Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Area Suffers High Childhood Poverty, Shrinking Middle Class, Reports Say

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)

It was grim news Tuesday as a flurry of reports showed that Luzerne County’s middle class is shrinking while the wealthiest get richer with nearly one third of children under 18 live in poverty.

Data show while the unemployment rate has dropped substantially both nationally and locally, the poverty rate has not seen a corresponding drop.

If there was a silver lining in the data put out by three different sources, it may be that Luzerne and Lackawanna counties have lower rates of uninsured children than the state.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children — which bills itself as a nonprofit and non-partisan child advocacy group — issued its annual “State of Children’s Health Care” report, which showed that the percentage of children lacking health insurance statewide dipped slightly since last year’s report, from 5.3 percent to 5.2 percent.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50324023/Grim-news-from-three-new-reports

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

Massive Scranton Bust Highlights Flow Of The Heroin Pipeline

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Given a little more time, Dakeem Booker might have turned 2.6 ounces of heroin into $50,000.

The Lackawanna County Drug Task Force had other plans.

Mr. Booker, 28, of Scranton, was arrested last month at his Palm Street home and charged as a drug dealer. County detectives and members of the state parole office raided his home after a tip, detectives said. They found a digital scale, a revolver and countless wax sleeves stamped “Magoo,” a brand of heroin.

Scranton police have charged 713 people for dealing either heroin or cocaine since 2009, according to uniform crime reporting statistics.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/massive-bust-highlights-flow-of-the-heroin-pipeline-1.1722278

Geisinger Health System Freezes Open Positions

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montour County

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

Geisinger Health System this spring temporarily froze about 400 open positions, bracing for an estimated $50 million reduction in profitability in fiscal year 2015.

The decision reflects cuts in federal reimbursement payments and the health system’s effort to extensively evaluate each opening, officials said.

About 225 positions remain unfilled, with about 30 percent of those jobs located in Northeastern Pennsylvania, said chief human resource officer Amy Brayford in an emailed statement.

She said the openings span the entire health system, which serves more than 2.6 million residents across 44 counties in central and Northeastern Pennsylvania. Most of the positions do not provide direct patient care.

Geisinger Health System employs about 21,000 people.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/geisinger-freezes-open-positions-1.1714049

Report: Foreign Dollars Bring Many Jobs To Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Area

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)

Foreign direct investment has increased jobs in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

It accounted for 14,050 jobs in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2011, an increase of about 4,300 in the past two decades, according to a new report that looked at data for the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

That’s 6.2 percent of total private sector employment, above the national rate of 5 percent.

The data comes from a new report that tries to gauge the local impact of “Foreign Direct Investment,” defined as a company in a foreign country investing enough to gain a controlling share of an American company.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1479223/Report:-Foreign-dollars-bring-area-jobs

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Region’s Health Checkup Results Less Than Stellar

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)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Northeastern Pennsylvania should be concerned about its health.

Luzerne and Lackawanna counties possess a “hard-living” population that is predominantly overweight, smokes and drinks too much, has easy access to illegal drugs, has a rising increase in mental-health issues and is living in poverty, according to data released Tuesday at the Community Health Needs Assessment forum sponsored by Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

Teri Ooms, executive director at the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development in Wilkes-Barre, gave a presentation to about 6o people representing various agencies and health care facilities that showed the area’s needs and offered recommendations to improve health care, increase services and retain patients who seek care outside the area.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1358272/Regions-health-checkup-results-less-than-stellar

Enhanced by Zemanta

Study Showing Area’s Shaky Economy No Surprise

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)

Frank Nemeth, of Wilkes-Barre, doesn’t need a study to tell him the region is in rough shape.

Nemeth works at the Main Street Trading Post, a pawn shop south of Public Square, and he said his job has exposed him to the harsh realities of the city’s economy.

“I don’t see any recovery happening,” he said.

Instead, Nemeth said he sees some of the same people everyday — sometimes two or three times — trying to sell their belongings to afford necessities like food and gas.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/news/1334175/Study-showing-areas-shaky-economy-no-surprise

Enhanced by Zemanta

Poll: Those In NEPA Among Most Miserable In U.S.

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)

Editor’s note:  Lancaster, PA ranked 21st on the list :)  The happiest of any Pennsylvania Metropolitan Area.  Hey now!

People in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area are among the most miserable in the nation, according to a report that ranks the area 177th out of 189 it surveyed to gauge residents’ sense of well-being.

Their continuing economic downslide, bad memories, misperceptions and even a lack of sunlight may play a part in Northeast Pennsylvanians’ gloomy outlook, some local experts say in commenting on the State of American Well-Being, the report released last week by Gallup and Healthways.

The highest-ranked area was Provo-Orem, Utah, and the lowest-ranked was the Huntington, W.Va.-Ashland, Ky. area. More than 178,000 people across the country were interviewed last year, including a sample size of 1,092 from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

The survey asked people to rate their life evaluation – a combination of current situation evaluation and the anticipated situation in five years – emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access to health care and other necessities.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/poll-those-in-nepa-among-most-miserable-in-u-s-1.1663838

Enhanced by Zemanta

Census Figures Show Population Drops In NEPA Across The Board

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)

About 2,000 fewer people lived in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro in 2013 compared to the previous year, as deaths outpaced births and more people fled the area than flocked to it.

All seven counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania lost population between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2013, according to new annual estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau today. Unlike the once-a-decade census, the annual estimates are based on records such as birth and death certificates,tax forms and Medicare enrollment.

Gordon De Jong, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of sociology and demography at Penn State, said the aging population, low birth rate and lack of economic opportunity in Northeastern Pennsylvania continue to cost its residents.

“The fundamental underlying trend is continued, if not accelerated,” De Jong said.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/census-figures-show-population-drops-in-nepa-across-the-board-1.1657880

Enhanced by Zemanta

Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Hazleton Police Chief Hail Success

HAZLETON, PA — Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Police Chief Frank DeAndrea pointed to the successes of Kane’s Mobile Street Crime Unit on Wednesday and asked residents of Hazleton and across the commonwealth to help the success continue.

At the urging of state Sen. John Yudichak to address violent drug-related crime plaguing Northeastern Pennsylvania, Kane organized the Region X Intensive Mobile Proactive Anti-Crime Team — IMPACT — task force and deployed it to Hazleton in September to dismantle gang-run drug trafficking networks.

The approximately 20-member team, composed of federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement officers, racked up more than 120 arrests and seized about 35,000 packets of heroin, quantities of crack cocaine, numerous vehicles, handguns, rifles, an assault weapon and thousands of dollars in cash, with many of the items on display at a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday.

Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, noted that a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Justice detailed the foothold that drug-trafficking organizations had established in the Hazleton area and that branched off throughout Luzerne and surrounding counties.

Read more:  http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1206626/Kane-Hazleton-chief-hail-success

Enhanced by Zemanta

Snow Storm Starts; Many NEPA Activities Stop

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)

It’s a snow day for almost everyone.

With the winter storm pummeling Northeast Pennsylvania expected to continue into early Friday, schools and most government offices are shut down, and many businesses and some employers have followed suit.

Getting around is already difficult and is only going to get worse. Plows and salt trucks were prepared for a long siege. Roadways speed limits have been lowered.

COLTS announced its buses will quit running this afternoon, and most commercial bus runs to and from the area have been canceled. It’s the same at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, where most flights have been scrubbed.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/snow-storm-starts-many-activities-stop-1.1621652

Enhanced by Zemanta

Hearing Call Of ‘All Aboard’? Experts Discuss Feasibility Of Passenger Rail Service

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)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority President Lawrence Malski said Monday studies show major industries are looking to get out of congested metropolitan areas and move to areas like NEPA.

Passenger rail service that links Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, he said, would be a major factor in attracting those companies to the area. U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, suggested the idea on Friday to spur economic activity.

“It’s (passenger rail service) is a major requirement that they have,” Malski said. “When you connect cities like Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton to a major city like New York, major industries will follow that rail line out here because they would have an efficient and reliable form of transportation for workers.”

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news//1152788/Hearing-call-of-All-aboard

Enhanced by Zemanta

Land Trust Acquisition To Boost Preservation

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

The North Branch Land Trust is about to preserve a 3,000-acre parcel of some of the finest forest land in Pennsylvania.

And, eventually, the goal is to protect an entire mountain ridge and create a protected forest that will run from Mocanaqua north to Crystal Lake and a connection to existing state forest lands.

It will be the North Branch Land Trust’s most significant move in its 21-year history of saving and preserving parcels of varying size. When acquired, the 3,000 acres will boost to 15,000 acres the total land mass preserved via the trust.

One sidelight to the success of the land trust is its support of the trails system being developed in the Delaware and National Heritage Corridor. The land trust is playing a role in extending a trail from Mountain Top to Oliver Mills in Laurel Run Borough and then around the mountain to Northampton Street in Wilkes-Barre Township.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/land-trust-acquisition-to-boost-preservation-1.1619488

Enhanced by Zemanta

Fee Could Raise $4M For NEPA Counties

Northeastern Pennsylvania‘s seven counties could collect more than $4 million per year for transportation projects starting next year if officials assess an optional $5 vehicle registration fee on their residents.

The state’s $2.3 billion transportation bill authorizes counties to collect the optional fee. State Department of Transportation records show the region’s drivers registered 826,694 vehicles in 2012.

Leaders in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, which together could collect $2.36 million of that total, initially sounded more open to the idea than their more rural counterparts.

“Right now, we are reviewing the legislation and taking a look at it, so we just started that process,” said Jim Wansacz, chairman of the Lackawanna County commissioners. “We’ll see what can be done and what type of revenue would be associated with it.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/fee-could-raise-4m-for-nepa-counties-1.1619430

Enhanced by Zemanta

Scranton Wants To Declare Bankruptcy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

SCRANTON, PA — When Detroit filed for bankruptcy, hundreds of residents took to the streets to protest what they saw as a drastic approach to fixing the city’s budget problems.

But in this hilly town of 76,000 in northeastern Pennsylvania, residents have a different view of Chapter 9: They want the city to declare bankruptcy. And soon.

“The silent majority would like to see bankruptcy,” said Bob “Ozzie” Quinn, president of the Scranton and Lackawanna County Taxpayers Association. “Basically, it’s down to a point where people cannot afford to pay the taxes and are moving out of town.”

Faced with a $20 million deficit, Scranton had to do some tricky maneuvering to balance its budget and avoid defaulting on loans. Most of this maneuvering has involved increasing taxes and fees paid by the people who still live in the town, which has seen its population drop by half since the 1930s.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140111/scranton-wants-to-declare-bankruptcy

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wilkes-Barre City Council Reorganizes, Picks Officers

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City Council on Monday reelected its chairman, but replaced its vice chairman, who has been a frequent critic of Mayor Tom Leighton and his administration.

Bill Barrett will handle the gavel in 2014, keeping the chairmanship for another year. However, Tony George, a retired city police chief like Barrett, was replaced by Mike Merritt for the vice chairman’s post.

“I guess I must have offended them by not voting for all of the mayor’s proposals,” George said after the meeting. “I was elected to represent the people, and I will continue voting no when I feel it’s the right thing to do, and I will question issues when I see fit.”

Read more:  http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1105905/W-B-council-reorganizes-picks-officers

Enhanced by Zemanta

Maximus To Hire Hundreds In Jenkins Twp.

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

English: Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania higlighting Jenkins Township (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

JENKINS TWP. — A Virginia government contractor is expanding its operations in Northeastern Pennsylvania with a new service center in CenterPoint Trade Park East promising between 500 and 700 new jobs for the area.

Maximus, a company that provides support for health and human services at all levels of government, expects to occupy its new location sometime in January and will be accepting job applications for the next several months.

The company is filling seats to support its Medicare and Medicaid appeal review operations, which first appeared in the region last April at a smaller center in Moosic with about 100 employees. When Medicare and Medicaid determinations are appealed, Maximus provides an independent review service for those disputed claims. The new building represents Moosic’s expansion.

Modifications to a new building in CenterPoint, which is owned by Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services, are likely to be finished by the end of the week. The company plans to set up shop next month, according to Lisa Miles, Maximus’ vice president of investor relations and corporate communications.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/1030582/Maximus-to-hire-hundreds-in-Jenkins-Twp.

Scranton Landlords, Homeowners And Renters Brace For Tax Hikes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

University of Scranton students Bridget McVeigh and Ashley Opalka are apartment hunting with two criteria in mind: proximity to campus and lower prices than the university’s dorms.

The pair were alarmed city landlords are poised to hike rents in response to a proposed 2014 Scranton budget that would raise property taxes 56.7 percent, garbage fees 68.5 percent and rental registration fees from $50 to $150 per structure and $15 to $50 per unit.

Landlord Carol Smurl said she tries “to be compassionate to the tenants because they’re on a fixed income,” but she and her husband cannot afford to absorb that kind of increase.

Normally, Mrs. Smurl waits until tenants move out to raise the rent or tries to delay passing increased costs on for two to three years at her nine properties.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-landlords-homeowners-and-renters-brace-for-tax-hikes-1.1590772

Area Code 570 Businesses Get Ready For 10-Digit Dialing

Pennsylvania in blue with Area Code 570 272 sh...

Pennsylvania in blue with Area Code 570 272 shown in red (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Area businesses are gearing up for a big change that will begin Saturday: 10-digit dialing instead of seven.

For Phil Rudy, owner of Circles on the Square in Wilkes-Barre, the change means 200 numbers need to be reprogrammed in his fax machine. He faxes menus from his deli on Public Square to 200 area businesses. Circles employee Bill Scholl has been reprogramming all the numbers.

Beginning Saturday, everyone in Northeastern Pennsylvania will have to dial 10 digits to make a local call.

“I hate it,” Rudy said. “I don’t understand why we had to go that way. Why do we have to dial 10 numbers for local numbers? I don’t know why you have to dial 10 numbers for your neighbor next door.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/businesses-get-ready-for-10-digit-dialing-1.1554792

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport Applies For Grant To Expand Service

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)

AVOCA, PA — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport has applied for a $575,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to help expand service and market the airport.

The application was filed this week with the FAA’s Small Community Air Service Development Grant program.

The grant would be used toward a nearly $1.2 million initiative that includes enticing airlines to add flights to leisure and business destinations not currently offered out of Northeastern Pennsylvania including Tampa, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington and Las Vegas, said Barry J. Centini, the airport’s director.

Money would be used to help subsidize the airlines, could go toward landing fees and other offers making flying in to and out of the area more attractive, Centini said.  Additional money would be used to amplify marketing efforts for those airlines and existing airlines.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/792704/Avoca-airport-applies-for-grant-to-expand-service