Public Eye
By Mike Maciag Erie Times-News staff blogger
Uncover what's going on in your community with the latest public records and data from the Erie Times-News.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-870-1776
Posted: July 18th, 2011

The slaying of Nathan C. Reynolds earlier this month in Corry was a rare occurrence for the city of nearly 7,000.

It was also one of the few Erie County homicides to occur outside of the city of Erie.

One might expect most of the county’s homicides to be concentrated in the city. Recent incidents, though, illustrate a sharp contrast between Erie and the rest of the county.

Nineteen people have been killed in 16 incidents since the start of 2010. All but two of these victims died in the city.

Along with Reynolds’ death, the other homicide occurred in Lake City back on Jan. 28. Police accused Anthony Hales, 24, of choking and stabbing his live-in girlfriend, Christina Hulsinger.

Although Erie accounts for nearly all of the recent homicides, most county residents live outside the city. Erie’s population of 101,786 was about 36 percent of the county’s total population count, according to 2010 census data.

View an updated list of all county homicides on our map:

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: July 13th, 2011

Some local officials were unaware last week that open records information is required by law to be posted online.

After our story was published, a few local municipalities have since posted the information.

The state Right-To-Know Law requires all government agencies, if they maintain websites, to post contact information for open records and appeals officers, RTK policies and copies of forms.

Six local municipalities mentioned in the story had no RTK documentation posted on their websites last week. Three have since added the required information:

– City of Corry: Link
– Union City Borough: Link
– Waterford Borough: Link

As of this morning, three other municipalities still had not posted RTK documents:

– Albion borough: http://www.albionboro.com/
– Girard Township: http://www.girardtownship.com
– Mill Village Borough: http://www.millvillageboro.org/

For an updated list of Right-To-Know links for all local governments, see last week’s post.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: July 12th, 2011

Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill into law last week that bolsters the state’s enforcement of open meetings rules.

Senate Bill 101 increases the fine penalizing government officials participating in a meeting with the intent of violating the state Sunshine Act. The Sunshine Act promotes conducting of government business in public.

Previously, officials breaking the rules paid a $100 fine plus the costs of prosecution. The new law raises the penalty to between $100 and $1,000 for the first offense.

For second or subsequent offenses, the fine increases to between $500 and $2,000.

Under the new provision, taxpayers won’t foot the bill for fines. Agencies are not permitted to reimburse employees found to be violating the law.

The act goes into effect in 60 days.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: July 11th, 2011

A report published this morning by StateImpact Pennsylvania finds the state’s most active drilling counties have experienced a spike in 911 calls.

Seven Pennsylvania counties with high numbers of wells reported an increase in emergency calls or incidents in 2010, according to the article.

Officials attribute the increase to more truck accidents and transient motorists unsure of where they’re driving. Some expressed concerns over handling the additional calls with reduced staff.

The highest yearly jump in incidents occurred in McKean County, which saw a 46 percent increase.

No local counties were mentioned in the report.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: July 8th, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains enforcement and compliance histories of facilities throughout the country.

Below, I’ve posted data for all facilities with Erie addresses.

Two facilities, as of today, were classified as being in “significant noncompliance” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. These were Vogt Finishes, 1318 E 12th St., and Erie Coke Corp.

The Enforement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) system is a compilation of data for a variety of programs the agency administers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: July 7th, 2011

Looking to file a public records request with your local municipality?

To follow up on yesterday’s post, I’ve compiled a list of Right-To-Know information posted online for each Erie County subdivision.

As you’ll notice, there’s not much uniformity among the websites and forms. If you can’t find contact information for an open records officer, it’s usually listed in a municipality’s adopted open records policy.

Current list (UPDATED July 11):

Albion Borough: Information not posted
Amity Township: No website
Concord Township: No website
Conneaut Township: No website
Corry City: Link
Cranesville Borough: No website
Edinboro Borough Compliant: Link
Elgin Borough: No website
Elk Creek Township: No website
Erie City: Link
Erie County: Link
Fairview Township: Link
Franklin Township: Link
Girard Borough: No website
Girard Township: Information not posted
Greene Township: No website
Greenfield Township: No website
Harborcreek Township: Link
Lake City Borough: No website
Lawrence Park Township: Link
Leboeuf Township: No website
Mckean Borough: No website
Mckean Township: Link (contact info not posted)
Millcreek Township: Link
Mill Village Borough: Information not posted
North East Borough: Link
North East Township: Main page (Policy and forms not posted)
Platea Borough: No website
Springfield Township: No website
Summit Township: Link
Union Township: No website
Union City Borough: Link
Venango Township: No website
Washington Township: Link
Waterford Borough: Policy, Form
Waterford Township: No website
Wattsburg Borough: No website
Wayne Township: Policy, Form
Wesleyville Borough: Link (form not posted)

For governments without websites or RTK documentation, you’ll need to call or visit their office in person.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: July 6th, 2011

The Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Law mandates that all government agencies post information for requesting records online to promote transparency.

As today’s story reports, though, many agencies have yet to fully comply with the requirement, two and a half years after the law was enacted.

The Right-To-Know Law requires agencies to post the following documentation at their offices and on websites, if they exist:

(1) Contact information for the open-records officer.
(2) Contact information for the Office of Open Records or other applicable appeals officer.
(3) A form which may be used to file a request.
(4) Regulations, policies and procedures of the agency relating to this act.

Many local municipal websites not in compliance belonged to smaller, less populous areas. Officials, when told of the missing documentation, said they weren’t aware of the provision in the law.

One of the larger municipalities not meeting the requirement was the city of Meadville. The City Clerk’s Office updated their site shortly after they were notified.

The online posting requirement does not apply to governments not maintaining websites. As of last week, 18 of Erie County’s 38 municipalities were not online.

He’s a complete list of the compliance status of each Erie County municipality as of Tuesday:

▀  Albion Borough: Not compliant
▀  Corry: Not compliant
▀  Edinboro Borough: Compliant
▀  Erie: Compliant
▀  Fairview Township: Compliant
▀  Franklin Township: Compliant
▀  Girard Township: Not compliant
▀  Harborcreek Township: Compliant
▀  Lawrence Park Township: Compliant
▀  McKean Township: Partial compliance (contact information of open-records officer not posted)
▀  Millcreek Township: Compliant
▀  Mill Village Borough: Not compliant
▀  North East Borough: Compliant
▀  North East Township: Partial compliance (forms and policies not listed)
▀  Summit Township: Compliant
▀  Union City Borough: Not Compliant (broken links)
▀  Washington Township: Compliant
▀  Waterford Borough: Not compliant
▀  Wayne Township: Compliant
▀  Wesleyville Borough: Partial compliance (form and contact information of appeals officer not listed)

I’m compiling links to Right-To-Know info for all local governments, so return tomorrow for the list.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 29th, 2011

The region’s two main correctional facilities reported population increases in the 2010 census.

The 2010 census counted 2,948 people housed in Erie County adult correctional facilities, up from 2,574 in 2000.

The majority of the inmate population, 2,197, was recorded in Conneaut Township, home of SCI Albion. The remaining inmates were likely incarcerated in the Erie County Prison.

Some other tidbits, according to 2010 census data:

– For adult correctional faculties, there were 2,846 men and 102 women
– 222 persons were counted in Erie County juvenile facilities
– Gender breakdown for institutionalized juveniles: 65 percent male/35 percent female

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 28th, 2011

This week, we’ll take a look at new census numbers detailing breakdowns for group housing throughout the region.

These counts, identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as “group quarters,” include nursing homes, college dorms, prisons, etc.

Data shows students living in dorms and other university housing were, by far, the largest such group. The 2010 census counted 6,435 people living in student housing, up from 5,801 in 2000.

These numbers include off-campus college facilities.

The increase was to be expected since area universities experienced substantial enrollment growth over the decade. At Gannon University, for example, total enrollment climbed from 3,377 to 4,219.

Here’s a breakdown for 2010 student housing, by municipality:


Check back tomorrow for new figures on correctional facility populations.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 23rd, 2011

The U.S. Census Bureau released new data today, providing a deeper look at the region’s shifting demographics. Figures further illustrate the changing face of local families and include additional housing figures.

Here’s a summary with a few highlights:


Multigenerational families

More grandchildren and grandparents are now moving in with families.

Nearly 175,000 Pennsylvania families of three or more generations were counted in 2010, about a 19 percent jump from 2000, according to census data.

These families accounted for 3.5 percent of all households in the state.

In Erie County, 3,469 households (3.1 percent of the total) consisted of three or more generations. Comparable local numbers from the 2000 census have not been released.


Housing

The new data also includes further breakdowns of home ownership in the region.

For Erie County’s 110,413 occupied housing units: 42.3 percent were owned with a mortgage or loan; 24.6 percent owned units had been paid off; and 33.1 percent were rentals. In 2000, 69.2 percent of housing units in the county were owner-occupied.


Same-sex couples

Thursday’s release provided the first look at the local population of same-sex couples.

Data showed 652 same-sex couples lived together in Erie County in 2010. This number only includes those identifying themselves as unmarried partners living in the same household.

The same-sex total represents 0.6 percent of all households in the county, the 28th highest rate of the state’s 67 counties, according to our analysis of census data.

The U.S. Census Bureau will release additional same-sex population data in November.

I’ll have more posts on the new figures in the coming weeks. To view census data for your area, be sure to visit our census page.

Posted in: Uncategorized