York County's top stories of 2017
York City Mayor KIm Bracey tells staff and supporters that she concedes the mayoral election to challenger Mike Helfrich.
Here's a look back at the top 10 local stories of 2017:
York City mayor assaulted
Kim Bracey was running for a third term as York City’s mayor last fall when her adult son, Brandon Anderson Sr., allegedly assaulted her Sept. 30 at her campaign headquarters on South Beaver Street.
Anderson, 31, punched his mother in the face, kicked her while she was on the ground and also attempted to hit her with a wooden flagpole before being stopped by a bystander, according to charging documents.
The mayor’s son spent nearly a week in custody after his arrest on simple assault and harassment charges and took a paid leave from his $52,000-a-year job at York City’s wastewater treatment plant.
City officials have said very little about the case, which shined a spotlight on Bracey’s potential conflicts of interest as Anderson’s mother, alleged victim and employer.
Anderson, who is still employed by York City, is awaiting trial.
Bracey loses re-election bid
Michael Helfrich’s gamble to run on the Republican ticket for York City mayor paid off Nov. 7, with the City Council president ousting two-term Mayor Bracey from the office.
Helfrich, a Democrat, lost the Democratic primary to Bracey by a little more than 300 votes in May, but he secured enough write-in votes from Republicans to earn that party’s nomination for mayor.
Helfrich has said he accepted the Republican nomination to give York City residents of all political affiliations another option in the municipal election.
According to the York County Voting and Elections Office, Helfrich defeated Bracey by just 120 votes.
York Suburban superintendent charged
Criminal charges were filed Nov. 28 against former York Suburban superintendent Shelly Merkle, ending months of speculation about her sudden departure from the school district.
Merkle, 54, of Spring Garden Township, is awaiting trial on two counts of second-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief for allegedly vandalizing two of her former assistant's vehicles Sept. 11 on district property – acts that police say were caught on video surveillance.
The school board and district administrators were tightlipped about the case from the beginning.
On Sept. 14, Merkle began what district officials later described as a medical leave of absence, although that information was not revealed until more than a week later.
Emails between York Suburban School District officials, obtained by The York Dispatch, appear to show a coordinated effort, starting Sept. 14, to clamp down on information about her absence.
Helen Thackston Charter School to close
The boards of Helen Thackston Charter School and York City School District agreed in October to close the school following the 2018-19 school year, heading off a series of charter revocation hearings.
Thackston solicitor Brian Leinhauser said the charter school’s board looked at the time, energy and money that was going to be needed to successfully fight revocation, and the members decided it was in the students' best interest to invest those resources in the classroom before closing.
The district’s school board unanimously voted to pursue revocation in June, when it adopted a resolution outlining a laundry list of alleged issues at Thackston, including overdue audits and declining student performance.
As part of the agreement to remain open through the 2018-19 school year, Thackston must meet several benchmarks or risk being shut down at the end of the current school year.
One of those benchmarks is completion and approval of three years of overdue financial audits — for school years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 — by no later than Jan. 31, 2018.
Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook excoriated the actions of Jodie and Stephen Tierney moments before sending one of them to state prison for more than two years last summer.
On Aug. 29, Cook sentenced Jodie L. Tierney, of Windsor Township, to 2½ to six years in state prison for providing alcohol to teens, including two who died in a fiery crash.
Stone Hill, 17, and his 16-year-old friend and passenger, Nicholas Mankin, were killed on June 16, 2015, when Stone lost control of his SUV, which flipped, slammed into a utility pole and burst into flames on Slab Road in Lower Chanceford Township.
The judge said the Tierneys took "minimal accountability" for their actions despite their "overwhelming guilt" and added that she has spent 33 years in family law — as a judge, an attorney and a child advocate.
"The parenting displayed (by the Tierneys) in this case rivals some of the worst I've ever seen," Cook said.
Women’s March on Washington
As hundreds of thousands of women rallied in the nation’s capital Jan. 21, one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, dozens of Yorkers were among them, determined to change their local communities when they returned home.
Whether marching to show their children the political power of women or to condemn the 2016 presidential election results, many of the women participating in one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history said they felt “compelled” to lend their voices to the show of dissent against the country’s new leaders.
“I marched because the country was headed in the wrong direction,” Spring Garden Township resident Colleen Burkett, 72, said at the time. “I needed to be somewhere where everybody was coming together to express their concern and show the world that we really do care.”
As early as 6 a.m. Jan. 20, crowds that included several people from York County lined the streets in Washington, D.C., to witness President Donald Trump's inauguration.
Trump supporters described the experience as surreal, magical and exciting. Throughout the city, they celebrated as Trump and Vice President Mike Pence took their oaths, hugging each other, shaking hands and shouting at the occasional protester, "Get over it."
While the moment was magical for those looking forward to Trump's presidency, supporters and protesters alike said there was tension in the air.
The streets surrounding the Capitol building were lined with people – protesters holding signs with statements such as "Not my president" and "Not my Fuhrer" with photos of Trump looking like Adolf Hitler and supporters of Trump wearing "Make America Great Again" hats that were popularized during the campaign.
Northeastern student killed
Northeastern High School junior Abigail Osborn died a day after being injured in a hit-and-run crash in the early morning hours of April 23.
The 16-year-old, who had recently been named among the Distinguished Young Women of York County, was an honor student and soccer player at Northeastern, where she also was involved in school theater productions.
Abigail had been scheduled to perform in Encore, the countywide showcase for high school musicals, on the day she died, according to Lyn Bergdoll, the organizer for the show.
The Distinguished Young Women organizers posthumously honored her during the May program with the Spirit Award, and the high school’s girls’ soccer team held an inaugural “Abby’s Practice” in August to raise money for a scholarship created in her honor.
The driver who struck her — David Michael Kent Jr., 24, of York Haven — pleaded no contest Nov. 29 to the second-degree felony of leaving the scene of an accident involving death, the second-degree misdemeanor of tampering with evidence and the summary offense of careless driving.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30.
Overwhelming response to hurricanes
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria devastated gulf states and Puerto Rico between Aug. 25 and Sept. 20 — and the charitable response from Yorkers overwhelmed some organizations that collected emergency supplies for victims of the storms.
When John Bailey announced his effort to raise supplies to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey, he couldn’t believe the outpouring of support from York countians.
“In eight days we filled 11 tractor-trailers," he said. "It’s incredible.”
In all, he estimates about 800,000 pounds of goods were donated by local schools, small businesses, places of worship and individuals after Irma and Harvey struck — so much that he could no longer handle the delivery of the donations.
Bailey had to leave that to higher-level agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross.
Yorkers continued to pitch in after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico — an effort local relief organizers expected to continue indefinitely.
"We truly are dealing with a real-life humanitarian crisis of epic proportions for U.S. citizens,” said Oziel Bones, a volunteer from the York Spanish American Center. “We will do whatever it takes for as long as we have to.”
Mount Rose headaches
New, temporary traffic patterns put in place in September at the Mount Rose Avenue/Interstate 83 interchange frustrated motorists, including some who took to social media to vent at what they say was poor planning.
“Avoid Mt Rose and 83 like the plague,” MaryAnn Beaverson wrote on a York Dispatch Facebook post at the time. “What a freakin’ mess.”
Beth Spahr called the interchange a “nightmare” and described waiting through “many light cycles” on Greenhill Road when a tractor-trailer got stuck in the new, tight, left-turn lane to reach I-83 South.
The new traffic pattern in the southbound lanes on I-83 near Mount Rose Avenue is part of a $58.3 million project to reconstruct and widen 1.3 miles of the interstate and rebuild the interchange.
The project is expected to be finished in July.