Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Among Most Indulgent Cities

Perhaps the Wilkes-Barre metro area parties too much.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area ranked as the fourth-most indulgent metro in the United States by the personal finance website badcredit.org. The website used data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and credit information from Experian, a credit reporting bureau, to analyze how indulgent residents are in 105 metro areas.

They looked at the obesity rate, alcohol consumption, number of smokers and the average consumer debt to determine the most indulgent metros. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro came in at No. 4

with:

■ 7.8 percent of residents claiming to be heavy drinkers.

■  21.5 percent who say they smoke everyday.

■ An obesity rate of 31.9 percent.

■  $28,974 in average consumer debt.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/scranton-w-b-among-most-indulgent-cities-1.1849010

NEPA’s St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Means Fun For Residents, More Work For Police

WILKES-BARRE, PA — St. Patrick’s Day is upon Northeastern Pennsylvania, which will include a weekend of parades and other festivities.

For law enforcement, it will mean more work than usual.

Scranton Police Chief Carl Graziano was among the officials at a news conference held at the Lackawanna County Courthouse this week. Officials encouraged residents to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day safely and responsibly.

“As everybody knows, it’s no secret that that’s the biggest alcohol consumption day — at least in the city — is St. Patrick’s Day Parade day,” Graziano said.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news/152319939/

Grass-Roots Effort For A Marketplace In The Mall At Steamtown Continues

SCRANTON, PA — The idea of a Reading Terminal Market marketplace in the Mall at Steamtown is gaining momentum.

The concept to create a marketplace in a portion of the mall began nearly two months ago as brothers, Michael and George Boyd, both of Scranton, started a Facebook page to gauge public’s interest to save their city’s retail hub.

Thousands in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties have weighed in on the idea. Last month, the Boyd brothers said the positive responses were “overwhelming.”

Today the Facebook page, Reading Terminal Market at the Mall at Steamtown, has more than 5,800 “Likes” and is getting people talking about how to revive the mall.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-local-news/152278963/

PennDOT To Resurface Another 110-Plus Miles Of NEPA Roads

The McDade Expressway in Scranton, Route 924 in Hazleton and a long stretch of Route 29 in Susquehanna and Wyoming counties are among area roads the state Department of Transportation has targeted for repaving this year.

The three heavily traveled routes are among 28 stretches of road in six Northeast Pennsylvania counties that PennDOT officials plan for routine resurfacing work this year. They’ll pay for it with new transportation funding from higher fees and gradually increasing gas taxes.

“PennDOT will be resurfacing about 110 miles of road this year,” agency spokesman James May said. “If we didn’t have Act 89, the number would be zero.”

Act 89 is the $2.3 billion transportation funding package the state Legislature approved in late 2013. PennDOT did have work on several larger capital pro­jects planned regardless, like the ongoing Keyser Avenue project in Scranton.

Read more:

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/penndot-to-resurface-another-110-plus-miles-of-nepa-roads-1.1844646http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/penndot-to-resurface-another-110-plus-miles-of-nepa-roads-1.1844646

Scranton City Council OKs Revised Recovery Plan

Scranton City Council on Thursday passed the first of three votes needed to adopt a revised Act 47 recovery plan.

Council voted 4-0, with President Bob McGoff and Councilmen Joe Wechsler, Wayne Evans and Bill Gaughan all in favor, to introduce an ordinance to adopt the recovery plan crafted by the city’s Act 47 recovery coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League.

Councilman Pat Rogan was absent.

Before the meeting, council held a caucus with PEL officials Gerald Cross and Joseph Boyle, city Business Administrator David Bulzoni, and Jim Rose of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, which oversees PEL.

Read more:

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-council-oks-revised-recovery-plan-1.1844068

February Was Third Coldest On Record

Last month was the third coldest February on record and it tied for fourth place as one of the coldest months ever in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The average temperature last month was 17.5 degrees as recorded by the National Weather Service at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

January 1918 was just as cold.

Only two other Februaries locally have been colder since 1901, when record-keeping started: February 1934 with an average temperature of 15.4 degrees and February 1979 with an average temp of 15.9 degrees.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/february-was-third-coldest-on-record-1.1841705

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/

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

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

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

Movement Underway In NEPA Counties, Cities To Form Land Banks

When General Motors shut down factories in Michigan, the city of Flint lost more than 70,000 auto industry jobs, resulting in an exodus of residents from the 1980s through today that left the city with half the population of its heyday.

The crisis created a cycle of abandonment and blight that prompted the region to create the Genesee County Land Bank, which spearheaded several major redevelopment projects in the city’s downtown, sold 4,683 tax-foreclosed properties from 2004-13 and demolished 3,400 buildings.

Some public officials in Northeastern Pennsylvania cities like Scranton and Hazleton have been thinking of forming their own land banks since Gov. Tom Corbett last year signed legislation enabling cities around the state to do so. Pittston and several neighboring Luzerne County municipalities recently created their own version.

“One issue we all face, that we really have a hard time fighting at the municipal level, is blight,” said Larry West, regional director for state Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald. “We have buildings sitting there on the tax repository list that are boarded up or have burned down.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/movement-underway-in-nepa-counties-cities-to-form-land-banks-1.1806370

Boscov ‘Donates’ $700,000 To Scranton To Make Good On Mall Loan

Al Boscov gave Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright a check today for $715,173, to make good on a loan the city had given years ago to The Mall at Steamtown that went unpaid.

Calling the check a “donation” from Boscov’s Department Stores to the city, Mr. Boscov said he felt obligated to pay the loan back even though neither he nor his company is legally on the hook to do so.

The donation check is intended to replace a $612,480 loan that the city gave to the former mall owner in 2001 from federal funds that the city receives, as well as $102,693 in interest.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/boscov-donates-700-000-to-scranton-to-make-good-on-mall-loan-1.1795802

Man Charged After Yelling Profanity During Live Newscast

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SCRANTON, PA — Scranton police charged a city man Thursday night after he grabbed a television reporter’s arm and yelled obscenities into her microphone during a live news broadcast.

Tyrone Parker, 18, 501 Madison Ave., Scranton, was charged with falsifying reports because he lied to police that he didn’t do it. He later recanted and admitted he grabbed WNEP-TV reporter Stacy Lange’s arm and said a swear word into her microphone during a live broadcast in Scranton. Mr. Parker went to a Lackawanna College dorm after the incident, which is where police found him.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/man-charged-after-yelling-profanity-during-live-newscast-1.1788073

Monday Update: Scranton’s Hill Secton Neighbors Want To Tackle Blight

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some Hill Section residents have an ambitious plan to combat ugly, vacant properties in the neighborhood, but their solution would need approval from city officials.

The Hill Neighborhood Association, a nonprofit with the goal of improving that section of Scranton, wants the city to turn several small, vacant properties over to the organization. On Thursday, Ozzie Quinn, association president, went before city council and asked that the city resurrect a vacant properties committee to review blighted properties and sell those in the Hill Section to the association for a nominal fee.

This summer, the neighborhood association approached the city about many of the overgrown, vacant lots they wanted to mow and trim back to respectability. City solicitor Jason Shrive told the association it needed to sign waivers and have liability insurance to work in the vacant lots.

The Hill group got insurance, Mr. Quinn said, but was then told it would need to sign right-of-entry agreements with landlords before cleaning properties.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/monday-update-hill-secton-neighbors-want-to-tackle-blight-1.1766117

Scranton Commuter Tax Struck Down By Judge

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton commuters will not have to pay a commuter tax.

Senior Judge John Braxton of Philadelphia issued an order today striking down Scranton’s commuter tax.

The judge dismissed two procedural objections made by petitioners opposing the commuter tax, but agreed that Act 205 doesn’t give the city power to exclusively levy a tax on commuters. The wage tax had to be levied on both nonresidents and residents.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/commuter-tax-struck-down-by-judge-1.1762802

PA Oktoberfest At Mohegan Sun At Pocono Downs

Oktoberfest
1280 Hwy 315, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
FRI, Sept 12 – (5 PM – 11 PM)
SAT, Sept 13 – (11 AM – 11 PM)
SUN, Sept 14 – (11 AM – 5 PM)

*YOU MUST BE 21 YEARS OLD TO ENTER THIS EVENT

PA Oktoberfest kicks off this Friday at 5pm and runs through Sunday! Ticket information here: http://bit.ly/1y5vZNp
PA Oktoberfest website: http://www.paoktoberfest.com/

Diversity Lacking In Scranton, Wilkes-Barre Police

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One.

That’s the number of racial minorities on the 143-officer Scranton police force.

Meanwhile, Scranton has morphed into a fairly diverse city in recent years.

The 2010 census reported the city was more than 5 percent black and 3 percent Asian. More than 80 percent is white. About 10 percent of the population is Latino.

With the mostly white police force in Ferguson, Missouri, making headlines while trying to quell protests from the mostly black town residents after a white officer shot a black teenager last month, the lack of diversity in police departments, and the problems that come with it, have been pulled back into the public eye.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/diversity-lacking-in-scranton-w-b-police-1.1748937

Blight Poses Challenges For Distressed Cities

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton is a city of 76,000 people with a housing stock largely built before 1940 for a population almost twice that number.

It has the blight to prove it.

As the financially strapped city struggles to combat blight and the host of ills it fosters, Scranton finds itself in a position common among many Rust Belt communities: many old buildings, too few people willing or able to keep them up and limited resources to press aggressively for a comprehensive solution.

The region’s other two major cities, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, are dealing with similar issues, though their circumstances don’t precisely mirror Scranton’s.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/blight-poses-challenges-for-distressed-cities-1.1744585

Business, Workers Flee Electric City Taxes

picture-0571A decade ago when real estate up-and-comer Charles Hibble looked for a headquarters for his business, Scranton was a natural choice.

He invested $1.2 million converting an aging building on Penn Avenue into modern offices and apartments. Mr. Hibble accepted real estate tax and parking cost increases and the mercantile tax as costs of doing business. When city leaders began talking about a commuter tax in 2012, the owner of Weichert Realty Hibble & Associates reached his breaking point and moved out.

“I was getting pressure from my employees, who could work from anywhere — their homes or cars,” he said. “They didn’t want to pay another tax.”

Mr. Hibble’s move prefaced an employer exodus from the city. After being kicked around and eventually shot down in court, the commuter tax came back in the proposal of consultant Henry Amoroso, who cited a state law that allows municipalities to impose a commuter tax to bolster distressed pension funds. Scranton City Council swiftly approved the local income tax on commuters, which would cost employees earning $50,000 as much as $375 a year. Combined with a proposed increase in the emergency service tax – yet another withdrawal from the wages of commuters — the cost of having a job in the city has mounted.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/business-workers-flee-electric-city-taxes-1.1733479