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The Sunday

Little League
Voice

2010 ion # July 25, A Special Sect

JULY 25, 2010

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THE SUNDAY VOICE
James M. Coughlin
80 N. Washington St. Year built: 1909 Last renovations: 1955 Enrollment: 860 Capacity: 1087 Grades: 9-12 Building area: 171,350 gross square feet Site size: 2.4 acres

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LUZERNE COUNTY’S LARGEST AND FASTEST-GROWING NEWSPAPER AUDIENCE
Breaking news, blogs, videos and more online at www.citizensvoice.com

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District’s dilemma
Repair schools or build a new one
By Erin Moody | Staff Writer After years of making multimillion dollar “band-aid” repairs to three aging high schools, Wilkes-Barre Area School District officials are deciding whether to spend more than $100 million either to keep the schools open, build a new central high school or find another way to provide and fund up-to-date educational facilities. Taxpayers will likely make the final decision, however, as extensive tax increases needed to fund a major renovation or building project must be voted on in a public referendum. Faced with reports of expensive, necessary repairs three years ago, board members said they wanted to save the district’s community schools. Today many , board members are backing, or at least considering, constructing one consolidated high school. It’s a decision board member Phil Latinski thinks must be made soon. He understands the community could become divided over educational concerns or fears of higher taxes. He also believes it might cost him his seat on the school board. “I want to build a school that will be better for the students and the taxpayers, and if that means losing the election, OK,” he said.
BOB KALINOWSKI / THE SUNDAY VOICE

GAR

250 S. Grant St. Year built: 1922-1925 Last renovations: 1970 Enrollment: 855 Capacity: 1,099 Grades: 7-12 Building area: 168,240 gross square feet Site size: 5.5 acres

Elmer L. Meyers
341 Carey Ave. Year built: 1930 Last renovations: 1972-1974 Enrollment: 909 Capacity: 1,355 Grades: 7-12 Building area: 232,000 gross square feet Site size: 7.5 acres

Police allege Kenneth Schweiss attacked a police officer at his Jackson Township residence.

Suspect in cop assault killed state trooper dad
By Bob Kalinowski | Staff Writer

Previous studies

Nine years after a study showed Coughlin, GAR and E.L. Meyers high schools were in fair condition, a 2002 study reported it would cost between $74 million and $92 million to renovate all of the district’s buildings to “like new” condition. Of that, about $34.8 million would be spent on Meyers, $18.8 million on Coughlin and $15.1 million on GAR. At the time, a citizens’ committee submitted a letter rejecting the idea of building a single high school. The study was launched because it appeared enrollment would decrease by about 1,000 during the next decade. Instead, it has fallen only about 300, a drop district Superintendent Jeffrey T. Namey attributed to an increased number of students moving in and out of the district and a growing Latino population. Estimated repair costs further shot up with two studies in 2007 that showed Meyers High School

WARREN RUDA / THE SUNDAY VOICE

Water damage is evident along the walkway that connects Meyers High School to the bleachers at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium.
had sunk six inches because of the ebb and flow of the Susquehanna River. Coughlin, meanwhile, was fine despite being in the river’s flood plain. The price tag to stabilize and fix Meyers rose to $79 million. A new building, in the same spot or elsewhere, could cost about $58 million, Namey said. The cost of renovating Coughlin was updated to $40 million. size to Wilkes-Barre Area, only two — Lower Merion in Montgomery County and Seneca Valley in Butler County — have more than one high school. Each has two high schools and about 200 and 500 more students, respectively . Wilkes-Barre is not only unusual for maintaining multiple high schools, but also because those schools range from 80 to 101 years old. The average age of a school building nationwide was 42 years old in 1998, according to the most recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics. Further, only 28 percent of K-12 schools were built before 1950, like the three Wilkes-Barre high schools.

Costly renovations

Comparison with other districts

Of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts, Wilkes-Barre Area is one of fewer than 40 with multiple high schools, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Of the 12 districts closest in

The cost of keeping the high schools running is starting to mount, although all remain safe for students and employees, according to Namey During the . last year and a half, Wilkes-Barre Area spent $2.4 million on major projects for the three high schools, according to Business Manager Leonard Pryzwara. Of that, $2.1 million was spent at Meyers for visitors bleachers at the football stadium, driveway repairs, partial roof replacement and parapet removal.
See SCHOOLS, page A4

When Kenneth Schweiss was accused of beating a police officer recently at his Jackson Township home, it triggered a flashback to another violent confrontation he had with a cop 50 years ago. A Jackson Township police sergeant left in an ambulance after his July 6 encounter with Schweiss. On Nov. 20, 1960, Schweiss’s state trooper father was carried away in a body bag. Schweiss, then a 17-year-old high school senior, killed his father at the family’s Huntsville Road home in Dallas Borough, shooting him in the head, chest and shoulder in an ambush as the elder Schweiss returned home, according to newspaper archives. Schweiss spent more than seven years in prison. He lived the next 43 without a brush with the law. Now, at age 66, Schweiss finds himself facing prison time again for another assault on an officer of the law. After his release from prison, Schweiss married, raised a family and found steady employment until retirement from an area manufacturing facility several years ago. Many say he mostly kept a low profile — his dark past a closely guarded secret to neighbors who lived by him for decades. His recent arrest ended his relative anonymity and put him in the public eye again. Police charged Schweiss with injuring and threatening to kill Jackson Township police Sgt. Scott Davis in a July 6 attack when Davis arrived to investigate a domestic dispute at Schweiss’s Jesse Road home around 5 p.m. Davis was treated at a local hospital for a badly sprained wrist and injuries to the face and head.
See MURDER, page A11

Northeastern Pennsylvania’s New Frontier

Legal battle develops over mineral rights
By Patrick Sweet Staff Writer Sherwood B. Davidge and Calvert Crary lumber barons , and landowners at the turn of the 20th century, must have had excellent foresight. At least, they must have when they decided to sell more than 13,000 acres of land in Noxen and Forkston townships in Wyoming County in 1894, but retained the sought-after mineral rights making millionaires out of everyday farmers as gas companies snatch up land for natural gas exploration. Inked in flowing cursive, pages 30 through 40 of book 40 in the Wyoming County Recorder of Deeds Office pass on the behemoth property — outlined by stone corners, dead spruce trees and various antiquated landmarks — from Davidge and Crary to the Union Tanning Co. “Excepting from this conveyance and reserving for (Davidge and Crary), their heirs and assigns forever, all petroleum and other oils, gas, coal, iron and other minerals,” the deed states. The two men, though, were straw men for Union Tanning’s parent company and one of the original companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the United States Leather Co.
See RIGHTS, page A10

Work resumes on well
By David Dishneau and Harry R. Weber Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Crews hurried to get back to work on plugging BP’s leaky oil well Saturday after Tropical Storm Bonnie fizzled, and engineers hoped for a window of clear weather long enough to stop the gusher for good. But with peak hurricane season starting in early August, chances are the next big storm is right on Bonnie’s heels. “We’re going to be playing a cat-and-mouse game for the remainder of the hurricane season,” retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said Saturday Sure enough, another . disturbance already was brewing in the Caribbean,

— Bonnie and Hurricane Alex at the end of June, which delayed cleanup of Key developments in the Gulf of Mexico BP’s massive oil spill for a oil spill: week even though it didn’t Holding pattern: BP and the federal get closer than 500 miles government are increasingly sure that the from the well. temporary plug that has mostly contained Bonnie fell apart Saturday the oil for eight days will hold. before it even reached the Practice makes perfect: Joe Kramer, Louisiana coast. By then, the man who oversees the on-land operaworries about the storm had tion in the Grand Isle oil cleanup for Miller A woman walks pushed back efforts to solidly Environmental Services, called Bonnie her dog Satur- seal the well by at least a the perfect dress rehearsal for the hurriday past part of week, said Allen, the governcane season. “We had a plan and we the contaminated ment’s point man on the spill executed the plan without a problem,” beach in Grand and a veteran of the Coast Kramer said. Isle, La. Showtime: Heavy rain and frequent Guard’s rescue mission after lightning didn’t seem to bother those Hurricane Katrina. attending a benefit concert in Grand Isle. The show raised money to Completion now looks posbenefit civic projects on the island and included performances by sible by mid-August, but LeAnn Rimes and Three Dog Night. Allen said he wouldn’t hesitate to order another evacuaalthough forecasters said it average of five named tion based on forecasts simiwasn’t likely to strengthen storms have hit the Gulf lar to the ones for Bonnie, into a tropical storm. each hurricane season. This which halted work on In the past 10 years, an year, two have struck already Wednesday .

Gulf glance

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THE SUNDAY VOICE

REGION / NATION

SUNDAY, JULY 25, 2010

VA easing rules for medical marijuana
By Dan Frosch New York Times News Service DENVER — The Department of Veterans Affairs will formally allow patients treated at its hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, a policy clarification that veterans have sought for several years. A department directive, expected to take effect this week, resolves the conflict in veterans facilities between federal law, which outlaws marijuana, and the 14 states that allow medicinal use of the drug, effectively deferring to the states. The policy will not permit department doctors to prescribe marijuana. But it will address the concern of many patients who use the drug that they could lose access to their prescription pain medication if caught. Under department rules, veterans can be denied pain medications if they are found to be using illegal drugs. Until now, the department had no written exception for medical marijuana. This has led many patients to distrust their doctors, veterans say With doctors and . patients pressing the veterADVERTISEMENT
Legal Notice

RIGHTS: Wyoming County property in dispute
FROM PAGE A1 The two supposedly conveyed the rights to the company but documentation was lost during the leather companies’ bankruptcy . Now, more than a century later, the International Development Corp., the Thomas Family Trust, and the state are in a legal battle over who is the rightful owner and who has the ability to extract the natural gas from the 13,627acre property A wild history . of bankruptcies, tax sales, and various transactions with middlemen and the state have made who owns the mineral rights somewhat of a mystery . At the end of June, Wyoming County president judge Russell Shurtleff dismissed the international corporation’s attempt to claim sole ownership of the mineral rights after the state intervened and filed objections. The company plans to appeal the judge’s order to state superior court. Each party claims the rights belong to it, and all acquired them in a different way Whoever ends up com. ing away with the mineral rights can stand to make millions of dollars from the gas buried within the Marcellus Shale.

ans department for formal guidance, agency officials began drafting a policy last fall. “When states start legalizing marijuana we are put in a bit of a unique position because as a federal agency, we are beholden to federal law,” said Dr. Robert Jesse, the principal deputy under secretary for health in the veterans department. At the same time, Jesse said, “We didn’ t want patients who were legally using marijuana to be administratively denied access to pain management programs.”

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If You Purchased or Activated an AT&T Wireless Telephone,
a Proposed Class Action Settlement May Affect Your Rights.
A proposed Settlement has been reached in a lawsuit, which claims that AT&T Wireless and Panasonic Telecommunications Systems Company (collectively, “Defendants”) violated federal and state laws by locking certain wireless telephones to prevent them from being used with other wireless carrier networks. Defendants deny these claims. Under the Settlement, Class Members will be entitled to receive either a cash payment or prepaid phone card. Also, if the total number of Claims made by Class Members does not reach a total of 28,000, then AT&T will distribute phone cards, in an amount representing the difference between 28,000 and the number of Claims, to current members of the U.S. military and/or their families. You may be a Class Member if, between August 7, 1998 and October 26, 2004, you bought or activated an AT&T Wireless telephone and had an AT&T Wireless account with a Pennsylvania billing address. All current employees of AT&T Mobility are excluded from the Class. submitting a Claim Form postmarked within 60 days of final approval of the Settlement, which is expected to be January 3, 2011 (60 days after the FairnessHearingscheduledonNovember 2, 2010). Please refer to the Settlement website for updated information. • Exclude yourself (“opt out”) from the Settlement. A written Request for Exclusion, sent to the address below, must be postmarked by October 15, 2010. You retain your right to sue Defendants and will not be bound by any decision in the lawsuit, but you will not be eligible. to receive any Class benefits. • Object and remain in the proposed Settlement. You or your attorney should send a written Request for Objection postmarked by October 15, 2010. You give up your right to sue and are bound by court orders even if your objection is rejected. The Court has appointed lawyers to represent you at no cost to you. You may choose to hire your own lawyer to represent you at your own expense. The Court will hold a Fairness Hearing on November 2, 2010, at 9:30 a.m., in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, City Hall Courtroom 246, Philadelphia, PA 19107 to consider whether the proposed Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. If Requests for Objection have been received, the Court will consider them at this time.

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I International Development Corp. claims: Crary and Davidge gave the mineral rights to the United States Leather Co. in exchange for stock, though there are no records of the transaction. The leather company passed along the rights to Keta Realty Co, its subsidiary , which later became Keta Gas and Oil Co. Keta passed the rights along to Astra Oil & Gas Corp. in 1966, who then transferred them to Clarence Moore in 1981. On Aug. 3, 2000, International Development purchased the deed from Clarence Moore’s estate. “I wouldn’t want to say anything on behalf of the client one way or another,” Marc Drier, the attorney representing the corporation, said. “Obviously we think we , have a proper claim.” I The state argues: Central Pennsylvania Lumber Co., owned by United States Leather Co., sold the land to the commonwealth on Feb. 11, 1931. When Davidge and Crary died in 1911 and 1929, respectively, the mineral rights weren’t included in either’s last will and testament. No documentation from the leather company also means the mineral rights psweet@citizensvoice.com were deemed abandoned 570-821-2117

and unclaimed. Under the Unclaimed Property Act, those mineral rights were conveyed to the state Treasury Department and went unclaimed for the five years an owner would have to claim them. Attempts to reach Brad Bechtel, chief council for the game commission, were unsuccessful. I The Thomas Family Trust claims: Davidge and Crary gave the mineral rights to United States Leather Co. “The surface was sold to Union Tanning and the minerals were given to the big company,” trustee William Thomas said. In the early 2000s, Thomas said, the trust bought the remainder of the bankrupt leather company, including the mineral rights. Lester Greevy a Lycoming , County-based attorney specializing in oil and gas law and estate planning, said Central Pennsylvania Lumber and United States Leather’s history of tax sales and bankruptcies make many of the deeds traced back to the companies very difficult to straighten out. Tax sales included the mineral rights automatically unless someone came forward to claim proper ownership, Greevy said. When the lumber company sold the land to the state, odds are the mineral rights went with them. “If I were a betting man,” Greevy said, “I’d put my money on the state.”

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