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/

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/

Police Charge Man Shot By Wilkes-Barre Officer

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, PA — The man shot and wounded by police in a Hanover Township parking lot was hit Thursday with felony assault and drug trafficking charges alleging he tried to run down two officers while speeding away from a crack deal he made with a police informant, according to court documents.

Bong Bob Kim, 30, of 9 Harkins Lane, Wilkes-Barre, remained hospitalized at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township on Thursday night as state police filed charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, criminal use of a communication facility, drug trafficking, fleeing police and reckless endangerment.

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis on Thursday night identified Wilkes-Barre police Officer Joseph Sinavage as the officer who shot Kim.

According to a police affidavit filed in court, a state police vice unit and Wilkes-Barre police were conducting a joint drug operation at about 2 p.m. Wednesday in the area of the Family Dollar on Carey Avenue when things went awry.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/police-charge-man-shot-by-w-b-officer-1.1791355

Offset Paperback Manufacturers Details Plans For Layoffs In Dallas Township

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

Offset Paperback Manufacturers plans to shut down its sheet-fed and pre-press operations at its Dallas Township facility as the publishing industry continues to struggle, a WARN notice indicates.

The company, one of the largest paperback book manufacturers in the world, announced late last week that 37 employees received notices under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act giving them 60 days notice that jobs will be lost.

More details about the job cuts were revealed in a WARN notice Jack O’Donnell, chief operating officer for Offset Paperback, sent to Leona Annaguey, section chief of trade, rapid response and special programs for the state Department of Labor and Industry.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/offset-details-plans-for-layoffs-1.1789532

Man Allegedly Threatened People In Downtown Wilkes-Barre With Crossbow

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A man was arrested after he allegedly threatened people walking downtown with a loaded crossbow.

Police were dispatched to South Main Street at about 5:20 p.m. for a report of a male wearing a poncho and carrying a loaded crossbow.

Reports were made that the male had fired the crossbow at a moving vehicle and pointed it at several people.

Officers located the male, identified as Joseph Warnagiris, 29, of Wilkes-Barre, who had his hands hidden under his poncho, police said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50705500/Man-allegedly-threatened-people-with-crossbow

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

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/

Man Charged After Yelling Profanity During Live Newscast

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

SCRANTON, PA — Scranton police charged a city man Thursday night after he grabbed a television reporter’s arm and yelled obscenities into her microphone during a live news broadcast.

Tyrone Parker, 18, 501 Madison Ave., Scranton, was charged with falsifying reports because he lied to police that he didn’t do it. He later recanted and admitted he grabbed WNEP-TV reporter Stacy Lange’s arm and said a swear word into her microphone during a live broadcast in Scranton. Mr. Parker went to a Lackawanna College dorm after the incident, which is where police found him.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/man-charged-after-yelling-profanity-during-live-newscast-1.1788073

Wilkes-Barre Announces Annual Christmas Parade, Tree Lighting

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The City of Wilkes-Barre has announced plans for this year’s annual Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony.

The city will kick off the holiday season on Nov. 22 with a full day of downtown events, concluding with the arrival of Santa in the annual parade, followed by the lighting of the Christmas tree on Public Square.

“The City of Wilkes-Barre’s Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting ceremony is the perfect way to bring the holiday season to life in downtown Wilkes-Barre,” Mayor Thomas M. Leighton said in a news release. “We are thrilled to offer many free family friendly activities for the young and young-at-heart to enjoy throughout the day.”

Festivities will begin at 11:30 a.m. with storytelling by Mrs. Claus at Barnes & Noble on South Main Street.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50673067/

Hazleton PA and Pottstown PA By The Numbers

Reading the City of Hazleton’s 2015 Proposed Budget got me thinking about spending and waste.  These two towns are a good comparison because of population, ethnic diversity, demographics and even physical size.  Pottstown’s budget is more than 4 times are large as Hazleton’s, so here are some numbers to ponder courtesy of http://www.CityData.com:

 

Population:

Hazleton (2012) 25,224

Pottstown (2012) 22,480

 

Races:

Hazleton -

  • White alone – 14,580 (57.9%)
  • Hispanic – 9,717 (38.6%)
  • Black alone – 422 (1.7%)

Pottstown -

  • White alone – 15,377 (68.7%)
  • Black alone – 4,147 (18.5%)
  • Hispanic – 1,785 (8.0%)

 

Physical size (land area):

Hazleton is 5.97 square miles

Pottstown is 4.83 square miles

 

Crime rate – U.S. average = 296.6:

Hazleton (2012) 306.3

Pottstown (2012) 434

 

Police Department size:

Hazleton – 38 officers, hiring 10 new police officers built in the $9.3 million proposed budget (they think they have a crime problem).

Pottstown -46 officers, (they don’t think they have a crime problem)

 

Unemployment:

Hazleton – July 2013, 12.8%

Pottstown – July 2013, 6.7%

 

Population density:

Hazleton – 4,222 people per square mile

Pottstown – 4,655 people per square mile

 

Municipal Budget:

Hazleton – $9.3 million (2015 Proposed budget)

Pottstown – $44.8 million (2015 Proposed budget)

 

Cost of living index:

Hazleton – 95.3 (near average, U.S. average is 100)

Pottstown – 103.7 (near average, U.S. average is 100)

 

Average home value:

Hazleton – $93,389 (2012)

Pottstown – $134,796 (2012)

 

Average rent:

Hazleton – Median gross rent in 2012: $631

Pottstown – Median gross rent in 2012: $762

 

Estimated median household income:

Hazleton – $30,492 (2012)

Pottstown – $41,864 (2012)

 

Registered sex offenders:

Hazleton – there were 10 registered sex offenders living in Hazleton, Pennsylvania as of November 10, 2014

Pottstown – there were 49 registered sex offenders living in Pottstown, Pennsylvania as of November 10, 2014

$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

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

Details Emerge On Jessup Natural Gas Plant

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Jessup may soon be home to one of the state’s largest natural gas power plants.

Chicago-based Invenergy LLC plans to place its Lackawanna Energy Center on 80 acres bounded by Valley View Drive and Sunnyside Road, according to a permit application the company filed with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Invenergy plans to begin construction in June and finish by 2017, Invenergy spokeswoman Alissa Krinsky said in an email. The company will employ a workforce of 600 during the two-year construction phase.

During regular operations, the plant will provide about 30 jobs, she said.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/details-emerge-on-jessup-natural-gas-plant-1.1779840

Citizens Voice Tops Times Leader In Daily Circulation

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

The Citizens’ Voice has jumped ahead of The Times Leader in daily circulation in Wilkes-Barre’s newspaper battle for the first time in at least 25 years, according to data compiled by the Alliance for Audited Media.

According to the latest figures released from the last six months ending Sept. 30, The Citizens’ Voice has taken the circulation lead to 24,041 copies per day, compared to 22,676 for The Times Leader, a difference of 1,365.

“The Citizens’ Voice is here to stay. We are the local newspaper,” said Joe Nealon, circulation director for The Citizens’ Voice. “Readers have been recognizing for a long time that The Citizens’ Voice is the better newspaper. More and more people are realizing that and The Times Leader is losing readers.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/voice-tops-times-leader-in-daily-circulation-1.1778539

Police: Man Found Unresponsive In Cab Had Over $100,000 In Heroin

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

HAZLE TOWNSHIP, PA — An unresponsive man in the back of a taxi cab awoke to a slew of charges after police say they found over $100,000 of heroin in his possession on Sunday morning.

According to police reports:

State police responded to assist EMS personnel at the Ramada Inn on North Church Street at 8:20 a.m. for a report of an unresponsive male in a taxi cab. When the 24-year-old man from Scranton was awoken by officers, he was found to allegedly be in possession of 3 ounces of raw heroin, a street value of approximately $5,000. The man was also found to allegedly have 10,280 glassine bags of heroine, with a street value of over $100,000.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50578018/

Police: Meth Lab Exploded In Nanticoke

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

An explosion caused by residents cooking methamphetamine shook a Nanticoke apartment complex on Saturday, police said.

At approximately 8 p.m., the Nanticoke police and fire departments responded to a call at an apartment building on Lee Mine Street, where they discovered at least six apartments affected by the explosion.

The blast was so forceful that two doors within the apartment were blown off the hinges, police said.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/police-meth-lab-exploded-in-nanticoke-1.1777749

Wilkes-Barre’s Sherman Hills Complex Now Prefers Locals

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The welcome mat is still out for out-of-state residents at Sherman Hills, but under a program instituted by the new owner, locals are given preference to move into the federally-subsidized apartment complex.

The preference also applies if a member of the household waiting to get one of the 344-units has a job.

John VanMetre, director of property management for The Aspen Companies, an affiliate of Teaneck, New Jersey-based Treetop Development, owner of the complex, explained the change in light of a recent report that Sherman Hills had advertised for tenants in the New York City area.

VanMetre said that with the change in ownership, any ads are done locally.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50555847/Sherman-Hills-puts-focus-on-locals

Judges Affirm Rejection Of Hazleton Area International Cargo Airport

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Schuylkill County

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

A Commonwealth Court panel dealt another blow Thursday to a proposed international cargo airport in the Hazleton area, as it upheld Schuylkill County Court’s rejection of a special exception for the facility.

In a 19-page opinion, the panel affirmed county Judge James P. Goodman’s determination that Gladstone Partners LLC, Pittsburgh, had not satisfied the necessary conditions for a special exception.

“The application as submitted did not meet the objective requirements of … (the county zoning ordinance),” President Judge Dan Pellegrini wrote in the panel’s opinion.

As a result, barring a successful appeal by Gladstone Partners to the full Commonwealth Court or the state Supreme Court, plans for the airport have ground to a halt.

Read more: http://republicanherald.com/news/judges-affirm-rejection-of-airport-1.1776451

West Hazleton No Longer In ‘Distressed Municipality’ Status

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WEST HAZLETON — The state has rescinded the borough’s status as a distressed municipality. But while the borough has significantly improved finances since 2003, it’s not out of the woods yet.

State Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary C. Alan Walker determined that West Hazleton’s distressed status would be rescinded after a review of audits and financial data and the record from a public hearing on June 3, Gov. Tom Corbett’s office announced Thursday in a news release.

The hearing officer’s report revealed that in 2013, the borough had a $5,423 budget surplus, that finances were stable, and that the borough has the tools to make the decisions necessary to maintain responsible budgets, meet its obligations to vendors and creditors, and provide essential services to residents.

Read more: