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Nonprofit takes over prevocational programs at Bedford-Somerset DBHS

An Erie-based nonprofit is now operating Bedford County’s prevocational programs for adults with intellectual disabilities and behavioral health challenges.

The Barber National Institute recently took over the operations of the Bedford-Somerset Developmental and Behavioral Health Services’ prevocational community participation supports programs, formerly known as workshops.

“Due to federal and state regulations, DBHS was required to divest some of its programs,” said Mary Piatt-Bruner, administrator of Bedford-Somerset DBHS. “With this program transition, all the required county operated programs have been divested.”

The Barber Institute took over the operations on Jan. 17, but the change has been in the works for nearly two years, according to Thad Jackman, director of Barber’s southwest regional programs.

Jackman said the first year of the process was a consultation project between Barber and Bedford-Somerset DBHS to develop a plan to get the agency in compliance with changing state and federal regulations.

“We spent a year working with them, learning their system, and getting them to be compliant with the changes in regulations,” Jackman said.

Much of the changes have involved moving away from in-house “workshop” programs to having participants take on roles in the community.

“The focus is on changing the workshop setting,” Jackman said. “Moving folks out to become more involved in the community. The goal is to have less time behind the walls of the building.”

Jackman said the program participants either get part time work or volunteer hours with different businesses and organizations in the community.

After the consultation period, the Barber Institute was selected to become of the provider of the programs.

“We appreciate Barber accepting the responsibility and ensuring continuity of care for our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable population,” Piatt-Bruner said.

Bedford County Commissioner Paul Crooks said a private contractor was needed to comply with state regulations, but said the county could have handled it itself.

“We’ve had to continually divest what we’ve been doing because somebody in the state seems to think you can’t assess somebody and provide the services.”

Crooks said the state, if it believed something inappropriate was happening, should contact the counties “and we’ll take care of it.”

The commissioners from the two counties will have oversight of the programs.

“I think Barber does a fairly good job,” Crooks said. “It’s just the whole issue of what appears to be the state doesn’t trust anybody to do anything.”

Jackman said the Barber Institute wanted to change as little as possible with the service in Bedford County and worked to implement the changes slowly.

“A lot of changes at once can be scary for families,” he said.

Barber and Bedford-Somerset DBHS administrators began meeting with with adults and their families in early October at programs in both Bedford and Somerset to begin discussions about the transition.

“It’s gone incredibly smoothly,” Jackman said. “I would say because we were mostly able to retain the existing staff.”

Fourteen staff workers chose to retain their jobs in the two counties. Barber hired three new employees in Bedford and six in Somerset.

The prevocational programs support 44 adults in Bedford and 53 adults in Somerset. Jackman said the ages of the adults in Bedford range from the early 30s to people in their 70s.

Jackman said clients have individualized schedules through the program, some attending five days per week. He said the ultimate goal of the program is to get people involved in the community and to prepare them for the workforce.

“Our hope is to get them into the community,” he said. “So if they go from attending five days per week to one day per week because they landed a job at REI or some other local business — that’s fantastic.”

The Barber National Institute was founded in 1952 by Erie educator Dr. Gertrude A. Barber and now annually serves more than 6,100 children and adults with autism, intellectual disabilities and behavioral health challenges and their families. The agency also operates in Erie, Warren and Forrest counties, as well as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.


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Claysburg Pizza recognized for community contributions

Editor’s Note: The Claysburg Area Hall of Fame has announced its 2019 inductees for its Hall of Fame. The Gazette is highlighting each of the entrants.

Sixty years ago, Gene Caparella founded Claysburg Pizza in the building on Bedford Street that is now home to Yingling Insurance.

Several years after opening, the business was sold to Al Lestochi who operated the business with and Jean Harbaugh Showalter until August 1968. At that time, Jay Medasie and his wife Elanie took ownership of the shop. Jay began working at the business for Gene Caparella two weeks after the business opened at the age of 14 and continued as an employee until taking ownership in 1968.

On August 10, 1972, Jay, son of John and Betty (Freeman) Medasie, and Elaine, daughter of Walter and Vivian (Burket) Feather, and children Penny and Paul opened the current Claysburg Pizza location along Dunnings Highway.

Paul became involved in the family business in 1981 at the age of 11. In 2007, he and his wife Teresa purchased the business. They have two children, Samantha and Jeremy. Penny and her husband Brad Poorman live in Chambersburg and have a daughter, Arica.

In 2017, Paul was selected by the Pennsylvania Future Business Leaders of America as Business Person of the Year in Pennsylvania.

Things changed for the business since its inception.

Pizza was once 10 cents per cut and was the only item sold. Today the restaurant’s menu has expanded to include a number of different types of pizzas, strombolis, subs, wings, appetizers, and desserts that are all centered around the original dough recipe that originally made them company famous in the area.

Throughout the years the business’ reputation for quality food and giving back to the community has expanded just as their business has. In 2010, the business started helping many groups throughout Pennsylvania with fundraising. Claysburg Pizza Fundraisers have helped groups raise well over $1 million using some of their most popular menu items. The business expanded once again in 2018 with another building added to make fundraising items and wholesale pizzas and strombolis that are sold in stores.

“They’ve been around for so long,” said Tessa Knisely, chairwoman of the Hall of Fame Committee, who noted the business is celebrating its 60th year in 2019. “They’re kinda just a place you can go to after football games, after any kind of community thing. That’s a place you go to that you walk in and you know somebody.”

Knisely said the business has been a staple of the community that has continuously given back to the Claysburg area.

“One of the things that’s really great about them is they really are committed to our community,” she said.


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BB&T Bank announces merger, branch in Woodbury set close in April

The BB&T Bank branch in Woodbury is set to close this spring as the North Carolina-based company prepares for a $66 billion merger that will make it one of the largest bank holding companies in the country.

David R. White, vice president of corporate communications for BB&T Bank, said in an email the branch at 149 Main St. will close on April 12.

“We recognize that any business closing can be an emotional issue for a community,” he said. “...We never take the decision to close a financial center lightly.”

White said many of the bank’s clients are choosing to conduct their banking business digitally both at BB&T and in the financial industry as a whole.

“While branches are still an important part of BB&T’s business model, we’re constantly evaluating all of our locations in terms of client-use patterns and convenience within the markets we serve,” he said.

The branches in Everett, 140 E. Main St., and Bedford, 601 E. Pitt St., will remain open. White said the company does not expect any layoffs as a result of the branch closing, adding most of the branch associates will move to other bank locations.

While the branch in Woodbury is set to close, BB&T on Thursday announced a merger with SunTrust Banks, Inc.

The $66 billion merger creates sixth-largest U.S. bank holding company, according to a news release issued by BB&T Bank.

The company will have about $442 billion in assets, $301 billion in loans, and $324 billion in deposits serving more than 10 million households in the United States, the release said.

The merger is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals and approval by the shareholders of each company.

The combined company will operate under a new name and brand, which will be determined prior to closing. The combined company’s board of directors and executive management team will be evenly split between the two institutions. A new corporate headquarters will be established in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Kelly S. King, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BB&T and its bank subsidiary, will serve as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the combined company and its bank subsidiary until Sept. 12, 2021.


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GOP kick off budget hearings by pummeling minimum wage hike

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Hearings on Gov. Tom Wolf’s $34.1 billion budget plan kicked off Monday with a volley of Republican attacks on the prospect of raising the minimum wage, signaling a tough road ahead for a new proposal the Democrat is backing.

The first House Appropriations Committee budget hearing featured members of the Republican majority repeatedly criticizing the broader impact of a minimum wage increase, including whether it would choke off the supply of entry-level jobs, squeeze small businesses or drive up inflation.

Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, questioned whether higher minimum wage earners would still earn too little to live without public benefits, but then find themselves no longer eligible for the help.

The first testifier, Matthew Knittel, director of the Legislature’s Independent Fiscal Office, said his agency is working on an analysis of the latest minimum wage proposal that Wolf supports.

Since 2009, Pennsylvania has remained at the $7.25 federal minimum wage level, one of 21 states to do so, and the Republican-controlled Legislature has batted away Wolf’s proposals to raise it since he took office in 2015.

The latest Wolf-backed proposal would take Pennsylvania’s hourly minimum to $12 this year, putting Pennsylvania in line with the highest state minimum wages. Annual 50-cent increases would bring it to $15 an hour in 2025, lifting Pennsylvania into a group of 17 other states that have scheduled annual adjustments written into law.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania would join a handful of states by eliminating its tipped wage minimum, now $2.83.

Those steps would boost pay for a million workers and provide savings in state programs for the poor, Wolf’s administration says.

The Independent Fiscal Office issued a report in 2015 on a previous proposal backed by Wolf to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. In it, the agency cited federal Congressional Budget Office estimates to conclude that raising the minimum wage would boost economic activity overall.

It projected higher prices and a loss of low-wage jobs, 3 percent or 31,000, but also broader wage gains for those above a new minimum wage.

In a later budget hearing, Wolf’s revenue secretary, Daniel Hassell, fielded questions about a minimum wage increase, too, and defended it, saying “there is a great deal of evidence that the effect on employment is not significant.”

Raising the minimum wage has backing from labor unions, Democratic lawmakers and some moderate Republicans, and public polling shows it tends to rate well among voters.

Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, the House Appropriations Committee’s ranking Democrat, said Republican protests were “slightly disingenuous.”

In a forum Monday sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Wolf told the crowd at Drexel University that his proposal would spur a big increase in demand and help curb the state’s subsidization through public benefits programs of employers who pay the lowest wages.

In a statement, the office of Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the Senate GOP is open to discussing a minimum wage increase, but that Wolf’s plan “is not anywhere near reasonable.”

“Any increase must be structured in a way that minimizes the impact on employers, consumers and employees,” it said.

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, acknowledged that some caucus members support a minimum wage increase, but gave no sign that GOP leadership is interested in discussing a compromise.

Rather, the House GOP leadership is working on legislation to “help more workers transition from minimum wage work into good paying, family sustaining careers,” the spokesman, Michael Straub, said.


News
Budget deal reached

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional negotiators announced an agreement late Monday to prevent a government shutdown and finance construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, overcoming a late-stage hang-up over immigration enforcement issues that had threatened to scuttle the talks.

Republicans were desperate to avoid another bruising shutdown. They tentatively agreed to far less money for President Donald Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7 billion wish list, settling for a figure of about $1.4 billion, according to a senior congressional aide.

“We reached an agreement in principle,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., appearing with a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers who concurred.

“Our staffs are just working out the details,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

Details won’t be officially released until Tuesday, but the pact came in time to alleviate any threat of a second partial government shutdown this weekend.

Shelby had earlier pulled the plug on the talks over Democratic demands to limit immigrant detentions by federal authorities, but Democrats yielded ground on that issue in a fresh round of talks on Monday.

Asked if Trump would back the deal, Shelby said, “We believe from our dealings with them and the latitude they’ve given us, they will support it. We certainly hope so.”

Trump traveled to El Paso, Texas, for a campaign-style rally Monday night focused on immigration and border issues. He has been adamant that Congress approve money for a wall along the Mexican border, though he no longer repeats his 2016 mantra that Mexico will pay for it.

Democrats carried more leverage into the talks after besting Trump on the 35-day shutdown but showed flexibility in hopes on winning Trump’s signature. After yielding on border barriers, Democrats focused on reducing funding for detention beds to curb what they see as unnecessarily harsh enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

The border debate got most of the attention, but it’s just part of a major spending measure to fund a bevy of Cabinet departments. A collapse of the negotiations could imperil budget talks going forward that are required to prevent steep spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

The negotiations hit a rough patch Sunday amid a dispute over curbing ICE, the federal agency that Republicans see as an emblem of tough immigration policies and Democrats accuse of often going too far.

A House Democratic aide said Republicans had already agreed to funding cuts that would require ICE to ramp down the number of detention beds to a range of 34,000-38,500 by the end of the year. ICE currently detains about 49,000 immigrants on average per day.

But a proposal to cap at 16,500 the number of detainees caught in areas away from the border — a limit Democrats say is aimed at preventing overreach by the agency — ran into its own Republican wall.

“ICE is being asked to ignore the laws that Congress has already passed,” said agency Deputy Director Matt Albence on a media call organized by the White House. “It will be extremely damaging to the public safety of this country. If we are forced to live within a cap based on interior arrests, we will immediately be forced to release criminal aliens that are currently sitting in our custody.”

According to ICE figures, 66 percent of the nearly 159,000 immigrants it reported detaining last year were previously convicted of crimes. Reflecting the two administration’s differing priorities, in 2016 under President Barack Obama, around 110,000 immigrants were detained and 86 percent had criminal records.

Few convictions that immigrants detained last year had on their records were for violent crimes. The most common were for driving while intoxicated, drugs, previous immigration convictions and traffic offenses.

Trump met Monday afternoon with top advisers in the Oval Office to discuss the negotiations. He softened his rhetoric on the wall but ratcheted it up when alluding to the detention beds issue.

“We can call it anything. We’ll call it barriers, we’ll call it whatever they want,” Trump said. “But now it turns out not only don’t they want to give us money for a wall, they don’t want to give us the space to detain murderers, criminals, drug dealers, human smugglers.”

The recent shutdown left more than 800,000 government workers without paychecks, forced postponement of the State of the Union address and sent Trump’s poll numbers tumbling. As support in his own party began to splinter, Trump surrendered after the shutdown hit 35 days, agreeing to the current temporary reopening without getting money for the wall.

The president’s supporters have suggested that Trump could use executive powers to divert money from the federal budget for wall construction, though he could face challenges in Congress or the courts.

___

Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.


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Top of the Morning

A Martinsburg resident received a suspected scam call about her Social Security number.

The resident said she received the call before 4 p.m. Monday from a recording on her phone saying she should call a number “in five minutes” for a new Social Security number because hers was involved in illegal activity. The recording said the caller was from the Social Security Administration and left the number 724-623-2380. When the number is dialed, a recording says, “Call rejected.” The administration said a Social Security number is never suspended and all such calls saying the number has been connected to illegal activity should be forwarded to ftc.gov/complaint. The caller said she notified Social Security about the call.

Two area post offices will have passport fairs Friday.

The U.S. Postal Service has launched the USPS Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler™ tool (RCAS) at www.usps.com/scheduler. In addition, select Post Offices in the Western Pennsylvania District are hosting passport fairs in February to assist customers in obtaining passports. The fair in Everett will be held 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the post office, 17 E. Main St.; and in Roaring Spring from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., 427 E. Main St.

The state transportation department announced travel restrictions starting early Tuesday morning.

At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, a full commercial vehicle ban (including buses) will be in place on I-70 in Fulton County (from the Maryland state line to the Turnpike) and on I-99 from I-80 to the Turnpike. Also at midnight, from New Stanton east to Carlisle, the Pennsylvania Turnpike will prohibit: empty, straight CDL-weighted trucks; all large combination vehicles (double trailers); tractors hauling empty trailers; any trailers pulled by motorcycles, passenger vehicles, pickup trucks or SUVs; all motorcycles; and all recreational vehicles and RVs on the following roadways. Starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday, the Turnpike will prohibit the same commercial vehicles as listed above until the ban is lifted. Visit www.511PA.com for more information.


Obituaries
Obituary on Page B8

BIDDLE, Donna Jean, 76, of Rabbit Lane, Bedford.


Andrew Harnik  

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, speaks to reporters as she arrives for a closed-door meeting at the Capitol as bipartisan House and Senate bargainers trying to negotiate a border security compromise in hope of avoiding another government shutdown on Capitol Hill, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)