Hazleton Council OKs $9.28M Spending Plan

Property taxes will not increase in Hazleton in 2015, according to a tentative $9.28 million spending plan that city council approved Wednesday.

But it will cost more to sell a property.

Council approved on second reading a balanced, $9.28 million budget that eliminates a tax increase that the mayor wanted to implement for awarding raises to a handful of nonunion employees. The budget also scraps a controversial maintenance fee for the stormwater system.

The spending plan approved Wednesday makes up for that lost tax and stormwater revenue by infusing $400,000 from a defunct sewage transmission fee account into other parts of the general fund budget. The city’s share of the real estate transfer tax was also increased by 0.5 percent — to 1 percent — and boosts revenue projections by $150,000.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/hazleton-council-oks-9-28m-spending-plan-1.1804580

Nanticoke Man Arrested For Shooting In Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A Nanticoke man was arraigned Thursday on charges he shot a woman in the head near Gordon Avenue in South Wilkes-Barre last week.

Michael Angelo Foschini Jr, 25, of West Main Street, was charged with two counts each of aggravated assault and simple assault, and one count each of possession of marijuana and reckless endangerment. He was arraigned by District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke and jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $250,000 bail.

Foschini was arrested by city police and Nanticoke police when he began driving away from his residence at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Police believe the woman, a 19-year-old, was shot in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. She survived her injuries.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50888033/

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Leighton Gets $150K To Help Balance 2015 Budget

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The mayor asked and the authority board complied.

Mayor Tom Leighton Tuesday asked the members of the city’s Parking Authority for a little help for the city’s coffers. On a 4-1 vote, the authority approved giving the city $75,000 now and another $75,000 after the first of the year.

“This eliminates me from raising property taxes in the city,” Leighton said after the vote.

One authority member, Maryanne King, expressed concerned for the move, noting that auditors recently reported the need to increase revenues and replenish a depleted reserve fund to assure needed capital improvements of authority assets.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/localnews1/50873001/

Hazleton Council Tables Budget Vote

Hazleton City Council is no closer to finalizing a 2015 budget.

Council voted 4-1 on Thursday to table the spending plan on second reading after voting on a number of amendments that put revenue projections some $619,000 below estimated expenditures.

Council will take another crack at amending the estimated $9.3 million spending plan on Wednesday.

The vote to shelve the budget followed a heated disagreement between Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi and council President Jack Mundie over a stormwater fee that was originally levied by a previous council majority for 2013 only — but is included in next year’s spending plan.

The debate ended with the mayor walking out of the forum during an argument with Mundie.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/hazleton-council-tables-budget-vote-1.1801694

Winter Storm Puts Northeast Pa. In Crosshairs

There will be snow and rain and everything in between.

The big unknown is how much of each.

Northeast Pennsylvania is under a winter storm warning through Thursday morning as a system developing along the mid-Atlantic coast pushes inland today with the potential for significant snow, sleet and freezing rain.

The National Weather Service said total snow accumulations could hit eight to 12 inches, with the higher amounts in the higher terrain and less in the valleys.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/winter-storm-puts-northeast-pa-in-crosshairs-1.1799879

Laflin Council Abolishes Police Force

LAFLIN, PA — The meeting of Laflin Borough Council devolved into chaos Monday night as four council members voted to immediately disband the police department and hire a consultant to liquidate the department’s property.

After hearing impassioned public comment against relying solely on state police to enforce the law in Laflin, a council majority voted to do just that, with Councilman Glen Gubitose the lone opposing vote.

The majority defended the move by saying the borough infrastructure is crumbling and in desperate need of repair after years of neglect. But that didn’t satisfy dozens of residents who showed up to voice their opposition to the move. As council members finished the vote, the room erupted in jeers and boos loud enough to drown out council members for the rest of the meeting.

Residents ordered to quiet down challenged council members to call the police.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/laflin-council-abolishes-police-force-1.1799795

Luzerne County Employee Fired After Pay Lapse

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Luzerne County administrators on Monday responded to an error that resulted in about 1,400 employees not being paid on time by firing an employee who was on vacation at the time, according to several sources at the courthouse.

County Council Vice Chairman Edd Brominski confirmed the employee fired Monday was Jason Parrish, who was promoted from clerk to budget and policy analyst in May 2013 with a salary of $35,000.

Reached at home in Kingston on Monday afternoon, Parrish declined to comment at length, although he characterized the pay lapse as an accident. Asked if he thought his firing was justified, Parrish said, “That’s their decision, not mine.”

The decision to fire Parrish drew swift criticism from administration detractors who accused county Manager Robert Lawton of using Parrish as a fall man. Former county controller Walter L. Griffith Jr., who had worked with Parrish in the controller’s office, said Parrish was on approved vacation at the time and that he is being punished because management failed to delegate the task to someone else.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/county-employee-fired-after-pay-lapse-1.1795954

Luzerne County Stands To Receive Up To $2 Million From Coal Street Project

Cash-strapped Luzerne County has a claim on at least some of the $2 million left from the Coal Street widening project in Wilkes-Barre, but delays finalizing project expenses have prevented the county from receiving its share.

The amount of the county’s share also is unclear because the Wilkes-Barre Area School District may be entitled to some of the fund, officials say.

County Councilman Stephen A. Urban raised the issue during a budget work session last week, questioning why it’s taking years for the county to collect this money.

The $2 million stems from a Tax Incremental Financing plan, or TIF, that diverted tax revenue from new development along Highland Park Boulevard and at the Arena Hub Plaza to fund improvements to Mundy Street, Highland Park Boulevard and Coal Street .

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50745998/County-could-receive-up-to-$2M-from-Coal-St.

Woman Charged With Stabbing Boyfriend In Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City police arrested Jack-Lyn Blake, 47, on charges she stabbed her boyfriend because she found him eating.

Blake was arrested as she attempted to leave her Madison Street residence at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, when they found her boyfriend, Benjamin Smith, holding a towel to his chest.

Smith told police Thursday night he called 911 earlier in the day for an incident involving Blake. Smith claimed Blake was intoxicated and had gone to sleep.

Smith said Blake woke up hours later, came downstairs and found him eating food. He said Blake became angry and grabbed a knife chasing him around the kitchen table, police said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50769219/

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

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/

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