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Morgan Reilly and Bailey Watson show off some of the items that are included in each holiday meal basket.

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Unlikely LMA will raise rates in 2022

After reviewing draft budgets for the water and sewer departments at the last Latrobe Municipal Authority (LMA) meeting, authority manager Terri Hauser said a rate hike in 2022 is unlikely.

“At this time, it is not anticipated that a rate increase will be needed in 2022 for either the water department or sewer department,” said Hauser in an email to the Bulletin. Authority members will review the budgets and vote on the final budget at the authority’s meeting on Dec. 21.

In addition, authority members approved the following items for the water department:

• Penn Vest requisition for $2,437.96, including $829.96 to Meyer Darragh and $1,608 to Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc.;

• Financial statements for period of Jan. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2021;

• 2022 state and national conference schedules;

• Disbursement list for month of October.

Authority members also approved the following items for the sewer department:

• Capital additions fund requisition of $3,369 ($1,701.50 to Gibson-Thomas for siphon chamber bar screen replacement and $1,667.50 to Gibson-Thomas for interceptor stabilization repairs);

• 2019 construction fund requisition of $201,256.54, including $156,527.70 to Mele & Mele & Sons, $25,792.20 to Genesis, $18,746.50 to Gibson-Thomas and $190.14 to Meyer Darragh for EQ Tank;

• Financial statements for wastewater department for period of Jan. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2021;

• Payment of invoice to solicitor Lee Demosky for $1,679.23.

Questions remain about GOP's election 'investigation'

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Many questions remain unanswered Tuesday as to what Republicans in Pennsylvania’s Senate can accomplish from what they call a “forensic investigation” into last year’s presidential election now that they have hired a contractor that has not pointed to any experience in elections.

Senate Republicans last week hired the Iowa-based Envoy Sage onto a $270,000 contract to help carry out the undertaking, fueled by pressure from former President Donald Trump and his allies in a search for fraud across battleground states to back up their baseless allegations that the election was stolen.

In a brief conference call with reporters Tuesday, Steve Lahr, Envoy Sage’s president, said the company could hire people or subcontractors with expertise, if necessary.

Pressed for details about his aims, Lahr said only that his team will examine last year’s presidential election and last May’s primary election, analyze submissions to the Senate GOP’s online appeal for evidence of “election improprieties” and review “previous election audit-related materials.”

Ultimately, the firm aims to “provide recommendations based on analysis of facts for future elections and voting integrity legislation,” Lahr said.

Lahr described his experience as having conducted investigations and audits, developed “crucial information and intelligence” from “extensive, complicated and sensitive investigation research and multi-discipline analysis,” both in the military and as a Defense Department contractor.

Asked for details, he said that most of it is confidential and classified at the highest levels of the federal government and the Department of Defense, and that he cannot discuss those contracts.

Lahr’s previous firm, Silverback 7, had an extensive list of federal contracts.

Republican-controlled committees in both the House and Senate already held hearings on last year’s election throughout last spring and produced reports, as well as legislation that Democrats opposed. One bill was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Gregory Miller, chief operating officer of the California-based OSET Institute, which is devoted to research on election infrastructure and administration, said there is no established election “investigation” concept for what Republicans are carrying out in states like Pennsylvania and Arizona.

But, Miller said, there are election administrators who have expertise in running elections, information technology firms that can analyze the security of computers and networks and the voting-system manufacturers that have a deep understanding of their hardware and components.

Mark Lindeman, a political scientist who has written on and consulted on post-election audits, said many people have experience in working closely with various kinds of election records and equipment, such as paper ballots, vote totals and registration and voting records.

“Experience matters because novices can misinterpret the routine quirks of elections as anomalies or evidence of fraud,” said Lindeman, who works for Verified Voting, which advocates for election integrity and the responsible use of election technology.

For instance, Lindeman said, Republicans’ widely discredited election “audit” carried out in Arizona’s Maricopa County was riddled with unfounded allegations based on basic misunderstandings.

“Inexperienced, partisan consultants tend to leap to invidious conclusions,” Lindeman said. “They shouldn’t lead serious investigations.”

Lahr said he sees himself bipartisan and fair, and has no pre-conceived notions about the task before him.

However, the man who hired Lahr’s firm, Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, signed a letter last year urging Congress to object to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes being cast for Democrat Joe Biden, despite a certified victory of more than 80,000 votes.

In a Facebook post last Jan. 1, Dush proclaimed that “there was no election. There was a scam.”

Even if Republican senators avoid repeating Trump’s baseless election claims about fraud, they have perpetuated the idea that Democrats cheated by distorting Pennsylvania’s election laws and the actions of courts and election officials leading up to last year’s election.

Critics inside the Senate Republican caucus have suggested that people who want the “forensic investigation” are only interested in seeing Trump reinstated.

Election administrators say an audit is duplicative, given the required audits already carried out by counties and the state.

Meanwhile, Trump’s false claims of a stolen election have been debunked by the courts, his own Justice Department and numerous recounts, and no prosecutor, judge or election official in Pennsylvania has raised a concern about widespread fraud.

State officials highlight holiday travel safety

With the busy holiday travel period just around the corner, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), Pennsylvania State Police and PennDOT came together this week at turnpike headquarters in Harrisburg to remind drivers of the importance of safe driving and consistent seat belt use.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike expects Thanksgiving to be the busiest travel holiday of the year with 3.15 million motorists traveling during the six-day period starting today and ending on Sunday.

The periods of heaviest traffic will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23, and Wednesday, Nov. 24. Thanksgiving Day is when traffic will be at its lightest. Overall, holiday traffic is up 39% over the same travel period last year; however, traffic is still down 9% from 2019 holiday traffic volumes prior to the pandemic.

“With traffic returning to heavier volumes and travelers happily focused on holiday visiting, it’s critical to keep safety top of mind while driving to your destination,” said PA Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig Shuey.

“In addition to these significantly higher traffic volumes, motorists are decidedly more distracted as they return to the roadway and will need to be more vigilant for traffic incidents.

“Be prepared for volume related slowdowns, disabled vehicles, and other roadway obstructions. Also, please remember to slow down and move over for vehicles on the shoulder such as law enforcement, turnpike first responders, and fire and EMS personnel. Give yourself plenty of extra time to arrive at your destination. Be patient and share the road with all who are travellng this holiday weekend.”

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Zoning hearing on group home postponed until Dec. 7

A public hearing on a request for a special exception to operate a group home in the Charter Oak neighborhood had to be postponed Tuesday when more than 50 people showed up to attend the hearing before the Unity Township Zoning Hearing Board.

The township’s meeting room couldn’t adequately accommodate that many people under the current coronavirus social distancing standards, so, after much discussion, the board decided to postpone the hearing and move it to a bigger venue.

The applicant, Stephen Hall of Community Options Inc., consented to postponing the hearing, so that all interested parties could be heard. Hall is requesting the special exception for a ranch home located at 3143 McClelland Drive in the township. Originally, the home was to have two residents, but Hall said now only one will reside there as the other individual recently passed away.

Community Options is a nationally-based nonprofit organization that provides housing and employment opportunities to people with disabilities. According to the group’s website, Community Options “believes in the dignity of every person, and in the freedom of all people to experience the highest degree of self-determination.”

The board wanted to set a new date at the meeting and not leave it open-ended.

“I do not want to go down in history by continuing this for two years,” said board member Dorothy Zello.

Board member Kathy Matta also felt it was important to have the hearing before the Christmas holiday.

Zoning hearing board member Gabe Monzo, who participated in the meeting virtually, offered up the community room at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, which he said could accommodate up to 60 people with social distancing.

The board and Hall agreed to a date of Dec. 7 to reconvene the public hearing. It is set to begin at 5:30 p.m.

Monzo wasn’t sure on the room’s capabilities as far as Zoom for members tuning in virtually, so the board will visit the airport to test out the audio/visual system to make sure it will meet the zoning panel’s needs.

The new date for the hearing will be re-advertised so the public is aware of the change.

In a separate hearing, the zoning hearing board heard from Cheryl Slezak, a township resident who wants to open a home-based baking business from her residence at 205 St. Cecelia Road.

She was requesting a special exception to the zoning ordinance to enable her to do that. She agreed to adhere to all of the board’s standards, which included only operating the business from her own kitchen, on one floor of the home, not altering any external structures, obtaining the necessary state licensure and to not use equipment that would be considered dangerous or not compatible with a residence.

Although the board has 45 days to issue a decision on her request, the board voted 4-0 to approve the special exception for her home-based bakery.

Toys for Tots donations box at Bulletin office

The Latrobe Bulletin is again participating in the Toys for Tots campaign sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps League and visitors are encouraged to drop off toys at the Bulletin.

Those who want to donate should bring new, unwrapped toys to the Bulletin business office through Friday, Dec. 10.

The office is located at 1211 Ligonier St., Latrobe (across the street from Holy Family Church).

No paper Thursday

The Latrobe Bulletin will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 25, for the Thanksgiving holiday. There will be no paper delivery on Thanksgiving Day. The office will reopen on Friday, Nov. 26, from 8 a.m. to noon. The Bulletin wishes all of its readers a happy Thanksgiving.

Mason Krinock helps put together a Thanksgiving basket, each of which includes all of the fixings for a holiday meal and a gift card for a turkey.