lot of overtime to make up for the shortage.”

He says the problem is recruitment.

“Hiring good quality employees and getting the younger generation to want to work in the construction industry instead of going to college,” he said.

Laura Potthoff of the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp. started a committee to reconnect secondary education with specific industry needs in Cumberland County.

“Cumberland Valley School District is 9,000 students,” Potthoff said. “So, if you’re going to build a pipeline to meet the growing demands in the county, you would want to start with a pilot program with Cumberland Valley.”

Her research found areas in need to include construction, health care and advanced manufacturing. The three areas have all seen considerable growth in the region and continue to expand.

“What we’re hearing from industry and business, obviously, are the soft skills. It’s important to be analytical, be a problem-solver, use technology, communicate well,” Cumberland Valley Superintendent Fred Withum said.

That’s what the district built its curricula on. The classes will hopefully be ready for students to take next summer.

“Everything we are doing gets layered on after the students meet their minimum requirements for a high school diploma,” Withum said.

“They can begin making $30,000 to $50,000 with no college debt,” Potthoff said.


Regulators take step to ban fracking near Delaware River
 
 09.13.17

NEWTOWN, Pa. — A commission that oversees drinking water quality for 15 million people took an initial step Wednesday to permanently ban drilling and hydraulic fracturing near the Delaware River and its tributaries, drawing criticism from the natural gas industry as well as from environmental groups worried that regulators would still allow the disposal of toxic drilling wastewater inside the area.

The Delaware River Basin Commission voted 3-1, with one abstention, to begin the lengthy process of enacting a formal ban on drilling and fracking, the technique that’s spurred a U.S. production boom in shale gas and oil. Besides other locales, the watershed supplies Philadelphia and half of New York City with drinking water.

The resolution approved by the commission says that fracking “presents risks, vulnerabilities and impacts to surface and ground water resources across the country,” and directs the staff to draft regulations to ban it.

Representatives of the governors of New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, all Democrats, voted for the measure. A representative of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie abstained and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer, representing the administration of GOP President Donald Trump, voted “no,” drawing lusty boos from a strongly anti-fracking crowd attending the meeting outside Philadelphia.

“Today, we are acting to protect a watershed that supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people in one of the most densely populated areas of the country,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.

Govs. John Carney of Delaware and Andrew Cuomo of New York issued similar statements of support. New York banned horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing statewide in 2015.

Environmentalists were infuriated by provisions they said would allow the industry to draw water from the river and its tributaries for hydraulic fracturing outside the region, and to dispose of fracking wastewater within the Delaware watershed.

“The frackers get our clean water and we get a Superfund site back. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is not a deal that we should be making,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, told commissioners.

Steven Tambini, the commission’s executive director, urged critics to withhold judgment until they see the regulations. Draft regulations will be published no later than Nov. 30, with hearings and a public comment period to follow. Tambini anticipated that a final vote could take place next year.

“You don’t know what the rules are going to say yet, so take it easy,” he said.

The ban would apply to two counties in Pennsylvania’s northeastern tip that are part of the nation’s largest gas field, the Marcellus Shale. More than 10,000 Marcellus wells have been drilled in other parts of Pennsylvania since a natural gas boom began nearly 10 years ago, but the industry has been prevented from developing its acreage in the Delaware watershed.

Fracking is a technique that uses huge volumes of pressurized water, along with sand and chemicals, to crack open gas-bearing shale rock deep underground. Its environmental and health impacts remain hotly disputed.

The basin commission, which regulates water quality and quantity in the Delaware and its tributaries, imposed a moratorium on drilling and fracking in 2010 to allow its staff to develop regulations for the gas industry. A year later, the five-member panel was scheduled to vote on a set of draft regulations that would have allowed drilling and fracking to proceed, but it abruptly canceled a vote amid opposition from some commission members.

Business and industry groups blasted Wednesday’s commission vote.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, representing drillers, and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry sent a letter to Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf asserting that given the volume of drilling elsewhere in Pennsylvania, “it defies both common sense and logic for the DRBC to conclude that natural gas development cannot be done safely within its watershed.”


Addiction survivors encouraged to share their stories
 
 09.08.17

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvanians who have overcome addiction are being asked to share their stories as part of National Recovery Month.

In 2016, about 4,600 Pennsylvanians died from overdoses, a 37 percent increase over the previous year. Overdose deaths in the state are on track to rise another 35 percent in 2017.

September has been named National Recovery Month for the last 27 years to celebrate those who have overcome their battles with addiction.

This year, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is asking residents to share their stories, which it will then post on its website. Officials say they hope the stories will encourage others by showing them that beating addiction is possible.

“We’re really hoping that the stories of recovery provide some little glimmer of hope for people who really feel that, maybe, there’s nothing left for them,” said Jennifer Smith, acting secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol. “I am so hopeful that it encourages them to take the first step of admitting that they need to get some help.”

As of Friday evening, about 60 stories had been submitted and were to be posted online. You can submit your story by going to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs’ website.


Govt-and-politics
Cumberland County commissioners, NAACP unite in calls for redistricting reform
 
 09.13.17

HARRISBURG — The Capitol Rotunda was filled Tuesday with activists calling for redistricting reform.

“By any measure, Pennsylvania is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country,” said Carol Kuniholm of Fair Districts PA. “Our current redistricting process allows politicians to choose their voters rather than voters choosing their politicians. Their goals are to protect incumbents and control the levers of power to set the legislative agenda in Harrisburg and our nation’s capital.”

Pennsylvania is home to funny looking districts. The outline of one looks like and is amusingly called Goofy kicking Donald Duck, which is not at all amusing to the activists gathered on the Rotunda steps.

“We are citizens of a free democracy and we deserve our votes to be counted,” said Dr. Joan Duvall Flynn, president of the Pennsylvania NAACP.

Cumberland County commissioners agree and joined the rally.

“It’s an embarrassment,” Commissioner Jim Hertzler (D) said of the political map.

Cumberland is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, but it doesn’t have a resident congressman or state senator. Three of its six state representatives don’t live in Cumberland County.

“We were treated as an afterthought. I thought our citizens were treated as second-class citizens,” Hertzler said of the last map-making process.

He pointed to the state constitution, which says counties and communities should not be split “unless absolutely necessary.”

“Mechanicsburg Borough was split in two between (Congressmen) Barletta and Perry. It made no sense to divide one of our boroughs in Cumberland County in two,” Hertzler said.

“If you’re in a district that stretches for miles and miles and miles, it’s hard sometimes to get the eyes and ears of your representative,” fellow Cumberland County Commissioner Vince DiFilippo (R) said.

Activists said they’ve been trying to get the eyes and ears of House and Senate leaders who have bottled up bills that would create an independent redistricting commission. They insist they’re being ignored but are not going away.

“We pay them,” Flynn said of lawmakers. “We pay them, and they don’t even meet with us.”

A Senate spokesperson said that chamber cannot hold public hearings on redistricting because it is being sued over redistricting by the League of Women Voters. Kuniholm called that response “utter nonsense” because the public hearing would discuss the redistricting process moving forward, not the lawsuit that involves the 2011 maps.

The group also called on Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) to bring up the House bill on redistricting and hold a public hearing. Metcalfe’s office did not respond to repeated calls for comment.


Joshua Vaughn The Sentinel  

Hertzler