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Farmers ask for driver patience on rural roads

SALEMVILLE — Spring means the busy work of crop farming is underway, as producers across the county are on the move, tilling and planting to start the annual work of husbandry that ends with the fall harvest.

Bedford County Farm Bureau is hoping motorists will be patient and understanding when large, slower-moving farm vehicles and implements take to public roads this year.

The bureau held a news conference Tuesday at Golden Rule Farms in South Woodbury Township, where farm tractors and the equipment they pull flanked Bob Detwiler, president of the county farm organization, and others gathered to note Rural Road Safety Week.

Detwiler and his brother, Allen, joined with Joe Diamond, regional organization director for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, to alert drivers “that larger, slow-moving farm vehicles and equipment are once again traveling” Bob said, as they move from field to field and farm to farm.

Allen said producers are cognizant that their machinery holds up traffic, but farmers, generally, try to avoid being on roads at the busy times.

According to preliminary data from the state transportation department, there were eight people killed in crashes involving farm equipment in 2018. In 2017, there were 106 crashes, five fatalities, and 64 injuries involving farm equipment.

Farm machinery is large, wide and moving around 30 to 35 mph at top speed.

“When we’re being followed, we do hold up traffic,” Allen said.

To alert motorists, equipment often is fitted with an assortment of lights, whether for brakes or turning, to light up the road or simply to let others know they are on the road.

State law requires tractors that are operating between sunset and sunrise to have reflective marks and at least one flashing or revolving yellow light or yellow strobe light.

If the tractor, combine or other machine is between 14 feet 6 inches and the current maximum width of 16 feet, it must be followed by a vehicle displaying an “oversize load” sign and also must have a continuously activated hazard signal lamp.

State Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., who also attended the news conference, said the width restriction is about to change.

Langerholc was the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 338, which has passed the Senate. He expects it to be approved by the General Assembly and go to the governor’s desk for his signature soon.

“It’s a tough business and it’s getting tougher,” Langerholc said about agriculture, the number one industry in Bedford County.

Langerholc said in a Senate memorandum earlier this year, “the standard width for many combines is in excess of the current 16-foot width restriction, placing our farmers in danger of being cited merely while performing farming duties on their own land.”

He called the bill to allow for expansion for farm vehicles “one more tool to help you guys do what you do.”

The concern farmers have for safety is as much for motorists as for farmers themselves.

Allen Detwiler noted that a typical tractor can weigh about 23,000 pounds. And, Diamond, pointing to the metal edges of a disc harrow, said they could damage a vehicle if someone doesn’t properly clear the equipment being pulled behind the tractor.

Diamond said motorists should be aware that the driver of a combine cannot properly see a vehicle traveling behind. The combine at the Detwiler farm measures about 21 feet in length and is 13 feet wide. The rule, he said, is if you can’t see the driver’s mirrors, he can’t see you.

He also used the example of a tractor pulling a disc and then a harrow behind the disc to demonstrate how long a distance it can be to clear the farm machinery in tow. The implements are about 50 feet in total length.

Allen Detwiler said if a motorist doesn’t get around all of it, “you as a motorist will lose.”

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert said both farmers and the driving public must look out for one another.

“We believe costly accidents can be avoided, serious injuries can be prevented and lives can be saved if farmers and motorists look out for one another on country roads,” he said.

The Farm Bureau is holding news conferences across the state for Rural Roads Safety Week.


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Bedford Area looking to cut projected budget deficit

The Bedford Area School District administrators will look to trim a nearly $1.6 million projected budget deficit for the 2019-20 school year.

Business manager Christina Robosson presented a preliminary budget plan that included $30.67 million in expenditures and $29 million in revenues during the district school board meeting Tuesday night.

Superintendent Allen Sell said the administration will look to reduce the deficit prior to the board’s vote next month, but said the district typically operates with a projected deficit in order to give itself spending authority during the year.

“If we can get it to around a million dollars, we’re in good shape,” he said.

This past school year the district budgeted a $1.2 million deficit. Robosson told the board that the district should be close to breaking even for the year.

The district finished the 2017-18 year with a $45,000 deficit, a $640,000 surplus in 2016-17, and a $42,000 deficit in 2015-16.

Sell said the district budgets high for projected expenses and is conservative with its revenue projections.

Robosson told the board she doesn’t anticipate the need of a tax increase at this time, but said the budget is still being worked out.

The millage rate in the district is 9.424. The allowable tax increase is 2.9 percent, which would take the rate to 9.697 and would provide about $348,000 in gross additional revenue.

Robosson projected about $9.2 million in property tax collections for the year — about 94 percent of the net property tax levy.

Sell said there’s potential for a portion of the projected deficit to be cut through health care costs. He said the district’s health insurance consortium, which includes districts in Bedford and Somerset counties, will vote later this month on whether to reinvest some of its growing fund balance to reduce costs.

“There’s a proposal to take some of the fund balance in the consortium and apply that by formula to everybody’s health care costs next year,” Sell said.

Robosson said the district is projected to have an 8.85 percent increase in health insurance costs, mfrom $2.76 million to $3.1 million.

“I believe that number will go down,” Robosson said.

Sell said the number would drop to about a 2 percent increase if the fund balance is reinvested. He said the consortium’s executive committee has recommended the reinvestment.

About $11 million of the budget is devoted to salaries, while $8.4 million is devoted to benefits.

Other significant expenses listed in the budget include charter school tuition costs, which Robosson projected at $2.35 million. That money covers tuition costs for about 160 students in the HOPE for Hyndman Charter School and online charter schools.

Sell said retirement costs also have continued to rise, from 33.43 percent to 34.29 percent in 2019-20. The cost is projected to increase from $3.6 million to $3.75 million.

The district’s general fund balance as of June 30 was $4.2 million. It’s capital reserve fund is at $2.6 million.

The district projects to receive about $7.7 million through the state’s basic education subsidy, about $330,000 in a Ready to Learn Block Grant, and about $3.5 million in other state revenue. Other local revenue sources include $1.56 million from earned income taxes and $650,000 in gaming funds.


News
Meeting to be held regarding Tussey SRO

Community input is being sought regarding the future of Tussey Mountain School District’s school resource officer program.

Meetings will be held April 22 at 10 a.m. and at 6 p.m. at the district office to solicit opinions about the district’s program and how it should move forward.

Currently, the program is funded through a grant that was obtained by and administered by Saxton Borough.

The borough obtained the grant and the district first had an officer in the 2016-17 school year. The $60,000 grant was to be for two years but according to Saxton Borough Mayor Alan Smith, the borough did not use all of the money and was able to extend the program for a year.

The borough is not able to apply for the grant again and according to Smith, while the schools were allotted money for school safety, Tussey Mountain is unable to use any of that money for a school resource officer or apply for related grants because it already has an officer.

The district’s board formed a committee that includes board members John Baughman, Brenda Folk and Roy McCabe to look at the options of the program moving forward.

In a press release, the district said that statewide and in the two counties the district is in, resource officers’ jobs differ. The press release added that “it is clear that if the SRO’s position is to continue, the SRO will not only be a district employee, but an integral part of the community.”

The uncertainty of the program leaves the future of current resource officer Dave Buseck uncertain.

Smith said that if the district chooses not to use the borough officer, he is uncertain whether Saxton could maintain three full-time officers. The borough now pays for Buseck’s time during school breaks and summer.

Smith has spoken numerous times of the positive feedback the program has received from staff and community members.

In the release, Baughman said that he believes the district needs a resource officer.

“I would not want to look a parent, who has lost a child, in the eyes and try to explain that their child wasn’t worth the cost of a gallon of regular gas per household. It would cost less than that per year to fund an SRO,” he said.

The meetings will last not longer than two hours, according to the district, and the speaker order will be determined by the order in which those wishing to address the meeting sign in.


News
Ridge considers ID scanners

FISHERTOWN — Chestnut Ridge School District is considering safety upgrades that visitors would see when they sign in at the school.

High School Assistant Principal Eric Zeznanski approached the district’s board at its Tuesday agenda meeting regarding the ID scanner systems from Raptor Technologies that administration has been looking into.

Zeznanski explained that individuals who are visiting the school or picking up a child would insert their drivers’ license. It would then be scanned by a system against a sex offender database as well as other databases that are loaded into the system. He said that this includes protection from abuse orders or something that prohibits someone from picking up a child at the school.

According to Zeznanski, if there is an issue, a text email alert is immediately sent to the district’s school police officer, requesting that he come to the building immediately. He added that the notice is also sent to several administrators.

Zeznanski said the notification is done discreetly through a panic button in the system without drawing attention from the individual.

He told the board that the response to the alert would depend on the situation. If there are pre-made arrangements, the child would be released to the parent. But if it was spontaneous and the parent came up as a sex offender or something of that nature, that person would be denied entry to the school.

The system consists of a scanner and a label printer that would print visitor badges with photos of the individual.

It would cost about $1,200 for the appliance and then $300 a year after that.

The district is looking to pilot the program in one building for one year, starting with Central Elementary, before expanding to the other districts.

Zeznanski added that while the system is cloud-based, information can be entered manually if the system is down.

He told the board that administration would move to purchase the equipment as soon as it receives authorization.


Local
Top of the Morning

Graduation deadline is May 6.

To be included in this year’s Graduation Edition, each home-school and private school graduate will need to submit a graduation form and photo. Forms are available by calling 623-1151, Ext. 120, or by sending an email to vhenry@bedfordgazette.com. The deadline for submissions is May 6.

Bedford County Veterans Affairs has flags for volunteers who will place them for Memorial Day.

Volunteers who will be placing the flags on veterans’ graves in the cemeteries may pick them up at the office during normal office hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Mann Township supervisors will hold a bulky waste day from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 4 for township residents.

The township said it will be accepting TVs, at $5 each. Bring old furniture, refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, stoves and other large items. Do not bring computers or printers, paints, cleaners, gas, oil, chemicals, hazardous materials, trash or garbage. Passenger car tires will be accepted at $2 each or $4 if on rim. Tires from tractors and bigger items will be accepted for $5 each.

Bedford County Food Bank said distribution days at its food pantries will be Friday, April 19.

Clients for Everett, Hyndman, Manns Choice/Bedford, New Paris, Northern Bedford (Woodbury), and Saxton/Hopewell should mark down Friday as distribution day.

Bedford Township and Bedford Borough will hold their annual bulky waste day on Saturday, April 27.

The collection will be from 8 a.m. to noon. at the Bedford Township Municipal building, 1037 Shed Road, Bedford. All appliances will be accepted. Car and small truck tires will be accepted at a fee of $3 without rim, $4 with rim; truck and tractor tires will be $20 each or $25 with a rim; TVs, $10 each; other miscellaneous electronics, $5 each. Trash, propane tanks, paint, contractor demolition materials, and hazardous waste won’t be taken. Donations will be accepted to help defray the cost of the collection.


News
Deaths

Brallier, Jay Howard, 83, of Tatesville Road, Everett, died on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Obituary in Thursday's Gazette. Arrangements by Akers Funeral Home, Inc., 299 Raystown Road, Everett, PA 15537. www.akersfuneralhome.com

Clark, Betty M., 85, of Raystown Road, Everett.