National, Pittsburgh Region Companies Rally To Extend Charter Of Export-Import Bank

GE Transportation recently signed a deal to build 100 locomotives in Erie — including engines made in Grove City — and sell them in Angola for $350 million.

GE used financing through the Export-Import Bank, which provides loans, loan guarantees and insurance to U.S. companies selling overseas. The bank, supporters say, helps U.S. companies compete more effectively for foreign business.

“If we hadn’t had that financing, the order would have gone to China,” said Richard Simpson, global head of supply chain for the company, who said Thursday that GE Transportation financed $720 million in sales to three other countries last year.

Such deals are in jeopardy, advocates for the 80-year-old bank say. Its charter expires June 30 and observers say it might not come up for a vote in Congress before then.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/8548411-74/bank-companies-export#ixzz3csBLMqRz
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Lancaster County To Get Over $500K In Drilling Impact Fee

Lancaster County will receive a little over half a million dollars as its 2014 share of the so-called drilling Impact Fee, meant to help municipalities offset impacts associated with natural gas drilling.

The Impact Fee, or Act 13, was signed into effect in 2012 by Governor Tom Corbett.  The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is responsible for collecting a fee from drillers and  then disbursing it to counties across the state to facilitate improvement programs and various repairs or infrastructure upgrades.

Lancaster county’s 2014 share is $507,694.29  from the state’s total of $223.5 million. The amount is marginally higher than what the county received in 2013. State-wide collection was marginally less than what it got in 2013.

Read more:

http://lancasteronline.com/news/lancaster-county-to-get-over-k-in-drilling-impact-fee/article_58ab90e4-1085-11e5-829b-53ec2990bfa9.html

As Scranton Parking Garage Costs Soar, Demolition An Option

Maintaining Scranton’s five parking garages would cost $26 million over 40 years, while demolishing one or two of the older structures that need significant repairs could drop that figure substantially, according to a new analysis.

A June 3 report by Chicago-based consultant Desman Design Management titled “Parking System Due Diligence Market and Revenue Analysis” is the latest step in Mayor Bill Courtright’s plan to unload the Scranton Parking Authority’s five parking garages — Medallion, Casey, Connell, Electric City and Linden.

The aim is to “monetize” through privatization, either leasing or selling, the authority’s underused, high-debt parking garages that have 2,659 spaces, as well as the 1,479 city-owned parking meters. The goal is to reduce the amount of SPA debt the city guarantees and covers in annual bailouts.

The authority retained Desman to assemble various elements of the parking system for evaluation by potential bidders on a lease or sale.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/as-scranton-parking-garage-costs-soar-demolition-an-option-1.1896326

Wilkes-Barre To Become Owner Of Hotel Sterling Site Today

Wilkes-Barre will become owner of the long-troubled Hotel Sterling site today, which is expected to provide the stability needed to attract a significant project at the landmark site.

CityVest, the nonprofit group that unsuccessfully tried to redevelop the hotel that once stood there, also has formally dissolved, its attorney said.

The Sterling’s unresolved ownership ended up before Luzerne County Senior Judge Joseph Augello this morning because CityVest filed a brief asking the court to oversee disbursement of its assets.

CityVest had obtained state approval to dissolve because it is out of funds and not pursuing more projects, said CityVest attorney George A. Reihner.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/154010217/

Schools Ignore Grand Jury’s Warning To Let Police Investigate Sex Cases

A grand jury in Harrisburg declared 17 months ago that school administrators are singularly unqualified to investigate alleged sexual abuse, but the practice continues.

“School district administrators lack training needed to conduct a meaningful investigation into whether or not physical or sexual abuse has occurred,” according to a Dauphin County grand jury’s investigation of Susquehanna Township School District in January 2014.

The grand jury said administrators lack access to investigative resources such as search warrants, court orders, wiretaps or subpoenas and lack training in the questioning of victims, witnesses and suspects.

“Very often, a preliminary investigation will tip off a suspect and foreclose the availability of the investigative resources described above even once the police become involved,” the panel concluded.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/8531007-74/police-district-jury#ixzz3cfnzxrM0
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Leighton Asks Wilkes-Barre City Council To Approve Hiring Of Four Full-Time Police Officers

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Fifteen officers have been added to the Wilkes-Barre Police Department since Mayor Tom Leighton took office in 2004.

At Tuesday’s work session, Leighton asked Wilkes-Barre City Council to consider four more.

Leighton requested authorization to apply for a grant through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program to hire four full-time officers. If the resolution and grant request are approved, the hires would bump the number of officers in the city’s ranks from 83 to 87.

The Wilkes-Barre Police Department had 68 officers when Leighton was elected in 2004.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/153983229/Leighton-asks-council-for-4-more-cops

Marcellus Shale Fees Total $627,795 For Lehigh, Northampton Counties In 2014

Northampton and Lehigh counties stand to receive a combined $627,795 in 2014 impact fees from natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale geological formation.

State Rep. Justin Simmons announced the checks will be distributed by July 1 from fees imposed last calendar year on drilling companies under Pennsylvania’s Act 13.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission distributes the Marcellus Legacy Fund money from 40 percent of collected impact fees, said Simmons, a Republican whose 131st District covers parts of Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Read more:  http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news/index.ssf/2015/06/marcellus_shale_fees_total_627.html

Property Concerns Brought To Pottstown Borough Council

Pottstown >> Residents in the borough are turning to Pottstown Borough Council for help in addressing some of their concerns about real estate.

Tuesday night’s meeting featured six different residents who each spoke about different concerns ranging from problems on Upland Street, to a new borough ordinance that they fear could penalize homeowners in default on their mortgage.

“We the homeowners of Upland Street are coming here to borough council to express the concerns and pleas for assistance about investor purchases, rentals and subsidized housing here in Pottstown,” said one resident.

Upland Street residents, she said, are seeing a takeover of their street by Spring Hill Realty, which has been buying up properties across Pottstown and beyond.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20150610/property-concerns-brought-to-pottstown-borough-council

Wilkes-Barre Area Proposal: New High School At Coughlin Site, Expand Kistler Elementary, End Use Of Meyers

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The final option proposed for Wilkes-Barre Area School District’s aging three high school system: Build a new school for grades 9-12 where Coughlin now stands, add grades seven and eight to Kistler elementary, and end the use of the venerable Meyers and Coughlin schools. GAR would remain for grades seven through 12.

Board Vice President Joe Caffrey, who also chaired the committee that reviewed the options, announced the proposal to standing-room only crowd in the district administration building’s small conference room, the front row of seats filled with architects, engineers, bankers and other professionals who have provided advice on the decision.

A feasibility study initially looked at five sites for new construction, the complete renovation of Coughlin and Meyers, or building new schools on those existing sites.

As he has increasingly done, Caffrey rejected characterizations that the decision process has been rushed. The board has been told by officials at the state department of education that it must submit initial paperwork for possible construction cost reimbursements by July 1, but Caffrey insisted it was his plan all along to bring a recommendation to the board around this time. The state deadline merely pushed the process ahead by a few weeks.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news-news/153956940/

Lancaster City Alliance Economic Development Plan Looks At Whole City

The Lancaster City Alliance wants to see $1 billion in private investment in the city over the next 15 years.

It’s one of the many goals — both specific and broad — of the economic development strategic plan the alliance put together to foster the city’s growth over the next 10-15 years.

The plan will be released to the public Thursday evening at the Ware Center.

Bob Shoemaker, Alliance president, and Marshall Snively, its executive vice president, talked with LNP’s editorial board about the year-long process on Thursday.

Read more:

http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-city-alliance-economic-development-plan-looks-at-whole-city/article_6698547a-0bc7-11e5-b611-8b51c7e97c34.html

Comparing Towns: Norristown Police Tactics Focus On Community

Editor’s note:  The difference is that when Norristown searches for new employees, they actually hire the best qualified people instead of just moving people up and perpetuating the same bad policies like Pottstown (under the guise that Pottstown is so complicated nobody could come in and “figure it out” in less than a couple years).  Sorry, new ideas are needed.  Congrats to Norristown for being proactive and embracing change. Apparently, it’s working!

Pottstown and Norristown are the two largest urban areas in Montgomery County and share many of the same challenges, particularly when it comes to crime.

In the wake of the wave of violence in Pottstown which culminated in last month’s arrests of more than 30 people involved in an apparent gang war, a community meeting about crime was held recently in Norristown that focused on what police and authorities are doing now, and how citizens can help.

Norristown Police Chief Mark Talbot Sr. has been asking that question since he took over leadership of that department two years ago, and he’s starting to see answers get results.

In the last two years, major crimes in Norristown have dropped by 20 percent.

Read more:

http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20150608/comparing-towns-norristown-police-tactics-focus-on-community

Plum Seniors Move On After Tumultuous Year

Rain clouds and an ongoing criminal investigation could not dampen the spirits of 309 seniors who graduated from Plum High School on Friday night.

“It’s over,” senior class president Michael Bell said to a gymnasium audience brimming with nervous excitement. “We did it.”

The ceremony marked the end of a school year in which three teachers were charged criminally, two with sex crimes involving students, and other staff members were stuck under the cloud of a grand jury investigation into whether they knew about inappropriate relationships and did nothing.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/8480032-74/plum-students-district#ixzz3cIB2i3Vz
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Pottstown Goes All Out For Half Way Idea

Editor’s note:  Nice positive coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Summer racing in the Philadelphia area is usually limited to two things: 5ks or races that take place near the beach, or both. The Pottstown Half Marathon is bucking that trend with its first year race to be held on July 11.

Chris Bayless, who is the head of the Sly Fox Track Club (which is not affiliated with the brewery of the same name in the same town but often co-hosts events with track club), started thinking about putting on a half marathon because people asked him to.

“July is about half way between the spring marathon season and the fall marathon season,” he said. “That’s half way in their training for fall.” Most runners test their fitness in half marathons mid-way through training, but when Bayless looked at local race calendars, he saw a half-marathon-sized gap.

So he went to Pottstown’s city council to talk about adding one to the local race calendar. Bayless, who started directing races after he retired as head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams at Ursinus College, already puts on 45 a year through the Sly Fox Track Club.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/on-the-run/Pottstown-goes-all-out-for-half-way-idea.html#pRQM5mqK92CYtqfq.99

Officials Hopeful Of Finally Obtaining Funding For Lower Mon Locks, Dams Project

Area congressmen are optimistic that federal funds will be available soon for a full year’s work of upgrading locks and dams on the lower Monongahela River.

John Rizzo, spokesman for Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Scranton, said Wednesday a bill with $52 million for the Lower Mon Project was released May 21 by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Matt Dinkel, spokesman for Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said that $52 million is included in House of Representatives Bill 2028, an appropriations measure passed May 1.

Part of a $1.7 billion project, the $52 million is to be used in fiscal 2015-16 at the Charleroi No. 4 Locks and Dam by the Army Corps of Engineers.

That’s part of a project to upgrade Charleroi No. 4 and Braddock No. 2 locks and dams and eliminate Elizabeth No. 3 Locks and Dam.

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmckeesport/yourmckeesportmore/8493916-74/project-locks-million#ixzz3c7L0qfjF
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Gov. Tom Wolf Powers Up Conveyors At Opening Of New Urban Outfitters Fulfillment In Gap

If Gov. Tom Wolf wanted to see his campaign promises in action, he came to the right place Thursday morning, said Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne.

Jobs that pay? “You’re looking at them,” Hayne said at the grand opening for Urban Outfitters’ massive 1 million square foot e-commerce fulfillment center in Salisbury Township just outside Gap on Route 30.

The site will ramp up from the existing staffing of 150 people to 500 as the year progresses, and could reach 1,000 to 1,500. Standard starting pay is $11.50 per hour, director of fulfillment Carl Carbonell said.

It also exemplifies “schools that teach” and “government that works,” Wolf’s other two priorities, Hayne said.

Read more:

http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/watch-gov-tom-wolf-powers-up-conveyors-at-opening-of/article_a09c1d32-0ad2-11e5-b006-43c0ef88a8ae.html

Philadelphia Art Commission Grants Final Approval To Reading Viaduct Spur

The Reading Viaduct Spur took another step toward reality Wednesday morning when the Philadelphia Art Commission gave the project the blessing of final approval.

The Spur is a quarter-mile arm of the viaduct that stretches between Broad Street and Callowhill Street.

Wednesday’s presentation described in detail how Phase 1 would incorporate plant material and path surface materials (think chip seal paving) into the project. It also addressed how structural elements (think bridges) would be rehabilitated; how recreational features (benches, swings, lighting) would be strategically placed on the site; how toxins (mostly railroad ballast, very little PCB presence) would be remediated; and how the entire spur would be maintained.

The Center City District is still raising money to complete the planned improvements on the first phase of the project. The group has raised about 65 percent of the $9 million it needs for the “SEPTA spur” and is pursuing a $3.5 million grant from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), according to John Struble, of Friends of the Rail Park. After the improvements are completed, the city would take over ownership of the park.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Art_Commission_grants_final_approval_to_Reading_Viaduct_Spur.html#RO5DAiaup6Gp7OgT.99

Mall At Steamtown Auction Postponed To Allow Bidders More Time

An auction for the foreclosed and still struggling Mall at Steamtown was postponed three weeks to give potential bidders more time to prepare bids, an agent involved in the upcoming online auction said.

The failure of retired department store chain owner Al Boscov’s past partnership to pay off the loan that led to the foreclosure does not disqualify him from bidding or being part of a bid, said Lynn DeMarco, contact agent for the Shopping Center Group LLC of New York City, which is facilitating the auction along with auction.com.

“This is an open auction, so anybody can bid,” Ms. DeMarco said Tuesday.

The auction, originally scheduled for Monday through today, was postponed to June 22 to 24. Bidding requires proof that bidders are viable and can come up with the money to fulfill their bids. Bidders will submit bids through the auction.com website in a fashion similar to an eBay auction. Bidders can see the highest bid as the auction unfolds. When the deadline for bids passes, the high bidder gets the mall, assuming the bidder has the money, Ms. DeMarco said.

Read more:

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/mall-at-steamtown-auction-postponed-to-allow-bidders-more-time-1.1892390

On Ridge Avenue Progress Would Go By The Initials PHA

Editor’s note:  This could be a game changer if it can be pulled off.  Hoping it is a success.

From Bruce Webb’s chair, pulled to the entryway of his record and cassette store on Ridge Avenue, the decay is inescapable. Across the street, a faded sign for Irv’s Meat Market & Delicatessen boasts, “Home of the Giant Hoagie.” Next door, Ahn’s Fresh Fish & Produce is for sale.

Both stores are vacant, and have been for years.

One recent day, Webb saw two younger men photographing the crumbled Irv’s storefront. Speculators, Webb dubbed them.

“It’s just a matter of time,” Webb, 81, said. “Change is coming.”

The source of that proposed change to a once-vibrant business corridor that stretched from Girard College to Cecil B. Moore Avenue is an unlikely one: the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150603_On_Ridge_Avenue_progress_would_go_by_the_initials_PHA.html#GVbsus8XvyomgfYd.99

Upper Merion Area School Board Hires New Superintendent, Passes Budget

UPPER MERION TOWNSHIP, PA – Starting next school year the Upper Merion Area School District will not only be operating under new leadership, but also under a $89,641,840 million budget with a 3.27 percent tax increase following Monday night’s board meeting.

The board voted 8 to 1 to hire John Toleno, the current superintendent of Stroudsburg Area School District in Pennsylvania, beginning a three-year contract as the district’s new superintendent that starts July 20, 2015 and ends August 31, 2018.

Board member David Karen voted against hiring Toleno, saying he did not think that Toleno displayed the vision that he hoped to detect in the right candidate for the position.

“Personally during the interview process I was not able to detect in Dr. Toleno the overall educational and administrative vision that would take this district to its aspiration of continual improvement and inspiring excellence in every students every day,” Karen said, noting he was in the minority in his opinion, but that it was too important an issue to go along with the majority.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20150601/upper-merion-area-school-board-hires-new-superintendent-passes-budget

Arena, Boscov’s Among Suitors For State Redevelopment Funds

More than 300 groups from across the state are lining up to get a piece of the $125 million available for Pennsylvania redevelopment projects.

Those requesting funding include the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority, which wants to upgrade Mohegan Sun Arena.

The competition is stiff in this recently streamlined state program — called the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program — with funding requests totaling 10 times the available grant money.

Gov. Tom Wolf will decide which projects receive grants in the fall.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/arena-boscov-s-among-suitors-for-state-redevelopment-funds-1.1890479