To Shine or not to Shine Light into Dark Corners

The meeting of a newly formed group in Titusville, The Titusville Planning and Partnership Meeting, to coordinate the completion of multiple public works projects this spring and summer is set for Thursday evening in the Titusville City Hall building at an unspecified time.  Members of the public, members of the Chamber of Commerce and the media are not welcome to attend. 

The information came out at the end of Tuesday's City Council meeting when Mayor Esther Smith asked those members of city council who will be attending the meeting to report back to city council as a whole on the meeting's proceedings. 

City Council members responded negatively to an editorial published in the Titusville Herald Tuesday morning and appearing on the newspaper's Facebook page late Monday night.  At the end of the editorial it was stated "The Herald feels that it is in the community's best interest that these meetings be opened to the public"

This after the paper consulted with a media attorney and citing the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law Act 65.

Stated on the web page of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records is the following:  "The Pennsylvania sunshine Act 65...requires agencies to deliberate and take official action on agency business in an open public meeting.  It requires that meetings have prior notice, and that the public can attend, participate and make comment before an agency takes that official action"

The editorial was condemned by councilman Bill Adelman as "90 percent false" and "fake news".  Councilman Don Frazier said he "was disappointed" by the content of the editorial.  City Manager Larry Manross said after the meeting he would "not normally have an issue with the media attending, but now I do."  He declined an on camera statement, as did Mayor Esther Smith and other council members.  Manross did consent to appear on the Morning Drill program a future date to be determined. 

Also after the meeting, Manross explained there are multiple public works projects set for this spring and summer, many going on in close proximity to one another.  The TPPM is only coordinating the work to be carried out by multiple entities to minimize public inconvenience and to promote public safety he says.

However, the first meeting of the TPPM earlier this month or in late February included four of five city council members and two of three Crawford County Commissioners, a quorum in each case, discussing coordination of publicly funded  projects.

Exceptions to the Sunshine law included Executive meetings, personnel matters, labor negotiations, and legal matters.  The case of Smith v. Twp of Richmond held in that case "The supervisors' four closed door gatherings did not violate the sunshine act because they were held for informational purposes only and did not involve deliberations.."  Mayor Esther Smith said TPPM was not deliberating and not deciding.  In the Smith case it was ruled a closed gathering may be held "soley for the purpose of collecting information or educating agency members about an issue."

Manross also disputed the claim of Chamber Executive Director Emily Altomare that the Chamber  Transportation committee meetings resolved at least two local traffic issues.  In the Herald piece, Manross is reported saying the transportation Committee meeting dissolved into a complaint session accomplishing little. 





Wolf Administration Extends Pennsylvania Home Heating Assistance Program Deadline

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 28, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Wolf reports Pennsylvanians struggling to pay home heating bills will now have until April 7 to apply for financial help through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The announcement came Tuesday.

The federally funded program was slated to end March 31, 2017, but the Wolf Administration decided that given the unpredictable weather this winter, Pennsylvania would extend the program, giving people extra time to apply for funding.

LIHEAP offers assistance in the form of a cash grant sent directly to the utility company or a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of being without heat. Some households are eligible for both types of assistance. Cash grants are based on household income, family size, type of heating fuel and region. In addition to proof of income and household size, applicants must provide a recent bill or a statement from their fuel dealer verifying their customer status and the type of fuel used.

Individuals can apply for a LIHEAP grant online at or in person at their local county assistance office. They may also call the statewide toll-free hotline at 1-866-857-7095 with questions about the program.


For more information about LIHEAP, visit


Route 97 Bridge in Erie County to be Replaced

Oil City, PA – A 93-year-old structurally deficient bridge on Route 97 in Union Township, Erie County, will be replaced in a project scheduled to get under way this summer.

The nine-foot-long bridge on Route 97 over a tributary to the South Branch of French Creek is located just east of the intersection with Union Leboeuf Road, and about 1.3 miles west of Union City Borough.

The existing concrete slab bridge was built in 1924, and is classified as structurally deficient. It will be replaced with a reinforced concrete box culvert. On average, about 7,000 vehicles a day use the bridge.

Work is expected to begin on June 12, 2017.

The road is expected to be closed to traffic on June 20, 2017, and reopened on June 25, 2017, when the project is scheduled to be complete.

During the anticipated six-day-long closure, a detour will be posted using Route 6 and Route 2003 (Flatt Road).


The contractor is Chivers Construction Company, Inc. of Fairview, PA. The contract cost is $395,804.17, which is to be paid entirely with state funds. This project was made possible by Act 89, Pennsylvania’s transportation funding plan.


PennDOT Lifts 10-Ton Weight Posting on Crawford County Road

Oil City, PA – A 10-ton weight limitation has been lifted on approximately 10 miles of Route 198 in Crawford County due to structural upgrades that will enable the road to carry full traffic loads.


The section of Route 198 is located in Blooming Valley Borough, East Mead Township and Randolph Township, extending from the intersection with Route 77 to the Intersection with Route 27.


DEP to Gather Pennsylvanians Input on Environmental Justice in Statewide Listening Tour

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell is hosting nine roundtables across the state over the next two months to meet with residents and hear their perspectives on environmental justice.  

The tour will focus on engaging residents and leaders in DEP’s decision-making process, and involving residents in communities that may not fit the traditional definition of an environmental justice area -- which is based on minority population and income levels in census tracts.  


DEP will solicit feedback from the listening sessions about improving how public feedback is received, and ensuring that communities are sufficiently engaged with the decision-making process and companies involved.  


Meadville Contractor Again Charged w/ Home Improvement Fraud

A Meadville contractor with a history of defrauding unsuspecting customers is again charged with violating the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act after allegedly ripping off a 42 year old Cornplanter Township, Venango County woman between last October 12th and November 24th 2016.  The Franklin state police report  Chad Michael Eckenrode, 36 presented himself as a contractor otherwise known as Eckenrodes Handyman Service to Lisa Batchelder.  It is reported Batchelder gave Eckenrode $5,850.00 for the total job to be completed by Eckenrode.  After receiving the money, according to the state police, Eckenrode completed limited work and failed to finish the project.  Batchelder has since sued Eckenrode in Civil Court according to online court records.

An Emlenton couple lost $12,000 when Eckenrode pulled the same stunt between July 9th last year and Janury 30th this year.  He was charged with3 felonies in that case.  His case will proceed to trial. 

In August of 2015, we reported to you at  least one other similar incident.  At that time, the Meadville State Police were investigating an incident between July 27 and August 18th at 18902 Brake Shoe Road Woodcock Township, Crawford County.  The investigators reported Eckenrode  was contracted by a Meadville woman. for a construction job and was given a portion of money to buy materials.  The Eckenrode showed up only completing a small amount of the work.  Police say he took a substantial amount of remaining money and was never heard from seen again.


According to online court records Eckenrode was sentenced January 27 in the earlier case in Crawford County by President Judge Anthony Vardaro.  Eckenrode is serving 15 to 84 months for that incident.  He was also sentence to pay $5600 restitution in that case and $250 in yet another similar case.  At the time Judge Vardaro specified Eckenrode would be eligible for Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive (Good Behavior) for 11.25 months.  


W. Mead Twp Couple Charged W/ Harassment

A 39 year old Meadville man is charged with Harassment and Criminal Mischief in connection with an alleged altercation between himself and a 32 year old Meadville woman.  Police say on Tuesday morning just after midnight a physical altercation was reported between Jeremy John Philips and Laura Mae Kissinger.  During the altercation Philips intentionally damaged Kissinger's cell phone.  Police say both are being cited for Harassment in district court.  Philips is also being cited for criminal mischief for damaging Kissinger's phone.

The incident took place at 21803 Golden Drive, West Mead Township, Crawford County near Meadville the residence of Philips and Kissenger.   


Franklin Man Charged in Frenchcreek Burglary, Assault

The investigation is ongoing into an incident Sunday morning between 1:55 am and 2:20 am.  The Franklin state police say an intoxicated Joseph M. Fisher, 26 of Franklin and two other s came to the Frenchcreek Township residence of Michael Rossman and Amanda Green, both 21.  Police say the intention of the three who came to the house was to continue a physical altercation from earlier.  Police say three damaged three of the victims' windows, a vehicle and entered the residence attempting to fight Rossman.  Police say Fisher is charged, having been arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Matthew T. Kirtland and is lodged in the Venango county jail unable to make $25,000 bail.  A Preliminary hearing is set for  April 5, 2017.  Fisher is not yet represented by an attorney.

Fisher is charged with the following:

Burglary - Overnight Accommodations; Person Present, Bodily Injury Crime , F2 Criminal Trespass-Break Into Structure , M2 Simple Assault , M2 Recklessly Endangering Another Person , M2 Criminal Mischief - Damage Property .


Woodcock Twp. Access Device Fraud Investigated

An incident of access device fraud in Crawford County Monday is object of an investigation by the Meadville State Police intent on solving the case.  The Meadville state troopers say 32 year old Damion McNelis of 15437 Woodcock Drive, Woodcock Township near Saegertown had a debit of $40.31 taken out of his account by what appears to be a bogus website, which was not authorized.  The investigation remains under investigation.  


After Kingsley Twp Rollover, Driver Charged w/DUI

An unidentified 64 year old man is charged with driving under the influence.  This after he overturned his vehicle on State Route 666 near Bobbs Creek Road in Kingsley Township, Forest County Sunday morning about 6 am.  The Marienville state police say the man was driving east on Route 666 when he lost control of his vehicle, struck a large rock and overturned coming to a stop on the roof of the car.  Police say the driver was located at the scene and treated for minor injuries.  He was arrested after showing signs of impairment.  Assisting at the scene:  Frank's Auto Body, Tionesta Fire Department and Clarion EMS.  

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