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Jason Malmont, for The Sentinel 

Big Spring’s Hannah Durff swims the breaststroke during the Womens’ 200 Yard Medley Relay at the Bulldog Bash at Big SPring High School on Thursday morning.

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El Rodeo to move Carlisle location

A new El Rodeo restaurant will anchor the corner of a busy Carlisle intersection.

The restaurant will be at 398 E. High St., which is at the intersection of East High and Spring Garden streets, and will include a liquor license, according to Thomas J. Mallios of Commercial Realty Group, which handled the transaction.

The liquor privileges are being transferred from the El Rodeo restaurant at 853 N. Hanover St., which Mallios said will be closed.

The building on High Street was previously a real estate office, and had been a 7-Eleven store in the 1990s.

The sale includes the former 7-Eleven as well as a larger building to the rear at 8 S. Spring Garden St., which had been a martial arts studio and is being taken down.

Mallios said it will be a couple of months until the restaurant opens.

Plans for the project have yet to go before Carlisle’s planning commission, according to Michael Skelly, the borough’s planning/zoning/codes manager.

“They are working through design issues and hope to have a plan in the next few weeks,” Skelly said.

Previously, former planning/zoning/codes manager Bruce Koziar said limited parking at the site would need a variance from the borough’s zoning hearing board if the existing buildings were to be used as-is for a restaurant. Demolishing and rebuilding the site with additional parking would also be an option.

PPL readying to send utility crews to Puerto Rico

PPL Electric Utilities Tuesday began moving its trucks and equipment in the first step of its efforts to send repair crews to Puerto Rico to help restore power knocked out by Hurricane Maria in late September.

According to PPL, the effort is coming about through the mutual assistance process the company uses in mainland U.S. Through that process, an electric company facing a large number of outages can request help from other companies.

In this case, PPL said the electric company in Puerto Rico asked the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group for investor owned utilities like PPL, to supply workers and equipment. The trade group then coordinated the response.

PPL has responded to other areas this year through the mutual assistance process, including to Florida to help restore power after Hurricane Irma.

“We are committed to doing our part to help return regular electric service to all of the people of Puerto Rico,” said Greg Dudkin, PPL president.

The Associated Press reported that Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority is generating at 70 percent of normal, though it has no way of knowing how widely electricity is being distributed. A study conducted Dec. 11 by a group of engineers estimated that roughly 50 percent of the island’s 3.3 million people remained without power.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that it won’t be until May that all of Puerto Rico will again have electricity, according to the AP.

Given that time frame, PPL is planning for the long haul.

The utility company said 37 linemen and support workers have volunteered to be deployed in the first wave of what could be a monthslong assignment. After 30 days, other PPL workers will travel to the island to relieve the first group.

Some of those heading out include six line workers from the Harrisburg and Cumberland County areas and four from the Lancaster region. PPL workers have been tasked with restoring power in the Caguas region of Puerto Rico, a mountainous area that is among the hardest-hit, PPL said, adding that conditions are expected to be difficult.

“I’m very proud of our people for doing this,” Dudkin said in a news release. “Many PPL employees and customers have family or friends who are affected by the widespread power outages in Puerto Rico. This is a humanitarian mission as much as it is a power restoration mission.”

PPL is one of 18 electric utilities from the mainland U.S. that are sending crews coordinated by Edison.

PPL’s line trucks and other repair vehicles are being loaded on trucks for transport to Norfolk, Virginia, where they will be placed on a barge. The sea voyage to Puerto Rico will take about a week, PPL said.

Bill Tracker
Bill Tracker: Limiting the use of fentanyl

Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.

These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.

Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.

About the bill

Pennsylvania, and much of the nation, is the midst in a largely unprecedented rise in overdose deaths.

Since 2013, the annual number of lives lost to overdose deaths in Cumberland County has nearly tripled, according records provided by Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall.

As the market for prescription opiates shifted to heroin and heroin became contaminated with fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, drug overdoses shot up.

Between 2010 and 2016, the number of overdose deaths where the victim tested positive for fentanyl in Philadelphia more than quadrupled, according to data provided by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Much of the heroin in Cumberland County comes through the Philadelphia market.

Rep. Bryan Barbin, R-Cambria County, has introduced a bill he hopes will reduce the amount of fentanyl available and save lives.

House Bill 1987 would limit the legal use of fentanyl to during surgery. Physicians would not be able to prescribe fentanyl for pain relief outside of the operating room.

“In the past, because of its potency, fentanyl was only used in operating rooms,” Barbin wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “By limiting the use of fentanyl until the epidemic subsides, we will be providing needed relief to coroners, EMS providers and law enforcement.”

Barbin’s bill focuses on limiting the diversion of legally prescribed fentanyl to illicit markets. However, most of the fentanyl in the illicit markets comes from other sources, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Much of the fentanyl contributing to a rise in overdose deaths in the United States comes from illegal production in China and Mexico, according to a report issued by the DEA in June.

“While pharmaceutical fentanyl in the form of transdermal patches or sublingual tables is diverted on a small scale, the current increase in opioid-related deaths appears to be driven by illicit products,” the report reads.

Barbin’s bill would also require the state to produce a yearly reported showing the number of overdose deaths where fentanyl or opioids were present and any reduction in the dispensing of fentanyl.

The bill would expire after two years.

Pennsylvanians get a new way to celebrate: more fireworks

HARRISBURG — This week is the first big holiday sales season in Pennsylvania under a new state law that allows residents to buy and use the full line of fireworks that comply with federal requirements for consumers.

That makes Pennsylvania part of a trend of revenue-hungry states liberalizing fireworks laws and means that Pennsylvanians — long restricted to using novelties like sparklers — can now legally buy and light Roman candles and fireworks and shoot bottle rockets and other devices that fly into the air. Under the state’s old fireworks law, only out-of-state customers could buy those devices in Pennsylvania stores.

Display-grade fireworks remain limited to those operators with a permit, and certain devices remain illegal under federal law, such as M-80s, M-100s, cherry bombs or quarter- and half-sticks.

Municipal fire officials say they worry about the increased calls for fire or injury they’ll see, and state Department of Agriculture officials say municipalities may have their own restrictions on the use of fireworks.

Fireworks retailers haven’t been shy about advertising the change.

“Finally! PA residents can buy the good stuff!” screams the website for Keystone Fireworks, which has five stores in Pennsylvania. And, “Hey Pennsylvania residents! The good stuff is now legal in PA!”

The chain also is running radio ads and seeing more sales of aerial repeaters and firecrackers, said Bill Leidy, manager of the chain’s Gettysburg store. Under the old law, the store roped off a section for Pennsylvania residents.

“Now they can buy whatever they want, so they’re ecstatic,” Leidy said.

The new law, signed in October by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, was part of a compromise budget package with the Republican-controlled Legislature. While broadening the legal sale and use of fireworks, it slapped a new 12 percent tax on the purchases.

Analysts in the House of Representatives projected that the new law would generate just over $9 million in a full year, a drop in the bucket for a state that faced a $2 billion projected revenue gap in a $32 billion budget.

Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, said Pennsylvania is joining a growing list of states that are authorizing the sale and use of the full line of consumer fireworks regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Consumer-grade fireworks sales have grown rapidly — from 102 million pounds in 2000 to 244 million pounds last year — as states have loosened their laws in an effort to keep that tax revenue in-state, Heckman said.

“We’ve seen the revenue, pardon the pun, skyrocket,” Heckman said.

Pennsylvania’s purchases of consumer-grade fireworks are limited to buyers 18 and older, and have usage restrictions, including requiring permission from the property owner, not using them inside buildings or motor vehicles or within 150 feet of an occupied structure. A violation is punishable by a fine of up to $100.

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Prosecutor says terror links not found in Harrisburg shooting

HARRISBURG — An Egyptian immigrant who wounded a Pennsylvania state trooper and fired at other police officers before being killed has not been connected with any organized terror group or terrorist activity, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Friends and relatives of Ahmed Aminamin El-Mofty have described him as depressed over a lack of family contact and money problems, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said.

“At this point in time there is no known nexus to any organized terrorist group or terrorist activity,” Marsico said.

El-Mofty is believed to have acted alone when he began firing from his vehicle on Dec. 22 in downtown Harrisburg, a few blocks from the State Capitol building. He then fired several shots at a marked Capitol Police vehicle. No one was injured in the initial shootings, which generated a large police response.

El-Mofty reappeared about a half-hour later near a train station, several blocks away from where he had begun firing.

That’s when El-Mofty encountered and shot the trooper, who suffered a relatively minor head wound from a bullet fragment, Marisco said. Two bullet holes were found in the headrest and one in a sun visor of the trooper’s marked cruiser.

Marsico said investigators would like to speak with a passer-by who helped the wounded trooper.

State police have not identified the trooper and said Thursday she was on scheduled leave and was doing fine.

El-Mofty shot at several other officers in the city’s Allison Hill neighborhood before he was shot and killed, Marsico said.

El-Mofty, a 51-year-old resident of Steelton, was divorced, and his acquaintances said he had been depressed over lack of contact with his family, his employment situation and financial issues. El-Mofty had two children and no criminal record.

Marsico said his preliminary conclusion is that police “acted commendably, honorably and heroically” and were justified in shooting El-Mofty. He said police had “no indication” what El-Mofty’s motivation was.

El-Mofty was found with a pair of 9mm handguns that he had bought recently from Harrisburg area gun stores, Marsico said.

The prosecutor described El-Mofty as possessing “a boatload of ammunition,” hundreds of rounds. El-Mofty also had two propane cylinders, one in a fanny pack around his waist and one recovered from the ground near his car.

El-Mofty was granted an immigrant visa in 2006, moved to the United States from Cairo that year and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2011, prosecutors said.

El-Mofty went back to Egypt before returning to the United States in October. Marsico said investigators are looking into El-Mofty’s background in Egypt.