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5/12/2017
Decision means no federal aid for storm cleanup
mmizenko@timesleader.com and jlynott@timesleader.com

Luzerne County municipalities won't be getting any federal money to help offset the cleanup costs from March's record-breaking snowstorm. The March 14-15 storm dropped more than two feet of snow throughout Luzerne County in a 24-hour span.
Gov. Tom Wolf today announced that President Donald Trump has denied his request for a federal disaster declaration that would have meant federal money to help cover the costs of the storm.
"This disaster declaration would have provided much-needed financial assistance to hard-hit communities in Northeastern Pennsylvania," Wolf said.
Wolf received a letter from Robert J. Fenton, acting administrator for FEMA, which said "the damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the commonwealth and affected local governments."
Ted Wampole, city administrator for Wilkes-Barre, took issue with the sentence.
"How they could say that," he said, "defies any kind of logic from anywhere even from Washington."
Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat agrees.
"It's a tremendous burden to the city," Cusat said, noting the city submitted close to $200,000 in receipts. "It's disappointing."
Nanticoke submitted just over $50,000 for their most expensive two days, interim city Manager Donna Wall said. But still, it will be a hit for the community.
"We're all suffering," she said. The city will have to cut planned projects, Wall noted.

In his request letter sent to the Trump administration on May 2, Wolf cited costs to local municipalities that significantly exceeded their snow removal budgets, transportation issues such as preemptive road closures including major interstates, record-breaking snowfall in nine counties and storm conditions that generated significant life-safety issues requiring a variety of critical resource and support needs, such as rescue and evacuation of stranded motorists, wrecker service with recovery staff, generators and transportation of emergency workers.
The denial may be appealed within 30 days.
"We'll most likely appeal," said Ted Wampole, city administrator for Wilkes-Barre. The city spent approximately $1 million for the storm cleanup.
Wall, who said she had a "bad feeling" about getting funds refunded, but said she's going to look into getting a group effort together for an appeal.
"Numbers speak volumes," she said.

Cusat said he'll be using his weekend to reach out to other municipalities to see if he can get a "strength in numbers" response.
"If more than one appeals, they will see it's a disaster," he said. "Not just one (municipality) crying wolf."
Wolf made the request earlier this month in order to provide federal funding to local, county and state governments, as well as certain eligible nonprofits in Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Northumberland, Pike, Wayne and Montour counties through the Public Assistance program.
The program provides reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the costs incurred on eligible expenses for the eligible 48-hour time period.

5/4/2017
Nanticoke officials: Woman broke her leg jumping out of burning residence
tkellar@timesleader.com

Officials say a woman broke her leg when she jumped out of a window of her residence that was on fire early Thursday morning.
Officials were dispatched at 5:20 a.m. to the residence at 18 Ross St. in the Honey Pot section of the city for a report of a residential structure fire.
Capt. Mark Boncal of the Nanticoke Fire Department said crews arrived to find smoke visible from the front of the structure.
“And there was a good amount of fire,” he said.
Boncal said a woman jumped from a rear window to escape the residence, resulting in a broken leg. The woman was transported to a local hospital for treatment of her injuries.
A man was also treated at the scene for minor injuries, and a dog was also rescued from the residence, according to Boncal.
Boncal said the fire was under control and fully extinguished within 20 minutes. He said the structure sustained moderate fire damage, but believed that the structure was salvageable.
The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal.

4/28/2017
Nanticoke Area breaks ground for school project
Michael P. Buffer - Citizens Voice

The Greater Nanticoke Area School Board had a groundbreaking ceremony to officially kick off the Kennedy Early Childhood Center addition and renovation project.
The project is expected to finished by May 2018, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
On March 28, the school board voted to accept project bids with a total cost of $8.8 million — about $1.3 million less than bids opened last May.
In December, the board voted to re-bid the project without a project labor agreement, which provided collective bargaining terms for building project workers hired by district contractors and subcontractors and included a preference for Nanticoke Area residents.

4/28/2017
Greater Nanticoke Area youngsters breaks ground for early childhood center
Aimee Dilger - Times Leader

There was a table full of real adult hard hats and big black shovels, and one with toy plastic hard hats and little red shovels. When it came time for some ceremonial groundbreaking outside Kennedy Elementary School in Nanticoke, the little shovels got used first, though Benjamin Wisnosky balked at participating.
As Kennedy Elementary Principal John Gorham called the names of several pre-school and kindergarten students to join in the digging, Benjamin pouted, buried his head in his mother’s dress, and slapped the little yellow hard hat away. Fear not, though. As more children stepped to the table to get their gear, Benjamin took to the notion and started lining up with the rest.
Greater Nanticoke Area officially broke ground for the expansion and renovation of the school to create the Kennedy Early Childhood Center. The project is expected to cost about $8 million, with $3 million reimbursed by the state. After it’s done, K.M. Smith School will be closed and all district students will be taking classes at a single campus along Kosciuszko Street.
During the brief ceremony, Superintendent Ron Grevera said the Kennedy school was among the first elementary schools in the nation named for President John F. Kennedy following his assassination. He also said Kennedy had been a staunch supporter of education as a means to “move people from poverty to prosperity.”
By the time the adults were done talking and the kids got to dig into a pile of fresh brown dirt on the lawn outside the front of the school, Benjamin was practically beaming, and like most of the youngsters, didn’t stop with a single shovel of dirt.
By comparison, the adults were, well, boring in their posed smiles and scant real shovel action.
The youngsters, who either already attend kindergarten in the district or — like Benjamin — are expected to attend in the expanded school, also got to release red and white balloons into the air.
But the real highlight?
They got to keep the hats and shovels.

4/26/2017
UGI planning gas line projects
Denise Allabaugh - Citizens Voice

UGI will spend more than $170 million to replace natural gas mains and complete a variety of system enhancement projects, according to company press release.
In Northeast Pennsylvania, infrastructure projects will be completed on North Wyoming, North Vine and East Chestnut streets in Hazleton; Railroad Street in Nanticoke; Taylor, North Cameron, Webster and Crown avenues in Scranton; Inman Street in Hanover Township; Walnut Street in Luzerne; and Fourth Street in Nescopeck.
In all, about 64 miles of cast iron and bare steel mains are targeted for replacement. Communities where the projects will occur will receive advanced notification of UGI’s construction schedules. For more information, go to www.ugi.com/construction.

4/24/2017
Nanticoke Historical Society gives citizens ‘virtual tour’
pkernan@timesleader.com

With the power of a projector and over 10,000 photos, a few people were able to be transported back into Nanticoke’s past, when gas was 30 cents a gallon and Woolworth’s was the biggest name in department stores.
On Sunday, interested residents were able to visit the St. Faustina Cultural Center at 38 W. Church St., Nanticoke, to check out a presentation put on by the Nanticoke Historical Society. This was the second such display put on by the society, with the first occurring about a year ago at Nanticoke City Hall.
Dubbing the event a “virtual tour,” the society claimed to have somewhere around 10,700 photos of the city of Nanticoke available for viewing. Chester Zaremba, 71, of Nanticoke, the society’s vice president and secretary/treasurer, was manning the projector, pulling up various photos.
“We have a few photos that we want to start with,” Zaremba said. “From there, we just let the audience dictate what they want to see as the photos start to bring back their memories.”
And come back their memories did. Zaremba started with a handful of photos of newspaper ads from Nanticoke businesses — some closed and some still open. But soon, the discussion turned to particular businesses and city buildings from various parts of town, with the crowd calling out what they wanted to see next.
In that way, the display slowly grew to just short of two hours in total run time.
Zaremba also had a special segment organized of before-and-after photos, showing a few buildings around Nanticoke as they look now and how they appeared previously, with years of renovations and changes stripped away. Zaremba told the crowd that these photos would eventually become part of a “then-and-now” style book to be published by the Historical Society.
John Dubik, 65, of Hanover Township, said he came to the event after seeing an ad for it at Gerrity’s supermarket. What he likes about events like this is getting the opportunity to see things again that have been long changed or demolished.
“There’s all this stuff that you took for granted, and then it suddenly disappeared,” Dubik said. “I was young when a lot of it went, so I didn’t get to walk around and see it myself, so it’s good to see it now.”
One of the things that most impressed Dubik about the display was the quick growth in Nanticoke’s past.
“They built a high school, and then 20 years later they outgrew it and had to build another one,” Dubik marveled.
Donna Henderson, 70, of Nanticoke, was raised in the city but spent about 25 years away. Now, having moved back after retirement, she enjoyed the opportunity to be reminded of her past.
“There are lots of things I forgot, and the visuals serve as a good reminder,” Henderson said.
Zambera said that the goal of events like this one is twofold: besides helping people remember the past, they also want to get people involved with the Historical Society.
“We’d like to see some younger people get involved,” he said. “There’s still so much work left to be done in preserving Nanticoke’s history, and we hope someone continues to do it.”

4/23/2017
Hanover Area, Nanticoke Area teaming up on field for a good cause
Steve Bennett - Citizens Voice

When Nanticoke Area and Hanover Area had their exhibition baseball game postponed prior to the start of the season, it figured to be just another game lost to poor weather conditions.
But Hanover Area junior Matt Clarke had an idea, and it showed that when times are tough, positive things can come out of the most heated rivalries.
Not long after Nanticoke Area senior Aaron Kreitzer was diagnosed with leukemia in March, Clarke approached Hanover Area coach Mike Zapotoski about playing a game to benefit Kreitzer and his family. Zapotoski called Nanticoke Area coach Joe Yudichak, and Yudichak didn’t hesitate.
From there, Nanticoke Area athletic director Ken Bartuska thought it would be a good idea if the softball teams from both schools became involved.
And next Sunday, a doubleheader will be held at Hanover Area with all proceeds from the event going to the Kreitzer family. The Nanticoke Area and Hanover Area softball teams will play at 1, with the baseball teams scheduled to play at 2. Both games are exhibitions.
“He was going to be one of my senior leaders and a starting outfielder,” Yudichak said of Kreitzer, who is receiving treatment at Geisinger in Danville. “It is tough to put into words. This never happened to me with a player in 30 years of coaching. It shook up the whole team. The whole team is battling through it with him.”
The connection between the two schools goes well beyond the rivalry. There are friendships that have been forged, and Aaron’s father, Brian, is a health and physical education teacher at Hanover Area. He teaches alongside Hanover Area softball coach Kathy Healey. And, to take it a step further, Aaron’s cousin, Kyle, is an assistant baseball coach at Hanover Area.
Once Clarke came up with the idea of the game, Kyle Kreitzer took the ball and ran with it, mainly to keep the pressure of putting together something like this off the kids.
“When Kyle asked if the softball team wanted to play, we said we absolutely would,” Healey said. “The Hanover kids love Mr. Kreitzer, and they said they would do anything for him. A lot of our players know Aaron; they definitely want to help.”
The teams sold shirts for the game at a cost of $15, and the shirts the players will wear are donated by Senator John Yudichak and Joe Yudichak Sr. A limited number will be sold at the games on a first come, first served basis.
“The team brought it up, and I took it upon myself to take charge of it,” Kyle Kreitzer said. “Aaron is my cousin. We are pretty close. I grew up with him; we spend all the holidays together. We would hang out, go over his house swimming and all that.”
Kyle Kreitzer came up with the design for the shirts.
“I wanted to do something simple,” he said. “His jersey number (17) will be on the jersey and the word ‘Fight’ is across the back. Just a way of everyone coming together to fight for him and with him. Everybody will be wearing the number 17.
“Reality kind of sets in and you put all the rivalry stuff behind you. Especially with (Aaron) being a family member. It is nice for both communities to come together. Both communities are connected to him. It is nice we can all come together and have a game for him.”
Pat Revello from Old Forge, another relation to the Kreitzer family, is donating pizza for the event. There is also a contingent from Old Forge that will be traveling by bus to the games. They will be wearing similar shirts to the players — only theirs will be gold. Also, baked goods will be available, and there will be raffles and a 50-50 drawing. There is no admission fee to attend the games, but fans will be asked to donate money for parking.
“It’s a great thing, it shows that two rivals can come together and do something for a kid that is in need right now,” Yudichak said. “It is amazing that (Clarke) could come up with an idea like that. When (Zapotoski) called me to see if I wanted to set something up, I was thrilled. I am happy that the kids care. You see the heart in a lot of people when something like this happens.”
Yudichak said players from Nanticoke Area are constantly in touch with Aaron Kreitzer via text message. The Trojans wear a ribbon on their hat and a patch on their jerseys as a way to honor him.
“I can’t stress enough what a good kid he is,” Yudichak said.

4/20/2017
Taxpayers face expense to reduce Susquehanna River pollutants
jandes@timesleader.com

Municipalities serviced by the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority:
Ashley, Courtdale, Dallas, Dallas Township, Duryea, Edwardsville, Exeter, Forty Fort, Hanover Township, Harveys Lake, Hughestown, Jackson Township, Jenkins Township, Kingston, Kingston Township, Laflin, Larksville, Lehman Township, Luzerne, Nanticoke, Newport Township, Pittston, Pittston Township, Plains Township, Plymouth, Plymouth Township, Pringle, Sugar Notch, Swoyersville, Warrior Run, West Pittston, West Wyoming, Wilkes-Barre, Wilkes-Barre Township, Wyoming and Yatesville.
Property owners in Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Nanticoke and 33 other Luzerne County municipalities must shoulder the massive expense of an unfunded federal mandate to reduce the amount of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus deposited into the Susquehanna River from stormwater.
The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority is pitching a regional approach, saying the 36 municipalities it services for wastewater treatment would spend far more developing and implementing required stormwater plans on their own.
This group approach will save even more money if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the authority's proposal to make the giant Toby Creek impounding basin off Division Street in Pringle the main component of its pollution reduction plan.
This basin holds water that drains from 30 square miles in the Back Mountain to prevent flooding in Pringle, Kingston and other municipalities on lower ground.
The authority wants to make the path of water more meandering inside the basin to slow it down and reduce the amount of sediment that ends up leaving the basin and ending up in the Susquehanna. Deep-rooted shrubs also would be planted on the basin floor to soak up nitrogen and phosphorus.
These and other details about the proposal were presented to the county Flood Protection Authority this week because the basin is part of the Wyoming Valley Levee system.
According to a two-hour presentation by sanitary authority consultant Herbert, Rowland and Grubic Inc.:
The mandate stems from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay plan requiring states to reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment in waterways that feed into the bay.
In response, the state Department of Environmental Protection is requiring all municipalities that drain water into the Susquehanna to submit stormwater permit plans by September, citing how they will reduce sediment 10 percent, phosphorus by 5 percent and nitrogen by 3 percent over the next five years.
Municipalities face fines if they don't comply with the requirements, which include detailed maps of all stormwater systems and annual progress reports.
If a regional plan is submitted, all participating municipalities will receive credit for meeting sediment and pollutant reduction targets through larger projects outside their municipal borders.
The Toby basin work would satisfy 70 percent of the 10-percent sediment reduction requirement.
Other proposed work in the sanitary authority proposal includes:
o Pollution reduction alterations in a detention basin near Washington Street in Plymouth along with a "stormwater park" explaining the project, which would satisfy another stormwater public education requirement.
o Sediment reduction and other enhancements at Abrahams Creek near the county recreational complex in Forty Fort and another water collection area in Hanover Township.
o Stream restoration along Solomon Creek on the east side of the river.
The total cost of the project would be about $33 million.
The project expense would be covered by a fee estimated to range from $3 to $4.50 per property per month. Nonprofits and other entities that are exempt from real estate taxes would have to pay the fee.
Another monthly fee of up to $1 per month may be proposed to fund half of the cost pollution reduction projects municipalities want to complete within their borders.
The fee for each property would be based on the estimated percentage of stormwater runoff it generates. For example, the fee would be higher for a lot that is mostly paved, which is considered an "impervious area," because it holds less water when it rains and snows.
Municipalities that want to go solo would have to spend an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 to complete the plans and additional costs to implement corrective measures, the consultant said.
The sanitary authority would handle the billing, maintenance of most of the pollution reduction solutions and stormwater system mapping.
The authority estimated its regional approach would save the 36 municipalities a combined 60 percent over the next five years and another 30 percent if Army Corps clearance is granted for the Toby basin work.
Bill Finnegan, the sanitary authority's solicitor, said Wednesday a meeting will be held next week with representatives of the 36 municipalities to present documents they must submit if they want to participate in the regional plan. Public information sessions also are planned, he said.
"The public has to understand this is another unfunded mandate, and either their municipality is going to do it or the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority," Finnegan said. "If the sanitary authority does it, it will be a fraction of the cost."
The regional project would mirror the decision of municipalities to band together under the authority umbrella in 1962 for sanitary services, he said.
"We're basically looking to do something similar, but dealing with stormwater mandates," he said. "It would really be a historic project."
After sitting through the flood authority presentation, Kingston resident Brian Shiner said he's frustrated the federal government "pushes it on the back of property owners."
"I understand and accept we have to take care of our natural resources. The problem is it's so easy for these federal agencies to make mandates and not provide the cash to back it up," he said.
Shiner said many property owners will struggle to pay the fee amid other rising expenses. He supports a regional approach but reserved opinion on the proposed plan until he receives more detailed breakdowns on the project costs and administrative expenses.
"It bothers me how rushed this is," he said.
Officials in municipalities outside the sanitary authority coverage area also must develop compliance plans. Most Luzerne County municipalities are in watersheds that drain into the Susquehanna, which flows over 400 miles from its origin near Cooperstown, New York, and empties into the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

4/19/2017
GNA travel programs broaden horizons
By Madelyn Bugdonovitch, Newspaper In Education student columnist
Citizens Voice

Traveling can open minds, giving a new sense of responsibility and a new sense of self to the traveler. The Greater Nanticoke Area High School gives its students the chance to step outside the mere walls of the classroom and take advantage of opportunities to get out of town, out of state, and even out of the country.
“International travel is so personally enriching; you get to see how other people live and think. As a teacher, it is amazing for me to see students so engaged in such a different environment,” said Linda Kelchner, Spanish teacher at GNA and chaperone for many of the international excursions.
Many opportunities
Through many of its programs, Greater Nanticoke Area affords students the opportunity to experience new places and cultures, to talk with people of other nationalities, to try foods different from that which they are used to, and to really step outside of their comfort zone and explore the world around them. They also get the chance to meet students who are traveling from other areas, and in some cases, to form lifelong friendships. By choosing to travel, students are allowing themselves a chance to grow and change in many positive ways.
For many students at GNA, this is their first time traveling alone without their families. This environment provides a chance to develop essential life skills such as decision-making, self-sufficiency, and money and time management.
Studying abroad and traveling internationally can help bring about a sense of independence that is essential for life after high school. These unique opportunities have been offered thanks to teachers who know and understand both the personal and educational value of international travel.
Taking WorldStrides
GNA has teamed up with WorldStrides to educate and make dreams of travel come true.
WorldStrides has more than 50 years of travel experience, taking more than seven million students all over the globe.
WorldStrides is not just a travel company but an actual accredited school. It’s just like other schools, but without the walls. They have a curriculum and an academics department that offers official academic credits to student travelers. Student travelers have the chance to complete online courses regarding the location they have travelled to and the things they experienced while there. By completing these courses, students can earn free high school credits and/or three college credits, truly making the most of their international travel.
Costa Rica trip
Last year, students from GNA traveled to Costa Rica. It was a nature-based trip that included time spent in the rainforest where students observed and studied the bats that inhabit the area. The travelers tested the waters of the Sarapiqui River, ran various experiments, and participated in many exciting activities, such as ziplining through the jungle.
“I watched students grow and begin to take risks. I watched them learn and become willing to try new things. Seeing these children develop, I find, is more rewarding than the trip itself. It was amazing to watch them discover a whole new side to themselves,” said Kelchner.
Everyone who attended this trip experienced something profound and returned with a new perspective and an improved self-confidence. “We had a student who absolutely did not want to zipline and, on the way up inside of the tramcar, he was second guessing his decision. Later on, that particular student was ahead of me. I called out, ‘Hey, are you liking it?’ and his response was, ‘No, I’m loving it!’ This brought tears to my eyes because here was a student who was dead-set on not participating. He took a risk and then had an amazing life-changing experience,” stated Kelchner.
This year, Peru
For the 2016-17 school year, students from GNA will travel to South America and spend 10 days exploring the country of Peru. This is a cultural and historical based trip where students will visit several sights and museums in Lima including the Lima Cathedral, the Plaza de Armas, the Presidential Palace, and the famous Larco Museum, where more than 4,000 years of Peruvian history is showcased.
After sightseeing around the “City of Kings,” students will fly to the Sacred Valley of Cusco, the heart of the ancient Inca Empire. There, they will follow the Inca Trail and visit several historic sites, such as the ancient ruins and temples, and the Inca baths of Tampu Mach’ay. Travelers will participate in a full day excursion to explore Peru’s most famous destination, the Lost City of Machu Picchu, which sits high up in the Andes Mountains. They will also be spending a few days exploring the Amazon Rainforest. Additionally, unique educational experiences will await them in Peru, where students will be visiting an Incan Tribe to learn about, watch, and participate in one of their ancient rituals to honor and give thanks to Mother Earth. Students will be spending time at a Peruvian School where they will have the opportunity to interact with Peruvian students. These are just a few of the incredible places and exciting things the students at Greater Nanticoke Area will be fortunate enough to experience.
Next year, Iceland
Next year, students will be given the rare opportunity to visit Iceland for an entire week of nature and science based experiences and experiments. Students will find themselves face to face with opportunities to view some of the most amazing sights in the world and can explore Icelandic life and visit numerous museums and villages in and around Reykjavík. Iceland is known as the “Land of Fire and Ice” due to the many volcanoes and glaciers that cover the country.
GNA students will study volcanoes, climb massive glaciers, explore ice caves, observe geysers in action, and hike to breathtaking waterfalls. The trip will conclude with a swim in the Blue Lagoon, a natural geothermal spring. It is sure to be an adventure that students will not soon forget.
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District also offers a variety of travel opportunities within our country as well. Members of the chorus enjoy a trip to New York City every spring where they sightsee and attend a Broadway show. The Marching Band embarks on an annual trip to various locations where the days are filled with fun and interesting events, sights, and activities. In past years the GNA Marching Band has visited Boston, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New York City, and even ventured across the border to Canada to visit Toronto and Niagara Falls. Seniors at GNA have the chance to visit Washington D.C. with their American Civics classes and also travel to Florida every spring to spend a week in Disney World and at Universal Studios. All of these opportunities provide the students at Greater Nanticoke Area with affordable, once in a lifetime experiences and unforgettable memories they can carry with them throughout their entire lives.
These experiences can undoubtedly help shape the students at Greater Nanticoke Area, giving them a sense of purpose and place in the world, as well as helping them establish lifelong values, priorities, independence, and confidence. “Lessons learned while traveling definitely transfers into students’ lives when they return home as well. I think they gain a lot of patience but, most of all, an opening of their world view,” said Kelchner. The benefits of travel are endless and students can gain invaluable perspective of the enormous and diverse world around them. Former First Lady Michelle Obama summed it up best when she said: “...studying abroad isn’t just an important part of a well-rounded educational experience. It’s also becoming increasingly important for success in the modern global economy. Getting ahead in today’s workplaces isn’t just about the skills you bring from the classroom. It’s also about the experiences you have with the world beyond our borders — with people, and languages, and cultures that are very different from our own.”
Madelyn Bugdonovitch is a sophomore at Greater Nanticoke Area High School. Student columns are published Wednesdays during the school year.

4/15/2017
Procrastinating taxpayers have a little more time
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice

When accountant Karen Hazleton is going full bore at work during her busiest time of year, she hangs a sign on her office door that reads, “Tax season in progress. Do not disturb.”
That sign comes down in a few days.
Today’s date usually is tax day, but this year’s deadline for Americans to file their income taxes has been extended to Tuesday, April 18, because federal offices are closed on weekends and Monday is recognized as the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C.
With the end so near, Hazleton and her staff of nearly a dozen have been hard at work completing tax returns for clients and trying to accommodate those who waited until the last minute, like several who showed up unannounced on Friday.
“It’s all hands on deck today,” Hazleton said from her Nanticoke office.
The certified public accountant, who also has offices in Sugarloaf Twp. and Clarks Summit, said she hoped to be done by 8 p.m. Friday so she could enjoy the Easter holiday weekend with family. She said a little break in the action is needed.
“It’s funny. I’ve been working 14-hour days consistently for 115 days,” Hazleton said. “It takes a couple days to adjust.”
Those who have yet to file their taxes still have time.
H&R Block, which bills itself as the largest tax preparer in the world, is open every day through Tuesday, including Easter Sunday, the company announced.
“H&R Block offices will be open on Easter, giving taxpayers who haven’t filed their returns an ‘extra’ day of assistance,” the company said.
The regional office for the U.S. Postal Service advised residents to check Tuesday’s final pick-up time for the post office they plan to use to send their taxes.
“Please remember that mail must be deposited before the last collection time at the post office or collection box on April 18 to receive an April 18th postmark,” the postal service said.
Federal prosecutors and the IRS also had warnings for people to make sure they were honest in filling out their taxes.
“During this time of the year, IRS will receive millions of tax returns from honest taxpayers who file their returns on time and pay all the taxes they owe,” said Bruce D. Brandler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “Today’s warning is not for them; it is for tax cheats who break tax laws and abuse our tax system. If you belong in this category, pay close attention. My office will hold accountable anyone who participates in a tax fraud scheme that puts an added tax burden on honest taxpayers and drains our public finances.”
IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Floyd had a similar message.
“With the 2017 tax deadline looming, it is important for people to have confidence that when they pay their taxes, their neighbors and co-workers are doing the same,” Floyd said. “IRS Criminal Investigation will vigorously investigate those individuals who knowingly and willfully evade their tax obligation.”

4/9/2017
Families left to wonder when homicide cases remain unsolved
Sarah Scinto - Citizens Voice
Website designers note: This section is an excerpt from the article in the Citizens Voice on Sunday, 4/9/2017

Reached recently, Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said she could not offer any updates on the progress of that investigation and several other unsolved cases.
They include the unsolved homicide of 97-year-old Gertrude Price.
On Thanksgiving in 2013, Price was home in Nanticoke after spending the day in Dallas with family. In what police have called a random attack, the woman was beaten to death during a home-invasion robbery that night.
Price’s family searched tirelessly for answers after her son-in-law found her dead in her bed the morning after that Thanksgiving.
Local residents pledged more than $10,000 as a reward for information through a fund at PNC Bank in Nanticoke.
Charges have yet to be filed in the case.
Price would have celebrated her 100th birthday in June of last year. Her daughter, Carol Belmont, said she had no doubt Price would have lived to be 100. She said her mother had looked forward to the milestone.
“She was vibrant and full of life,” Belmont said.
As far as Belmont knows, the reward the family offered in 2013 still stands.
“I don’t think it’s enticing anyone,” she worried.
Belmont said she remains in contact with Pennsylvania State Police investigators working on her mother’s case. They call her every three to four months, but rarely have any new information to share.
“I know they’re still active on it,” she said. “That’s what keeps my hope up.”
Belmont and her family remember Price at every holiday — Price would never miss one, Belmont said. She said they’ll think of Price at Easter, remembering how she’d always sit at the head of the table.
Nanticoke Police Chief Thomas Wall said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Ed Urban has taken over the investigation into Price’s death. Urban did not return a request for comment on the case.

3/31/2017
Nanticoke Area junior aims for archery title
Andrew Watkins - Citizens Voic

Kassie Rinker's decision to take up archery came, more or less, on a whim.
The Nanticoke Area junior asked her father, Jason Rinker, for a bow of her own in September 2014. Kassie said her interest in the sport was born largely from her father's influence. He's an avid archer himself.
But archery has grown to become more than just a hobby for Kassie. In fact, it's a sport that, in less than three years time, she's proven to be remarkably good at.
The list of championships that Kassie's won during her short time competing is considerable.
After earning a couple of top-three finishes in various tournaments, Kassie took home gold for the first time in the 2015 Pennsylvania State Archery Association's (PSAA) northeast regional outdoor target championships.
It would be the first of several. In 2016, Rinker claimed the PSAA's northeast regional indoor championship, as well as a Pennsylvania Field Archery Association state championship.
Most impressive, though, was her triumph in the PSAA's 2016 indoor state championships. That's a feat Rinker will attempt to repeat this weekend at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg.
Much of Rinker's preparation comes at Lonesome Road Archery in Taylor, but she's also a familiar face at Archery Zone in Larksville and the Berwick Archery Club.
Rinker did shed some light on how she's preparing for her repeat bid.
"I'm practicing a bit more than usual and making sure my bow is working properly," Rinker said. "I'm making sure my technique is good and my routine is the same for each shot, especially since a few fractions of an inch can mean the difference between another state title or going home empty-handed."
While Rinker's accomplished a great deal in her young archery career, she admits that her successes still surprise her at times.
"You never expect to win so much so soon. I never would have dreamed of being this successful at any point, let alone in my first few years," Rinker said. "It feels incredible. It feels like the practice and hard work has really paid off."
Jason, expressed a similar feeling of surprise at his daughter's early successes. Of course, her accomplishments bring him a feeling of pride as well. Even if they do come with a bit of competitive despair.
"I figured it would be years before she got to the level I am at and I figured there would be years of her trying to beat me when we shoot together," Jason said. "Now, it's the opposite. When we go shooting, I'm the one hoping to have a chance at the better score."
Rinker's also involved in the marching band at Nanticoke Area.
She doesn't hunt, instead saying that the time she gets to spend outdoors with her father is part of what keeps her invested in the sport.
She plans to attend college after high school and said that she'd like to wind up at an institution with an archery team.
It seems safe to say that, if she can find that school and that team, it'd be happy to have her.

3/30/2017
Commonwealth Financing Authority approves dozens of grants for county
Bill Wellock - Citizens Voice

The Commonwealth Financing Authority approved nearly five dozen grants for Luzerne County at its meeting Wednesday.
The authority approved 58 grants ranging from $20,000 for the rehabilitation of a Veterans of Foreign War building in Wyoming to $1 million for acquiring and renovating a new corporate headquarters for Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies in Wilkes-Barre.
"The LSA grants remain an integral part of northeastern Pennsylvania's revitalization," said Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, in a press release. "In every corner of Luzerne County, we are investing in infrastructure, public safety and most importantly, in creating good jobs."
Other major projects include $400,000 for construction on a public works building in Butler Township, $500,000 for reconstruction of a retaining wall along Solomons Creek in Wilkes-Barre, more than $478,000 for a Main Street revitalization project in Nanticoke.
You can view the complete listing in the 3/30/2017 of the Citizens Voice.
o Nanticoke: Nanticoke Main Street Revitalization Project, $478,198
The Commonwealth Financing Authority also approved projects through its Small Water and Sewer Program. In Luzerne County, those projects included:
o Nanticoke: City of Nanticoke West Main Street sewer replacement, $200,000

3/20/2017
Construction work will close Middle Road in Nanticoke, starting in April
mmizenko@timesleader.com

Construction will cause detours and slow-moving traffic in Nanticoke for the foreseeable future.
Utility work on Kosciuszko Street will slow traffic this week, and Luzerne County Community College posted on Facebook that Middle Road will be closed to traffic due to construction of a roundabout.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation notified the college that Middle Road will be closed from Kosciuszko Street to the Lower Askam section of Hanover Township as early as April 3, according to the post.

“This is a major part of the South Valley Parkway Project which will eventually connect the college to state Route 29,” the post states.

According to PennDOT, the schedule for road closures is:

• Middle Road will be closed and a detour will be in place beginning April 3. The road will reopen in November.

• Kosciuszko Street will be closed July 6 and be reopened in November.

• Prospect Street will be closed in the summer of 2018 and reopen in November 2018.

PennDOT opened the first of six roundabouts at the intersection of Espy Street and Middle Road on Dec. 2, 2016.
When the project is completed, Nanticoke will have three single-lane roundabouts, at Middle Road and Prospect Street, Middle Road and Espy Street, and Middle Road and Kosciuszko Street.
Hanover Township will have two single-lane roundabouts and one two-lane roundabout. The two single-lane roundabouts will be at the South Valley Parkway and the northbound on- and off-ramps at the new state Route 29. The parkway and the new state Route 29 south bound on/off ramp will be the two-lane roundabout.
In addition to the the delays, PennDOT said routine blasting will occur throughout the area. There is also a single lane closure of state Route 29 for the project.
PennDOT advises drivers to use alternate routes.

3/18/2017
Local municipalities hope to recoup some costs from historic snowstorm
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
Note: Taken from article in paper concerning Nanticoke, and not the full article.

Nanticoke is in relatively good shape after getting walloped by the storm, according to Mayor Rich Wiaterowski. Crews from the city department of public works as well as private contractors worked around-the-clock for more than 48 hours after the storm, then resumed cleaning city streets at 7 a.m. Friday, Wiaterowski said.
Hiring private contractors to help remove snow was essential, but will cost Nanticoke a significant amount of money, Wiaterowski said. On Friday he gave a rough estimate of $30,000 to $40,000, but cautioned he did not have figures in front of him to refer to and that the total cost could increase by the time the work is finished.
Nanticoke will seek reimbursement for those costs from state and federal emergency management agencies, based on an emergency declaration Wiaterowski issued Tuesday, the mayor said. The city still has a large supply of salt on hand, thanks to relatively mild weather this winter prior to Tuesday’s huge storm, Wiaterowski said.
Wiaterowski commended the city’s police officers, firefighters and public works employees, as well as the private contractors the city hired, for their efforts under extreme circumstances this week.

3/18/2017
Parents blame social media bullying for teen’s suicide
bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com

The parents of a local teenager who killed herself this week in Nanticoke say they believe the girl took her life after being bullied on social media.
Nina E. Zendarski, a popular freshman at Greater Nanticoke Area High School, committed suicide at a relative’s house Wednesday, her mother Patti said Friday.
The 14-year-old Glen Lyon girl’s parents addressed the bullying in her obituary, ending the death notice by saying “Social media can be dangerous. Please be kind to one another.”
Patti Zendarski, 51, said her daughter was a happy kid who gave no warning signs anything was seriously wrong. She said Nina sometimes mentioned receiving insults online, but nothing that seemed deeply concerning.
Zendarski said she has learned much of the social media taunting was done on platforms where the messages erase after being sent.
“Everybody is shocked. My heart is broken and I will never be able to fill that void. This kid was the light of my life,” Zendarski said.
Zendarski said she and her husband decided to make their daughter’s suicide public to encourage parents to better monitor their children’s social media habits.
“If this could save one person, I did my job. I feel like I failed as a mother because I didn’t know,” Zendarski said.
Zendarski said her daughter was a sweet, kind person who used to like to play sports but has been battling seizures the past few years which caused her to faint frequently. Nina really loved Disney World and the family last went there on a trip in October 2015, she said.
Zendarski provided various photos of Nina, including one from Disney with her wearing Minnie Mouse ears.
“When you see these pictures you will not believe she was this down on herself,” Zendarski said.
Zendarski’s funeral is slated for Monday at noon at the main site of St. Faustina Parish in Nanticoke. A viewing will be held Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Davis Dinelli Funeral Home, 170 E. Broad St., Nanticoke.

3/17/2017
Nanticoke couple married nearly 60 years pass away a day apart
Citizens Voice

They were born less than a year apart and shared nearly 60 years of marriage.
This week, Joseph and Bertha Brodowicz left this world a day apart.
The 81-year-old residents of Birchwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had been in declining health for some time before Bertha Brodowicz passed early Sunday, followed by her husband a day later, family members said Thursday.
Bertha Brodowicz suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and her husband - who had health problems including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - was heartbroken to see her failing health, said their son, Joseph Brodowicz Jr.
"I think just seeing her fade away, slowly but surely, it gave him no more will to want to move forward," he said.
"He was doing OK, but as she got worse, he got worse," said his wife, Sylvia. "It wasn't very healthy for him to see her the way she was because it did bother him. He was heartbroken."
Born in Nanticoke in April 1935, Joseph Brodowicz Sr. was a factory worker at Penn Footwear and CertainTeed, retiring after a 64-year career. Bertha Brodowicz was born in Scranton in January 1936 and was a factory worker for Penn Footwear as well as American Cigar.
Joseph Brodowicz Jr. described his father as a good man who would go out of his way to help others. He loved fishing and the outdoors - a passion not shared by his wife, who preferred spending time with family and playing bingo, family members said.
"He was by himself a lot. They lived, not separate lives, but she wouldn't go with him - and he was going. He'd go for two weeks, come home for two weeks and take her shopping all over the place," Joseph Brodowicz Jr. said. "She was happy for him to go, and she was happy for him to come home."
But Bertha Brodowicz's deteriorating condition caused her to be placed in the nursing home about a year and a half ago, the family said.
"It just broke his heart that she was there," Sylvia Brodowicz said.
Joseph Brodowicz Sr. had been in and out of the facility a few times, and was back as a resident for his wife's birthday in January, she said. He decided to throw her a birthday party, she said.
"Did she know what was going on? We don't think so, but he still wanted to give her a birthday party," she said.
Then about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Joseph Brodowicz Jr. got the call that his mother had passed. He went to see her and contacted family members, agreeing to get together Monday morning to break the news to his father.
"We told him and everything, and he just basically closed his eyes," Sylvia Brodowicz said. "A few minutes later he asked, 'What time?' We told him the time and then that was it. He just laid there."
The next morning, the family got another call: Joseph Brodowicz Sr. had passed.
In addition to Joseph Brodowicz Jr. and Sylvia, the couple is survived by son Michael and wife, Marie, of Elmhurst; daughter, Cynthia Dickshinski and husband, Richard, of Nanticoke; five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Friends and family are invited to join the immediate family at 10 a.m. Monday, March 20 for a Memorial Mass in St. Faustina Parish Church, 520 Hanover St., Nanticoke.

3/9/2017
Officials: No bedbug infestation at Nanticoke High School
tkellar@timesleader.com

Officials at the Nanticoke School District say that, despite rumors circulating among parents, there is no bedbug infestation at the high school.
The Times Leader received several tips about a potential infestation at the Greater Nanticoke Area High School.
Officials, however, maintain that only a single bedbug was found inside the building.
Building and Grounds Director Frank Grevera said an insect was found in a classroom on Tuesday. It was taken away, and determined to be a bedbug.
An exterminator came to the school at 5 p.m. Tuesday and sprayed the room. Grevera added that as a precaution, desks and all areas within the room were also sprayed.
When asked if there was an infestation, Grevera replied "absolutely not."
"We didn't even see one of them from that point," he said. It was not known how the bedbug made it into the school. "It could have come from absolutely anybody. We have no idea where it came from."
Grevera stressed that bedbugs have not been reported in any other classrooms in the high school.
Rich Colwell, owner of Colwell Termite & Pest Control in Wilkes-Barre, said the sighting of one bedbug is not reason for concern.
"Finding one sporadically and not finding anything else is no reason for concern whatsoever," he said. "It could be a reason to start monitoring, but that would be about it."
In a voice note sent to parents Wednesday, superintendent Ronald Grevera cited posts on social media that have caused "a lot of havoc and problems" at the high school as a result of the incident.
"There is no need for concern, and there is no reason for parents to pull kids out of school this afternoon (Wednesday) contrary to many of the text messages and phone calls they may be getting from students," Grevera said in the note.
Parents called after bed bug found at Nanticoke school
Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ronald Grevera said he issued an automated call to parents Wednesday afternoon explaining there was no reason to be concerned about bed bugs and no reason to pick up students early. One bed bug was found at the high school, and the district closed down the room and sprayed it as a precaution, Grevera said. Rumors of a bed bug infestation were spread on social media Wednesday.

3/4/2017
Portrait of a postman: Nanticoke's Joe Lloyd touched lives for 40-plus years
Daniel Flatley - Times Leader

They hand-deliver information in the internet age and are the only contact some people have with the outside world. They can seem faceless and nameless - blue-suited representatives of an unknowable system.
Or one of them can be your friend.
That often was the case with postal worker Joe Lloyd, 69, of Nanticoke, who was buried in his uniform earlier this winter, a bottle of whiskey at his feet - a gift from a friend on his route.
In November, Lloyd was honored for 45 years of service to the post office. He was known as "the mayor of West Nanticoke" because he saw more of the area each day than most people see in their lifetimes, and he always knew what was happening.
Appropriately, this story started with a letter.
'One of its best'
Fran Spencer was a mail carrier in the Nanticoke Post Office from 1990 until 1996, when she broke her ankle and became a clerk. She retired in 2010. Shortly after learning of Lloyd's death, she emailed a letter to the editor to the Times Leader.
"The United States Postal Service has lost one of its best," the letter began. "I worked with Joe Lloyd for 20 years and never knew a more dedicated, devoted individual."
Lloyd died Jan. 25 at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. According to his obituary, he was preceded in death by his wife, Irene (Judge) Lloyd, and his infant twin brother, John, and is survived by three siblings: Maryalice James of Edwardsville, John Leo Lloyd of Pittston, and Barbara Walton of Larksville.
"His whole life was the post office," James said. "And it showed. He didn't take care of himself, obviously. He took care of everybody else."
A consistent refrain about her brother from all who knew him was that "he had one foot in the bed, one foot on the floor and his hand on the telephone, ready to answer the call."
"He was definitely dedicated," said Frank Rafalko, the Nanticoke postmaster. "He would be here in like 15 minutes ready to go. He really loved his job."
Rafalko said Lloyd's co-workers began noticing he was losing weight at the start of last summer. In November, around the time he received his award for 45 years of service, he began leaving his route early and missing work, the latter of which had happened only once before, Rafalko noted.
In early January, Lloyd complained of a "bad chest cold" and asked for an ambulance one day while he was home, James said. He was taken to the hospital, where doctors confirmed he had colon cancer. On Jan. 23, he suffered a series of three heart attacks, was resuscitated and put on life support.
Two days later, he was gone.
'Could've been … anything'
Lloyd did his job and did it well, but more than that, he impacted the people around him, according to those who knew him best.
We make so much of accomplishment and success in life that those who don't aspire to fame and wealth are said to live "ordinary lives." We forget that to be human is to be given opportunities to be kind, to nourish life, to make another's burden easier to bear.
If you peel back the layers, you discover some interesting things about Joe Lloyd.
He was born in Kingston and went to Larksville High School, where he excelled in football and basketball and made the honor roll. One story recounts that, after games, his liked his shower water so cold that others didn't go near him for fear of being hit by the chilly spray.
When Joe was 14, his mother died, leaving him and his sister Maryalice in charge of their younger siblings. Their alcoholic father was physically present but functionally unavailable, according to Walton, his sister.
"The old man wasn't around too much," John Lloyd said. "(Joe) was an all-scholastic basketball player his junior year and couldn't even go out for the team his senior year because he had to go out and get a job because he had to support us."
John said his brother "could've been a doctor, a lawyer, or anything."
Joe could have gone to college but instead stayed behind to help take care of the family before enlisting in the Army. After he left the military he joined the post office.
During his first two years on the job, in Hazleton, Lloyd delivered mail to the home of Jack Palance, the actor known for his portrayals of cowboys, gangsters, vampires and Curly Washburn from the "City Slickers" movie series. Famously, Palance dropped down and did a set of one-handed push-ups on stage when he won the 1992 Oscar for best supporting actor.
He was 73 at the time.
"He did say he was a nice guy, down to earth," James said of her brother's interactions with Palance.
Lloyd cared for his wife, Irene, during a protracted illness and for his mother-in-law in recent years, something his sister said was further evidence of his patience and selflessness.
The creed
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night," goes the unofficial motto of the U.S. Postal Service, taken from the James A. Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, a nod to the mail carrier's unwavering consistency.
The quote, which was translated for the building, comes from an account of the Persian Wars by the Greek historian Herodotus. The Persians operated a system of mounted couriers on horseback, a basic concept that continues today. Despite the advent of modern vehicles and high-tech sorting machines, people still carry the mail, often on foot.
Karen Mazurkiewicz has worked for the Postal Service for 30 years, most recently as the public relations officer for Central Pennsylvania. She said the mail carrier's job has changed in subtle ways over the past 10 or 15 years.
Today, sorting mail takes much less time with the help of machines. As a result, carriers spend more time on their routes, especially delivering packages - a part of the job that has increased exponentially with the growth of online retailers.
"The boom in packages means that carriers have taken on a lot more physically than even 10 years ago," Mazurkiewicz said.
Postal workers can "bid" on routes based on their seniority. The longer a carrier has been in the service, the more options he or she has. Some routes are easier than others. But some postal carriers elect to stay on the same routes for virtually their entire careers. When that happens, those carriers become a part of their communities.
"Wedding, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, they get invited to these events," Mazurkiewicz said. "They become not just a public servant but a part of your life."
After his two years in Hazleton, Lloyd delivered mail in Nanticoke for 40 years, including the final 30 years of his life in West Nanticoke. His military service counted for three years of postal work.
The comments section of Lloyd's obituary is filled with stories about his interaction with customers, including memories of him sitting on the steps and talking with them, as well as his requests for pumpkin cookies at the holidays.
Many of Lloyd's friends and acquaintances described him as a George Bailey-type figure from the film "It's a Wonderful Life." The only difference is that Lloyd never complained about staying in his hometown, according to Walton.
"I didn't realize it was to that extent until the funeral," she said. "These people were crying their eyes out like he was family. I didn't even know who my mailman was."
Spencer, the woman who wrote the letter to the Times Leader about Lloyd, said their relationship began rather inauspiciously. Lloyd was known as a jokester and often would tease Spencer, especially in his early days on the job. But after she saw how dedicated he was to his profession, she grew to appreciate his consistency and to understand his sense of humor.
"He knew how to get under people's skin, but you could set your clock by him," she said. "I really came to admire that."
His consistency was outdone only by his humanity.
According to his sister Maryalice, Joe would ring a customer's doorbell if he was delivering medicine; he wanted his folks to know immediately that the potentially life-saving package was there.
The great beyond
Judith Nowak is a former nurse and grief counselor. She and her husband, Edward, reside in the same development where Joe Lloyd lived. She is responsible for the bottle of whiskey in his casket.
There's a story behind that, too.
Lloyd began delivering mail to Nowak's family on East Grove Street while she was in nursing school. On the morning of her wedding, Lloyd brought the results from her state board examination. He continued to deliver mail to the Nowaks through all 44 years of their marriage, until this past Christmas, when he didn't show up for his appointed rounds.
Several years ago, Nowak began a tradition of giving Lloyd a present for Christmas, often a bottle of wine or liquor. She already had purchased his latest gift when she found out he had passed away. She asked Lloyd's sisters if she could leave the bottle with him.
Nowak said it brings her comfort to know that Lloyd is holding it in the great beyond, a party favor for whomever he meets there.
"They'll say, 'Hey, Joe brought the good stuff,'" she said.

2/21/2017
Two displaced after fire ravaged apartment building in Nanticoke
tkellar@timesleader.com

Two people were displaced as a result of a fire that ravaged an apartment building Monday night.
Crews were dispatched to the building on East Broad Street at 9:25 p.m. for a report of a commercial structure fire. Fire Chief Kevin Hazleton said the building is part of Birchwood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and housed up to 4 apartments.
Hazleton said crews arrived to find fire blowing out of the rear and side of the structure.
“It was blowing, but the (fire) members made a good hit on it,” he said.
The apartment where the fire originated sustained heavy fire damage, and the rest of the building sustained smoke damage, according to Hazleton. Only two people were living in the building.
No injuries or pet deaths were reported. Hazleton said a Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal is expected to look into what caused the blaze.

2/19/2017
Downtown Jolt
Denise Allabaugh - Citizens Voice

He's taking a shot on downtown Nanticoke.
Edward Rodriguez, 32, the former general manager at Johnny Rockets at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Plains Township, has opened Cool Beanz, his first business, at 71 E. Main St.
The bistro features specialty brewed coffee and tea, smoothies, breakfast and lunch fare, including panini sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, soups and sweets like pies, muffins, cookies and cupcakes.
Rodriguez, who has worked in the food industry since he was 15, said starting his own business was something he always wanted to do.
"It is a risk, but I needed to take it to see if I can succeed," he said. "If I didn't take the risk, I would never know and I would regret it. I took a big risk, something that I never did before, and I'm putting all my chips in it and hopefully it pays off in the long run for me and my family."
When he was looking for a place to open his new business, he stumbled on the location in Nanticoke, the former Coffee's Coffee owned by Kim Coffee.
It is located across from Luzerne County Community College's Health Sciences Building and Geisinger's family practice facility and near Weis Market.
"There are a lot of students here," Rodriguez said. "There's the doctor's office and there are patients here and people from the supermarket."
Several vacant storefronts are located next to Cool Beanz, but there are plans to revitalize downtown buildings in the future as part of a streetscape project, said Interim City Manager Donna Wall.
A sewer project was recently completed and a new water main will be put in the downtown area, Wall said. New street lights are planned in the future and Nanticoke received a $5.6 million federal grant for the project, she said.
"Overall, I think there's a lot of progress that will be made downtown," Wall said. "Anybody who wants to get on board and bring businesses here, the city welcomes them here."
Rodriguez said he hopes to see other vacant buildings in Nanticoke filled.
"I'm hoping to see other stores and different things to bring more of the community out," he said. "I hope they revitalize downtown and a lot more foot traffic comes by. Without customers, I won't be open."
Cool Beanz
The eatery is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Delivery is offered 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For information, call 570-258-2315.

2/13/2017
Nanticoke saves $2,000 by tax bill switch
mmizenko@timesleader.com

The city is saving over $2,000 by switching to a private sector company to print and mail tax bills, officials say.
The decisions to switch to Berkheimer Tax Office was brought before and agreed on by council in May 2016. The official start date was Jan. 15, 2017.
Jennifer Polito, the city’s finance director, said the city is saving $2,104 by having Berkheimer mail real estate tax bills.
“Berkheimer is doing it for less,” said Donna Wall, the interim city manager. Previous Times Leader reports show Berkheimer’s $2.25 rate per bill and $1.25 reminder mailings saves the city 25 cents per bill.
“We are getting same services that the county was giving for less,” Polito said.
Wall also said the county wouldn’t separate out municipal tax from the county tax when they billed residents.
“We separated it to make it easier for the taxpayers to pay since they are now separated and due at different times,” Wall noted.
School taxes, also handled by Berkhimer, are mailed in August while the city taxes are mailed in March. The county’s tax will be issued in February.
The city didn’t raise taxes in 2017. Mayor Richard Wiaterowski’s budget kept the millage rate at 5.93. A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed value. The breakdown of millage includes general purpose millage at 4.75, debt services at 1.15 and .0194 for the Mill Memorial Library.
Hazleton is the only other county municipality which issues a separate city tax bill.

2/11/2017
Nanticoke native bestowed Congressional award posthumously
boboyle@timesleader.com

A Nanticoke native has been posthumously honored for his service with the Civil Air Patrol during World War II.
Louis Testaguzza, who died on Sept. 18, 2015, was presented a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition on Nov . 15, 2016. He was 87.
The certificate reads:
“In recognition of the Congressional Gold Medal Award for invaluable contributions in the United States Civil Air Patrol during World War II, when they forged the path the organization and its volunteers still follow today.”
Testaguzza’s sister, Julie Golanoski, of Nanticoke, said she was very happy that her brother received such a prestigious honor.
“It’s belated, but he finally was recognized for his service,” Golanoski said. “I’m very proud of my brother. He started his aeronautical career as a teenager — even before he drove a car, he was flying an airplane.”
Golanoski said Testaguzza and his two friends joined the Civil Air Patrol, calling themselves “The Three Musketeers.”
“His loyalty was always strong to his home town of Nanticoke,” Golanoski said. “We grew up on West Church Street, where I live now.”
According to the Civil Air Patrol’s California Wing, after two attempts to get the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Civil Air Patrol World War II era veterans, the medal was finally authorized by Congress and President Barack Obama in May 2014 and the medal awarded on Dec. 10, 2014.
The CAP said while over a replica hundred medals have been awarded to date, the organization continues to search for living members and the families of deceased members who are eligible for the award to ensure they are recognized for their service.
One such recipient was the family of Testaguzza, who served as a cadet in the Pennsylvania Wing during World War II, attached to the Wilkes-Barre Squadron, near Scranton.
Testaguzza soloed in a Piper J-3 Cub at 17 years of age and then enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps seven days after graduating from Nanticoke High School, and he served as an aircraft mechanic.
In 1949, he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, but later joined the California Air National Guard and was commissioned a second lieutenant after completing flight training and earning his pilot’s wings from the U.S. Air Force in 1953, where he flew P-51 Mustangs and F-86 Sabre jets.
Testaguzza graduated from Northrop University in 1955 with a degree in aeronautical engineering and began his civilian career in the burgeoning California aerospace industry, eventually landing at Lockheed. In 1962, 2d Lt. Testaguzza was recalled to active duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis and was later promoted to the grade of major and placed in command of the 938th Communication Squadron.
He was again recalled to active duty in 1968 during the USS Pueblo crisis. In 1969, Maj. Testaguzza retired from the Air Force after more than 22 years of active and reserve service.
Testaguzza continued to work at Lockheed while attending law school at night and after graduation, was admitted to the California State Bar, Federal District Court and U.S. Supreme Court. He retired from Lockheed in 1989 with over 30 years of service, but remained active as an aviation consultant for McDonnell Douglas.
Testaguzza remained active in aviation and became a certified flight examiner in 1988 at the age of 60 and continued to give check flights until the age of 85. Testaguzza passed away at the age of 87 on Sept. 18, 2015 in Palo Alto, California.
The Congressional Gold Medal was presented to Testaguzza’s widow, Marlene, and his son, Brett, at John J. Montgomery Memorial Squadron 36 in San Jose by California Wing Commander Col. Alan Ferguson and assisted by Squadron 36 Commander, Capt. Steven Angus. More than 60 CAP members were in attendance.
Testaguzza was born in Nanticoke to Italian immigrants Dominic and Mary Testaguzza. His father worked in the coal mines and his mother ran a boarding house.
Testaguzza’s obituary noted that he “lived his life to the fullest,” and he always said “Life is not a rehearsal, live it up!”
Civil Air Patrol California Wing Commander Col. Alan Ferguson presented the Congressional Gold Medal of Maj. Louis Testaguzza, a native of Nanticoke, to his widow, Marlene, and his son, Brett, during a ceremony on Nov. 15, 2016, in California.
About the Civil Air Patrol
The numbers alone tell a story of heroic sacrifice: At least 59 CAP members were killed in the performance of their missions, with nearly half – 26 – dying during the coastal patrols. Those patrols alone accounted for 86,685 missions involving 244,600 flight hours and more than 24 million aerial miles.
CAP was founded Dec. 1, 1941, a week before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The coastal patrols began within three months, after the Petroleum Industry War Council requested protection for oil tankers falling prey to German torpedoes. Over the next 15 months, members used their own planes to watch for U-boats, sometimes dropping bombs when they spotted one of the submarines.
The Congressional Gold Medal marks the first major recognition CAP’s members have received for their World War II service. Fewer than 100 are believed to be alive today.

2/5/2017
Nanticoke family crazy about Patriots
bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com

The Felici family of Nanticoke keeps their Christmas tree up every year until the New England Patriots football season is over.
They like when it’s still up in February, like this year. That means their favorite team made the Super Bowl again.
Over the years, the family’s Christmas tree shed traditional ornaments to become what it is today — a shrine to the Patriots. This year’s tree — a white pine with lots of red, white and blue flair — has held up remarkably well as the Patriots prepare today to play in their seventh Super Bowl in 16 years.
“This is the best one we’ve had. We’ve had ones where all the needles fell off and it was like a stick,” Kelly Felici, 39, said.
Her husband, Pete, 39, convinced her to become a Patriots fan when they started dating in the 1990s. She was a Raiders fan who converted at the right time. Soon after she made the switch, the Patriots developed into a dynasty under head Coach Bill Belichick and star quarterback Tom Brady.
Some accuse her of “jumping on the bandwagon” of a winner.
“I get called it. He’s not. He’s an original,” she said.
But Pete Felici said he’s not immune to the taunts when people see him decked out in Patriots attire. He recalls a particular time about a decade ago when an elderly man was giving him a hard time at a gas station after seeing him in his Patriots jacket.
“He’s like, ‘Did you just jump on the bandwagon?’ I said, ‘I’ve been a fan for as long as I could remember,’” Pete Felici recalled.
Pete Felici said he became a fan as a kid while visiting relatives in Connecticut. It was cold out and they got him a New England Patriots sweatshirt. Ever since then, he has been rooting for the Patriots.
After converting his wife, they have been to about 15 Patriots games over the years in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Their daughters, Lexy, 13, and Brook, 10, are backers of the Patriots too.
Even they get teased by classmates about supporting the mighty Patriots, they said.
“They always bring up ‘Deflategate,’” Lexy said, referring to accusations New England deliberately underinflated footballs used for their offense to suit Brady’s preference.
All this ribbing — most of it good-hearted — comes with the territory for backing a team that has been on top of the game so long, the family says.
Over the years, Pete Felici said he’s tried not to brag about how good his team has been, but his buddies love to tease him when they falter.
“Especially with all the Steelers and Eagles fans,” he said.
Pete Felici said it has been a great time to be a Patriots fan because he realizes the team “isn’t going to be great forever.”
“It’s been a great run. The Belichick-Brady combination, they have it figured out,” Peter Felici said.

2/3/2017
Family fearful with man's alleged killer still at large
bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com

As Tina Letavish laid on her living room couch in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, she watched her son walk out the front door to meet someone.
Almost immediately, she heard a scuffle erupt. A flurry of gunshots followed.
"I got up from the couch. By the time I got to the door Brandon was coming back to the door saying someone shot him. It was like two seconds," Letavish recalled Thursday. "He was running back and forth in the house screaming that he didn't want to die. I replay it every day all day in my head. All I see is my son begging for his life."
Smith, 20, died a short time later at the hospital from multiple gunshot wounds.
More than two weeks later, the man police identified as the killer, convicted drug dealer Antoine McNeal, remains at large.
Letavish said her family - which includes her husband and Smith's three younger siblings - is fearful with the killer still on the loose. It adds to the unease of having to live in their apartment at 185 W. Church St. where Smith took some of his last breaths, she said.
"I really wish they would catch the guy," Letavish said.
Nanticoke police Chief Tom Wall said the U.S. Marshals Service is hunting for McNeal, who was last known to live in Wilkes-Barre.
Wall wouldn't reveal how McNeal, 32, was identified as the suspect, but confirmed drugs had something to do with the crime.
"There was drug activity involved, but the motive is unclear at this time," Wall said.
Smith's sister, Destiny Crooks, said her brother used marijuana for anxiety, but never dabbled with other drugs.
Letavish, 47, said Smith, one of her nine children, didn't tell her a lot about his personal business and she didn't ask a lot of questions. She said he was a kind, good kid who never got in trouble.
Unlike the suspect, Smith had no criminal history, according to a search of court records.
Smith and McNeal knew each other from working at Kappa Graphics in Hughestown, though Smith hadn't worked there for months, his mother said. A company official declined comment.
"We have family friends that worked there. They had told us this guy was watching Brandon and was envious of Brandon. They would tell Brandon, 'Don't trust him.' Brandon didn't trust this kid. He was warned about him," Letavish said.
What baffles Letavish is how the suspect ended up outside their house. She said Smith was very private and didn't let a lot of people know where they lived.
"I can't believe Brandon would let him near our house," she said.
In the aftermath of Smith's death, Letavish said the family was disheartened to hear people online assume he was adopted because he was the only black person in the family.
"It really hurt me to read that he was a foster child. He was my son - my biological son and I never raised my children to think they were 'step' anything. We are a very close family," Letavish said.
Another misconception, she said, were erroneous reports that her family was a longtime neighborhood nuisance. She said they had just moved there in November and had caused no trouble.
Letavish moved her family to Pennsylvania from Binghamton, New York, about 10 years ago.
They lived in the Tunkhannock area for a while before moving to Nanticoke. They moved to Ohio for a short time, then returned to Nanticoke.
"We have a lot of friends here," Letavish said.
Smith initially went to Tunkhannock Area schools, but later was moved to the Alternative Learning Center in Plains Township for some disciplinary reasons, his mother said.
After dropping out of school, Smith worked as a garbage picker for J.P. Mascaro & Sons, which was also the first job for several of her older sons who now live on their own.
"I gave him a lot of credit for that. He stuck it out," Letavish said.
Smith was injured on the job and had to quit after he hit his head off a utility pole one day during trash pickups, Letavish said.
Most recently, Smith was looking to return to school, his mother said. Instead of planning to help him in his next chapter in life, they had to plan for a funeral they couldn't afford, she said.
Smith's family has sent up a fund online to pay for the $2,000 they still owe in funeral costs. To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/3boa8v4.
On Sunday, they will be thinking of Smith a lot as his beloved New England Patriots play in the Super Bowl.
"We are all rooting for the Patriots for Brandon," Letavish said.
HUNT FOR SUSPECT
Authorities continue to search for Nanticoke homicide suspect Antoine McNeal, 32, last known to live in Wilkes-Barre.
Anyone with information about McNeal's whereabouts is asked to call state police at Wyoming at 570-697-2000.
DONATE TO FUNERAL COSTS
The family of Nanticoke homicide victim Brandon Smith, 20, is trying to raise money to pay for $2,000 they still owe in funeral costs.
To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/3boa8v4.

1/20/2017
Suspect named in Nanticoke murder
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice

Police have named a suspect in the murder of a Nanticoke man early Wednesday morning.
Antoine McNeal, 32, of Wilkes-Barre, shot and killed 20-year-old Brandon Smith outside Smith’s home on West Church Street in Nanticoke at 2 a.m. Wednesday, police allege.
Police obtained an arrest warrant against McNeal on Thursday. He had not been located as of Thursday night and is considered armed and dangerous, police said.
According to police, Smith and McNeal got into an altercation that resulted in McNeal shooting Smith several times.
An autopsy conducted Thursday morning determined that Smith died of multiple gunshot wounds inflicted during a homicide, according to the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office.
McNeal faces charges of homicide, illegal weapons possession, criminal use of a communication facility and evidence tampering, according to court records.
Anyone with information about McNeal or his whereabouts is asked to call state police at Wyoming at 570-697-2000.

1/18/2018
Neighbors question safety after Nanticoke fatal shooting
jhalpin@citizensvoice.com

Gunshots rang out on the west side early Wednesday, leaving one man dead and some neighbors questioning their safety in an era of absentee landlords.
The victim, Brandon Smith, 20, was shot repeatedly outside a home at 185 W. Church St. about 2 a.m. following an altercation with a person with whom he appeared to be acquainted, according to state police.
“We do believe that it’s possible that it can be (drug) related, but right now all of the evidence isn’t in,” said Nanticoke police Chief Thomas Wall, whose department is jointly investigating the slaying with state police. “We have some leads but we don’t have anybody in custody at this time.”
Witnesses reported hearing gunshots break the early morning quiet in an area that has had recent problems.
“I heard two, possibly three, gunshots,” said a witness who did not want to be identified for her safety. “And then about two seconds later I heard the guy scream.”
Police rushed to the scene and arrived to find Smith outside the home, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township, where he was pronounced dead about 3 a.m., according to the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office.
An autopsy is planned for Thursday morning.
Smith did not appear to have a criminal history in Pennsylvania based on the birth date state police provided.
But neighbors of the home where he died say the location was known as a troubled property.
Desiree Deitz, 35, said the tenants — Smith, a woman and a young girl — have only lived at the property a few months but have already earned a reputation for disrupting the peace.
“They’re constantly fighting, they got their window smashed out a couple weeks ago,” Deitz said.
The house has seen high turnover in recent years, as has another nearby property she said has been causing problems with drugs.
Deitz blamed the neighborhood’s problems on absentee landlords who only care about collecting the rent.
“That’s the problem in this town. The absentee landlords, they don’t care. They rent to whoever and then we are affected,” Deitz said. “It’s sad because I’m trying to raise a family. They’re trying to raise a family. Our neighbors have been here for years. Our friend across the street, she lives there alone. She’s lived there her whole life. It’s terrifying. It really is terrifying. I don’t like to come home and see police crime-scene tape down the street from my house.”
The shooting caused police to close West Church Street down for hours as they processed the crime scene. By Wednesday afternoon, the street had been re-opened to traffic.
While a reporter was on the scene, state police investigators returned to look for evidence that was mentioned in an interview, Wall said.
“Right now, we’re just doing some interviews and following up on some leads that we have,” he said.
The shooting is the second Nanticoke has experienced in recent weeks.
Kenneth Powell, 30, was shot in the back after allegedly confronting an unidentified man who broke into his East Spring Street home the morning of Dec. 8.
Powell and his girlfriend, Courtney Padden, 26, were presented with felony drug-trafficking charges after police say they found a large bag of marijuana, drug packaging materials and nearly $13,000 in cash inside the home.
Smith’s death is the second homicide of the year for Luzerne County following the Jan. 11 slaying of Brock Earnest, 40, of Montandon. Keith Williams, 40, is charged with criminal homicide after prosecutors say he shot Earnest, who was sitting on a couch, following a fight between the men at Williams’ home in Fairmount Township.

1/18/2017
SCI-Retreat forum focuses on safety
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice

A public forum Tuesday on the potential closure of State Correctional Institution at Retreat focused on the potential danger to corrections officers and inmates.
Don Williams takes that issue personally. His son, Eric Williams, was killed in the line of duty as a corrections officer at U.S. Penitentiary-Canaan in Wayne County in 2013.
On Tuesday, Don Williams led the forum at Luzerne County Community College devoted to keeping SCI-Retreat open. He implored Gov. Tom Wolf not to close SCI-Retreat — Newport Township’s largest employer — or other state prisons as a cost-cutting measure.
The state Department of Corrections on Jan. 6 issued a list of five state prisons, including SCI-Retreat, two of which could be closed to cut expenses from the state budget.
Closing prisons and moving inmates to other correctional institutions with empty beds would put more corrections officers and inmates at closer quarters — where bad things can happen, Williams said.
“We’ve established there is going to be overcrowding,” he said. “It’s a formula for disaster.”
Williams noted that when his son was killed by an inmate wielding a home-made weapon, three things stood out: He was alone, he was unarmed and the prison was overcrowded.
The greater the number of inmates a corrections officer must supervise, the greater the chance of an inmate attack on an officer, according to Williams, who is president of Voices of Joe, an advocacy group that lobbies for improved working conditions and safety for corrections officers.
“Altering the staff ratio by 1 percent will increase assaults by 30 percent,” said Shane Fausey, vice president of Voices of Joe.
Fausey asked the many corrections officers in attendance if they had ever been attacked by an inmate. More than a dozen hands instantly shot up into the air.
“What do you think the end result will be?” if state prisons fill to capacity or beyond, Fausey asked.
Fausey and Williams questioned whether closing state prisons would save as much money as Wolf projected — or even save anything at all, after the final accounting is done.
All it would take is one riot for the prison consolidation plan to wind up costing more than it saves, Fausey said.
He cited the days-long riot at Camp Hill state prison in 1989 as a bad precedent. It cost $14 million to repair the damage and clean up after the disturbance, he said.
“That’s a far cry from the pennies they are going to save by closing prisons,” Fausey said.
There could be a societal cost as well, Williams said. If prison populations reach or exceed maximum, parole boards might release some inmates early to ease overcrowding, he said.
“One of my biggest fears is they are going to release people into society with no plan for how to deal with them,” Williams said.
Prison consolidation and overcrowding would impact the many inmates who require mental health treatment, according to Tuesday’s panel — which included state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis and county Manager David Pedri.
“How many of these inmates are going to get this treatment, which we are required to give them”? Salavantis asked.
Williams suggested that denying inmates mental health treatment could be cause for federal authorities to intervene.
The panel unanimously supported Yudichak’s call for Wolf to delay making a decision on closing prisons. As of now that decision is scheduled for Jan. 26, with the affected prisons to close by June 30.
“This has been driven by the budget, not driven by safety,” Yudichak said.

1/14/2017
Officials: SCI-Retreat closure would devastate Nanticoke area
emark@citizensvoice.com

It will be bad news for Greater Nanticoke Area School District if State Correctional Institution at Retreat closes as part of a state prison consolidation.
That was the message hammered home at a Friday press conference by state lawmakers, district officials and corrections officers who work at SCI-Retreat, which houses 1,100 inmates and employs more than 400 workers on the prison grounds off U.S. Route 11 in Newport Township.
The closure of SCI-Retreat, and possibly SCI-Waymart in Wayne County or SCI-Frackville in Schuylkill County, would have “a devastating impact” on the economy of Northeastern Pennsylvania and especially communities in the Greater Nanticoke Area, said state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township.
The three prisons are on a list of five state correctional institutions targeted for possible closure as a cost-cutting measure, the state Department of Corrections announced last week.
Gov. Tom Wolf has said he wants to focus on education rather than prisons, Yudichak said.
The senator, speaking in a conference room at his alma mater, Nanticoke High School, described that concept as a false choice.
“Life is not that simple,” Yudichak said. “Crime still exists. Drugs remain a problem.”
Taxpayers should not be forced to choose between safe streets and quality schools, Yudichak said.
Yudichak and state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, on Friday continued their week-long rally in support of SCI-Retreat, noting that Wolf and state Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel overestimate the cost savings that closing prisons would realize.

According to Yudichak and Mullery:
• SCI-Retreat is the second-largest employer in Greater Nanticoke Area, behind only Luzerne County Community College.
• If the prison closes, the school district would lose about 90 families and 200 students, resulting in a loss of about $100,000 in tax revenue.
• The losses could force district officials to cut programs and services, such as a pre-kindergarten program that district Superintendent Ronald Grevera said the district would like to expand rather than eliminate.
• About 350 SCI-Retreat employees live in Luzerne County, so most school districts in the county would be impacted if the prison closes.

“I am not sure how we would overcome the loss of revenue,” Grevera said.
Four corrections officers at SCI-Retreat, all fathers of children who attend district schools, sat next to the officials gathered at the conference table.
The men and their families face harrowing uncertainty about their future, said Mark Truszkowski of the PA State Corrections Officers Association.
The Department of Corrections has guaranteed jobs somewhere in the state to corrections officers who currently work at prisons that will close, but that will require officers to either relocate or commute long distances, Truszkowski said.
That will affect the officers’ children and families, according to Truszkowski.
“We are hurting the developmental stages of these children,” he said.
Mullery questioned the timetable established by Wolf to decide which prisons will close.
That decision will be made on Jan. 26, Wetzel said last week.
There is no magic to (that) date,” Mullery said.
He and Yudichak urged the governor to extend the deadline and make decisions on potentially closing prisons as part of the state budgeting process, which will last throughout the first half of 2017.
“All we are asking is to extend the deadline,” Yudichak said.
The fight to keep SCI-Retreat open will continue for the 12 days until that deadline arrives.
The state House of Representatives Northeast Delegation will send a letter to Wolf “expressing dismay” at the governor’s plan to close prisons, Mullery said.
The letter will urge Wolf to delay the decision until public hearings are held, at which those affected by potential prison closings may testify, according to Mullery.
Also, busloads of corrections officers plan to attend a hearing in Harrisburg on Jan. 23, at which three Senate committees will review the plan to potentially close state prisons, according to Truszkowski.
“We are going to pack the place,” he said.

1/14/2017
Yudichak, Mullery say closing SCI Retreat would hurt education at GNA
boboyle@timesleader.com

State Sen. John Yudichak said Friday if Gov. Tom Wolf cares more about schools than prisons, he should consider the adverse impact closing the State Correctional Institute at Retreat would have on the quality of education in the Greater Nanticoke Area School District.
Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, and state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, held another news conference on the governor’s plan to close two state prisons — this time, the two legislators were at their alma mater, the district’s high school. SCI Retreat is on a list of five state prisons from which two are scheduled to be chosen for closure on Jan. 26.|
Yudichak and Mullery and other state legislators have been asking the governor and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel to extend the deadline to allow for more time to gather information, such as the economic impact any closing would have on the host communities.
“Gov. Wolf wants to invest in schools, not prisons, but that is a false choice,” Yudichak said. “Pennsylvania’s taxpayers want to invest in both. Closing SCI-Retreat will jeopardize $1.6 million in funding for the Nanticoke School District and threatens important educational programs like Pre-K instruction.”
Joining Yudichak and Mullery were Dr. Ronald Grevera, superintendent of the Greater Nanticoke Area School District, district school board members, and five members of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association who work at SCI Retreat and whose children attend school in the district.
“A closure of SCI-Retreat means we could lose 90 families and more than 200 students,” Grevera said. “We cannot absorb such a staggering exodus of families and students, as well as the second largest employer within the district.” It is simple math — if the prison closes, secure funding for our schools will be undermined.”
Yudichak and Mullery stressed that the prison is integral to the entire community, both as an employer and as an important part of the criminal justice system.
“The 139 heroin overdoses in Luzerne County demonstrates that drug abuse remains a problem in the county and crime remains an issue in our community,” Yudichak said.
Mullery said no one knows “when the dominoes will stop falling” if the governor closes prisons prematurely.
“I have yet to hear a compelling reason why this decision needs to be made on Jan. 26, let alone a compelling reason to target three prisons in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Mullery said.
Yudichak said closing SCI Retreat would result in a loss of $100,000 in tax revenue to the school district. He said the pre-K program at Nanticoke costs approximately $190,000 per year. He said the loss of revenue would not only have an immediate effect on the program, it could be lost.
Grevera said any cuts to the pre-K program would have a significant, measurable negative effect on the quality of education in the district. He said elementary students have been found to be better at reading and math because of the pre-K program.|
“We should be expanding our pre-K program, not cutting it,” Grevera said. “With a potential loss of $1.6 million in funding, I’m not sure how we would ever recover from that.”
The DOC and Wolf Administration has been holding meetings to determine the economic impact closing a prison would mean to each of the five possible areas. Yudichak and Mullery have estimated closing SCI Retreat would see a $57.3 million hit to the region’s economy.
The legislators have asked that Wolf delay a decision on prison closings and resume budget talks, with the hope that enough cuts can be found to avoid significant measures, such as closing two prisons. Some 2,500 inmates would have to be relocated and about 800 employees reassigned if two prisons are shut down.
Yudichak cited Northeastern Pennsylvania’s 6.3 percent unemployment rate, stating that closing SCI Retreat would see that number rise significantly.
Yudichak and Mullery said they feel state legislators have been shut out of the decision-making process.
“These are tax dollars,” Yudichak said. “We should be a part of this process.”
Mullery said there are some 2,000 to 2,500 state inmates currently housed in county correctional facilities. He said those inmates, if returned to state facilities, would eliminate the need to close prisons.
“If this is a numbers issue, as Secretary Wetzel has stated, then that would resolve that,” Yudichak said. “There has also been talk of the state accepting federal inmates. We will have a new president on Jan. 20. We should allow for more time to see if that agreement can be reached.”

1/6/2017
Nanticoke police chief responds to criticism of department
mmizenko@timesleader.com

A discussion about illegally parked commercial vehicles during Wednesday's city council meeting caused police Chief Tom Wall to question if some city residents have negative attitudes.
"It's been brought to my attention that nothing happens in Nanticoke." Wall said during the meeting. "Have you read the papers lately?"
Wall said some of the complaints aired at council meetings are "very minuscule" on the police scale and pointed to the number of heroin deaths in the county - 140 in 2016 - as an example of one of the problems his department is forced to face.
Wall did reassure citizens that anything called in to him or the police department will be addressed, but, in some instances, it may be low on the police's radar.
He was answering complaints from John Telencho and Lou Gianuzzi about illegally parked commercial vehicles.
"I know this isn't the most important thing in the world," Gianuzzi said. "But there has to be something flowing."
Gianuzzi is upset that tractor-trailers park on conservation land near the bridge connecting Nanticoke with Plymouth Township. It wasn't the first time Gianuzzi has complained about the trucks. Minutes from as early as June show him questioning interim City Manager Donna Wall about them.
"You don't know what they're hauling," Gianuzzi said, claiming they could be hauling explosives or dirty soil.
Solicitor William Finnegan said he had tried to make contact with the owners of the land to buy the parcel because it sits next to a larger property the city owns. Finnegan said he's reached out "twice in writing and once by phone" to the owner, who has yet to respond.
"It's a grey area," the police chief said about citing the owner of the property.
"It's private property. We don't own it," Donna said.
Gianuzzi was also concerned with the loss of a $40,000 contract between the police department and Warrior Run to patrol the borough. Finance Director Jennifer Polito said the appropriate revisions to the department's budget have been made.
"We did pull the $40,000 from the budget. … We're going to hopefully try to increase revenue in the police department," Polito said.
The next council meeting will be held 7 p.m. Jan. 18 in council chambers, 15 E. Ridge St.

Happy New Year - 2017 !!
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