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Low-altitude fighter jet training proposed over PA Wilds

Plus: How a Pa. city manager allegedly stole thousands of taxpayer dollars with virtually no oversight

This is Talk of the Town, a free weekly newsletter delivering top news from State College and the surrounding region.

April 13, 2023
Save the dates! For the first time ever, Spotlight PA’s State College bureau will be participating in Centre Gives! We are seeking readers to help promote our campaign on social media May 10-11. Want to help? Get in touch with Michelle Mertz, michelle@spotlightpa.org.
Inside this edition: How the DuBois city manager allegedly stole thousands of taxpayer dollars, rural schools closing, and a complete guide to the May 16 primary.

A proposal to conduct military fighter jet pilot training at as low as 100 feet above ground level over parts of the Pennsylvania Wilds is again up for public comment.

The Maryland Air National Guard currently operates at 8,000 feet above sea level and higher over all or part of Cameron, Clinton, Elk, McKean, Potter, and Tioga Counties in north-central Pennsylvania, as well as a small area of southern New York. 

The proposed change is meant to “provide low-altitude airspace to accurately train and prepare for current and future conflicts in an integrated, year-round, and realistic training environment,” according to the guard’s website. It will allow “pilots the ability to train so they protect American and ally troops on the ground as well as perform search and rescue missions.”

The low-altitude fighter jet training would occur on about 170 days of the year, with two one-hour “sorties,” or aircraft deployments, occurring each of those days. The ANG materials say aircraft would spend two to three minutes below 500 feet “per activation.” The aircraft would “stay under supersonic speeds,” and only two to four fighter jets would be flying at a time.

The ANG acknowledges that this will result in an increase in “noise experienced on the ground.”

The proposal, first pitched in 2021, has long caused concerns among residents, business owners, elected officials, and others who worry about noise pollution, disruption to livestock, and negative effects on the tourism and recreation economy of the region.

It was up for public review initially at the end of 2021. According to the Maryland ANG materials, 430 comments were made by community members, elected officials, special interest groups, and agencies. 

As a result, “substantial changes” were made to the environmental assessment and the document has been re-released. Public comment is open until May 17. 

According to the Maryland ANG, the low-altitude flights would have “no significant effects” on noise, biological resources, land use, socioeconomics, safety, cultural resources, environmental justice, and airspace management. 

But concerns remain.

“The flights into this area will forever change the quiet and peaceful areas of the PA Wilds and the Allegheny National Forest,” Linda Devlin, executive director of the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau, told The Bradford Era. “People come here to visit in great numbers to get away from the noise of highly populated areas. These flights would have a negative impact on the tourism status of our destination, causing economic hardship to our small towns and businesses.”

The draft final environmental assessment is on view at the Bradford, Coudersport, Green, and Galeton public libraries, and online. Public comments can be emailed to ngb.a4.a4a.nepa.comments.org@us.af.mil

Sarah Rafacz, State College Editor

“Herm has done a lot of good things for the city of DuBois. But I think it all went to his head and [he] said, ‘I can do whatever I want to do.’ And we as city residents and taxpayers [are] just as much at fault as the government.

“I fault them because they didn’t oversee things. But I also fault all the citizens in the city of DuBois, and myself included, that we … never questioned.”

—Ron Trzyna, DuBois’ city manager from 2000 to 2005, told Spotlight PA of the charges facing Herm Suplizio
» How a Pa. city manager allegedly stole thousands of taxpayer dollars with virtually no oversight

» Almost 40 elementary schools have closed in rural north-central Pa. in the past decade. Here’s why.

» How Harrisburg Works: Pa. House majority, rules vs. bills, and taxpayer money for Twitter Blue

» PRIMARY PRIMER: Join us next tonight from 6-7 p.m ET via Zoom for a free panel on Pa.’s Supreme Court candidates and why the 2023 election matters. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
Daniel Fishel / For Spotlight PA
» A complete guide to the May 16 primary
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.’s 2023 primary election
» A guide to Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates
» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates
» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado
» At least one big hurdle remains to open primaries in Pa.

» Court decision does little to clear up ballot curing confusion
» How unequal policies disenfranchised Pa. voters in 2022
» Supreme Court candidates with party backing show fundraising advantage

» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1
» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary here; deadline May 9

Support Spotlight PA’s public-service election and voting coverage now. Become a sustaining monthly donor and get your gift matched 12X! 
A pine tree along I-99 between Bellefonte and State College looks like “a giant guy running for the other side of the road” — via Ken H.

Want to be featured here? Send your best local pics to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org.
» CDT: Pharmacy closing after more than 70 years in Bellefonte
» NCPA: Toddler killed in farming accident
» Mirror: Judge OKs suit against officers

» CDT: Challenges to aiding Centre County’s homeless remain
» Sun-Gazette: $15M in unclaimed property owed to Lycoming residents
» Progress: Morris Township to demolish property in controlled burn
» Spirit: Punxsy council issues firings, suspensions
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» April 13: The Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell presents Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen.

» April 13: Have “phun” with physics at Juniata College.

» April 15: Nessmuk’s 3rd annual Spring Festival in Morris revolves around hunting, fishing, trapping, trekking and more outdoor activities.

» April 15: Spring Fever! A Drag Extravaganza features a show and dance party at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport.

» April 15: Penn State football players take opposites sides of the field for friendly competition in the annual Blue-White Game

» April 18: The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State presents the national touring production of Fiddler on the Roof.
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