Indicators Report: Economic Recovery In Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Region Isn’t Stable

PLAINS TOWNSHIP, PA — Wages remain relatively low in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties and both need to work on more consistent long-term job creation and growth, said Teri Ooms, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development at Wilkes University.

Economic recovery in the two counties has been uneven since the recession hit in late 2007 and lasted until 2009. While the unemployment rate in the area has been dropping over the last few years, that was because those participating in the labor force decreased, Ooms said.

“The good news is labor force participation has finally begun to increase, more so within the past couple months,” Ooms said. “It is now at pre-recession levels, but the challenge we’ve had is post-recession. There have been too many peaks and valleys. We’re not stable.”

The region’s unemployment rate was among many issues Ooms and Andrew Chew, research analyst, discussed as they presented the institute’s 90-page Indicators Report for Luzerne and Lackawanna counties Thursday at Mohegan Sun Pocono’s convention center.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/indicators-report-economic-recovery-in-region-isn-t-stable-1.1886047

Penn State Wilkes-Barre Grant Will Help Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber Expand Business Services

LEHMAN, PA — Penn State Wilkes-Barre will provide a $50,000 block grant to the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce to expand business services in the Innovation Center.

The grant is the first step in acquiring funding to renovate a portion of the Innovation Center for the development of the Innovation Squared Project, including an entrepreneurial and business training lab.

Downtown Wilkes-Barre has become a hub for entrepreneurs, with the Innovation Center housing 14 businesses, Wilkes University’s Small Business Development Center and Wilkes University’s Allen P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise.

The Innovation Squared Project will continue to fuel local entrepreneurship with a multi-faceted program designed to create high-wage e-commerce jobs, revitalization of downtown and workshop, according to the press release.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-local-news/153616357/PSU-grant-helps-chamber-expand-business-services

George Secures Dem Nod For Wilkes-Barre Mayor

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Tony George won the Democratic nomination for mayor in Tuesday’s primary election.

The four-candidate Democratic primary included George, 63, former Wilkes-Barre police chief and current city councilman; George Brown, 64, who retired from a career in business management for international companies and is a current councilman; Darlene Duggins-Magdalinski, 46, a community activist who founded the advocacy group “United We Stand Divided We Fall;” and Brian Kelly, 67, who retired from IBM Corporation as a senior systems engineer and currently works as an information technology consultant.

George will face off against Frank Sorick, 42, Republican, realtor and president of the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association, in the Nov. 3 general election. Independent nominees/candidates could also still join the general election race.

Democratic Mayor Tom Leighton is not seeking a fourth term for the city’s top position, which currently pays $84,779 per year.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/george-secures-dem-nod-for-w-b-mayor-1.1884847

Wilkes University Student Wins Democratic Nod For Wilkes-Barre City Council

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Beth Gilbert, a 20-year-old Wilkes University student, easily won the Democratic nomination for City Council in District C, saying voters wanted youth and change in city government.

And change will come, as three of the five council members will be new come 2016, along with a new mayor and a new controller, according to unofficial results.

Gilbert, who will be a senior next year studying political science and international studies, said she felt it was her time to seek political office.

“I didn’t want to wait four more years to run,” Gilbert said Tuesday night. “I’m young and I think voters wanted younger people, new faces, to serve on City Council.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/153590457/

Boscov: Mall At Steamtown Changes Must Get My Approval

Repurposing the troubled Mall at Steamtown as a Reading Terminal-style market, a casino or a skating rink will remain a dream.

That is because the mall’s lease agreement with Boscov’s Department Store allows the anchor tenant to veto significant changes like that, said department store chairman Al Boscov in an interview at The Times-Tribune, a Times-Shamrock newspaper, on Monday.

Boscov’s Department Store will likely be among bidders in the June 1 – 3 auction of the Mall at Steamtown and the goal will be to buy the mall and keep the mall all — or predominantly — retail, he said.

Boscov wants to keep people with ideas of re-purposing the mall, some of whom he called “cranks,” away from the auction scheduled by LNR Partners, the mall’s caretaker since it was taken over by lenders following foreclosure.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/boscov-mall-at-steamtown-changes-must-get-my-approval-1.1883885

Attorney General: Charges Filed Against Exeter Township (Luzerne County) Officials

Four Exeter Township officials are facing charges for inflated billing on a contract for an EMA building nearly a decade ago, state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced today.
 
Charged were supervisors John E. Coolbaugh, Richard E. Overman, James W. Douse, and current secretary and former supervisor Mary F. Martin.
 
According to Kane, the case was referred to her office by Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis due to lack of resources.
 
According to the criminal complaint, the township received a $50,400 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) towards the cost of erecting a pre-fabricated EMS building in 2006.

Read more:   http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/153521649/

Wilkes-Barre Area To Submit Plans For New High School

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The Wilkes-Barre Area School Board voted 8-1 Monday to submit plans to build a new high school by a July 1 deadline.

The deadline is when the state plans to impose a moratorium on the state PlanCon funding process for school construction projects. The board now has about a month to select a design option.

The district’s design team needs at least two weeks to finalize the submission to the state by July 1.

The design team of four engineering firms concluded a building feasibility study in December, and it includes a several options, such as building one consolidated high school for the entire district, keeping the current three-high school setup or building two new high schools and converting GAR High School into a middle school.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/w-b-area-to-submit-plans-for-new-high-school-1.1879788

New Charter Flight From Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International To Bahamas Announced

PITTSTON TWP. — A new charter flight from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport will whisk vacationers nonstop to Freeport in the Bahamas and back beginning in September.

Operated by Regional Sky, the initial flight will leave the airport at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 19 and return Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. Travelers will be able to purchase flight-only tickets for $552 or a flight and four-night vacation package starting at $977.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/153442394/

Progress 2015: Wilkes-Barre, Pittston Lead Charge In Revamping Downtown Ecomomic Atmosphere

Shopping outside from store to store has almost become a thing of the past in some areas. But don’t tell that to downtowns in the Wyoming Valley, especially Wilkes-Barre and Pittston.

Downtown shopping in both communities is thriving thanks to the advancements each city has made over the past several years. Couple that with the excitement and enthusiasm of business owners and residents and youv’e got a recipe for success. The success in downtown Wilkes-Barre starts with Public Square.

Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association President John Mayday, who is a resident of South Wilkes-Barre and does all of his shopping in the downtown area, said the excitement and enthusiasm is something he hasn’t seen before. And it can only get better, he said.

“New businesses are constantly moving in,” he said. “Our mission is to create the opportunities for our customers and residents to come downtown. They’re been absolutely well-received by the public.”

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-home_top-local-news/152539268/Downtowns-looking-up

Hazleton Moves Airport Project Forward

HAZLETON, PA — The City Council accepted a $1.3 million Aviation Grant Tuesday night to fund a Runway Safety Area at the City Airport.

As part of the agreement, 5 percent of the project, or $70,000, must be paid for with funds from airport revenues.

A contract for the project was awarded to the only bidder, Hazleton Site Contractors, a member of the H&K Group.

When questioned by several members of council in regard to the airport’s ability to pay for its portion of the project, city engineer Dominic Yannuzzi said the airport had a $56,000 surplus and fuel valued at $60,000, which would be sold for revenue.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/153327730/Hazleton-moves-airport-project-forward

Wilkes-Barre Mayoral Candidates Talk Crime

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The five mayoral candidates sat before about 200 citizens Monday evening in the ballroom of Wilkes University’s Henry Student Center to lay out their platforms and answer questions on their plans if elected.

The Wilkes-Barre Downtown Residents Association, a nonpartisan organization, held the two-hour long forum, the first of which to bring all city mayoral candidates together before the public. Eileen Kenyon, coordinator for DRA, said the association sponsored the event to give people in the area a chance to come and listen to what the candidates had to say.

“We have to elect a mayor, and we hope this will let them make an informed decision,” she said.

Each candidate gave a brief opening statement before association members moderated a question-and-answer session during which they broached such topics as unpaid pensions of city employees, how to attract wage-earning residents, their assessments of city hall and city resources, and crime.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/wilkes-barre-mayoral-candidates-talk-crime-1.1875532

Wilkes-Barre Stabbing Suspect Arrested

A Wilkes-Barre man was detained in central Pennsylvania on Sunday following a motor vehicle crash for his alleged involvement in a double stabbing that occurred a few hours prior.

William MacBlain, 29, was taken into custody for reportedly stabbing his roommate, Howard Jakaboski and Jakaboski’s girlfriend Nicole Schneider on Sheridan Street early Sunday morning, police said.

According to an affidavit filed by city police, a report came in around 7:30 a.m. of a male covered in blood standing on the front porch of 77 Sheridan St. Police said his face was entirely covered from an apparent head injury.

The male victim, Jakaboski, told police that his roommate, MacBlain, entered his bedroom while he and his girlfriend, Schneider, were sleeping. Jakaboski said MacBlain began to stab both victims multiple times until the knife broke, according to a report.

Read more:  http://citizensvoice.com/news/wilkes-barre-stabbing-suspect-arrested-1.1875356

Scranton Mayor: City Solid, Getting Stronger

In his first “State of the City” address since taking office 16 months ago, Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright delivered a hopeful, optimistic speech Friday at the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

Describing the state of the city as “solid and getting stronger every day,” Mr. Courtright said initiatives he, his administration and council are pursuing have the city turning the corner on decades of financial distress, mistakes and “embarrassments” of the past.

“In just over a year, we’ve been able to tell a different story about Scranton. A story of hope and optimism, backed up by real progress,” Mr. Courtright said.

For example, plans to unload the Scranton Parking Authority’s high-debt and under-used garages are advancing and going better than expected, he said, as the city met this week with six firms interested in acquiring them. The goal is to complete a transaction by the end of the year. Another goal is “responsible monetization” of the Scranton Sewer Authority through a sale or lease that this agency is pursuing.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-mayor-city-solid-getting-stronger-1.1873948

Wilkes-Barre Shooting Victim Spoke Out About Drug House

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A mechanic who frequently reported criminal activity near his home was gunned down in front of his residence on Willow Street early Friday morning.

Neighbors reported hearing multiple gunshots just after 3:30 a.m. in the area of 62 Willow St., where police found the body of 49-year-old Donald Bachman Jr.

Bachman was pronounced dead at the scene at 4:25 a.m. by Luzerne County Deputy Coroner Tom Moran.

An autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr. Mary Pascucci revealed Bachman died of multiple gunshot wounds. His death was ruled a homicide, Moran said.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news/153245723/

Man Killed In Wilkes-Barre Shooting

A Wilkes-Barre man was gunned down early Friday morning outside of his home on Willow Street.

Donald Bachman Jr., 49, was shot in front of 62 Willow St. around 3:40 a.m., according to police and the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office. Police said a preliminary investigation indicated a confrontation between Bachman and someone he did not know led to the shooting.

Some neighbors heard multiple gunshots, but didn’t see the confrontation or shooter. Several said Bachman worked nights at the Martz Group and described him as a hardworking mechanic.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/man-killed-in-wilkes-barre-shooting-1.1873956

Arrest Warrants Issued For 18 Street-Level Drug Dealers In Luzerne County

KINGSTON, PA — A year-long investigation of street-level illegal drug sales resulted in the arrest warrants for 18 people on Thursday.

Teams of undercover drug agents with the state Office of Attorney General and Luzerne County Drug Task Force and police in Edwardsville and Kingston swept the West Side serving arrest warrants at many residences, including one in Wilkes-Barre, beginning at 7 a.m.

As of late Thursday afternoon, 13 people were in custody.

After having their pictures and fingerprints taken at the Kingston Police Department, those arrested were taken one-by-one to be arraigned by District Judge Paul J. Roberts on drug trafficking offenses.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news-news/153232072/

Stats Suggest Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Media Market Is Among Nation’s Most Racist

In the anonymous world of the Internet, people in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area and surrounding counties use the n-word in Google searches more often than most areas of the United States, according to statistics compiled by a top data scientist.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton media market — which includes Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania along with some counties in New York and New Jersey bordering the region — ranked 16th out of 196 nationwide for frequency of computer users searching the word, the data reveals.

Read the original study

Residents of the media market used the racial slur in online searches more than anywhere else in Pennsylvania except the Johnstown-Altoona media market, according to a study by a data scientist who gathered the information for a 2013 report about how racial animus affected the presidential elections of Barack Obama.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/stats-suggest-wilkes-barre-scranton-media-market-is-among-nation-s-most-racist-1.1872856

Wilkes-Barre, Scranton Advance In The America’s Best Communities Competition

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Scranton and Wilkes-Barre have been announced as quarter-finalists in the America’s Best Communities competition.

Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel — the competition’s sponsors — today announced that the two cities are among the 50 quarter-finalist communities that now have six months to complete their revitalization plans and compete for up to an additional $3 million to bring their ideas to life.

America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition is a $10 million initiative to stimulate economic revitalization in small towns and cities. Each community will receive $50,000 to develop comprehensive strategies to accelerate the revival of their local economies and improve the quality of life in their communities.

“I’m proud to congratulate our neighbors in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre for advancing in the America’s Best Communities competition,” said Elena Kilpatrick, vice president and general manager of Frontier. “This is also a great opportunity for Northeast Pennsylvania as a region to benefit from everyone coming together to implement plans that will enhance the total Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area.”

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/153200376/

Police Say Hazleton Man Fired Several Shots At A Victim

Bullets from a 9 mm handgun pierced the quiet in Conyngham and neighboring Sugarloaf Township early Monday morning, along with a home and another piece of property.

State police at Hazleton said numerous shots were fired from the weapon after an altercation involving Dominic M. Lamont, which began on Main Street in the parking lot of Cuz N’ Joe’s Place, 291 Main St., around 2 a.m. Police say Lamont chased down the victim in a vehicle, firing rounds at him on Banks Avenue after the victim fled the parking lot after the verbal exchange.

No injuries were reported and Lamont, 25, Star Mor Lane, Hazleton, was taken into custody by troopers.

When troopers interviewed Lamont after the incident, he continually stated that he “snapped out” and messed up his life by shooting at the victim, court papers state. He said he fired at least 15 rounds at Mickey B. Boswell, 29, Leland, North Carolina, troopers wrote.

Read more:

http://standardspeaker.com/news/police-say-hazleton-man-fired-several-shots-at-a-victim-1.1871410

Wilkes-Barre City, Township Police Join Forces With Smartphone App

Two local police departments have gone mobile.

The Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes-Barre Township police departments enrolled in a new smartphone application called MobilePatrol that allows users to receive police alerts on their phones and report suspicious activity, among other features.

Both departments announced their collaborative effort to utilize this application on Friday on Facebook, encouraging their followers “to assist (them) in this new progressive endeavor for community-wide information sharing.”

Law enforcement officials are able to set up an account to send alerts about recent police activity and share lists of wanted suspects, active warrants, missing children, registered sex offenders and current inmates in the local prison.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/w-b-city-township-police-join-forces-with-smartphone-app-1.1871353