Mayor’s career down the drain

By CAITLYN MASON.Mayor's mugshot

Mayor of Kittatinny Gustavus Petykiewicz will face felony charges and could receive up to 10 years in jail after he drove drunk and injured a victim authorities said.

Petykiewicz was slurring his speech and stumbling around on the scene. He failed both a field sobriety test and a breath test. He’s in serious trouble after his blood alcohol level tested nearly twice the state limit of 0.08.
The victim Robert Doane suffered broken ribs and jaw, scrapes and bruises to the head, chest and abdominal area. Paramedics initially thought Doane might have a spinal injury and he was airlifted to hospital.
Fortunately Doane, 42, was cleared of spinal injuries, but he remains in hospital in a stable condition. Petykiewicz, 56, walked away without injury.
The crash happened in broad daylight, just after 1 p.m. on Saturday in Frontenac, Schuylkill County.
Doane was driving a 1997 Buick Le Sabre northbound on State Highway 117 when Petykiewicz behind the wheel of a 2006 Ford Explorer pulled into the intersection from Fonebone Road and struck the Buick on the driver side. The cars are write-offs and both had to be towed from the scene.
Doane was found behind the wheel and bleeding from the head. His car didn’t have an airbag. Petykiewicz was found disorientated and not wearing a seatbelt. His front and side airbags opened after impact.
A witness told police the Buick was driving the speed limit when the Ford crossed the road and hit the driver’s side of the car.
“You’d be drinking, too, if you were me,” Petykiewicz said when officers asked if was under the influence. “ Do you think we could just keep this quiet? I’m the mayor of Kittatinny.”
Officers reported that Petykiewicz’s car smelt of alcohol. There was a cheap bottle of half-drunk vodka on the front seat.
Officers took Petykiewicz to the police department in handcuffs. He used his rights to remain silent and chose not to call an attorney.
His wife, Gloria Petykiewicz posted $500 cash bail and the mayor was released just after 3 p.m. the same day.
When contacted Petykiewicz and his wife refused to comment.
Any official found guilty of felony is unable to hold elective office subject to state law. Petykiewicz will be stripped of his title if found guilty.
When asked if he should resign, President of Kittatinny City Council, Denelda Penoyer said, “I think it would be premature for me to discuss this.”
A preliminary hearing will be held in Schuylkill Country District Court this Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Council is holding a closed door meeting the night before Petykiewicz’s court hearing. The public are not allowed to attend because of Pennsylvania’s laws on personnel meetings.
If Petykiewicz resigns or is forced from office the City Council will call a special election for a new mayor. The election will be held on the first Tuesday at least 30 days after council’s decision.

Mayor Proposes Budget with Deep Cuts

Mayor Gustavus G. Petykiewicz unveiled his budget proposal today. In an effort to fill a shortfall, the plan sees cuts in police force, rises in tax and changes in trash collection.

The proposed budget is a reaction to the Susquehanna Steel Corp. decommissioning a blast furnace. But some say the budget is a result of a personal dispute between the mayor and police chief.

One of the most contentious areas would see the police early shift, between 4 a.m. to noon, no longer staffed my Kittatinny police. Instead emergency calls during that time would be handled by Schuylkill County Sheriff Department.

The proposal would see a reduction of full-time police in Kittatinny from ten officers to eight. “The only way we can bring our budget into line is cutting personnel” said Petykiewicz.

“The mayor and the police chief don’t get along, they don’t like each other and they never had,” Bjarne Westhoff, president, Pennsylvania Police Association Local 34 said. “I think the mayor is sticking it to the chief and the chief is sticking it back to the mayor its not a pretty sight.”

Roman Hruska, chief of police in Kittatinny opposes the cuts. Hruska said the mayor wants the police department to issue more tickets but questioned how this will be possible with fewer officers.

“It’s another one of the mayors little schemes,” said Hruska. “The police department should be just about the last place you look when you want to cut the budget not the first.”

President of Kittatinny City Council, Denelda Penoyer reflected Hruska’s sentiments. She said the proposed cuts need changing or eliminated entirely.

But it’s not all bad news for the police department in the proposal, with $55,000 allocated for a new police cruiser.

The budget for 2016 proposes a tax raise from 4% to 4.3%. If a house is assessed for $100,000 in Kittatinny, the current taxes are $400 a year. The proposed budget would see the tax on the same house go up to $430 a year.

Petykiewicz said he reluctant to discuss a tax increase higher then the 0.3 percent after 600 people lost their jobs at Susquehanna Steel Corp. He said if the tax levy were to go up to 5 percent, then counsel would need support from Kittatinny citizens.

Penoyer was in favour of a tax increase to five mills. The increase would see a house assessed for $100,000, homeowners would have to pay $500 a year in tax.

“We would raise enough money that essentially none of these cuts would be needed,” Penoyer said. “I think it is inconceivable that this budget will pass as the mayor gave it to us.”

Garbage pick up will be taken off the tax levy if changes aren’t made to the proposed budget. This will see residence of Kittatinny pay an additional $30 a month to have their garbage collected.

Petykiewicz has proposed an additional $55,000 in equipment expenditure compared to last year. An investment of $100,000 will be spent on a weed removal machine to eliminate weed growth in the lake in an effort to bring tourists to Kittatinny.

“Kittatinny is known as the gateway to North Central Pennsylvania,” Petykiewicz said.

Hruska said he wasn’t sure how the smaller police force would respond to the increase in tourists if the proposal did go through. “We’re going to have a bunch of lawless tourist around here,” he said.

The budget proposes a salary freeze for the mayor and other top officials including the city engineer, parks director, city clerk and police chief.

“If other of these top employees would consent to pay cuts then I guess I would have to consent as well,” said Petykiewicz. ‘This would not be enough money to solve all our problems, but if it would be a gesture that would signal we’re in the game here, we’re willing to share the suffering.”

Hruska said that if other city officials would agree to a 10 percent pay decrease then he and his colleagues would too. “I’m still totally oppose to the plan of cutting police protection but if we get to the point where we’re all talking some sensible ideas that would involve some sacrifices, then yes I would take the pay cut if others were willing,” he said.

Westhoff agreed with Hruska on the pay decrease. “If we see a spirit of shared sacrifice all around I would go to my officers and say let’s talk to the city and talk about our contract.”

A spending plan will be in place for 2016 by Dec. 1. Council will meet Tuesday nights, now up unto the beginning of December to settle the budget. It will take effect on Jan. 1.

Both the mayor and President of Kittatinny City Council Denelda Penoyer said they invite input from citizens of Kittatinny.

You can give your opinion on the budget or suggestions on what you would do differently by going onto the city website, calling a member or contacting them via email.

India and the Balanced Life

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This September, as undergraduates milled around the University Centre in Whitewater, Wisconsin, yogi Ava Pechous mused about her desire to own a yoga studio right here in town. This dream has stemmed from a journey that took her to Rikakesh, India’s yoga capital.

Pechous, a student of University of Wisconsin studies biology majoring in human anatomy and physiology. She started her yoga practice in Milwaukee just two years ago, with beginner’s classes twice a week.

Pechous was hopeless at yoga when she first started, she said; her lack of balance, and poor flexibility let her down. But she wasn’t deterred and a few months later she moved to Oregon, where she went to classes sometimes up to seven days a week for 90 minutes at a time.

It was hard work that got Pechous where she is today, “I’ve never been really determined or disciplined before but yoga brought that side of me out.”

Pechous hadn’t ran for two years and she said she woke up one day and thought I’m going to run seven miles today, “yoga is really funny like that it helps with every aspect. I was strong enough and I had the endurance, and it was all because of yoga.”

Reflecting on her trip to India she took over the summer, Pechous told me she went with a friend to Rikakesh to complete her teacher training over the course of a month.

Everyday started the same and students studied Monday to Saturday, with Sunday being rest day. Classes started at 5.30 a.m. through to 8 p.m. Days were divided between cleansing practises, ashtanga and hatha yoga, philosophy and meditation.

While she was in class, a Shivaratri Festival was being celebrated in town, the yoga school told the women not to go outside because they might get raped. It was then that Pechous knew that something wasn’t right.

Pechous left after just one week. “My friend was drugged at a coffee shop, and the police were corrupt, and refused to take her to the government hospital,” she said while sipping on iced coffee, “my yoga master Swami G told me to keep everything a secret.”

The police eventually took the drugging seriously, and threatened to shut the yoga school down. After Pechous’ friend recovered, both girls went back, packed their suitcases, and left the next day.

“I found out later that our swami or yoga master actually got in trouble for molestation,” Pechous said.

Pechous wouldn’t recommend others go to the same yoga school, but she does recommend new yogis take it slow, have patience, find a style that suits, practise, and see how the body feels. Even do it daily. “A lot of people get frustrated and quit, but you just got to keep going. If you want to do a handstand, just keep practising and it will happen,” she said.

Pechous is steadfast in her belief of yoga, “it brings a kind of wellbeing to my life, it’s a part of me now, and there’s so much to it. I wouldn’t be the same person I am now if it wasn’t for yoga.” Pechous final word to me as we finished the interview, “Namaste.”