City Of Wilkes-Barre Partners With Florida-Based Management Company To Enforce Registry Of Blighted Properties

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City officials on Monday announced an agreement with a Florida-based management company to maintain a database of the city’s ballooning number of blighted properties. The database will also allow residents to submit locations of abandoned properties on the city’s website.

The partnership comes at no cost to taxpayers, said Andrew LaFratte, municipal affairs manager.

LaFratte said Community Champions, formed in 2008, will receive half of every $200 registration fee the city gets when a vacant property is registered. An ordinance enacted in 2010 initially proposed an incremental charge for vacant properties, ranging from $150 the first year to more than $5,000 for a property vacant more than 10 years.

Community Champions will be charged with establishing the database and populating it with parcel data. Once the tool is live, LaFratte said, city officials will be trained on it. LaFratte said the entire process will likely be completed within a month.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/153022937/Blight-registry-in-new-hands

Pennsylvania Pension Funds Could Run Dry In As Little As 10 Years

Without higher contributions from workers and taxpayers, Pennsylvania’s public sector pension plans may not be able to pay for their promises.

And if investment returns fail to live up to expectations, the two pension funds could run dry before the end of the next decade.

Those are the startling conclusions drawn by a pair of researchers at the Mercatus Center, an economic think tank based at George Mason University, which examined Pennsylvania’s Public School Employees Retirement System and the State Employees Retirement System.

The center says PSERS has a 31 percent chance of making it to 2030 with sufficient funding to pay for all the retirement benefits promised to current and former workers, while SERS has only a 16 percent chance of making it that long.

Read more:

http://www.dailylocal.com/general-news/20150419/pennsylvania-pension-funds-could-run-dry-in-as-little-as-10-years

Air Pollution From Natural Gas Production In Pennsylvania Up Significantly In 2013

Air pollution from natural gas sites in Pennsylvania increased significantly in 2013, the state Department of Environmental Protection says.

Emissions from sulfur dioxide, a precursor of acid rain, was up 57 percent from 2012, DEP said. Volatile organic compounds increased 19 percent. Methane gas, a greenhouse gas, was up 13 percent. Particulate matter (also called soot) was up 12 percent and nitrogen oxides, which form soot, increased 8 percent.

The increased emissions were not unexpected as natural gas production and related processing operations were up in the state as compared to 2012, said John Quigley, DEP secretary.

Read more:

http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/air-pollution-from-natural-gas-production-in-pennsylvania-up-significantly/article_d368fe3a-e776-11e4-921a-7f24d012610e.html

Hazleton Alliance Predicts Revitalized Downtown With Strategic Plan Completion

HAZLETON, PA — If the strategic plan for the continued revitalization of downtown Hazleton becomes a reality, the planner believe Broad Street will again be filled with shoppers, students, employees and neighbors, bringing fresh blood, an improved streetscape and a much needed increase in economic activity.

The five-year plan, which outlines specific strategies for achieving goals, was finalized last week after nearly a year of meetings, surveys and pubic input.

Krista Schneider, executive director of the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, the non-profit organization which commissioned and coordinated the effort, credits its Board of Directors, area leaders and Hazleton residents for their support of the project and willingness to “think outside of the box” when it comes to the city’s future.

Schneider said the effort reflects goals directed by Pennsylvania’s Main Street Program, a four-pronged approach that includes organization, promotion, restructuring and design.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/153007106/

Bethlehem’s CRIZ Not Living Up To ‘Shovel-Ready’ Billing; Officials Explain Why

Bethlehem received a coveted City Revitalization and Improvement Zone because its application for the state economic development tool was chock-full of shovel-ready projects.

The incentive was expected to allow for plans for a Bass Pro Shops, convention center and second hotel at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem to be approved by the middle of last year. Plans for the long-stalled redevelopment of Martin Tower also were supposed to be completed by mid-2014.

But now 16 months after Bethlehem’z CRIZ designation was awarded, most of the projects the incentive was supposed to springboard are still stalled.

Officials say anticipated redevelopment has been slowed by having to start a new city authority, getting answers from the state and by the fact that the CRIZ economic development benefits pale compared to Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

Read more:

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2015/04/bethlehems_criz_so_far_not_liv.html

Transportation Challenges Rife As Pittsburgh Focuses On Making Fixes

Lori Minetti often feels stranded in her Carrick home.

The closest bus stop used to be across the street. Now it’s almost a mile away, because Port Authority of Allegheny County eliminated the 50 Spencer route four years ago.

She walks one of the farthest distances a city resident must go to catch a bus. It seems even farther to Minetti, who has an arthritic back.

“It’s kind of cloistered me,” said Minetti, 48, a former temp for Downtown companies who no longer works. Her husband uses the couple’s only car for his job as a maintenance worker in Munhall.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/7724350-74/million-transportation-pittsburgh#ixzz3Xo8paJ9t
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Gov. Tom Wolf Preaches ‘Gospel Of Manufacturing’ During Lehigh Valley Visit (Video)

Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday that students educated at Lehigh Career & Technical Institute and Lehigh Carbon Community College will power Pennsylvania’s economic engine.

“If we’re going to have a future in manufacturing in Pennsylvania, what you learn here is really, really important,” Wolf told students after touring LCCC and LCTI, which sit on neighboring campuses in North Whitehall Township.

“I’m preaching the gospel of manufacturing,” he said.  “Manufacturing is making a comeback…Part of the reason manufacturing has a great future in Pennsylvania is because we have really good workers.”

Read more/watch video:

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/lehigh-county/index.ssf/2015/04/gov_tom_wolf_preaches_gospel_o.html

Wilkes-Barre Residents Voice Concerns About Plan To Convert Sacred Heart Into 31-Unit Apartment Building

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A proposal to convert the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and School into high-end apartments drew the ire of several North End residents at Wednesday’s Zoning Hearing Board meeting.

Philadelphia developer Hysni Syla, a current Kingston resident, said he “came here to invest” in potential development sites like the shuttered school and church at 601 N. Main St. The former closed in 2011 as shrinking membership and a drop in priests forced the Diocese of Scranton to close the doors of the century-old church.

The proposal would convert the school into 31 units, while renovating the church into an art studio and rectory into four additional apartment units.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/152948142/

Giant Supermarkets To Boost Minimum Pay To $9 Per Hour

Giant Food Stores will boost its minimum pay to $9 per hour, effective June 7, the company said Tuesday.

The change applies to 197 non-union supermarkets run by Carlisle-based Giant and its Martin’s division.

Data from a website that tracks wages shows the decision will be worth as much as $1.67 per hour extra for the company’s workforce.

“Our associates are the foundation of our success and we have always believed in paying competitive wages to attract the best talent,” said Giant President Tom Lenkevich in a prepared statement.

Read more:

http://lancasteronline.com/business/local_business/giant-supermarkets-to-boost-minimum-pay-to-per-hour/article_9581413c-e360-11e4-8edd-bfd0cd3f9d3d.html

Harrisburg City Council Passes Resolution Calling For Safety Of Oil Trains

Lancaster County officials aren’t the only ones expressing concern over oil trains passing through communities along the Susquehanna River.

Harrisburg City Council Tuesday night passed a resolution that urges Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve the designs of rail cars that carry explosive crude oil across the country and through populated areas.

The resolution also urged rail companies to replace their fleet of oil tank cars with improved models. And the measure asked the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to help local emergency responders better prepare for the possibility of an oil-train accident.

Read more:

http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/harrisburg-city-council-passes-resolution-calling-for-safety-of-oil/article_9b630868-e376-11e4-b6a8-3f5ea18bf998.html

PREIT Reveals The Gallery’s New Look

Everything about the decrepit Gallery at Market East may be about to change.

Under an intended top-to-bottom renovation, one of Center City’s most notorious dead spots would be reborn as a gleaming glass-and-steel emporium – brimming with brand-name discount fashion shops, destination restaurants, and lively sidewalk cafés.

Even the name would be new. Welcome, shoppers, to the Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia.

Details of the plan were provided exclusively to The Inquirer in advance of a series of meetings by government agencies whose support is vital to the project. The news marks a grand unveiling of plans for the Gallery following years of uncertainty and speculation.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150415_PREIT_reveals_the_Gallery_s_new_look.html#ZjuIZxyXWmB7TTV1.99

Montco Invites Public To Come Hear About The Exciting Future Of Transit In Montgomery County

Norristown, PA – Montgomery County, in partnership with SEPTA, Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association, The Partnership TMA, and TransNet, is presenting “Your Transit Dollars at Work” on Thursday, April 16, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the meeting room at the Whitemarsh Township building, 616 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill.

The event will focus on the exciting future of transit in Montgomery County. Representatives from the Montgomery County Planning Commission, SEPTA, and local transportation management associations will be on hand to present information, answer questions, and listen to comments.

Participants will have an opportunity to learn about SEPTA’s draft capital plan with station improvements and system upgrades, current commuting alternatives, and Montco’s plan for the future as highlighted in Montco 2040: A Shared Vision, Montgomery County’s nationally awarded new comprehensive plan.

The public is invited to participate and see the impressive vision plan for transit in Montgomery County and to discover what new transit funding is doing for county citizens. Additional information and online registration are available at http://www.montcopa.org/PlanningTransit. Montgomery County’s new comprehensive plan is available at http://www.montcopa.org/Montco2040. Please contact Crystal Gilchrist at 610-278-3734 or via email at cgilchri@montcopa.org with any questions.

Wilkinsburg Tour To Highlight Blight In Hopes Of Spurring Redevelopment

It’s a home tour visitors don’t typically take: overgrown gardens leading to homes with boarded-up windows, peeling paint and broken stairs.

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and a group of Carnegie Mellon University students hope to highlight hidden beauty in the borough and reframe how people see vacant properties. The students conceived the idea for a Vacant Home Tour on May 9 as a way to address blight.

They’ll walk people through the history of five vacant properties in Wilkinsburg that could be prime candidates for restoration.

At each house, volunteer docents from the neighborhood, who researched the homes’ histories and owners, will present old photos or documents to show the houses in their heydays, said Marlee Gallagher, communications and outreach coordinator for the CDC.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/8083071-74/wilkinsburg-tour-properties#ixzz3XCZ490tS
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Plan Calls For 175 Luxury Apartments In Downtown Kennett Square

KENNETT SQUARE, PA – Borough officials are considering a plan that would bring 175 luxury apartments and a pub restaurant to the western section of town.

Called The Lofts, it will be located very close to Victory Brewing Co. on Cypress Street that will open sometime this month. Specifically it will be bordered by State Street to the north, Washington Street to the east, South Mill to the west, and Bernard Alley to the south.

Developer, StanAb Real Estate Development Co. of West Chester, purchased the entire 600 block of State Street recently, which had been the site of Kennett Motors and Kennett Transmissions.

“Except for Magnolia Place, there are few other choices (for rental housing),” said Tony Stancato, an executive with StanAb. “The lure of Kennett Square is that is has walkable amenities, and there are many businesses wanting to come to Kennett. Demand for rental has been increasing with those ages 20 to 34 holding off buying decisions for many reasons. Kennett Square is an underserved marking for rental housing.”

Read more:

http://www.dailylocal.com/general-news/20150412/plan-calls-for-175-luxury-apartments-in-downtown-kennett-square

Hillary Clinton To Run For President

Hillary Clinton is running for president for the second time, a top adviser announced via email to supporters Sunday, ending two years of speculation and flirtations with a campaign that had seemed preordained.

The announcement came about 3 p.m. in an email from campaign chairman John Podesta to donors and other supporters of the former first lady.

“I wanted to make sure you heard it first from me – it’s official: Hillary’s running for president,” the email reads. It also says that Clinton will visit Iowa and other states with early nominating contests soon, and will host a formal kickoff event next month.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Hillary_Clinton_to_run_for_President.html#eV3CfYuR4qkZTb1k.99

Teacher Suspended After Having 3rd-Grade Class Write ‘Get-Well’ Letters To Convicted Cop Killer Mumia Abu-Jamal

A New Jersey teacher has been suspended for reportedly having her third-grade students write “get-well” letters to convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

On Sunday, Marylin Zuniga posted a tweet about dropping off the letters to Johanna Fernandez.

“My 3rd graders wrote to Mumia to lift up his spirits as he is ill. #freemumia,” the teacher at Forest Street School in Orange, New Jersey, tweeted on her since-deactivated account.

Fernandez is an assistant professor in the Department of Black and Latino Studies at Baruch College in New York City. She also is part of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, an organization that advocates for the inmate’s innocence.

Read more:

http://lancasteronline.com/teacher-suspended-after-having-rd-grade-class-write-get-well/article_0ba12ee8-dfb2-11e4-b667-c3cbccf60713.html

Arts Gallery Could Make Way For Downtown Wilkes-Barre Market

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A market may be coming to downtown Wilkes-Barre soon.

Arts Seen Gallery is being asked to move out of space at 21 Public Square to make way for City Market and Cafe, said Kim Kulagina, the volunteer operations manager of the art gallery, and Tamara Pilger, a stained glass artist at the gallery. Kulagina said landlord Rob Finlay, president of Humford Equities, told them the art gallery had to leave for City Market to move in and the market is awaiting a liquor license.

A source active with the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also said City Market and Cafe plans to open in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Discussions about City Market and Cafe opening downtown have been ongoing for a while and officials were looking for a suitable place, the source said.

City Market and Cafe, which has another location at Linden Street and Adams Avenue in downtown Scranton, offers eat-in and take-out prepared foods, a deli, bakery, grocery, dairy, frozen food, fresh produce, customized sandwiches and pizza and a vast selection of beer.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/arts-gallery-could-make-way-for-downtown-w-b-market-1.1861722

Manager Out, And Chaos Again Rules In Delco Town

Dysfunction evidently rules again in tiny Colwyn Borough, Delaware County.

On Thursday night, its manager was fired at a raucous council meeting; she disputed the action and then locked herself in Borough Hall overnight.

“I don’t believe I am out of a job,” Paula Brown said Friday.

The latest episode followed a contentious council meeting during which Brown and council members shouted at each other and traded accusations – and they still don’t agree on the outcome.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20150411_Manager_out__and_chaos_again_rules_in_Delco_town.html#gO5a2o3OhEW8J7VJ.99

Accepting Leadership Award, Gov. Wolf Says Hill School Prepared Him

POTTSTOWN, PA – Gov. Tom Wolf may not have learned everything there is to know about “Beowulf” when he was a student at The Hill School, “but I did learn how to ask questions; I did learn how to think and I did learn how to live.”

Those were among the short lessons Wolf had for the students and guests Thursday night when he accepted the school’s 17th Annual Sixth Form Leadership Award.

“I came to Hill in the fifth form, so I was only here a brief time, but it made a big difference in my life. I came away from this place a much better person that I was when I came in,” said Wolf, who attended the school from 1965 to 1967.

During those years, he was on the swimming and soccer teams, was assistant editor at The Dial and played the sousaphone.

Read more:

http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20150409/accepting-leadership-award-gov-wolf-says-hill-school-prepared-him

Dispute Leaves Revel In The Dark

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – Revel, the $2.4 billion former casino hotel sold this week for $82 million, went dark – literally – Thursday afternoon.

Power was cut off around 2:20 after its supplier, ACR Energy, made good on multiple threats to new owner Glenn Straub and shut off the lights to the 6.2 million-square-foot, 47-story Boardwalk property.

“Everything is out, it’s a dead building,” a security guard said after the plug was pulled.

It was a hard-to-fathom turn of events even for the endlessly twisty saga of the Revel, once predicted to be an Atlantic City game-changer and now standing tall, dark, and empty in the unpredictable hands of Straub, a maverick Florida businessman and polo player.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150410_Revel_goes_dark__power_company_pulls_the_plug.html#2yowtyKvfB4cVe3h.99