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/

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

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

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

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/

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

Former Wilkes-Barre Police Officers Plead Guilty To Conspiring To Cheat Credit Union

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Former Wilkes-Barre police officer Tino Ninotti signed his brother’s name on loan documents to secure a loan from the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union, a federal prosecutor said Monday.

Ninotti’s brother, Dino Ninotti, was in Afghanistan when the document was signed in March 2012, U.S. Assistant Attorney Michelle Olshefski said.

Ninotti, 36, of Hunlock Township, and former city police officer Jason Anthony, 35, of Wilkes-Barre, were before U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo to plead guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud.

Caputo accepted their guilty pleas after quizzing the two former officers that they understood they gave up their appellate rights.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news/153153683/

Pack Of Teens Allegedly Hurl Rocks At Vehicle, Threaten Driver After Vandalizing South Wilkes-Barre Business

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A pack of teenagers allegedly pelted a vehicle with a flurry of rocks before threatening the driver with a lead pipe, moments after the group vandalized a nearby South Wilkes-Barre business.

Steve Taren, owner of Wet Paint Printing & Design at 152 Horton St., said he recently witnessed a group of about 10 teenagers bending and ripping up about $2,000 worth of shrubs along the length of the building. Last year, Taren, 57, purchased and revitalized the 100-year-old abandoned woodworking warehouse to house the new location of his graphic and design business.

Taren said he had seen the teens in the neighborhood before and believed they attended Meyers High School.

Kimberly Rock, who at the time was picking up her son, Wet Paint employee Brian Casbeer, witnessed the vandalism and pursued the group on foot in an attempt to photograph them. One member of the group, who Rock said ranged from ages 8 to 18, appeared to be carrying a steel or lead pipe.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/153118080/

 

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

Luzerne County Officials Tour Historic Wilkes-Barre Train Station

Moments before a tour was to begin, Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority workers found two men dozing on sleeping bags inside Wilkes-Barre’s historic train station Tuesday afternoon.

The men were annoyed with the interruption at first, telling officials, “We’re napping.” They scurried away when workers ordered them out for trespassing. They were let off with a warning because they were homeless and insisted they had never been there before.

The tour was scheduled because officials are still trying to determine the structure’s fate a decade after prior county commissioners first discussed plans to save the former New Jersey Central train station at the corner of Market Street and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.

The authority purchased the 6-acre property, including a strip mall, for $5.8 million in April 2006 using federal community development funds provided by prior county commissioners.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news/153025164/Officials-tour-train-station

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