Suspect Arrested In Hazleton Murder

Just 72 hours after a man was killed on a city street by gun fire, Hazleton police arrested the man they say pulled the trigger.

Officers arrested Raphael Mora-Polanco, 26, Hazleton, while conducting surveillance Sunday in the area of Second and Alter streets, about two blocks away from the shooting that claimed the life of Jorge Marrero, 35, who’s last known address was on South Poplar Street.

Marrero was shot multiple times in the area of Alter and Fourth streets Thursday around 10:30 p.m., police said. He was found by police on West Fourth Street, near Emerald Court, the alley between Alter and Vine streets, with bullet wounds.

Hazleton police Chief Frank DeAndrea labeled the homicide an “execution” due to the circumstances involved.

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Police: Suspect Had Over 1,000 Heroin Packets, Hid Some In His Body

BUTLER TOWNSHIP, PA — What started as a traffic stop ended with a man facing drug charges after police found over 1,000 packets of heroin in his vehicle.

Some of those packets were found in his rectum.

Oliver E. Rivera, 22, of Drums, faces charges of possession with intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance and use/possession of drug paraphernalia.

Police say they stopped a vehicle that Rivera was driving at 12:35 a.m. on June 10 for traffic violations. During the stop, police say they observed indicators of drug trafficking and discovered more than 1,000 packets of heroin in Rivera’s vehicle.

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2 Arrested After Shots Fired In Wilkes-Barre Tenant/Property Manager Dispute

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Two people were arrested after shots were fired during a landlord-tenant dispute, city police said.

An investigation of a report of shots being fired in the area of 113 Blackman St. early Friday afternoon revealed that the incident stemmed from an argument at 64 Bradford St., which is located nearby.

Police said Tanisha Goggins, 30, of 64 Bradford St., and her guest, Nicholas Crooks, 27, of Brooklyn, New York, had been involved in a dispute with Goggins’s property manager, and that Crooks allegedly pointed a gun at the property manager.

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Hazleton Police Chief: Shooting Death An Execution

A man shot and wounded during an argument amid a group of people at a vacant lot on Alter Street in Hazleton staggered up West Fourth Street in the rain before being shot in the head and killed late Thursday, city police Chief Frank DeAndrea said.

DeAndrea called the killing an execution.

He asks people who saw the incident to call police at 911 if they are in the Hazleton area or 570-459-4940.

Surveillance cameras show the argument occurring in a lot at 590 Alter St., and police circled a trail of bloodstains on the sidewalk and road along Fourth Street to where the victim was found just west of Emerald Court at 10:30 p.m.

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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.

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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.

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Suspect In Throat-Slashing, Attempted Murder Of Woman Apprehended In Wilkes-Barre

WYOMING, PA — One of three suspects wanted in the October 2014 attempted murder of a woman in Bear Creek Township has been taken into custody.

State police at Wyoming said they and Wilkes-Barre city police apprehended Jerone Moore, at a residence on North Washington Street, Wilkes-Barre, at about 3 p.m. today.

Police said they received a call on Oct. 5, 2014, reporting a naked, bloody female on Aleeda Road in Bear Creek Township.

The victim suffered a 3-inch-deep laceration from her trachea to her ear. She was transported Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township for treatment.

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Individual Shot At Sherman Hills, Reportedly Being Treated At Hospital

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Police responded to reports of a shooting tonight at the Sherman Hills apartment complex.

The shooting was reported at 320 Empire Court in the crime-troubled complex.

Initially police could locate neither the shooter or the victim.

A Luzerne County 911 dispatcher confirmed that police, ambulance and fire officials were on site in response the report.

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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.

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It’s Official: Wilkes-Barre City Council Approves Agreement To Revitalize Public Square

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The first hurdle is cleared.

Wilkes-Barre City Council on Thursday unanimously voted to enter into an agreement for the rehabilitation of Public Square. Once the deal is signed, the National Resource Network — a federal organization that aids cities facing economic hardship — will begin the process of securing a capital funding plan for the project.

The agreement was approved 4-0. Councilman Bill Barrett was excused from the meeting.

The National Resource Network will not fund the construction but will assist city officials in securing the project’s funding through both private and public revenue sources. The $66,000 agreement will require a 25 percent match, or $16,500.

Mayor Tom Leighton said the agreement will be signed Friday.

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Potential Face-Lift In Store For Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square And Its Fountain

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Something’s shaping up on Public Square.
During Tuesday’s work session, Wilkes-Barre City Council will hear a resolution allowing city officials to enter into an agreement for the rehabilitation of Public Square, with the downtown hub’s long-defunct water fountain as one of the potential project’s main focuses.
Andrew LaFratte, municipal affairs manager, said the administration applied for a grant in December through the National Resource Network, an organization that provides assistance to cities facing economic challenges. The creation of the network was at the core of the Obama Administration’s “Strong Cities, Strong Communities” initiative, enacted in 2012 to spark development in ailing communities with help from the federal government.
To be considered eligible for assistance, cities must have over 40,000 residents and must meet one of three criteria, including a 2013 annual average unemployment rate of 9 percent or more, a population decline of 5 percent or more between 2000 and 2010, or a poverty rate of 20 percent or more.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Susquehanna-Roseland Power Line, A $1.4 Billion Project, Switched On

The long-anticipated Susquehanna-Roseland power line was fully energized this week for the first time.

The 150-mile-long, 500-kilovolt line links PPL Electric Utilities’s switchyard at its Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Salem Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.’s switching station in Roseland, Essex County, New Jersey.

It cost $1.4 billion and is designed to bolster electricity reliability for the power grid run by Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection that serves 61 million people in all or parts of 13 states plus the District of Columbia.

“It’s all about reliability,” PPL Electric Utilities spokesman Paul Wirth said. “It prevents overloads on other power lines and gives electricity another path to travel, especially during period periods when it’s extremely hot or extremely cold.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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