City and neighborhood leaders envision a dramatic transformation of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s parking lot and surrounding areas into a park-like expanse including a soccer field and a trail that would extend from Morningside all the way to the Allegheny River.
City Council this month approved the first installment of funding for planning what would be a multimillion-dollar project, which has the backing of Highland Park and Morningside neighborhood leaders and the zoo.
The Heth’s Run Ecological and Recreational Restoration Project, more than a decade in the making, will encompass about a mile of city-owned land from Heth’s Run Playfields behind Chislett Street in Morningside to the Allegheny riverfront.
The project includes a wheelchair-accessible trail through the wooded valley adjacent to the fields into a former city Department of Public Works storage yard and abandoned dumping ground behind the zoo’s parking lot. The paved trail will hug the outer edge of the parking lot, loop under the new Heth’s Run Bridge being built on Butler Street and out to the riverfront.
The Pittston Township Board of Supervisors fired police Chief Robert Avvisato without offering explanation or naming a replacement Friday.
Vice Chairwoman Barbara Attardo and Treasurer Steven Rinaldi, the former chief, voted to fire Avvisato, while Chairman Joseph Adams opposed the move at a brief special meeting Friday morning.
Avvisato, a retired state police corporal, is accused of creating a hostile work environment since he took command in January 2013. He is set to go to arbitration with the township over the matter and denies the allegations.
WILKES-BARRE, PA — In a few months, the vacant building on Dana Street that formerly housed First Hospital will be gone. A housing development is planned in its place.
The Wyoming Valley Health and Education Foundation is demolishing properties on Dana, Grove and McCarragher streets in the Rolling Mill Hill neighborhood with plans to donate the land to a Lancaster-based development company.
Housing Development Corporation MidAtlantic plans to build 56 units of affordable rental housing in the area.
The properties include 133 and 149 Dana St., 66-68 Grove St. and 112 McCarragher St., according to Gerard T. O’Donnell, a consultant working with the Wyoming Valley Health and Education Foundation, which plans to demolish the structures.
An estimated decade-long, $300 million brownfield redevelopment is about to begin taking shape along the Lehigh River in Allentown.
Dignitaries and the developers today celebrated the start of demolition at the former Lehigh Structural Steel Co. to make way for The Waterfront project.
The Waterfront Development Co. — a partnership among Jaindl Properties, Dunn Twiggar and Michael Dunn Co. — anticipates the entire 1 million square feet of commercial, residential and industrial space along the west side of the river will take eight to 10 years to complete.
The first phase of construction includes development at the Furnace Street site south of the Tilghman Street bridge.
HARRISBURG — A stretch of Interstate 380 becomes an experiment next month when state transportation officials boost the maximum speed limit to 70 mph.
Another pilot will raise the speed limit to 70 mph on a 100-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in southcentral Pennsylvania. If all goes well, the rest of the 550-mile toll road system, including the Northeast Extension, could follow suit next spring, said Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton at a press conference on Wednesday.
On I-380, a 21-mile section selected for the pilot program will extend from the Interstate 84 junction in Lackawanna County to Exit 3 (Pocono Pines/Mount Pocono) in Monroe County.
“It’s about time,” said Elwood “Butch” Perry, a 60-year-old independent trucker who lives in Dupont. “They built the interstate system so you can run, not so you can crawl. … We live in a fast-paced society now. Everything has to be there yesterday.”
BOYERTOWN, PA — Progress on the revitalization of the Colebrookdale Railroad these days means more than pulling refurbished passenger cars along the picturesque 9-mile track on the shores of Manatawny Creek.
These days progress is being measured in cars and engines acquired, being fixed up and put into service.
And Wednesday marked another milestone on the railroad’s journey to full service when Executive Director Nathaniel Guest announced last week’s awarding of a $200,000 grant to begin construction of “railroad station infrastructure right here in Boyertown.”
The announcement came after the train — pulling cars packed with more than 70 federal and state legislators, county commissioners and municipal officials of all stripes — arrived at the downtown yard to the applause of a crowd that had gathered to welcome it.
STATE COLLEGE, PA — Council unanimously voted Monday to approve the borough’s neighborhood plan, bringing almost two years of work and planning to a successful conclusion.
The plan was presented to the board by borough planner Meagan Tuttle. Tuttle had previously presented the plan to the board during the July 14 work session.
She explained that following board feedback, the planning staff looked into the borough’s role in realizing several of the goals presented. Some changes were made from the version presented on July 14 that moved the borough to a leadership position, and the council would see those changes on the final draft.
WILKES-BARRE, PA — King’s College has submitted a proposal to purchase the former four-story Springbrook Water Co. property in Wilkes-Barre from Luzerne County.
The county sought proposals from prospective buyers as part of an initiative to shed unused properties and generate revenue for the cash-strapped county government.
Three entities submitted purchase proposals by last week’s deadline, said county Purchasing Director Mark Zulkoski. County officials say copies of all proposals will be publicly released before county council votes on options.
John Loyack, King’s College vice president for business affairs, confirmed the institution submitted a proposal but said he will leave it up to the county to release of the offered dollar amount.
Philadelphia’s finances are improving and are likely to continue doing so through 2019.
The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) board made that optimistic determination Monday when it unanimously approved the city’s five-year plan.
The city’s fiscal overseers cautioned, however, that various risks were still associated with the Nutter administration’s long-term budget, including unresolved labor contracts, the School District’s fiscal crisis, and the pension fund.
Despite its concerns, PICA staff found enough good news in the five-year plan and in its most recent revenue reports to endorse that administration’s fiscal road map to 2019. So did the City Controller’s Office. Both the staff and the controller had recommended the opposite last year, for the first time in PICA’s history.
POTTSTOWN, PA — For more than three years, borough government has been urging Pottstown’s four independent fire companies to come up with some plan for consolidating.
Earlier this month, the clock started ticking for real when the borough issued a letter to all four companies notifying them that the fire service agreement between them and the borough would be terminated at the end of the year and starting in 2015, the borough will only sign one fire services agreement with a single, consolidated fire company.
Unlike the police department, fire protection in Pottstown is not under the direction of borough government, but instead is provided by four independent volunteer fire companies over which Pottstown Fire Chief Richard Lengel has operational control during a fire.
But in matters of their own affairs, such as finances, the election of officers and the like, the fire companies are independent.
A post on the White House’s We the People website petitions the Obama Administration to cease Section 8 subsidies to the Sherman Hills apartment complex.
But before it earns a response from White House staff, it first must gather 100,000 signatures by Aug 15.
Readers on the Times Leader’s Facebook page were quick to respond when asked if they would sign the petition. Many readers commented emphatically that they would sign. However, the petition only gained 5 signatures in the same time period.
One commenter suggested tenants receive criminal background checks and drug tests.
WILKES-BARRE, PA — Surveillance cameras in Sherman Hills did not record Tuesday’s shooting at the troubled apartment complex when two men were seriously injured, city police Chief Gerard Dessoye said Thursday.
Dessoye said the camera system, he believed, was “not fixed” as pledged by the complex’s former owner, Sherman Hills Realty Inc.
“(Cameras) couldn’t provide any details about the shooting,” Dessoye said, noting he has not seen any security enhancements at the apartment complex besides the installation of a chain link fence.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, stated in a news release that Treetop Development, which purchased the apartment complex from Sherman Hills Realty earlier this year, “repaired all cameras.”
Lower Macungie Township officials signed off tonight on plans to construct just under 3 million square feet of warehouses.
The plans by developer Liberty Property Trust call for the buildings to be developed on 225 acres in the western part of the township, near Spring Creek and Mertztown roads.
The project includes three warehouses which are 1.2 million, 1.1 million and 650,000 square feet in size, as well as a 10,000-square-foot office building, township planning director Sara Pandl said.
Township commissioners voted 5-0 tonight to approve the project. Construction is expected to begin as early as this year and could conclude by 2015, according to Bill Bumber, Liberty Property Trust’s vice president of development.
Our scuz-busting friend, the Golden Cockroach, has more horrific news about the results of the absentee extractive investors who have taken over large numbers of properties in Pottstown. These folks buy up homes for “cents on the dollar” and rent them to anybody who will pay their rent in “cash”, **wink, wink. The properties are not maintained and the tenants are left to run wild and terrorize their neighbors.
The typical absentee extractive investor lives in a large suburban home, in a township where mostly upper middle class white folk congregate. They take their wads of “rental cash” and do “fun stuff” like take vacations to tropical locations with municipal employees (who also make wads of cash thanks to the overburdened taxpayers in Pottstown). While these folks are sunbathing, and having drinks with little umbrellas in them, back at the ranch all hell is breaking loose. OR when they aren’t sunbathing and having funky beverages south of the border, they are at home in their virtually crime-free suburban communities reading about Pottstown’s ills in the Mercury.
Meanwhile, Pottstown is falling apart and these rental properties are crumbling off their foundations. HOWEVER, unless “I” live next to a problem rental property it’s not my problem. These properties somehow pass inspection, they are somehow issued occupancy permits and everybody is happy. Well, except for the people who live in Pottstown and are being terrorized by these tenants who aren’t properly vetted before being allowed to occupy said rental properties. But again, unless it directly impacts me, it’s not my problem. RIGHT?
Apparently, this is the attitude emanating from Pottstown Borough Hall. This attitude comes across loud and clear when you read the latest post from the Golden Cockroach. You should be utterly incensed by the complete disregard for the residents of Pottstown. This stunning information confirms what we have always thought. The fact that it was said out loud by a municipal employee makes us sick.
The result of this blatant contempt for Pottstown is crime. Evidently, we can now add dog fighting to the list of heinous crimes being perpetrated in Pottstown and ignored by the very folks who are paid to look after the interests of the taxpayers. Why? Because many municipal employees do not live in Pottstown and these problems do not impact their quality of life. Ergo, it’s not my problem. They can read the Mercury on their iPad while they sip their morning latte from the safety of their suburb. After reading about “life in Pottstown” they can head into the office for another fun-filled day of
work “screw over the taxpayer” behind bullet-proof glass. We think that’s a game like “pin the tail on the donkey” but we aren’t 100 percent sure. Can you hear them cackling as they drive over the borough line with their big fat paychecks?
So we have people with virtually no interest in seeing Pottstown revitalize running the show. These same people are allowing absentee extractive investors to make large profits at the expense of the fine folks who do live in Pottstown (and who pay very high taxes for these stellar municipal services brought to you by people who don’t give a
Crime is running rampant and no matter now many miniature golf courses you build, you are still putting lipstick on a pig. Don’t get us wrong, miniature golf is fun and we expect to try it out soon, however there are far more important issues that need to be addressed. CRIME and JOBS should be the TOP priority of the municipal government. The job market should be high and crime should be low! It’s ass-backwards in Pottstown! It’s time for the taxpayers to say “enough” and hold these co-perpetrators accountable for Pottstown’s ruination.
Please take a few minutes to read Golden Cockroach’s latest post. Please watch the video about the animal abuse and dog fighting if you haven’t already seen it. The video is included in the post for your convenience.
As the 2015 budget season approaches, it is my duty to talk straight about our city’s fiscal challenges and pension legacy costs that have been growing since before the turn of this century. While laying out the dire conditions, leadership requires us to hold out meaningful hope by advocating for bold measures. Long term fiscal game-changers can stabilize our property taxes while enabling us to continue providing quality public services and infrastructure that our people deserve and demand.
At times, I feel like a night watchman of earlier centuries who witnesses a spreading fire and vigorously shouts and rings the bell to alert citizens of the imminent crisis. During the last two city administrations, we’ve been warning of the growing fiscal crisis for 13 years, and we’ve done as much as we can internally to make our budget process transparent, to seek sound recommendations from outside experts, to cut costs, and to be fiscally responsible. The list is extensive.
• In 2003, under Mayor Brenner, our city initiated its first open budget hearings, an annual tradition that continues to this year.
• In 2006, our city was one of the very first in the state to enter the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Early Intervention Program, which provided an analysis of York’s finances by outside experts. Their analysis concluded that York’s financial controls and management were strong but that systemic constraints beyond its control were leading to out-of-control costs. Recommendations included implementing a parking tax, which was done.
Monroeville’s former police chief has sued the municipality in federal court, alleging mistreatment after he exposed lapses in how officials protected sensitive law enforcement and medical information about residents.
In the suit filed late Monday night, Steven Pascarella, a 26-year veteran, is claiming civil rights violations, retaliation despite his status as a whistleblower, and failure of the municipality to accommodate an unspecified disability.
Mr. Pascarella, 46, was quietly fired in April. By then he had returned to the rank of lieutenant at his request because of medical issues.
ROYALTON, PA — Employees at the Luzerne County Transportation Authority worked in constant fear of losing their jobs unless they fraudulently inflated ridership numbers, and the former chairman of the board knew about it years ago, according to testimony heard Monday.
Prosecutors began laying out their case against Executive Director Stanley J. Strelish, 60, and Operations Manager Robb Alan Henderson, 58, who were charged last month with conspiring to inflate senior citizen ridership numbers in the “ghost rider” scandal.
Both men, who are free on unsecured bond and remain suspended without pay, declined to comment following an all-day preliminary hearing held Monday before Magisterial District Judge David Judy. The hearing, which continues today, represents the first public testimony in the case.
Robert Turinski, former LCTA board chairman, testified that he suspected Strelish was inflating senior ridership numbers as far back as 2007.
POTTSTOWN, PA — A local hoops legend lent his support Monday night to the anti-violence movement that began in the borough a little more than a month ago.
“When I heard about this, it’s just a natural thing for me to want to be involved in some capacity,” said Howard Brown, the Pottstown grad who went on to play basketball at Villanova and internationally. “We’re actually drumming up a lot of residents and former residents to just not only bring awareness but to talk about some of the issues that we do have, to change.”
With a driving rain cancelling plans for a full march, the Stop the Violence campaign moved indoors at the Ricketts Center, where players in the Olivet Boys and Girls Club’s summer basketball league gathered together between games to pose for a picture and show their support of the movement.
A Maryland resident now, Brown is in town for a combine for his basketball agency, iBall United, which will be held over the weekend both in Valley Forge and at The Hill School.