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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 31, 2022
Huddle up, cleared again, prison death, gun dispute, oppo ads, missing deal, and saving the American chestnut tree. It's Wednesday.
FIRE FIGHTS

Ninety percent of Pennsylvania fire companies are volunteer-run, and many are struggling to sustain operations after decades of decline. 

A new pro bono study by the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) will use five volunteer fire companies in Centre County's Nittany Valley to identify shared pain points and possible fixes. 

The companies will ultimately decide whether to adopt any recommendations that come from the study, with some already having expressed interest in cost-saving measures like grouping purchases for discounts.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: The business of volunteer fire companies has become harder to sustain. Can collaboration help?

THE CONTEXT: Among the hurdles facing volunteer fire companies statewide are donations that have grown less reliable over time, fundraising activities that were paused by the pandemic, and declines in volunteerism.

Floyd Wise, who worked in fire and rescue services in Harrisburg and is now a consultant for the DCED's Regional Fire Services Assistance Program, said collaboration between volunteer companies will be key. 

A new fire truck can cost more than a million dollars, Wise said, meaning fire companies will need to budget years ahead to make such essential purchases. Wise added that costs are "only going to get higher."

But there are limits to how far some are willing to go, with mergers and consolidations still seen as a threat to company identities.

NOTABLE / QUOTABLE
 

"Elect the attorney general to the senate and that big 'ol boy to be governor." 


—President Joe Biden in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday endorsing Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman but confusing the offices each is seeking
 
📅 UPCOMING EVENTS

» PA LOCAL: ERIE’S BLACK ÉMIGRÉS: Join us Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. via Zoom for a free Q&A with Armendia Dixon, an educator in two states post-Brown v. Board of Education. We will also discuss the legacy of the Great Migration in Pennsylvania and the history of Erie’s Black community. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

📷 POST IT
Snake on a plain, via Don H. Send us your photos and art, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAILY RUNDOWN
FOURTH FATAL: A Pennsylvania State Police trooper has been cleared in a fourth fatal on-duty shooting, The New York Times (paywall) reports. Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf said no charges would be filed in the most recent shooting by Jay Splain, saying the troopers on scene were in danger. Graf is married to a corporal in the State Police who once supervised Splain. Splain was previously cleared in three separate shootings that also resulted in deaths.

PRISON SUIT: The 2020 death of Jimmy King Jr. during a stint at Dauphin County Prison was ruled a homicide and linked to a fight with his cellmate weeks before. But PennLive (paywall) reports a new lawsuit brought by King’s family alleges there was a second assault and that prison medical staff made no effort to rule out a traumatic brain injury despite King complaining for weeks about headaches.

GUN RETURN: Pennsylvania cannot keep dozens of firearms seized from the parents of Eric Frein, who shot and killed one state trooper and permanently disabled another eight years ago, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday, via the AP. The Philadelphia-based court said the guns were not used as evidence at Eric Frein's trial and that holding onto them indefinitely violated the parents' rights.

HOUSE AD: Democrats are using a new ad to link the Trump-backed candidate for Democratic U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright's seat in NEPA to the Saudi effort to maintain immunity from 9/11 liability. The Intercept reports the ad explains that Saudi Arabia used a firm GOP candidate Jim Bognet worked for in D.C. to win immunity from lawsuits brought by 9/11 victims. Bognet did not respond to The Intercept.

NO AGREEMENT: Pittsburgh Public Schools students returned to classes this week with a new superintendent at the helm but still no cooperative agreement between the district and the city's police, as required by state law. PublicSource reports the district has been in defiance of the law requiring an agreement between the parties on communication and coordination for 12 years running. 
IN OTHER NEWS

FINAL ANSWER: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman is saying no to a Sept. 6 debate against Republican rival Mehmet Oz, citing this Oz campaign statement as the reason why.

IN MEMORIAM: Jack Shea, the longtime head of the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, died on Monday at the age of 79. His successor, Darrin Kelly, remembered him as a "legendary labor leader."

PARTY CRASH: Protestors chanting "Save UC Townhomes!" and "Stop Penn-trification!" interrupted Penn President Liz Magill's first-ever convocation speech on Monday, per The Daily Pennsylvanian.

RADIO WAVE: The union wave has reached Pittsburgh public radio. Employees at WESA and WYEP announced their plan to join the SAG-AFTRA union on Tuesday. Read the full statement here.

TREE REPAIR: Researchers are growing American chestnut trees that can withstand a fungus that has decimated Pennsylvania's share of the near mythical trees, the Washington Post (paywall) reports. 

THE SCRAMBLER
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
 
N N I T L C N I S I O A

*Note: We're going back to basics for the next two weeks, so no theme or "guess the theme" feature, but they will return.
 
Yesterday's answer: Wilderness

Congrats to our daily winners: Mike B., Craig W., Don H., Tom O., Susan D., Starr B., Briann M., Susan N.-Z., Becky C., Kimberly D., Marty M., Chuck M., Bill S., Diann D., Jane R., Elaine C., George S., Michelle T., Doris T., Ted W., Margaret Mary H., Ana G., Tish M., Joei Marie D., Michael B., Becca S., Dianne K., Mary Jo J., Karen W., Irene R., Jude M., Stanley J., and David W.
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