New Castle City Council has approved a new refuse contract. According to the New Castle News council voted Thursday 5-1 to a new three-year contract with Ellwood City-based Aiken Refuse to run from April 1st , 2023, to March 31st , 2026. The deal has options for a fourth and fifth year with $1 annual increases.  Residents will have two options.  They can buy individual 32-gallon bags at $3.50 each 10 at a time sold in different local businesses. The other option is to buy a 95-gallon bin at a one-time cost not to exceed $75 and then cost $23 a month, to be billed quarterly.

Governor Shapiro wants Pennsylvania pension funds to move away from relying on Wall Street money managers. The new governor said late last week that the state needs to decrease its reliance on outside investment contractors, who manage billions of dollars in public money while collecting lucrative state fees. A recent report shows the Public School Employees’ Retirement System paid private managers over a billion-and-a-half dollars for their work in 2021. While governors don’t directly control pension investments, they appoint some members of the pension boards.

A Mars Area High School student is facing charges, accused of a bringing a knife to class.  An Adams Township police officer who is employed at the school detained 18-year-old Joseph Cotte-Rocco Wednesday after receiving a tip a about the weapon and about the teen allegedly threatening to burn down the building.  Arrest documents show the officer found a five-inch blade in the pocket of the student’s sweatshirt.  Cotte-Rocco is now charged with possessing a weapon on school property.

Western Pennsylvania lottery players and others around the country will have a chance at winning major money in tomorrow night’s Powerball drawing.  With no winner since November, the estimated top prize jackpot now stands at 700-million dollars.  Winning numbers will be drawn at 11 o’clock tomorrow night.

State Representative Aaron Bernstine has opened a new office in Butler. Bernstine is now the representative in the 8th district which covers portions of Lawrence and Butler counties. The new office is located at 790 Pittsburgh Road.  Office hours are Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bernstine will hold an open house event on March 2nd from 4 to 7 p.m.

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa is co-sponsoring legislation that would create a tax break incentive for volunteers who stay with local fire companies. Senate Bill 148 would credit firefighters five- hundred dollars after two years of active service, and one-thousand dollars after six years. Costa says it is not a comprehensive solution but is one more initiative that could help keep volunteers in firehouses. While there were about 300,000 volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania in the 1970’s their numbers have diminished to some 30-thousand today.

A new mid-fiscal-year report on the commonwealth’s financial health says residents and lawmakers both should be alarmed about certain factors. The forecast from the top administrator for the state’s Independent Fiscal Office says lower-income consumers are not in a very good position at this point. Wages are expected to decrease over three and a half percent as money from the federal government’s stimulus funds, as well as emergency SNAP benefits, will soon come to an end. He also says, though, that the state is experiencing its lowest unemployment rate on record; it was at four-point-oh percent for the fourth quarter of last year.  

One of Governor Shapiro’s new cabinet picks is expected to face special scrutiny from the State Senate during his approval process. The push back for Rich Negrin to lead the state department of environmental protection may come from his time as a VP at Commonwealth Edison, the largest electric utility in Illinois. Negrin is likely to support Shapiro’s position on Pennsylvania’s potential participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. GOP leaders sued to fight the regulation in past sessions and the litigation is still pending. Negrin also would be the first Latino secretary of the DEP.

The state Public Utility Commission has launched an investigation into the accuracy and integrity of P-P-L’s Electric’s billing. The company’s system had generated bills that were sometimes double the amount previously charged from December 20th through January 9th. The P-U-C wants customers to contact P-P-L with their concerns, but also says they can call the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services with any further grievances.

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