January 2019 front-page news in review
The year 2019 had its moments. Today the Sun-Gazette begins a daily offering of news highlights from the year, starting with January.
Following are the stories that made front-page news during January:
• Jan. 1 — Bright hopes were expressed for 2019. People walking around downtown were asked about their hopes for the new year see a lot of potential. Mark Doughtry, who arrived 30 years ago, said J.C. Penny was downtown. Doughtry saw local enterprise diminish as stores went to the Lycoming Mall. “Williamsport has a really strong community,” said McKenna Kukula.
• Jan. 2 — State police shoot and kill Brant E. Hartung in Waterville after a seven-hour standoff. Hartung, 62, of Cummings Township, fired on police multiple times during the standoff, striking an ambulance before he was shot and killed, according to the state police.
• Jan. 3 — In a reversal of his drug-gang reduction policy five years ago, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said he wants the sounds of basketballs to reverberate in Memorial Park. “The hoops are coming back,” Campana said five years after he removed them because of crime and litter at the park.
• Jan. 4 — City Council allows expansion of the central business district west and north of parts of Hepburn Street.
• Jan. 5 — Less than two days after accepting a position as supervisor of pupil transportation and school safety at Williamsport Area School District, Jody A. Miller, who was tagged to become chief of police, submitted his resignation, leaving open his return to the police department as a sergeant or another position.
• Jan. 6 — Helping the mentally ill in the Lycoming County Prison presents a win-win scenario, said Chris Ebner, deputy warden of inmate services. Not only are people who need help receiving it, but taxpayer dollars also are saved in the long run, he said.
• Jan. 7 — New mulch will be put onto a playground at Memorial Park, but it may be a challenge for handicap accessibility. City Councilwoman Bonnie Katz brought up her concern about children using wheelchairs and their mobility in the mulch that Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said would be applied by city.
• Jan. 8 — Mayor Gabriel J. Campana recently said he’s begun discussions with leadership of the city police and fire departments’ unions to renegotiate contracts to reduce salaries.
• Jan. 9 — City resident Ryan Jones was stabbed in the chest allegedly by Monica Latoya Burns, 30, as he and “multiple subjects engaged” in a fight inside an apartment at the Timberland Apartments during the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, city police Agent Justin Snyder said in court documents.
• Jan. 10 — As temperatures dip on winter nights, many people find it hard to find a warm place to rest until morning. First Church, at 604 Market St., opens its doors to those seeking shelter from the cold as part of the church’s “Code Blue Emergency Warming Center.”
• Jan. 11– Streets and parks department crew pours concrete for the new basketball hoop poles at Memorial Park.
• Jan. 12 — The Lycoming Mall is in hot water over unpaid water and sewer bills. The Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority took out a sheriff’s sale against Lycoming Mall Realty Holding LLC, owned by Kohan Retail Investment Group since April 2016.
• Jan. 13 — City Council leadership said either the Memorial Park Committee, a group hand-picked by the mayor is interacting with children, or it isn’t. Should they engage, directly or indirectly, this group of volunteers have to get clearances with the FBI and state police.
• Jan. 14 — More than $6 million in construction on areas east of Market Street is scheduled to begin in early March, said David Witmer, on-site construction manager with Reynolds Construction Management Inc. of Harrisburg.
• Jan. 15 — A revolving door of picks for city police chief ended as Agent Damon R. Hagan, 48, was selected as the next chief of Williamsport police. Aaron M. LeVan, 43, assistant chief, and Hagan took oaths of office in front of colleagues and family.
• Jan. 16 — The mayor’s offer to sell two pump stations for $1 million to the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority was not an option before the official vote was taken, said Mike Miller, authority executive director, to City Council’s public works committee. The pump houses are not in the city ownership but rather are owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, he said.
• Jan. 17 — U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, announced his resignation from Congress, effective Jan. 23. He issued the following statement: “As of Jan. 23, 2019, I am officially stepping down from Congress. After two decades, Marino will seek a job in the private sector.
• Jan. 18 — City resident Irish Griffin wanted to publicly thank Mayor Gabriel J. Campana for his bringing back basketball courts and hoops at Memorial Park, but the mayor wasn’t at the City Council meeting. Council blasted the mayor for organizing a Memorial Park Committee, 10 volunteers, some of whom were not notified he put their names on a list to monitor play from afar and report periodically to the mayor. Council also feared some of the volunteers might need child clearances if they interact with the children on the court.
• Jan. 19 — City police will not take a pay cut this year, prompting the mayor to proclaim his fear of a tax hike in 2020. The request by Mayor Gabriel J. Campana to have the unionized officers cut a scheduled pay increase by 1 percent, from 3 percent to 2 percent, was voted on during a special meeting.
• Jan. 20 — Residents mark the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the annual Peace Walk. The walk began at First Church United Methodist on Market Street and concluded with a service.
• Jan. 21 — A blast of cold air followed a snowstorm, bringing the coldest two days of the winter season thus far, with outside at zero.
• Jan. 22 — The Muncy School District renewed a contract for Superintendent Dr. Craig Skaluba, who will get a salary of $133,800 a year, with a 1 1/2 percent annual increase based upon a satisfactory evaluation, over the next five years. Before the vote, some in the audience raised their voices in dispute.
• Jan. 23 — Montoursville’s Mike Mussina is named to the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He joins the greatest players of all time in the museum for his time on the pitching mounds for the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.
• Jan. 24 — Some 40 people attend an open house on the Park Avenue Plan, as it is called, at the YMCA. The plan is developed by the city and Ingalls Planning & Design. It is designed to stabilize a neighborhood that was on the slide downward with crime, low-rental properties and lack of opportunities or identity.
• Jan. 25 — Shop-Vac, 2323 Reach Road, is told by its insurance company representative it may face higher flood insurance rates because it lies near the levee, which remains uncertified by the Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
• Jan. 26 — Millions of dollars left to spend on recertifying the levee, upgrading stormwater management systems and reducting pollution heading into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and ultimately the Susquehanna River-Chesapeake Bay will require a regional cost-sharing approach, said Steven W. Cappelli, Williamsport Municipal Water Authority chairman and South Williamsport borough manager. The former state representative and mayor says the combination may require Lycoming County Water and Sanitary Authority as well as broadening the charter of the water and sanitary authority to create a levee authority.
• Jan. 27 — Many college students are choosing not to be teachers or go into education because of the rigor testing, said Amy Rogers, a teacher of teachers at Lycoming College. Many chose not to enter the profession due to the growth of accountability and high stakes testing, she said. After the tests, student teachers must teach for a minimum time and be approved by the state Department of Education.
• Jan. 28 — Bone-chilling Arctic air is set to arrive by midweek, causing below-zero temperatures and dangerous windchills for about three days, until the warming up occurs by the weekend and next week, said Craig Evanego, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College.
• Jan. 29 — A polar vortex was set to arrive bringing temperature below zero and leading to possible frostbite in minutes if outside.
• Jan. 30 — As temperatures — plummeted, Lycoming County Veterans Affairs, in partnership with the Montgomery American Legion Auxiliary unit 251 and Muncy American Legion Post 268, helped provide clothing to needy county veterans.
• Jan. 31 — Deer are starting to show up in city neighborhoods, causing concern of accidents on streets. Feral cat populations are exploding with many not spaying or neutering the animals. Experts on both species share some tips with the newspaper readers on what to do to limit cats and how deer, in nearby woods, are looking for food and cover.
(Compiled by Sun-Gazette reporter Mark Maroney.)