Blight Poses Challenges For Distressed Cities

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton is a city of 76,000 people with a housing stock largely built before 1940 for a population almost twice that number.

It has the blight to prove it.

As the financially strapped city struggles to combat blight and the host of ills it fosters, Scranton finds itself in a position common among many Rust Belt communities: many old buildings, too few people willing or able to keep them up and limited resources to press aggressively for a comprehensive solution.

The region’s other two major cities, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, are dealing with similar issues, though their circumstances don’t precisely mirror Scranton’s.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/blight-poses-challenges-for-distressed-cities-1.1744585

Two Charged After Police Raid Wilkes-Barre Home

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

Wilkes-Barre police say they seized major amounts of heroin, cocaine and marijuana when they raided a Sullivan Street home that was protected by a pistol loaded with “cop killer bullets.”

Larry “TAZ” Hayes, 26, and Disean Kendricks, 24, both of 70 Sullivan St., are charged with drug trafficking and weapons possession offenses, police said.

The Wilkes-Barre Police Anti Crime Unit and Wilkes-Barre Drug Task Force raided their home at about 6 a.m. Saturday after an investigation revealed they had been dealing heroin and cocaine out of the house, police said.

Though both men were armed, they were arrested without incident, police said.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/two-charged-after-police-raid-w-b-home-1.1741657

Unemployment In Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Metro Area Down, Lowest Since October 2008

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The unemployment rate in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area edged down by one-tenth of 1 percent in July to 6.8 percent, the lowest since October 2008, according to figures released today by the state Department of Labor & Industry.

A year earlier, the rate was 9 percent.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50204988/Unemployment-in-the-region-down-lowest-since-October-2008#.U_z2hvRDsxI

Cops: Man Hands Them Pot At Sherman Hills, Leads Them On High-Speed Chase

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE — A New Jersey man faces a slew of charges and bail of $250,000 after he allegedly led police on a high-speed chase from the Sherman Hills apartment complex following a traffic stop.

Officers conducted a traffic stop on Bradley Ercel Burgess, of Bergin Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey, just after 7 p.m. Wednesday near Coal Street and Logan Court and detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from Burgess’ vehicle, police said.

Police asked Burgess what he was doing in Sherman Hills, and he told them he was visiting a friend. When asked if he had any marijuana in the vehicle, Burgess allegedly handed an officer a cigar packet and stated that it contained a small bag of marijuana, police said.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50184160/Man-arrested-after-high-speed-chase-from-Sherman-Hills#.U_iwJPRDsxI

Online Survey Will Help Redesign Downtown Hazleton

Downtown Hazleton, PA

Downtown Hazleton, PA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hazleton residents can help remodel the downtown by voting in a survey for their favorite style of banners, buildings, crosswalks, lights, landscaping, benches and bike racks.

They will find the survey at http://www.derckandedson.com/hazleton through the end of September. Photos show examples, and residents can click a thumbs-up for the styles they like.

Derck and Edson, a design firm in Lititz, Lancaster County, posted the survey after winning a commission to write a strategic plan for the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/online-survey-will-help-redesign-downtown-1.1739962

American Eagle Opens New Distribution Center In Humboldt

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

Customers who placed an online order with American Eagle Outfitters typically had to wait between 7 and 10 days for their merchandise to arrive.

With the opening of the company’s newest distribution center in Hazle Township, they can now expect those packages within 2 to 5 days, said Michael Rempell, American Eagle Outfitters’ chief operating officer and executive vice president.

“It’s going to enable our company to effectively compete in the global economy,” Rempell said of the Humboldt Industrial Park facility, where a grand opening celebration was held Thursday.

The event brought company representatives, elected officials, community leaders and families of the 100 employees who have been hired to date at the Hazle Township facility together.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/american-eagle-opens-new-center-in-humboldt-1.1739948

CityVest Gives Sterling Property To Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

The nonprofit owner of the former Hotel Sterling property has turned the title over to Luzerne County.

In a letter to the county solicitor sent Thursday, Scranton-based attorney George Reihner said recent action by the county to garnish CityVest of parking fees being generated at the site on West Market Street took him off-guard.

“Given that CityVest offered the Hotel Sterling property to the county more than two years ago and regularly communicated with county officials about the status of the property since the date of acquisition, I was surprised to learn of these sudden legal actions from the media,” Reihner wrote.

In an attempt to “remedy the current impasse,” Reihner wrote that CityVest has decided to sign over the property to the county. The transaction was recorded Thursday.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/cityvest-gives-sterling-property-to-county-1.1739850

Wilkes-Barre Zoning Board Approves Changes Requested By Housing Develoopment Corp

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — About 30 people protested the proposed housing project in the Rolling Mill section of the city, offering testimony, petitions and heartfelt concerns, but the Zoning Hearing Board unanimously approved all four changes requested by Housing Development Corporation MidAtlantic of Lancaster.

As the crowd filtered out of council chambers at City Hall Thursday evening, you could hear cries of “It’s not fair,” and “You live there,” from residents of McCarragher, Moyallen, Dana and Grove streets — all to be impacted by the 56-unit rental complex to be built by HDC.

Attorney Charles McCormick, zoning hearing board solicitor, said there is a 30-day window for appeals to be filed on the decision. Once that is exhausted, HDC will then bring a detailed land development plan to the city’s planning commission for approval.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50170995/Rolling-Mill-development-moves-forward#.U_YbQPRDsxI

Pittston Twp. Residents Support Axed Chief

English: Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania h...

English: Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania highlighting Pittston Township (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PITTSTON TWP. — Township residents spoke in support of their ousted police chief and demanded answers on his firing from township supervisors at their Monday night meeting.

“The people of the township need to know why their chief isn’t here,” township resident Gene Garron, 79, said. “This is no longer a personnel problem, it involves an ex-employee.”

Township residents filled the meeting room to support former township police chief Robert Avvisato, who township supervisors fired in July with little explanation.

“This is my chief,” township resident Mari Martinelli said of Avvisato. “This man is trying to do something finally for this township.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/pittston-twp-residents-support-axed-chief-1.1737957

Facade Program Spruces Up Wilkes-Barre’s Main Arteries

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA  — Angela Marsicano and her daughter, Gina, know first-hand the benefits of the city’s Gateway Facade Improvement Program.

The two women live next door to each other and they took advantage of the program to improve the appearance of their Blackman Street homes. Angela lives at 246 Blackman St. and Gina is at 250 Blackman.

Gina had new stonework, front window, front door, porch rail, porch roof installed and aluminum siding painted.

Her mother had new windows installed, shutters, aconcrete foundation and porch steps put in.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50139841/Facade-program-spruces-up-W-Bs-main-arteries#.U_I5tPRDsxI

Allentown Man Pistol Whipped, Robbed At Sherman Hills

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

An Allentown man was pistol whipped and robbed after going to a crime-ridden apartment complex in Wilkes-Barre to meet a female “acquaintance.”

Alexander Aron, of Allentown, reported to police on Friday that he went to Sherman Hills to meet a woman he referred to as an acquaintance, Taisha Moore.

Aron met the woman in front of Building 312 and walked to the area of the laundry rooms. He was then approached by two unidentified males, who demanded his wallet, police said.

Aron refused to turn over his wallet and was pistol whipped. He then gave the two males $150 in cash. The two males and the female then fled the area, police said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50148614/Allentown-man-pistol-whipped-robbed-at-Sherman-Hills#.U-9xifRDsxI

Gunfire Heard On Phone By 911 At Sherman Hills

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City police are investigating gunfire in a hallway inside Building 308 at the troubled Sherman Hills apartment complex, which has been the scene of other shootings, stabbings and assaults.

Police responded to the apartment building after Luzerne County 911 received a hang-up call at about 1:25 a.m. Tuesday.

911 called the phone number and were advised that shots were heard in a hallway and the sound of people fighting.

Police said shell casings were found in the hallway. A search of the area did not result in any suspects, police said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50124799/Gunfire-heard-by-911-at-Sherman-Hills#.U-pRh_RDsxI

Business, Workers Flee Electric City Taxes

picture-0571A decade ago when real estate up-and-comer Charles Hibble looked for a headquarters for his business, Scranton was a natural choice.

He invested $1.2 million converting an aging building on Penn Avenue into modern offices and apartments. Mr. Hibble accepted real estate tax and parking cost increases and the mercantile tax as costs of doing business. When city leaders began talking about a commuter tax in 2012, the owner of Weichert Realty Hibble & Associates reached his breaking point and moved out.

“I was getting pressure from my employees, who could work from anywhere — their homes or cars,” he said. “They didn’t want to pay another tax.”

Mr. Hibble’s move prefaced an employer exodus from the city. After being kicked around and eventually shot down in court, the commuter tax came back in the proposal of consultant Henry Amoroso, who cited a state law that allows municipalities to impose a commuter tax to bolster distressed pension funds. Scranton City Council swiftly approved the local income tax on commuters, which would cost employees earning $50,000 as much as $375 a year. Combined with a proposed increase in the emergency service tax – yet another withdrawal from the wages of commuters — the cost of having a job in the city has mounted.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/business-workers-flee-electric-city-taxes-1.1733479

Wilkes-Barre Area School District Appealing Property Values

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

Faced with a shrinking tax base and the second-highest school tax rate in Luzerne County, the Wilkes-Barre Area School District is trying something new to boost revenue.

The district has hired a consultant to identify properties with under-assessed values and manage appeals to increase property assessments. Hundreds of thousands of tax dollars are at stake.

When litigation over the assessment of the Wyoming Valley Mall concluded in 2012, the Wilkes-Barre Area School District sent the mall owner a refund check of nearly $390,000 for two years of over-taxation, according to assessment records. The Luzerne County-assessed value of the mall property is $76.1 million. It was $89.1 million when mall owner PR Wyoming Valley LP filed a court appeal in 2009.

Last week, the school district filed appeals of tax values on 32 parcels to the Luzerne County Assessment Board of Appeals. Decisions from the county board can be appealed to county Court of Common Pleas.

Read more:  http://citizensvoice.com/news/w-b-area-appealing-property-values-1.1733716

Sky Zone Scranton Brings Jobs And Healthy Activity Into The Wyoming Valley

English: Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania h...

English: Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania highlighting Pittston Township (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PITTSTON TOWNSHIP, PA — Trading in his cubicle for a trampoline, Jeff Bowne is combining business with his love of healthy living by buying into a franchise called Sky Zone Scranton.

Unique to Northeastern Pennsylvania, Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park franchise established in 2004. In 10 years, the company has expanded to include 65 locations in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia.

Bowne and his sister, Jennifer Crounse, and her husband, Michael, of Allentown, will be opening a new Sky Zone in late September at CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park East, 525 Keystone Ave., Pittston Township.

The next closest Sky Zone parks are located in Harrisburg and Lancaster.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-home_top/50085187/A-new-Pittston-business-give-residents-reasons-to-jump#.U-jeE_RDsxI

Council Members: Sherman Hills Owners Have No Plans To Increase Security

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

The company managing the Sherman Hills apartment complex has no plans now to put up a guard house or around-the-clock armed security, said city council members this week.

Council members Bill Barrett and George Brown met in July with John VanMetre, director of property management at The Aspen Companies, a sister company of Treetop Development, the facility’s owners. Barrett and Brown are members of a group organized by Congressman Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, looking at living conditions at the apartments.

“We have recommendations, not just cameras and fencing. I think we do need a guard system and to have people there who are monitors. I feel that’s something that’s necessary,” Brown said.

“The bottom line is I feel there’s a need to more closely monitor who’s there,” Barrett said. “There are problems still occurring, still continuing. I think they need to seriously consider having an armed security presence there to make it a safer place. That should be the objective, to make a safe living place for residents of the development. The only way you can do that is to make sure people who aren’t supposed to be there are not there.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/council-members-sherman-hills-owners-have-no-plans-to-increase-security-1.1732933

Results Released On Wilkes-Barre Downtown Survey

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE — Thursday seemed like the best possible day to release a report on a downtown survey.
 
Public Square was filled with people attending the weekly farmers’ market and Mother Nature cooperated by offering a spectacular day of sunshine.
 
Patty Kopec and her daughter, Frankie, were enjoying some of the food and sunshine. Even with no entertainment on the band shell stage, the Kopecs raved about the city and the downtown and said they wished more events were planned for Public Square.
 
“It needs this kind of stuff,” Patty Kopec said. “It needs more events that appeal to families.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50098707/Results-released-on-downtown-survey%23.U-P3K8JH2i4#.U-T5m_RDsxI

Heroin, Handguns Seized During Traffic Stop

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

KINGSTON, PA — Police seized a large amount of heroin and two handguns during a traffic stop where one of two men used a state Department of Corrections identification card to identify himself, according to charges filed.

Police said they stopped a Lincoln for heavily tinted windows on Market Street early Thursday morning.

During the stop, an odor of marijuana was detected coming from the car that was rapidly shaking side-to-side due to movements inside the vehicle, police said.

Police said Braemar Omir Parrish, 28, of Allentown, used a state prison card to identify himself.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50099364/Heroin-handguns-seized-during-traffic-stop#.U-O8efRDsxI

With No State Oversight, Local Districts Set Their Own Communication Policies

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

Luzerne County authorities last winter charged three school district employees with having sex with students.

A county jury last Wednesday acquitted one of them — suspended Hanover Area School District teacher Edward Evans. The other two face trial on charges they had sex with students.

After the Evans trial concluded, jury foreman Jeffrey Lotz said the jury couldn’t definitively determine if Evans had sex with an 18-year-old student, but he said Evans put himself in a bad position by taking the student into his bedroom. Evans admitted he picked the student up and took him back to his house to go over pamphlets on sexually transmitted diseases.

School districts can set their own policies on contact and communication between teachers and students outside of school. With no official state oversight of out-of-class communication, policies vary by school district.

Read more:http://citizensvoice.com/news/with-no-state-oversight-local-districts-set-their-own-communication-policies-1.1730161