The biggest community stories of the past year

All of these stories impact – or have impacted – our community.

Whether it be our health, our travel or our education, here are some of the stories we covered this year that just don’t quite fit anywhere else:

March 13: Game Over – Youngsville football eliminated, consolidated

After months of deliberation, students at Youngsville High School who want to play junior varsity or varsity football next year will do so as part of the Warren Area High School team.

The co-op was a divisive proposal. “The reality is, if you offer the co-op, a lot of kids are going to turn their backs,” Morgan said.

Youngsville Varsity Football Coach Andy Chase estimated that only 10 of the Youngsville students signed up to play football would do so through the co-op.

“The reality is, if we vote yes, football will be done in Youngsville,” Anderson said. “Once it goes to a co-op, the chances of restoring football at Youngsville are pretty slim.”

Stewart said the board was faced with a similar decision regarding Youngsville football last year and considered going to JV only. “That, in hindsight, is the option I think we should have followed,” he said.

Asked if he would alter his motion, Colosimo declined. “We’re not here on a whim or because we want to kick the hornet’s nest,” he said. “District 10 could have penalized the district, not just Youngsville. I am sticking with my original motion.”

“We were in a situation last year in the middle of the football season that we don’t ever want to be in again,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said.

“The logical, not emotional, recommendation would be we take all the kids,” she said. To “do everything we can to give every kid the opportunity to play at the ninth grade level, the JV level, the varsity level.”

“When I look at these kids, I thought to myself, why am I putting so much time and effort into this situation,” Chase said. “I’m reminded every time I talk to one of these kids.”

“It’s been said to me that it was felt that I handled myself perfectly, that I had the kids’ best interest in mind,” Chase said. “The coaches that stand with me have the same concepts, the same beliefs that I do.”

“Why not give us a chance?” Chase said. “We have the numbers.”

After the vote, Youngsville Borough Council member Rick Brewster expressed concerns beyond the football program. “The next thing you’re going to have an opportunity to look at is a facility,” he said. “It doesn’t take a genius to sit out here and realize that could be in trouble.”

“People move to communities for the opportunities of recreation and education,” Brewster said. “I am truly concerned about the direction that this board is going to take going forward relative to Youngsville High School.”

April 10: Top honors – Warren General among top 100 Rural and Community Hospitals

Warren General Hospital is on the list of Top 100 2017 Rural and Community Hospitals.

Out of 3,000 to 4,000 rural community hospitals in the United States, Warren General’s overall score of 91.3 from iVantage Health Analytics and The Chartis Center for Rural Health ranked it among the top 100 hospitals with no more than 200 beds.

“We’re very proud of it,” CEO Rick Allen said. “Very proud specifically of the people because it’s our staff that truly won this award.”

The group made its calculations based on three categories — market, value, and finances.

May 29: PDE gives approval for Rural Regional College

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has given its final blessing to the Rural Regional College of Northern Pennsylvania.

“As part of the legislation that passed, we were required to do a plan that had to be approved by PDE,” said Duane Vicini, RRC project executive.

Vicini said that the 15 chapter plan “really encompassed everything” from academic programming to administrative planning.

“It really took action by PDE to make the college official and it’s probably the biggest step of the development of the college we’ve had yet,” he added.

June 14: Russell bridge demolished after 80 years

At 9:30 a.m. the 80-year-old Russell truss dropped into Conewango Creek.

The bridge was originally built in 1937. It was used by about 1,550 vehicles per day. It was declared structurally deficient. It will be replaced by a two-span prestressed concrete bridge. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2017.

A total of 22 pounds of powder in shape charges at key points of the bridge went off simultaneously.

The new bridged opened for traffic in November.

July 17: Jackson Center leading effort to clear, survey birth site of Robert H. Jackson

The seeds were planted over 10 years ago when a woman wanted to find where her grandfather was born.

But the grandfather wasn’t just any grandfather.

It was Robert H. Jackson.

Fast forward to 2017 and the Robert H. Jackson Center is working with a series of partners – the property owner, Mercyhurst University, students from Warren Area High School and Arthur Stewart’s Cameron Energy Company – to undertake a study of the homestead site.

Jackson was born in Spring Creek in 1892 and raised in Frewsburg, New York.

While Jackson was just five years old when the family moved to Frewsburg, the Spring Creek homestead was a place he would return throughout his life.

Gregory Peterson, founder of the Jackson Center, said that a group of people including representatives from Mercyhurst University were at the site in May to lay out the scope of the work. Mercyhurst staff marked the perimeter of the site with pink markers and the task of clearing the trees and thick brush then fell to Stewart and his company.

The project then sat until a group of Warren Area High School students wanted to undertake a project on Jackson. Peterson pulled some strings to get the archaeology staff at Mercyhurst involved and, once the site is ready, students from WAHS will be working with Mercyhurst to survey the site.

Peterson said the end result of the survey will be a comprehensive booklet on the history of the site and what was found during the survey.

July 29: Clearing the air – County close to being removed from EPA Clean Air Act listing

Warren County could soon be out from under the cloud of a federal Clean Air Act listing.

For almost four years, Conewango Township, Glade Township, Pleasant Township, and the City of Warren, have been listed for failing to meet sulfur dioxide requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.

The air is cleaner now, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the department is taking the steps to remove Warren County from that list.

As a result of a 2011 study of sulfur dioxide levels, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed a portion of Warren County for “nonattainment” of National Ambient Air Quality Standard.

October 6: Boil water advisory – Power outage at Warren treatment plant leads to ‘conditions that could allow contamination’

Pennsylvania American Water customers need to boil water before using it for several days in October.

According to an advisory posted on the PA American Water website, customers were advised to “bring all water to a rolling boil, let it boil for one minute, and cool before using, or use bottled water. You should use boiled or bottled water for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth, and food preparation until further notice.”

A loss in positive water pressure due to a power outage at the Warren treatment plant has created the potential for “existence of conditions that could allow contamination to enter the distribution system,” the advisory stated.

Pennsylvania American Water lifted the boil water advisory after four days.

November 11: Rural Regional College won’t include South Street school

When it was announced back in April that the Rural Regional College would be locating in Warren, the plan included the former South Street Early Learning Center.

That plan is now up in smoke.

Established by act of the state legislature in 2014, the RRC has been tasked with forming a community college to serve Cameron, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, McKean, Potter, Venango and Warren counties.

While courses will be offered throughout that region, the headquarters are set to be here.

Multiple people affiliated with the location, however, confirmed to the Times Observer that the original plan – which would have headquartered both the RRC and Warren-Forest Hi-Ed at South Street – has fallen through.

“It’s our understanding (there are) some circumstances that occurred that might prevent us from locating at South Street,” RRC Project Executive Duane Vicini said.

When asked what those circumstances are, Vicini said he was “not in a position to expand upon that.”

“We are looking at various other opportunities within Warren County and will continue to review those possibilities and move forward from there,” he added.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said that two properties are currently being evaluated as possible alternatives – one in the City of Warren and one outside of the city.

When asked if the original plan’s failing might cause the RRC board to look elsewhere to locate the headquarters, Vicini said: “Not at this time.”

“We are still working very closely with the WCCBI in Warren County.”

Three days later, we reported that the Rural Regional College of Northern Pennsylvania is in the process changing its name to Northern Pennsylvania Regional College.

“The college is in the process of renaming itself as the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College,” President Dr. Joseph T. Nairn said.. “We were waiting for certain pieces of legislation to be approved in Harrisburg before we initiated the process. Nothing is official yet, but the process is underway.”

November 16: Joining forces – Warren General Hospital announces partnership with Allegheny Health, LECOM

Warren General Hospital has entered into an affiliation with Highmark Health, Allegheny Health Network, and LECOM Health.

The hospital maintains local control but adds valuable partners in providing care in the community, according to CEO Rick Allen. The details will be finalized over the next month and the agreement will formally go into effect in 2018.

“We are focused on delivering high-quality care and we believe today’s announcement will support us, will help us to do so,” Allen said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “A few days ago, the board authorized, unanimously, to enter into an agreement with Highmark Health and LECOM Health to effect a partnership agreement of a minimum of 10 years but we think for a much, much longer time.”

“That agreement is part of a collaboration which will strengthen and expand the quality of care, access to care, physician services, clinical services offered here locally in Warren and at Warren General Hospital,” he said.

“Warren General Hospital will become a clinical site for LECOM students, medical students, third- and fourth-year, residents coming out of a LECOM program,” Allen said. “We’re very excited about that opportunity.”

Doctors from the Highmark and Allegheny systems will work in emergency and hospitalist positions in Warren.