Friday, July 31, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 2:47 PM

Aformer church pastor committed suicide on Monday, a week before he faced trial on charges that allege he sexually assaulted a girl more than 20 years ago, officials said.

Scott B. Sechrist, 61, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Bristol Township home, said Jennifer Schorn, chief of the Bucks County District Attorney Office's major crimes division.

Sechrist had served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Morrisville and lived in the Levittown section of Bristol Township, where the assaults occurred between 1989 and 1992, police said. Sechrist allegedly knew the girl's family from his church. She was 9 when the alleged assaults began.

Ben Finley @ 2:47 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 4:26 PM

The county is experiencing an increase in the number of children served by emergency shelters, independent living programs and group homes. The spike has increased costs to care for the children by more than $250,000 in the last year. And a large component of that growth can be attributed to caretakers and parents who abuse alcohol and drugs.

That’s according to Lynne Rainey, the director of the county’s Children and Youth Social Services Agency. She discussed the growing numbers Wednesday at the Bucks County Commissioners meeting, explaining why the budget line item for the youth shelters, group homes and independent living programs has grown to about $1 million. The county pays about $120,000 towards those costs while the state and federal government shoulder the rest.

During the last fiscal year, those services cared for 48 children for a total of 3,400 service days while the county expects that number to increase to 68 kids for a total 6,300 service days before the current fiscal year ends in July, Rainey said.

Ben Finley @ 4:26 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 5:34 PM

Bucks County’s $877 million tourism industry continued to show signs of growth in the first quarter of 2014, with hotels renting rooms and generating revenues by an increase of around 10 percent, the county announced Tuesday.

Much of the county’s tourism industry is buoyed by weddings, conferences and more recently youth sports tournaments.

Visit Bucks County, the county’s tourism agency, also announced that its tourism grant program has reached a new milestone of awarding $2 million to various organizations that draw tourists. For instance, this spring the agency gave $25,000 each to the Friends of Washington Crossing Park in Upper Makefield and the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown.

Ben Finley @ 5:34 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, May 2, 2014, 5:25 PM

U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Bucks) is pushing for a new bill that would address the so-called “skills gap” between American companies and the skilled workers they want to hire, a predicament that he said is evident in Bucks and Montgomery counties.

The congressman on Friday released the results of a survey his office conducted among companies in the manufacturing industry in the 8th Congressional District, which includes all of Bucks and a portion of eastern Montgomery County. Among the 200 companies that responded, more than 70 percent said “it is difficult to find employees with the right skills,” while less than 20 percent agreed that “local educational institutions provide our company with the trained workers we need,” Fitzpatrick’s office said.

The congressman is a co-sponsor on the Skills Gap Strategy Act of 2014, a bill introduced in the House this week by U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Democrat representing the 17th Congressional District in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The bill would require the Department of Labor to study the nation’s skills gap problem and then produce recommendations to increase the number of employers and employees in work-force training programs and apprenticeships.

Ben Finley @ 5:25 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, April 24, 2014, 5:40 PM

Moody’s Investor Services this week issued a “negative” outlook for Bucks County’s debt, although the county maintained its AAA bond rating, which is the highest possible.

The credit rating agency revised its outlook because the county’s reserves have shrunk in the last five years, from about $68 million to about $44 million while its debt and obligations stand at about $387 million.

“The negative outlook reflects multiple years of reserve declines that have weakened the county’s financial position,” Moody’s reported.

Ben Finley @ 5:40 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 1:58 PM

The Congressional race in the Eighth District - where national Democrats are eager to unseat a well-funded Republican incumbent - will reach a broader audience this week.

On Thursday, Kevin Strouse, one of two Democrats competing to challenge U.S. Rep Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Bucks), will begin airing a 30-second television ad on cable and broadcast networks, according to his campaign. 

The ad - which juxtaposes a Strouse voiceover highlighting his “serious” personality and background against video of him playing with his two children - will be the first television purchase in the race. It is embedded below.


Chris Palmer @ 1:58 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 4:37 PM

A large portion of the Newtown Bypass on Tuesday was renamed in honor of Newtown Borough police officer Brian Gregg who was killed in the line of duty in 2005.

The stretch of road between Route 413 and Route 532 is now called “the Officer Gregg Memorial Bypass.” In the coming weeks, signs will mark the newly designated roadway, Penndot officials said.

Gregg had given up a career as a carpenter to follow a lifelong dream to be an officer in the borough and was killed two days shy of his one-year anniversary on the force. Gregg and another officer, James Warunek, had arrested Robert Flor for driving drunk and punching his girlfriend, taking him to the emergency room for blood and urine samples. Flor snatched Warunek’s gun at the hospital and fatally shot Gregg. Flor is now on death row.

Ben Finley @ 4:37 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 4:36 PM

 A scheduling snafu has postponed the sentencing of Eric Romig, a former Pennridge High School softball coach who had sex with one of his players last year.

A court hearing was scheduled for Tuesday morning but continued to May 9 because a senior judge wasn't notified of the sentencing, which requires significant preparation, officials said.

Romig, 36, is expected to face up to 20 months in prison. He pleaded guilty in January to institutional sexual assault and possession of child pornography for having sex and trading explicit videos and photos with a 16-year-old girl.

Ben Finley @ 4:36 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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