Nanticoke News Archived
Nanticoke News Archived
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Students in Nanticoke get creative with food drive
Confirmation students in Nanticoke held a "reverse advent calendar" food drive.
Author: Chelsea Strub
Published: 6:15 PM EST December 28, 2020
Updated: 6:15 PM EST December 28, 2020
Confirmation students at St. Faustina Parish in Nanticoke are hoping a new type of holiday countdown will help keep the shelves in the Nanticoke Food Pantry stocked for those in need: a reverse advent calendar.
"Instead of you eating it, you open your cabinet, take something out and put it in a box for each day of Advent, but. So at the end of Advent, you had 24 pieces to donate to the food pantry," said Joann Mavus, Confirmation teacher.
Now that the Advent season leading up to Christmas is over, members of the community came out to drop off their donations in a way that's safe—no contact.
People just drove up and dropped off their items.
"I thought it was a wonderful idea in this time of need. We have a lot of people really need food, especially this time of year, and it was to get all the youth involved in our parish, which we have a great bunch of people doing it. It's such a good idea," said Dave Borski of the Nanticoke Food Pantry.
Two days ago, the shelves inside the pantry here were empty, but the reverse advent calendar campaign put an end to that.
"Our community has been fantastic donating money and food whenever we need it whenever we outreach to somebody they always come through," said Borski.
"The community has had this the whole time, this is, you know, heart with the valley, or valley with the heart right. So it's not nothing new, but with these kids, it is, is something that they've never done before or experienced before. So we're just bringing a new heart to the valley," said volunteer Michael Mavus.
Organizers at the food pantry say although the shelves are full now, it goes quickly, especially this time of year.
If you would like to make a donation to the Nanticoke Food Pantry, check out St. Faustina Parish Facebook page.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Nanticoke Area among teams eagerly awaiting season
Matt Bufano – Citizens Voice
To look on the bright side of things is often easier said than done.
Take Pennsylvania’s high school student-athletes, for example, whose start-and-stop winter season remains cloudy.
Nanticoke Area junior guard Riley Baird found the bright side, however, for the few weeks in which the Trojanettes held mostly masked and socially distanced practices.
“It’s still basketball,” she said, “so it’s fun. But it’s very different.”
In-person practices have since ceased. Monday marked three weeks since the Wyoming Valley Conference effectively shut down its winter sports programs, a move that preceded a statewide shutdown that could be lifted Jan. 4.
Teams have had to get creative in the meantime and, luckily for Nanticoke Area, Ed Grant Jr. has implemented virtual communication within his team since he was appointed head coach three years ago.
“We use a Google Classroom to share some ideas and things to the kids,” Grant said. “Basically, we put down some ideas for workouts that they could follow on YouTube. A lot of the stuff that we use, they don’t necessarily need equipment … some dumbbells if they have them available. Mostly, we’re stressing the cardio aspect of things to be in shape; and going outside for walks and runs.”
Basketball teams need to score points, though, and that’s led to players like Baird and senior Lauren Casey using their backyard and driveway hoops more than ever.
“I would go outside to my driveway and shoot like at least 100 shots and then a few foul shots, too, to keep everything together,” Casey said. “When our season starts up again, I won’t be too rusty.”
Nanticoke Area hasn’t played a varsity game since Feb. 25, a season-ending, 40-36 loss against Berwick in the District 2 Class 4A third-place game.
Baird, the team’s leading scorer and 3-point shooter and one of only two sophomores who made The Citizens’ Voice all-star team (the other being Lake-Lehman’s Claire Dougherty), missed that game with the flu, she said.
Having a healthy Baird and Casey, as well as returning starters Brooklyn Biehl and Abby Cullen, has the Trojanettes setting high expectations for the new season.
“My first year, we made it to the state tournament … last year, we met Berwick to try to get to the state tournament again and we came up just shy,” Grant said. “Our kids know how to play in those big games. I think they’re excited about the season. Hopefully, it gets to lift-off.”
Baird got her first taste of coronavirus-era athletics in the fall, when she played field hockey.
“I was so grateful that I got to play field hockey,” Baird said. “As soon as that was over, I’m like, ‘OK, it’s basketball season. We gotta get ready.’”
The PIAA’s official start date for practice was Nov. 20 and Nanticoke Area got in more than a dozen practices, Grant said, before being shut down.
“Coach Grant tried to tell us to keep our masks up as much as we could,” Casey said. “If we needed a mask break, we separated ourselves and then quickly put it right back on and got right back into the drill. … We wanted to try to keep each other safe because everyone went home to different people in their family, people who were more at-risk than others.”
Grant estimated that players had their masks on during 90% of practice, a signal that everyone had taken the looming threat of coronavirus seriously, even though players say wearing a mask presented some difficulty when breathing heavily.
“We were all in it together because we didn’t want it to get shut down. We were doing so good, too,” Baird said. “We were all following everything, kept our masks on the whole time, nobody ever took it off — only when we got a drink, we’d pull it down and put it back up.”
COVID-19 has affected even the most cautious individuals and groups, however, leading to a nationwide spike in cases that’s led to some speculation that the shutdown could continue past Jan. 4.
When the season gets underway, Nanticoke Area will compete in the competitive WVC Division 2 with Hanover Area, Holy Redeemer, Lake-Lehman, Tunkhannock, Wyoming Area and Wyoming Seminary. The playoffs will be even tougher with the additions of Redeemer and Dunmore to an already packed District 2 Class 4A field.
Still, Nanticoke Area’s goal remains the same: to add its digits, “2021,” to the banners inside the gymnasium that honor past league, district and state champions.
“That’s our goal right now and we feel like we can do that,” Grant said. “Just, hopefully, we could get back at it.”
Carolers spread cheer
Youth group, band members visit Nanticoke nursing homes
NANTICOKE — With Christmas just a few days away, a group of carolers from the Greater Nanticoke Area marching band and the St. Faustina Youth Ministries took it upon themselves to spread a little holiday spirit to those who need it most.
The group made two stops in Nanticoke on Sunday afternoon, Guardian Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center and Birchwood Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, to sing Christmas carols outside the windows of the two centers so that the residents inside could get a taste of the holiday season.
“We wanted to lighten the spirits of the residents here up with some music,” said Katie Downs of Geisinger Home Health. “So I started asking around, and we got our groups here to sing.”
Around 15 people (and one excited dog) made their way around the outside of the Guardian building, going from window to window belting out holiday tunes like “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman” and more.
It was a small token of love and appreciation in a year ransacked by COVID-19, which of course had its effects on Sunday’s caroling.
“Last year, we went inside and sang for everyone,” said Sandy Repak from St. Faustina Parish. “This year, obviously, we weren’t able to do that, so we’re doing the next best thing.”
“We originally were going to have the band bring instruments, but they would have had to take their masks off to play them,” Downs said.
Even without the instruments, the students (many of whom belonged to both St. Faustina and the high school marching band) were loud and cheerful for the men and women living at Guardian.
Through the windows of the building, residents could be seen waving and singing along to the music. Some of them were able to open up their windows a bit to hear the music better.
The group ended their tour around the outside of the Guardian complex in the center’s courtyard, finishing on a high note with a rousing rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
From there, it was over to Birchwood Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center for another round of caroling.
Downs said that she had done a similar caroling event at Timber Ridge Healthcare Center, and she hoped to do a few more even after the holidays are over.
“It’s been such a hard year, this is the least we could do,” Downs said. “You could tell how much this lifted them up.”
Nanticoke man takes risk with tax-claim repository purchase
Jennifer Andes – Times Leader
Neal Piskorick’s newly purchased Luzerne County tax claim repository property in the outskirts of Shickshinny may eventually be a relaxing retreat, but for now it’s a ramshackle cabin on grounds littered with debris and a tree ready to fall on the structure.
“I basically bought myself a lot of work and a bill,” the 49-year-old Nanticoke man said, laughing.
The two adjoining parcels he purchased for $500 each were among 75 repository sales county council approved last week.
Properties land in the repository if nobody purchased them in popular first- and second-stage tax auctions. They remain in limbo and abandoned unless a buyer surfaces.
Nanticoke fire displaces 13 residents
James Halpin – Citizens Voice
Thirteen people were displaced as a result of a fire reported in Nanticoke early Wednesday morning, according to the Nanticoke City Fire Department.
Firefighters were dispatched to the 500 block off East Main Street around 7:30 a.m. to a report of a structure fire.
Crews arriving on scene found a working fire on one side of the property and began an attack using water from two nearby hydrants.
The fire was quickly knocked down and contained to the room of origin, firefighters said. However, other apartments in the building sustained smoke and water damage.
The American Red Cross was called to help find alternate housing for seven adults and six children, according to firefighters.
There was no immediate report on the cause of the fire.
Local restaurants react to short notice to cease indoor dining
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
Larry Karnes, of Larry’s Pizza and Pub in Nanticoke, elected to remain operating below the 50% capacity allowed in recent weeks and invested in expensive virus-killing disinfectant sprayers to keep his staff and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, for some reason, that’s not good enough for Gov. Tom Wolf, a frustrated Karnes said Thursday shortly after Wolf announced a new ban on indoor dining in Pennsylvania that begins Saturday and runs through Jan. 4.
“We’re taking every precaution we can,” Karnes said. “I feel like the restaurant and bar industry is being singled out. Why is it the bars and restaurants and gyms and not the churches, schools and stores too?”
Bars and restaurants like Larry’s Pizza, already facing many restrictions on capacity and allowable hours of operation, are prohibited from allowing indoor dining after 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Wolf said in an afternoon press conference.
Karnes said Wolf seems heavy-handed toward bars and restaurants because he has control over the enforcement agents that regulate them and the state-run Liquor Control Board has its own judges.
“You can’t beat them. He has an advantage over us,” Karnes said.
Karnes said bars and restaurants already experienced big business losses on lucrative days like St. Patrick’s Day and Thanksgiving Eve and now will see more losses on Christmas week and New Year’s Eve. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if Wolf extended the ban for another big event, Super Bowl Sunday.
“Yet, we still pay for our liquor license that we can’t use half the time,” Karnes said.
He estimates business is already down 35 percent this year and now this new ban might bring the losses to 50 percent.
Karnes said he has gotten no government assistance and was denied for the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
“We’ve been spending our savings all year. We’ve been infusing money into the business. I feel bad for the people who have a mortgage or are leasing. That’s what is keeping us here. We have no debt,” Karnes said.
WVC pauses winter sports competitions
Steve Bennett – Citizens Voice
Superintendents from 10 school districts in the Wyoming Valley Conference agreed on Monday to pause all winter sports competitions until Jan. 4.
The decision was made based on the rising number of cases of COVID-19.
Wilkes-Barre Area superintendent Dr. Brian Costello announced the decision in an email. Schools pausing winters sports are Berwick, Crestwood, Dallas, Nanticoke Area, Hanover Area, Hazleton Area, Pittston Area, Wilkes-Barre Area, Wyoming Area and Valley West.
If schools allow programs to hold workouts during the pause, they would be considered voluntary and not count toward the PIAA mandate of the number of practices needed before games can start being played. The PIAA rules a team must have 15 practices before it can begin competition.
Several athletic programs in the conference have had to stop holding practices due to COVID-19 cases. Official practice for the winter sports season began on Nov. 20. Friday is the first day teams can begin playing games. The Valley West boys basketball team was scheduled to open the season at Nanticoke Area. Holy Redeemer is scheduled to travel to Williamsport on Saturday to play St. John Neumann.
H.S. Sports: Wyoming Valley Conference schools suspend athletic competitions until Jan. 4
A majority of Wyoming Valley Conference schools decided Monday to push winter sports competitions back to Jan. 4 at the earliest due to COVID-19 concerns.
In an email from Wilkes-Barre Area superintendent Brian Costello, the following schools have made the decision — Berwick, Crestwood, Dallas, Hanover Area, Hazleton Area, Nanticoke Area, Pittston Area, Wilkes-Barre Area, Wyoming Area and Wyoming Valley West.
District 2 chairman Frank Majikes was on the virtual meeting with WVC superintendents. He said all those schools are also suspending practices along with Wyoming Seminary. The Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association moved its starting date to Jan. 4 last week.
“My understanding is Lake-Lehman, Tunkhannock and Holy Redeemer will continue to practice,” said Majikes, who contracted COVID-19 in October.
Berwick decided prior to Monday’s announcement to hold off competing in boys and girls basketball, boys and girls swimming and wrestling until after the New Year. Its teams had been practicing. MMI Prep decided while fall sports were finishing up that it wouldn’t compete in winter sports. The school didn’t play fall sports.
Costello said in the email the decision was made “in an effort to preserve the winter sports season.” He added: “Over the next several weeks, we will be working with the league to modify the schedules based on this temporary pause. These actions are in place as part of our civic duty to help mitigate the transmission of COVID-19.”
The decision will have a major impact on winter schedules. Friday was the first day for winter sports with several boys and girls basketball non-conference games on the schedule. The WVC swimming season was set to start Dec. 15 and the WVC wrestling season a day later.
The suspension will also affect the WVC boys and girls basketball regular seasons. The WVC Championship Tournament between the top-two teams in each division has been canceled to allow extra days to complete the conference season. Both seasons were to start Jan. 2 and some teams won’t likely have the 15 practices required by the PIAA before playing a game. The first official practice date for winter sports was Nov. 20, although many schools didn’t start until later.
Crestwood was scheduled to start winter sports practices Monday under strict COVID-19 protocols.
“It’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to be hectic, it’s going to be different,” Crestwood boys basketball coach Mark Atherton said prior to Monday’s announcement. “It seems like a different kind of practice, so it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of basketball we’re going to have.”
Wyoming Seminary’s first winter sport practices were scheduled for Wednesday. Pittston Area started on time, logged five practices and then was shut down because of COVID-19 cases in the junior high program and the school district. The Patriots were going to resume Wednesday.
Some teams were close to the 15-practice requirement, and Wyoming Valley West boys basketball had two scrimmages. The Spartans were scheduled to play at Nanticoke Area on Friday.
“We have been fortunate unlike some others,” Valley West first-year coach Chris Parker said. “We were able to scrimmage Hanover this past Monday and were able to scrimmage Northwest this past Friday. We have been able to play against an opposition and have my kids see somebody else as opposed to just battle in practice.”
Majikes said the WVC was already having issues with basketball as some officials have elected not to work games.
“If we get through this year, so far I’ve lost 10 varsity officials who indicated to me they are not going to referee due to COVID and job-related matters, which is fully understandable,” Majikes said. “If we get through this and have games, which I hope we do, you may see guys back-to-back which we normally don’t do unless it’s a snow emergency. You’ll see younger guys brought up.”
The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, which consists of schools in the Lehigh Valley and Poconos areas, announced last week it was delaying its winter sports seasons until Jan. 15. The EPC also makes up most of District 11, which decided in the fall not to participate in the PIAA state football playoffs and instead play only district tournaments.
The PIAA Board of Directors meet on Wednesday via Zoom. Although winter sports aren’t on the agenda, it’s likely executive director Bob Lombardi will address them during his post-meeting press conference.
Remembering Nanticoke's "Pearl Harbor Baby"
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, a pregnant Hawaiian woman fled the devastated military base and traveled to Nanticoke — her husband’s hometown where he had a large family.
U.S. Army Air Corps Tech Sgt. Peter S. Rynkiewicz and his wife, Mary Ann, survived the Japanese bombardment while living on base at Wheeler Field with their 2-year-old daughter and feared more attacks were imminent.
They thought Mary Ann — who was four months pregnant — and their little girl would be safer in Nanticoke since he was immediately thrust into World War II.
The baby was born on May 28, 1942 at Nanticoke State Hospital and quickly nicknamed Nanticoke’s “Pearl Harbor Baby” by the city’s people. It’s unclear if Linell Rynkiewicz Oster, who died in an accident in 2000 at age 58, ever knew how much fuss her birth made here.
Her mother, a native Hawaiian with homesickness, moved the family back to Hawaii about two years later while Rynkiewicz fought battles in Italy.
But Linell always knew where she was from, according to her surviving siblings.
“She knew where she was born. She knew it was Nanticoke,” said Linell’s sister Christine Rynkiewcz Reeds, 73, of New Hudson, Michigan.
Like dad, a world traveler
Reeds is pretty sure Linell once returned with them to Nanticoke on a family trip to visit the widow of Rynkiewicz’s brother, Albin, a B-24 tail gunner whose plane was shot down over the South Pacific on May 4, 1945 at age 27.
Rynkiewicz’s parents, who lived at 425 E. Washington St. in Nanticoke, had seven children — four who fought in World War II.
Like his parents, Rynkiewicz — a career military man who died in 1986 — also had seven children.
He adopted his first child, Lorraine, better known as “Lorrie,” when he married his first wife, the former Mary Ann Thompson, in Hawaii. Linell, the “Pearl Harbor Baby,” was his second child. The couple divorced shortly after the war ended.
One of Rynkiewicz’s other children from his second marriage, Terry Rynkiewicz McCandlish, 69, of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, said her father’s first wife longed to move back to Hawaii while living in the small coal mining town of Nanticoke.
“She was Hawaiian, it’s cold there and they were speaking Polish. Can you imagine the culture shock?” McCandlish said.
Rynkiewicz met his second wife, Mary Jean, while stationed in San Antonio, Texas, after the war. She went with him when he was again stationed at Pearl Harbor, where they got married and had Reeds.
The couple would travel the world on Rynkiewcz’s military assignments and grow their family along the way. After Reeds, the couple had McCandlish in Denver, Colorado, a set of twins, Stanley and Joyce, at West Point, New York, and Gwen in Germany.
At some point, Linell joined the family for several years, including during the post-war stint in Germany. She bonded with Reeds.
“She was my best friend. I miss her every day,” Reeds said.
Like her father, Linell traveled the world.
She was an international flight attendant for United Airlines for 30 years. It was during a layover on one of those trips when she tragically died. While in Sydney, Australia, during the 2000 Summer Olympics, Linell fell from the 29th story of her hotel. Her death was ruled an accident.
At the time, Linell was about to retire and was to soon celebrate her 15th wedding anniversary. She and her husband, an insurance executive from San Francisco, had just invested in a vineyard in California’s Napa Valley.
Linell would be 78-years-old today.
One big Rynkiewicz family
While Linell had a different mother, all the siblings felt like one family, Reeds said.
That included Rynkiewicz’s adopted daughter, Lorraine “Lorrie” Cahill, who had the same Hawaiian mother as Linell.
Now 81-years-old and still living in Hawaii, Cahill said Rynkiewicz treated her as his own and even fought for her custody while the girls were young.
She said the Hawaiian courts gave her and Linell a choice of who they wanted to live with.
Linell picked her dad.
“I wanted to go with Linell, but in my mind I thought my mom would be alone in Hawaii,” Cahill recalled.
At one point, Cahill said she did live with Rynkiewicz and his new wife, Mary Jean, during his second tour of duty at Pearl Harbor. But, like all his assignments, his stay was temporary.
She and Linell eventually both went back to live with their mother.
“I carried his name until I got married. I was always a Rynkiewicz. That was the only dad I knew. I never knew who my father was to this day,” Cahill said.
Having the Polish name Rynkiewicz while living in Hawaii wasn’t easy, Cahill said.
“It was a hard name to live with. People stumbled over it time and time again. So, getting married, I got to change my name to something easier,” Cahill joked.
She wasn’t alone in the name struggle.
One of Rynkiewicz’s brothers, Theodore, legally changed his last name to “Rink” after the war.
Most of Rynkiewicz’s family have since moved out of Nanticoke, but some remain, like his nephew, also named Peter Rynkiewicz, the son of the Rynkiewicz brother who was killed during the war. Though, at 78, he’s the same age as Linell would be and was born in the same city, he said he never heard of her.
“I don’t know a lot about my uncles,” he said. “They were scattered all over the country and hardly ever came back here.”
From Pearl Harbor to Nanticoke
Rynkiewicz’s children say he spoke little about the Pearl Harbor attack or his wartime service.
After spending more than 25 years in the military — first in the Army Air Corps and then in the Air Force after that branch formed in 1947 — Rynkiewicz retired as a lieutenant colonel.
He went on to work for the Department of Defense as a civilian at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and then Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California. At the time of his retirement from that job in 1984, he opened up about Pearl Harbor in an interview with the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper.
“When the first echelon of Japanese planes attacked Wheeler, I was in bed in my quarters on the field. I heard airplanes roaring ... My first thought was the Navy was practicing, as they often did. Then a bomb hit close to the house,” Rynkiewicz recalled. “I looked up and the ceiling was hanging down. I yelled to my wife. ‘This isn’t practice. Go get the baby!’”
As the family was fleeing out the door, they saw a low-flying Japanese plane headed toward their residence.
“I grabbed my wife and we ran across the street and stayed under a big banyan tree and watched it all,” Rynkiewicz said.
Cahill was sleeping in a crib. Many years later, her mother told her how she nearly was killed and was lucky to be alive.
“My mom said the roof of my bedroom fell down on my crib and the crib saved me,” Cahill recalled.
Finally, a happy headline
The Pearl Harbor attack led the family to seek safety in Nanticoke as the United States and Rynkiewicz entered World War II.
Rynkiewicz’s pregnant wife, 22, had planned to stay in Nanticoke throughout the war, but even at the time of Linell’s birth in May 1942 she signaled she already missed Hawaii.
She told a local newspaper the people of Nanticoke “have been very nice to me,” but “I long for my native Hawaii.” The story about Linell’s birth carried the headline “Pearl Harbor Girl Gives Birth To Daughter In Nanticoke.”
The nickname “Pearl Harbor Baby” was born.
The family stayed in Nanticoke until the middle of 1944 while the war was ongoing.
Cahill said one of her earliest memories of her own childhood came in Nanticoke when a wheel fell off Linell’s stroller and rolled down a hill as she went for a walk with her mother.
“It was an impression made on a child,” she said.
All of Linell’s six surviving siblings say they never saw the newspaper clipping of the story until it started circulating online recently and they’ve since shared it with family around the world.
The last time Linell made headlines it was about her tragic death.
Now, they smile seeing a headline about her celebrated birth and becoming the “Pearl Harbor Baby” from Nanticoke.
“She’s been called a lot of things — sweetheart, honey girl, gorgeous, knockout, stunning,” Cahill said. “That’s a new one. It kind of makes her a celebrity.”
Man displaced from fire at home on Ridge Street in Nanticoke
A fire broke out just before 2 a.m. Friday at a home in the 200-block of Ridge Street.
Nanticoke City Fire Department was dispatched around 1:50 a.m. to battle the blaze. A fire department spokesperson said the firefighters had to transition from an offensive attack to defensive because of the intensity of the fire. Part of the roof had collapsed on the building.
A man was the lone occupant of the building. The fire department said he was contacted by Red Cross, but is staying with a neighbor temporarily.
Neighboring fire departments assisting at the scene were Newport Township, Hanover Township, Kingston/Forty Fort, and Plymouth Borough.
A State Police fire marshal is at the scene investigating to determine the the cause of the fire.
Greater Nanticoke Area furloughs support employees
Michael P. Buffer – Citizens Voice
Greater Nanticoke Area School District support staff employees will be on furlough while the district has suspended in-person learning.
The school board approved the furloughs at Thursday’s meeting. Most furloughed employees are part-time and don’t receive benefits, and the full-time employees will continue to receive health benefits until the end of March, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
He added he hopes students will be back to school before March because COVID-19 transmission metrics will decline. The meeting agenda identified 67 furloughed employees, and Grevera said two or three are full-time.
The district began the school year with a hybrid schedule that alternated in-person and online instruction days for two groups of students and transitioned last month to all online after COVID-19 transmission in Luzerne County exceed the “substantial” metrics. The district plans to remain in the virtual mode until at least Jan. 19.
“At that time, we’ll take a look at the numbers,” Grevera said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. As we all know, vaccines are on their way.”
Grevera said the “hope is that by mid-January, the district will be able to resume the hybrid model” and perhaps provide in-person instruction for all students five days a week by the end of the school year.
Thursday’s virtual meeting was on the Zoom platform. The board on Thursday also conducted a reorganization meeting and appointed Tony Prushinski as board president, Kenny James as vice president and Vito DeLuca as school district solicitor for the next year.
Greater Nanticoke Area furloughs aides, cleaners, cafeteria workers
Greater Nanticoke Area School Board re-elected Tony Prushinski as president during its re-organization meeting Thursday, then went into a regular meeting that included approving furloughs of scores of aides, cleaners, cafeteria workers and others who have no work while students are learning remotely due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in Luzerne County.
Noting the district will remain in remote-only mode until at least Jan. 19, Superintendent Ron Grevera opened his remarks by pointing out the county had a record number of new cases — 362 — on Thursday.
“Today has been a very difficult day,” he said, adding that, with a vaccine now on the way, “there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
But the district likely won’t have students return to schools until the county’s positivity rate — the percent of tests that come back positive — drops under 10%. As of last Friday the county positivity rate was 13.7%.
The furloughs “must be done” in part to protect employees. “It is best to have the fewest number of people in the buildings,” he said, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. “Our hope is that after the pandemic passes we will immediately recall the employees being furloughed.”
The board unanimously approved the furloughs, which affected 30 special education aides, 10 cafeteria employees, one cafeteria worker, 19 cleaners, three crossing guards, four hall monitors, five instructional aides, one library aide, one 10-month secretary, two maintenance workers and a nurse aide. All were furloughed under terms of a memorandum of understanding with each group’s union.
The board also accepted the retirement of cafeteria worker Brenda Boone and the resignation of special education teacher Richard Borofski.
The board approved a quote from K&D Factory Services, Inc., to repair cafeteria equipment as needed at a rate of $93.60 per hour and a travel fee of $75. And it approved a quote from Edwards Business Systems to replace district copy machines at a cost of $5,358 monthly.
Vehicle crashes into home in Nanticoke
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
A vehicle caused extensive damage when it crashed into a Nanticoke home on Tuesday afternoon, according to firefighters.
Responders were called to 7 Garfield St. around 4:45 p.m. to a report of a vehicle that crashed into a structure with a patient lying in the grass.
The driver, who was not identified, was taken to an area hospital for treatment, firefighters said.
Firefighters determined the vehicle had intruded on a load-bearing wall that would need to be reinforced before the vehicle was removed.
The structure was stabilized and the vehicle was removed.
Units cleared the scene within two hours, firefighters said.
It was not immediately clear whether the driver would face charges.
Greater Nanticoke Area using $250,000 grant to fund football stadium improvements
Michael P. Buffer – Citizens Voice
Greater Nanticoke Area School District plans to get $250,000 from a state grant to fund improvements at the high school football stadium.
The district has applied for a Local Share Account grant through the city of Nanticoke. Local Share Account grants are funded with gaming revenue generated by casinos, including Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
Greater Nanticoke Area is looking to do the stadium project in phases as grant money becomes available, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said. The school board also voted Nov. 12 to buy a new scoreboard for the stadium.
The $24,180 purchase was funded with a donation from the Distasio family, and the new scoreboard is in memory of former football coach Dan Distasio, Grevera said.
Greater Nanticoke Area to remain in remote-only into January
Citing the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the county and the district, as well as an increase in the percentage of test coming back positive, Superintendent Ronald Grevera announced at Thursday’s School Board meeting that Greater Nanticoke Area School District will remain in remote-only mode until at least Jan. 19, the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
“With both Thanksgiving and Christmas coming there are expected to be further increases,” Grevera said. “We will move to the virtual platform until Jan. 18, and at that time assess the numbers to see if we can move back to in-person.”
Luzerne County’s daily number of new COVID-19 cases has increased dramatically since early October, exceeding 100 new cases in the each of the last three days, with the 192 new cases reported Thursday being the highest one-day total since the first case of coronavirus was recorded in the county.
Nanticoke has not been immune to the increase. The Nanticoke ZIP Code of 18634 reported 26 new cases over seven days last week, fourth highest among 41 codes tracked by the Times Leader that are all or partially in Luzerne County. The week before that, the Nanticoke code had 34 new cases over seven days.
During the voting session, the board approved the purchase of a multi-sport scoreboard at a cost of $24,180, in memory of the late Daniel Distasio, former district football coach. The cost is being covered through a grant from Attorney Daniel Distasio managed through the Luzerne Foundation.
In a sports-related move, the board moved to apply for a Local Share Grant through Nanticoke City to cover costs of the stadium project. Local Share Grants are funded with money the state gets from legalized gambling, awarded to municipalities and school districts to help with projects that otherwise may not get done or may require an increase in local taxes.
The board also agreed to pay Conrad Siegel $6,850 to ensure compliance with mandates of the Affordable Care Act, a move many local districts have taken since the Act went into effect, to make sure they meet employer mandates.
And the board voted to donate $5,000 to to the Mill Memorial Library.
Local school districts change learning plans as cases spike
Michael P. Buffer – Citizens Voice
Wyoming Valley West School District is suspending in-person learning and will provide virtual instruction until further notice, Superintendent David Tosh said Thursday night.
Greater Nanticoke Area has already made that decision and will continue with virtual instruction until at least Jan. 19, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said Thursday during a virtual school board meeting.
Dallas School District reported Thursday that a high school employee, who was last on campus Monday, tested positive for COVID-19. Dallas High School will be closed Friday to students, and all instruction will be delivered online synchronously.
Dallas expects to resume its hybrid learning schedule of online and in-person learning Monday at the high school. Wycallis Primary Center, Dallas Intermediate and Dallas Middle School will continue with their hybrid schedules Friday.
According to an update page on its website, Wyoming Valley West reported six current adult cases and one current student case, with 12 adults currently in isolation and 36 students currently in isolation.
Students in the Crestwood School District reverted to virtual classes Thursday after three new COVID-19 cases were reported this week. Superintendent Bob Mehalick said school buildings will remain closed Friday. A decision will be made over the weekend whether to resume classes in person or continue with virtual education next week. Students and parents will be alerted of the decision through social media.
Wilkes-Barre Area has suspended in-person learning and is waiting for Luzerne County to go back to being in the moderate-risk category, as defined by the state.
Counties designated as having substantial risk have an incidence rate of more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days or a positivity rate above 10% over seven days. The positivity rate in Luzerne County is 7.9%.
The incidence rate is 138.8, up from the previous week’s rate of 132. It was 118.4 two weeks ago.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the teachers union, this week asked every school district in the state to follow health guidelines and transition to remote learning in counties with an incidence rate of 100 or more or a 10% or higher positivity rate.
Lake-Lehman, Northwest Area and the West Side Career and Technology Center are currently providing in-person classes. Pittston Area and Wyoming Area have not had in-person classes since March.
Greater Nanticoke Area continuing with all virtual learning through Nov. 13
Michael P. Buffer – Citizens Voice
Greater Nanticoke Area officials announced the district would follow recommendations from the state Department of Health and Department of Education.
Greater Nanticoke Area School District will continue to provide virtual learning only for all schools through Nov. 13, according to a message on the district website.
The district is following recommendations from the state Department of Health and Department of Education, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said. The district has been virtual only since Oct. 26.
On Friday, Wilkes-Barre Area School District announced it was suspending in-person learning for students until the COVID-19 transmission rate in Luzerne County is back in the moderate category for 14 days.
To get back to the moderate category, the COVID-19 incidence rate in Luzerne County must be less than 100 per 100,000 residents. The county moved into the substantial category a week ago when the rate was 118.4 per 100,000 residents. It is now is 132.
Other school districts in the county are continuing to provide in-person learning. Dallas has a hybrid plan with two groups of students, and each group has in-person learning two days in a full week.
Dallas on Monday reported two COVID-19 cases and did not announce it was shutting down a building or adjusting its schedule. The cases involve an employee at Wycallis Primary Center and a Dallas High School student.
Lake-Lehman School District has been providing in-person learning this year five days a week for students who do not want cyber or virtual options. Lake-Lehman reported a COVID-19 case involving a high school employee and did not announce any adjustments or a decision to close a building.
Nanticoke woman dresses like late Justice Ginsburg to vote
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
On the day Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed and sworn in to the U.S. Supreme Court, Stephanie Boback of Nanticoke dressed like the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to drop off her mail-in ballot at the Luzerne County Election Bureau in the Penn Place building.
“I wore her famous ‘dissent collar.’ It was a little symbol of how she felt about what was being presented to her. I wore a black shirt, which I guess replaced the robe I don’t have and I pulled my hair back in the classic bun. My little green earrings were probably less expensive than her usual jewelry,” Boback said.
Boback, 39, said her voting attire wasn’t meant as a protest against Barrett, but reverence to Ginsburg.
“It was a personal empowerment thing to show I was in solidarity with other women voting no matter how they were voting,” Boback said. “It didn’t have anything to do with the confirmation. It wasn’t a protest. It was to inspire. I felt confidence in casting a ballot.”
Boback said she “definitely saw a smile, wink and a nod” from voters in line waiting to vote early in person. She said she dropped off her ballot around 4:10 p.m. Monday and received a confirmation email by 6:11 p.m.
She declined to say who she voted for, but said it was easy to assume.
“By the Ruth Bader Ginsburg outfit, I think you can draw an assumption,” Boback said. “It’s fairly obvious.”
Greater Nanticoke Area going full virtual to Oct. 30
Greater Nanticoke Area School District announced it will switch to remote-only learning beginning Monday and running through Friday.
The district posted a notice on the homepage of its website: “All GNA schools will go virtual from Monday, October 26th to Friday, October 30.”
Contacted by email, Superintendent Ronald Grevera explained the move.
“We decided that at this point in time with both the positivity rate increasing as well as the incidence rate increasing in our local area in central Luzerne County that it was prudent for the safety of staff and students to move to a total virtual platform. We hope to be back in the hybrid model within a week or two as soon as both the positivity and incidence rates decline.”
The county has seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases this week, with the state reporting 417 new cases from Oct. 16 through Friday. The Nanticoke ZIP code of 18634 was not spared in that surge, with 26 new cases reported for the week, the fifth highest increase among 41 codes all or partially in Luzerne County that the Times Leader checks regularly.
The GNA notice came hours after Lake-Lehman School District Superintendent James McGovern posted a letter saying the football game between Lake-Lehman and Tunkhannock scheduled for Friday night was cancelled after a student was determined to be a probable case of COVID-19. McGovern said there was not enough time to do “the necessary contact tracing” before the game, so it was cancelled “in an abundance of caution.”
Reporting confirmed cases in multiple buildings with a 14-day period, Wilkes-Barre Area School District stopped all lessons in schools beginning Oct. 19, and announced in-person lessons will not resume until Nov. 4. Wyoming Valley West School School District reported two students testing positive with COVID-19, then closed the high school Thursday and Friday. And The Pittston Area School Board voted Tuesday to drop plans to open in hybrid mode at the end of the first marking period and to stay in remote-only mode until Jan. 4.
According to the state’s early warning “dashboard” update released every Friday with county-level information, Luzerne county may have reached “substantial” community transmission status as defined by the state using several metrics, including positivity rate and incidence rate — how many tests come back positive and how many positives there are per 100,000 people. The state has not yet changed the county’s status.
The state Department of Education and Department of Health had worked out an advisory system that suggests schools should switch to full-remote learning if their county reaches substantial status, though each district works with the state to make those decisions.
Nanticoke mom, 36, on road to recovery after lingering bump diagnosed as breast cancer
For a long time, Nancy Potsko believed it was probably a cyst.
“This lump had been inside me for six-plus years,” the Nanticoke resident said during an interview this week.
After all, it moved around — as cysts can do — and a previous health care provider advised that the lump could be a cyst.
Earlier this year, Potsko was playing with her youngest child, who bumped the lump.
“The skin above it bruised,” she said. The bruising did not go away. And so she turned to her family doctor.
On Feb. 3, Potsko was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer in which the cancer has “invaded” or spread to the surrounding breast tissues, as breastcancer.org explains.
Just 36, Potsko this year has undergone a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, with her last regular appointment set for the end of this month.
Potsko is among a relatively small group of Americans diagnosed with breast cancer under 40 — roughly 12,000 each year, according to the New York-based Young Survival Coalition. Such patients typically have not yet begun having mammograms, and often detect cancer themselves, as Potsko did.
“Nancy is a young woman, who felt a breast mass and it was discovered she had an abnormality,” said Dr. Jacqueline Oxenberg, a Geisinger surgical oncologist. “She’s actually younger than the age where we would typically screen women but fortunately, she felt something and brought it up to her provider, so our team was able to care for her.”
Understanding the possibility for invasive cancer to recur, Potsko said she opted for a double-mastectomy, and didn’t hesitate to communicate that to Oxenberg and her care team.
“I would say ‘just take them. Chuck them,’” Potsko said, explaining that she did not want to risk having a recurrence.
As Oxenberg explained, the tumor was partially aggressive, so it could have grown quickly and spread.
But, Potsko was also relieved to learn that implants were an option.
Oxenberg said she performed a bi-lateral nipple-sparing mastectomy. That is a procedure which allows for better cosmetic outcomes — including implants — and for many patients, an improved quality of life, the National Institutes of Health notes.
Every patient’s road to recovery is different. Potsko acknowledges that there have been difficult days, but that overall “I consider myself lucky with chemo.”
“I would be tired for two days, then bounce back to being myself,” she said.
With four children and a stepchild, ages 4 to 19, Potsko leads a busy life, but also said she never missed a youth sports game, and also is grateful for the way her family has rallied around her.
It was very much an emotional time for the family. Potsko’s brother, Nanticoke Mayor Rich Wiaterowski, died in late 2018 after a battle with acute myeloid leukemia. He was 45.
One of the things Potsko had to reassure her children about was that her cancer, and treatment, were “different from what Uncle Richie” went through.
“They were good through it all,” she said of her children.
What Potsko wants every woman to know, is how important it is to be aware of their bodies and their health, and never hesitate to have them checked out, voice any concerns with their doctors, and ask questions about their care and diagnosis.
“It’s your own body,” she said.
GNA school returns to in-person classes
Michael Buffer – Citizens Voice
Greater Nanticoke Area High School had in-person instruction Monday through its hybrid model for the first time since Oct. 9.
The school only had remote instruction last week because one student tested positive for COVID-19 case and 30 students were in quarantine. Most of those students can come back to school Friday because the 14-day quarantine period will be over then, school district Superintendent Ronald Grevera said Monday.
Greater Nanticoke Area began the school year in early September with a hybrid schedule that mixes in-person days and online days for two groups of students.
Festival draws vendors, customers to Nanticoke
Dozens of vendors and prospective customers set up shop at West Side Park on Sunday afternoon for a Fall Harvest craft and vendor show.
The event was hosted by the West Side Club, with proceeds from basket raffles and instant bingo going to the club and toward keeping the playground up and running for the neighborhood kids.
Craft fairs are always a big hit around Luzerne County, especially during the fall; Sunday’s Fall Harvest show was no exception, as a steady stream of people made their way around the loop of tents to check out what was on sale.
As is typically the case, the items being sold varied substantially from tent to tent. Nail-painting supplies being sold next to smoked cheese, sweaters and books and all sorts of interesting trinkets.
One vendor, Nanticoke resident Pat Redline, had two unique items for sale at her table: Redline “smittens,” mittens lined with sweater fabric, and reading pillows — pillows with a little sleeve for books.
Redline said that she’d been selling the smittens for a couple of years, and wanted to try something different. A sign at her table informed customers that Sunday’s show would be her last selling the popular item.
“I had to stop selling them at one point because I couldn’t keep up with the demand,” Redline said. “They’ve been such a good seller, but I wanted to try something new.”
Sunday’s show was Redline’s first show with the reading pillows, and even in the early hours of the afternoon, she could tell that they would be a big hit.
“Now the children could take their books to bed with them,” Redline said. “Reading is so important at a young age.”
Young readers were also a part of the focus at Dawn L. Lubertowicz’s table. A local author with over a dozen published works of fiction, Lubertowicz had her books on display along with some homemade rice bags, which people could pack with ice and use for aches and pains.
“I’ve got them in all sorts of sizes and designs,” Lubertowicz said. “Some have straps for your ankle or your wrist.”
Lubertowicz describes her books as “fantasy fiction” geared mainly at young adults. She only started getting them published a few years ago, and has been prolific in her work.
“I’ve got five more books on the way,” Lubertowicz said.
Some other vendors included Serina Mitchell of Honesdale, selling her “reverse sweaters” — sweaters made with the designs on fabric underneath the outer layer of the sweater, and then cut out to show the design.
“I think I saw them on vacation somewhere, and thought it was a good idea,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell has been making the sweaters for almost 20 years, and had them available in both fall and Christmas colors.
Volunteers spend the day cleaning up Nanticoke
The Nanticoke Conversation Club organized the cleanup of the Lower Broadway Street area.
WNEP Web Staff
A group of volunteers spent their day helping to clean up their community.
The Nanticoke Conversation Club organized the cleanup in conjunction with the city.
Volunteers cleaned up the area surrounding Lower Broadway Street.
They cleared out old mattresses, litter, and other garbage.
"We need to do something as an organization and as a city and come together and clean this place up! You come across the Nanticoke bridge, and our conservation sign is right there 'Welcome to Nanticoke!' and then you look through the woods a hundred yards, and there's piles of trash," explained club member Josh Ruminski.
Volunteers were treated to coffee and doughnuts for their hard work.
Greater Nanticoke Area approves support staff contract, with dissent
The Greater Nanticoke Area School Board approved a contract with the support staff union — representing about 150 secretarial, custodian, maintenance. cafeteria and paraprofessional staff — through June 30, 2024. But it drew immediate rebuke.
Board President Tony Prushinski voted against the contract, citing the many years some of the staff have worked for the district and saying he wanted it to be more generous. “We could have been a little more helpful.”
Other board members, particularly Ken James, agreed in voting no.
Several union members criticized the negotiation process. Marge Womelsdorf said the union negotiating committee did not get to meet with school board members, with only the union president and vice president and a union negotiator working on the deal. She also questioned why the union had to vote on the contract with so little information about the process.
Joan Wall criticized the size of the raises in the contract — 50 cents per hour the first two years, 60 cents the third year and 65 cents the fourth year. She complained that despite working more than two decades in the district, and working hard every day, the annual raises for the first two years remained the same as the previous year.
Solicitor Vito DeLuca advised board members and Superintendent Ron Grevera to limit comments. “All the board knew was that a majority of the union ratified a proposal. On my recommendation they are not making comments. We cannot control how you do things.”
The board also agreed to have AE7 conduct a football stadium feasibility study at a cost not to exceed $6,500. After the meeting Grevera said the district has grant money for upgrades, and the study will determine how best to spend that money.
The board approved the purchase of 24 Promethean ActivPanel Interactive displays — hi-tech white boards — from CDW-G for $47,171. Grevera said that will be paid with federal COVID-19 relief grant money.
Nanticoke High School, W-B Tech Center go remote because of COVID-19 cases
Eric Mark – Citizens Voice
Two local schools will shift to remote-only learning this week because of positive COVID-19 test results.
Greater Nanticoke Area High School will move to virtual learning through Friday because of a positive COVID-19 test, according to an announcement at the district’s website.
Also, Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center will be on a full virtual schedule until Oct. 19 “due to a COVID-19 situation,” the Crestwood School District announced on the district’s Facebook page.
In addition, Dallas High School will move to online-only learning on Monday, according to district Superintendent Thomas Duffy.
The high school is the only school in the district impacted and the change is only in effect for Monday, Duffy said.
COVID-19 case puts GNA High School into remote-only Tuesday through Friday
Greater Nanticoke Area School District is moving high school learning from hybrid to full remote this week, from Tuesday Oct. 13 through Friday Oct. 16, due to a positive COVID-19 case. The district had no classes scheduled for Monday, Columbus Day.
New developments coming to Arena Hub Plaza
Denise Allabaugh – Citizens Voice
When one door closes, another opens and that will soon be the case in the Arena Hub Plaza in Wilkes-Barre Twp.
The coronavirus pandemic led Pier I Imports to close all its stores, including its location in the Arena Hub Plaza, but another store soon will open in the building.
Gertrude Hawk Chocolates plans to open in January and will occupy about 35% of the closed Pier I Imports building, said Carolyn Hawk Horter, chairman of the board for Gertrude Hawk Chocolates.
The new store will replace another Gertrude Hawk location that closed in the Wyoming Valley Mall, Horter said. Gertrude Hawk also has another store nearby at 174 Mundy St. that will remain open, she said.
Prior to the new store opening, Gertrude Hawk will open a temporary pop-up location for the holidays in half of the building that formerly housed women’s plus-size retailer Avenue before it closed last year. The holiday pop-up store should open Nov. 1, Horter said.
In the other half of the closed Avenue building, Nanticoke residents John Beggs and Scott Brennan plan to open Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa in early to mid-November. A contractor is working on getting the building ready and Beggs said they are interviewing potential employees.
Robert Tamburro, trustee and General partner with TFP Limited, owner of the Arena Hub Plaza, said more developments also are coming near Mission BBQ on Mundy Street.
He has leased space next to Mission BBQ to Blaze Pizza, a Pasadena, Califorina-based fast-casual dining chain where customers can create their own pizza.
A Dollar Tree store is being constructed behind Mission BBQ and he said that likely will be completed in November.
“It has been a challenging year but we feel we have a very good lineup of tenants despite the pandemic. These tenants have been performing very well and we’re optimistic,” Tamburro said. “What’s interesting is almost all of the leases were signed during the pandemic and we feel encouraged about it.”
More developments also are planned on Route 315 in Plains Twp. An Xfinity store by Comcast should open in the spring next to FNCB Bank and a new cigar lounge called Bella Humidor will replace El Humidor in 315 Marketplace, he said.
Tamburro also has been negotiating with tenants who are interested in occupying the former Ashley Furniture site on Mundy Street.
“We’re monitoring our properties and making sure we’re doing everything we can to fill them with the best tenants we could possibly have,” he said. “There is some renewed optimism where things are headed. We’re in a better place than where we were.”
School districts facing notification decisions involving student and employee COVID-19 cases
Michael P. Buffer - Citizens Voice
School districts with in-person instruction are now dealing with what to do when a student, teacher or employee tests positive for COVID-19.
Dallas School District followed a plan that included notifying the state Department of Health when learning of its first COVID-19 case on Sept. 11. But district officials were not sure of what to disclose when informing parents, employees and the public.
Dallas learned of a second case Sept. 13 and had canceled after-school activities, including a football game, over that weekend. The district issued announcements about the first two COVID-19 cases but didn’t specify if students or employees tested positive and didn’t identify an impacted school building.
“I asked for a little bit of a legal review about the extent to which, what do we reveal and what don’t we reveal? Because at the end of the day, it’s people’s medical. It’s not an effort to be misleading,” Superintendent Thomas Duffy said Monday. “While we’re also attempting to keep our community well informed, we’re respecting the medical privacy of our stakeholders. Remember this stuff is really new to all of us.”
When Dallas announced its third case Wednesday, Duffy disclosed all three cases involved students, two from the intermediate school and one from the middle school. The state Department of Health conducted contact tracing to identify anyone else who may have been exposed.
Asked if the Department of Health has a guidance or standards on how school districts should notify the public of COVID-19 cases, spokesman Nate Wardle said “the schools will fulfill their safety plans to address the illness and virus in their communities, like done with measles, mumps, etc.”
The health department is currently not releasing COVID-19 case numbers at schools in the state and numbers of students and school employees who tested positive. The health department is working with the state Department of Education and school districts “on the best ways to communicate increases in school-aged children,” Wardle said.
“Obviously, it will take some time to link a case in a child to a school since there are different teaching models happening at the same time across the state,” Wardle said in an email.
The health department “will share case data among school-age children moving forward” by releasing the statewide case numbers among 5-18-year-olds in data released each Monday, Wardle said.
“Colleges are releasing data on their own in order to keep their communities informed,” Wardle said.
Many colleges in the state are tracking COVID-19 cases with online dashboards. In Luzerne County, King’s College, Wilkes University, Misericordia University and Luzerne County Community College are providing online updates of case totals of students and employees and the number of students and employees in quarantine.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state teachers union, “supports legislation that ensures parents, employees, and other individuals associated with a school building are informed within 24 hours about any confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 in their school,” PSEA spokesman Chris Lilienthal said.
PSEA hopes the legislation currently before the state House gets a final vote by the end of the month, Lilienthal said.
“Educators have been asking for clearer direction from the state level for months when it comes to informing a school community about cases of COVID-19, and this amendment ensures there is a statewide standard,” Lilienthal said in an email. “School districts would have the option of going beyond these requirements to meet the needs of their community.”
Dallas, Northwest Area and Greater Nanticoke Area school districts began the school year with hybrid schedules involving online and in-person instruction days. Wilkes-Barre Area and Lake-Lehman started with in-person classes five days a week for students who did not choose a cyber option.
Pittston Area, Hanover Area, Wyoming Valley West, Wyoming Area and Crestwood started with completely remote or online instruction.
Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ronald Grevera said he is not aware of any district employees or students testing positive since the school year began. The district “would never release the names of staff or students who are positive” and would inform parents about “potential exposure of the virus,” Grevera said.
Greater Nanticoke Area has a plan for contact tracing “done through the use of seating charts in classrooms, cafeterias and school buses,” Grevera said.
“In the case of multiple exposures outside of a family, we would simply close the school for cleaning for the recommended period of time,” he added.
The Department of Education recommends canceling in-person classes for at least three days when there are two to four cases involving students and staff at a school over 14 days, or if the case total is less than 5% of the number of students and staff in a school. The recommendation is canceling in-person instruction for 14 days if it’s more than five cases, or the case total is at least 5% of the number of students and staff in a school.
Lake-Lehman has a plan to immediately contact the Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 when a student or employee tests positive, and the state health department is notified to investigate and conduct contact tracing and then provides the district “with specific instructions on how to proceed in regards to quarantine or any other preventative measures,” Superintendent James McGovern said.
Luzerne County makeup artist nominated for Emmy, again
Mark Hiller - (WBRE/WYOU-TV)
NANTICOKE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — An Emmy award-winning makeup artist from Nanticoke is nominated yet again for her work in Hollywood.
Patrick Stewart plays the lead role in the CBS All Access program “Star Trek: Picard.” But besides a talented cast, there is some behind-the-scenes talent that makes the show standout: the makeup.
“There is an amazing bunch of artists that I’ve worked with and it’s really a great honor you know to be with this team,” Natalie Thimm, an award-winning makeup artist and Nanticoke native, said.
51-year-old Thimm is part of a five-member team nominated in the category “Outstanding Period And/Or Character Makeup (Non-Prosthetic) for the episode “Stardust City Rag.” She’s already experienced Emmy glory, winning for her makeup work on the former Comedy Central program “Key and Peele.”
“2016 was my first nomination win which, you know, sometimes rarely happens,” said Thimm.
Nearly 3,000 miles back home, her family is overjoyed about her second nomination.
“Oh my gosh. I said… I was ecstatic again and I was so happy for her,” said Diane Thimm, Natalie’s mother.
“I’m so proud of her. She’s worked so hard all these years,” Terri Thimm, Natalie’s sister, said.
Terri could tell growing up that her younger sister had a passion for what she’d eventually pursue as a grownup.
“When we were little girls she would actually get these heads of little model heads from the 70s, we would have hair and makeup sessions with them,” Terri said.
Believe it or not, Natalie actually refined her skills in an auto-body shop. Her dad has got a background in that kind of thing and she learned how to airbrush that way.
“I taught her and helped her anyway I could in that fact. Then the rest was up to her and she was persistent,” said Natalie’s father Frank Thimm.
Now a veteran makeup artist of dozens of television shows and movies, the Greater Nanticoke Area High School and Empire Beauty School graduate is proof a small town kid can make it big.
“Don’t let anybody ever tell you, you can’t,” said Natalie.
High school football fans want more access to games
By Steve Mocarsky – Citizens Voice
The Friday night lights were lit and the players were on the field, but the season opener for high school football fans was far from traditional.
Missing from the field and the bleachers at the Greater Nanticoke Area stadium were the cheerleaders and the band. There were no fans waiting in line at the concession stand because it wasn’t open.
Only about 60 or so Trojans fans — primarily parents of the players — were seated in the bleachers on the home team side of the field for the 7 p.m. kickoff. The visitors’ bleachers contained one lone soul.
Because Gov. Tom Wolf set restrictions limiting any outdoor gatherings to 250 people or less to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, officials at Greater Nanticoke Area restricted attendance to only members of the team, coaches, referees, the media and two family members of each player.
The school district initially planned to allow the cheerleaders and band and their parents to attend as well, but that changed earlier Friday.
“There was a phone call that came from the district announcing it would just be the players, the necessary people on the field and the parents for the home team,” said Mike Zaremba, who with his wife, Megan, were the first people to find a seat in the home bleachers Friday night and were there to see their son, Braden, a junior and starting tackle for the Trojans.
“I think it should be at least 500 (allowed to attend an outdoor sporting event). I think that would easily take care of the players, the cheerleaders, the band, and all their parents. It would allow the visiting team to have the same luxury,” Mike Zaremba said.
And those are the people who most deserve to attend, he added.
“They’re the ones who have the investment of their children being involved in extracurricular activities and the kids who put all the time throughout the summer should be able to play and perform in front of the fans,” Zaremba said.
Larry and Jill Kochanski, whose son Jonathan is a defensive end for the Trojans, said they were just happy to be at the game, given that many other school districts won’t allow any fans to attend, including players’ parents.
“I just hope they pass the bill to allow school districts to decide how many people can attend,” Larry Kochanski said.
The state Legislature passed a bill to put the decision in the hands of school districts, but Wolf has said he would veto it.
Jill Kochanski said their daughter Lily, Jonathan’s sister and “biggest cheerleader,” was disappointed she couldn’t attend with them. She showed up at all of her brother’s games last year with her pom poms and even the official cheerleaders recognized her.
While most fans couldn’t be inside the stadium, many sat in folding chairs, on tailgates or in their vehicles in an upper-level parking lot next to the field to support the Trojans.
Albert Brown, who was there to see his punter grandson, Owen Brown, play, said he thinks limiting attendance is necessary, but band members and cheerleaders should be allowed in rather than only players’ parents.
Three senior cheerleaders sitting nearby on the hillside agreed.
“The seniors should get their last experience because we’re not going to be able to do this again,” said Mikayla Sogchak.
“They care more about parents than they do students,” added Cameron Turak.
“It’s our year. It’s unfair,” Arianna Ruzanski chimed in. “I feel like we’ve been waiting for this all year.”
Greater Nanticoke Area OKs purchase of 600 Chromebooks
Board also approves more unpaid leave, refinancing
Mark Guydish - Citizens Voice
In a brief meeting held in the high school auditorium with rows of seats taped off for social distancing, the Greater Nanticoke Area School Board approved the purchase of 600 Chromebook computers, more unpaid leave for the COVID-19 pandemic, a meal distribution plan for students, and some refinancing.
In response to a question after all the voting, Superintendent Ron Grevera said the district intends to allow parents — but only parents — of athletes to attend sporting events. He said that should allow the spectators to maintain social distancing and keep the total number of people at an event under the 250 limit set by Gov. Tom Wolf.
The Chromebook purchase is from GDC I.T. solutions for a total of $147,434. The cost is covered by federal COVID-19 grant money. The purchase is retroactive to Aug. 14, but is through the Pennsylvania Educational Purchasing Program for Microcomputers, or PEPPM, designed to save districts and other agencies money by allowing them to skip the bidding process by piggybacking on state-awarded contracts.
The added unpaid leave is for district support staff union members. A Memorandum Of Understanding, or MOU, allows unpaid leave for this school year for COVID-19 without setting a precedent for future years. Along with approving the MOU, the board approved unpaid leave for four special education aides.
Grevera said some of the older support staff have concerns about potential exposure to COVID-19, and the MOU gave them the ability to take unpaid leave. He also said the district should be able to handle the reduction in support staff because only about half the students are in school at any time under the hybrid system being used.
Grevera announced the meal distribution plan at the start of the meeting. It is designed to ensure that students get meals when they are learning at home in the hybrid system, which is three days a week for most students. Group A attends in person Monday and Tuesday while Group B attends Thursday and Friday, with all students learning online Wednesday.
All students are eligible for free breakfast and lunch until Dec. 31. Distributions will start next week at the bus port in the high school for students who are virtual. On Mondays Group B can pick up two days worth of meals from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. On Thursdays Group A can pick up meals, also 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. All students can pick up meals on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to noon.
The refinancing was approved without explanation. After the meeting, Grevera said it will save the district money, but didn’t have exact figures on hand.
GNA school year extended because of water main break
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice
Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ronald Grevera said the last day of school will be pushed back because of a water main break that delayed the opening of school last week.
The last day of school for Greater Nanticoke Area School District students will be pushed back because of a water main break that delayed the opening of school last week.
The school year is now scheduled to end on June 11, 2021, district Superintendent Ronald Grevera announced at Thursday’s meeting of the district school board.
The water main break pushed back the first day of classes for district students from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8.
Also, in response to a question from the father of a student-athlete, Grevera said that parents will be allowed to watch their children participate in athletic events. He said there has been some confusion over the district’s policy.
Nanticoke Boil Advisory Lifted
Kevin Carroll - Times Leader
NANTICOKE — Pennsylvania American Water announced late Wednesday night that the boil water advisory put in place after Monday’s water main break has been lifted.
The was in effect for Nanticoke, Newport Township and the Dundee section of Hanover Township.
According to the water company’s press release, acceptable tests results were obtained from samples collected during testing done on Tuesday and Wednesday. As a result, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has authorized the advisory to be lifted.
First Day of school for Greater Nanticoke Area students pushed back to Tuesday
Michael Buffer - Citizens Voice
Greater Nanticoke Area schools will now open this Tuesday for students because of Monday’s water main break.
Pennsylvania American Water announced Tuesday that repairs to fix the 18-inch water main in Nanticoke were completed. But a boil water advisory remained in effect Wednesday in Nanticoke, and that affects kitchen and cafeteria operations for Greater Nanticoke Area schools, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
Monday was supposed to be the first day of the new school year for Greater Nanticoke Area students, but the water main break prevented that. Luzerne County Community College opened its Nanticoke campus Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Grevera was still hoping schools could open Thursday. But on Wednesday night, he made the decision to start Tuesday, the day after the Labor Day holiday.
Greater Nanticoke Area’s reopening plan is a hybrid with in-person instruction and online and remote instruction. Students will be split into two groups with one group physically going to class Monday and Tuesday and the other group going Thursday and Friday.
The school district plans to completely clean and sanitize its buildings on Wednesday and over the weekend.
“I had one of the better plans,” Grevera said. “I want to get going.”
Gov. Tom Wolf closed all schools in the state March 16 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and schools finished the 2019-20 academic year providing online and remote education to all students. The state Department of Education is allowing local decisions on reopening schools for the 2020-21 school year.
“When we closed last year in March, we were kind of scrambling to some extent,” Grevera said. “This year, the fact that the kids are coming in two days in person, that’s going to help significantly.”
Around 70% of Greater Nanticoke Area students will come to school two days a week, and 20% will will have a virtual learning five days a week, Grevera said. Another 10% will learn through the district’s cyber program.
The two groups will be divided alphabetically by last name. Exceptions include allowing children in the same household with different last names to stay in the same group.
“The high school is going to be a bit tougher than the other buildings because kids have to change classes here and things like that,” Grevera said. “They have to social distance. They have to wear their mask in the hall.”
Desks are set up to be at least 6 feet apart to meet COVID-19 mitigation guidelines. Greater Nanticoke Area has been planning its hybrid approach since July 9.
“I was thinking right from the beginning that I was looking at the 6 foot rule,” Grevera said. “I figured that wasn’t going to change. ... If it was 3 or 4 feet, I could bring all the kids back, but I realized it was probably not going to be 3 or 4 feet. They were stressing 6 feet, so this is what we planned from the beginning.”
Pittston Area, Hanover Area, Wyoming Valley West, Wyoming Area and Crestwood decided in August that their schools will start the upcoming school year with completely remote or online instruction.
"The only glitch is right now we’re having a very difficult time securing Chromebooks from vendors,” Grevera said. “Every school across the country is trying to secure them.”
Greater Nanticoke Area hopes to receive around 1,200 Chromebooks by October, and then every student in the district will have one. Around 1,100 Chromebooks have already been distributed to district students.
“What we have done so far is try to focus on our economically disadvantaged kids first,” Grevera said.
Inside Greater Nanticoke Area schools, water fountains were shut down, and water coolers have been set up.
“The only exceptions to the masking rule is if the student has some kind of chronic medical issue, that is put in writing by the physician,” Grevera said. “One good thing about coming back to school is the importance of us teaching the kids that anywhere you go publicly this year, you’re going to have to comply with these rules. You can’t go into the supermarket without a mask.”
Because students will be split into two groups, the maximum number of desks in each classroom will be 14, and physical education classes will not include typical activities, Grevera said.
“It’s going to be a lot of health this year, handwashing, hygiene, health,” Grevera said.
Water main break repaired, customers advise to continue boil water in Nanticoke area
Classes cancelled at Greater Nanticoke Area, LCCC
Bernie Watkins of South Hanover Street said people take running water for granted.
Watkins was one of many people filling jugs with water at a water tanker in the Weis Market parking lot Tuesday morning.
“Having no water in your home, it’s tough,” Watkins said. “Especially flushing the toilet and taking a shower. When the water runs, no problem but you sure do miss it when it doesn’t come out of the faucet.”
For the second day in a row, classes were cancelled at Greater Nanticoke Area and Luzerne County Community College due to a water main break of an 18-inch line in Lower Broadway. The break was discovered early Monday morning.
Greater Nanticoke Area has also cancelled classes for Wednesday, according to a post on the district’s website.
Susan Turcmanovich, external affairs manager for Pennsylvania American Water, said Tuesday crews have repaired the broken water main overnight.
“At this time, we are restoring service to customers and flushing the system to eliminate discolored water. As a reminder, the boil water advisory remains in effect until further notice for customers in Nanticoke, Newport Township and the Dundee section of Hanover Township,” Turcmanovich stated in an email.
Many fire hydrants in the area were opened to flush the water lines.
Water tankers will remain in the Weis Market parking lot, Nanticoke City Fire Department Headquarters and Honey Pot Fire Department, Opplinger Towers, Nanticoke Towers, Park Towers and Birchwood Nursing Home.
Water main break fixed in Nanticoke
Staff Report – Citizens Voice
A crew from Pennsylvania American Water asembles near the area of a water main break in Nanticoke Monday morninf forcing many people fill gallon jugs with water from a water buffalo on Market Street and other locations in Nanticoke Monday morning due to a 18-inch water main break in olwer Broadway that forced Greater Nanticoke Area School District to cancel its first day of school on Monday. Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ron Grevera, who stood outside the high school early Monday morning with principal Valerie Bartle wearing masks, said a number of preparations were put in place to keep students and staff safe as the district was about to launch hybrid classes The water main break led Luzerne County Community College to close as well. Mark Moran cv090120wathermainbreakp2
Repairs to fix an 18-inch water main in Nanticoke were completed overnight, officials from Pennsylvania American Water announced.
The company is restoring service and flushing the system to eliminate discolored water.
The boil water advisory remains in effect until further notice for about 5,000 customers in Nanticoke, Newport Twp. and the Dundee section of Hanover Twp.
Pennsylvania American Water has water tankers available to residents impacted by the break.
• Oplinger Towers
• Nanticoke Towers
• Park Towers
• Birchwood Nursing Home
• Nanticoke Fire Department headquarters
• Honey Pot Fire Department
• Weis Market in Nanticoke
Classes at Greater Nanticoke Area were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday because of the break. The school is planning to open Thursday.
Luzerne County Community College remained closed Tuesday because of the water main break.
Water main break in Nanticoke affects first day of classes
Denise Allabaugh – Citizens Voice
NANTICOKE — An 18-inch water main break forced Greater Nanticoke Area School District to cancel its first day of school on Monday.
Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ron Grevera, who stood outside the high school early Monday morning with principal Valerie Bartle wearing masks, said a number of preparations were put in place to keep students and staff safe as the district was about to launch hybrid classes.
Grevera said he was disappointed when he received the phone call at 5 a.m. about the water main break.
“We were very disappointed that they couldn’t come back today. It was a very unfortunate situation,” he said. “Because water was cut off to the school, we can’t have school with no water.”
Pennsylvania American Water officials said customers in Nanticoke, Newport Twp., the Hanover section of Nanticoke and the Dundee section of Hanover Twp. experienced low water pressure or no water as a result of the 18-inch water main break on Broadway Street.
Just after 9:30 p.m. Monday, Pennsylvania American Water spokeswoman Susan Turcmanovich said workers would be replacing the broken 18-inch pipe overnight.
“We anticipate completing those repairs overnight and restoring service to customers by morning. The boil water advisory remains in effect for all customers and water tankers will be available,” she said.
The water main break led Luzerne County Community College to close as well.
Students in Greater Nanticoke Area School District have not been to school in person since mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down schools.
Greater Nanticoke Area was going to be the second school district in Luzerne County to hold its first day of school Monday with some students returning in person until the water main break changed those plans.
Hybrid classes started at Dallas School District on Wednesday. Hanover Area School District started its first day of school on Monday online.
Grevera said three high school students showed up on Monday and he and Bartle told them that the school was closed as a result of the water main break.
“We were one of the districts going back and we were ready to go,” Grevera said.
Later Monday, Grevera said he heard school might not start until Thursday with group B returning but he was waiting for confirmation.
Pennsylvania American Water officials said a boil water advisory was issued for customers in Nanticoke, Newport Twp. and the Dundee section of Hanover Twp. due to low water levels in a storage tank caused by the broken 18-inch water main.
According to Pennsylvania American Water, a loss of positive water pressure is a signal of conditions that could allow contamination to enter the distribution system. As a result, there is an increased chance that the water could contain disease-causing organisms.
Pennsylvania American Water officials advised customers in Nanticoke, Newport Twp. and the Dundee section of Hanover Twp. should not drink the water without boiling it first.
Boiled or bottled water also should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth and preparing food until further notice, they said.
Turcmanovich recommended everyone follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for hand hygiene and social distancing when using the water filling stations.
Pennsylvania American Water has water tankers available to residents impacted by the break.
• Oplinger Towers
• Nanticoke Towers
• Park Towers
• Birchwood Nursing Home
• Nanticoke Fire Department headquarters
• Honey Pot Fire Department
• Weis Market in Nanticoke
Fundraiser provides free school supplies for families, helps local church
NANTICOKE, LUZERNE CO. (WOLF) —
Families from all over the tri-state area stopped by the former K.M. Smith Elementary School in Nanticoke today to grab some free school supplies all while helping out a Wilkes-Barre church at the same time.
A fundraiser also attempted to help fix the roof of the Moving River Ministries The pastor tells FOX56 he’s been meaning to replace the roof since the spring from storm damage.
“Our church was in need of a roof. The windstorm that came through our area the day after Easter, did tremendous damage to the roof of our church. We were in the process of doing a fundraiser for our roof and this, the proceeds are going towards that," said Pastor Adam McGahee.
Pastor McGahee says he needs $27,000 to replace it.
“There’s not a contractor around that will actually do a repair on a slate roof so they’re recommending that it’s replaced.," said Pastor Adam.
Some of that was raised today during a fundraiser at the former K.M. Smith Elementary School – which closed its doors two years ago after relocating.
Parents from northeastern Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey showed up to score everything from desks and chairs to shelves and books
“We are just so thankful that this stuff was not just discarded, and that someone did step in you know and make these things available.”
Carmen Tinson of Wilkes-Barre told us about her daughter, who’s trying to start a new daycare center greatly appreciated the supplies that she could not afford.
“Any donation helps, especially during a time of a pandemic like this where people have to stay home with their children. They have to set it up like a school environment," said Tinson.
“She got tables, chairs, baby tables, easles, chalkboards, posters, like I think it set the daycare up. Basically everything that was needed is there. It’s just a miracle, of God, it definitely was a blessing, today.”
Still, a new roof has yet to be replaced for those who worship at Moving River Ministries.
“Stay tuned, because we live up to our name. we are an organization that is very community oriented and we like doing things that are going to help other people," said Pastor Adam.
There’s no word on how much money was raised to help the roof repair project from today's fundraiser.
To learn more on how you can help Moving River Ministries https://www.movingriverministries.com/
Nanticoke Area, LCCC cancel classes due to water main break
Denise Allabaugh - Citizens Voice
An 18-inch water main has forced Greater Nanticoke Area School District to cancel its first day of school on Monday.
Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ron Grevera, who stood outside the high school early Monday morning with principal Valerie Bartle wearing masks, said a number of preparations were put in place to keep students and staff safe as the district was about to launch hybrid classes
Grevera said he was disappointed when he received the phone call at 5 a.m about the water main break and was notified that Pennsylvania American Water officials were trying to locate the break at that time.
"We were very disappointed that they couldn't come back today. It was a very unfortunate situation," he said. "Because water was cut off to the school, we can't have school with no water."
Pennsylvania American Water officials said customers in Nanticoke, Newport Twp., and the Dundee section of Hanover Twp. may experience low water pressure or no water as a result of the 18-inch water main break. A boil water advisory was issued.
The water main break led Luzerne County Community College to close as well.
Students in Greater Nanticoke Area School District have not been to school in person since mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down schools.
Greater Nanticoke Area was going to be the second school district in Luzerne County to hold its first day of school Monday with some students returning in person until the water main break changed those plans.
Hybrid classes started at Dallas School District on Wednesday. Hanover Area School District started its first day of school on Monday online.
Grevera said three high school students showed up on Monday and he and Bartle told them that the school was closed as a result of the water main break.
"We were one of the districts going back and we were ready to go," Grevera said. "Maybe we'll be able to come back tomorrow. We'll see what happens."
Greater Nanticoke Area ready for first day
Temperature scanners, distance markers, sanitizer all at the ready
Floor markings of “footprints” six feet apart, hi-tech temperature scanners before heading to homeroom, pedal-powered sanitizer stations, drinking fountains wrapped in green plastic, desks converted to individual dining tables — Greater Nanticoke Area students will face a very different type of school Monday.
Even the first lessons will be shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first day of school we’ll be teaching hygiene,” Superintendent Ron Grevera said during a tour of the schools to show off numerous preparations to keep students and staff safe as the district launches its hybrid system Monday, with half the students in person and half learning live online. “Washing hands, maintaining distance, even the proper way to remove a mask.”
That would be by grabbing the loops on the side, not the mask itself, he demonstrated with his own district-branded face mask with a logo surrounded by the words “Trojan Strong.”
Floors at the entrances have markings — images of footprints in the high school — six feet apart, in lines the students will form before staring into high-tech scanners that check body temperature and give a verbal green light by announcing “temperature normal.”
Desks in all the rooms are spread six feet apart. The high school cafeteria tables are marked with tape to remind students no more than two to a table. In the elementary grades, spare desks removed from the classrooms are set up as individual tables in the gyms for meals.
Offices and the cafeteria have Plexiglas screens between staff and visitors. the wrapped water fountains have been replaced with water coolers in the hallways. And Grevera’s tour included one of two stock rooms crammed with boxes of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and extra face masks.
Greater Nanticoke Area will be the second Luzerne County School District to hold a first day of school with at least some students in the classrooms. Dallas launched in hybrid mode Wednesday. Hanover Area will also have the first day of school Monday, but dropped earlier plans to use a hybrid system and will being with all students learning remotely.
The Greater Nanticoke Area hybrid system splits students into group A and Group B, with Group A in school Monday and Tuesday while group B learns live at home online. The groups switch Thursday and Friday, with all students learning at home Wednesday.
Like many districts across the county and the country, Greater Nanticoke is opening without enough Chromebook computers thanks to the extraordinary high demand caused by the pandemic. He said about 1,300 more are needed before the district has one for every student, and he doesn’t expect them to come in until about mid October.
Still, Grevera is confident all the steps that could be taken have been taken.
“If we can’t do this here,” he said at the end of the tour, “I don’t think you can do school anywhere.”
Dog found in Nanticoke, owner wanted for questioning in wife’s homicide in Larksville
A chocolate Labrador Retriever, whose owner is being sought for questioning in his wife’s homicide in Larksville, was found in Honey Pot, Nanticoke, Monday night.
State police confirmed the dog named Yukon was located.
A Facebook post shows a chocolate Lab eating food from a bowl with the comment, “Anyone missing this dog? Was found in honey pot.”
It didn’t take long for the dog to be identified as Yukon as state police earlier Monday released pictures of the chocolate Lab.
State police are seeking the dog’s owner, Richard Walski, 46, who is wanted for questioning after his wife, Patricia Walski, was found dead in a garbage bag inside their residence at 195 Schrader St., Larksville, on Aug. 13.
An autopsy revealed Patricia Walski died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to search warrant affidavits.
Richard Walski’s Chevrolet Colorado was found in a wooded area near Honey Pot along the Susquehanna River hours after the body was found.
Search warrants filed in the investigation say Richard Walski allegedly sent a text message to a neighbor Aug. 2, indicating he was okay and would be fishing at a campground for several days.
State police noted Richard Walski is an avid fisherman known to frequent locations along the Susquehanna river from Wilkes-Barre to Towanda in Bradford county.
Richard Walski is also known to visit fishing areas in New York, specifically the Finger Lakes area, Oswego, Hampton Harbor and Watertown areas, and the Genesee River in Rochester, N.Y., state police said.
Anyone with information about Richard Walski or who may have been in his company since July 31 is asked to call state police at Wyoming at 570-697-2000.
Nanticoke seeks developer for vacant property that stretches a city block
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
City leaders are trying to find a developer to transform a long-time eyesore building that stretches a city block.
The former Duplan Silk Mill on Washington Street — most recently a bowling alley and skating rink — is prime real estate that the General Municipal Authority of Nanticoke acquired several months ago for just $1,850 at a tax sale auction, city officials say.
Whether someone wants to — or can — refurbish the property or tear it down and build something brand new, there is significant potential, said city Manager Donna Wall.
“It’s a great lot. It’s a whole city block,” Wall said of the property, which sits on 1.64 acres.
Wall said the city has long gotten complaints that the building has sat idle in a deteriorating fashion. However, it was privately owned, she said.
The municipal authority, a partner arm of city government, bought it at a free-and-clear tax sale auction in March for $1,850.
The building, constructed around 1910, was a silk mill for many years and then was used by the McGregor Sportswear Co. Later, it was transformed into LS Bowl-a-Rama and LS Skate-a-Rama. The skating portion of the building was ravaged by fire in October 1991 and has been an eyesore ever since. The bowling alley closed in 2007.
The municipal authority is seeking Requests for Qualifications from a developer interested in buying and transforming the property.
“They are trying to choose people who are reputable,” Wall said.
Submissions are being accepted until Oct. 7.
“The property sat vacant for many years. It’s dilapidated. It’s an eyesore. It’s a negative for the City of Nanticoke right now,” said Sara Hailstone, the municipal authority’s consultant. “The municipal authority got the property in a tax sale with the intent to turn it around and to make it a vibrant property. This shows the city is trying to do something. The City of Nanticoke is open for business.”
The Nanticoke area near the property is rapidly growing, Hailstone said, noting that several large warehouses of national companies were built nearby and more development is planned. Additionally, there’s easy access to the brand new South Valley Parkway nearby, she said. Plus, the property, which was once eyed as a student housing complex by another developer, is only blocks away from Luzerne County Community College, Hailstone said.
“The timing is amazing with all the development that is happening,” Hailstone said. “It’s a great location because of all the new jobs and the warehouses and the college and the new expressway. It’s a great opportunity.”
Nanticoke Area sticks with hybrid plan for school reopening
Erick Mark – Citizens voice
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District still plans for a hybrid learning approach when schools reopen, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said at Thursday’s meeting of the district school board.
Students will go to school twice and learn remotely three days per week under the plan announced last month.
One group will go to school Monday and Tuesday. The other group will attend school Thursday and Friday.
On the days they are not physically present at school, students will do remote and online school work. All students will learn remotely on Wednesdays, when school buildings will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Grevera gave a presentation on the district’s reopening plans at the meeting.
He emphasized the pandemic-related health and safety precautions that will be in place, such as mandatory mask-wearing and temperature checks.
After the meeting, Grevera said the district will closely monitor statistics regarding COVID-19 infection rates in the ZIP codes that are included in the district.
If virus cases spike, the district is prepared to switch to remote-only instruction, Grevera said.
Several districts in the region have already announced that students will attend class remotely when school starts later this month or in early September.
Grevera said the district’s decision on whether to stick to the hybrid plan or switch to all-remote learning will be “driven by science and data.”
Greater Nanticoke Area sticking with hybrid plan, for now
Three Luzerne County School Districts may have announced a change from hybrid lessons to remote-only learning in the last two days, but Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ron Grevera said at Thursday’s monthly school board meeting that, as of now, his district is sticking to the hybrid model previously announced.
On Tuesday and Wednesday Wyoming Valley West, Wyoming Area and Crestwood school districts all announced they were scrapping previous plans to open school with a hybrid model that breaks students into two groups, half of them in school on any given day and half learning remotely at home. The three said they will spend the first part of the new school year in remote-only mode.
But in Greater Nanticoke’s first in-person board meeting in months — with board members spread apart across the stage and the audience restricted to seats several aisles apart, everyone wearing masks — Grevera opened with a short slide show presentation repeating the plan previously approved: One group of students in the school Monday and Tuesday, the other in Wednesday and Thursday, those not in school learning at the same time online, and Wednesday lessons being all virtual so schools can be deep cleaned and teachers can upload lesson plans.
“I’m confident we have a very successful mitigation plan to keep students and faculty safe,” Grevera said after the meeting, though he added that the district looks at COVID-19 infection rates daily and will switch to remote-only learning if local rates rise.
The state recently set new guidance for when schools should consider which of three education options they chose: full in person, hybrid or remote only. Based on number of new infections over seven days and the percentage of tests coming back positive, county’s are deemed “low,’ “moderate,” or “substantial” in risk. Districts in counties deemed “low” should use full traditional or hybrid learning, those in “moderate” counties should consider hybrid or remote, while those in “substantial” counties should consider going to full remote.
Grevera said he will switch to full-remote for the start of school if Luzerne County gets close to “substantial,” but that he wouldn’t wait until the ranking actually changed. He cited the positivity thresholds as an example. Under the state system, a county is “Low” if less than 5% of tests are positive, and moderate if the range is 5% to less than 10%. Luzerne County is currently at 5.4%.
“I wouldn’t wait until we got to 10%,” Grevera said. “If it goes to 6.5% or 7%, I may make the change to remote.”
During the meeting the board approved several pandemic-related actions, including buying four Air Oasis Air Purifiers at $6,783, hiring Ameristar Facility Solutions at $11,798 for staff training and consulting on cleaning procedures, and buying 700 Chromebook computers from GDC I.T. solutions at a cost of $147,434 for student use.
At the end of his presentation, Grevera predicted students and staff will be wearing masks and social distancing “all year, whether we like it or not.” After the meeting, as if to visually emphasize the new normal, a masked worker walked up and down the auditorium aisles, one of the district’s new electrostatic sprayers strapped to his back, applying a fast acting-disinfectant onto the seats and arm rests.
Then he headed onto the stage to spray tables and chairs used by the board.
Former Navy WAVE Doris Merrill, 96, recalls celebrating war's end
Doris Merrill and her husband were on leave from their World War II military service when it was announced on Aug. 14, 1945 that Japan surrendered and the war was over.
They were thrilled — for the country and for their marriage. Merrill’s husband, Paul, who fought in Guadacanal and Bougainville, was slated to return to combat in Japan with the Marines.
“We were so happy the war was over. That meant they weren’t going to send him over to the Pacific,” Merrill, 96, recalled recently from her Hanover Twp. home just outside Nanticoke. “Most of the people on the streets dancing were wives because they knew their husbands would be coming home. It was so thrilling. Look, I have the goosebumps now.”
Merrill and her husband were visiting his parents in Maine at the time the war’s end was announced. Friday marks 45 years since that news broke in the United States.
“Could you believe it?” Merrill said.
Merrill served in the Navy WAVES, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, a reserve unit for women created during the war.
She worked in Naval intelligence and had top security clearances. She was stationed in Cape May, New Jersey, and was privy to many secrets she said she’s never divulged even to this day. She never even told her Marine husband, she said.
Merrill said she was the only woman inside the unit.
“I was the only WAVE in there with all the old Navy, Army, Marines, everything. I learned so much from those men. I loved it. I learned. Every day was different. Every day I learned so much. As long as I was learning, I was so happy,” Merrill recalled.
Merrill served from April 1944 to February 1946. She and her husband then returned home to the Wyoming Valley.
She enjoyed a lengthy career as a teacher prior to retirement. Her husband died in 1982.
Prior to joining the service, Merrill worked at the Luzerne County Courthouse as a stenographer.
“I wanted to go to college, but back in those days only boys could go to college. Women were expected to stay home and cook and clean,” Merrill said.
Then one day a Navy recruiter visited the courthouse with the American Red Cross, for which Merrill was a volunteer.
The recruiter pitched the Navy WAVES to Merrill with an attractive offer: free college after her service. She jumped at the chance.
After the war, Merrill attended Wilkes College and later obtained her master’s degree from the school. During her career, she taught at Nanticoke Area schools, Penn State University and Wilkes.
Merrill said she is proud of her service to her country but it came easy to her because of her upbringing in Nanticoke by her patriotic parents.
“They were the best Americans,” Merrill recalled. “I had to learn the Pledge of Allegiance when I was 3 and stand in front of them and salute. I remember I had the wrong hand up. My father said, ‘It’s OK, as long as you love your country, you’re in.’ They were so proud to be Americans and they taught us that.”
Nanticoke Area football returns to voluntary workouts
Steve Bennett – Citizens Voice
After 15 days of quarantine, Nanticoke Area returned to the football field Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, the school district shut down football operations after several players in the program were exposed to individuals who tested positive for the coronavirus.
While none of the players tested positive for COVID-19, head coach Ron Bruza said all necessary safety protocols are in place for a safe return after the quarantine.
“The excitement was there, it was nice to see the kids all back again,” Bruza said. “They were all in good spirits. I can’t stress enough that nobody in our program tested positive.”
The football program was the only Nanticoke team to shut down voluntary workouts.
Wyoming Valley West halted all voluntary offseason workouts last week pending a board meeting tonight, and Hanover Area halted all voluntary workouts until Aug. 24 when it was determined someone within the athletic program may have tested positive for COVID-19.
The halt in voluntary workouts was due in part to Gov. Tom Wolf announcing last week he recommended that all sports Pre-K through 12th grade shut down until at least Jan. 1.
“We are looking forward to the challenges ahead,” Bruza said. “Whatever schedule the Wyoming Valley Conference presents us with with are willing to play. If it gets our kids out on the field and it is done with safety of our student-athletes in mind, that is what we have to consider first. We can’t just worry about our athletes, but we have to take into consideration our entire student body and community as well.”
The Wyoming Valley Conference athletic directors are reportedly scheduled to meet Thursday to finalize a football schedule that will have eight games, and to figure out a schedule for other fall sports teams.
The District 2 athletic committee was reportedly scheduled to have a meeting Monday, but it was postponed. There is no official date as to when the District 2 meeting will be held. The PIAA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet Aug. 21, three days before the official day of practice for the fall sports season Aug. 24.
Rockin’ the County transforms Nanticoke ever so briefly into Woodstock
What’s the difference between Woodstock and Nanticoke?
Well, a great deal, but the difference was slightly smaller on Friday night, thanks to the ongoing Rockin’ the County concert series.
The summer concert series made its way to the hilly city on Friday night, this time fronted by The Husty Bros., featuring Ellie Rose predominantly on vocals.
In an effort to fill the void of live entertainment within Luzerne County due to COVID-19, county officials came up with a solution to have bands perform each week through neighborhoods of five municipalities in Luzerne County on five consecutive Fridays.
Times Leader Media Group partnered with the government of Luzerne County and Visit Luzerne County on the series.
The band played songs that you would’ve been able to hear, had you been in Bethel, N.Y., on one fateful weekend in August 1969.
While on the back of the flatbed truck that was carried through the town, they played rocking versions of “Proud Mary” (but, you know, CCR’s version), and Rose was a dead ringer for Janis Joplin as the band played the singer’s iconic tracks “Piece of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee.”
The band was serious about the whole Woodstock thing, too.
“Play some Neil Young!” shouted one fan who was part of a crowd gathered outside Larry’s Pizzeria.
“Neil Young wasn’t at Woodstock!” shouted back A.J. Jump, the band’s drummer.
Plenty of people gathered to see the band as they passed through the streets of Nanticoke. One such couple was Mark and Linda Scott, of Alden, who brought lawn chairs so they could view the drive-by concert in style.
The Scotts said they wanted to come out in support of the county’s efforts to continue the tradition of last year’s wildly popular Rockin’ the River concert series, even in the time of a pandemic.
“We were at the one at the river… the county threw a great show,” Mark said. “Out of respect, we wanted to see what this one was all about.”
“We appreciate that they did something for the community,” Linda added.
Over at Hooligans Bar and Grill, located on East Washington Street, the bar’s owners, Mark Neylon Sr. and Mark Neylon Jr., were outside to watch the show, joined by Katelyn Huber. The trio said they loved it.
“I think it’s a great idea,” the elder Neylon exclaimed, before adding, “I’d like to see more of that.”
“I think it’s really cool,” Huber added.
But not all of the residents of Nanticoke were expecting the concert, despite its advance advertisement.
“What the hell are they doing?” one woman asked as she got out of her car, stopping the Times Leader reporter who was doing his best to run after the band on foot on the parade’s fairly long and notably hilly route.
After hearing the concept of Rockin’ the County explained, the woman laughed.
“Well, I think it’s very nice,” she agreed.
And they say music can’t bring us together.
Nanticoke Area shuts down all voluntary workouts due to COVID-19 contact
Players were in contact with person with positive COVID-19 test
The Nanticoke Area School District shut down voluntary workouts in all sports Tuesday after five football players were in contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19.
The school district originally suspended football workouts because three players have jobs where they were in contact with the person. But after consideration, it decided all sports will be shut down.
No Nanticoke Area players in any sport are known to have COVID-19 symptoms.
“We weren’t forced to shut down. We’re doing it voluntarily,” Nanticoke Area athletic director Ken Bartuska said. “Nobody tested positive in our school that we know of. We’re just trying to exercise an abundance of caution to use that term.”
Football will resume Aug. 1o, which is the week of heat acclimation for the sport. All other sports will return Aug. 17, which is the first official day of practice under PIAA guidelines.
Nanticoke Area football coach Ron Bruza said the team held a workout on Thursday. Three of the players work at a restaurant over the weekend where a co-worker was experience COVID-19 symptoms. The co-worker’s test came back positive for COVID-19.
Two other players then said they were in direct contact with someone who tested positive.
“(The players) have no symptoms, no positive tests, no nothing,” Bruza said. “It was more or less through contact tracing that we found it.”
None of the players were at the football facilities or on the school campus prior to being in contact with the people with the positive tests.
“Our last workout was Thursday. This all surfaced Friday. That positive test came back (Monday),” Bruza said. “Since we were notified, there hasn’t been any interaction.”
Every school in the state had to submit a health and safety plan for resuming sports to be approved by school administration. Bruza said he was extremely pleased how his players were adhering to the plan, which includes social distancing and wearing of masks.
Nanticoke Area is the first Wyoming Valley Conference school known to suspend voluntary workouts. Several Lackawanna Leagues schools — Abington Heights, Old Forge, Scranton, Valley View and West Scranton — shut down their fall sports workouts during the summer, while Mid Valley suspended its football workouts.
All but Abington Heights and Valley View have returned to workouts.
Nanticoke Area football team stops voluntary workouts
Steve Bennett – Citizens Voice
The Nanticoke Area football team stopped voluntary workouts as of Tuesday afternoon after members of the team were exposed to individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Head coach Ron Bruza was adamant that none of the players tested positive for the virus, just that they were exposed to people who tested positive. There are no confirmed cases within the football program.
"I have already informed our administration and we will be putting something on our football team's Facebook page. There were kids on the team that were directly exposed to individuals who tested positive."
Bruza did not indicate how long football operations will be stopped, but he did say it will be a minimum of a 14-day quarantine with the potential to be extended beyond 14 days depending on the situation.
"We are suspending operations until further notice and we will continue to monitor the situation," Bruza said. "Our primary concern is for our student-athletes, the coaches, the administration as well as our community. We are taking this situation seriously and we will not put our student-athletes in any type of jeopardy."
PIAA Board of Directors are scheduled to meet via Zoom to discuss protocols and procedures in regards to the fall sports season Wednesday.
Football teams can begin practicing on Aug. 10 for heat acclimatization week, with the official practice start day for all fall sports teams set to start Aug. 17. The high school football season is scheduled to start the weekend of Aug. 28-29.
"Our student-athletes will only resume workouts once it is determined to be safe," Bruza said.
Nanticoke Area is the first known Wyoming Valley Conference football program to be forced to cease voluntary workouts. Teams were able to begin voluntary workouts after a return to play plan was adopted and approved by each individual school district's school board and then posted to the school's website.
Massage facility proposed in Arena Hub Plaza
Denise Allabaugh – Citizens Voice
Two Nanticoke residents have proposed to open a massage facility in half of a building in the Arena Hub Plaza where the retailer Avenue closed last year.
John Beggs said he and co-owner Scott Brennan would be the franchisees in the chain called Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa.
It would provide luxury services in Northeast Pennsylvania including massages, facials and hair removal, Beggs said.
The national chain of franchised massage spas offer various massages including Swedish massages, hot stone massages, couples massages, foot massages and facials.
The chain launched in 2004 and has more than 400 locations throughout the country but Beggs said the closest one is Allentown.
People can become members of the program to get massages and other services on a regular basis, he said.
Members of the Wilkes-Barre Twp. Planning Commission will meet 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10 to discuss the application. They will review it and they provide a recommendation to Wilkes-Barre Twp. Council members who would vote on it at a later date, said Wilkes-Barre Twp. Zoning Officer Tom Zedolik.
Zedolik said he received drawings for the massage facility on Tuesday. It has not yet been determined what will occupy the other half of the space in the former Avenue space, he said.
In other nearby developments, construction of a new Dollar Tree behind Mission BBQ also is moving forward.
Landmark furniture store closing for good
Denise Allabaugh – Citizens Voice
Noble Furniture is closing its doors after 73 years in business.
It’s the last furniture store in the Hanover Twp. and Nanticoke areas and one of the last independently owned furniture stores in Luzerne County.
The furniture store at 825 E. Main St. is temporarily closed but it will reopen 10 a.m. Wednesday for a going out of business sale, said Scott Elinsky, who owns the store with his parents Joe and Jeanne Elinsky.
He said sales have been declining for years but the coronavirus shutdown in March was the last straw.
Business started to drop during the 2008 recession and Noble Furniture, which sells American-made furniture, has struggled to compete with big box stores, he said.
“It’s just so tough for the smaller guy these days,” Elinsky said.
Noble Furniture reopened June 1 after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered non-essential businesses shut down in March to slow the spread of COVID-19 and that included furniture stores.
The first couple weeks after reopening were busy with customers “eager to get out” but then sales hit a lull again, Elinksy said. Furniture will be marked down starting at 30%, he said.
Noble Furniture features a showroom with dining sets, sofas, recliners, rockers, bedroom sets, mattresses, television sets and solid wood furniture.
The business was located on East Main Street in Hanover Twp. since 1974 but it was formerly on Noble Street in Nanticoke. Elinsky’s late grandparents, Joseph and Esther Elinsky, started the business.
It was the last of a slew of furniture stores to close in the area. About 50 years ago, eight furniture stores were located in Nanticoke but Bartuska’s Furniture was the last one in the city and that closed in 2012 after 78 years in business.
Elinsky said customers throughout the area formerly purchased higher quality cherry, oak and maple furniture to grace their homes In recent years, he said people have become more interested in buying lower priced furniture and that took a toll on business.
“People want to buy cheaper stuff and they’re not as concerned about quality,” he said. “We’ve been seeing that trend for the last 15 to 18 years.”
Greater Nanticoke Area plan: Two days a week in school, three at home
NANTICOKE — At the start of a virtual School Board meeting on Thursday, Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ron Grevera outlined a plan for students to return to school separated into two groups.
Group A would be in schools Monday and Tuesday while group B would be there Thursday and Friday. No students would be there Wednesday, so the schools could be thoroughly cleaned, which would also be done on the weekend.
The board approved a motion to declare a state of emergency in accordance with the state School Code. Once approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the declaration will make the re-opening plan possible. The declaration notes the emergency exists for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, “but in no event for any period exceeding four years.”
The move allows the Grevera to to develop a plan ensuring the state-required 180 days of education, including 900 hours for elementary students and 990 for high school students. He may employ “any combination of in-person, virtual and distance learning as the superintendent seems appropriate to address the health and safety of students, faculty and community, and the learning needs of students.”
Grevera said the plan allows students to maintain social distance of at least six feet while in the classroom, which will mean they won’t have to wear masks during lessons. They will have to wear masks on the school bus, coming into school, and walking through hallways. They can remove masks in the cafeteria to eat.
Temperatures will be taken upon entering a building, and the board approved the purchase of eight temperature and face recognition scanners from 4 The Office at a cost of $15,160.
Grevera said that when students are not in school they will be expected to do 5-1/2 hours of school work each day.
In grades Kindergarten through 5, students will be in the same room with the same teacher all day. In grades 6 through 8, teachers will travel to the classrooms while students remain in the same room. In high school, students will change rooms but must wear masks in the halls.
The plan works with little modification whether the county is in the green phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s restriction system or in the yellow phase. If the disease infection rate picks up and the county is moved back to the more restrictive yellow phase, the only big change would be to have students eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms. Being in the red phase would require the closing of schools completely.
“We have to work together as a community to do the best we can,” Grevera said, urging parents to keep children at home if they develop symptoms, and to inform the district if a child is diagnoses with COVID-19.
One of the reasons to limit travel between halls, he added, is to make it easier to do “contact tracing” if someone tests positive, thus potentially limiting the disruption by figuring out who may also have been exposed. The state is expected to release more guidance on contact tracing Friday.
“This is going to be with us all year,” Grevera predicted, adding that the district will incorporate lessons on social distancing, masks and other steps required to avoid the spread of the disease.
The board also approved a plan for the start of athletics, similar to plans adopted by other area districts by requiring masks when not working out, training in small groups and frequent sanitizing of equipment, among other things. The plan will be posted on the district website, and sports schedules are being posted at gnaathletics.com.
Greater Nanticoke Area planning for students to physically go to school two days a week
Michael Buffer – Citizens Voice
Students head into the Greater Nanticoke Area Elementary Center in 2016. The district is planning for students to physically go to school two days a week due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District is planning for students to go back to school in two groups.
One group will go to school Monday and Tuesday. The other group will go Thursday and Friday.
Superintendent Ronald Grevera reviewed the school reopening plan during Thursday’s school board meeting, which was not open to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic and was shown on YouTube.
The school district plans to clean and sanitize school facilities on Wednesdays and over weekends, Grevera said. Students are expected to do remote and online school work for 5.5 hours a day when not physically in school, Grevera said.
Gov. Tom Wolf closed all schools in the state March 16 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and schools finished the academic year providing online and remote education. On June 3, the state Department of Education announced elementary and secondary schools in the state’s yellow and green reopening phases could resume in-person instruction and activities beginning July 1 under a phased reopening approach.
Schools will close if the state determines Luzerne County should go back to the red phase to stop the spread of COVID-19, and all instruction will be remote and online in the red phase, Grevera said. If Luzerne County goes back to yellow, students will not be allowed to eat in cafeterias and will eat in classrooms, Grevera said.
Students will be able to eat in cafeterias in groups if the county remains in the green phase and will wear masks in line for food, Grevera said. Students will be required to wear masks when unable to keep distances from others of at least 6 feet.
The district wants to keep students in groups to make contact tracing easier if a student gets COVID-19, Grevera said. The state is expected to release more guidance on contact tracing today.
“We have to work together as a community to do the best we can, and that includes parents,” Grevera said. “If your child is having symptoms, you’re going to have to keep them home.”
The school board approved a resolution declaring the COVID-19 pandemic an emergency and giving the superintendent the authority to develop a health and safety plan to ensure a minimum of 180 days of instruction during the school year, along with a minimum of 900 hours of instruction at the elementary level and 990 hours of instruction at the secondary level.
The board also approved a $15,160 purchase of eight temperature and face recognition scanners that will allow temperatures to be taken at a building entrance. The district is using federal CARES Act funding for the purchase.
Student donates shields to Nanticoke police officers...Read More.
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LBC Distillery co-owner reflects on hand sanitizer project
In the few years LBC Distillery has operated, co-owner Jonathan Lang has never seen a crowd like the one his business attracted months ago.
Store shelves were becoming void of cleaning supplies as the coronavirus pandemic reached Luzerne County in March. To help meet the demand of the public, an exemption allowed distilled spirits permittees like Lang to produce hand sanitizer with their supplies.
So, Lang quickly switched gears and prepared to become a resource for hand sanitizer. Residents of Nanticoke and the surrounding area were ready to get their hands on LBC’s newest product.
The first day sanitizer was available for sale, Lang remembers, a line of customers stretched down the alley leading to the business he runs with his wife, Maryann. A traffic backup even blocked an intersection.
Lang is back to his true passion, distilling spirits, now that supplies are rebounding and his stock has run out. But LBC Distillery’s temporary side project is one he’s likely to never forget.
“The reaction was overwhelming,” Lang said over the phone this past week. “I had never a demand like that, for a thing we made just being so immediate. … The support and the demand of the community for it was impressive. We worked hard that day.
“It was probably about 2½ hours of taking care of the lines.”
Opening day of LBC’s sanitizer business was just part of the challenge.
Other distilleries quickly jumped on the opportunity to help. Combined with some manufacturers scaling back due to the pandemic, it became difficult to make additional batches.
Lang had to opt for tiny liquor bottles once he could no longer find sanitizer bottles for the product. Ingredients like glycerin and hydrogen peroxide became more expensive, and Lang even found yeast come in a short supply during the health crisis.
Nevertheless, LBC distributed roughly 2,000 bottles of sanitizer during a a span of six-to-eight weeks.
“It felt great to meet the needs of the community with something people wanted,” Lang said. “If you’re able to contribute and you’re needed, you should.”
Just as LBC took care of people in need of sanitizer, the community paid back the favor.
Unsolicited cash donations flowed in, and customers insisted Lang keep the change on orders. The extra funds helped ease the burden of production costs and allowed Lang to discount sanitizer prices for emergency responders and local municipalities ordering from him.
“Everybody had a heart,” Lang said.
LBC is back to doing what it knows best now.
Lang said a “good supply” of vodka is back in stock. He was also planning to bottle rum again for the first time in months. New products are also on the way, including limoncello set to become available in a few weeks.
When they aren’t distilling in Nanticoke, the Langs have also been able to take their company on the road lately, too. LBC plans to appear at several off-site locations, including Pittston’s Second Friday Art Walk on Friday and a tasting event at Three Dogs Vino on Saturday in Bloomsburg.
“Being a small company, we were able to switch gears and produce our sanitizer, but we had to switch back and produce our spirits again. The spirits are our true desire to make,” Lang said.
Father sues trooper over deadly police shooting
The father of a Nanticoke man killed by police after allegedly pepper spraying officers, stealing a patrol car and kidnapping his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend filed notice of an impending lawsuit Monday.
Attorney Theron J. Solomon, of the Dyller Law Firm, said the lawsuit targeting Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Jason Rasmus will allege wrongful death as well as a Fourth Amendment violation for an illegal seizure.
The action is being brought on behalf of Nanticoke resident Sean Oliver, whose son Jordan Oliver was killed in December.
“We are eager to get answers and justice for the Oliver family,” Solomon said. “This was a devastating event that did not need to end the way it did. Jordan was in the wrong by taking the police vehicle and everyone knows that, but our investigation has revealed that there are significant discrepancies with the narrative. This is a tragic story and we will shed light on the true story and get justice for Jordan and his family.”
According to information released by police, Jordan Oliver was holding Nanticoke resident Samara Derwin — his former girlfriend and the daughter of Nanticoke police officer Michael Derwin — as a “hostage” when they confronted him in a wooded area near Warrior Run the night of Dec. 1.
The Special Emergency Response Team contacted Jordan Oliver, who put one arm around Derwin’s neck, announced he had a gun and fell to the ground, shielding his body from the troopers with Derwin’s body, according to the police account.
Police opened fire and Derwin was freed unharmed.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Sean Oliver was outspoken in his belief that police should not have used deadly force.
“I’m not making excuses up for him,” Sean Oliver told The Citizens’ Voice in December. “I’m not saying he should have gotten away with anything at all. He should have done jail time for what he did. But he didn’t deserve to die.”
An autopsy determined Jordan Oliver, 20, died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis determined state police were justified in using deadly force because they believed Derwin was in immediate danger.
Rose Tucker Center receives $14,191 grant
William O'Boyle Local – Times Leader
The Rose Tucker Active Adult Center in Nanticoke Wednesday was awarded a $14,191 grant, State Rep. Gerald Mullery announced.
“There are many wonderful activities that are provided at the Rose Tucker Center and it’s great to see them receive funding from the state so they can continue helping older residents in the Nanticoke area have active lives,” said Mullery, D-Newport Township.
Mullery said the funds are from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s 2019-20 Senior Community Center grant program, which totals $2 million statewide.
For more information on senior community centers and other services and programs offered by the department, visit www.aging.pa.gov.
Former baseball player, coach John Kashatus surprised by Corbett award
Longtime coach is 3rd recipient for contributions to local athletics.
John Kashatus is a believer.
Three years ago, the Dallas Mountaineers needed someone to believe in their baseball team when they dug themselves out of a poor start and got in position for a playoff run.
“He told our kids that we were going to win a state title,” said John’s son and Dallas manager, Ken Kashatus. “He says, ‘I won one 50 years ago in 1967; it’s 2017. There’s no reason we can’t win another one.’”
Speaking from experience as someone whose life has been spent in and around athletics, John Kashatus detected that team had the chemistry and work ethic to win it all. Dallas completed one of the most magical runs ever by a local high school team, proving Kashatus right and winning the PIAA Class 4A championship.
John Kashatus, 78, a coach, official, player, teacher and genuine lover of sports — who served as chief statistician and so much more for his son’s 2017 Dallas ballclub — was rewarded during Monday’s Citizens’ Voice Virtual Athlete of the Week Ceremony with the Neil Corbett Award.
“I was kind of stunned,” Kashatus said. “It brought one or two tears to my eyes.”
Named after former Citizens’ Voice sports editor Neil Corbett, a friend of Kashatus with whom he serves on the Wyoming Valley Athletic Association, the award celebrates people who have made significant contributions to scholastic athletics in the area.
After graduating from Newport Township High School, Kashatus played semi-professional baseball from 1961-62 with Mocanaqua and 1963-67 with Glen Lyon.
He wrapped up his semi-pro playing career with the 1967 Ashley All-Stars, who won a state title and advanced to play in Wichita, Kansas, in the National Baseball Congress Tournament. There, Ashley put up a fight and made memories of a lifetime, including losing against a Fairbanks, Alaska, team led by Bob Boone and Bill “Spaceman” Lee.
“That was really the last year of my playing days,” Kashatus recalled. “I was a player/coach on the team. I started as a player and I ended up being a coach because we did recruit some top-notch ballplayers.”
Kashatus was in overdrive that year, playing in baseball and softball leagues, as well as coaching baseball and basketball teams.
“So ’67 was a pretty busy year for me,” he said. “My wife and I got married in October after all the dust cleared.”
In addition to 36-plus years spent teaching at Nanticoke and Newport schools, as well as coaching some basketball, Kashatus’ career was highlighted by a 21-year tenure as manager of Nanticoke Area’s baseball team.
According to his Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame profile, Kashatus had a career 404-294-11 record leading high school, American Legion and Keystone State baseball teams.
One year after he led one of his greatest Trojan teams to the 1988 District 2 Class 3A championship, Kashatus set up the Triple Play Baseball Camp that served young ballplayers from 1989-98. Former players, as well as coaches from in and out of Northeast Pennsylvania, served as instructors.
“For 10 years, I thought we had one heck of a staff,” Kashatus said.
Kashatus also refereed basketball for 22 years. He had the high-profile assignment of officiating the 1991 PIAA Class 2A boys basketball semifinal in which GAR eliminated Carbondale, 51-48, thanks to a 27-point effort by Bobby Sura.
“They played that Eastern Final at the CYC in Scranton,” Kashatus recalled. “Prior to that, all the games were refereed with three guys. The Eastern Final was a two-man crew, myself and Sammy Ceccacci. The CYC was packed to the rafters.”
After his managerial run with Nanticoke Area baseball ended, Kashatus did some public address work for the Trojans. He also was an assistant coach for Luzerne County Community College under his former player, Jim Domzalski, before joining his son’s staff at Dallas.
John Kashatus not only keeps one of the cleanest and most reputable scorebooks in the Wyoming Valley Conference, his son said, but he pores over statistics, pitchers’ eligibility, who’s hot, who’s not and everything else about upcoming opponents.
“It goes beyond keeping book,” Ken Kashatus said. “He does a lot of scouting on all the opponents we see.”
John Kashatus and his wife, Sally, have two children, Ken and Karla. They also have six grandchildren, Abigail, Jack, Evan, Cole, Olivia and Ian.
They were all thrilled to see John Kashatus receive a well-deserved honor Monday.
“When I was a young man, my grandmother always told me, ‘If you want to have a successful life, hang around with good people,’” John Kashatus said. “I think I’ve been blessed with that, with good friends, with parents who shared their sons with me. I’ve been blessed by that, and obviously a family who was willing to put up with me during all that time, especially my wife.”
More local officials considering body cams for police
Rice Township patrol officer Phil Collotty wears a body camera at the start of his shift at the Rice Twp. police station Thursday, June 18, 2020. Sean McKeag / Staff Photographer
Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown isn’t the only local official looking to body-worn cameras for police officers after renewed calls for police accountability have risen on a national scale.
Nanticoke Mayor Kevin Coughlin and Pittston Mayor Mike Lombardo also have been having discussions on the possibility of acquiring the policing tool.
“I see body cams as a tool to protect our officers on a multitude of levels,” Lombardo said in an interview last week, noting that he has a brother who is a state trooper who was wounded in the line of duty, and that his sister and her husband work as deputy sheriffs in Florida.
While Brown stressed last week that the city will definitely start a body camera program after he announced on June 11 that he intends to seek grant funding, the other mayors are still considering the initiative.
Although Lombardo said he’s received no calls from Pittston residents asking that the city outfit officers with body cameras, Lombardo said he was discussing the issue a few days ago with his cousin, Councilman Mike Lombardo, whom he said has a strong background in public safety.
One or both of them, he said, will look into options and costs.
“We have to make smart decisions, and public safety is a high priority,” he said.
While he sees body cameras as a means to help hold officers accountable and improve public trust, Lombardo stressed that the cameras would also help officers to do their jobs more effectively and avoid unfounded complaints.
Lombardo said the national unrest stoked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on May 25 make this a good time “for good conversation and a time for calm conversations.”
“The minute you say, ‘It’s not going to happen here,’ you’re burying your head in the sand,” Lombardo said.
Like Lombardo, Coughlin said he’s heard no public outcry in Nanticoke for police body cameras, but he’s “in the talking stage” with police Chief Mike Roke, whom Coughlin said has been meeting with the city solicitor to discuss the issue.
“I don’t think it would be that expensive,” Coughlin said. “I would say less than $1,000 per camera.”
Nanticoke normally employs a complement of 12 officers and a chief, while Pittston has nine full-time and anywhere from five to 13 part-time officers on staff.
Policy on filing police complaints not always clear
Filing a complaint against a police officer for alleged misconduct can be an enigmatic process that in many cases, to an outside observer, might seem to result in little action.
Pennsylvania State Police offer a detailed webpage explaining how to file a complaint — in person, by mail or phone, or online — and some local departments, like Dallas Twp. police, also offer online resources for doing so. But many other local police departments do not have a readily accessible procedure for lodging a grievance against one of their own.
The City of Wilkes-Barre, for instance, does not have online instructions for filing such a complaint. Mayor George Brown said citizens are able to file complaints by going to the police headquarters and filling out a written form.
Following an internal investigation, the complaint is then forwarded to the police chief for action, he said.
“We handle internal violations of our policies and procedures,” Brown said. “If it’s a complaint that we think is criminal we forward it to the district attorney’s office. Those things are given to an outside agency, for obvious reasons.”
The City of Nanticoke likewise does not have an online procedure for filing a report. Mayor Kevin Coughlin said citizens should contact the police chief, who would then conduct an investigation and bring the findings to the mayor.
“We’d discuss it all and do an internal review,” Coughlin said.
Attorney Barry Dyller, who specializes in police misconduct cases, recommended that for criminal matters the complaints be filed with the involved department along with the state police, attorney general’s office or the district attorney’s office.
He stressed that people should always make their own copies of whatever complaints they file, and should write down the name of the person who accepted it.
“They have a tendency to disappear. So it’s important that they be kept,” said Dyller, whose Dyller Law Firm has represented some of the alleged victims of former police officers Mark Icker and Robert Collins, who were charged with using their badges to pressure women for sex.
Icker, who was a part-time officer in Ashley and Sugar Notch, has pleaded guilty to federal deprivation of rights charges as part of a plea agreement that calls for a sentence of 12 years in prison.
Collins, who was a Wilkes-Barre city officer, is still awaiting trial on rape charges.
To highlight his point about keeping copies of everything, Dyller said that he had a client who sued Collins in a separate case and kept a copy of the complaint that was filed. Then Dyller’s firm requested a copy of Collins’ personnel file from the city, he said.
“That complaint wasn’t there,” Dyller said. “That’s why I say they have a way of disappearing. I think they get filed in the garbage can, frequently.”
Even when officers are disciplined for misconduct, the complainants aren’t likely to find out. Under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law, “written criticisms” of an employee are specifically exempted from being released.
GNA finalizing graduation plans; no tax hike
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District will hold a high school graduation ceremony at 6 p.m. July 24 at its football stadium, Superintendent Ronald Grevera announced Thursday at a school board meeting.
“This will be a traditional graduation with social distancing,” Grevera said. “Students will be able to have two guests.”
The rain date will be at 6 p.m. July 27. The school board meeting was streamed online for the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luzerne County today will enter the green phase of the state’s COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan. The current state green phase guidance limits gatherings to up to 250 people.
Gov. Tom Wolf closed all schools in the state March 16 in response to the pandemic, and schools after that began providing online and remote education.
Grevera has set up a pandemic team of teachers, nurses, support staff and administrators to implement a safety plan for the reopening of district schools for the upcoming school year that starts Sept. 2 for students, board member Megan Tennesen said.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board approved a final 2020-21 budget that keeps the property tax rate at 11.9113 mills. A mill is $1 on every $1,000 in property assessment.
The budget allocates
$32.4 million in spending and estimates generating nearly $31.9 million in revenue for the upcoming budget year that starts July 1.
Last year, the school board approved an annual budget with nearly $31 million in expenditures and no increase in the property tax rate.
Greater Nanticoke Area School Board passes final budget
The Greater Nanticoke Area School Board approved a final budget with no property tax increase during Thursday’s regular meeting, held virtually via YouTube.
As he did during a May presentation before the vote on the preliminary final budget, Business Consultant Al Melone again went over a variety of expected costs and savings, from additional cleaning supplies to lower health insurance premiums, but bottom-lined it at this: The district should end this fiscal year June 30 with about $4.3 million in reserve, enough to comfortably cover a $589,000 shortfall in the no-increase budget, which projects spending of about $32.4 million and revenue of $31.8 million.
The vote in favor of the budget was unanimous.
During his monthly report Superintendent Ron Grevera announced that kindergarten registration will be held July 14 and 15, which is considerably later than usual. He said it is normally held in April, but school was closed then due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grevera also confirmed a traditional graduation ceremony will be held at the stadium July 24 at 6 p.m., with social distancing and only two guests per student. The rain date is July 27.
Luzerne County School Districts get $1.9 million for pandemic safety needs
Luzerne County’s 11 school districts are eligible for a combined $2.9 million in school safety grants intended to help with COVID-19 pandemic-related costs.
The money comes via the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act and is being funneled through the state Commission on Crime and Delinquency as COVID-19 Disaster Emergency School health and Safety grants.” All districts and many other education agencies are eligible for the grants, with a base amount of $120,00 for districts and pr0-rated share based on enrollment, or more technically, on “average daily membership.”
Eligible uses of the money include the purchase of cleaning and sanitizing products; training and professional development of staff on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases; equipment purchases; modifying existing areas to support appropriate social distancing of students and staff; providing mental health services and supports; purchasing educational technology for distance learning; and other health and safety programs, items or services necessary to address the COVID-19 disaster emergency.
The amounts available for Luzerne County’s 11 school districts are: Crestwood $229,319, Dallas $221,010, Greater Nanticoke Area $212,409, Hanover Area $202,335, Hazleton Area $539,760, Lake-Lehman $193,894, Northwest Area $161,324, Pittston Area $246,803, Wilkes-Barre Area $407,845, Wyoming Area $210,549, and Wyoming Valley West $310,878.
Four other education agencies in Luzerne County are eligible for $90,000 each: Bear Creek Community Charter School, West Side Career and Technical Center, Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center, and the Luzerne Intermediate Unit.
Local police updating policies on use of force
Following the police killing of an unarmed black man after an officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, local police departments are updating and rewriting policies to specifically prohibit use of force around a detainee’s neck.
While neck restraints, like chokeholds, have generally not been taught as an acceptable use of force in training, many policies in local police handbooks simply didn’t address the matter one way or another, police officials said.
Several local police chiefs readily admit their policies haven’t been updated since the early 1990s.
Kingston police are addressing the prohibition of neck restraints in updated policies as the department prepares to seek accreditation by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, police Chief Rich Kotchik said.
The proposed policy states: “The use of carotid restraints or ‘chokeholds’ or neck restraints are specifically and strictly prohibited for use by all Kingston Municipal Police Department personnel.”
There is an exception in the policy, which is in line with other updated policies around the nation, Kotchik said.
If an officer or another person is in fear of death or serious bodily injury and there is “no other alternative available based on the presenting circumstances,” a neck restraint is permitted in the defense of the life of the officer or another person, the chief said.
There has to be an exception because “every circumstance is different” and “no call is ever the same,” Kotchik said.
Nanticoke police chief Mike Roke said he’s been working with the city’s solicitor to update the department’s policies, which haven’t been updated since about 1993.
While neck restraints have never been an acceptable tactic to detain a suspect, current policies didn’t address it specifically, he said.
A draft of Nanticoke’s updated policy mirrors Kingston’s new policy almost word for word.
“It’s not acceptable,” Roke said. “You can’t choke people. It is something we are not trained to do at all under any circumstance.”
Officers never want to use force in detaining a suspect, but sometimes have to, Roke said.
“The best thing that could happen is if people comply. The best thing would be if they just sat in the car, but that’s not always the case,” Roke said.
Plains Twp. police Chief Dale Binker said chokeholds have never been a part of his training.
“You use the necessary force to make a lawful arrest, but that is not a tactic we’re trained in,” Binker said.
Edwardsville police Sgt. Hal Bond said sometimes it’s difficult to subdue a suspect and even stun guns don’t always work. Yet still, neck restraints are not acceptable, he said.
“You have to use enough force to overcome the resistance, but a chokehold isn’t necessary. We have other means,” Bond said
Former Wilkes-Barre police Chief William Barrett, a Wilkes-Barre councilman who recently was appointed to the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission, said he’s never seen neck restraints written into a use of force policy “anywhere.”
“It’s not part of any training. It’s not part of any use of force training or defensive tactics,” Barrett said. “It’s never been taught as part of any take-down tactic. People are taught to take individuals down for their safety and for that of the individual.”
Local police struggling to fill out their ranks
Even prior to the civil unrest due to the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, local police departments had been struggling to fill their ranks.
It’s only gotten harder, local police officials say.
In Nanticoke, for example, the department is advertising for full-time openings and has yet to get an applicant leading up to Monday’s deadline to apply.
Nanticoke police Chief Mike Roke said he and top officials in the department recently went on a “recruiting” mission around the county seeking out some part-time officers who are hoping to get a break with a full-time job.
They learned there’s few officers available to apply.
“We are putting out feelers — do any of your part-time guys want a job? Come see us,” Roke said. “You know what? Every chief up the line told me the same thing. Join the club. We have the same problem.”
After an aggressive advertising campaign, eight officers came to pick up an application packet at Nanticoke’s police station, but as of Thursday none have been returned. The application is due by 4 p.m. Monday. Those who apply will be tested and screened to possibly become part of the civil service commission hiring list.
In recent months, Nanticoke’s force lost two full-time officers after Roke was promoted to chief and Capt. Robert Lehman left to be a Luzerne County detective. It’s not immediately clear if both spots will be filled from the list of upcoming applicants, but at least one will be, city officials said.
While it’s a tough job, a small city like Nanticoke can offer a new full-time officer around $70,000 a year, full medical benefits, generous numbers of paid days off and a retirement pension, Roke said. Yet, it’s still hard to hire cops in this day in age, he said.
“Certainly, the recent events aren’t going to help. A lot of factors come into play, like the education and time that it takes to go into the police academy,” Roke said.
Those wishing to become a police officer must pay to attend the Act 120 academy themselves with no guarantee of a job afterward, Roke said.
The increased scrutiny of police officers and unwarranted negative attitude toward cops also plays a role, he said.
“It’s definitely thinned the herd of potential applicants. They aren’t pumping out the recruits like they used to. Maybe people don’t want these types of jobs,” Roke said.
The Lackawanna College Police Academy, the region’s Act 120 training school for police officers, graduated 511 people between January 2014 to December 2019, according to college spokeswoman Sharon Lynett.
“We had to pause our program due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we currently have 33 cadets enrolled. We are able to start a new class beginning June 24, 2020, and have 22 enrolled students and expect that number to increase,” Lynett said.
Several top police officials in the area say those class numbers are down from when they entered the academy.
Roke said one of the departments Nanticoke police visited on recruiting trips was Edwardsville police. Edwardsville police told them they didn’t have anyone available to apply.
“They wanted to know if we had any part timers,” Edwardsville Sgt. Hal Bond said. “All of our part-time cops are full-time cops in other towns, believe it or not, and one is a full-time firefighter.”
Bond said Edwardsville, which has no full-time positions open currently, is also struggling to fill part-time positions.
“We are getting no applications for part-time anymore. One here, one there. It’s tough,” Bond said.
Bond noted when he first applied in Edwardsville in the 1990s, there were 40 applicants. For the most recent test, there were seven applicants, he said.
Kingston police Chief Rich Kotchik said nearly 100 people took Kingston’s test when he applied in 1998. Only seven people took Kingston’s most recent test. The active civil service list is expiring soon, so Kingston will be testing soon in coming months, he said.
“The problem is right now nobody wants to be a police officer. It’s because of how the public looks at police officers. A lot of the younger generation think it’s a thankless job. There are people who still do it, but it’s not like it used to be,” Kotchik said. “If you’re looking at what’s going on, you might say, ‘Why would I want to go in that field?’ You don’t get treated well and there’s a lack of respect.”
Former Wilkes-Barre police Chief William Barrett, a Wilkes-Barre councilman who recently was recently appointed to the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission, said the vast majority of police officers are good and their reputations are being tarnished by “the actions of a very few.”
The “negative publicity” about police is sure to lead to less people wanting to do the job, he said.
“Most do their jobs and do them well. Unfortunately, someone comes along and does something blatantly wrong and it reflects on the entire profession,” Barrett said. “Maybe some people wonder why they would even want to get involved.”
Safety patrol work earns Greater Nanticoke Area student award
NANTICOKE — It may be hard to believe, but the organization behind those iconic (at least for some) brightly-colored shoulder belts with AAA Safety Patrol badges turned 100 this year.
Old timers may remember orange belts, or even white ones before that. These days they lean toward fluorescent lime (or chartreuse, maybe, depending on your tastes).
And this year when AAA Mid-Atlantic picked winners of its “Outstanding School Safety Patrol Students, only one local student received the honor, according to the organization: Kiele Maday, a fifth-grader from Greater Nanticoke Area’s Elementary Center.
The honor earns more than a plaque, which Maday received during a Zoom call with representatives from AAA Mid-Atlantic, her principal and safety patrol advisor. She also got a Visa Gift Card.
“Maday is described as determined with a great work ethic,” according to a media release. “She always exceeds expectations with each task that is asked of her and consistently places the needs of her peers and teachers in front of her own to truly embody the meaning of an outstanding safety patrol.
Maday works with the “morning helper crew,” assisting kindergarten students with morning routines. She splits her school commute with a bus ride in the morning — where she assumes the duties of safety patroller — and rides a car in the afternoon, according to the release. At least, that’s how she used to do it.
“This year, Maday realized the need for her presence on the bus in the afternoon due to the limited number of patrollers available and volunteered to ride the bus home even though her ride is the longest in the district.”
And lest you think the AAA safety patrol program has gotten a little old fashioned after a century, AAA Mid-Atlantic notes more than 1,400 students participated in the program in nearly 70 area elementary schools. “It is the largest school-based safety program in the world with more than 679,000 patrollers in 35,000 schools across North America and 30 countries.”
Those who may have actually strapped on the belt and badge decades ago may recall doing things like standing at a corner near the school and holding both arms out to stop students from crossing the street until no cars were in site. The basic idea hasn’t changed. The goal is to offer one of their own to help fellow students learn and follow traffic and bus safety.
As the release notes, “AAA School Safety Patrols direct children, not traffic. As school-age leaders in traffic safety, patrol members teach other students about traffic safety on a peer-to-peer basis. They also serve as role models for younger children.
“Patrols complete training in traffic safety so they can protect students from the hazards of crossing roads and highways on their way to and from school; assist bus drivers in safely transporting students to and from school; teach fellow students about traffic safety; and serve other leadership functions under the direction of school officials.”
OK, the arms are up, stop here.
Nanticoke barber defies Wolf’s order
The owner of a Nanticoke barber shop opened his doors to customers Friday in defiance of Gov. Tom Wolf’s order banning such businesses from reopening during the yellow phase of his coronavirus recovery plan.
Jason Croughn, owner of Croughn’s Cuts at 1 W. Broad St., said he decided to open up after seeing Wolf marching in a large Black Lives Matter demonstration earlier in the week.
“I see signs in the background: ‘Blue Lives Murder,’ ‘Kill Cops,’ and he’s congregating with these people,” Croughn said. “No. 1, he’s in the yellow phase in Dauphin County, in Harrisburg, and he’s not supposed to be with anybody where there’s 25 or more people indoors or outdoors. So he’s breaking his own law. And I’m sitting here suffering? No way. That’s it. I was done.”
The imagery of Wolf’s march was even more upsetting to Croughn because many of his customers are correctional officers and police officers, he said.
“Their lives matter too,” Croughn said. “I have a problem with that.”
Croughn said times have been tight for his business during the lockdown. He received a government stimulus check and applied for unemployment benefits, although he has not received them, he said.
In the meantime, rent and utility bills have been piling up, he said.
“Enough’s enough,” he said.
So at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Croughn opened his doors to customers, who were allowed in one at a time. He described business Friday as steady, with customers waiting outside for their turn.
“Word got out and then people showed up,” he said.
Several other Luzerne County businesses have flouted or defied Wolf’s closure order and been cited for violating the Disease Prevention and Control Act of 1955.
Nanticoke Police Chief Mike Roke said police cited Croughn on Friday afternoon for violating the administrative code and will continue doing so if he continues to open.
“He stated his intentions are to continue to be open with the exception of Sunday,” Roke said. As long as the governor’s order is in effect, we are going to cite him on a daily basis.”
Croughn said he had been aware of the possibility that he could be fined for opening but said he was willing to take his chances.
“I’ll just have to do what I have to do,” Croughn said.
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
Kevin Carroll firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Roger DuPuis email@example.com
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.”