It was an earth-shattering scandal, the likes of which hadn’t been seen before in the U.S.
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro investigated six Catholic dioceses simultaneously. Before the report was made public, Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Erie Diocese released a list of names of priests and church personnel who had credible accusations of abuse lodged against them.
When the report came out, 14 of the more-than-300 named had connections to this local region.
The Catholic Church clergy sex abuse scandal was named the top story of 2018 by Era editors.
1. The scandal:
In April, Persico released a list of 34 priests and 17 lay men and women, all of whom had credible accusations lodged against them. Eight of those men had local connections. When Shapiro released the grand jury report in August, at least 14 of the accused had local connections.
One of the victims who testified before the grand jury and has led the charge for changes to the law is Jim VanSickle, Bradford native and graduate of Bradford Central Christian High School.
He was abused by Father David Poulson from 1979 to 1982 while Poulson taught at BCC.
Ramifications from the investigation are ongoing. Poulson is on his way to prison. VanSickle has become an advocate for the abused, and a voice for change.
Other states have begun similar investigations, and victims’ compensation funds have been started within the church.
2. Officer-involved shooting:
The number two story of 2018 is the officer-involved shooting of Port Allegany man Chad Setzer Aug. 27 outside his home on Route 155.
According to police, Setzer had threatened his former wife and her new boyfriend. A warrant was issued for his arrest. However, Setzer fled, allegedly broke into a business near Port Allegany and stole a gun. On Aug. 27, a Port Allegany police officer and four Kane-based state troopers converged on his residence to arrest him.
According to District Attorney Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer, Setzer came out of the house shooting at the officers. One state trooper fired one shot, striking Setzer in the head, killing him instantly.
Shaffer’s office investigated the shooting and ruled it was justified. Neither Shaffer nor state police released the name of the trooper who fired the single shot.
3. The election:
The 2018 election season was noteworthy for many reasons — including the political polarization that swept the region, political rallies held locally and President Donald Trump himself holding a rally in Erie in support of Republican candidates in the state.
For the first time, state Rep. Marty Causer, R-Turtlepoint, had a Democratic challenger in Maryanne Cole. She had a few bumps along the road, when a purported “joke” she made about Trump supporters was videotaped and put on social media, and when a prior retail theft allegation against her came out.
At the same time, the Democratic parties in local counties experienced a surge in membership and activity, with Trump’s politics polarizing voters to make their voices heard. The general election saw Republican incumbents Causer and U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson win, but proved with high turnout that Democrats in the area will remain a factor in the future.
4. Helicopter crash:
A helicopter being used in construction of new power lines hit a wooden power line support structure when it crashed and killed two workers April 8 near Smethport, the National Transportation Safety Board reported.
The two men who died were Shane Filkins, 23, of West Virginia, and Michael Koon, 35, of South Carolina. Both had been tethered to the helicopter. The pilot, who suffered serious injuries, was Chase Olsen of Utah. The three men were involved in construction on the Pierce Brook-Lewis Run Transmission Project, a 15-mile, 230-kilovolt power line between existing substations in Bradford and Keating townships. The helicopter was owned by High Line Helicopters of Virginia and was under contract to J.W. Didado Electric of Akron, Ohio.
5. Rise of methamphetamine:
The opioid epidemic saw many changes, including the tightening of regulations for prescribing pain medication. While many turned to heroin to reach that sought-after high, another popular alternative was methamphetamine, mostly because it’s cheap and relatively easy to obtain the ingredients.
It is an incredibly dangerous and explosive process to manufacture meth, but the appeal of the cheap high had many local residents making, selling and using the dangerous drug in 2018.
6. School security concerns:
In February, a man opened fire at a school in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 and injuring 17 others. Soon after, an alleged threat which turned out to be unfounded caused a shelter-in-place at the Bradford Area High School and a large police response. Bradford High students went to the school board, asking them to improve school safety.
In response, the district installed surveillance cameras at the elementary schools, is working on a secure entrance to the high school and has continued the use of school resource officers within the district.
7. Sanitary Authority treatment plant expansion and rising rates:
The third and final phase of expansion at the Bradford Sanitary Authority wastewater treatment plant began this summer and is expected to run through the end of 2019. The state-mandated multimillion-dollar project means increased capacity at the plant and updates to decades-old equipment. The project has also meant incremental increases in rate fees, including a $1.50-per-month increase for 2019 announced at the Dec. 18 meeting.
8. Water Authority planning redundant transmission main and rates go up:
The Bradford City Water Authority has proposed a plan to build a redundant transmission main to prevent a water crisis like the one authority customers experienced in 2015. The crisis left thousands without regular water service for nearly a week. If the project moves forward, the water authority also plans to replace the existing transmission main once the additional one is installed.
The estimated cost is at least $16 million.
On Dec. 12, the authority announced a rate increase from $2.70 to $3.15 per 1,000 gallons, which will help pay for the project. The authority plans to increase rates incrementally over the next three years.
9. Water project relating to drilling stopped in Coudersport, one continues in Bradford:
Advanced Water Services LLC applied for an industrial pretreatment permit for a facility to treat brine water from area oil producers at a facility on High Street in Bradford. Locals and members of the Seneca Nation of Indians objected, citing concerns with the cleanliness of the treated water. After much research by the Bradford Sanitary Authority, it did issue the controversial permit.
However, a proposed facility by Epiphany in Coudersport was defeated after similar opposition.
10. Bradford connection:
In November, the tremendously popular television show “This Is Us” revealed a shocking twist. A character thought to be dead was alive and living on Songbird Road in Bradford. The show’s executive producer, Isaac Aptaker, is a member of the Reisner family. His mother, Sherry, graduated from Bradford Area High School. His grandfather owned and operated Reisner Auto Parts on North Kendall Avenue in Bradford for many years.
In speaking to The Era, Aptaker said, “Thank you so much for supporting the show. We try to support a message of bringing people together. We try to spread that message that we are more the same than we are different.”