Scranton OKs Surveillance Camera Network

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Scranton City Council on Thursday unanimously approved having the city create a community video-camera surveillance network at police headquarters.

Council voted 5-0, with President Bob McGoff and Councilmen Joe Wechsler, Pat Rogan, Jack Loscombe and Bill Gaughan all in favor, to adopt a resolution to apply for and execute a $146,390 grant for a “community surveillance network system” at the police station on South Washington Avenue.

Council also unanimously advanced on second reading an ordinance to create an account to process the grant.

The surveillance network would allow private surveillance cameras in the city, such as those at banks, businesses or colleges, to link to the police station. There, a wall of 32 video monitors will show live feeds from privately owned and operated surveillance cameras that already exist in public areas.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-oks-camera-network-1.1695262

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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

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In Downtown Scranton Residential Boom, No Sign Of Slowing

Picture 062Four years ago, there was no residential life along the unit block of Franklin Avenue. By the end of this year, more than 55 apartments could be located along Franklin, between Lackawanna Avenue and Spruce Street.

“It’s about quality of living,” former Mayor Chris Doherty said earlier this month before he left office. “I said from the beginning, fail or success, we will go after downtown living.”

Scranton building contractor and redeveloper Art Russo bought into Mr. Doherty’s concept and his latest downtown project is one of his largest.

He is constructing 21 apartments on the three upper floors at the Bittenbender Building, a four-story, 48,000-square-foot structure at 126-132 Franklin. A sports bar, seafood restaurant and speakeasy-themed jazz club will occupy the 9,000-square-foot first floor.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/in-downtown-scranton-residential-boom-no-sign-of-slowing-1.1615299

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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

Scranton School Board Wants Metal Detectors After Ross Township Shooting

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

The next time the Scranton School Board meets, members of the public will have to pass through a metal detector.

Just 18 hours after three people were killed at the Ross Township municipal meeting when a gunman opened fire, members of the Scranton School Board on Tuesday authorized the superintendent to have a walk-through metal detector placed at the entrance to the Administration Building.

“I think it’s a wake-up call,” Director Bob Sheridan, a retired police officer, said.  “Any municipal building should have metal detectors at all times.”

Directors were conducting their monthly meeting Monday night when Sheridan received a news alert on his cellphone, alerting him of the shooting.  Sheridan then called for a moment of silence.

Read more: http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130808/NEWS90/308080312

Scranton School Board Passes Budget With No Tax Increase

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Scranton residents will see one tax bill stay the same for 2013.

The Scranton School Board on Thursday night unanimously approved a $120.4 million budget that calls for no tax increase.

With a city tax increase of about 25 percent and a 4 percent increase in Lackawanna County taxes, Scranton school directors said they wanted to give residents a break.

Directors had been looking at a tax increase of 1.35 percent, but with interest rates for tax anticipation notes coming in lower than expected, finding additional health care savings and using $1.18 million in capital improvement money to pay down debt, officials balanced the budget.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-school-board-passes-budget-with-no-tax-increase-1.1422154

Geisinger CMC High Bidder For Audubon Elementary School

Scranton, PA – On the site where students attended school for a century, patients could soon see doctors.

With a bid of $750,000, Geisinger Community Medical Center agreed to purchase John Audubon Elementary School – its neighbor across the 1800 block of Mulberry Street – at the Scranton School District‘s auction Thursday. Geisinger will most likely demolish the building, though it has no specific plans, said Robert Davies, the health system’s chief support services officer.

After moving students out in 2010 because of mold, the district permanently shuttered the school earlier this year because it was too expensive to reopen.

GCMC may first demolish the school and use the property as a staging area for the hospital’s upcoming expansion project.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/geisinger-cmc-high-bidder-for-audubon-1.1409968

Scranton School District Faces $2.8 Million Deficit

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

The Scranton School Board approved a preliminary budget Monday that leaves the district with an anticipated $2.8 million deficit for 2013.

The board voted unanimously to approve the $121,198,093 budget, but said the district was still awaiting word from Berkheimer Tax Administrator Inc. regarding funding due from Centax Group and confirmation regarding special education funding.

Kathleen McGuigan, chairwoman of the budget and finance committee, said it is unknown how much money the district will get back from Centax or when the money will come, and she wants to rely only on “solid numbers” and definite funding while considering the 2013 budget.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-school-district-faces-2-8-million-deficit-1.1408838

Scranton School Board Votes Raise Transparency Issues

Editor’s note:  Did Mr. Hylton move to Scranton?

Members of the Scranton School Board deciding via telephone to remove the tentative budget from the public agenda “raises significant issues” with transparency, a legal expert said Thursday.

Other action taken by the board Tuesday, including voting for more than $130,000 in project change orders after work was done, and the approval of work by the district engineer after it was completed, also should concern the public, said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.

The board was expected to approve the 2013 tentative budget on Tuesday, but as Kathleen McGuigan, chairwoman of the budget and finance committee, started to read the motion, board President Bob Lesh stopped her. Mr. Lesh said he called directors and a majority agreed to remove the budget from the agenda. The tentative budget must be posted for 30 days of public review, and the final budget must be passed by the end of the year.

While the phone calls by Mr. Lesh may not be a violation of the Sunshine Act – the state’s open meetings law – it “raises significant issues,” Ms. Melewsky said.

Read more:

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-school-board-votes-raise-transparency-issues-1.1404219

Scranton Teacher Will Strike Monday If Negotions Fail Today

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Image via Wikipedia

Editor’s note:  The Scranton School District serves over 9,000 students!

Negotiations will continue this morning between the Scranton teachers union and the school district, but a strike is still scheduled for Monday.

After a full day of negotiations on Friday, the union president said she was “disappointed” by the lack of movement from the district.

“They thought they made progress,” Rosemary Boland, president of the Scranton Federation of Teachers, said. “We didn’t feel that way.”

The union made a “huge concession” for the first year of the contract, and for the second and third years, gave district negotiators an option “we thought they could deal with,” Ms. Boland said.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-teachers-strike-still-on-for-monday-negotiations-to-continue-saturday-1.1276677#ixzz1nPk52Jwc

Scranton: Northeast Pennsylvania’s Economic Growth Engine (Part Two)

(Continued from yesterday’s Part I below)

I asked Mayor Doherty if the population decline in Scranton was a concern and was he focused on trying to reverse it.  The mayor said the population is growing and becoming more diverse.  There are now two dozen languages being spoken in the Scranton School District and over 70 ESL teachers.  When the mayor took office ten years ago there was one ESL teacher in the school district.  I recently read that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area is the least diverse of any metropolitan area in the United States over 500,000 people.  It would seem this may be changing.

We talked about the significance of what having a medical college and possibly a law school would mean for Scranton.  Bringing in and retaining college educated people will help stop the “brain drain” and grow a population with more disposable income.  This in turn fosters economic development and reduces crime.  Medical schools and law schools bring a certain amount of prestige to any city lucky enough to have one.  Perception is a hard thing to change.  These types of accomplishments will tangibly demonstrate that Scranton is not a rust-belt, blue-collar, post-industrial casualty.  Instead, Scranton has pulled itself up by its bootstraps and seeks to reclaim her proud heritage and rightful place as an economic powerhouse in Pennsylvania.

With a new governor in Pennsylvania things will most likely change.  Ed Rendell was a friend to Scranton and poured $140 million into the city for economic development.  Governor Corbett is still an unknown, only just taking office.  Many who received funding from Rendell are worried that money might be harder to come by under Corbett.  The good news from Scranton is private sector funding for economic development has reached a level that will sustain Scranton in the event that money from Harrisburg dries up.

One of Mayor Doherty’s mottos is “invest in yourself”.  Two examples of this are the restoration of the municipal building lobby and fixing the broken “Scranton The Electric City” sign that is perched atop on of the city’s taller buildings (pictured above).  The mayor feels strongly about the message neglect, disrepair, messy, dirty and cluttered can send to residents and visitors.  The first-floor lobby area in the historic Municipal Building was cluttered with soda/snack machines and was in need of a major spruce up.  The mayor did just that.  (While I was waiting outside the mayor’s office, I took a picture of the lobby because it was so impressive – see Part I photos).   The “Scranton The Electric City” sign had been broken for decades.  Now the sign lights up every night and makes a positive statement about the Scranton of the present, while honoring the city’s past accomplishments.

Having frequent events is an important tool Scranton uses to promote itself, attract tourists and prospective residents.  Scranton has a huge list of events like First Night, St. Patrick’s Day Festival (3rd largest in the U.S. and draws 150,000 people), La Festa Italiana (draws another 150,000 people), Komen for the Cure (10,000 people), Steamtown Marathon (2,500 people), Scranton Jazz Festival and the Pages and Places Book Festival.  These events are helping to make Scranton a “destination”.

My last question to Mayor Doherty was “What has been your greatest challenge?”  His answer was “changing the way people think”.  People need to believe that things are possible instead of falling into the “it can’t be done here”, “it will never work”, “we can’t afford it”, “we never did it that way before” and the litany of excuses to maintain the status quo.  The status quo is why Scranton hit bottom and had 22 empty building in its downtown. 

Mayor Doherty has a vision for Scranton and is undeterred by criticism and negativity.  Nor is he content to rest on his laurels.  He always has future projects on the back burner and showed me some of them while we walked.  The mayor is taking the revitalization of Scranton one project, one building at a time. 

I will share one last thing Mayor Doherty said to me, which is important to always remember.  These things take time.  It took seven years to get to the Connell Building project completed.  Construction took less than one year.  All the planning, committees, red tape etc… took six years.  Rome was not built in a day and neither will Scranton (or any other city) be magically revitalized.  The mayor has accomplished all these things over ten years.  It takes a dedicated team of people to make all this happen.  It also takes someone like Chris Doherty to lead the team with a positive, can-do attitude, a never give up mentality and most of all a healthy dose of patience.

The Electric City has a bright future and is poised to again become one of Pennsylvania’s most vibrant and important cities.