Motion To Make Leighton Pay ‘Gas-Gate’ Money Gets No Support At Council Meeting

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Thursday’s city council meeting featured one minute of agenda business followed by an hour-long free-for-all.

Council members, Mayor Tom Leighton, candidates in next month’s primary and members of the public sparred over long-standing hot topics — including a suggestion to sue Leighton to recover money Wilkes-Barre paid in fines for not documenting how city employees used city-owned gasoline.

First, council unanimously approved motions to suspend the city’s open container law for two upcoming downtown events: The Fine Arts Fiesta on May 14-17 in Public Square, and the Osterhout Free Library’s Rooftop Party at the Intermodal Transportation Center on Aug. 7.

The open-container suspensions “only apply to malted and brewed beverages and not to wine and liquors” and only to the sites and times of the planned events: The eastern corner of Public Square from 3 p.m. until close for the four-day Fine Arts Fiesta, and the rooftop and fourth floor of the transportation center’s parking garage, from 5 to 8 p.m., for the rooftop party.

Then the fireworks started with public comments in the packed council chamber.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/motion-to-make-leighton-pay-gas-gate-money-gets-no-support-at-council-meeting-1.1869350

Wilkes University Breaks Ground On $1 Million Campus Gateway Project

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Wilkes University is on a mission.

The product of a 20-member committee, the university’s Gateway to the Future Strategic Plan was launched two years ago to stake out pathways for meeting future challenges.

That proposal took a literal spin Thursday, as university and elected officials broke ground on a $1 million walkway project to connect the campus with the heart of downtown Wilkes-Barre, the latest endeavor in the six-year plan to chisel a traditional residential campus out of the Diamond City’s urban landscape.

Within the last year, the university has pledged more than $30 million in upgrades to the campus, including a $33 million science center and an additional $3 million in renovations to the University Center at 169 S. Main St., the future site of the of the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news-news/153093061/Wilkes-launches-$1M-gateway

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

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

In Focus: Church Reaching Out To Sherman Hills To Be Community Partner In Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Is there hope for Sherman Hills?

The bigger question — Is there hope for the City of Wilkes-Barre?

The Restored Church on North Franklin Street will do its part to try to revive the city’s morale and its pride, and eliminate its fear.

The church will hold an event — “I Love My City” — on Saturday, April 25 in the Sherman Hills apartment complex parking lot. All residents of the city are welcome with their children. The church hopes the event will serve as a catalyst for similar events to be held.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/152853433/

Deadly 2013 Lands Wilkes-Barre On ‘Murder Capital’ List

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The city’s bloody 2013 has placed it on a list of the Top 30 “Murder Capitals in America.”

The 13 homicides that took place in Wilkes-Barre made for the deadliest year in city history. The city was ranked 18th on the list.

NeighborhoodScout, an information website which compiles data on neighborhoods and cities throughout the country, used FBI numbers on homicides to create a list of cities with the highest murder rates. The report lists Wilkes-Barre as having 12 murders and does not include a case involving an accidental shooting, which the FBI classified as involuntary manslaughter.

The report says that until recently, major cities ranked among the dominating murder capitals, but this list is “populated mostly by middle-sized cities as well as smaller cities in close proximity to larger ones.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/deadly-2013-lands-w-b-on-murder-capital-list-1.1861214

City Of Wilkes-Barre Swears In 10 New Police Officers

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A large crowd looked on in council chambers Tuesday as 10 new city police officers were sworn in wearing suits and ties and shiny new badges, but the message was sobering.

“There will be challenging times and scary moments,” said Rev. J. Duane Gavitt, the police department’s chaplain.

Police Chief Robert Hughes said the new officers are beginning a new call to service.

“There will be late nights,” he said. “There will be middle of the night call-outs. You are prepared for this.”

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news-news/152145029/W-B-swears-in-10-new-police-officers

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Leighton Gets $150K To Help Balance 2015 Budget

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The mayor asked and the authority board complied.

Mayor Tom Leighton Tuesday asked the members of the city’s Parking Authority for a little help for the city’s coffers. On a 4-1 vote, the authority approved giving the city $75,000 now and another $75,000 after the first of the year.

“This eliminates me from raising property taxes in the city,” Leighton said after the vote.

One authority member, Maryanne King, expressed concerned for the move, noting that auditors recently reported the need to increase revenues and replenish a depleted reserve fund to assure needed capital improvements of authority assets.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/localnews1/50873001/

Former IBM worker, College Professor To Run For Wilkes-Barre Mayor

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Brian Kelly said he wants to get Wilkes-Barre back on the right track, and that’s why he is running for mayor in 2015.

Kelly, 66, announced his candidacy Friday and said he is running as a “JFK Democrat.” He said the city suffers from “malaise,” as evidenced by the demolition of the Hotel Sterling and the continued non-functioning fountain on Public Square.

Interest in the mayoral post has been high, considering the primaries are not until next spring. Councilman Tony George has announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination next year and Democratic Councilman George Brown is said to be pondering a run.

Incumbent three-term Democratic incumbent Mayor Tom Leighton said Friday he will not decide whether to run again until February. Leighton also declined to respond to criticism Kelly made of city operations.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50686313/

Wilkes-Barre Announces Annual Christmas Parade, Tree Lighting

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The City of Wilkes-Barre has announced plans for this year’s annual Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony.

The city will kick off the holiday season on Nov. 22 with a full day of downtown events, concluding with the arrival of Santa in the annual parade, followed by the lighting of the Christmas tree on Public Square.

“The City of Wilkes-Barre’s Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting ceremony is the perfect way to bring the holiday season to life in downtown Wilkes-Barre,” Mayor Thomas M. Leighton said in a news release. “We are thrilled to offer many free family friendly activities for the young and young-at-heart to enjoy throughout the day.”

Festivities will begin at 11:30 a.m. with storytelling by Mrs. Claus at Barnes & Noble on South Main Street.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50673067/

Leighton Names Hughes New Wilkes-Barre Police Chief

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Make that Chief Hughes, and no more “acting.”

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton this morning named Robert Hughes the city’s top cop, just a month after the 25-year department veteran was appointed acting chief in the wake of longtime Chief Gerard Dessoye’s departure to take a position at King’s College.

“The role of police chief requires great expertise and experience in law enforcement, superior leadership and outstanding professionalism in working with all law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels,” Leighton said during the 11-minute ceremony in the City Hall council chambers.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50505618/

Hughes Named Acting Wilkes-Barre Police Chief

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

Robert Hughes is the acting chief of the Wilkes-Barre Police Department after being appointed Monday by Mayor Tom Leighton.

Hughes, the department’s commander of operations, has been with the department for 25 years, according to a press release from the city.

Hughes replaces Gerard Dessoye, who retired Friday after 33 years to take a security job with King’s College.

Dessoye Stepping Down As Wilkes-Barre Police Chief

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — So much for listening to his older brother about career choices.

City Police Chief Gerard Dessoye announced his long-rumored retirement Wednesday after 33 years on the force, rising to lead the more than 90-member department from patrolman.

Dessoye, 57, will leave his $91,305-a-year position later this month to take over as executive director of campus safety and security at King’s College, where he graduated in 1979 with a degree in criminal justice.

A decorated officer — Dessoye has been shot, and himself shot and killed a man — the outgoing chief acknowledged his brother Michael, chief detective with the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, discouraged him from following in his footsteps as a policeman.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50249743/Dessoye-stepping-down-as-chief#.VAiPH_RDsxI

CityVest Gives Sterling Property To Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

The nonprofit owner of the former Hotel Sterling property has turned the title over to Luzerne County.

In a letter to the county solicitor sent Thursday, Scranton-based attorney George Reihner said recent action by the county to garnish CityVest of parking fees being generated at the site on West Market Street took him off-guard.

“Given that CityVest offered the Hotel Sterling property to the county more than two years ago and regularly communicated with county officials about the status of the property since the date of acquisition, I was surprised to learn of these sudden legal actions from the media,” Reihner wrote.

In an attempt to “remedy the current impasse,” Reihner wrote that CityVest has decided to sign over the property to the county. The transaction was recorded Thursday.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/cityvest-gives-sterling-property-to-county-1.1739850

Facade Program Spruces Up Wilkes-Barre’s Main Arteries

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA  — Angela Marsicano and her daughter, Gina, know first-hand the benefits of the city’s Gateway Facade Improvement Program.

The two women live next door to each other and they took advantage of the program to improve the appearance of their Blackman Street homes. Angela lives at 246 Blackman St. and Gina is at 250 Blackman.

Gina had new stonework, front window, front door, porch rail, porch roof installed and aluminum siding painted.

Her mother had new windows installed, shutters, aconcrete foundation and porch steps put in.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50139841/Facade-program-spruces-up-W-Bs-main-arteries#.U_I5tPRDsxI

Results Released On Wilkes-Barre Downtown Survey

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE — Thursday seemed like the best possible day to release a report on a downtown survey.
 
Public Square was filled with people attending the weekly farmers’ market and Mother Nature cooperated by offering a spectacular day of sunshine.
 
Patty Kopec and her daughter, Frankie, were enjoying some of the food and sunshine. Even with no entertainment on the band shell stage, the Kopecs raved about the city and the downtown and said they wished more events were planned for Public Square.
 
“It needs this kind of stuff,” Patty Kopec said. “It needs more events that appeal to families.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50098707/Results-released-on-downtown-survey%23.U-P3K8JH2i4#.U-T5m_RDsxI

Glodzik Gets 3-12 Months, Work Release In Theft Case In Wilkes-Barre

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — “An unfair sentence by a timid judge.”

That was how defense attorney Joseph Sklarosky Sr. characterized the three- to 12-month jail term handed down against his client, former city towing contractor Leo A. Glodzik III, following Glodzik’s sentencing on theft charges Friday morning in Luzerne County Court.

County Judge Lesa S. Gelb gave Glodzik until 9 a.m. Friday to report to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, and declared him immediately available for work release. Sklarosky said Glodzik will appeal in the near future.

LAG Towing owner Glodzik, 43, of Wilkes-Barre, was the city’s exclusive tower for more than eight years, until May 31, 2013. That’s the day he was arrested on accusations of stealing $2,100 planted inside a Cadillac he towed four months earlier, believing the car had been seized from a drug dealer. The cash was bait money planted as part of an FBI sting operation.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1525405/Glodzik-gets-3-to-12-months-in-jail

Wilkes-Barre Resident Faults City For Condition Of Tennis Courts At Park

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA —The city has not scored any points with Thomas Lynn over the condition of the public tennis courts near his home in Miners Mills.

The five paved courts at the Bog Recreation Area haven’t been used in years for the sport. The nets have disappeared and weeds have been growing from the cracks that fracture the playing surface. The other public courts at the Barney Farms Park, close to where Mayor Tom Leighton lives, are in much better shape.

Lynn, a former U.S. Marine, moved to a house on Dewey Lane, a short walk to the Bog park, approximately 20 years ago to raise a family of two sons and a daughter. He’s committed to his neighborhood and has concerns about the safety of many of his elderly neighbors and his daughter who bought a house across the lane from him.

“The park was active at the time. Now it’s the bane of my existence,” Lynn said Wednesday.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1508995/Resident-faults-city-for-condition-of-tennis-courts

Resident Tells Wilkes-Barre City Council Of Heroin Sales In Park, Campsite Protected By Pit Bulls

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Before he addressed City Council on Thursday night, Donald Hosey warned that his comments would be unpleasant.

He’d gone to Mayor Tom Leighton and the police and was unsatisfied with the response to his reports that there is drug dealing in the city’s Riverfront Parks, Hosey explained on why he was speaking publicly to council.

“Right now in that river front park are two campsites of heroin dealers,” said Hosey of the Susquehanna River Watch.

He told council he’d been investigating the activity in the area of the Kirby Park Natural Area for the past seven weeks, taking down information, including names and phone numbers.

Read more:  http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1431688/Resident-tells-W-B-City-Council-of-drug-sales-in-park

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11 New Wilkes-Barre Fire Recruits Added

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — While Shirley Cook sat watching her grandson Jeremy being sworn in as one of the 11 new fire department recruits, she had tucked into her purse a black-and-white photo of her grandfather, who was a city fireman in the 1800s.

The photo showed a couple horse-drawn wagons outside the Northampton Street fire station. Cook, 85, of Scranton, pointed to one of the drivers, Reuben Daley, and said, “This would be his great-great-grandfather.”

Cook retrieved the photo from many she has at home and planned to make a copy for her grandson.

The equipment has since changed and so has the training that Jeremy Cook and the 10 others will undergo to be able to do their jobs of fighting fires, rescuing people from the Susquehanna River, delivering babies or facing whatever situation they’re presented with on the more than 10,000 runs annually.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1298535/11-new-W-B-fire-recruits-added

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