School Delays 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

  If you see news happening, call the WJPA Newsroom at (724) 222-3522

Local News

Washington County Businessman Gets Prison Time

A federal judge has sentenced a Washington County businessman to a one year and one day term in federal prison for conspiracy to defraud the IRS and filing a false bankruptcy declaration in connection with his companies.  According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab also gave 71-year-old George Retos a two-year probationary term when he gets out of prison.  Retos, who owns Prime Plastics and Plastic Power in Washington, had pleaded guilty last year to the IRS and bankruptcy fraud charges, and also accepted responsibility for a wire fraud charge in another scheme to fleece Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system.  Authorities alleged that instead of paying the IRS, Retos spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in business funds from both of his companies by issuing business checks to himself and his family in addition to debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals at the Meadows in Washington County and a casino in Las Vegas.

Citizens Bank In Canonsburg Closing Early Next Year

The Canonsburg branch of Citizens Bank will be closing by early next year.  A form letter was sent out to patrons of the branch at 1 East Pike Street, saying that the branch would be closing on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at two p.m.  The letter did not give a reason for the closing but instead said it hoped customers would continue to bank with them through various other means like ATM, online or mobile phone, or by using a Citizens branch on Washington Road.  WJPA News reached out to Citizen’s Bank for comment and we received this emailed statement from Citizens Vice President of Media Relations, Rory Sheehan:  “We continue to evaluate, evolve and adjust our branch strategy across our network, and can confirm that we have decided to close this branch as of February 19, 2020. Based on changing customer behaviors and  our real estate strategy, occasionally we have to make the business decision to close a branch. We value our customers and make every effort to transition them to the nearest local branch as seamlessly as possible, in addition to continuing to invest in our digital and mobile capabilities to allow them to easily bank with us in any location. In this case, customer accounts will be transferred to the Peters Township branch in McMurray which is approximately 3.9 miles away.”

Range Resources Laying Off Workers

Range Resources announced this week that it is planning to close its office in Houston and lay off about fifty employees.  Company officials say the move will not affect or include their regional headquarters in Southpointe.  Range officials cited continued low commodity prices for the move.  About forty workers were laid off in June between the Houston and Washington County locations.  Company officials say their Houston shale operations will be transferred to its offices in Arcadia, Louisiana.

No Injuries After Nottingham Twp House Fire

Two people escaped a house fire overnight in Nottingham Township. A total of five fire companies responded to the blaze at 83 Barr Road just after 11 p.m. Finleyville Fire officials tell our news partners at Channel-11 that the fire began in the chimney. Two adults were alerted by smoke detectors and got out safely. It took fire crews nearly forty-five minutes to bring the fire under control. The fire was contained to the chimney area but the home was uninhabitable because of smoke and water damage. The Red Cross is now assisting.

Still No Resolution To Chestnut Street Flooding

It was a busy afternoon for North Franklin Supervisors on Tuesday. The afternoon started with what was described as a contentious meeting between property owners of Bob Evans, Guttman Oil, and Rite Aid on W. Chestnut Street. All parties tried to hammer out an agreement to repair a failed storm water pipe that has caused flooding in the area since 2017.  An agreement was not reached and supervisors made it clear that they want the issue cleared up before anyone is injured due to the flooding that regularly occurs after a rainstorm. Supervisors describe the property owners for Guttman Oil and Bob Evans to be cooperative, but Rite Aid’s land owners are seemingly trying to tie the issue up in the courts. Supervisors will meet again with all parties next week. In other township business, supervisors got good news from an arbitration case involving former Police Officer Jerry Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh filed a grievance against the township in 2018 for a suspension of 30 days due to allegations of sexual harassment. The arbiter found that the suspension was reasonable and decided in favor of North Franklin Township. In other police department news, the arbitration case against the police union continues. A decision is hoped for in January of 2020. Supervisor Bob Sabot looks at the issue as the union trying to hold the citizens hostage. Supervisors will wait out the contract until the end of 2020 if necessary. If an agreement is reached or the contract expires, North Franklin will then look into subcontracting for police protection.

FBI Eyes How Pennsylvania Approved Pipeline

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The FBI is investigating how Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration came to issue permits for construction on a multibillion-dollar pipeline to carry natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania, The Associated Press has learned.  FBI agents have interviewed current or former state employees in recent weeks about the Mariner East pipelines, according to three people who have direct knowledge of the agents’ questions.  All three spoke on condition of anonymity.  When permits were approved in 2017, environmental advocacy groups accused Wolf’s administration of pushing through incomplete permits that violated the law.  Wolf’s administration is declining comment. It has said in the past that the permits contained strong environmental protections and it denied forcing the Department of Environmental Protection to issue them.  The chief federal prosecutor in Harrisburg, U.S. Attorney David Freed, declined comment.

Guilty Verdict In Death Penalty Trial In Officers Killing

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A jury has convicted a man of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Pennsylvania police officer almost two years ago.  Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against 31-year-old Rahmael Sal Holt in the November 2017 slaying of New Kensington officer Brian Shaw.  Prosecutors contend Holt was an armed drug dealer who had planned to rob the driver of the SUV that Shaw attempted to stop in Old Kensington in Westmoreland County on the night of the shooting. Holt has maintained that he wasn’t the person who fired.  A jury convicted Holt on Tuesday after about an hour of deliberations, and will begin hearing arguments Wednesday for and against a death sentence.  Holt’s father, 48-year-old Gregory Baucum, faces witness intimidation charges stemming from the case.

2000 Turkeys In Full Swing

November is here and it’s time to start thinking Turkey!  Yes, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and that means we need your help making sure area families have a traditional Thanksgiving meal. WJPA’s annual 2000 Turkey’s event is already in full swing. Canonsburg Mayor Dave Rhome says since the 2019 drive began October 3rd they have raised more than $30,000.  He says there are “a whole lot of families that we will provide Thanksgiving dinner to those in need” through the Washington County Food Bank.  Laurel Ziemba of Range Resources says “when you prioritize how you feed your family, Thanksgiving dinner is a luxury that a lot of families can’t afford.”  She says “that’s where 2000 Turkey’s will be able to supplement their income this holiday season to ensure they have a nice dinner for their family”.  If you would like to donate, you can send a check to; 2000 Turkeys P.O. Box 2000 Washington, Pa. 15301.

World News

Trump Denies Asking About Investigations On Call

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump is denying he asked a U.S. ambassador about “investigations” in Ukraine a day after his call with that country’s president.  The existence of the call was revealed Wednesday by William Taylor (pictured), the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. He testified that one of his staffers overheard Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, speaking  on the phone with Trump on July 26.  Sondland used his cellphone to call Trump, and the staff member could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations.”  Trump is denying knowledge of the call, saying, “I know nothing about that.” He adds, “First time I’ve heard it.”  An official familiar with the matter said the staffer Taylor referred to is David Holmes, the political counselor at the embassy in Kyiv. Holmes is invited to testify before Congress on Friday. (Photo:  CNN)

Justices Appear Ready To Allow Trump To End DACA

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seems prepared to allow the Trump administration to end a program that allows some immigrants to work legally in the United States and protects them from deportation.  There did not appear to be any support among the five conservatives for the challengers to the administration’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It currently protects an estimated 660,000 immigrants who came to the United States as children.  Several justices indicated that the administration has provided a sufficient reason for wanting to do away with the program or that courts should not be reviewing the executive branch’s discretionary decisions.  The high court’s decision is expected by June, at the height of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Trump Envisions Expanded Trade Ties With Turkey

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump says the U.S. and Turkey are poised to expand trade between the two countries.  Trump is set to meet later Wednesday in the Oval Office with  Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn). Trump says he thinks that trade between the two NATO allies can quickly increase to about $100 billion.  U.S. goods and services trade with Turkey totaled an estimated $24 billion in 2017.  But right now, relations between the two countries are at their lowest point in decades. Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian  air defense system has angered the U.S. and other NATO allies.  Trump says the meeting will also cover Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria to fight Kurdish forces that have been U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Many University Students Fleeing Hong Kong

HONG KONG (AP) – University students from mainland China and Taiwan are fleeing Hong Kong, while those from three Scandinavian countries have been moved or urged to leave as college campuses become the latest battleground in the city’s 5-month-long anti-government unrest. Marine police used a boat Wednesday to help a group of mainland students leave the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which remained barricaded by demonstrators after violent clashes with police a day earlier.

Health Official Says Gaza Death Toll Rises To 16

JERUSALEM (AP) – Gaza’s Health Ministry says four more Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes across the coastal enclave.  The latest killings raised on Wednesday the overall death toll to 16, most of them militants.  Ten Palestinians were killed in Gaza when the latest round of violence erupted early on Tuesday after an Israeli airstrike hut the home of a senior Islamic Jihad commander, killing him alongside his wife.  The ministry also says 50 Palestinians have been wounded since Tuesday.

Missing “Seinfeld” Actor Confirmed Dead

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Police have confirmed that a body found in July in a southern Oregon ravine was that of missing actor Charles Levin, who played numerous roles on television comedies  such as “Seinfeld” and “Night Court.”  The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Tuesday that police reports confirmed the body as the 70-year-old actor.  His death was ruled as accidental.  Police were contacted July 8 by Levin’s son Jesse, who reported his father missing. He was last seen June 27.  His car was found July 13, with the remains of his dog, a pug named Boo Boo, inside.  A body was found outside the car and was believed to be Levin’s, but police didn’t confirm the identity until this week.  Levin played a character who performs circumcisions on a “Seinfeld” episode.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles Ready For Holiday Travel

(AP) – Record throngs of travelers are expected to jam into airports over the Thanksgiving break and airlines are adding hundreds of flights a day in response.  The Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that it expects to screen more than 26.8 million passengers between Nov. 22 and Dec. 2, a 4% increase over last year.  The busiest days figure to be the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day. The lightest day? That’s expected to be the holiday itself.  TSA says it will offer overtime to screeners to keep checkpoints adequately staffed.

“Unicorn” Puppy – Happy & Healthy

JACKSON, Mo. (AP) – A rescued puppy is attracting a lot of attention because of his cute resemblance to a unicorn.  The nearly 10-week-old puppy, named Narwhal, has a tail-like appendage growing from his forehead.  Narwhal was rescued over the weekend and sent to Mac’s Mission in Jackson, which specializes in fostering animals with special needs.  Mac’s Mission founder Rochelle Steffen says Narwhal doesn’t notice the extra tail and is otherwise a happy, healthy puppy. Although it looks like a tail, Narwhal cannot wag it.  Steffen says the rescue group has been flooded with requests from people wanting to adopt Narwhal since his picture hit social media. But he’ll remain at Mac’s Mission so his caretakers can be sure the tail doesn’t grow out of  proportion to his face and cause him problems.