Harsh Winter Delaying Opening Of Camelback’s $163 Million Waterpark Complex

TANNERSVILLE, PA — Shedding winter layers for swimsuits at Camelback Lodge and Aquatopia will take a month longer than expected.

The newest addition to Camelback Resort, a 453-suite hotel and a 125,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, was tentatively scheduled to open in March. The 16-month, $163 million construction project has been delayed due to winter’s tight grasp on the region.

“Obviously, we’ve had tremendous weather difficulties, and that is a fact, but we are probably 95 percent on schedule,” Arthur Berry, president of Camelback Resort told the Pocono Record.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-local-news/152089723/

Thanksgiving Payroll Snafu Cost Luzerne County Government $2,000 In Bounced Check Fees

Luzerne County ended up reimbursing employees about $2,000 for bounced check fees caused by late paychecks last November, officials said today.

County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz said about 50 employees submitted requests for fee reimbursements, most between $20 and $35.

The impact of the fees was lessened because two financial institutions waived fees — PNC Bank, which handles the county’s banking, and the Luzerne County Federal Credit Union, Swetz said.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/152031362/

Turning Off The Gas: Region’s Last Exploratory Natural Gas Well To Be Plugged

Since the Marcellus Shale drilling boom started in 2008, seven natural gas wells have been drilled in and around Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.

Six of them were plugged when they failed to produce enough gas to market.

This week, the seventh — WPX Energy’s Martin well on state Route 487 in Sugarloaf Township, Columbia County, between Ricketts Glen and Benton — will also be shut down for good.

“From what I understand, we’re the last well to be plugged,” WPX Energy spokeswoman Susan Oliver said.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/turning-off-the-gas-region-s-last-exploratory-natural-gas-well-to-be-plugged-1.1837326

Could The Mall At Steamtown Reinvent Itself With An Open-Air Market Atmosphere?

SCRANTON, PA — The Mall at Steamtown hasn’t exactly been running at full power lately.

But a couple of brothers have gone to social media to pitch an idea to put more firepower in the ailing mall, and the public is starting to take notice.

Scranton natives Michael Boyd and his brother George think creating a marketplace similar to the long-standing Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia could be the key to the city’s revitalization.

The downward spiral of the once-vibrant downtown mall has been apparent in recent years. A walk through the two-story structure on Lackawanna Avenue last week showed 47 active store fronts and 23 shuttered ones.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/business/151922265/

Can The Wyoming Valley’s Platter Hold More Restaurants?

WILKES-BARRE TWP., PA — Five national chain restaurants opened in the area last year and two more are slated to open soon. Two others — Pizza Hut and Lone Star — went out of business last month.

So has area’s restaurant bubble finally popped?

No, said John Bartorillo, president of Maslow Lumia Bartorillo Advertising in Wilkes-Barre.

“Saturated? No,” said Bartorillo. “We have not reached that point yet.”

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-home_top/151817501/Is-there-room-for-more

Clarks Summit Festival Of Ice Kicks Off This Weekend

Clarks Summit will be a winter wonderland this weekend for the annual Festival of Ice.

“Frozen Fairy Tales” will mark the 11th year of the ice festival, with nearly 60 fairy-tale-themed ice sculptures around the borough’s downtown.

The sculptures, with themes like “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Brothers Grimm” and “Cinderella,” will all be done by Lakeville-based Sculpted Ice Works.

The large number of sculptures and free admission are the main draws for people from all over Northeast Pennsylvania, said Abington Business and Professional Association Executive Director Laura Ancherani. Depending on the weather, the festival averages about 25,000 to 30,000 people over the weekend.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/clarks-summit-festival-of-ice-kicks-off-this-weekend-1.1830500

Report: NEPA Region Lags In Advanced-Skilled Jobs

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton area ranks near the bottom of the list of jobs leading the recovery that promise to revitalize the nation’s economy, according to a report from the Brookings Institution.

The Report, “America’s Advanced Industries: What they are, where they are, and why they matter” looked at those jobs in the nation’s 100 largest metros and ranked Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area 92nd.

These important jobs are leaving the area, the report noted, with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s employment in advanced industries falling about 2 percent every year.

Many terms have been used to describe the important sector: high-tech, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and now “advanced industries.” What makes understanding the sector more complex is that the field cuts across 50 industries from certain types of manufacturing and energy to computer software design and health care. A STEM job could be found just about anywhere, such as a computer programmer for a trucking company.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/report-nepa-region-lags-in-advanced-skilled-jobs-1.1826843

Wilkes-Barre Chamber Vice President Resigns

Donna Sedor, vice president at the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, has resigned to begin a new leadership career with the Wyoming Valley Children’s Association, according to a letter chamber chief executive officer Wico van Genderen sent to board members.

“I fully support her in this move,” van Genderen said. “As I have said on numerous occasions, our future is our children.”

Sedor has worked for the chamber for 24 years. During her tenure, van Genderen said the chamber has witnessed several accomplishments such as the openings of business parks, the arena, major transportation initiatives and the downtown Wilkes-Barre theater project.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/w-b-chamber-vice-president-resigns-1.1826648

Scranton Councilman Worries New Union Contract Ties Hands In Exiting Act 47

Scranton could have a difficult time shedding its distressed city status because of the pay raises and other perks in the revised police contract, a city councilman warned.

The city has until 2020 to successfully exit the state’s Act 47 financially distressed municipalities program. The new seven-year police contract approved by a split city council Thursday and signed by Mayor Bill Courtright Friday will hinder the city because the contract locks in pay raises and benefits beyond 2020, said Councilman Bill Gaughan.

He questioned whether the contract extension would “tie the city’s hands” by eliminating the possibility of negotiating in 2017 savings in a new police contract, while at the same time locking in raises and benefits a year beyond the Act 47 deadline of 2020.

Mr. Courtright disagreed that the contract extension will make it more difficult for the city to successfully exit Act 47.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/city-councilman-worries-new-union-contract-ties-hands-in-exiting-act-47-1.1825840

Wilkes-Barre Among Nation’s ‘Cheapest’ College Towns, According To New Study

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Tuition, books and direct spending aside, Wilkes-Barre is among the 30 cheapest places to go to college nationwide, according to a new analysis. The big reason: Housing is dirt cheap — about 30 percent of the national average.

Wilkes-Barre was 26th in the list, which was topped — or bottomed, cost-wise — by Memphis Tennessee, where the overall cost of living is 26.7 percent less than the national average. Don’t bother asking for the college town with the highest cost of living; the website that devised the list is, after all, cheapestcolleges.org.

Wilkes-Barre’s overall cost of living was 79.8 percent of the national average, But a look at the numbers under that percentage show we aren’t all that cheap in most categories.

Of six categories used to judge the cost of living, Wilkes-Barre is higher than the national average in four — miscellaneous, transportation, utilities, and groceries — and just under the national average (97 percent) in health costs. But, boy, do we make up for it housing.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/151499742/

Two Nabbed In Wilkes-Barre Drug Raid; Home Shut Down

Two men face multiple drug charges following a raid at a Wilkes-Barre home on Thursday.

Wilkes-Barre police and state police executed a search warrant at 284 N. Washington St. at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, police said in a news release.

Police said they found “distribution quantities” of cocaine, heroin and marijuana in the home and arrested Louis Soto, 25, and Brian Lulewicz, 30. The men were taken into custody without incident, police said. An investigation by city and state police revealed that the two men were selling large quantities of heroin and cocaine from the residence and were armed, according to police.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/two-nabbed-in-w-b-drug-raid-home-shut-down-1.1822054

Philadelphia Region Braces For More Snow

The Philadelphia area is preparing for another round of snow to hit during the night.

The snowfall would be the second the area has seen this week, an unusual occurrence in a winter that’s been nearly snow-free thus far.

The biggest threat appears to be hazardous driving conditions overnight, from around midnight through around 6 a.m. Saturday, with snow, ice and a wintry mix threatening to hit much of eastern Pennsylvania and non-coastal parts of New Jersey.

Transportation officials were gearing up for plowing and salting operations. PennDot was warning motorists that clearing roads during a storm was a time-consuming operation, and drivers should use caution.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150124_Philadelphia_region_braces_for_more_snow.html#oKKHbQdlhTVGVMZ0.99

Error in Scranton Budget Puts Bottom Line Off By Nearly $800,000

Turns out Scranton didn’t balance its 2015 budget.

Through an error, the city budgeted $783,000 more in expenditures than revenues, city Controller Roseann Novembrino told the mayor and council. She said it needs to be amended to fix the mistake.

City Business Administrator David Bulzoni said he made an error while creating the budget by inputting an incorrect figure from one line item instead of a total number for that one line and three others in the same group.

The four items, which involve lease expenditures, total $833,082.87. Instead of inputting that total amount when adding up that section, Mr. Bulzoni said he used the figure that was above it, $50,000, which was only for the last lease in the group. That resulted in an understating of expenditures by $783,082.87.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/error-in-scranton-budget-puts-bottom-line-off-by-nearly-800-000-1.1821319

PennDOT To Study Creating Northeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority

Northeastern Pennsylvania public transit riders may eventually take buses directly between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, rather than having to transfer to a different bus in Pittston to make the trip.

Lackawanna and Luzerne County officials envision new travel options — like a direct bus link between the cities — among many benefits of merging several mass transit agencies in both counties into a single Lackawanna-Luzerne Regional Transportation Authority.

The state Department of Transportation hired consultant HNTB Corp. to study the move, which would create the state’s third largest transportation authority. The cost of the study was not available Monday.

If it happens, Lackawanna and Luzerne county officials foresee having more clout to attract state and federal grant money to improve Northeastern Pennsylvania’s transportation network for buses, the region’s growing rail industry and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/penndot-to-study-creating-northeast-pennsylvania-transit-authority-1.1819613

Pizza Hut, Lone Star Closing Kidder Street Locations

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Two more national brand eateries announced on Monday that they are closing their doors.

One week after its Hanover Township restaurant closed, and following two years of disappointing sales on a national level, Pizza Hut announced that its Kidder Street location also will shut down this week.

And Lone Star Steakhouse, part of a chain that features a Texas-inspired menu, will close its Kidder Street location this weekend. Employees at the restaurant confirmed Monday that the restaurant would close permanently on Saturday.

No one at Lone Star corporate offices in Plano, Texas, could be reached for comment.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-local-news-news/151386496/

Maryland Trooper To Head PSP, Former Hazleton Police Chief Is Adjutant General

Governor-Elect Tom Wolf has chosen Col. Marcus L. Brown, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, to lead Pennsylvania State Police.

Brown will succeed Col. Frank R. Noonan, of Clarks Summit, in that role. According to the Associated Press, the post pays $145,025 per year.

As well, Major Gen. James R. Joseph, a former Hazleton police chief, will serve as adjutant general at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Once nominated, both men will require state Senate confirmation.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/151319337/

Hazleton Council Overrides Mayor’s Veto, Passes 2015 Budget

During a special meeting Friday, Hazleton City Council voted to override Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi’s veto of the council’s proposed budget and then adopted that spending plan for 2015.

It means there will be no property tax increase for city residents and it also means that council voted to allocate money for the city to hire part-time police officers.

All this happened — but not without confusion, hand wringing and much discussion.

The confusion started when council had to call Councilman Jeff Cusat in order for him to vote on agenda items. Cusat had a prior engagement and did not attend the meeting in person but did cast his votes via telephone.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/hazleton-council-overrides-mayor-s-veto-passes-2015-budget-1.1815211

Laflin Borough, Former Police Chief Settle Lawsuit

A federal lawsuit filed by a former police chief against Laflin Borough was settled this week, courts documents show.

Former borough police Chief Michael Flanagan filed the suit Nov. 25, 2013, against the borough, as well as its council members, that was dismissed Thursday, court documents show, because both parties reached a settlement — which was not disclosed in court documents.

Attorney Cynthia L. Pollick, who represented Flanagan in the suit, did not return messages seeking comment on the settlement. Attorneys representing the borough and its council, Christopher Tinari and Michael Miller of Philadelphia, also did not return messages.

According to the lawsuit, Flanagan felt he was “wrongfully demoted without just cause.” The suit also said Flanagan had been an employee of the borough for more than 14 years and went on to say on or about Oct. 17, 2013 when “the defendants voted at an official borough meeting to demote plaintiff and hired another police chief.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/laflin-borough-former-police-chief-settle-lawsuit-1.1815135

Steep Membership Decline Prompts WVIA To Sever Ties With Longtime Exec Bill Kelly

PITTSTON TOWNSHIP, PA — With membership down, Bill Kelly is out at WVIA.

But the longtime public broadcasting executive didn’t depart empty-handed, leaving the station he once headed with a nearly $300,000 buyout package, paid for by donations from board members.

“Not one penny of Kelly’s remaining contract payment of $291,878 came from membership contributions or grant support,” Martin Walzer, chairman of the WVIA Board of Directors, said in a message posted on the station’s website.

Kelly’s four-decade association with WVIA ended on Dec. 31.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/51009022/

Drugs, Gun Seized In Wilkes-Barre Raid

The Wilkes-Barre Police Anti Crime Unit and the Wilkes-Barre Drug Task force raided a residence on Blackman Street on a drug warrant early Wednesday morning.

The raid was a result of an ongoing investigation targeting drug trafficking in the Rolling Mill Hill section of the city and its surrounding areas, police said.

The investigation revealed Julio “Cesar” Fortuna, 21, was dealing large quantities of high-grade marijuana from his residence and the surrounding streets, police said. Authorities raided 431 Blackman St. around 6 a.m. Wednesday and took Fortuna into custody without incident, police said.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/drugs-gun-seized-in-wilkes-barre-raid-1.1813789