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Category Archives: Community Watch


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​Harrisburg, PA – Construction for the North Farmersville Road (State Route 1025) bridge, spanning the Conestoga River in West Earl Township, Lancaster County, is scheduled to begin during the week of April 16 as part of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. Replacement of this bridge will allow PennDOT to remove it from Lancaster County’s structurally deficient bridge list.

During construction, drivers will be directed to follow a detour along Main Street (Route 23), Route 772 (Glenbrook Road/State Street), Route 272 (Oregon Pike), Old Akron Road (SR 1041), and Tobacco Road/Diamond Station Road (SR 1022). Construction should be complete in late June.

In the event of unfavorable weather or unforeseen activities, this schedule may change.

This bridge is referred to as JV-265 and is one out of the 558 bridges being replaced under the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. JV references the joint-venture partnership between Walsh/Granite, which is leading construction for the entire project.

The Rapid Bridge Replacement Project is a public-private partnership (P3) between PennDOT and Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners (PWKP), under which PWKP will finance, design, replace, and maintain the bridges for 25 years. The P3 approach will allow PennDOT to replace the bridges more quickly while achieving significant savings and minimizing impact on motorists.

Department of State Invites Bids on New Paper Record Voting Systems

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Harrisburg, PA — The Department of State today will take the next step toward modernizing Pennsylvania’s elections by issuing an Invitation for Bid (IFB) to voting system firms.

“This IFB marks the beginning of the commonwealth’s transition to state-of-the-art voting equipment,” Acting Secretary Robert Torres said. “The new requirements will ensure that our voting systems will provide enhanced standards of resiliency, auditability, and security for Pennsylvania citizens.”
The IFB includes requirements for increased documentation, security and reporting capabilities. It follows a February directive the department sent to counties that all voting systems purchased from Feb. 9 forward must employ a voter-verifiable paper ballot or voter-verifiable paper record of votes cast by the voter. It also reinforces enhanced standards for security, including physical security, confidentiality, data encryption, audit logging, and reporting.
The IFB updates an existing state-negotiated agreement with vendors and can be used by counties to purchase voter-verifiable voting systems that meet the department’s requirements for certification.
Douglas Hill, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, welcomed the move.
“Today’s announcement gives counties guidance they need as they prepare to replace voting equipment,” Hill said. “The work by the Department of State to accelerate certification of equipment means that counties will have available to them the latest technology that satisfies accessibility and security concerns and better enables participation by our voters.”
The department is notifying vendors that they should not plan to renew contracts in 2019. Instead, they should move to the updated agreement if they are interested in providing voting systems in Pennsylvania. Any voting system purchased from this date forward must meet the requirements of the IFB.
Counties will continue receiving maintenance and training under existing contracts until they procure new voting equipment.

New Medicare Cards Guard Against Identity Theft

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Medicare is sending out new identification cards that no longer display enrollees’ Social Security numbers. Pennsylvania residents will be among the first to receive the new cards that assign each person a randomly generated eleven-digit number.

Joanne Grossi, president of AARP Pennsylvania, points out that Social Security numbers are the keys for access to personal financial records, medical information and legal documents. So if a card with a Social Security number on it was ever lost or stolen, the enrollee could easily fall victim to identity theft.

“Every time you’re giving over that personal Social Security number, it’s an opportunity for either an individual or a hacker to use it for opening credit cards or getting a loan,” she warns.

She says once the new card arrives, the old card should be destroyed. But if you’re on a Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription plan, those are separate so be sure to keep those cards.

Pennsylvania Medicare enrollees should receive their new cards by June 30. Grossi adds that it won’t be necessary to memorize the new identification number.

“One of the benefits of this new card is if you leave it at home, you’ve forgotten it, the doctor’s staff is going to be able to look up your new Medicare number on a secure computer site,” she explains.

The new numbers are linked to existing Medicare accounts, so all your current information will still be available to your doctor.

Finally, it’s important to know that the new cards will be mailed out automatically. Grossi cautions everyone to be on guard against scams that may try to get personal information.

“Medicare will never call you,” she adds. “So if anyone phones you claiming to need additional information from you in order to get your new Medicare card, this is a scam and they are attempting to commit fraud.”

Nationally, the transition to the new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier numbers should be complete by April of next year.

Interfaith Protesters Call for Investment in PA Solar Jobs

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By: Andrea Sears

PHILADELPHIA, – Interfaith protests and arrests marked the week before Easter as clergy and congregants demanded investment in a clean-energy grid for Philadelphia’s low-income communities.

Twenty-five people with the Power Local Green Jobs campaign were arrested for acts of peaceful civil disobedience over three days this week as they demanded more investment in local solar energy.

Greg Holt, communications manager for the Earth Quaker Action Team, points out that PECO, the Philadelphia Electric Company, gets almost two-thirds of its power from fossil fuels in a city where dirty air contributes to high rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

“Solar is an opportunity that can bring a lot of jobs and other economic benefits, and health and life benefits, to residents,” says Holt, “and PECO needs to lead the way.”

The demonstrators want the company to aim for getting 20 percent of its energy from solar by 2025. PECO says it agrees with the goals of the campaign, but questions the timeline.

PECO did give a grant for solar jobs training in North Philadelphia last year. But Holt notes that the company is still only getting one-half of one percent of its power from solar, the state-mandated minimum.

“When one in four families are experiencing deep poverty in Philadelphia, that’s not a time to wait,” says Holt. “That’s a time when action is needed, when vision is needed, and investment.”

The campaign organized the three demonstrations this week under the title “We Won’t Wait.”

While the protests are over for now, Holt says they will return, putting their bodies on the line for clean energy and economic opportunity.

“The company’s dirty energy business won’t go unchallenged,” says Holt. “And we will stand in the way until it’s changed direction and commits to a future for green jobs and for justice in our communities.”

Eastern Panhandle Pipeline Expansion Raises Concerns

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A TransCanada pipeline extension is the subject of protests from Pennsylvania through Maryland to West Virginia. It would enter Maryland just west of Hancock. (Stacy Miller)

A TransCanada pipeline extension is the subject of protests from Pennsylvania through Maryland to West Virginia. It would enter Maryland just west of Hancock. (Stacy Miller)

March 28, 2018

BALTIMORE – A natural-gas pipeline expansion that would run from Pennsylvania through Maryland and into West Virginia is raising concerns about its potential environmental impact.

TransCanada wants to build the Eastern Panhandle Expansion, and says increasing the natural-gas supply in the area will support growth.

Opponents call it the “Potomac River Pipeline” because it would run underneath the river, with the potential of affecting the drinking water in and around Washington, D.C.

Rianna Eckel, a Maryland organizer for the group Food and Water Watch, said reliance on fossil fuels is moving backwards from a healthier environment.

“We believe that further investing in pipeline infrastructure, natural-gas infrastructure, locks us into a system where we are then dependent on fossil fuels,” she said.

Food and Water Watch called on Gov. Larry Hogan to begin an investigation into whether the pipeline would negatively affect water quality, but the governor declined. Emergency legislation has been filed in Annapolis to require that the more extensive Water Quality Certification be conducted, and currently is in the House Rules Committee.

If the legislation doesn’t pass, only the federal government would have the ability to halt the pipeline’s progress.

Environmental groups are worried about the method known as horizontal directional drilling that TransCanada would use to dig under the Potomac. They have said that on previous pipelines, thousands of gallons of drilling fuel leaked into water sources. In this case, Eckel said, that would affect millions of local residents.

“The Potomac River is the main drinking-water supply of more than 6 million people who live downstream,” she said, “so anything that happens to that water can quickly impact the drinking water of almost 6 million people.”

The pipeline would connect with the Mountain Valley Pipeline that begins in northwestern West Virginia, which also has been the subject of recent protests by environmental groups.

Information about House Bill 1826 is online at

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service – MD
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