— The Tribune-Democrat is counting down the top stories of 2012, as determined by voting by newsroom employees. One story will appear each day in print and e-editions between now and the end of the year. Readers can vote for their choice for the top story at www.tribdem.com/beststories.
Note: A previous edition of this story contained an error. It has since been corrected.
The National Drug Intelligence Center shut its doors in the spring.
It put the center’s remaining 125 or so employees out of work and shuttered a Justice Department office that was a Johnstown mainstay since 1993.
But the move, well-debated in Washington, was years in the making.
The center opened in July 1993, settling in Johnstown largely through then-U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha’s pull.
But the Washington Street office, which once employed 350 to 400 workers, was regularly a political football. Its future and $40 million annual funding allotment was often threatened by plans to move or close it.
Those efforts intensified during President George W. Bush’s second term, but were fended off annually by Murtha and the state’s U.S. senators.
Over the year that followed, U.S. Rep. Mark Critz and Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey led the fight, but while their efforts bought the center another year – albeit downsized – support dwindled in tough economic times.
This year, the last remaining workers received pink slips or were shifted to Washington, D.C.
The National Drug Intelligence Center’s information-gathering mission shifted under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s watch in February.
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