2020 - Nanticoke News
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Boy Scouts commemorate Memorial Day by replacing flags at veterans’ graves
Boy Scouts Troop 418 in Nanticoke halted all activities months ago due to the coronavirus shutdown, but with Memorial Day approaching there was one duty they could not neglect: replacing and retiring flags at veterans’ graves around the city.
Wearing masks while social distancing, the Scouts last week resumed their civic service by trekking through cemeteries to replace nearly 4,000 American flags.
“The boys are honoring our veterans — from the Spanish-American War to the Iraq war and current conflicts around the world,” said Scoutmaster Matt Matyas. “Despite the fact we have COVID to deal with, we’re trying to teach these boys that these men and women went through a lot and some paid the ultimate sacrifice for us.”
Matyas said all Scouting activity has stopped due to the coronavirus lockdown, including important Eagle Scout projects.
But replacing flags prior to Memorial Day is one of the Scouts’ mandatory projects and continued to be necessary despite the coronavirus shutdown, Matyas said.
All 21 Scouts in Troop 418 participated in last week’s flag-replacing project.
“This is the most important thing we do all year,” Matyas said.
Nationwide, the Veterans Administration this year prohibited the Boy Scouts from replacing flags at national cemeteries because of the pandemic, instead relying on VA staff to perform the task.
Matyas said the regional chapter of the Boy Scouts allowed area troops to replace flags in local cemeteries, as long as they practiced social distancing.
Usually, the Nanticoke Scouts operate in a big group to replace the flags in a series of eight cemeteries off Washington Street in the city and the Holy Trinity Cemetery in Newport Twp.
This year, they were asked to bring family members along, so most Scouts performed the task with people who they live with, Matyas said.
Thomas Kane, representing the Nanticoke American Legion Post 350, which sponsors the Nanticoke Scouts, said there was some concern the Boy Scouts wouldn’t be able to replace the flags this year. But he wasn’t worried.
“We’re so glad the Boy Scouts are doing what they are doing,” Kane said. “I had people calling me, saying, ‘If the Boys Scouts can’t do it, I will.’ So they were going to get put up either way.”
One of the Scouts, Paul Cooper, 16, said he is always proud to replace the flags.
“It’s a great thing to do — get all the old flags out and put up new ones in remembrance for what they did for us and what they did for our county,” Cooper said.
Denise Williams of Wanamie accompanied her 11-year-old son, Brandon, on the mission.
“We have our masks. We are social distancing,” Williams said. “This is a good thing to do for the veterans. As you could see, the flags are in bad shape.”
After the Scouts collected all the old flags, they put them in a huge pile and performed a dignified retirement ceremony by lighting them on fire with the help of the Nanticoke Fire Department. The Scouts saluted as the pile burned.
As the pile smoldered, Matyas dismissed them and made a joke about finally seeing everyone for the first time in weeks, though everyone was wearing masks.
“It was good seeing half your faces today,” Matyas joked. “It’s been awhile.”
The Greater Nanticoke Area community recently honored the GNA Senior Class of 2020. On Friday, May 15, members of the Nanticoke City Fire Department, Nanticoke City Police Department, Mayor Kevin Coughlin, Nanticoke/Newport Township Fire Police, and the GNA High School Administration coordinated and assisted in the raising of a banner on Nanticoke’s East Main Street to recognize the graduating seniors. From left, are Mayor Kevin Coughlin, Police Chief Mike Roke, Fred Kraft, fire police; Tyler Park, Amy Scibek, principal; Dave Park, Len Paczkowski, fire police; Dave Wojciechowicz, firefighter; Fire Chief Kevin Hazleton, Eric Speece, assistant principal; Brian Zegarski, firefighter; Deputy Chief Tom Sadowski, and Captain Mark Boncal.
Luzerne County engineer explains why weight limit is required on Nanticoke/West Nanticoke bridge
Two concerns prompted officials to impose a new 15-ton weight limit on the Luzerne County-owned Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River, county Engineer Lawrence Plesh said Sunday.
The first involves bridge components known as bearings that are designed to absorb pressure and vibrations from vehicles crossing the span, Plesh said.
An inspection concluded the bearings are not “moving with the bridge” the full extent required, putting more stress on other components, Plesh said.
“The bearings are not completely functioning properly,” Plesh said.
The second issue relates to pins that secure eye bars. Some of the pins are now less than the recommended diameter due to rust and other conditions, he said.
“There’s a lot of force on those pins. If a pin snaps, that truss is useless,” he said.
He stressed that the bridge, which is a combination concrete and steel crossing, still meets safety requirements. The weight limit imposed by the county and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is designed to reduce further damage until the county can figure out what repairs will cost and identify funding, he said.
“It’s not going to fall in the water,” he said of the span. “We’re trying to be proactive and cautious.”
The problems with the 2,072-foot bridge, which links Nanticoke and Plymouth Township, were discovered during a state grant-funded study of the structure to identify needed rehabilitation work, he said.
Plesh said a bid should be released next month to determine what it will cost to fix strip seals on top of the bearings and further examine and replace worn pins.
Based on preliminary estimates, the work could cost several million dollars, he said.
“It’s going to cost a lot of money, so I need to know how much,” Plesh said. “The county doesn’t have that kind of money.”
The state may be willing to help fund the project, but that option is “problematic” because the state would have to postpone another planned project elsewhere in its roster to free up the funds for this one, he said.
Because it will take time to round up funding and complete the actual work, the weight limit will allow the county to keep the bridge operational, he said.
Vehicles weighing more than 15 tons should use the Route 29 bridge as an alternate route to cross the Susquehanna, he said.
Examples of vehicles over 15 tons would be tri-axle trucks carrying loads, fire ladder trucks and tractor trailers, he said.
School buses “should probably be OK” to use the span, although he said further review is required to confirm that.
Due to safety concerns, ladder trucks would be able to cross the bridge in emergencies if crews are able to block other motorists on both sides from using the span until the fire vehicle has crossed, he said.
Plesh anticipates some complaints about the inconvenience but said it would be more troublesome to accelerate damage and temporarily have no bridge available to any motorists.
Signs announcing the new weight limits should be installed early this week, he said.
Replacing the bridge instead of investing in repairs has been raised as an option, but Plesh said a new span at that site could cost $20 million or more.
County officials estimated over a decade ago that the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge would cost at least $25 million to replace.
The Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge is among 80 county-owned bridges that are eligible for federal and state bridge funding because they span more than 20 feet.
But it can take years to get a new bridge on the state plan, and several more years to complete the design and finish construction due to government specifications and requirements, Plesh has said.
Nanticoke Area considers 2 options for graduation
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
Greater Nanticoke Area High School officials are considering two options for graduation, which will be held 6 p.m. July 24, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
The type of ceremony depends on what coronavirus restriction level the county remains under at the time.
The first option is a “traditional graduation ceremony” at the school’s sports stadium with strict social distancing recommendations in place based on recommendations by the state and the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Graduates would only be allowed two guests for the commencement ceremony.
The second option would be a parade on campus. Students would receive their diplomas by stepping outside of their vehicle in the front of the high school.
“We remain hopeful to be able to provide our students with a dignified graduation ceremony that recognizes all of their accomplishments,” Grevera said. “Personally, I hope the state and local government will approve the first option because our graduates deserve it but health and safety comes first.”
On Friday, the Nanticoke Fire Department hung a banner over East Main Street in the city in honor of the Class of 2020.
Greater Nanticoke Area looking at 2 graduation options, passes budget with no tax hike
Greater Nanticoke Area passed a “proposed final budget” Thursday with no property tax hike but also with a $1.5 million shortfall that must be resolved by the end of June. After the meeting, Superintendent Ron Grevera also briefly explained the two graduation ceremony options under consideration for July 24.
The budget sets spending at $32.5 million and property tax at 11.9113 mills. A mill is a $1 tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value. After the meeting, Grevera said via email that the budget has a $1.5 million deficit and “we will be working hard to close the gap between now and the June meeting.” By state law, school districts must pass a balanced budget by June 30.
Grevera also said the budget assumes no increase in state money, noting the district gets about 60 percent of its funding from the state. The state is grappling with a huge deficit created by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, casting all budgeting into uncertainty. Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget released in February did include increases for public education, but that was prior to the pandemic.
Grevera also said in his email that graduation is set for July 24 at 6 p.m. on the Nanticoke Campus. “Depending on the level that the county is under at that time, we are looking at two options. The first option is a traditional graduation ceremony at the stadium with strict social distancing guidelines based on CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and state recommendations. Graduates will only be allowed two guests for the commencement ceremony.
“The second option will be a parade on campus. Students will receive their diplomas by stepping outside of their vehicle in the front of the high school,” Grevera wrote. “Personally, I hope the state and local government will approve the first option because our graduates deserve it but health and safety comes first!”
During the meeting, the board granted approval for the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections to use the High School gym on June 1, 2 and 3 for in-person voting. The county has sought to set up polling places at area schools, reversing a long-standing policy in most districts of not allowing such use. While schools were common sites for voting in the past, safety concerns prompted many districts to stop the practice because students were often in the schools on election day.That’s not a problem this year because Wolf has ordered schools closed through June.
And the board awarded a contract to Northeast Counseling Services for a Student Assistance Program Worker for the 2020-21 school year, at a cost of $40,000. Grevera said the money is from a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Grant, and that the person will provide a range of mental health services to students dealing with things like anger management, social skills or parental and family issues.
Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge posted for 15 tons
Times Leader News
The Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge carrying Broadway Street over the Susquehanna River, also known as Luzerne County Bridge No. 2, BMS # 40-7302-0204-0002, is now posted for 15 tons as directed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Luzerne County, a notice released Friday by County Engineer Larry Plesh stated. Vehicles weighing in excess of 15 tons should use the SR 0029 Bridge as an alternate route, he added.
Scholastic Superstars 2020: Andrew Stratton
Q. What accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
A. I’d have to say the overall success I’ve managed to maintain academically throughout high school. It’s something I worked extremely hard for, and it’s helped to put me in the position I’m in today.
Q. What were your most rewarding school or community activities?
A. Working at my local food pantry is more than likely my most rewarding experience. I’ve enjoyed working with a variety of people, as well as doing my part in order to help service the community.
Q. Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?
A. Mostly, I like to read, play video games, and hangout with friends during my free time. It’s a good way to relieve some stress.
Q. What are your plans after you graduate from high school?
A. After graduation, I plan to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study political science. I felt like this was the best avenue for me moving forward, and that it was most befitting what I wish to do with my life.
Q. What do you see yourself doing and where do you see yourself living in 15 years?
A. Hopefully, I’ll be practicing law or entering politics within the next 15 years, preferably in a major city like New York City or Washington, D.C.
Q. Who do you most admire
A. Henry Clay has been my political idol for quite some time. I respect his accomplishments and his well-known ability to compromise, something I try to implement often in my own life.
Q. In a sentence, what is
your philosophy of life?
A. No matter what I decide to do, I must always give 110%.
Q. Finish this sentence: One
interesting thing about me is ...
... my breadth of knowledge. I like to do research into a variety of areas, which allows me to talk about a multitude of different subjects with people. It’s a good way for me to be able to relate to a lot of different types of people with differing interests.
A LITTLE ABOUT ANDREW
School: Greater Nanticoke Area
Parents: Monte Stratton and Claudette Perretti
Some of his honors include: Ranked at the top of his class, National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society
Activities: Quiz Bowl / Scholastic Scrimmage team captain, Science Olympiad, King’s College math competitions, Spanish Club, student council, theater
Community service: Volunteered at food pantry, local church, youth advisory council for state Rep. Gerald Mullery’s office
His nominator said: “He is just truly an amazing young man with such dedication to his studies. He is self-motivated, very intelligent, and ambitious. I am looking forward to see what great things he is doing five, 10, even 15 years down the road.”
Local cover bands to perform online concert for charity
Four local cover bands will stream music Saturday night during an online concert called “Covers for a Cause” to raise money for the Valley with a Heart charity.
The music, which begins at 5 p.m., will be streamed on a newly created Facebook page for “Covers for a Cause,” webpages for the Valley with a Heart organization and on pages for each individual band.
“People are going stir crazy sitting at home because of the coronavirus. Everybody is looking for an outlet. What better than to spend some time with a lot of music,” said Joe Nalepa, singer for the Rhythm and Booze duo.
He said all the bands involved are Nanticoke-based or have Nanticoke roots, so they’ve often played during the same events over the years.
“It’s neat. It has a little Nanticoke feel to it,” Nalepa said. “We love going out and entertaining and we are going a little stir crazy, too.”
The schedule of performers is: 5 to 6 p.m., Mellifluous Duo; 6 to 7 p.m., Rhythm and Booze; 7 to 8 p.m., Doug and Sean; and 8 to 9 p.m., Gone Crazy.
During the performances, the bands will encourage people to go to the Valley with a Heart organization’s website to raise money. There is a “Donate now” link. The performers have set a goal of $2,020 in donations for the evening.
Valley with a Heart is a charitable organization that donates thousands of dollars each year to sick children of the region. Much of the money is raised from its annual motorcycle ride and day-long concert every Labor Day weekend — an event that is in jeopardy this year.
Rick Temarantz, the president of the organization, said he was moved by the surprise offer.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Temarantz said. “Anything that could help us, since we help others.”
Pandemic plays havoc with school budgets
The school closure that began March 16 in Pennsylvania is expected to reduce some costs in the current budget year, but the COVID-19 pandemic could also result in big revenue losses in 2020-21.
“Most school districts are looking at no increases in revenue from federal, state and local resources,” Lake-Lehman School District Superintendent James McGovern said. “People are financially hurting. This is evident as the demands in food distribution steadily increases. In cases such as this, districts can expect a shortfall in revenue collection percentage. This may become fiscally more volatile than 2008.”
The last economic recession in the U.S. was in 2008, and McGovern said revenue projections for 2020-21 are looking “bleak at best.” A major concern is a potential $2 billion shortfall in education funding, McGovern said.
The House State Government Committee approved a bill to freeze school district property taxes next year. School districts statewide collect about $18 billion in total local revenue, and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials is projecting a loss of 4% to 5% in total local revenue due to the pandemic and economic struggles.
School boards are required to propose 2020-21 budgets by the end of May and adopt final budgets by the end of June. The state Legislature allocates education funds to school districts in the annual state budget, which also is required to be adopted by the end of June.
The Dallas School Board has already proposed its budget for the next school year, and it would not increase the property tax rate. The proposed budget would allocate nearly $42.6 million, and the district can now spend nearly $2.2 million that had been reserved for capital projects on operational expenses.
Dallas could also end up saving $600,000 in operating costs this budget year because of the closure, Business Manager Grant Palfey said.
Sporting event cancellations and reduced utility costs are expected to lower spending this year, but that amount will be significantly less than “predicted shortfalls in the state budget,” Dallas Superintendent Thomas Duffy said.
“The rippling economic impact of the pandemic has the potential to significantly negatively affect revenue for school districts, and we evaluate those potentials very closely,” Duffy said.
The Crestwood School Board held a virtual meeting on its budget Wednesday. Officials reviewed projected savings in the current budget.
The athletics budget is $125,517, and expenditures were at $106,739. Savings in athletics will come from reduced transportation costs, Business Manager Peter Bard said.
The maintenance budget is nearly $1.1 million, and expenditures were at $805,728. A factor there is reducing the temperature on thermostats due to building beings closed, Bard said.
The technology budget is $571,362, and expenditures were at $419,657. The district has transferred $100,000 to buy Chromebooks for students who need them to participate in online remote instruction.
A reason that savings from the closure are not more significant is Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Act 13 of 2020 on March 27. Act 13 significantly revised the Pennsylvania Public School Code and added a new section — “Pandemic of 2020” — to addresses a variety of issues involving the pandemic.
The law says employees of school entities who were employed as of March 13 must continue to receive the same compensation they would receive had the pandemic not occurred. Act 13 “guaranteed school employees payment as if school never closed,” Pittston Area Superintendent Kevin Booth said.
The law also assures that contractors’ fixed, personnel, administrative, and equipment costs are maintained during the school closure, and school districts can negotiate interim agreements or contract amendments to pay school bus contractors.
The Wilkes-Barre Area School District expects to save $75,000 a month due to a renegotiated contract with its primary transportation provider. The transportation contract was adjusted to only pay up to 82% of the original contract, and the pay adjustment takes into account a two-week period the district was closed, Superintendent Brian Costello said.
Savings from the closure in Northwest Area have been “minimal at best,” and the district has had added costs during the closure, Superintendent Joseph Long said. The new costs are from distance learning, the development of packet production, repairs on Chromebooks, the purchase of technology infrastructure to increase WiFi power, and the state did not provide the district with a Continuity of Education and Equity Grant to help cover those costs, Long said.
Greater Nanticoke Area is “in the process of figuring out savings from the closure” and expects “minimal savings” from lower utility costs, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
The district will see some savings in transportation because smaller transporters laid off employees and allowed them to receive unemployment compensation, Grevera said. But that also results in a reduction of reimbursement funding from the state, Grevera added.
The district may have savings from a reduction in payments to coaches of spring sports teams, Grevera said.
“In order for our coaches to be paid, they must complete a minimum of 75% of the season, so I don’t see coaches getting paid for the spring season other than maybe a minimal amount, but we haven’t made any final decisions on paying of coaches yet,” Grevera said.
DJ helps cheer up nursing home residents
A local DJ joined the owner of Pizza Bella restaurants and members of Cross Creek Community Church in Trucksville on Saturday to cheer up residents and employees at Birchwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Donnie Evans, who owns DJ Donnie Evans Entertainment, played inspiring tunes outside the Nanticoke nursing home during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“It gives people some spirit and some hope,” Evans said.
As the music played loudly outside, Danny Claherty, who owns Pizza Bella restaurants in Ashley, Nanticoke, Forty Fort and West Pittston, donated 20 large pies to the nursing home’s workers.
Debbie Kearney, a member of Cross Creek Community Church, organized the event held as COVID-19 has been ravaging nursing homes.
“We just got together and decided we want to do this,” Kearney said. “We play religious songs to bring them the word of God and to let them know there’s hope and there’s support and so they can see us out here when they look through their windows.”
She joined other church members like Shellene Clark of Tunkhannock, who wrote “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” in chalk.
Mary Joyce Stefanowicz of Hanover Twp. held a sign reading, “Sending love and prayers.” She said her 86-year-old mother, a resident of Timber Ridge Health Care Center in Plains Twp., has COVID-19 and the group previously visited that nursing home.
“The people at the nursing home said what a great encouragement it was to the residents and to the staff,” Stefanowicz said. “It’s a good church outreach so the people know we’re praying for them. We’re praying for health care workers. We’re praying for everybody with the virus.”
Members of the group also visited other nursing homes and they said they plan to visit more in the future.
Two area students accepted to Geisinger Primary Care Scholars Program
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine announces the first cohort of students accepted to the Geisinger Primary Care Scholars Program, in which selected scholars receive a monthly stipend and pay no tuition or fees in exchange for an obligation to work in a primary care area (family medicine, internal medicine or medicine-pediatrics) at Geisinger once they finish residency.
In addition to the tuition relief and stipend, the scholars will also receive mentorship and training in Geisinger’s newly redesigned practices where primary care is emphasized as the most important place doctor-patient relationships are built. The redesign has elevated primary care and provided clinicians with more time and resources to focus on patients, not administrative tasks.
The students were chosen through a competitive application process. Those selected for the program will receive a monthly stipend and will pay no tuition, in exchange for an obligation to work in a primary care field at Geisinger once they finish residency.
Preference is given to students who express a desire to care for the communities Geisinger serves. Selection criteria includes commitment to primary care, demonstrated financial need, academic merit, diversity and predictors of whether the applicant is likely to stay in the region Geisinger serves.
Up to 40 awards will be made annually. The first Geisinger Primary Care Scholars are Christopher Kropiewnicki, of Nanticoke, and a member of GCSOM’s Class of 2022, and Kara Romanowski, of Swoyersville, and a member of GCSOM’s Class of 2023.
Name dispute between kielbasa competitors sparks federal lawsuit
The owner of a Nanticoke kielbasa shop filed a federal lawsuit earlier this year against a competitor with a similar name, claiming the name infringes on his trademark.
The dispute between Tarnowski’s Kielbasa and the unaffiliated Tarnowski Bros. Kielbasa appears to be a family battle over use of the surname. The relationship between the litigants was not immediately clear.
The suit was filed in February by John T. Vishnefski, who owns Tarnowski’s Kielbasa, located at 579 E. Main St., Nanticoke. Vishnefski filed the suit against Mark Tarnowski, owner of the unaffiliated Tarnowski Bros. Kielbasi, which is based on Union Street.
Vishnesfski’s business Facebook page states: “Tarnowski’s Kielbasa has been made for 70 years using the same family recipe Grandpa Tad and his brothers created. John and Anastasia Vishnefski are proud to carry on the family tradition in our new location on Main St. in Nanticoke.”
Meanwhile, Tarnowski Bros.’ Facebook page says it is “original since 1946,” adding in a recent post: This is our family name! Mark and Mike Tarnowski. Our father always told us “Don’t be afraid to use your name.”
Vishnefski is claiming in his suit that Tarnowski is attempting to confuse customers into buying his kielbasa, noting that Vishnefski’s shop has won several awards for its kielbasa.
“He intentionally confuses customers by using this name, ‘Tarnowski Bros. Kielbasi,’” Vishnefski writes in his suit.
Vishnefski, who has been selling kielbasa under the name of Tarnowski’s Kielbasa in late 2011, is seeking for an injunction to be issued against Tarnowski’s business, preventing him from using the names “Tarnowski Bros. Kielbasi” or “Tarnowski Bros. Kielbasi on Wheels.”
Vishnefski applied for a trademark for the name Tarnowski’s Kielbasa in 2017, and was granted the trademark in 2018.
“Mark Tarnowski’s actions have diluted the name ‘Tarnowski’s Kielbasa,’ misrepresented his product in relation with distribution and advertising, and injured the business reputation of John T. Vishnefski,” Vishnefski wrote in his filing.
Vishnefski initially represented himself in the case, but is now represented by William L. Byrne.
A response from Tarnowski, filed by his attorney Thomas J. Killino last week, denies that customers are confused by the names.
“It is specifically denied that there is any confusion as to the source of products between the parties and consumers,” the response reads in part. “It is further denied that (Tarnowski) misrepresented his product in relation with distribution and advertising. By way of further denial, (Tarnowski) operates a business filed under the name of the owner, (Tarnowski), that is profitable in its own right and in now way is confused with, competes with, infringes upon, or in any way is harmful to (Vishnefki’s) business.”
A telephone conference is scheduled for Monday before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito.
Kielbasa rivalry heats up with trademark infringement suit
The Tarnowski Bros. Kielbasa food truck is alleged to be a trademark violation.
The owner of an award-winning Nanticoke kielbasa shop has filed a federal lawsuit alleging a competitor is illegally infringing on the business’s trademarked name.
John T. Vishnefski, owner of Tarnowski’s Kielbasa Inc. at 579 E. Main St., alleges in the complaint that Nanticoke resident Mark Tarnowski is violating his trademark by running an unaffiliated business called Tarnowski Bros. Kielbasa at 14 E. Union St.
In his complaint, Vishnefski notes his brick-and-mortar shop has won numerous awards for its products, including taking first prize in the smoked kielbasa contest last year at the Plymouth Alive Kielbasa Festival.
“Mark Tarnowski owns a food trailer which he calls ‘Tarnowski Bros. Kielbasa,’” Vishnefski wrote. “He intentionally confuses customers by using this name.”
The complaint said under Vishnefski’s ownership, his business first produced kielbasa under the name Tarnowski’s Kielbasa in November 2011. Vishnefski subsequently applied for a trademark in November 2017 and the name was registered in September 2018, the complaint says.
The name is an “important and valuable business asset,” and Tarnowski’s use of a similar name for products Vishnefski cannot control has caused unfair competition and a loss of business, the complaint alleges.
“Mark Tarnowski’s actions have diluted the name ‘Tarnowski’s Kielbasa,’ misrepresented his product in relation with distribution and advertising, and injured the business reputation of John T. Vishnefski,” Vishnefski wrote in the complaint.
Vishnefski originally filed the complaint himself, but is now represented by Wilkes-Barre attorney William L. Byrne, according to court records.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction blocking Tarnowski from using the name.
In an answer to the complaint filed on behalf of Tarnowski, Pittston attorney Thomas J. Killino denies that the similar name has harmed Vishnefski’s business and seeks dismissal of the lawsuit.
“It is specifically denied that there is any confusion as to the source of products between the parties and consumers. It is further denied that (Tarnowski) misrepresented his product in relation with distribution and advertising,” Killino wrote. “(Tarnowski) operates a business founded under the name of the owner, (himself), that is profitable in its own right and in no way is confused with, competes with, infringes upon, or in any way is harmful to (Vishnefski’s) business.”
In a Facebook post this week, Tarnowski Bros. Kielbasa publicly responded to the lawsuit.
“This is our family name! Mark and Mike Tarnowski. Our father always told us ‘Don’t be afraid to use your name,’” the post read. “We appreciate your business and will continue to provide you with great tasting kielbasi.”
The matter is currently scheduled for a case management conference before Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito Jr. on April 27.
More schools adjust online learning plans
More adjustments to online education plans for public schools are on the way.
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District will roll out a new online curriculum next week for grades 6-9, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said Monday.
All schools in Pennsylvania closed March 16 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Greater Nanticoke Area began online education two weeks ago to “review and enrich” learning.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced last Thursday all schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
Greater Nanticoke has also applied for a grant to buy more Google Chromebooks to students, Grevera said.
“We are asking for parents to assist us in collaborating to deliver new instruction to our students,” Grevera said. “Our fear is that it will be very difficult to fill in the learning gaps if we do not provide new material.”
The district is “in the process of mandating” that students “log in and attempt the various assignments that are posted,” but the district is not grading assignments at this time, Grevera said.
Pittston Area is also changing its continuity of education plan because of the closure for the remainder of the academic year.
“Students will continue to receive review and enrichment activities for the week of April 14th,” Superintendent Kevin Booth said in a message on the district website. “The week of April 20th, we will begin to transition from a review and enrichment model to the introduction of new material. As of April 20th, the work will no longer be optional. Students will be required to log-in and complete assignments or hand-in their pencil and paper assignments to be given credit.”
The Dallas School District is emphasizing “to students and parents the importance of students logging on to each Google Classroom each school day to maintain contact with school,” Superintendent Thomas Duffy said.
“Student participation is being recorded,” Duffy added.
Dallas has distributed more than 400 Chromebooks to date and has “a hotline for families in need of devices,” Duffy said.
“We have a limited number of families who are in need of internet connectivity and are working with third providers to assist those families,” Duffy said.
Greater Nanticoke Area students can access Google Classroom, which the district is using for grades 3-12, through Xbox or PS4 games systems, Grevera said. He added he is hoping the high school is able to hold a graduation ceremony “at some point over the summer” perhaps at the football stadium for the first time “in a long time.”
Dallas has not altered graduation plans as of Monday.
“We remain hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to hold a traditional graduation for our seniors,” Duffy said.
Districts mull options for graduation
James Halpin and Stephanie Panny, Staff Writers - Citizens Voice
Dallas superintendent Thomas Duffy said his district will wait until graduation day draws closer for the most up-to-date information before making a decision.
Local schools are now figuring out how to hold graduation following Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement to close schools for the remainder of the school year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, Crestwood superintendent Bob Mehalick said the district is still waiting to see how things play out before making a decision on a ceremony. He added a ceremony will take place when it’s safe to do so, whether that be in August or over Christmas break.
“We will certainly graduate them on June 11, and that will be remotely,” Mehalick said. “We are working with our students to find a way for the ceremony.”
Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ronald J. Grevera Jr. said it’s too soon to set a date for a graduation ceremony but added that even when it takes place the district will employ social distancing guidelines.
“We are looking at having our graduation outside this year and returning it to our football stadium which was a past tradition in our district,” Grevera said. “We will be looking at a traditional graduation ceremony but we are not going to release a date at this time until we can get a look at the COVID-19 cases of infection in the county.”
Dallas superintendent Thomas Duffy said the administration will wait until the date draws closer for the most up-to-date information before making a decision.
Northwest Area superintendent Joseph F. Long Jr. said the administration will discuss options virtually with senior class officers so they can have input.
Pittston Area superintendent Kevin Booth said he plans to hold out on making any plans, as he wants seniors to have a traditional graduation to make up for their year being “turned over.”
“If we can have a traditional ceremony we’d want to do that first,” Booth said. “If that opportunity doesn’t present itself, we have to move to plan B, and currently we don’t have a plan B.”
Senior stars Farrell, Butczynski miss out on ending
Steve Bennett - Citizens Voice
Colby Butczynski was looking forward to being the ace of the Nanticoke Area pitching staff. Jack Farrell was looking forward to the challenges of facing Archbishop Wood, a perennial state power in the quarterfinals of the state basketball tournament.
Those hopes and dreams came to a crashing end Thursday when the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Association, the governing body of sports in the state, announced it was canceling the remainder of the sports season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farrell, a forward/center on the Dallas boys basketball team, played for a state championship as a tight end/defensive end on the football team, and helped lead the basketball team to the quarterfinal round.
“It was a little mix of emotions,” Farrell said when he heard the news the season was over. “Obviously there was some sadness knowing the school year is over and the basketball season is over. It is for the best. Just to protect the fans and athletes. You can’t be mad at that.”
For Butczynski, a senior who announced he will play at Northampton Community College next year, it brought an end for his chance to try and help lead the Trojans in a season where the hopes were to play for a district title. The Trojans returned all but two players from last year’s team, including shortstop Derek Cease, a junior who has already given a verbal commitment to Penn State.
“It hurts that I can’t play with all my friends that I have been playing with since Little League,” said Butczynski, who played on the football team and was a member of the basketball team that made four consecutive trips to the state tournament. “I can’t graduate with them on stage or see all my teachers. It really hurts.”
But for the pair of seniors who were at the top of their class in terms of their athletic accomplishments, they realize they are experiencing a part of history, something they can look back upon and tell their children about down the road.
More importantly, while both were robbed of a part of their senior year, they both can sympathize with their friends who just play spring sports, and did not have the opportunity to participate in athletics in the fall or winter seasons.
“I feel bad for the kids who focused on one sport and that sport being one that is played in the spring,” Butczynski said. “I was lucky, I got to play football and basketball, experience the bus rides with the team and all the memories you make. Just thinking about the community support we received during football and basketball, that is something we will miss out in the spring.”
Farrell, who has committed to East Stroudsburg University where he will play basketball, can start getting ready to begin his collegiate career. But still, he is holding onto the memories of his final year of high school.
“I realize I am part of the lucky few that got to play sports for a full season in the fall and winter and I can’t imagine how those kids are feeling now,” Farrell said. “Especially the one sport only baseball kids.
“They trained all offseason to get to this point and it is taken away from them. I just hope they can keep their heads up and realize that it is best for the safety of everyone.”
Butler Twp. woman describes COVID-19 testing process
Patricia Slusarczyk wanted to get tested for the coronavirus for a week, but felt so awful she couldn’t even bear to visit a testing site.
“I could not go. I couldn’t move. I was just too weak,” the Butler Twp. woman said earlier this week while leaving a Geisinger Health System testing clinic in Nanticoke. “I never felt so bad in my life. I felt like I was on death’s door.”
Slusarczyk, 55, was confident she has the virus after being exposed to it at her workplace, a meatpacking plant in Hazle Twp. where she works as a nurse.
On the same day Slusarczyk was tested, the company, Cargill Meat Solutions, announced it was temporarily closing its plant, which employs about 900 people, due to a coronavirus outbreak.
Now, she’s awaiting the results and has been ordered to social distance from her husband, Ed, at their home in Drums.
“That’s going to be really hard, living in the same house,” he said.
Geisinger and other hospitals previously erected screening and treatment tents outside emergency rooms as a quarantine measure.
Geisinger took the extra step recently by turning its Nanticoke clinic into a COVID-19 testing site, and temporarily moving some services to its Mountain Top clinic. An outpatient clinic on Wildflower Drive in Plains Twp., near Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, also was converted into a testing center.
Slusarczyk said her symptoms included a bad fever, a lingering cough, extreme weakness, and gastrointestinal problems.
She said she got tested just hours after she called to request a test.
While some people assume the tests are painful, she said it’s not that bad.
“They take a swab up your nose and put it up there, all the way back there and they swirl. And they go into the other side and do it again. It makes you uncomfortable. It makes you want to gag and cough,” Slusarczyk said.
Slusarczyk said few others were in the testing site at the time she was but she assumes that was on purpose to limit cross exposure.
Testing is done by appointment only.
Geisinger officials wouldn’t say how many people have been tested at the off-site facilities.
“If you’re having symptoms you think are related to COVID-19, before visiting a doctor’s office, clinic or emergency department, you should first contact your primary care physician, who can advise on proper treatment and, if necessary, recommend further testing,” Geisinger spokesman Matt Mattei said in a statement. “You can also call our nurse triage line at 570-284-3657 with questions about symptoms or the need for further evaluation or testing at one of these locations.”
He noted not everyone will be tested.
“Because there are strict guidelines for who should be tested, Geisinger will not test anyone who does not meet CDC screening criteria. Doing so is neither a reliable way to identify exposure nor predict future symptoms,” Mattei said.
#GetMePPE protests planned today at local facilities
There hasn’t been cause for Hunter Yale to panic yet.
But, should the coronavirus outbreak ever reach his place of work at Guardian Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Nanticoke, Yale wants to make sure he can remain calm then, too.
“I want to know that we are prepared to take this on,” Yale said over the phone Wednesday.
Yale, a dietary aide at Guardian, and co-workers will try to work toward achieving that peace of mind when they take part in the #GetMePPE National Day of Action protests today. Other local health care and nursing home workers in the SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania union will also participate in calling for the federal government to use the Defense Production Act to ensure personal protective equipment for all healthcare workers throughout the pandemic.
The movement also aims to ensure health care coverage, paid sick time and paid leave for all frontline workers across the nation, according to an SEIU news release.
Workers plan to protest while staying at least six feet apart at around 3 and 4 p.m., when shifts are finished or about to begin. In addition to Guardian, other union members from Mountain City Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Hazle Twp., the Meadows at Scranton for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Scranton and Dunmore Health Care Center in Dunmore intend to make their voices heard.
“You really don’t understand until you’re on the frontline and you’re experiencing it,” Yale said. “That’s when you get the true feeling of, ‘We really need this equipment.’ We need to be protected.”
“It’s very scary,” he added. “It would be reassuring to know that we would have abundant (equipment) to keep us protected.”
Yale said he and others at Guardian are equipped with homemade masks right now, and there’s access to an N95 mask that has to be re-used.
He hopes proactive steps assure the staff “proper equipment” now, not later. He could be working around others with compromised immune systems, or who can’t afford to stay away from work for long.
“The government needs to act on it, and we want to make it known that we need the protection to not just protect ourselves, but protect our families,” Yale said.
Nanticoke woman brightens neighborhood
Loretta Chmura has decorated her home for most holidays since she was 15 years old, but for this Easter, she added something a bit unusual to her outdoor display.
Among the eggs, bunnies, peeps and baskets are four brown stuffed teddy bears.
“People probably think I’m nuts putting out teddy bears for Easter, but they make the kids happy. That’s why I put them out,” said Chmura, 70.
“I didn’t do as much as usual because of the (corona)virus, but I put the teddy bears up because they make kids feel better,” she said. “And at a time like this, everyone needs some extra hope and happiness.”
Chmura’s home is one of the few on Grand Street with an Easter display, let alone one of that magnitude, with holiday lights strung everywhere, illuminated plastic bunnies and peeps and even 40-year-old flowery Easter eggs custom-made by the late Nanticoke florist Stanley Olszewski.
“I just love to decorate. It’s my hobby,” Chmura said.
She’s happy she can brighten up her neighborhood, and so are her neighbors.
“They love to come outside and see how Loretta does her house,” Jayme Kocher said as her three sons, Giovanni, 7, Jacob, 5, and Joseph, 3, scampered across the street and onto Chmura’s front lawn for another close-up look at the display.
“She always does such a good job,” Kocher said.
“And not just for Easter, for all the holidays,” added Joseph Kirschner, the boys’ father.
Chmura said it took her about three days to decorate the house and side yard for Easter. Decorating for Christmas takes her about seven.
Even inside the house, a basket of Pysanki — ornately decorated eggs in the Polish or Ukrainian styles — and a few other Easter decorations sit on her dining room table, with her pet macaw Cocomo, wearing a frilly Easter collar of soft pastels while perched in his cage nearby.
Chmura said she’ll have an Easter dinner with a friend of hers who resides in the nursing home where she works, since nursing homes have restricted even family from visiting residents because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She’ll have another Easter dinner with her husband later that day.
Her church’s services have been canceled because of the pandemic.
“This will be a little bit different of an Easter,” she said.
Geisinger testing for coronavirus at two clinics
Geisinger now has two new locations where patients can be tested for the coronavirus, Geisinger spokesman Matt Mattei said.
The sites are its clinic at 128 E. Main St. in Nanticoke and a clinic on Wildflower Drive in Plains Twp.
Tests will be done by appointment only, he said.
According to Mattei, a nasal swab and a phlegm sample are needed for the test.
Geisinger in-house testing is done at its on-site laboratory in Danville.
“Right now, Geisinger is complementing its on-site laboratory testing by partnering with commercial laboratories such as Quest to offer additional options for COVID-19 laboratory testing,” Mattei said.
Results from Geisinger’s on-site laboratory typically return between 3 and 24 hours depending on time of specimen collection. Results from Quest can take between 3 and 10 days to return, he said.
Because there are strict guidelines about who should be tested, Geisinger will not test anyone who does not meet screening criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.
“If you’re having symptoms you think are related to COVID-19, before visiting a doctor’s office, clinic or emergency department, you should first contact your primary care physician, who can advise on proper treatment and, if necessary, recommend further testing,” Mattei said.
To slow the spread of COVID-19 in communities, Mattei said Geisinger is rescheduling non-urgent appointments and offering patients other options, such as telephone or telemedicine visits.
A list of Geisinger clinics and hours of operations can be found at www.geisinger.org. Anyone who needs an appointment or would like to reach a physician should call 800-275-6401.
Palms will not be distributed this weekend
With public Masses canceled because of the coronavirus, the Rev. James Nash of St. Faustina’s Parish in Nanticoke had planned to hold a drive-by event in the church’s parking lot Sunday to hand out palms to mark the beginning of Holy Week.
“That was the plan until yesterday,” Nash said Tuesday.
Priests of other churches had other Palm Sunday plans to distribute already-purchased and delivered palms, like allowing those who come in for private worship to take some.
But Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambara on Monday sent a letter to priests around the 11-county diocese informing them that any distribution of palms this year due to the coronavirus outbreak was prohibited.
“While time honored and appreciated by many members of the faithful, the distribution of palms in any way risks the unnecessary spread of the coronavirus,” Bambera said in his letter, which included updated guidelines on how churches should operate now and during Holy Week.
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and Christians use the palm during ceremonies because in ancient times palm branches were a symbol of goodness and victory.
Nash said he understands the decision, despite the fact those distributing them outside St. Faustina’s would have been wearing gloves and masks
“It’s the right decision. You can’t be too cautious,” Nash said.
Four boxes — containing approximately 1,000 palms — sit in the church’s garage. They will be blessed and later distributed should Masses resume sometimes soon.
Nash said he wasn’t immediately sure how much the palms cost, but said it was minimal.
The Rev. Joseph Verespy, of St. Nicholas Church in Wilkes-Barre, said the palms could dry out before masses resume.
“We ordered them. What can you do?” Verespy said. “We’ll see what shape they are in when we reopen.”
The Rev. John Terry, of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre, said the parish was looking forward to Palm Sunday Mass. As of Tuesday, he said he was still wondering if he could have palms located in the church for parishioners who come in for private worship on Palm Sunday. The Park Avenue church will be open 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
“Nobody would handle them except for the person taking them.” he said.
Another change due to the coronavirus, is a relaxation on the prohibition of eating meat this Friday.
Bambera has granted a special dispensation to Catholics in the 11 counties of the Diocese of Scranton, allowing them to eat meat this Friday, a diocesan spokesman said.
The dispensation is the result of the difficulties some of the faithful are having in leaving their homes to get food amid the coronavirus outbreak, spokesman Eric Deabill said.
The obligation of fasting and abstinence still applies on Good Friday, April 10, Deabill said.
In his Monday letter, Bambara updated his list of directives to churches and parish leaders, such as:
The decision to maintain access to a church for private prayer remains a decision of the pastor or the parish life coordinator. Strict sanitization required.
All “private Masses” or prayer groups must cease
No funeral Masses or services, inclusive of those at funeral homes, are to be conducted. Priests, deacons and parish life coordinators may conduct grave-side burial services when appropriate for immediate family members only.
All public gatherings for the celebration of confessions or the Anointing of the Sick are suspended. In the gravest circumstances, priests may make themselves available for these sacraments, taking care to follow CDC guidelines for personal protection.
The celebration of baptism is to be suspended for the health and safety of all. In case of emergency (danger of death), the sacrament may be administered.
All weddings scheduled are to be postponed until further notice.
Nanticoke bar stripped of liquor license
Lacey's Bar and Catering has been stripped of its liquor license.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board shuttered a Nanticoke bar Wednesday for allegedly failing to comply with Gov. Tom Wolf’s business closure order.
According to a sign posted at Lacey’s Bar and Catering, the board suspended the business’ license effective immediately until further notice for “not adhering to the governor’s mandate to cease the sale of food and alcohol for on-premises consumption.”
Wolf’s order closing non life-sustaining businesses allows restaurants to continue offering take out food but bars the sale of food and drink being consumed on site.
The bar is owned by James and Mary Lacey, whose home is attached to the building. Their son, Jim Lacey Jr., said that trouble began after the bar got a notice saying it was “recommended” that it close.
When the bar stayed open on St. Patrick’s Day, an agent from the Liquor Control Board showed up saying it was required to close, he said.
“He wasn’t too happy that we kept the bar open, I know that,” Lacey said.
The agent has been returning to the bar since, documenting people coming and going, he said.
However, Lacey maintained that beginning March 18 the bar, which is located at 444 E. Main St., began offering take-out only services. The people coming and going since then include a home nurse to care for his parents and bartenders who have been assisting with other services, such as cleaning and bookkeeping, he said.
Asked if anyone had been drinking at the bar, Lacey said he had not seen it happening when he’s been there in the morning and at night.
“Now, what went on during the day, I really don’t know,” Lacey said. “I know at one point one of the friends that was here was back and forth (running errands) and they said he had a beer in his hand when he was coming out to see the bartenders. But as far as anybody actually sitting at the bar, as far as I know, no. And if they were, they shouldn’t have been.”
Lacey said he didn’t think he and his parents would try to challenge the suspension.
“I don’t think an appeal would do anything,” Lacey said. “I just think they’re going to have to wait it out and do the best that they can with what they currently have.”
Online learning starts as school closures become indefinite
All Pennsylvania schools will remain closed until further notice, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday.
Wolf closed all schools in the state starting March 16 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Wolf said all schools will remain closed for students through April 8.
Public schools in Luzerne County began moving ahead Monday with online education for students. The state Department of Education will be providing schools with updated guidance and resources “in the coming days” on the continuity of education for students, Wolf said Monday.
Hanover Area School District started online classes Monday, and roughly 400 high school students logged in early Monday morning, Superintendent Nathan Barrett said.
“Teachers were very motivated to create their online classrooms,” Barrett said. “We experienced a low volume of technology issues as we had been preparing and building toward this day for nearly two weeks.”
The district will be reaching out to families unable to access online information and will be providing assistance, Barrett said. Hanover Area teachers are monitoring student work between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. and post assignments with flexible deadlines, according to an online message.
Students don’t have to be engaged throughout the entire school day and are encouraged to log-in daily for teacher updates, assignments & important information. Instruction is “Review & Enrichment,” so students are very familiar with the content. There will no report cards or cumulative averages established in the distance learning environment.
The Dallas School District provided more than 350 Chromebooks to students in need on Friday and Saturday, Superintendent Thomas Duffy said. Teachers were reaching out to parents and families by email and phone over the weekend and Monday, Duffy said.
“Teachers will be reporting the number of students who have logged on by midday (today),” Duffy said, adding the district is “also in the process of working to establish opportunities for students and parents who need assistance with the social and emotional impacts of the pandemic or related support.”
Wilkes-Barre Area’s plan for the continuity of education also is “Enrichment and Review,” Superintendent Brian Costello said.
“We are not replacing the type of education a child would receive in our classrooms,” Costello said. “That quality of education can only be achieved once we are back in school. What we are providing is an opportunity for our students to continue the learning process, throughout this closure, by reviewing specific content and providing enrichment.”
Wilkes-Barre Area administrators have been contacting families and students for them to pick up the necessary resources they may have requested, such as Chromebooks, Costello said. Service Electric and Comcast are both offering free internet service for a limited time for families in the district, Costello noted.
Greater Nanticoke Area School District also started providing “review and enrichment” Monday, and teachers last week attended a Zoom session “to prepare the process of reaching out to their students,” Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
“ ... we emphasized that the material is simply to be used for review and enrichment and should be fun for students.” Grevera said in an email. “In these uncertain times, it is more important for students to take their mind off of the COVID-19 crisis and focus on enjoying learning rather than burdening them with new material. Because our students enjoy technology, we hope they can realize that technology can be used for learning and that it can be fun too!”
Lake-Lehman began online activities for students in grades 3-12 Monday.
“These activities are not mandatory, but they are a great way to help keep your child engaged in learning while home,” Superintendent James McGovern said in a message posted online.
All Lake-Lehman students in grades 3-12 have Chromebooks from the district, McGovern said. Lake-Lehman students were able to get Chromebooks and work packets at district schools Monday.
Wyoming Valley West’s plan “Remediation and Review” today and “involves two to five hours per day of meaningful enrichment, review, and remediation driven by web-based means,” the district said on its website. Students are currently not mandated to participate, and assignments will not be graded. Attendance for students will not be taken.
Pittston Area teachers are reaching out to students and parents to identify access online resources, Superintendent Kevin Booth said in an online message.
“It will be extremely important to establish structure and routine in the upcoming weeks,” Booth said, suggesting parents create study space free of distractions for students.
Crestwood’s plan for “Enrichment and Review” began Monday and is moving forward in biweekly increments. An online message noted assignments are not mandatory and won’t be graded. The district recommends two to five hours a day of student engagement, and attendance will not be taken.
Community helping local family whose home was damaged by fire
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
Imagine a family of 13 living together in a modest, three-bedroom house in Nanticoke, where the mother sleeps on the couch and the breadwinner father, who works 80 hours a week, sleeps in a makeshift bedroom in the basement.
Now, imagine family life after their house is consumed by a fire, they are displaced, and are trying to get by in a local hotel while much of life is shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Meet the Atkins family.
The family, whose house on Pine Street in the city’s Hanover section caught fire last Sunday, remains incredibly upbeat despite their ordeal. However, family, friends and neighbors are rallying to help them. Henry Turoski, one neighbor who adores the family and says they are great people, has set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe.com, titled “Family of 13 in need after a house fire.”
“I’m just trying to help this beautiful family in a time of need and anything at all will help,” Turoski wrote.
As of Sunday evening, donors contributed $5,800.
“The community support has been amazing. It’s really touching,” said Tammy Atkins, 43, the mother of the 11 children and wife of Jason Atkins. “We have a place to stay, even if it’s at the hotel. It could have been so much worse. Thank God everyone got out OK.”
The couple said the fire started in a bedroom shared by their two teenage daughters after a candle was left burning overnight because they disliked the odors emitting from the recently remodeled and painted room, a fact confirmed by the Nanticoke Fire Department. Each of the girls sustained burns to their legs before fleeing the burning room, but are recovering.
Jason Atkins, a professional fence installer who works various side jobs to support the family, said he was in town from Georgia in 2004 doing work at a local state prison when he met his future wife. He and Tammy Atkins fell in love and he adopted her son, who happened to also be named Jason. Over the years, they had 10 more children and they named each child so that the first letter of their names, in order from oldest to youngest, spelled out his full name.
Their children include: Jason Jr., 25, Alexis, 15, Savannah, 14, Owen, 13, Natalee, 11, Amanda, 10, Tabitha, 9, Karlie, 7, Isaiah, 5, Nathan, 4, Spencer, 3.
“All my kids get straight A’s,” Jason Atkins said. “People ask me all the time how can you afford all those kids? I say you can’t buy what I got.”
The couple is working with their insurance company to help fund repairs of their home, hopefully sooner rather than later, though they known the coronavirus could be an impediment.
“We’re here in a hotel and the world is shut down,” Jason Atkins said. “We’re ready to go back home.”
THE ATKINS FAMILY
Jason and Tammy Atkins have 11 children. They named each child so that the first letter of their names, in order from oldest to youngest, spells out his full name. They are:
Jason Jr., 25, Alexis, 15, Savannah, 14, Owen, 13, Natalee, 11,
Amanda, 10, Tabitha, 9, Karlie, 7, Isaiah, 5, Nathan, 4, Spencer, 3
Municipal officials open new lines of communication with residents
Last week, Wilkes-Barre City Councilwoman Beth Gilbert McBride put a request on Facebook looking for residents to submit questions that she will answer during an online Q&A session on Monday.
This is just one way she is trying to communicate with constituents while also practicing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
“These are unprecedented times and it’s critical that the public remains educated and informed of the issues we are facing, while continuing to provide our usual day-to-day services as well,” said Gilbert McBride, who is hoping to have at least one virtual town hall meeting. “I believe keeping an open line of communication with residents has helped everyone cope a little bit better by being informed.”
In lieu of person-to-person interaction, many municipalities have shifted their focus to online communication methods to reach their residents. Although they still allow people to call the borough or township buildings, which have been closed to the public, local municipalities have placed a greater emphasis on using social media to quickly get information out to residents.
For most local governments, City of Pittston Mayor Michael Lombardo said the situation is “uncharted waters.” Lombardo said his initial steps were to turn potential roadblocks into jumping off points to figure out what he and his staff needed to do to make sure residents remained informed.
Lombardo reached out to Mary Kroptavich, the city’s Main Street director, to utilize her social media skills and has been sending information out to local news outlets to reach those residents who don’t know how to access or use social media or online communication effectively.
Lombardo has been using a bilingual employee to translate messages for Spanish-speaking residents, and put auditory capabilities on online messages for those who are visually impaired.
In Nanticoke, Mayor Kevin Coughlin has done similar things to reach his residents. Coughlin said the city has enabled each employee to have remote access to the municipal building’s systems and both their website and Facebook page are being used regularly.
However, for both Pittston and Nanticoke, the shift to communicating online was harder because they didn’t have communication protocols already in place.
Forty Fort Mayor Andy Tuzinski said already having a plan in place made it easier for his borough to shift platforms of communication for both municipal employees and residents.
After the floods of 1972 and 2011, Tuzinski said he prepared emergency plans of action in case another disaster were to hit where residents could not physically reach government officials. Developing an alternative method of communication was one of those plans.
Tuzinski said the borough uses social media and the website to get word out to residents. Having a plan of action made the shift easier for both residents and government officials, he said.
“There’s been some great suggestions and we’ve made some tweaks here and there,” Tuzinski said. “And everything’s been geared toward helping keep residents informed, but also to continue to maintain the services that the residents deserve.”
One of the road blocks a municipality can face is the technology — and training on that technology — itself.
Lombardo and Coughlin said a municipality’s financial situation itself dictates the infrastructure and technological allocation.
Lombardo said it’s “problematic” that there are places that don’t have that right now. Lombardo added his deputy director of community development had just submitted a request for a grant of $100,000 for tech upgrades.
“I think we’ve recognized some deficiencies,” Lombardo said. “What this crisis has done is really put them right in our face.”
Gilbert McBride said city government systems are often antiquated and people are used to making the shift to online communication in general, much less solely online communication. As a millennial, Gilbert McBride said her adjustment was easier.
“City Council was not prepared to shift,” Gilbert McBride said, “but we moved quickly to accommodate to this new reality.”
Gilbert McBride added that city council is looking at ways to live stream meetings beginning as soon as April.
Lombardo and Coughlin said they have been keeping in contact with each other as well as Wilkes-Barre City Mayor George Brown, Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, and Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat to share methods of communication and information. Lombardo said after the crisis, they all plan to meet for a post-analysis of their response and said communication methods will be one of the topics that comes up.
Driver topples tombstones during pursuit through Newport Twp. Cemetery
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
A suspect leading police on a wild vehicle chase Sunday afternoon in Nanticoke and Newport Twp. veered into a cemetery, where he toppled multiple tombstones and tore up grass gravesites before plowing through a metal fence and back onto residential streets.
Police eventually cornered the driver in his mangled car a short distance away on Alden Road in Newport Twp. and took him into custody.
Investigators said the 29-year-old suspect was taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation and charges are pending consultation with county prosecutors.
“It was pretty wild. There were a bunch of police cars chasing him,” said eyewitness Joe Bargella, 66, whose Newport Twp. backyard faces Holy Trinity Cemetery. “I heard, ‘bang, bang, bang,’ from him knocking over the headstones I guess.”
Police said the incident started when police were called to a home on College Street in Nanticoke on the report of a person throwing furniture from a second story window.
The man fled the home and led responding officers on a pursuit through city streets. State police, along with officers from Newport Twp. and Hanover Twp., soon responded as well.
After the chase entered the cemetery, the man initially was on a paved road that loops around the cemetery and, at one point, it looked like police had the driver boxed in, Bargella said. But the driver reversed, made a quick maneuver, and drove into the grass in between and over tombstones. The driver drove through the cemetery, knocking over grave markers, and then plowed through the cemetery’s metal fence.
Police caught the man moments later, ending the chase.
The Rev. James Nash, of St. Faustina Church, the city’s consolidated Catholic parish that includes the former Holy Trinity Church, toured the cemetery destruction shortly afterward.
“Vandalism is always sad, but when it occurs at a sacred spot like a cemetery, it takes on a special sadness,” the Rev. Nash said. “We will do all we need to do to restore the cemetery to its original dignity.”
Districts move to online education next week
Michael P. Buffer – Citizens Voice
Public schools in the region are planning to start online education next week when the statewide school closure goes into its third week.
Gov. Tom Wolf closed all schools in the state starting March 16 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and schools will remain closed for students through April 8.
Dallas School District students begin online learning Monday. Superintendent Thomas Duffy said “our approach will be slow and deliberate,” noting the state has announced students could return to classrooms April 9.
“We will work to equip students in need with devices between today and Monday and provide support for our teachers, students, and parents throughout this historic time,” Duffy said in an email. “Communication will be updated and frequent for the school district community.”
Crestwood begins online instruction Monday to “review material already covered,” Superintendent Robert Mehalick said.
“We will not introduce new material,” Mehalick said.
Teachers will work remotely from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but each student will not be completely engaged during that time, Mehalick said.
“We have been preparing for some time,” Mehalick said, noting he is expecting “some glitches.”
Crestwood conducted a survey of students, and less than 5% do not have devices or working WiFi, Mehalick said. The district will try to provide them with devices.
Public schools in Luzerne and Wyoming counties are working with the Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 and the state Department of Education on their continuity of education plans.
“These opportunities to review and enrich our students will never replace the constancy of face-to-face instruction with teachers in brick and mortar schools but are simply an opportunity to keep students engaged over the time period of the closure,” Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
Grevera said “the great majority” of parents and students have internet access however, and said students who don’t took hard copies of textbooks and workbooks home with them.
Special-needs education students “will have the same opportunities with adaptations to enrich and review material learned before the break,” Grevera said, explaining special education teachers “will continue to adapt and modify to the needs of our students.”
Educators working on Individualized Education Programs for students “will work proactively over the period of the closure” to provide parents and guardians with students’ documents and “will provide the opportunity for a phone conference with IEP team members,” Grevera said.
Hanover Area is using Google Classroom to start online classes Monday. The district has identified students who need devices and will be working them “on a case-by-case basis,” Superintendent Nathan Barrett said, noting the amount was initially around 5% and has been reduced.
Pittston Area is still formulating a plans, and teachers “will begin to reach out to students starting on Monday,” Superintendent Kevin Booth said.
Wyoming Area “had been providing educational ‘online resources’ for our students,” and administrators will contact families “to provide them with an understanding of our online opportunities for enrichment and review as per the district’s continuity of Education plan,” Superintendent Janet Serino said.
GNA donates equipment to Geisinger Wyoming Valley
Michael Buffer – Citizens Voice
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District donated personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as PPE, to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Twp.
The school district acquired extra PPE to protect its cleaning and maintenance staff prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said. The district donated the PPE because the hospital “was experiencing a shortage” and “it became evident that we wouldn’t use it,” Grevera said.
The donated PPE includes 185 coveralls with attached hoods, 100 booties, 15 respirator/full-face masks and 30 respirator filters.
School districts prepare continuity plans
Michael P. Buffer - Citizens Voice
School districts in Luzerne and Wyoming counties will roll out continuity of education plans “in the coming days and weeks,” according to a letter signed by superintendents and administrators in the region.
“As each of our school communities are unique, so will each individual district’s continuity of education plan,” officials said in the letter released Tuesday. “We believe these plans to be the most appropriate and reasonable way to engage with our students at this time.”
Gov. Tom Wolf closed all schools in the state starting March 16 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and schools will remain closed through at least April 6 with students returning to schools April 9 at the earliest.
The Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 has assisted its member school districts and career technology schools with developing continuity of education plans for an extended closure.
The member school districts of LIU 18 are Wilkes-Barre Area, Wyoming Valley West, Hanover Area, Greater Nanticoke Area, Northwest Area, Lake-Lehman, Dallas, Tunkannock Area, Wyoming Area, Pittston Area, Crestwood and Hazleton Area.
“As with any good education plan, we will need your support at home, as we look at alternative ways of continuing your sons and/or daughters education in these unprecedented times. We are committed to doing the very best we can for each one of our students,” officials said in Tuesday’s letter.
Plans “may change as we receive further guidance on implementation from our state leadership,” officials added.
LIU 18 has provided a toolkit with “resources for districts to utilize in assisting them in finalizing their continuity of education plans and resources that they can use for review and enrichment,” Executive Director Anthony Grieco said. The toolkit will include information on service delivery models, legal perspectives, special education processes, technology Access, free online resources and paper and pencil resources.
The Dallas School District will begin “online opportunities” for students beginning Monday, the district announced in a text message to parents and students Tuesday morning.
“We are finalizing plans to engage students online and will provide further information related to online opportunities for students this week,” Dallas Superintendent Thomas Duffy said in a letter posted on the district website.
The district conducted “online faculty meetings affirming communication capabilities within our district,” Duffy said. He also invited all students and families to participate in an online concert at 1 p.m. today “to uplift every spirit during this difficult time.”
Hanover Area students will continue academic work by accessing their assignments on Google Classroom, and arrangements will be made for students who don’t have access to appropriate technology, Superintendent Nathan Barrett said in a letter posted on the district website.
Northwest Area School District “is in process of finalizing the plan for continued instruction and will have all of the information to our families by week’s end,” Superintendent Joseph Long said Tuesday. Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ronald Grevera said he expects to finalize plans with staff today.
Businesses donate to local hospitals
On Monday, Nanticoke ceiling supplier Malishchak Brother Inc. donated 100 N95 face masks to Geisinger Nanticoke.
Co-owner Jake Malishchak said they found the masks, apparently left over from job sites, when his father, Jerry, came home from an appointment at Geisinger and opened a closet.
After conferring with his son about what to do with the masks, Jerry took the boxes, turned around, and donated the masks to the hospital.
Jake said he had purchased “a whole bunch” of masks a while ago and never used them. Jake said that because masks are such a rare commodity now, whatever businesses who have them can do to help is going to make a huge difference in the long run.
“Me holding onto those masks isn’t doing me any good,” Jake said. “In the current situation we’re in that we have never faced, you have to do what you can to help your neighbor out.”
Student loan company Navient also announced it is donating 1,400 N95 face masks to the Geisinger Medical System through its Wilkes-Barre office.
Navient said it had an “excess supply” and will be donating them to hospitals, American Red Cross chapters and other organizations across the nation that are in need of them.
School closures extended into April
The Pennsylvania Department of Education announced Monday all public schools in the state will remain closed through at least April 6 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The closure order could be extended beyond April 6 if necessary. After a determination that students can return to school, staff will be given two days to prepare classrooms, set up cafeterias, schedule transportation and arrange other business operations. Students would return on the third day.
The Diocese of Scranton has also announced its schools will remain closed until April 14. Gov. Tom Wolf initially announced closed public schools for two weeks, allowing them to potentially reopen March 30.
Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera said the decision to close all schools for the additional period aligns with Wolf’s stay-at-home directive announced Monday for seven counties — Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery and Philadelphia.
“Protecting the health and safety of students, families, teachers and all employees who work in our schools is paramount during this national health crisis and we must continue our efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Rivera said in a released statement. “The number of positive cases increases daily and we’re seeing it spread to more counties. We must adhere to the social distancing guidelines. Extending the closure will help every community in its efforts to mitigate the spread.”
To assist schools during the extended closure, Rivera said the state’s 29 intermediate units are ready to provide technical assistance to help develop continuity of education plans for all students.
“We know students are eager to engage with their teachers and return to learning,” Rivera said. “Beginning tomorrow, all schools will be able to work with their local intermediate unit to develop instructional plans for all students, including those with disabilities and English language learners.”
The Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 plans to “roll out a toolkit” today with “resources for districts to utilize in assisting them in finalizing their continuity of education plans,” Executive Director Anthony Grieco said Monday.
The toolkit will include information on service-delivery models, legal perspectives, special-education processes, technology access, free online resources and paper and pencil resources.
“All districts have been working together over the last 10 days in preparing resources to be available to students,” Grieco said in an email.
The member school districts of LIU 18 are Wilkes-Barre Area, Wyoming Valley West, Hanover Area, Greater Nanticoke Area, Northwest Area, Lake-Lehman, Dallas, Tunkannock Area, Wyoming Area, Pittston Area, Crestwood and Hazleton Area.
Construction work on the $121 million Wilkes-Barre Area High School project has stopped due to Wolf’s order that all “non-life-sustaining” businesses close their physical locations, Wilkes-Barre Area School Board President Joe Caffrey said.
“I don’t know where we are at,” Caffrey said, explaining the district is not focussing on the construction project right now.
District administrators and staff are focussing on delivering lunches to students during the school closure and preparing to resume student instruction, Caffrey said.
The state Department of Education has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allows schools to serve grab-and-go meals during the closure. Wilkes-Barre Area has been providing 500 meals daily at various locations, and they also includes breakfast food for the next day, Caffrey said.
Wilkes-Barre Area is building a new high school on a 78-acre former mining site between South Main and Maffett streets in Plains Twp. The district was planning to open the new high school when the 2021-22 school year begins and merge the district’s three highs schools — GAR, Meyers and Coughlin.
LBC Distillery turning vodka into hand sanitizer to combat shortage amid coronavirus pandemic
It’s last call for alcohol at LBC Distillery for now.
At the start of the week, Jonathan Lang was ready to “corner the market” on spirits as Pennsylvania announced the shutdown of all its Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores in an effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Lang, co-founder and distiller of what’s billed as “Pennsylvania’s smallest distillery,” learned he was an exception to the measure and could continue selling his own rum, gin and vodka.
By Thursday, though, Lang had begun preparing to turn his vodka into hand sanitizer.
As hand sanitizer stocks have been depleted in stores around the area due to the coronavirus pandemic, special exemptions made Wednesday now allow distilleries like LBC to produce and sell their own products to the public.
Lang already had supply orders placed by Thursday morning and is hopeful he can begin selling hundreds of hand sanitizer bottles to the community in as early as two weeks.
“I really love doing this. I really love making rum, gin, vodka. That’s truly our passion here,” Lang said. “But seeing the shortage and being given the opportunity to help out when it’s needed, we’re definitely going to take advantage of that, step in and do what we can.”
Lang received an email Wednesday evening from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau outlining the relaxed rules on hand sanitizer production.
Distilled spirits permittees such as Lang were allowed immediately to produce hand sanitizer with their alcohol supplies. The TTB said the exemptions are “initially approved through June 30, 2020, with the possibility for extension as necessary.”
“Prior to (Wednesday), we were allowed to make something you could drink,” Lang said, “but not allowed to make something you could rub on your hands, which I got a kick out of.”
Lang said the actual manufacturing is rather straightforward, and he’s concocted sanitizer for home use in the past.
Lang already has the water and ethanol (distilled spirits) needed, and he’s placed orders for glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and individual bottles for sale. He’s anticipating all the shipments to arrive by the end of next week.
Once all his supplies are delivered, he expects to need only a day or two to whip up his first batch. LBC’s Facebook page will post an update when his hand sanitizer is ready for purchase.
Lang plans to sell 600 four-ounce bottles for $7 each.
“We’re going to be selling it at cost just so we can recoup, make more,” he said. “This isn’t a time to gouge anybody.”
In order to make sanitizers more accessible to the community, Lang will have to put his real calling on hold. In fact, he’ll be finding an alternative use for his favorite vodka, which has been successful enough at contests that the display bottle draped by medals at his distillery is “getting to look like Mr. T,” he joked.
For now, though, he still considers himself to be the only business in Luzerne County that can sell spirits since Monday’s statewide shutdowns.
Lang said he still has plenty of gin and rum and about five cases each of vodka and a coffee vanilla vodka, which he said was his top-seller last year and uses beans from Grateful Roast in Nanticoke.
He’s already received a few extra calls without the traditional liquor stores open for business. He figures he might see even more interest once households run low on spirits during the shutdown.
LBC Distillery will remain a source for them — and can deliver locally — until its current stock runs out. After that, customers can come back and use its award-winning vodka to stay safe and healthy during an extraordinary time.
“Once they’re gone, until after this sanitizer thing is over with, I’m not making any more,” Lang said.
Nanticoke Area ready to employ variety of techniques to teach
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District is “prepared to educate students from home with a variety of instructional techniques” while Pennsylvania schools remain closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
Those techniques includes traditional approaches, such as using textbooks, workbooks and worksheets, and modern approaches, such as Google Classroom, ClassDojo, MobyMax and email.
“We are working on assisting parents through the district website to provide ideas for parents over this period of time,” Grevera added.
Gov. Tom Wolf closed all Pennsylvania public schools for two weeks starting Monday, and the Wolf Administration will decide whether to continue the closure based on an assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Colleges are replacing classroom instruction to online instruction, but K-12 schools in Pennsylvania are not currently required to provide any type of instruction during the closure.
Intermediate units, including the Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18, are preparing to offer technical assistance for K-12 schools to provide educational services if the closure goes into April. The member school districts of LIU 18 are Wilkes-Barre Area, Wyoming Valley West, Hanover Area, Greater Nanticoke Area, Northwest Area, Lake-Lehman, Dallas, Tunkannock Area, Wyoming Area, Pittston Area, Crestwood and Hazleton Area.
“I’m extremely proud of both our teachers and support staff over their unconditional support in helping our parents and students over this difficult period,” Grevera said, adding he’s also grateful administrators help start a food distribution program Tuesday for students at five different locations throughout the district.
Pittston Area also started its meal distribution program Tuesday at four locations.
“Currently, students are responsible to complete work they were given on Friday before they left,” Pittston Area Superintendent Kevin Booth said in a messsage on the district’s website. “Teachers are not required to place new assignments on their pages or the website at this time. Continue to check the website for updates. I encourage all students to take this time off and stay healthy, while continuing to stay engaged with you studies.”
GNA LUNCH DISTRIBUTION SURVEY
The district will begin distribution of breakfast and lunch daily from 11:30-12:30 starting Tuesday, March 17th at the following locations:
1. Apollo Circle
2. GNA High School at the Bus Port
3. Tilbury Fire in Plymouth Township
4. Firehouse in the Hanover Section
5. American Legion in Glen Lyon
Breakfast and Lunches will be grab and go drive thru style and will be served Monday – Friday until further notice
ALL SCHOOLS IN THE GNA SCHOOL DISTRICT
Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27th.
There will be no extra-curricular activities, athletic practices or competitions during this time.
Wolf closes all Pa. public schools
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday all Pennsylvania public schools will be closed for two weeks starting Monday.
The Wolf administration will continue to monitor the threat of the COVID-19 virus and decide whether to continue the school closure beyond two weeks. Shortly before Wolf’s announcement Friday afternoon, Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 Executive Director Anthony Grieco announced the schools in LIU 18 region would close next week “based on Pa. Department of Health recommendations regarding social distancing and large group gatherings.”
And before that, school district superintendents in Luzerne County had started announcing schools were closing next week. Grieco and superintendents from Luzerne County school districts met at the LIU 18 building in Kingston Friday afternoon.
Wilkes-Barre Area Superintendent Brian Costello cited “an abundance of caution and a moral and ethical responsibility to our students” in a message about the school closure.
Jim Smith, chief executive officer of the Bear Creek Community Charter School, said the goal of the closure “is to slow the spread of the virus.” Bear Creek Charter students got a packet of remedial work to do at home during their absence from school, Smith said, explaining it will help prevent a “slide in learning.”
The Diocese of Scranton announced Friday its school system would be moving to distance learning effective Monday, and all teachers are prepared to deliver instruction to students through the diocese email system.
School districts will not be penalized if they fail to meet instruction time requirements, including the requirement for 180 instructions during the school year, Wolf said. The Department of Education will also “work with intermediate units and other stakeholders to support school districts with any continuity of learning plans they may be pursuing,” Wolf said in a released statement.
The state Department of Education has also received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allows eligible schools to serve meals during the closure “to low income students in a non-congregate setting, such as a drive-through or grab and go,” Wolf said.
Hanover Area will begin providing bagged lunches to students Monday between 11 and 11:30 a.m. at six locations. The bagged lunches will also include breakfast food for the next morning, Superintendent Nathan Barrett said.
The Hanover Area locations for the lunches are: the entrance to Stoney Ridge Apartments, the entrance to Dundee Apartments, the high school back parking lot, the Memorial Elementary School parking lot, the Lee Park Elementary School playground and the Lyndwood Elementary School playground.
Crestwood School District is planning to provide lunches at two locations, one at the secondary campus in Wright Twp. and another in the White Haven area, Superintendent Robert Mehalick said in a message to parents.
“More information regarding the food program will be forthcoming,” Mehalick added.
Greater Nanticoke Area submitted an application to provide lunches, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
“Once accepted, we will solidify times and locations to help our economically disadvantaged students over the closure,” Grevera said.
The Lake-Lehman School District is working on a plan to provide lunches to students who qualify, Superintendent James McGovern said. Wilkes-Barre Area is also “preparing a plan to get our students their daily meals,” school board member Denise Thomas said, adding it will take a couple more days to finalize because the district has 7,000 students and is also large geographically.
Linda Houck, a Luzerne County councilwoman and president of the Wyoming Valley West teachers union, posted a message on the union’s Facebook page. All employees will continue to be paid during the closure, she said.
“Closed means closed — that means no students and no teachers report to the schools until at least March 30,” Houck added. “Extra-curricular activities and sports events are also suspended under this mandate. The situation will be reassessed as this closure progresses, and you will be kept up-to-date on whatever happens next.”
Wolf’s announcement on Friday came a day after he closed all public schools in Montgomery County, the suburban Philadelphia county. Philadelphia also closed all of its schools Friday.
Youth teams with nonprofit to raise funds for Nanticoke Police shields
A local elementary school student has teamed up with a nonprofit relief organization to bring pop shields into the Nanticoke Police Department.
Abigail Lovallo, 10, has made it her mission to get a pop shield, deployable shields designed to protect police officers from gunfire inside and outside of their vehicles, into every squad car in Nanticoke, and with the help of the Fallen First Responders Association, she just might do it.
"Her father is a volunteer firefighter," said Abigail's mother, Melinda Remley. "She just wants to help out any way she can."
This all started, according to Remley, when her daughter found about the upcoming Skate With a Cop event set for March 15 at the Skateaway in Wilkes-Barre.
"We saw Skate With a Cop on Facebook, and my daughter wanted to get involved and get some shields for the police department," Remley said.
It started as a simple project, as Abigail and her mother went around to local businesses asking for donations in order to get the pop shields.
Enter the Fallen First Responders Association.
A nonprofit founded just last year, the association aims to aid the families of fallen first responders financially.
Lovallo linked up with them after they pledged a donation in order to purchase a shield.
"They donated for a shield, and then asked if we could partner up," Remley said.
According to the FFRA Facebook page, the goal is to raise $2,500 in the month of March, in the hopes of purchasing a pop shield for all six patrol cars that serve the Nanticoke City Police Department.
According to Remley, it's been a slow start, but they "still have a ton of fliers out around town" and have yet to hear back from numerous local businesses.
"We have to get every officer a shield; this is so important," Remley said.
The easiest way to donate to the cause is directly through the FFRA Facebook page, or on the organization's website. T-shirts are also available for purchase on the Facebook page for $10, with all proceeds going toward the pop shields.
Local municipalities receive PennDOT liquid fuel payments
Municipalities across Luzerne County are set to receive more help with road maintenance.
On Monday, PennDOT announced the Wolf administration has committed $487.5 million in liquid fuels distributions to help certified municipalities maintain roads and bridges. The highest allocation in the county was to the City of Wilkes-Barre at $1,157,370.
Other large allocations include the City of Hazleton ($803,553); Hazle Twp. ($433,578); Kingston Twp. ($365,765); Hanover Twp. ($352,419); Butler Twp. ($334,245); Dallas Twp. ($312,970); Nanticoke ($308,392); and Plains Twp., (298,254).
According to the announcement, allocations received were based on the municipality’s population and miles of locally-owned roads.
According to the announcement, there are 120,596 miles of public roads in Pennsylvania of which 73,037 are owned by municipalities and therefore eligible for liquid fuels. Municipalities who use liquid fuels like gasoline or diesel as part of their operation are qualified to apply for a refund or a grant to help assist in maintenance operations, including snow removal or repaving.
While the City of Wilkes-Barre received $1,157,778 as its gross allocation, PennDOT deducted $407 from that total to conduct required bridge inspections on the city’s behalf.
The city was the only one in the County to have any reductions for bridge inspections.
Municipalities must also use a 20% portion of their net allocation annually to purchase major equipment. For the City of Wilkes-Barre, that 20% portion comes out to $231,474.
Before Act 89, which was ratified in 2013, municipalities received allocations from a total available amount of $320.8 million in liquid fuels payments.
To meet eligibility requirements for liquid fuel, a roadway must be formally adopted as a public street by the municipality, meet certain dimension requirements, and safely accommodate vehicles driving at least 15 mph.
The City of Wilkes-Barre, according to the table released with the announcement, has the largest population at 41,498 and has the most miles of roads with 108.33. Hazleton, which received the next-largest allocation, has a population of 25,340 and has 95.12 miles of locally-owned road.
To continue to receive Liquid Fuels funds, a road must continue to be maintained in a way that it can be driven safely at 15 mph.
Changing continents to change the world
Printed in Citizens Voice by Kaleah Moran, Ethan Egenski, and Kayla Eckrote, Newspaper In Education student columnists from Greater Nanticoke Area
Imagine picking up and moving to a new country. What would it be like? How difficult would adapting to a new culture be?
Katya Mash, a.k.a. Katherine Mash, has done this, and not just for herself. Katya is training for the Peace Corps in Ukraine, a country 4,820 miles away from her alma mater, Greater Nanticoke Area, where she graduated in 2015. Katya has been there for several months now and is absolutely loving it; she is even impacting the villages she has lived in by constantly volunteering all throughout the community.
The Peace Corps, run by the United States government, is a volunteer program that has the objective of providing social and economic advancement to countries around the world. Volunteers are American citizens who typically have a college degree, and they travel abroad for two years after they complete the necessary three months of training. After serving for 24 months, an extension of service may be requested if desired by the volunteer. While in another country, most volunteers are assigned to a host family during their stay, and they receive monthly allowances to pay for any expenses that arise during their service.
Katya decided to apply for and join the Peace Corps because while she was studying at West Chester University, it became very clear to her that she needed to use her time on Earth for the benefit of others, not just for herself. In fact, one thing that Katya loves about Ukrainian culture is that they live for each other. Ukrainians are hospitable, kind people who always want to be spending time with family and friends, and they are constantly doing things for others. Katya has already been taught a multitude of lessons about selflessness.
The village where Katya is currently staying will only be her home for a short time, though, as she will be there for merely two weeks. A big change will be made in the population of the village that she is residing in, since she is currently living with and around 17,000 other people, but will soon be moving into a village with only 1,200 people. To put this into perspective, that would be similar to moving from Bloomsburg, to a town whose population consists solely of the students who attend the GNA High School and Elementary Center. However, Katya is willing to adapt, just like she did to the Ukrainian language.
At first, Katya relied on Google Translate in order to speak to anyone, but she is now developing new communication skills with which she can understand what people are saying and respond with words, even if they don’t make complete sense. She is now working on being able to hold a conversation with the locals, and this is truly helping to improve her inner happiness because she is finally feeling included in her foreign world.
While working at the local school, Katya created a mini-club called “Camp Healthy YOUth” that really affected the students and endowed them with a sense of inclusion and confidence. She also hosts English clubs, teaches lessons, works at camps, and holds other after-school activities such as theater club and choir. All that Katya has done so far has benefited her community, and her time in Ukraine has truly changed her as a person. While training, she met a girl named Sydney, and they would spend every weekend together at Sydney’s babusya’s (grandmother’s) house, eating a home-grown and home-made meal. Additionally, on Sundays, Katya would go to another one of her friend’s babuysa’s house, and spend some time there.
Everything Katya consumed at Sydney’s babusya’s house was always fresh, including the milk. One day, they let her give milking the goat a try, making her feel like a real Ukrainian.
As Katya has proven, one’s life can be completely altered by choosing to help others and by adapting to changes in everyday life. By deciding to leave one’s comfort zone, one may truly be shocked by the outcome. Katya has done this, and she is cherishing her time in Ukraine. She even has an Instagram page (@katyapeacecorps) that she posts on very often, so she can share her experiences with the world. Visiting her page will provide an inside look at Katya’s life and provide a possible option for a career path.
Katya encourages everyone to be selfless and charitable, and in regard to her own choices, she stated, “My path to being in the Peace Corps was as simple as this: I set a goal for myself, and I worked very hard to make it happen. One day, I made the decision that I wanted to join the Peace Corps and so I committed to that goal and now here I am. Almost a year later, I’m a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, loving every day here because I get to share love and peace in this beautiful country. What once seemed like a crazy, far-fetched idea became a reality for me by setting smaller goals for myself that led me to the big one: being here!”
Kaleah Moran, Ethan Egenski, and Kayla Eckrote are students at Greater Nanticoke Area High School. Student columns are published Wednesdays during the school year.
Area schools prepare for virus
Officials also look to separate fact from fiction
Area schools — K-12 and higher education facilities — have begun taking precautions to prevent an emergency from the spread of the COVID-19, an illness caused by what is known as a coronavirus.
Steps range from re-issuing the usual information about washing hands to contingency plans that would allow students to learn at home in case schools close.
But precaution is not a sign of danger, one local doctor stressed. So far, the new virus is similar to other respiratory infections, and less lethal than influenza, so overreaction could lead to “panicking people over something that doesn’t need to induce panic.”
“That leads to mistrust,” Dr. Gerard Maritato said. “In any public health issue, what’s critical is gaining the public trust.”
The medical director of Misericordia University’s physician assistant program, Maritato pointed out that, so far, coronavirus has proven more contagious than influenza but less deadly. “But people have died in China, and there has been mass quarantining in China, and that makes it appear more deadly than it is.”
Separating fact from fiction
Geisinger infectious disease specialist Dr. Stanley Martin noted that while the initial outbreak in China led medical experts to suspect the new virus was lethal in up to 10% of infections, as it has spread mortality estimates plummeted “to about 2%.”
“From our standpoint, it’s about trying to make sure patients and people in the community aren’t giving in to rumor-mongering,” Martin said. “We need to separate fact from fiction, and people need to understand that this is something that physicians in the community have been working diligently on since January.”
For context, Martin pointed out that “influenza alone probably has infected about 30 million people this year, and caused about 15,000 deaths.” For the vast majority of people who are experiencing any symptoms now, he said, it is almost certainly not coronavirus.
The new virus requires the same precautions recommended each flu season, both said, including frequently washing hands, sneezing into an elbow sleeve rather than into the air, and staying home if you feel sick.
Local school districts, colleges and universities have begun responding to the scare by advising most of those steps. Three local school district superintendents — Wilkes-Barre Area’s Brian Costello, Crestwood’s Robert Mehalick, and Greater Nanticoke Area’s Ron Grevera — all said those traditional flu season protocols have been reinforced recently.
“At this time we are taking precautions with the flu virus with regard to hand washing and sanitizing classrooms to prevent the spread of flu.” Grevera said in an email. “ If students should have any flu-like symptoms, especially a low grade fever, they are encouraged to stay home as to prevent the spread of the any flu virus.”
“We just had a meeting about this with our staff,” Costello said Thursday. Along with reminding students about sneezing, hand washing and the rest, “We’re doing additional cleanliness of countertops, light fixtures, and computers.”
Mehalick pointed to a situation at the start of February when a secondary center student who had returned from “an area where you would want to take precautions” was sent home after rumors started to circulate on social media. No evidence was found of coronavirus, but the district went beyond health department advice of sending the student home and sanitized the secondary center.
All that happened before there was any official guidance on the coronavirus, he added, though so far the advice issued to school districts both by the state and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators is the same as what they were already doing: follow flu season hygiene.
All three superintendents said their staffs have begun planning for the worst case scenario: closing schools for several weeks and doing as much education online as possible. “Over the next month we will go over whatever plans faculty may have and we would make a dry run with our students to make sure they are familiar with Google Classrooms, which is what they use, as well as any other app a teacher is comfortable with,” Costello said. That will include providing a computer and internet access if necessary.
That is precisely the type of preparation the suggested Wednesday by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s Anne Schuchat said now is the time for businesses and schools to look into “pandemic preparedness plans.”
Representatives from Wilkes University, King’s College and Misericordia University all said their schools have been taking similar steps. King’s spokesman John McAndrew shared an email sent to students Jan. 29 listing standard advice and urging students who recently traveled overseas to suspect areas contact the Student Health Center “for proper guidance.”
On Thursday an email included a link to a video “Coronavirus: what you need to know.”
McAndrew and those from the other schools also said they are monitoring overseas students, ready to alert them if an early return to the U.S. is advised or required. A meeting of various campus representatives was slated for Friday to prepare for future development, McAndrew said. Vicki Mayk of Wilkes said the cross-town school is taking the same precautions.
The biggest problem right now, both Geisinger’s Martin and Misericordia’s Maritato said, is that there are still a lot of unknowns about the new coronavirus, though so far it is behaving very similar to other respiratory infections.
The rate of contagion — how many people are infected by one person under normal circumstances — is still unknown, though Martin said it appears “on average a person with this virus spreads it to about two others.”
While it seems clear the virus is spread by direct contact and probably through large droplets in coughs and sneezes, he and Maritato said, it is less certain that smaller droplets — which travel much farther — also can infect. And it’s still unknown how long it can remain infectious on a hard surface. Martin said there is evidence that cleaning with soap and water eliminates the problem.
Both said isolation or individual quarantines of those known to be infected — CDC is advising two weeks — makes sense with a virus of this type, and that risk of getting it from someone infected but not yet symptomatic is probably no worse than with other flu viruses. But they said mass quarantines of cities or large areas such as those being done in China and some other places overseas have historically had mixed results at best and sometimes even the problem worse.
Wearing face masks in public — apparently a growing local fear, as pharmacies report runs on them — is mostly useless, they added, because the virus only spreads with proximity to an infected person, not over large areas.
“You want to wear a mask if you have the disease and are around other people,” Martin said, “or if you are taking care of someone with the disease. Wearing one in public is not going to help. “
Christians around the area celebrate Fat Tuesday
After several attempts Tuesday morning, Tom Sadowski finally emerged from Sanitary Bakery with some Polish goodies to celebrate Fat Tuesday, the day before Christians begin fasting for Lent.
“This is my third attempt. I walked up and the line was too long,” Sadowski said while leaving with a box of paczkis.
People from throughout the area descended on the bakery Tuesday to pick up some paczkis and fasnachts, the German cousin of the paczki.
Paczkis, pronounced “poonch-keys” and sometimes spelled “ponczkis,” are a traditional Polish treat that are a staple on Fat Tuesday.
Legend has it the extra-rich pastry got its start in Poland centuries ago when families were encouraged to use up all their eggs, butter, sugar and fruits before fasting for Lent.
Aaron Kowalski, the bakery’s third-generation co-owner, said the business was expected to sell about 500 or 600 dozen paczkis and fasnachts on Tuesday.
“We have a lot of great people around here — a lot of followers. They keep us going,” Kowalski said. “It goes from generation to generation.”
Kowalski said “days of preparation” went into the big day, one of the busiest of the year for the 100-year-old bakery.
James Samselski, who lives a few blocks away, said he has been frequenting the bakery for decades since he was 3 years old.
“They’re family owned and they always have a smile,” Samselski said. “They are dedicated and always have what you want.”
Cocomo helps scouts earn merit badge
Loretta Chmura and her parrot, Cocomo, both residents of Nanticoke, visited local Boy Scout Troop 418 recently to help scouts earn their pets merit badge. Chmura presented her pet to the scouts, explaining everything from how she obtained the bird to how she cares for Cocomo daily.
EARTH CONSERVANCY:A RETROSPECTIVE — RETIRED PRESIDENT/CEO MIKE DZIAK LOOKS BACK ON EC’S LEGACY
Paul Golias - Citizens Voice
Mike Dziak, a humble son of a coal-mining family, can point to raw statistics as proof of the tremendous impact that Earth Conservancy has had on Northeastern Pennsylvania.
— 8,860 acres of former anthracite industry land, valued at $44.8 million, sold for many uses.
— 719 acres, valued at $3.5 million, donated.
— 5,919 acres remaining for a variety of uses, including more open spaces.
To the acreage numbers can be added industrial, commercial and residential growth that adds or will add to tax bases; a major transportation initiative in the South Valley Parkway, and a successful yard waste composting facility serving 16 communities.
For most of Earth Conservancy’s 28-year history, Mike Dziak has been at the helm, guiding the non-profit corporation through development of land use plans and implementing those plans. Dziak has done it with a small staff (there are only seven EC employees, including two who run the composting site in Newport Twp.).
Dziak, who retired effective Jan. 31, says the credit starts with the vision of former Congressman Paul Kanjorski, and extends through some “great board members” over the years and supportive partners in the private and public sectors.
“Paul Kanjorski does not get enough credit for the creation of Earth Conservancy. This probably is his greatest accomplishment,’’ Dziak says.
As he transitioned into retirement, Dziak got his own high marks. John D. McCarthy Jr., chairman of the EC board, lauded Dziak’s “tireless work ethic’’ that “made Earth Conservancy what it is today.’’
“We are going to miss him. He’s fantastic,’’ McCarthy said.
Blue Coal Corporation, once the premier coal mining company in the region, went into bankruptcy in December 1976. It languished in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania until 1992 when Kanjorski began engineering use of federal funds to buy 16,496 acres of land for $14.6 million.
There were others with eyes on the land and the entire story of how the sale came about to a non-profit has never been revealed. Dziak said even he does not know the story.
But, in 1994, as Earth Conservancy began operations in the former Blue Coal offices on South Main Street, Ashley, Dziak was hired and this vision statement was drafted: “EC will lead and partner with communities in the reclamation of mine-scarred land and streams, returning strong economic, environmental and social value by creating a well-planned vibrant valley, protected by green ridge tops.’’
The first land use plan was finalized in 1995; a Wyoming Valley open space master plan came out in 1999, followed by a plan that included the South Valley Parkway project; the Interstate 81/Exit 168 plan, a South Valley land use plan and Hanover Crossings plan, plus others.
The 200-acre Huber Colliery culm bank in the Preston section of Hanover Twp. was removed, and today, massive warehouses dot the landscape from Hanover south to Nanticoke. The parkway is open to Luzerne County Community College, and one day it will extend deep into land-rich Newport Twp.
Meanwhile, land reclamation continues and acid mine drainage woes are being attacked. Of the 16,496 acres purchased, EC has conveyed 7,813 acres to open space, including state forest land, game lands and trails.
“Our goal is 10,000 acres allocated to open space,’’ Dziak said. Creating and maintaining those “green ridge tops’’ mentioned in the vision statement is one of his proudest accomplishments.
The donated land includes parcels for baseball, football, soccer and all-purpose fields in Ashley and Hanover Twp.
Dziak did some behind-the-scenes work on behalf of the wider community. When Luzerne County could not get The Reading Company to cooperate on the Ashley Planes Heritage Park concept, Dziak tried to get the California-based firm to donate or sell land needed for the park. He and others that he enlisted in that effort were unsuccessful and the county later pulled out, killing the park and thwarting development of the Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Corridor trail down the planes into Ashley.
During his tenure, EC donated 3.1 acres just south of the EC building to allow creation of the Anthracite Miners’ Memorial Park.
Earth Conservancy has won many awards under Dziak’s leadership, including the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence (multiple times) and the North Branch Land Trust’s Community Stewardship Award.
Dziak is a native of Exeter Borough. Both grandfathers were coal miners, one in Jenkins Twp. and the other in Duryea. He was reared in a neighborhood rich in anthracite history with all of the social and ethnic flavors of that era.
He joined the Navy and had reported for training in January 1959 when word flashed nationwide of the Knox Mine Disaster in Jenkins Twp., across the river from his hometown. Dziak spent three of his four years in the Navy as an instructor at the U.S. Navy Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Dziak then earned a degree in commerce and financing, with a minor in engineering, from Wilkes College. His work career included stints at American Chain & Cable Co., RCA Corporation and IBM Corporation.
When Earth Conservancy advertised for a president/chief executive officer, Dziak applied and won the job. Despite some negative vibes in the community, Dziak said he and the first board put a plan into place “to make it (the non-profit’s vision) happen. We felt EC’s success would speak for itself.”
Dziak married Kingston native Rae Phillips, who he met at Wilkes. The Dziaks have two sons, Todd, a Wilkes University grad who is a licensed nuclear operator, and David, a graduate of West Chester University and a contractor. Todd and his wife, Jackie, a teacher, have two children, Lindzay and Juliette, and David and his wife, Missy, an attorney, have two children, Michael and Tess.
Dziak, whose retirement was effective Jan. 31, is succeeded by Terry Ostrowski who comes to EC from Borton Lawson, an engineering and planning firm that has done extensive work for EC.
“Our staff is small but efficient. The people here are very skilled,’’ Dziak said.
Current projects include further reclamation work, creation of a new State Police facility near Exit 1 of the South Cross Valley Expressway and implementation of two master plans just completed, one from Alden Mountain Road north to Sugar Notch and another covering all of Newport Twp. The latter includes an all-terrain vehicle park initiative recently announced.
Dziak said Earth Conservancy has been a great asset to Luzerne County. “I was fortunate to have been present to steer the ship,’’ he said, again lauding past board chairs Dr. Christopher Breiseth of Wilkes University, Mark Dingman, Rhea Simms and current chair McCarthy.
Continuing to issue plaudits, Dziak cited state Sen. John Yudichak for his support of EC initiatives, including the parkway that will one day help open EC lands in Newport Twp. to development.
“There is more to come,’’ Dziak said.
Officials ‘aggressively’ enforce city codes to improve Nanticoke
The house at 126 W. Washington St. boasts peeling paint, broken windows and warped wooden posts. Inside, trash and dog feces cover the rotting floor.
On Jan. 31, Nanticoke Code Enforcement officials, police officers and public works employees finished the look by boarding up entrances and slapping a pink condemned sign on the door.
“To have to live next to that,” Mayor Kevin Coughlin said, “it’s uncalled for.”
Since taking office in January, Coughlin and police Chief Michael Roke have worked closely with 11-year veteran code enforcement officer Jack Minsavage to crack down on code violations in Nanticoke. Their biggest victory was getting a rotting building on East Main Street demolished.
“We’ve done a lot in the past. We have done things, we’ve made a lot of changes,” Minsavage said. “But I don’t think there was anything as aggressive. That, to me, was the biggest thing that I’ve seen in all my years of doing anything.”
As Nanticoke residents, Minsavage, Coughlin and Roke were tired of driving down their streets and seeing property maintenance go by the wayside.
Roke cited former New York prosecutor and mayor Rudy Guiliani’s “Broken Windows” theory: If you’re living around a bunch of broken windows, then it’s going to facilitate more broken windows. All three have noticed a positive ripple effect since their “aggressive” enforcement of city codes, including residents calling in violators and street workers updating stop signs.
The city created a landlord’s association to inform landlords of the city’s code so they can make sure their properties are in compliance. These meetings are closed to the public.
Minsavage is one of two code enforcers and having Roke and his officers trained in spotting violations allows Minsavage to prioritize and follow up faster. In turn, Minsavage tells Roke around which properties he should increase patrols to deter trespassing and illegal activities, like drug dealing.
Coughlin’s role is to make sure Minsavage and Roke have the things they need to do their jobs. This includes funds, setting up code training for the officers and working with council to update Nanticoke’s codes and ordinances.
The city budgeted $30,000 for building repairs, so it can’t fix up all the condemned properties itself — even the historical ones. Roke said the process can be slow because, when citations get into the courts, there are time allowances and rulings that dictate what the city legally can and cannot do.
For the condemned buildings, Roke said following up with the property owners is the hardest part. While it’s easy to spot a problem, Roke said, making sure the owners are bringing them into compliance is another.
“You can’t just put a sticker on a building and think it’s going to make a difference,” Roke said. “You have to go and make sure you have cooperation from the property owners.”
Another problem in Nanticoke has been abandoned vehicles. Roke said so far this year, at least 42 cars that meet the requirements of being “abandoned vehicles” have been towed with cooperation from the property owner.
Although it will be a slow process, as Coughlin said the city didn’t get like this “overnight,” they want to make Nanticoke a better city to live in.
“People don’t need to look out their backyard and see a junkyard that the neighbor has compiled within their yard,” Roke said. “That is our goal. To enforce those ordinances to have a better quality of life for the people who do the right thing.”
Nanticoke Planters retiree revels in Mr. Peanut lore
For David Reese, Mr. Peanut is practically part of the family.
Reese worked for Planters Peanuts in Wilkes-Barre and its successors for decades. He and daughter Cheryl both collect Planters memorabilia, especially anything having to do with the famed peanut mascot with his signature top hat, monocle and cane.
So they were shocked and saddened last week to learn that Planters had decided to kill off the 104-year-old character who has been part of their lives for decades.
“I’m really disappointed with what happened to Mr. Peanut, given the fact that I worked for him for 30 years,” said Reese, who ended his career as a senior manager for facilities and administration.
“I couldn’t believe they did that, but hopefully it’s just an advertising gimmick,” Cheryl Reese added, noting that she has received messages of condolences from friends and family because of how avidly she has collected Mr. Peanut items over the years.
Planters has said a funeral for Mr. Peanut will be broadcast during the Super Bowl next Sunday, after the character crashed his NUTmobile off a cliff when he swerved to avoid an armadillo, a violent ending which the brand publicized in a video released last week.
David Reese is optimistic that this is not, in fact, the end.
“Of course, knowing marketing people the way I do, they come off with weird ideas,” the Nanticoke resident said.
“My take on it is this: When you drop a peanut off the second floor roof, it doesn’t break,” he said. It floats down, because the density is such that it’s not that heavy, and the outer shell protects it anyway.”
“I have a feeling that he’s going to be able to bounce back,” he added with a smile.
Either way, Mr. Peanut will live on through the Reese family.
Cheryl’s Planters collection fills an entire room — and then some — including everything and anything related to the mascot, from vintage packaging and advertisements to cups, salt and pepper shakers, matches, lapel pins, ties, posters, model railroad cars and more.
It also includes one of the distinctive Mr. Peanut costumes that once were a familiar sight here in Wilkes-Barre and outside Planters’ retail stores around the country.
For David Reese, Mr. Peanut’s “demise” also offered a chance to talk about his time with the company, and its presence here in the Wyoming Valley.
Reese, a Plymouth native, started working at Planters’ former South Main Street offices in Wilkes-Barre in 1959, when he was 24.
“I had come out of the Navy and had another job that didn’t pan out and I started working at Planters,” Reese said. “And I met a bunch of guys who were vets from World War II. I was a rookie kid. I didn’t say much at first but I listened.”
By listening he learned a lot about the company and its history.
Planters Nut and Chocolate Co. was founded in Wilkes-Barre in 1906 by an Italian immigrant named Amadeo Obici and his future brother-in-law, Mario Peruzzi.
There was some manufacturing in Wilkes-Barre in the early years, but Reese noted that the South Main Street site was not a manufacturing facility, as some previous media reports had stated. Planters had other sites in the city that had been used for that purpose, he said. The only thing Reese ever knew to be manufactured there was carmel-covered popcorn for the retail stores, which was made in a stainless-steel room in the basement.
While Obici soon opened a processing plant in Suffolk, Virginia in the early 1900s, the corporate headquarters remained here for decades.
Reese also saw big changes before too many years had passed in his career: The company was acquired by Standard Brands in the early 1960s.
“There were 160 people at the South Main Street address. There were marketing people there, advertising. The company sent them down to Madison Avenue in New York, along with data processing. The 160 people that I started with was now down to about 40 to 45 guys,” Reese said.
He wasn’t sure what would come next, but he held on.
“I had only been with the company for a couple years, and figured I would stick around and maybe get a couple weeks severance pay if it came to that,” Reese said.
As it turned out, Standard Brands would find reasons to re-invest in Wilkes-Barre.
A stabbing incident at one of the New York facilities, combined with increasing mechanization of data processing, caused the company to look at how many properties it needed and where they should be, he recalled.
Reese was involved in transitioning work done around the country to the South Main Street offices, where staff he supervised were turning out more work than any other office in the U.S., and typically for less.
“You could hire clerical people in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a heck a lot cheaper than you could in New York City,” Reese said.
He would come to wear many hats.
“I worked in virtually every department in the building except cost accounting and payroll. When I was in the Navy I was the paymaster on a destroyer. I knew payroll but they never put me there,” he joked.
“I ended up being the facilities manager, running the mailroom, running what we called grocery accounting — processing of orders — with an IBM computer that filled a room the size of this, but you have more power on your desktop than that whole computer did.”
So between 1964 and 1970, more jobs were created at the facility, and part of its warehouse was remodeled for office space, he added.
“We were growing so fast,” Reese said. “By 1980 we were bulging at the seems. We just didn’t have enough room there.”
His superiors — by then the company was part of Nabisco — tasked him with finding room to grow within the region.
“They pulled me off of all my jobs in 1984 and said, quietly, go find us a spot,” Reese recalled.
There was space in a former junkyard adjacent to the South Main property, but the soil was too contaminated, he said. And Scranton was lobbying hard, but a proposed site on the north side of the city was more than 25 miles away and would have required paying relocation expenses to employees.
The solution was much closer to home, in Hanover Township, where the new Nabisco building — now part of Mondelez International — was built.
“That was my project. We started putting footers in March 11, 1985 and had the dedication Dec. 11,” Reese said. “We didn’t miss a deadline and we moved all of these departments without losing a phone call or a data transmission or anything.
Operations at South Main Street were phased out around 1990, said Reese, adding that he is sad to see the state of the building today. The warehouse is gone, with only the two-story administrative building remaining, albeit in a forlorn state. Preservation groups have called for its restoration and re-use.
Change was coming for Reese, however.
“I went through a number of mergers from Planters to Standard Brands to Nabisco to KKR, which was Kohlberg Kravis Roberts,” he said.
The investment firm “didn’t want the high-priced managers and directors around,” as Reese recalled it. So in 1989 he retired.
“They offered me a retirement package at 53 that I couldn’t turn down, so I became a professional golf bum,” he said with a chuckle.
Nevertheless, he remembers his time with Planters very fondly.
“I loved every minute of the day when I was at work,” Reese said.
One of those fond memories has to do with Mr. Peanut himself. Among Reese’s many jobs was running the premium department, which was in charge of branded items.
“You sent in product labels — send two in and 50 cents and you get a Mr. Peanut cup or bank,” he said. “I started to buy them for my children and bring them home.”
The collections put together by himself and Cheryl go way beyond, however, including one of the famous iron statues once displayed on the South Main Street building.
David Reese sat around the table at his Nanticoke home displaying a Planters nut tin from the 1910s, from which small retailers would dole out peanuts with a little scoop, selling them in glassine bags for a nickel a piece.
Reese also pointed out that the popular Planter retail stores with which the costumed mascots were associated were separate from the manufacturing operations.
“There were two companies: The Planters Nut and Chocolate Co., and National Peanut Co. They were responsible for the running of the retail stores as far west as San Francisco,” Reese said. “When Standard Brands bought the company they did not want to be in the retail sales business. They sold them or auctioned them off.”
That initially worked well, because “most of the buyers were the managers and people who ran the stores in the first place,” Reese added. “The controller of the company bought six of them up in New England, and he became a multi-millionaire.”
The original store was on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, around the corner from what is now the F.M. Kirby Center, he added, while was another in the West Side Mall in Edwardsville.
It was outside those stores that many Americans saw Mr. Peanut for the first times, including here on Public Square.
Reese was quick to point out that the costumed Mr. Peanut characters did not walk the streets handing out peanuts, as a previous news story maintained.
“He had no pockets, a big mask, and a cane in one hand,” Reese said.
Mr. Peanut did, however, sometimes hand out small lapel pins, he added.
Pioneering Nanticoke doctor laid to rest
Dr. Stanley Dudrick, known worldwide as “the father of intravenous feeding,” was remembered by his namesake as genuine, sincere, passionate and determined at a funeral Mass celebrated in his memory Saturday in his hometown.
Dudrick’s son Stanley eulogized his father near the end of the Mass at St. Faustina Parish on South Hanover Street.
Dudrick, 84, died last weekend at his home in Eaton, New Hampshire, following an illness. When news of his death spread, friends, colleagues and admirers took to social media to offer condolences and heap praise on a man credited for saving countless lives around the world.
He developed total parenteral nutrition while he was serving as a surgical resident at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital from 1961 to 1966.
Dudrick’s son said his father “worked diligently, tirelessly,” yet he was “always caring and loving.”
“A popular phrase to describe my father is that he touched so many people. Indeed he did, from all walks of life, every gender, race, creed and color,” Dudrick said. “He had … a keen perceptiveness, where he could find a connection with anyone and everyone.”
The Rev. James Nash, pastor of St. Faustina Parish, celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial. In his homily, he focused on a passage from the Gospel of Luke in which Christ told his disciple Simon to take their boat out deeper into the sea to catch fish after an unsuccessful night of fishing.
“That’s what Dr. Dudrick did all of his life. He was never satisfied with just what he had, he wanted to go deeper and deeper and deeper,” Nash said after Mass, explaining the theme of his homily.
“One of his greatest accomplishments was inventing the feeding tube. Before that, people were coming out of successful surgery and dying because they didn’t have nutrition. So he went out on a limb, went out deeper, and developed this process. And it’s considered to be one of the greatest developments in the medical field,” he said.
Nash said Dudrick could have spent the rest of his life basking in fame and sitting on his laurels after his accomplishment, but he didn’t.
“He didn’t even go for a patent. He went on with his life. One of the things he did later was directing the physician’s assistant program at Misericordia University. After that, he was a professor at the (Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine). So he always kept on going out deeper and deeper and deeper. His love for his medical profession was a dedication through his whole life,” Nash said.
Nash described Dudrick as somebody who knew everybody.
“He reached out to everyone,” Nash said. “He knew the name of the elevator operator in medical school, he’d know the names of the maintenance staff guys. He was a people person, and all he wanted to do was bring comfort to people’s lives.”
Nash noted that Dudrick was content living a “simple life. He could have been a billionaire if he wanted to be, but he was more just dedicated to his profession. And here in Nanticoke, he’s kind of like one of our legends.”
In July 2017, city and state officials honored Dudrick and placed an historical marker outside his childhood home on West Union Street to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his invention.
“He always lived a very simple, humble life,” Nash said. “It never went to his head.”
People across the globe pay tribute to Nanticoke native, renowned physician
Tributes to the late Dr. Stanley Dudrick are pouring in from all over the world following the death of the Nanticoke native who revolutionized medicine in the 1960s.
Dudrick, who invented the intravenous feeding method known as total parenteral nutrition (TPN), is considered one of the most influential doctors in world history, credited with saving millions of lives.
Colleagues, friends and admirers from all over the globe have taken to social media to mourn his loss.
“Sad to hear the news out of the U.S. of the passing of Dr. Stanley Dudrick, the father of parenteral nutrition,” Dr. Peter Collins, a dietician and professor from Brisbane, Australia, wrote on Twitter. “A giant in the field of clinical nutrition and who would have contributed to saving countless lives.”
Dr. Paul Wischmeyer, an anesthesiologist at Duke University, on Twitter called Dudrick “one of my true heroes.”
“I was honored to call him a mentor and friend,” Wischmeyer wrote. “I will never forget our talks and wise advice. His life should be celebrated and never forgotten.”
Last year, Wischmeyer was named an honorary fellow for the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN), one of its biggest honors. Dudrick was a co-founder of ASPEN and served as its first president.
“With the passing of Dr. Dudrick, medicine has lost one of its most inspirational leaders,” ASPEN President Lingtak-Neander Chan said. “Dr. Dudrick will be remembered as a healer and visionary, whose kindness has deeply touched many people.”
Dudrick, the descendant of Nanticoke coal miners, invented TPN at age 32 while a surgical resident at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia — a medical advancement on par with open heart surgery and organ transplantation.
The school’s department of surgery posted on Twitter that it “mourns the passing of ‘The Father of Intravenous Feeding’ Dr. Stanley Dudrick.”
“He is ranked among the most influential doctors in world history for inventing TPN as a surgical resident here @PennMedicine. He is credited with saving millions of lives,” the Twitter post said.
A search of Twitter tributes to Dudrick yields results in various languages.
“We regret the loss of this great professional and human being,” the Colombian Association of Clinical Nutrition wrote in Spanish.
A medical student posted a tribute in Arabic with a meme saying Dudrick was “the man who fed starving patients when no one else could.”
Alberto Gonzalez Chavez, chief surgical resident at Hospital Español de México in Mexico City, praised Dudrick as “surgeon of the century.”
Dudrick, always proud of his Nanticoke roots, intended to return to the Wyoming Valley to practice medicine after school, but after his invention, his skill level was too far advanced for local hospitals.
After his storied medical career, Dudrick returned to the area in 2011. Dudrick became director of the physician assistant program at Misericordia University and was hired as a professor of surgery at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.
“Stan Dudrick was internationally known as a physician who changed the lives of countless people through his pioneering work,” Misericordia University President Thomas J. Botzman said. “Moreover, he was a lifelong teacher of others as he sought to share his excitement and enthusiasm for bettering the lives of others. He was an incredible friend to all at Misericordia University and will fondly be remembered as a humble physician from Nanticoke who changed the world to be a better place.”
Nanticoke native, one of most influential physicians in history, dies at 84
Dr. Stanley Dudrick, a Nanticoke native who went on to become one of the most influential physicians in the world, has died. He was 84.
Dudrick invented the intravenous feeding method known as total parenteral nutrition — credited with saving millions of lives — as a young doctor.
He died over the weekend at his home in Eaton, New Hampshire, following an illness, according to his cousin Jack Dudrick, of Nanticoke.
“When you were in his presence, you felt like you were in the presence of greatness,” Jack Dudrick said Sunday.
The descendant of Nanticoke coal miners, Dudrick never forgot his roots — having grown up in a double-block home his father built on West Union Street.
“He was very proud of being from Nanticoke,” Jack Dudrick said. “We were obviously thrilled every time he came back to Nanticoke. Everyone would make sure they made it a point to see him.”
Stanley Dudrick last visited in May, he said.
Known as the “father of intravenous feeding,” Dudrick is constantly ranked among the most influential doctors in world history for his pioneering work, which he unveiled in July 1967 at age 32.
Dudrick invented TPN while a surgical resident at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.
Colleagues have said Dudrick’s contribution to medicine ranks in importance with the development of open heart surgery and organ transplantation.
In a 2017 article describing Dudrick’s place among the 50 most influential doctors in history, Dr. Robert Jarrett wrote: “Before Dr. Dudrick’s work there were many infants and children who we had to watch literally starve to death because something was preventing their bowels from absorbing nutrition.”
Dudrick believed in his work so much he decided not to patent it — which might have made him a billionaire.
“Like Jonas Salk, (the inventor of the polio vaccine), he didn’t patent anything,” Jack Dudrick said. “He said he created over 200 millionaires because of his invention.”
Dudrick became a professor of surgery at Penn. He helped launch the surgery department of the University of Texas Medical School and became chief of surgery at the university’s hospital. He was named chairman of the surgery department at Pennsylvania Hospital, the oldest in the nation. Later, he was tapped as surgery department chairman at the Yale University School of Medicine.
But Dudrick always longed to come back home. And in 2011, he did.
Dudrick became director of the physician assistant program at Misericordia University and was hired as a professor of surgery at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.
In July 2017, to mark the 50th anniversary of Dudrick’s life-saving invention, Nanticoke officials recognized a “Dr. Dudrick Day” in the city and unveiled a historical marker outside his childhood home.
Dudrick inspired his students, said Ida Castro, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine’s vice president of community engagement.
“Even though he might have been ill, he might have been weak, he would come and dedicate so many hours to their development and nurture their curiosity,” she said.
Alan Goldstein, a Clarks Summit real estate developer, met Dudrick at the medical school, where Goldstein was a volunteer and donor.
They became fast friends.
“Stan was known throughout the world,” Goldstein said. “He developed procedures all the doctors said could not be developed.”
Goldstein described Dudrick as humble.
“You would think he was a regular guy off the street,” Goldstein said. “He was never impressed with himself. He was down to earth. His death is a loss to the whole world.”
State Sen. John Yudichak, I-14, Plymouth Twp., praised Dudrick for the millions of lives he saved.
“Few in the annals of medical history have contributed more to the preservation of life through research and medical advancements than Dr. Dudrick,” Yudichak said.
Nanticoke City Manager Donna Wall said she was “deeply saddened” to hear of Dudrick’s death.
“He was a very special, humble man who never forgot his roots in Nanticoke,” Wall said. “I feel fortunate to have known him. He surely will be missed.”
ERIC MARK and JON O’CONNELL, staff writers, contributed to this report.
Historic Nanticoke building condemned, will be razed
City officials on Friday condemned a historic building on East Main Street that already was being eyed for demolition to make way for a downtown redevelopment project.
The dilapidated property at 101-107 E. Main St. sustained a roof collapse and the side of the building facing Shea Street started to crumble, City Manager Donna Wall said.
Barricades have been placed around the building and Shea Street, which leads to East Main Street, is closed until the building can be razed.
The Nanticoke City Municipal Authority, which purchased the property last month for $200,000 from Relic Rack Inc., sought emergency bids for demolition and the work could begin as soon as Tuesday.
“The building is in rough condition and the city wants it taken down and the municipal authority will comply,” said Sara Hailstone, a consultant for the authority.
Hailstone said the municipal authority purchased the building because members “considered it a key location in the city and important for the revitalization of the downtown.”
An old bank building next to the property is not part of the demolition.
The property to be razed was built in 1902 and was first home to the Jacob A. Morgan Hotel and Saloon, according to Chet Zaremba, vice president of the Nanticoke Historical Society.
“That would make it one of the oldest buildings in the city,” Zaremba said.
Over the years, the building housed various others businesses, such as Harry Gottlieb’s Modern Emporium, the William Janowicz Hotel, Sam Weisberger’s Leader Store, the Stauss Million Dollar Store, Gem Furniture, Joseph’s Furniture and Geri’s Draperies, Zaremba said.
“That building has been there forever,” Zaremba said. “It’s a shame to see it go.”
Roke sworn in as new Nanticoke police chief
With his wife Kelly holding the Bible, and family, friends and coworkers watching from around the Nanticoke Municipal Building, Michael Roke was sworn in as the new police chief Wednesday night.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s for sure,” Roke said. “We’ve been speaking about this now for a few months, and it’s great to get to the point where we can start implementing some of our plans.”
Kevin Coughlin, Nanticoke’s newly inaugurated mayor, said Roke — previously a lieutenant — has almost 25 years of experience on the job. Although Robert Lehman has served as the interim chief since the end of August, Coughlin said Lehman’s detective skills were too valuable.
Coughlin said Lehman and Roke were the only two who applied for the position.
“He is a terrific detective,” Coughlin said of Lehman. “I’d rather have someone like that out on the streets doing work for the citizens of the city.”
Coughlin said Roke brings “a lot of energy to the job” and, as the city is going to be “coming down” on dilapidated properties, he said Roke has a lot of good ideas. Coughlin added that Roke was “assertive” and will get the job done.
Roke’s first act as police chief was taking care of a parking violation issue right in the municipal meeting room. A concerned citizen brought up multiple parking violations in front of his home, and Roke responded by assuring the Nanticoke resident the cars would be taken care of.
Coughlin said watching Roke handle the issue strengthened his faith in Roke.
“It’s one of our goals to go forward with the junk vehicles that are on properties that are problematic,” Roke said. “I’ve spoken with the mayor since he’s been inaugurated, and that’s one of the things that we did do to forward the agenda.”
Roke said there are plans set up to work hand-in-hand with code enforcement to address the status of properties, and he also plans to tackle the drug problem in Nanticoke.
“I appreciate the confidence the mayor and council have for me,” Roke said. “We’re certainly going to try to move the city forward.”
Huber Breaker film draws large crowd to world premiere
As footage of the Huber Breaker crashing down on demolition day played on a screen Tuesday night, some in the audience gasped. Some even cried.
A short documentary film about the former coal breaker in Ashley, the last to remain standing in the Wyoming Valley, made its debut at the St. Faustina Cultural Center, drawing a large crowd of people proud of the region’s anthracite heritage.
Organizers set up 200 chairs for the event. All seats were filled and dozens of others stood for the 28-minute film, entitled “Beyond the Breaker.”
“Wow, what a crowd. Thanks for coming everybody,” said Chet Zaremba, vice president of the Nanticoke Historical Society, which hosted the event. “We didn’t anticipate anything like this. We are honored to host this world premiere.”
Zaremba said there was a certain irony in the film debuting at the cultural center, the former St. Stanislaus Church on Church Street.
St. Stanislaus was the first Polish Catholic church in Luzerne County, built in 1886 by Nanticoke coal miners, Zaremba said.
Mining historian Bob Wolensky, who was featured in the film, said the film drew a “stupendous turnout.”
The film includes some history of the breaker, but mainly focuses on local people lamenting the fact the breaker could not be saved prior to its demolition for scrap metal in April 2014.
Philadelphia photographer John Welsh and fellow filmmaker, Alana Mauger of Gilbertsville in Montgomery County, spent nearly eight years making the film.
“We’re not from here. We came here and everyone was so kind and welcoming,” Mauger said. “Now it feels like a second home.”
The film features extensive amounts of drone footage from around the breaker in the years before it was torn down.
Welsh and Mauger plan to enter the documentary in several film festivals over the next year before they will be able to make it available to the public online or on DVD.
One of the most notable characters in the film is Ray Clarke, chairman of the Huber Breaker Preservation Society.
He is a part of one of the most dramatic parts of the film when heavy equipment helps bring the breaker to the ground, causing a plume of smoke to rise into the Ashley sky.
Clarke was filming at the time.
He soon called the filmmakers and the audio of the call was played during the film.
“It’s all under rubble,” Clarke told them. “The sad part about it is my camera was on.”
Another person featured prominently in the film is Back Mountain artist Sue Hand, who has created nearly 90 pieces of art about coal breakers in the region, including some of the Huber Breaker.
“When they tore the Huber down, it was like watching someone get killed,” Hand said in the film. “How can you be so insensitive to the past?”
Welsh said the film took so long to complete because they were looking for a good ending.
Then, last year, Hand hosted a gallery of her work on coal breakers at King’s College.
The film ended with interviews taken while the gallery was at King’s.
“There wasn’t a preservation of the breaker, but there sort of was in that gallery that night,” Welsh said.
New film explores Huber Breaker’s role in history
While searching the internet years ago about coal mining, Philadelphia photographer John Welsh came across a photo of the Huber Breaker in Ashley.
He didn’t know the significance of the coal mining facility that once dotted Northeastern Pennsylvania’s landscape, but was still intrigued enough to make a visit.
After the visit in 2012, he decided to make a documentary about the breaker — the last one standing in the Wyoming Valley prior to its demolition in 2014 for scrap metal.
“That’s how it got started. It was kind of random,” Welsh said. “I know my grandmother had coal in her house, but that was all I knew about coal.”
Welsh and fellow filmmaker, Alana Mauger of Gilbertsville in Montgomery County, are set to debut their film “Beyond the Breaker” next week in Nanticoke — once a thriving hub of coal mining.
The film, which is free and open to the public, will debut at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the St. Faustina Cultural Center at 38 W. Church St. in Nanticoke — the former St. Stanislaus Church.
“I’m hoping people are going to appreciate the time we took to tell the story,” Welsh said. “It represents a culture that’s being lost.”
The film is 28 minutes and contains interviews with about 30 people.
It took this long to complete the project because the filmmakers wanted the perfect ending to the story, Welsh said.
Welsh said the ending will be a secret until the film debuts.
“I don’t want to give away the ending. It took us until 2019 to find a natural end to the story — and we got lucky. We wanted to make sure it was the right ending,” Welsh said.
The filmmakers used a drone camera to fly inside the breaker to get never before seen video.
Bob Wolensky, a local anthracite mining historian, consulted the filmmakers on the project and appears in the documentary.
“I encouraged them to think about the Huber as more than just a physical plant. The breaker was a real important symbol of community, people, work and the anthracite industry. It was bigger than a coal processing plant,” Wolensky said. “They have been working on this for 10 years. They really stayed with it.”
The film is one of 17 local events to commemorate January as Anthracite Mining Heritage Month.
For years, the Huber Breaker Preservation Society tried to save the breaker and make it a museum. But the property eventually was sold for scrap metal 2014 when efforts failed. Now, a memorial park is on site.
Chet Zaremba of the Nanticoke Historical Society will serve as emcee of Tuesday’s event. He used to work at the breaker in the billing office before joining the Pennsylvania State Police.
He remembers the breaker as a huge hub of activity.
“The coal industry, even in the latter days, was still an intricate organization to get everything going — from the mining to the processing to the shipping to the billing,” Zaremba said. “It’s very interesting to me, having been there to see the operation.”
IF YOU GO: The documentary film “Beyond the Breaker” about the former Huber Breaker in Ashley will debut at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the St. Faustina Cultural Center at 38 W. Church St., Nanticoke - the former St. Stanislaus Church. The event is free and open to the public.
Two towns, two mayors, two brothers: Coughlin siblings lead Nanticoke, Plymouth
On either side of the Susquehanna River in Luzerne County, there is now a mayor named Coughlin.
Kevin Coughlin was sworn in as the new mayor of Nanticoke City on Monday night while his brother Frank Coughlin watched on.
Frank is no stranger to such ceremonies — after all, he had just participated in one less than an hour earlier in Plymouth Borough, where he is the mayor.
“I don’t know how many areas have two brothers as mayor in a five- or six-mile radius,” said Frank before Plymouth’s council meeting and swearing-in ceremony.
Frank was appointed mayor back in October, filling the unexpired term of the late former mayor Thomas McTague.
“I didn’t want to become mayor under the circumstances with Mayor McTague passing away,” said Coughlin. “He’s sorely missed around this town.”
One of the big issues that Coughlin has undertaken as mayor is the revitalization of downtown Plymouth.
“We’re moving along,” Coughlin said. “We have a lot of things coming up.”
Monday’s meeting in Plymouth also saw the swearing-in of council members. The winners of three council seats in November’s election were incumbent Democrats Bill Dixon and John Thomas, with 18-year-old Republican Alec Ryncavage edging out Democrat Adam Morehart for the third seat.
Ryncavage is also focused on the future of downtown Plymouth.
“It’s going to be an effort from the entire council to revitalize downtown,” Ryncavage said. “The objective of the council and the town government as a whole is to make the town easier to live in and work in.”
Coughlin had praise for council’s newest addition.
“I see a lot of potential in him,” Coughlin said of Ryncavage.
Plymouth’s meeting went on after the swearing-in but Frank couldn’t stick around, as he had to get across the river to Nanticoke for his brother’s inauguration.
Kevin Coughlin, like his brother, served on the city council prior to becoming the mayor. He was Nanticoke City Council’s vice president, whereas Frank was the borough council president in Plymouth up until the time he was appointed mayor.
“I decided I wanted to be mayor last year,” said Kevin Coughlin after the meeting. “There were just a few things that I thought I could improve on.”
As his family looked on, including his brother, Coughlin took the oath of office and officially assumed the position of mayor, just three months after Frank took office in Plymouth. Kevin’s father-in-law, the late Stanley Glazenski, also served as mayor of Nanticoke City, and was sworn in on the same Bible that Kevin used.
“I feel proud,” Kevin Coughlin said. “I think if our dad were alive, he’d be really proud, too.”
“He’ll be good to Nanticoke,” said Frank Coughlin. “Hopefully the two towns could do some sort of partnership down the line.”
South Valley Parkway project delay frustrates business owners
Editor’s Note: As part of The Citizens’ Voice Ask the Voice feature, a reader asked when the South Valley Parkway project would be completed.
For months, Grateful Roast owners Brian Williams and Sarah Kratz said road closures as a result of the
$90 million South Valley Parkway project have negatively impacted their business.
The husband and wife own a cafe and specialty coffee roaster at 400 Middle Road in Nanticoke and are frustrated that road closures continue as another roundabout is still being constructed in Hanover Twp.
“It’s awful,” Kratz said. “On top of the fact that road is not open, the signs that the road is closed are not there and that makes it dangerous.”
The roundabout was projected to open in November, but Cody Forgach, chief of staff for State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-119, Newport Twp., said he doesn’t expect it to open until late January depending on the weather.
The state Department of Transportation will not allow the roundabout to open without lighting and the lights were not shipped yet, Forgach said.
The manufacturer will release the light poles Jan. 10 to the contractor and then they will need an inspection, said PennDOT spokesman Michael Taluto.
Taluto said he is not sure yet when the roundabout will be completed but he should have a better idea after the inspection.
Kriger Construction of Scranton is building the roundabout, marking the seventh one to be constructed in the Hanover Twp. and Nanticoke areas.
It will connect to a new access road leading into warehouses for True Value and Spreetail in the Hanover 9 site across from Luzerne County Community College.
James Marzolino, vice president for Kriger Construction, said there are only two or three suppliers that PennDOT has approved to supply the lights so it took some time but he said the entire South Valley Parkway project is projected to be done “on time and on budget.” The estimated completion date for the entire project is August, he said.
Williams said he welcomes the South Valley Parkway project, the roundabouts and the new warehouses but he’s frustrated with how long it is taking to construct some of the roundabouts.
One of the reasons for the South Valley Parkway project was to take heavy traffic off Middle Road but as a result of the construction, traffic is forced back onto Middle Road, he said. People have been taking down signs that say “road closed,” he said.
Kratz said she also supports progress and having new jobs but she thinks the South Valley Parkway construction project has been “mismanaged” and she calls it a “nightmare.”
She said Grateful Roast is already off the beaten path in Nanticoke and the road closures have made it more difficult for customers to get to their business. People often stop in their business asking for directions, she said.
Kratz credited construction firm Clayco, which has been building warehouses, for sending employees to their business but she said the South Valley Parkway construction project is “something that should have gone much smoother.”
“It’s taking a very long time and it’s hurting our business,” she said. “Little people are struggling. We’re the little guys and it takes a toll on us when we don’t have traffic.”