11 New Wilkes-Barre Fire Recruits Added

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — While Shirley Cook sat watching her grandson Jeremy being sworn in as one of the 11 new fire department recruits, she had tucked into her purse a black-and-white photo of her grandfather, who was a city fireman in the 1800s.

The photo showed a couple horse-drawn wagons outside the Northampton Street fire station. Cook, 85, of Scranton, pointed to one of the drivers, Reuben Daley, and said, “This would be his great-great-grandfather.”

Cook retrieved the photo from many she has at home and planned to make a copy for her grandson.

The equipment has since changed and so has the training that Jeremy Cook and the 10 others will undergo to be able to do their jobs of fighting fires, rescuing people from the Susquehanna River, delivering babies or facing whatever situation they’re presented with on the more than 10,000 runs annually.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1298535/11-new-W-B-fire-recruits-added

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Troubled Sherman Hills Apartment Complex To Be Sold

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The same day that the response of the troubled Sherman Hills apartment complex to a federal inspection was released, news comes that the complex is about to be sold.

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, who founded a task force to address problems at the crime-ridden complex after two young girls were shot there last August, met Thursday with eight representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, including Regional Director Jane Vincent, he said in a news release.

HUD officials revealed at the meeting that the property is under contract of sale with a transfer date target of April 1, Cartwright said.

The new owner, New Jersey-based Treetop Development, which has no overlapping ownership with the current owners, also will serve as property manager of the Sherman Hills property, Cartwright said, noting that Treetop has had success working with HUD in the past.

Read more: https://bay176.mail.live.com/default.aspx?n=880162491&fid=1#n=534554189&fid=1

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Wilkes University Buys Bartikowsky Building

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Fresh off a $33 million science center construction project on its campus, Wilkes University announced plans Wednesday for a central location for its school of business.

But it will spend less than one-tenth what it did for its last building project.

The university announced it would spend $3 million to renovate the University Center on Main, at 169 S. Main St., transforming it into the new home of the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership. The recreation center and Gambini’s Cafe will remain in the building. The school of business will use 35,000 square feet of the 82,000-square-foot building.

In addition, Wilkes University has purchased the former Bartikowsky Jewelers building at 141 S. Main St. for $1.2 million from the Bartikowsky family with the goal of renovating the 25,000-square-foot space to accommodate administrative offices and a student services center, which includes the registrar and financial aid offices, human resources and accounting offices.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1236395/Wilkes-University-buys-Bartikowsky-building

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Philly Firm To Develop PNC Building In Downtown Wilkes-Barre

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA —Floors three to 11 are empty.

That’s what is on the board in the lobby of the downtown PNC Bank Building. It lists the only tenant — PNC Bank — which occupies the first and second floor of the 12-story building.

But if plans go forward, those nine floors of the building at Market and Franklin streets will become market-priced condominiums with views of the Susquehanna River and the River Common park. Some office space will also be created, according to the building’s owner.

Ben Oller, of Oller and Associates of Philadelphia, said Monday his real estate investment company owns the building and is partnering with a local developer to renovate the bank building, following the lead of a similar project at the nearby the former Citizens Bank Building, also Market Street. Oller would not disclose the name of the local development company.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1215383/Philly-firm-to-develop-PNC-building

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Ex-Scranton Police Chief To Be Added To Wilkes-Barre Force

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The city police department will bring on experienced police officers next month when new hires are added to the force.

Among the candidates are Mark Hilpp, a former city officer and director of the Public Safety Training Institute at Luzerne County Community College, and former Scranton Police Chief Daniel Duffy, who also is director of the Police Academy at Lackawanna College.

Hilpp was listed at the top of the list of the 50 people on the certified hiring list released Jan. 17 by the city’s police civil service commission. Duffy was third.

Hilpp could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1164031/Ex-Scranton-police-chief-to-be-added-to-W-B-force

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Plans For Sherman Hills Remain Secret

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Park Management Inc.’s detailed plans for the Sherman Hills Apartments will remain secret for a little longer.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company submitted a remediation plan for the troubled complex Dec. 2 after a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspection in September found “possible life-threatening security issues” due to management’s neglect of the 344-unit facility.

The Citizens’ Voice, along with congressional leaders and Wilkes-Barre officials, have filed a Freedom of Information Act request for that plan.

In a letter released Friday, Shirley Bryant, Freedom of Information Act liason for HUD, says the agency is giving Park Management until Jan. 31 to object to the plan’s release based on the department’s FOIA regulations exempting “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/plans-for-sherman-hills-remain-secret-1.1618522

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In Search Of Progress, Downtown Wilkes-Barre Evolves

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA —In South Main Street’s first block, several storefronts are empty on the east side and recent demolitions on the other side have a dress shop waiting to reopen and a jewelry store working to re-establish itself.

Further down, the building that houses a longtime retailer has been sold and the former Bartikowsky’s building is expected to be soon owned by Wilkes University.

Changes have come to South Main Street — the city’s main retail artery — but sustained progress has remained elusive.

Jim Bellezza, owner of Bell Furniture at 95 S. Main St., purchased the building that houses the Outlet Army Navy Store at 113 S. Main St. for $159,000 on Jan. 3. An empty lot separates the two buildings and Bellezza plans to renovate the building and expand his business.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/news/1112993/In-search-of-progress-Downtown-W-B-evolves

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Sherman Hills Moves To Evict 10

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Sherman Hills Realty has filed eviction notices against 10 tenants — including an eyewitness in a homicide case — for non-payment of rent and lease violations.

The notices were filed with District Judge Martin Kane in Wilkes-Barre.

One of the tenants being evicted for failure to pay rent is a witness in the deadly shooting within the troubled apartment complex in November.

Jasmin Frazier allegedly owes $366 in back rent. She testified during a preliminary hearing last month that she saw Kenneth Evans III, 21, brandishing a handgun and reaching into a Jeep Grand Cherokee discharging two rounds that struck Shantique Goodson, 27, on Nov. 11.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1113673/Sherman-Hills-moves-to-evict-10

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Sherman Hills Owner Promises Changes To Troubled Complex

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

The Brooklyn, N.Y., owner of the troubled Sherman Hills Apartments has vowed to create a gated community, hire armed security officers and repair and improve video surveillance, according to the Sherman Hills Task Force.

The disclosure came in a conversation between U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, who initiated the task force, and of Park Management Inc., who said the business is sending Wilkes-Barre City Council a report outlining its plans, Cartwright spokesman Shane Seaver said.

The task force is meeting Monday morning to discuss those and other plans to address the troubled Sherman Hills complex, which has been plagued by crime in recent months.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/sherman-hills-owner-promises-changes-to-troubled-complex-1.1601842

Demolition Of Downtown Wilkes-Barre Buildings Begins

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE — The landscape of the city’s downtown started to change this morning with the demolition of several historic buildings on South Main Street.

Shortly after 10 a.m. crews from Stell Enterprises Inc., of Plains Township, began tearing down the first of four buildings with the hope of saving two other buildings that are home to businesses.

Stell will be paid $194, 861 for the work to raze a cluster of properties , including three owned by the city, at 61, 71, 73 and 75 S. Main St.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/976972/Demolition-of-downtown-buildings-begins

King’s Confirms Ramada Purchase

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — King’s College confirmed Monday that it has agreed to purchase the Ramada hotel property located at 20 Public Square for $2.7 million.

King’s also is seeking $7 million in state funding to purchase and renovate the hotel to accommodate expansion of its physician assistant program.

The college has applied for the funding through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program that is proposed in state Senate Bill 680. The legislation has been approved by the state House and Senate and is now in Gov. Tom Corbett’s office.

If approved, the legislation would provide the project with $7 million in state funding to be matched by the college, making for a $14 million project.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/941057/Kings-confirms-Ramada-purchase

Funds For More Cops, No Tax Hike In Proposed 2014 Wilkes-Barre Budget

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Mayor Tom Leighton proposed a $42.7 million 2014 budget Friday morning without any tax or fee hikes and with funding to hire additional police officers.

“My goal is to hire at least 10 new officers in 2014, but we will closely monitor the strength of city finances to hire as many officers as the general fund can afford,” Leighton said during his budget presentation at city hall.

City employees will receive a 3 percent raise. Leighton’s salary also will increase 3 percent for 2014 to $82,309. He said he has not taken a raise for the last seven years.

Read more:  http://citizensvoice.com/news/funds-for-more-cops-no-tax-hike-in-proposed-2014-w-b-budget-1.1567105

Wilkes-Barre Heralds New Garage, Bus Station Cameras

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Mayor Tom Leighton and city officials gathered at the Intermodal Transportation Center this morning to herald the recent installation of security cameras throughout the complex.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news//877135/WB-heralds-new-garage-bus-station-cameras

Wilkes-Barre Employee Claims Retaliation By City

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, PA — A Wilkes-Barre paramedic said the city “fabricated” a disciplinary hearing against him in retaliation for his suing to expose what he considers insider trading in the sale of city properties and ethics violations.

Tyler Hammond filed a second lawsuit Friday in U.S. Middle District Court, saying the actions of the city and Mayor Tom Leighton are meant to deter him from exercising his constitutional right to access the courts and engage in free speech.

Hammond and his wife Antonia sued the city in 2009, alleging the mayor, who also is a real estate agent, had access to and free use of confidential city information about properties in Wilkes-Barre, including the former Old River Road Bakery.  he city approved — and later terminated — a deal to sell the property to Leo A. Glodzik III, who had the exclusive towing contract with Wilkes-Barre until theft charges were filed against him in May.  The property was sold and Harrold’s Pharmacy is in the process of relocating there.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/814747/W-B-employee-claims-retaliation-by-city

Sherman Hills Under Scrutiny

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE — It’s a familiar story.

A violent crime rocks Sherman Hills. Residents and community leaders ask what can be done to crack down on lawlessness at the privately owned apartment complex off Coal Street.

That is the scenario once again this week, following a Saturday shooting that left two girls, ages 5 and 2, injured.  This time, city officials held talks with complex management.

What safety measures will be taken following the incident, and the talks?  What can be done? What will be done? Those closest to the situation aren’t saying.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/789490/Sherman-Hills-under-scrutiny

Wilkes-Barre In Better Financial Shape Than Last Year

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — More than halfway through the fiscal year the city is in better financial shape compared to the same period in 2012, officials said Friday.

Revenues are up by more than $7 million, largely because of a 25-mill property tax increase and the payment of 2012 wage taxes that had been delayed by problems at CENTAX, the former collection company.  As a result, there are no plans to furlough workers to make up for a revenue shortfall.

“There is no manufactured financial crisis by a collection mishap by a third-party vendor,” said Drew McLaughlin, the city’s municipal affairs manager.  “Revenue projections are holding steady so far, so we are very, very cautiously optimistic in terms of our financial position this year.”

Still, he cautioned things could change should the weather bring on an unpredictable expense caused by flooding from a tropical storm or snow in the winter.  “We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature there and we proceed cautiously,” he said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/759265/Wilkes-Barre-in-better-financial-shape-than-last-year

Meeting Crowd Fumes Over Hiring Brother Of Wilkes-Barre Mayor

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA – The Wilkes-Barre Area School Board grappled with an angry standing-room-only crowd as they dealt with the fallout from hiring the mayor’s brother over a more qualified candidate at a tense meeting Monday.

Ten days earlier, the board voted 5-4 to hire Brian Leighton, brother of Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton, as a truant officer. After that meeting, school board directors Christine Katsock and James Susek, who voted against the hiring, said Leighton was not the candidate recommended by the district interview committee.

Four residents, including an unsuccessful candidate for the job, stood before the board Monday and berated it for the hiring.  Robert Kadluboski, a Wilkes-Barre tow-truck driver and frequent critic of the city government and the school board, called the hiring “a slap in the face of the taxpayer.”

Board President John Quinn, Vice President Louis Elmy, Dino Galella, Phil Latinski and Maryanne Toole voted to hire Leighton at a special meeting Aug. 2.  Lynn Evans and Rev. Shawn Walker joined Katsock and Susek in the failed opposition effort.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/meeting-crowd-fumes-over-leighton-hiring-1.1535302

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Has Heard From Potential Developers About Hotel Sterling Site

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE —Mayor Tom Leighton called it “a historic day” for the city, but also “a sad day” for the community.

As workers from Brdaric Construction Co. began to dismantle the former Hotel Sterling,  Leighton talked about the future and the potential for the historic site located at a gateway to the city’s downtown.

The mayor said he has heard from potential developers, but he declined to go further, saying it was premature to discuss what might happen once the building is down and the site cleared.

State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, called the site “the most valuable real estate in Luzerne County.”  He said he’s confident the city will find a quality developer.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/703044/As-Sterling-falls-Leighton-keeps-future-in-mind

A Legend Will Fall: Wilkes-Barre’s Sterling Hotel End Nears

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kurt Sauer will get a long-awaited birthday present next Thursday: The demolition of the Hotel Sterling.

Since Wilkes-Barre officials decided in January to bring the building down without the help of Luzerne County, the city had to start the process from scratch.  That meant Sauer, the city’s director of community development, had to fill out reams of paperwork – he points to a 4-inch binder chock-full of various documents – as he worked to get approval from various state and federal agencies.

So when Brdaric Excavating finally begins work Thursday, Sauer will be a year older and a step closer to finishing the job.  And the current chapter of the Sterling’s life, one filled with hopes of restoration and disappointing and expensive failures to save the historic building, will near a close.

John Brdaric, owner of Brdaric Excavating, didn’t respond to requests for an interview about the $419,000 demolition.  But Sauer and Butch Frati, Wilkes-Barre’s director of operations, explained how they believe the process will unfold.

Read more:  http://citizensvoice.com/news/a-legend-will-fall-sterling-s-end-nears-1.1523678

Crime Fears Spark Wilkes-Barre Woman To Speak Out

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE — Her parents’ house on Gates Street is next door, yet Darla Carey doesn’t walk there by herself at night.

Car break-ins in her neighborhood, including her husband Dan’s, strangers passing by on the sidewalks and fear that crime has overrun the city have compelled her to take precautions for her safety and that of her family.

“We keep our porch lights on all night,” Carey said.  On those nights when she walks the 20 feet from her front door to her parents’, she said, “Dan walks me over.”

Carey echoes what some other people have been saying about an increase in crime and the city administration’s apparent refusal to acknowledge and deal with it.  In a David-and-Goliath moment last week, the diminutive mother of four grown children and a grandchild scolded Mayor Tom Leighton before a packed city council meeting for appearing not to care about the safety of the residents.

Read more:   http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/689201/Crime-fears-spark-W-B-woman-to-speak-out