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2012 roundup: Our favorite moments

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 12:02 a.m.
Jeff Chestnut of Toy's Landscape Company unloads one of several Cleveland Select Pear tree at the new Richard G. Snyder YMCA Campus for the creation of a memory arboretum. Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Louis B. Ruediger
Former Elderton students Jill Glover and Jenn Gabrielcik watch as Kelsey Altman attempts to open her new locker after attending the new student orientation at West Shamokin High School. Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Louis B. Ruediger
Orphane's of the Storm Volunteer Melanie Drum carries a shelter puppy to her car while helping to evaquate more than 150 animals. Monday October 29, 2012 LOuis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Louis B. Ruediger
President Judge Kenneth G. Valasek of the Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas, seen in his chambers on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, received the “Golden Crowbar Award” last week during the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges in Hershey at the conference’s annual meeting. Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times

Below are the top 10 most memorable moments in Armstrong County news in 2012 in the estimation of the Leader Times editorial staff.

Keep in mind we are looking at the actual moments that shaped the county's news – our favorite experiences of the past year frozen in time and not to be forgotten.

Some are good moments, some bad moments, some serious, some all in fun, as there are with all years.

These are not necessarily the biggest stories of the year but it's not hard to imagine each of these moments becoming part of the big news events for the county in 2012.

The countdown:

10. Celebrity status

The History Channel's “American Pickers” TV show visited Ford City; and movie star Matt Damon and the crew of the motion picture “Promised Land” spent considerable time on location in Worthington, Apollo, Spring Church and other parts of the county.

On a warm day in May, Damon and other actors chatted with residents in the Apollo area as they worked on local sets including one at the former Apollo High School.

“American Picker” stars Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz and their production crew were in for a treat when they paid the Mantini brothers, Jeff, Roch, Eric and Dennis, a visit on a morning in early May. You had to be there to appreciate that handshake and smile when one of them struck a deal to sell an item or two from their prized collections.

9. State honors

Armstrong County‘s President Judge Kenneth G. Valasek of the Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas took time off from his courtroom on Aug. 1 to show the honor he received for creating innovative programs here. Valasek was awarded the “Golden Crowbar Award” by the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges during the conference‘s annual meeting in Hershey.

This past year, former Armstrong County Commisioner Jim Scahill stood at the podium for a few moments and proudly accepted the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania's “Ambassador Award” for what he has done to enhance and improve the well-being of counties and the residents they serve.

8. Check in the mail

Everyone was all smiles when notification came on a day in October that Armstrong County will receive more than half a million dollars as its share of impact fees from Marcellus shale drilling operations in the county, and another million dollars will be distributed to the county's townships and boroughs.

7. Storm shelter

Everyone was ready and able to weather out the storm of the century predicted to strike the county in late October. There was a collective sigh of relief heard all at once when Superstorm Sandy largely spared the county from the worst it had to offer.

The area withstood overnight gusts of wind and a steady rainfall — the product of the clash of a northern-moving hurricane, storm from the west and blast of cold air down from Canada — with little or no effect. However, the slow-moving megastorm caused havoc along the northeastern seaboard.

6. Gas how much?

It came as no surprise on a morning in April when many of the local gas retailers put up $3.99-a-gallon signs for regular gas. The first of the $4-plus-a-gallon markers showed up soon after.

There were some ugly words said by county consumers when they first noticed that there was a “4”, as in more than $4 a gallon, in front of the price that flashed across the top of their pump. As the year went on, pump prices did come back down.

5. New leaders

A new administration of county commissioners took their oaths of office in the Armstrong County Courthouse during a ceremony for countywide elected officials on the first Tuesday morning in January.

Two-term Democratic Commissioner Rich Fink was joined by newly elected Republican Commissioners Dave Battaglia and Bob Bower. They replaced Republicans Jim Scahill and Patty Kirkpatrick, who served the county well during their terms.

Battaglia was selected chairman of the board.

“You have been elected by the people. They put their trust in you. You will have to make decisions — make them for the public good,” Senior Judge Joseph Nickleach told the commissioners in swearing them in.

4. New YMCA

The Richard G. Snyder YMCA Campus opened bright and early on a Tuesday morning in late May and the first person to use the new facility walked through the door at 5 a.m., but a number of people got a sneak peek at the facility on the Friday before during a dedication ceremony.

Barb and Richard Snyder cut the ribbon on May 25 at the dedication ceremony of the new Richard G. Snyder YMCA Campus at 1150 N. Water St.

3. Lights out

On a cold day in January, it was announced that the 54-year-old Armstrong Power Station in Washington Township in Armstrong County was one of six aging coal-fired plants to be closed by FirstEnergy Corp. because of tougher new air pollution rules.

One by one throughout the year, about 60 employees of the plant spent their last day of work at the facility.

2. Elderton High closed

There were many tears and accusations from Elderton area residents and students during a special meeting on a late June night held to close Elderton Junior-Senior High School and Kittanning Township Elementary before the upcoming school year.

A large group of opponents to the district's consolidation plan spoke out during the meeting, many of whom were vehemently against shutting down Elderton for the second time in four years.

And finally, number one:

1. New high school

In one swooping move, the Armstrong School District took several steps closer to making its new high school, consolidating the mid-county attendance area, a reality.

During a voting meeting on April 16, the ASD board of directors passed resolutions approving a 1,775-capacity high school, authorizing the architects at L.R. Kimball to proceed with site evaluation of a location off of Buffington Drive in Manor Township and directing the district solicitor and administration to proceed with the process of acquiring the site.

A new high school could open for the 2015-16 school year.

Mitch Fryer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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