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

Wilkes-Barre Chamber Vice President Resigns

Donna Sedor, vice president at the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, has resigned to begin a new leadership career with the Wyoming Valley Children’s Association, according to a letter chamber chief executive officer Wico van Genderen sent to board members.

“I fully support her in this move,” van Genderen said. “As I have said on numerous occasions, our future is our children.”

Sedor has worked for the chamber for 24 years. During her tenure, van Genderen said the chamber has witnessed several accomplishments such as the openings of business parks, the arena, major transportation initiatives and the downtown Wilkes-Barre theater project.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/w-b-chamber-vice-president-resigns-1.1826648

Wilkes-Barre Among Nation’s ‘Cheapest’ College Towns, According To New Study

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Tuition, books and direct spending aside, Wilkes-Barre is among the 30 cheapest places to go to college nationwide, according to a new analysis. The big reason: Housing is dirt cheap — about 30 percent of the national average.

Wilkes-Barre was 26th in the list, which was topped — or bottomed, cost-wise — by Memphis Tennessee, where the overall cost of living is 26.7 percent less than the national average. Don’t bother asking for the college town with the highest cost of living; the website that devised the list is, after all, cheapestcolleges.org.

Wilkes-Barre’s overall cost of living was 79.8 percent of the national average, But a look at the numbers under that percentage show we aren’t all that cheap in most categories.

Of six categories used to judge the cost of living, Wilkes-Barre is higher than the national average in four — miscellaneous, transportation, utilities, and groceries — and just under the national average (97 percent) in health costs. But, boy, do we make up for it housing.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/151499742/

Two Nabbed In Wilkes-Barre Drug Raid; Home Shut Down

Two men face multiple drug charges following a raid at a Wilkes-Barre home on Thursday.

Wilkes-Barre police and state police executed a search warrant at 284 N. Washington St. at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, police said in a news release.

Police said they found “distribution quantities” of cocaine, heroin and marijuana in the home and arrested Louis Soto, 25, and Brian Lulewicz, 30. The men were taken into custody without incident, police said. An investigation by city and state police revealed that the two men were selling large quantities of heroin and cocaine from the residence and were armed, according to police.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/two-nabbed-in-w-b-drug-raid-home-shut-down-1.1822054

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

Pizza Hut, Lone Star Closing Kidder Street Locations

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Two more national brand eateries announced on Monday that they are closing their doors.

One week after its Hanover Township restaurant closed, and following two years of disappointing sales on a national level, Pizza Hut announced that its Kidder Street location also will shut down this week.

And Lone Star Steakhouse, part of a chain that features a Texas-inspired menu, will close its Kidder Street location this weekend. Employees at the restaurant confirmed Monday that the restaurant would close permanently on Saturday.

No one at Lone Star corporate offices in Plano, Texas, could be reached for comment.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-local-news-news/151386496/

Drugs, Gun Seized In Wilkes-Barre Raid

The Wilkes-Barre Police Anti Crime Unit and the Wilkes-Barre Drug Task force raided a residence on Blackman Street on a drug warrant early Wednesday morning.

The raid was a result of an ongoing investigation targeting drug trafficking in the Rolling Mill Hill section of the city and its surrounding areas, police said.

The investigation revealed Julio “Cesar” Fortuna, 21, was dealing large quantities of high-grade marijuana from his residence and the surrounding streets, police said. Authorities raided 431 Blackman St. around 6 a.m. Wednesday and took Fortuna into custody without incident, police said.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/drugs-gun-seized-in-wilkes-barre-raid-1.1813789

Wilkes-Barre City Council Chooses New Chairperson

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Mike Merritt will lead city council in 2015.

The former vice chair and former council chair Bill Barrett traded places Monday, when the five-person council selected Merritt to take over as chairman and Barrett as vice chairman in consecutive unanimous decisions.

Merritt addressed the council at the conclusion of the meeting, promising to work with them to kept the city “moving in the right direction.”

The council also passed ordinances establishing the 2015 holiday and meeting schedules.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50981547/

Video Signage In Wilkes-Barre To Promote Genetti Businesses And Area Non-Profits

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Two outdoor video signs on a downtown building are for the birds and other wildlife for the time being, until a software switch replaces them with ads.

The signs atop the building owned by hotelier Gus Genetti on the corner of North Street and North Pennsylvania Avenue have been up for a few weeks. On Friday he said that they should be displaying advertisements for his facilities and promoting area non-profit organizations by the end of next week.

The transition has been delayed because of a switch to a different program to run the ads after difficulties arose with the original software, Genetti explained. “We’re waiting to be trained on the program,” he said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50967407/

Nanticoke Man Arrested For Shooting In Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A Nanticoke man was arraigned Thursday on charges he shot a woman in the head near Gordon Avenue in South Wilkes-Barre last week.

Michael Angelo Foschini Jr, 25, of West Main Street, was charged with two counts each of aggravated assault and simple assault, and one count each of possession of marijuana and reckless endangerment. He was arraigned by District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke and jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $250,000 bail.

Foschini was arrested by city police and Nanticoke police when he began driving away from his residence at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Police believe the woman, a 19-year-old, was shot in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. She survived her injuries.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50888033/

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/

Labor Department: Marcellus Shale Contractors Owe $4.5 Million In Back Wages

Contractors involved in natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania and West Virginia must pay nearly $4.5 million in back wages to more than 5,000 workers, following a two-year U.S. Department of Labor investigation.

“An ongoing multi-year enforcement initiative conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division offices in Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh from 2012 to 2014 found significant violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which resulted in employers agreeing to pay $4,498,547 in back wages to 5,310 employees,” read a Labor Department statement released on Tuesday.

“It’s part of an ongoing initiative, a multi-year initiative,” said Labor Department spokeswoman Leni Fortson of the Philadelphia office. “These are the findings from the first three years.”

A list of the violating companies can be found attached to this story at http://www.timesleader.com.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50834414/Labor-Department:-Contractors-owe-millions-in-back-wages

Luzerne County Employee Fired After Pay Lapse

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Luzerne County administrators on Monday responded to an error that resulted in about 1,400 employees not being paid on time by firing an employee who was on vacation at the time, according to several sources at the courthouse.

County Council Vice Chairman Edd Brominski confirmed the employee fired Monday was Jason Parrish, who was promoted from clerk to budget and policy analyst in May 2013 with a salary of $35,000.

Reached at home in Kingston on Monday afternoon, Parrish declined to comment at length, although he characterized the pay lapse as an accident. Asked if he thought his firing was justified, Parrish said, “That’s their decision, not mine.”

The decision to fire Parrish drew swift criticism from administration detractors who accused county Manager Robert Lawton of using Parrish as a fall man. Former county controller Walter L. Griffith Jr., who had worked with Parrish in the controller’s office, said Parrish was on approved vacation at the time and that he is being punished because management failed to delegate the task to someone else.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/county-employee-fired-after-pay-lapse-1.1795954

Luzerne County Stands To Receive Up To $2 Million From Coal Street Project

Cash-strapped Luzerne County has a claim on at least some of the $2 million left from the Coal Street widening project in Wilkes-Barre, but delays finalizing project expenses have prevented the county from receiving its share.

The amount of the county’s share also is unclear because the Wilkes-Barre Area School District may be entitled to some of the fund, officials say.

County Councilman Stephen A. Urban raised the issue during a budget work session last week, questioning why it’s taking years for the county to collect this money.

The $2 million stems from a Tax Incremental Financing plan, or TIF, that diverted tax revenue from new development along Highland Park Boulevard and at the Arena Hub Plaza to fund improvements to Mundy Street, Highland Park Boulevard and Coal Street .

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50745998/County-could-receive-up-to-$2M-from-Coal-St.

Woman Charged With Stabbing Boyfriend In Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City police arrested Jack-Lyn Blake, 47, on charges she stabbed her boyfriend because she found him eating.

Blake was arrested as she attempted to leave her Madison Street residence at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, when they found her boyfriend, Benjamin Smith, holding a towel to his chest.

Smith told police Thursday night he called 911 earlier in the day for an incident involving Blake. Smith claimed Blake was intoxicated and had gone to sleep.

Smith said Blake woke up hours later, came downstairs and found him eating food. He said Blake became angry and grabbed a knife chasing him around the kitchen table, police said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50769219/

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Says He’s Undecided About Another Run, Contends His Comments Misunderstood

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE — Saying his comments were misunderstood, Mayor Thomas Leighton said Friday he has not yet decided on running for another term.

Leighton, a Democrat, will begin the fourth and final year of his third term in January. He said he will discuss whether to run again with his wife and children over the holidays, make a decision and announce it in February as he has previously done.

“No decision has been made,” he said Friday.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50732477/

Police Charge Man Shot By Wilkes-Barre Officer

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, PA — The man shot and wounded by police in a Hanover Township parking lot was hit Thursday with felony assault and drug trafficking charges alleging he tried to run down two officers while speeding away from a crack deal he made with a police informant, according to court documents.

Bong Bob Kim, 30, of 9 Harkins Lane, Wilkes-Barre, remained hospitalized at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township on Thursday night as state police filed charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, criminal use of a communication facility, drug trafficking, fleeing police and reckless endangerment.

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis on Thursday night identified Wilkes-Barre police Officer Joseph Sinavage as the officer who shot Kim.

According to a police affidavit filed in court, a state police vice unit and Wilkes-Barre police were conducting a joint drug operation at about 2 p.m. Wednesday in the area of the Family Dollar on Carey Avenue when things went awry.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/police-charge-man-shot-by-w-b-officer-1.1791355

Man Allegedly Threatened People In Downtown Wilkes-Barre With Crossbow

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A man was arrested after he allegedly threatened people walking downtown with a loaded crossbow.

Police were dispatched to South Main Street at about 5:20 p.m. for a report of a male wearing a poncho and carrying a loaded crossbow.

Reports were made that the male had fired the crossbow at a moving vehicle and pointed it at several people.

Officers located the male, identified as Joseph Warnagiris, 29, of Wilkes-Barre, who had his hands hidden under his poncho, police said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50705500/Man-allegedly-threatened-people-with-crossbow

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/