Indiana Gazette from Indiana, Pennsylvania on October 29, 2002 · Page 5
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Indiana Gazette from Indiana, Pennsylvania · Page 5

Indiana, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Page 5
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(Haaette STATE ACLU accuses West Mifflin of discrimination fly JUDY LIN (Associated Press Writer v HOMESTEAD — A western Penn- Isylvania borough discriminated ; against a predominantly black con- ;gregation when the zoning board re- vfused to allow the group to move into •a vacant church, a lawsuit filed Monday charges. ;-' The American Civil Liberties ;tJnion sued on behalf of Second Baptist Church of Homestead, ac- teusing nearby West Mifflin Borough •and its zoning director of racial and 'religious discrimination after the ^zoning board refused without expla- jiatiori to grant the church an occupancy permit in August. West Mifflin officials deny the allegations and have said the borough zoning board was right to keep the church from operating at the former ;Grace Christian Ministries church, •which is located on residentially zoned land in the Pittsburgh suburb. The borough plans to fight the lawsuit. "There's no basis or foundation to it whatsoever," said Mike Adams, solicitor for the West Mifflin Zoning Hearing Board. Even before the borough denied the occupancy permit, it refused to allow a day-care center associated with the church to operate at the site. That left church leaders wondering whether they were being prevented -from moving into the community because they are Baptists and black. "It's become apparent to us that they just don't want us on the property," said Second Baptist Deacon Russell M. Freeman. The lawsuit asked the court to order the borough to grant Second Baptist a permit so that it could proceed with moving into the property, which church officials say will better accommodate their 350 members than their current church. The ACLU contends Second Baptist should be granted a permit since Grace Christian Ministries, a predominantly white church, was permitted to hold services at the site and operate a day-care center. ACLU attorneys said the churches were about the same size. "Why is it all of a sudden a problem to have a different congregation move in there?" said Witold "Vic" Walczak, executive director of the Pittsburgh ACLU chapter. The borough solicitor, Donald C. Fetzko, said Second Baptist went about applying for a permit in the wrong way. He wants the church to be explicit about what it plans to do at the site, including detailing its plans for a day-care center. "If they had a thousand people, that site can't handle that kind of traffic. If it's comparable (to the former church) it could. Simply being a church isn't enough," Fetzko commented. Adams said that the borough is preparing a motion to dismiss the case and that the zoning board was fair in denying Second Baptist's per- Briefs By The Associated Press Coach accused of sexual misconduct WEST CHESTER — A youth lacrosse league coach tried to kill herself after learning police were investigating charges that she had a sexual relationship with one or more teenage boys, prosecutors said. Eltsa Fritter, 38, of East Coventry Township, was in serious condition Monday at Phoenixville Hospital. Prosecutors said police officers found Fritter unconscious in her car Saturday, a day after they had searched her home for evidence that she was involved with a 15-year-old boy. She had taken an overdose of the painkiller Tylenol, Chester County District Attorney Joseph Carroll said. Fritter, a coach for the Pottstown Lacrosse Association for Youth, was arraigned in her hospital bed Sunday on charges that she had consensual sexual relations on at least five different occasions with a 15-year-old boy affiliated with the team. Prosecutors said they continue to investigate whether she was also involved with other teens. Fritter faces charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault and corrupting a minor. In Pennsylvania, children under age 16 are deemed too young to consent to sexual contact. Sisters face charges in cat hanging SUNBURY — Two sisters hanged a cat in front of children at a playground earlier this month and are facing charges, police said. Police filed charges of conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals and disorderly conduct against Heather Wertz, 24, and Amanda Wertz, 20. Police said children who were at the Otterbein playground on Oct. 5 told them the sisters killed a cat named Garfield. The children told police they saw the women drag the cat, who was struggling and fighting, from the rear of Heather Wertz's home. The children recounted seeing Heather Wertz lift a cord and hang the cat, police said. Police said they also filed a charge of cruelty to animals against her. Philly starts paying Edison Schools PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia school system sent Edison Schools its first $5.3 million paycheck this week after signing a deal guaranteeing that the district wouldn't be left without school equipment and supplies if the company failed. Philadelphia hired Edison this summer to take over 20 of the district's most troubled schools. But the city withheld the firm's pay for several weeks while the two sides negotiated what would happen to the $6 million worth of computers and textbooks Edison plans to buy for the schools if the firm quit, went bankrupt or was fired. Edison, the nation's largest for-profit manager of public schools, has repeatedly denied that it is in danger of financial collapse, saying it has more than $30 million cash and enough capital to continue operations for at least another year. Man shoots stepdaughter, then kills self STEELTON — A Steelton man shot his stepdaughter in the head and then killed himself on Monday, all in front the woman's 5-year-old nephew, police said. Hortencio Cruz-Acosta, 65, was dead after the shooting, which happened in their shared apartment, and Valerie Perez, 40, was in critical condition at Harrisburg Hospital. Police said they didn't know what prompted the attack. "We didn't know of any problems up here," said Steelton Chief Kenneth Lenker. Police said they had not yet spoken to the boy, who they said was splattered with blood and apparently witnessed the shootings. He told Perez's son Daniel Perez, 19, who then called the police at about 10:30 a.m., police said. Police said Perez had gunshot wounds in her arm and her head and Cruz-Acosta had one shot to the head, which they said appeared to be self-inflicted. 2002 Pontiac Grand Am SEI Sdn. Bronzemist, V-6. 14K Pwr seat. Alum. Wheels 2001 Chevrolet Impala Sedan Bronzemist, Pwr. Seat, Cust. Int., 30K, Keyless Remote J 2000 Chevrolet Malibu LS Green, Leather Buckets, 31K, Spoiler, Alum. Wheels 2000 Pontiac Sunfire SE Sdn White. Auto.. Air. CD Player 2000 Chevrolet SIO Ext. Cab LS Maroon. 27K. 3 Dr.. Auto. Tilt. CD r 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix GT Sdn. White, 88K, 3.8 V6, One Local Owner A predominantly black Baptist congregation in Homestead would like to move to the former Grace Christian Ministries church in West Mifflin, but the borough has blocked the move. (AP photo) mit application. "They treated this case iike all other cases," he said. A federal-court hearing in Pittsburgh is scheduled Nov. 15. The former Grace Christian Ministries church has been vacant since its minister was jailed for an investment scam. Attorneys for (he trustee of the former church have been trying to sell the 11,000-square-foot structure, a second building and 6 acres of land in West Mifliin since November 2000. Part of the sale proceeds would go to about three dozen people who lost money in a failed securities scheme run by the former Grace Christian Ministries pastor, W. Michael Altman, church attorneys said. Altman is currently serving a four- to eight-year prison term after pleading no contest in April to theft and security law charges. Prosecutors said the money was used to pay for Altman's credit cards and vacations. Second Baptist offered to pay $950,000 for the church property and planned to lease the day care center. However, attorneys say the zoning board's denial of the permit has created roadblocks for Second Baptist's plan for buying the church. Walczak, Pittsburgh ACLU execu- Recruiters looking for potential nurses PITTSBURGH-(AP) — Hospitals have begun to recruit students as young as 10 years old in an effort to stanch a looming nursing shortage. Recruiters have found that students nearing high-school graduation sometimes have not taken the science courses needed for entry- level college courses. "We thought: We have to hit the younger students, so if they're interested they can start-taking the right courses," said Gail Wolfe, chief nursing officer at UPMC, where recruiters are pitching nursing careers in elementary schools. If current trends continue, government officials htive said, the nation will face a shortage of half a million nurses by 2020. A January survey of registered nurses, conducted every four years, showed that the nation's nursing corps is aging; in 1980, 26 percent of registered nurses were under age 30. In 2000, the figure was below 10 percent. Nursing-school enrollments have been dropping, as well. In southwestern Pennsylvania, about 10 percent of nursing jobs are vacant. "It will continue to get worse," Wolfe said. "We're looking at a shortage that's going to go on for the next 10 years, so I've got to have people in the pipeline." Other hospitals also arc targeting younger prospects. Allegheny General Hospital began a program this week that puts students in the hospital for a day to watch nurses at work in the intensive-care unit and in other parts of the hospital. "They get to see exactly what we do as nurses," said Sherri Hartwick; a nurse educator at Allegheny General. "1 think if you don't see it, feel it, touch it, you don't have a total understanding of nursing." Some organizations have warned, however, that recruitment efforts could he hampered if working conditions for nurses do not improve. Many nurses list long hours and overly stressful work conditions as reasons for leaving the profession. "If we're going to invest in educating more nurses in this country, we better rcally-make sure that, once we've made the educational commitment, that we keep people in these jobs and that they don't leave because somebody died on their watch," said Diane Sosne, co-chair of the 110,000-member Service Employees International Union Nurse Alliance. Educators say things could be changing for the next generation of nurses, including more leverage for students entering the field. Police officer arrested JOHNSTOWN (AP) — A veteran city police officer in a department that lias been plagued by lega! problems was suspended after being charged with assaulting his girlfriend. In the past three years, a Johnstown officer has been charged with murder, another resigned following a drug overdose, a detective received a prison sentence for beating a handcuffed suspect and the incoming police chief resigned amid allegations of improper use of his office computer. Councilman Ron Stevens has called for voluntary psychological testing of the entire department. "Something's wrong," he said. "You can't have all this at one time. Mow can people have trust in a police department? We're trying to build the image up, and hell, we can't keep getting ripped down like we are." Officer Jeffrey Michael Novotny, 30, a member of the force's motorcycle team and youth camp, was arrested early Sunday at the home he shared with his girlfriend. Novotny has been suspended with pay pending an investigation, said City Manager Jeff Silka. He faces charges of simple assault, harassment and domestic violence. Novolny did not return phone cails Monday. His girlfriend, Giennda Smith, 26, said she fell and nil her head. "There was no violence," she said. "I didn't file the charges. The police did what they had to do." According to an affidavit, Novotny told officers in Dale that the couple had an argument hut "everything was fine." Acting Chief Craig Foust declined commcni. Police Chief William Clark resigned in lale Seplember after city officials began investigating pornographic images allegedly found on his computer. PONTIAC-CHEVROLET Mon., Wed., Fri. 7:30 am-8 pm; 'Tues. &Thurs. 7:30 am-S pm • Sat. 8 am-2 pm Plumville 724-397-55^2 •I '^ And Check Out Our New Location ' i^ WOOD CHEVROLET ^ Main Street, Carrqlltown (814)344-8250 live director, said the borough has not only violated the church's civil rights, but also the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act that forbids municipalities from discriminating small or unpopular religious groups. . In 2000, the ACLU persuaded Bell Acres Borough to lift local zoning laws that restricted services and mediations at the Zen Center of Pittsburgh, Walczak said. (On the Net: American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter,; West Mifflin, VERNMENTI) ' Tuesday, October 29, 2002 -. Page 5 Santorum's plane forced to land MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A piane carrying three U.S. senators bound for a campaign event in Missouri landed in Alabama after pilots reported problems with the landing gear, a Republican official said. Ann Wagner, co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and the Missouri Republican chairwoman, said late Monday that a plane carrying Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Sens. Peter Fitzgerald, R-I11., and Rick Santorum, R-Pa., reported problems with its landing gear and landed at Mobile. A police report at Mobile Regional Airport indicated that a Challenger 250 landed safely Monday at 3:28 p.m. CST after reporting its landing gear was stuck. The report did not indicate the plane's point of origin, destination, the names or number of passengers. The three senators were flying to an evening reception promoting Republican Jim Talent, who is challenging Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., said Robert Traynham, Santorum's spokesman. Word of a possible emergency landing brought back memories of the plane crash last week that killed Sen. Paul Welistone, D-Minn. Well- stone, his wife, their adult daughter, three campaign staffers and two pilots all died in the crash as they were traveling to a funeral. Talent wasn't scheduled to attend the Columbia event because of the death of his 91-year-old father, Milton Talent, on Sunday. His opponent, Jean Carnahan, was appointed two years ago to serve in the place of her husband after he died in a plane crash just three weeks before the election. SPOOKTACULAR COUPON SAVINGS! $coo 5 UNIFORMITY Any Purchase of S 25 or more with this coupon PROFESSIONAL UNIFORMS & ACCESSORIES LIMIT ONE COUPON PER PURCHASE EXR 10/31/02 201 W, M^boning Sllrrt. PUNXSUTAWNEY (81II 939 K)M Staffer Boad Ptm, DuBlui - AM> • IOC S. MicbaH Slrw. St. Mary's DO YOU IN YOUR CONTACT LENSES? WOULD YOU LIKE TO? Now You Can! 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