Luzerne County Deficit Increases By $6.4M, Audit Says

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luzerne County Council heard two unpleasant updates Tuesday: the deficit grew to an estimated $10.1 million at the end of 2013 and repayments have skyrocketed on an inherited 2006 debt refinancing package.

The deficit increased because spending exceeded revenue by $6.4 million last year, said Andrea L. Caladie, a CPA with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP, during a draft audit summary presentation.

The fund balance is now a negative $10.1 million because the county carried over a $3.7 million deficit from 2012, she said.

The audit was due June 30 under the county’s home rule charter. County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz has blamed staffing shortages on delays compiling information the outside auditors needed to complete their work.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50746020/

U.S. Steel To Relocate Corporate Headquarters On Former Civic Arena Site

English: The U.S. Steel Tower, located in Pitt...

English: The U.S. Steel Tower, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, with the new corporate logo of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

U.S. Steel will move to a new, five-story corporate headquarters on the former site of the Civic Arena in a deal that will provide a corporate anchor tenant for the 28-acre property where $440 million in development is planned, officials said Monday.

The company plans to lease the 268,000-square-foot building for 18 years, the company said at a news conference at Consol Energy Center.

U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi, Gov. Tom Corbett, Pitsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Penguins President and CEO David Morehouse attended the announcement against a backdrop of artist renderings that showed people strolling a plaza of concrete, grass and trees in front of a conceptualized version of the building.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/7229038-74/conference-press-ceo#ixzz3K0W5WwYJ
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Kerns Pleads No Contest To Indecent Assault Charge

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robert J. Kerns, the former Montgomery County Republican Chairman, pleaded no contest on Monday to a misdemeanor charge of indecent assault in Montgomery County Court.

It was a negotiated plea deal with the Attorney General’s office, and Kerns will serve two years probation and be a registered sex offender for 15 years.

Kerns was accused of having non-consensual sex with an employee of his Lansdale law firm while she was passed out after a night of drinking in October 2013.

More serious charges against him – rape and sexual assault – were dismissed in June by a lower court.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20141125_Kerns_pleads_no_contest_to_indecent_assault_charge.html#62VtlB3JLAmVqmQC.99

York City Budget: Parties Scramble To Find Solutions

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

York’s budget woes have set off a scramble to find ways to save positions in the departments that could face the deepest losses — police and fire — and triggered a whirlwind of questions about what would happen to the city if a balanced budget can come only at the cost of cutting public safety personnel.

Mayor Kim Bracey‘s budget, which she introduced Tuesday, would cut 46 positions in the police department and eight fire-fighting jobs, and would cut the city’s work force from 412 employees in 2014 to 315 next year, documents show. Bracey said she was faced with few options and asked community partners, legislators and the county for outside help.

As of Friday, “no one has knocked on the door,” she said.

She has called for union concessions. Bracey said she will meet with fire union President Fred Desantis on Monday, and the city already is in negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police. Police union president Mike Davis said he is “committed” to reaching an agreement before the end of the year.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/local/ci_26992449/york-city-budget-parties-scramble-find-solutions

Maryland Says It Intends To Deny Permit To Continue Operating Conowingo Dam

Map of Maryland highlighting Cecil County

Map of Maryland highlighting Cecil County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A week after a report found that dams in Lancaster County and Maryland are no longer trapping polluting farm and urban stormwater runoff, the Maryland Department of the Environment says it plans to deny a water-quality permit renewal to the Conowingo Dam.

Exelon, the owner of the hydroelectric dam on the Susquehanna River in Cecil County, Maryland, has been seeking relicensing renewal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The dam also needs a water-quality permit from Maryland to operate.

The state’s Department of the Environment says Exelon hasn’t fully supported its contention that the dam’s reduced ability to trap sediment is not harming the Chesapeake Bay, about 10 miles downriver, the Associated Press reported.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/maryland-says-it-intends-to-deny-permit-to-continue-operating/article_c91f5770-7198-11e4-bd9a-071fc8f2b5d3.html

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Says He’s Undecided About Another Run, Contends His Comments Misunderstood

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — Saying his comments were misunderstood, Mayor Thomas Leighton said Friday he has not yet decided on running for another term.

Leighton, a Democrat, will begin the fourth and final year of his third term in January. He said he will discuss whether to run again with his wife and children over the holidays, make a decision and announce it in February as he has previously done.

“No decision has been made,” he said Friday.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50732477/

Casino Also-Rans Leave Big Question Marks In City’s Landscape

The Philadelphia Inquirer-Daily News Building ...

The Philadelphia Inquirer-Daily News Building in Philadelphia, PA. Taken from North Broad and Callowhill Streets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Held hostage for a year by hope that they might snag a casino license, two pieces of prime central Philadelphia real estate lost that gamble this week – but may yet cash in, as all eyes await Plan B for both locations in a hot downtown market.

Developers who had proposed casinos at Eighth and Market Streets and the former Inquirer Building at Broad and Callowhill Streets said they had no alternate plans after learning Tuesday that the city’s second gaming license would instead go to a site near the sports arenas in South Philadelphia.

But with new apartment and retail development deals being inked virtually every week in and around Center City without public subsidy, it should not be long before new plans are hatched for both, as long as property owners agree to quick action, officials and market watchers said.

One top city official said market conditions were so favorable to development that the Nutter administration would have little patience if movement were not swift at one of the locations, which has remained inert for two decades as repeated plans have fizzled: the open-air lot at Eighth and Market owned by Ken Goldenberg and other investors.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20141122_Casino_also-rans_leave_big_question_marks_in_city_s_landscape.html#FiqqgVTmwOSW0RAU.99

Higher Property Taxes In Westmoreland County Ruled Out Despite $15M Budget Gap

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Westmoreland County commissioners said Thursday that there won’t be a property tax increase next year despite a projected deficit of $15 million.

Commissioners revealed a preliminary $340 million budget for 2015 that anticipates declines in revenue and increases in proposed expenses, offset by dipping into the county’s surplus.

If enacted, the budget proposal would deplete the surplus fund to $10.7 million.

The surplus fund should end this year at $25 million.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/7200570-74/million-budget-county#ixzz3JjUBjx9a
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Pittsburgh Police Beef Up Presence On Streets For City’s Light Up Night

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A wave of gun violence around the city and the possibility of unrest here stemming from events in Ferguson, Mo., have Pittsburgh police ramping up staffing and training in time for Light Up Night on Friday, when hundreds of thousands of people will converge on Downtown.

Pittsburgh police acting Chief Cameron McLay said Wednesday he plans to put patrol officers on 12-hour shifts to handle whatever arises in the next two weeks. He noted the recent escalation in deadly shootings in city neighborhoods and the impending announcement of whether a police officer will be indicted in the shooting death of an unarmed black man in Missouri.

“Quite frankly, it’s an opportunity to get my officers out and more engaged with the public,” McLay said at a news conference at police headquarters in the North Side. “To me, there are no wasted resources when I’m calling extra bodies in early. If everything is going well, it’s a great chance for my officers to celebrate with the community.”

Brandi Fisher, president of the Alliance for Police Accountability, said she spoke with McLay by phone Wednesday about the potential for a local response to a grand jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/7191470-74/police-mclay-officers#ixzz3JdF4ZS6G
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York Budget: Backlash Against Proposal Begins

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hours after York Mayor Kim Bracey outlined her proposal to dramatically reduce the city’s work force, including deep cuts to public safety forces, in order to close an anticipated $7 million budget gap, public backlash began.

“I’m ashamed for the city,” said James Waughtel during public comment at a City Council meeting Tuesday night, calling the potential loss of police and fire personnel “extremely devastating.”

Read more from Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Members of the fire union also lined the council chambers to listen as Bracey presented her plan to council members.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/politics/ci_26971075/york-budget-backlash-against-proposal-begins

No Man’s Land, Atlantic City

full-state map

full-state map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tucked into northeast Atlantic City, where ocean meets inlet, is a two-by-six block expanse of undeveloped land that in other shore towns would be carved up by wealthy outsiders to build $2 million homes.

Instead, the few surviving, decades-old houses dot hundreds of empty lots like jagged teeth at the mouth of a yawning ocean in this sleepy part of town. Some call it North Beach; others South Inlet. Bill Terrigino, 69, lives at one end, his home one of those visible teeth.

An empty Revel casino shimmers in the background, emblematic of the mirage Atlantic City has become. Terrigino, a laid-off casino banquet server who resembles a Jersey Shore version of Hemingway, has a two-story home on South Metropolitan Avenue.

His house boasts an unobstructed waterfront view – but not by design. It’s just that nothing stands between it and the Atlantic Ocean.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/No_Mans_Land_Atlantic_City_.html

Blue Cross Affordable Care Act Rates To Rise

Members enrolled in Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Affordable Care Act plans will see their premium rates rise by an average of 6.9 percent in 2015.

Officials for the Wilkes-Barre-based insurer declined to specify how many members are covered by its Affordable Care Act plans. Its website shows 12 available 2014 “Blue (Affordable Care Act) Metal” plans.

“The increases are necessary to meet the coverage requirements, including essential health benefits, of the (Affordable Care Act) and to keep up with the cost of care for members in our ACA products,” said Anthony Matrisciano, spokesman for Blue Cross of NEPA, which has about 550,000 members across 13 counties.

The increase, effective Jan. 1, comes amid a state Insurance Department review of Highmark Inc.’s proposal to acquire Blue Cross of NEPA. It’s one of two rate hikes submitted by the insurer that received approval from the state Insurance Department.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/blue-cross-affordable-care-act-rates-to-rise-1.1789100

Tom Wolf On Work, Reforms And Driving His Jeep

AFTER TOM WOLF got his doctorate from MIT, he worked at his family-owned cabinet company – driving a forklift.

That experience could soon come in handy.

Estimates just released by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office say the incoming governor’s first budget faces a shortfall of nearly $2 billion.

Heavy lifting clearly is called for.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20141117_Tom_Wolf_on_work__reforms_and_driving_his_Jeep.html#7AA1RDMFBPBSBrrc.99

Former IBM worker, College Professor To Run For Wilkes-Barre Mayor

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Brian Kelly said he wants to get Wilkes-Barre back on the right track, and that’s why he is running for mayor in 2015.

Kelly, 66, announced his candidacy Friday and said he is running as a “JFK Democrat.” He said the city suffers from “malaise,” as evidenced by the demolition of the Hotel Sterling and the continued non-functioning fountain on Public Square.

Interest in the mayoral post has been high, considering the primaries are not until next spring. Councilman Tony George has announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination next year and Democratic Councilman George Brown is said to be pondering a run.

Incumbent three-term Democratic incumbent Mayor Tom Leighton said Friday he will not decide whether to run again until February. Leighton also declined to respond to criticism Kelly made of city operations.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50686313/

Public Meetings Set To Air SEPTA Rail Extension Of Norristown High-Speed Line To Upper Merion

Location of Upper Merion Township in Montgomer...

Location of Upper Merion Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPPER MERION TOWNSHIP, PA – Residents in both Upper Merion and Norristown will be presented this week with four alternative routes to extend the Norristown high-speed rail line into Upper Merion in a proposed, $500 million, SEPTA rail project.

Both meetings will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday. The Upper Merion meeting on Monday will be held at the Radisson Hotel at Valley Forge, 1160 First Ave. and the Norristown meeting on Wednesday will be held at Norristown municipal hall, 235 E. Airy St.

Byron Comati, director of strategic planning and analysis for SEPTA, will present the four alternative routes winnowed down from 16 route variations. He will be joined by project manager and engineer Elizabeth Smith, an AECOM consulting engineer and Burt Cossaboon, a vice president of McCormick Taylor.

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20141114/public-meetings-set-to-air-septa-rail-extension-of-norristown-high-speed-line-to-upper-merion

Charleroi Envisions Riverfront Destination As Focal Point Of Business Redevelopment Plan

Map of Washington County higlighting Charleroi.

Map of Washington County higlighting Charleroi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Imagine that, another town with a vision and a plan…with the rash of shootings going on in Pottstown again….a vision and a plan would be in order.  Just sayin’…

Donn Henderson sees the Charleroi riverfront development he wants 25 miles away in Pittsburgh.

“It’s not rocket science. There are plenty of examples,” said Henderson, manager of the borough, which will announce a redevelopment plan for the central business district Thursday. “Just look at the North Side. That’s a great model. The South Side, too.”

Re-creating Pittsburgh’s successes deep in Washington County‘s Mon Valley will not be easy. But continuing to watch the once-thriving industrial and retail community lose population amid growing drug and crime problems certainly will accomplish nothing, Henderson said.

“We cannot continue that trend and survive,” he said.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/washington/7133358-74/charleroi-henderson-buildings#ixzz3IxX1Lmiv
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Kane Fires, Disciplines AG Employees Over Porn E-Mails

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said Wednesday she had fired, suspended, or disciplined about two dozen employees for sending or receiving e-mails containing pornographic content over the last few years.

In a statement, Kane said an internal review had identified 31 workers whose e-mails contained sexually explicit content, although she didn’t say when the messages were sent. The disclosure comes after her office had said it identified 30 other workers in the office who participated in pornographic e-mail exchanges between 2008 and 2012.

The 61 represent just short of 10 percent of the 750 workers in the office.

Of them, Kane said, four have been fired, two will be fired, and two have resigned. Eleven others were suspended without pay, and others were being disciplined or reprimanded in their personnel files.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20141113_Kane_fires__disciplines_AG_employees_over_porn_e-mails.html#57I5ocuw35z08eTR.99

$9.3 Million Hazleton Budget Breakdown

Downtown Hazleton, PA

Downtown Hazleton, PA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A $9.3 million budget proposal prepared by administrators in Hazleton for the upcoming year was developed to more accurately reflect costs incurred in 2013 rather than keep pace with competing budgets submitted this year by the mayor and council, a top city administrator said.

Acting City Administrator Tom Pribula said he looked beyond a year-long budget dispute between the mayor and council and instead focused on 2013 actual expenses when developing a budget for 2015.

“I would say it’s a pretty reasonable budget,” Pribula said of the 2015 proposal. “I would not categorize any fluff, per se, that’s in it. My philosophy from doing budgets for 30-some years is be realistic to the conservative side on your revenues. You don’t want to over-estimate because if you don’t get them, then you don’t have the cash.”

While examining budget trends from previous years, Pribula found that some line item reductions that council and the mayor presented in competing budgets for 2014 weren’t in line with actual expenditures.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/9-3-million-hazleton-budget-breakdown-1.1785654

Lansdale Municipal Building Topped Off, Soft Cost Contracts Coming Before Council

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LANSDALE, PA – The steel frame of Lansdale’s future police station and municipal building has now been topped off, and several contracts for internal systems, servers and furniture could be awarded later this month.

Those soft costs total roughly $400,000 and will let contractors move ahead with interior fittings even if winter weather arrives soon, according to borough Director of Community Development John Ernst.

“Over the next couple of weeks, the entire building will be enclosed with glass, so they can work inside as inclement weather starts to come up on us,” Ernst said.

During his monthly update on the building’s construction, Ernst showed photos of the exterior glass and brick walls now surrounding much of the newly constructed police wing of the building, located to the northwest of the brick former borough hall walls that are now being restored.

Read more: http://www.thereporteronline.com/general-news/20141107/lansdale-municipal-building-topped-off-soft-cost-contracts-coming-before-council

Authorities: Heroin Problem In Region Will Only Get Worse

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Heroin is affecting the region at epidemic levels and the problem is only expected to get worse, law enforcement officials told the Pennsylvania Economy League at a meeting Friday afternoon.

The drug is selling on the cheap, and addicts — many of whom got started by legitimately using prescription painkillers — are bringing a plague of crime to the area, West Hazleton Police Chief Brian Buglio said. Almost all robberies, thefts and assaults in the Hazleton area have a drug or gang nexus, he said.

“Heroin is terrifying, and it’s only going to get worse, unfortunately,” Buglio said during the meeting at Best Western Genetti Hotel and Conference Center.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/authorities-heroin-problem-in-region-will-only-get-worse-1.1784687