2023 Nanticoke News
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Nanticoke News Archived
2023 - 2022 - 2021 - 2020
Sixteen Luzerne County municipalities increasing taxes
Sixteen of Luzerne County’s 76 municipalities are increasing local real estate taxes this year, according to new report prepared by the county treasurer’s office.
The highest increase — 2.5 mills — is in White Haven borough, where taxes are rising 55.55%, from 4.5 mills to 7 mills.
Warrior Run borough tops the increases on a percentage basis because taxes are doubling from 1.9 mills to 3.8 mills.
To figure out the tax payment, property owners must divide their assessed value by 1,000 and multiply it by the millage rate.
For example, the owner of a $100,000 property in White Haven will now pay $700 instead of $450, or an increase of $250.
In Warrior Run, the tax bill would rise from $190 to $380, or $190 more.
A full chart detailing the other millage increases accompanies this story. Here’s how tax bills will change in these municipalities, using a $100,000 property as an example:
• Lehman Township, $260 to $360 ($100 more)
• Nanticoke, $592.58 to $692.58 ($100 more)
• Sugar Notch, $450 to $550 ($100 more)
• Wilkes-Barre Township, $160 to $220 ($60 more)
• Luzerne, $321.91 to $376.92 ($55 more)
• Edwardsville, $395 to $445 ($50 more)
• Dallas Township, $200 to $230 ($30 more)
• Duryea, $190 to $220 ($30 more)
• Wright Township, $100 to $130 ($30 more)
• Swoyersville, $155 to $180 ($25 more)
• Larksville, $360 to $380 ($20 more)
• Nescopeck Township, $146 to $155 ($9 more)
• Freeland, $520 to $527 ($7 more)
• Hollenback Township, $50 to $55 ($5 more)
White Haven Borough Manager Linda Szoke, who also serves as the municipality’s zoning/code enforcement officer, said part of the increase stems from the borough’s decision to absorb the costs of garbage collection.
Borough property owners will no longer receive a garbage bill separate from their real estate tax bills, she said. The garbage bill would have increased to cover higher costs, she said.
More revenue also was necessary to fund higher utility expenses and other basic operating expense increases, Szoke said.
The borough also provides round-the-clock police protection, she said.
Sensitive to the burden on property owners, borough officials are not initiating any additional projects, including street paving, unless they are funded by grants, she said.
“They cut out as much as they can,” she said.
This is only the second or third time the borough raised taxes during the past decade, she said. More frequent, smaller increases could have lessened the impact in 2023, but property owners may not prefer that option, she said.
Covering expenses is particularly challenging for the borough because it is essentially landlocked and has a significant portion of tax-exempt property, largely due to state parks and trails, she said.
Warrior Run Borough Council President Larry Carbohn said he steadfastly resisted past recommendations to raise taxes by the borough auditor and others for years, determined to avoid asking property owners to pay more.
However, finances got “tighter and tighter” over the past two years, and borough officials ran out of options to compensate for rising utility, fuel and maintenance costs, he said.
The street department budget had to be increased from $23,000 to $35,000 because it was not realistic, in part due to wage competition from the growing warehouse industry, Carbohn said.
Like White Haven, Warrior Run doesn’t have much space left for new development, he said.
Borough Solicitor Patrick Aregood said he witnessed Warrior Run council members agonizing over the decision before concluding an increase was the only way to avoid compromising public services.
“I’ve never seen a borough council striving to maintain services so high while keeping taxes low,” Aregood said. “They go out and do work themselves as a council to make sure services are provided to the community.”
Lehman Township Supervisor David Sutton said he has served as a township supervisor for 33 years, and the 2023 increase is only the third “in all those years.”
“It was a hard choice on our part because certainly we don’t want to do it,” Sutton said.
In addition to rising across-the-board increases in fuel, health insurance and other operational expenses, the township had to add another full-time police officer to continue providing 24-7 coverage valued by residents, Sutton said. Part-time officers are no longer an option because nobody is applying for those positions, he said.
He noted the township also provides quality road maintenance and free recycling.
This year’s $161.8 million county budget contains a 2.99% tax increase, which is lower than the 6.75% originally proposed and amounts to $24.50 more on the average property assessed at $132,776.
The county millage rate is now 6.3541.
Combined county/municipal tax bills are scheduled to be issued in most municipalities Feb. 14. Some may be later due to delays seating elected tax collectors, balancing tax claim records or other reasons, according to the county treasurer’s office.
For bills issued Feb. 14, property owners will have two months, or until April 13, to pay at a 2% discount.
The deadline to pay taxes at the full, or face, amount, will be June 13. A 10% penalty is added for taxes paid between June 14 and the end of the year.
Lowe's to open coastal holding facility in Newport Twp. this spring
Denise Allabaugh – Citizens Voice
Home improvement giant Lowe’s has expanded its delivery model to meet demand amid supply chain challenges by opening coastal holding facilities, including one in Jenkins Twp. and another one set to open soon in Newport Twp.
Kara Hauck, corporate communications manager at Lowe’s, said the newest coastal facility in Luzerne County is expected to open in the spring in a 1.2 million square-foot warehouse being constructed on former mine-scarred land in Newport Twp off Dziak Drive in Nanticoke.
Coastal holding facilities enable Lowe’s to better manage imported product flow, Hauck said.
“Coastal holding facilities are used to stage import products like seasonal and outdoor living items until closer to time of need, which frees up additional capacity in other distribution centers and supports the timely flow of products from Lowe’s distribution network to our stores and customers,” she said. “Lowe’s distribution network expansion is part of an ongoing investment in Lowe’s supply chain.”
Hauck said the newest coastal holding facility at 209 Dziak Drive will create about 70 jobs, including hourly and management opportunities.
Lowe’s has been advertising job openings online for positions ranging from warehouse associates, human resources consultants to mechanics and supply chain technicians for its Newport Twp. facility. The facility will receive imported goods to supply regional distribution facilities, Hauck said.
Lowe’s opened a 744,000-square-foot coastal holding facility in 2021 at 325 Centerpoint Blvd. in Jenkins Twp. near its massive distribution center at 200 Centerpoint Blvd. in CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park. The Jenkins Twp. facility created about 50 jobs, Hauck said.
Jim Cummings, vice president of marketing for Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services, which developed and owns CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park, said Lowe’s nearly 1.6 million square-foot distribution in CenterPoint East is the largest building in Luzerne County.
He said Lowe’s distribution center and coastal holding facility in CenterPoint are in a strategic location that sets it apart from many Northeast U.S. business parks since it is less than a half mile from I-81 and i-476 and close proximity to UPS, FedEx Ground and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
“Park tenants can reach the ports in New Jersey and Philadelphia in just over two hours and close to 53 million people live within a four-hour drive,” Cummings said. “When you combine these location factors with affordable real estate costs, strong and reliable utilities and access to a productive labor supply, you have a park that checks all of the important supply chain boxes.”
NorthPoint Development, county and local officials broke ground in 2021 for Lowe’s facility in Newport Twp. as well as another huge warehouse in Hanover Tw.
Safelite Auto Glass opened a distribution center last year in 357,575 square feet of space in the other warehouse in Hanover Twp. that was constructed on about 130 acres of former mine-scarred land off Dziak Drive.
R.C. Moore trucking company also opened last year in 208,000 square feet of the space in the Hanover Twp. warehouse to increase their service to the East Coast and improve the supply chain as well.
R.C. Moore executive vice president Duwayne Caroway said that it’s the company’s fifth warehouse and 14 employees from the area have been hired. The starting pay for the new jobs is $19 an hour with wage growth and opportunities in addition to benefits and 401k options, he said.
The company, headquartered in Scarborough, Maine, has created a substantial presence on the East Coast and has been a logistics partner for more than 60 years. In addition to its new facility in Hanover Twp., R.C. Moore also has locations on Oak Street in Pittston Twp. as well as locations in Troutman, North Carolina; McBee, South Carolina and Tampa, Florida.
R.C. Moore CEO Kelly Moore said in a news release the Hanover Twp. facility enables the company to “better serve our existing customer base, take on additional customers and create another hub for our drivers that will allow them to have more growth opportunities and/or home time.”
“We are always focused on the growth of our business, creating jobs, and serving our customers, but today we are also focused on alleviating the supply chain crisis as best we can and this new distribution center is a step in the right direction,” Moore said.
Developer eyes former Nanticoke school for luxury apartments
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
NANTICOKE — The developer who is proposing a multimillion-dollar hotel and convention center on the site of the former Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre now has his sights set on Nanticoke.
Sam Syla is proposing to convert a blighted former Catholic school on East Noble Street into a luxury 10-unit apartment building.
“We are going to do apartments, high-quality apartments,” Syla said in a brief phone call Tuesday while he was traveling in Europe.
The building, the former St. Joseph’s School, was most recently used as a storage facility for a construction company.
Syla has an agreement to buy the property at 6 E. Noble St., pending zoning approval. A hearing is set for Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. before the Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Nanticoke. Syla is seeking parking and driveway variances.
“Given the recent past use of the building and property, it is the applicant’s opinion that the proposed multi-family facility would be a more appropriate building use within the R-2 neighborhood. The building would be renovated to current codes and be appropriately landscaped to increase the value of the surrounding areas,” Syla’s application says.
“The applicant has executed similar projects under similar zoning issues in the Wilkes-Barre and Kingston areas with complete success. The buildings were developed and rejuvenated into facilities which improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood and support the local community.”
Syla, a Kosovo immigrant who was a developer in Philadelphia before shifting focus on the Wyoming Valley, developed the former Wachovia Bank on Market Street in Wilkes-Barre into 26 high-end apartments and the former Sacred Heart Slovak School on North Main Street in Wilkes-Barre into 30 apartments. In Kingston, he converted a former tobacco factory and machine shop on Elm Street into 40 condominiums.
The biggest project Syla has planned is a $35 million, 110-room Hyatt Place Hotel and Convention Center at River and Market streets in Wilkes-Barre, the site of the former Hotel Sterling.
Syla referred questions about his plans to his real estate agent Greg Barrouk.
Barrouk said Syla sees opportunity in Nanticoke in years to come following the commercial development in that area recently.
“It’s an area where we are going to try to grow and develop. We see a lot of growth with the industrial park,” Barrouk said. “Nice, luxury apartments are in need in the area.”
Slain guard Eric Williams' parents fight on for federal corrections officers
Borys Krawczeniuk – Staff Writer
SCRANTON — Don and Jean Williams, who frequently visit their murdered son’s grave, know an extra $180 million for the federal prison system won’t bring him back.
The Nanticoke couple hopes the money means someone else’s son doesn’t end up like Eric Williams, a corrections officer stabbed and beaten to death by an inmate almost 10 years ago at the federal prison at Canaan in Wayne County.
The money, intended to hire new federal corrections officers and retain current ones nationwide, could “save someone’s life or save them from serious injury,” Don Williams said Friday.
The Williamses and officials from the Canaan prison’s corrections officers union celebrated and thanked U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright for getting the new money appropriated at a news conference he hosted outside his downtown office.
“Two things that always stuck out with me when that happened. Number one, he was working alone,” Don Williams said. “I think if that had not been the case, Eric might be here. And he was also unarmed, and he had absolutely no way of defending himself.”
Seven years ago, Congress passed a law allowing staff at high-security federal prisons to carry pepper spray. Last month, Cartwright, D-8, Moosic, chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal prisons, said he added the $180 million to President Joe Biden’s original budget request.
“Brave correctional officers walk through facilities’ doors to do their job and provide for their families,” he said Friday. “They deserve to go home to their loved ones at the end of every shift.”
Inmate Jessie Con-ui was convicted in June 2017 of stabbing Eric Williams, 34, with a homemade weapon and beating him to death on Feb. 25, 2013. Williams was alone, armed only with keys, handcuffs and a radio with a panic button. Con-ui, a previously convicted drug gang assassin, was allowed to roam outside his cell freely, despite a troublesome record at the prison and his murderous past. He attacked because Williams ordered a check of his cell earlier.
Since then, the Williamses have campaigned for more protections for corrections officers and started a group, Voices of JOE, with JOE representing the initials of the first names of their son and two other officers killed by inmates.
David Demas, president of the union that represents Canaan prison officers, said a staffing shortage and mandatory overtime continue to create problems and blamed poor prison leadership for that. He pointed out the prison is recruiting more officers, with a job fair scheduled for Feb. 4 in the prison lobby.
Efforts to obtain comment from the Canaan prison were unsuccessful.
With the 10th anniversary of Eric Williams’ death approaching, Don Williams, 78, talked about the anger that has fed his persistence in fighting for more staffing.
“When I found out about him working alone, about the fact he had no way of protecting himself, I thought that was an outrage,” Williams said. “And I determined that I had to just channel all of my frustrations over that into trying to do something to change that.
“Because it wasn’t right.”
Greater Nanticoke Area votes to limit any tax hike
NANTICOKE — At Thursday’s monthly meeting the Greater Nanticoke Area School Board voted to keep any property tax increase for the 2023-24 fiscal year at or below a state-set limit. It was the fifth Luzerne County district in four days to make that pledge.
The board agreed to stay within the “Act 1 Index,” which annually calculates a maximum allowable tax increase for each district across the state. This year, Greater Nanticoke’s index is 6.2%. The vote does not mean taxes will go up that much. The board may raise taxes to any rate up to 6.2%, or not at all. But agreeing to stay within the limit does give the district until the end of May to finalize a preliminary budget.
The limit can only be exceeded through voter approval in the spring primary or by obtaining state approval under a limited number of allowed exceptions. Going either route requires a board to approve a preliminary budget near the end of January.
Several motions involved upgrading computer equipment and performance. The board voted to solicit bids for the purchase of 600 Chromebook computers for students, modify an existing agreement to to increase bandwidth available to the district from 1 gigabyte per second to 10 gigabytes per second at a cost of $3,517 per year, and issue a Request For Proposals or bids “for the purchase, configuration and installation of servers, firewalls and storage equipment to replace aging equipment.”
And the board approved a change in the current school calendar making April 6 a make-up day for school cancellation Dec. 15, and June 9 as a make up day for Dec. 16.
The board also:
• Approved the posting for coaches and timers for fall sports in the 2023-24 school year.
• Approved the purchase of two basketball backboards and shot clocks from Degler-Whiting, Inc., at a cost of $15,765. The purchase is through the state COSTARS co-operative purchasing program allowing local governments to purchase items through a contract negotiated by the state, bypassing state bidding requirements.
• Voted to issue a request for proposals from food management companies for services in the 2023-24 school year, with renewal options for up to four years.
• Accepted the resignations of instructional aide Deborah Ward and cafeteria worker Gerogett Pugh.
• Appointed K’Lah Komoroski, Samara Vanderhoff as instructional aide, Brittany Lasoski for a behavioral specialist position as a private contractor, Laura Widow as part-time, 10-month secretary.
• Accepted the retirement of teacher Eleanor Anthony.
Casey announces $92K workforce grant in IBEW visit
NANTICOKE — After touring the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 163’s Advanced Technology Center on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said he came away very impressed at what happens there.
“After seeing this facility and hearing about the programs offered, I can say our workers are ready and our region is ready to meet the demands of our growing economy,” Casey said. “It speaks to what these workers mean to our community and our economy.”
Casey, D-Scranton, visited IBEW Local 163’s Advanced Technology Center at 41 West Church St., Nanticoke, to announce $92,880 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The IBEW Local 163 Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee will be able to train and place an estimated 60 trainees in jobs as qualified electrical workers within three years.
The funding was awarded with a 50-50 match, meaning that ARC provided a grant worth $92,880 that was matched by $92,880 in local funds for a total project funding amount of $185,760. The grant award will be used to purchase supplies and equipment needed to train apprentices at the new Advanced Technology Center (ATC).
John Nadolny, Training Director, IBEW Local 163, said the training facility offers night class training for local electricians to prepare them for full apprenticeship and successful graduation to full-time work in their new trade.
Nadolny said there is a growing demand for the apprenticeship programs at IBEW Local 163 JATC and there are no comparable electrical apprenticeship programs in Luzerne County.
“More than 100 individuals apply for the apprenticeship program each year, which is open to residents of Luzerne County, as well as parts of Wyoming, Sullivan, and Bradford counties,” Nadolny said. “Upon completion of the apprenticeship program, participants can become a Qualified Electrical Worker (QEW) wireman earning $37 per hour or more plus benefits.”
Nadolny said the training program takes five years to complete. He said participants get on-the-job training and the attend classes two nights a week.
“Our participants learn skilled trades,” Nadolny said. “If you want to become an electrician, this is the place you want to be.”
Raymond Sipple, a 2007 graduate of the program, praised the program and he said he learned everything he needed to know to have a successful career.
Casey said the demand for licensed electricians has never been higher than it is right now.
“And here we have a facility to give people the opportunity to be trained on the latest technology available,” Casey said. “And you can earn while you learn.”
On Nov. 18 of last year, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Director of Workforce Development Initiatives Gwen Ross visited the facility to highlight the Wolf Administration’s commitment to creating apprenticeships and workforce training opportunities.
“These programs are vital to Pennsylvania’s economy and ensure that a pipeline of well-trained, Qualified Electrical Workers will enter the industry,” Ross said.
On Sept. 21. Gov. Tom Wolf was at IBEW 163 to announce a $297,000 grant through DCED’s Pre-Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship grant program to provide training for 30 apprentices in northeastern Pennsylvania. The project was also supported with a $600,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant to improve the interior and exterior infrastructure of the training facility to ensure complete success.
“Investing in apprenticeship programs, where participants can earn a wage while learning a valuable new skill, is one way we can ensure there is a strong pipeline of new talent for these key industries,” the governor said during his visit.
Nadolny said that in 2023, apprentices will also have access to IBEW 163’s new Advanced Technology Center where they can gain skills to work in green industries such as solar and electrical vehicles.
Also attending Wednesday’s tour were John Olejnik, IBEW Local 163 business manager and Nanticoke City Council Members John Telencho and Michael Marcella.
Casey visits Nanticoke electrician training facility to tout federal grant
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
NANTICOKE — Those who will drive the economy of the future are learning and training in Nanticoke, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Wednesday following a tour of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 163’s Advanced Technology Center.
The facility, a former Catholic elementary school, trains future electricians in seven Northeast Pennsylvania counties as part of a five-year apprenticeship program.
With electric power being relied on more in all aspects of life, from home heating to automobiles, the workers who pass though the Nanticoke facility will be vital to the country’s growth, the senator said.
“We have to have the skilled workforce to do that, not only
Lowe’s hiring 70 for new facility in Newport Twp.
NEWPORT TWP. — Lowe’s has announced that it is expanding its distribution network with a new 1.2 million square foot coastal holding facility in the South Valley area of Luzerne County.
According to a Lowe’s spokesperson, the facility is expected to open in the spring of 2023 at 209 Dziak Drive, Nanticoke. The facility will actually sit mostly in Newport Township, but the site will include parts of Nanticoke City and Hanover Township.
“The 1.2 million-square-foot facility will receive imported goods to supply regional distribution facilities,” the Lowe’s spokesperson said. “This location will provide approximately 70 jobs, including hourly and management opportunities.”
Information can be found online at https://talent.lowes.com/.
The spokesperson said that in August 2020, Lowe’s announced its distribution network expansion is part of an ongoing investment in Lowe’s supply chain.
In October 2021, NorthPoint Development joined a host of state, county and local government and school district officials for a groundbreaking on the site spanning Newport Township, Nanticoke and Hanover Township for buildings 8 and 9 in NorthPoint’s Tradeport 164 package of properties.
Based on its own data NorthPoint took a calculated risk of nearly $1 billion in private investment to build in the county. The region has benefited in terms of annual tax revenues, nearly $1.1 million from the new buildings, and upwards of 6,000 jobs, including more than 1,700 once the new projects are complete.
Then-State Sen. John Yudichak said NorthPoint worked with local labor and “kept their promises on the (Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program), striking fair deals, making sure that taxpayers get money upfront.”
The prospect of the more than 1 million square foot warehouse thrilled Newport Township Manager Joe Hillan.
“It’s great news for Newport Township and, well, the whole South Valley,” Hillan said. “For us, we haven’t seen anything like this since probably the 80s, when they transformed the Retreat State Hospital to a state prison, which is now closed. So now this is like a rebirth for the township.”
Hillan said the Lowe’s facility will be housed in the largest building in the township’s history.
“We hope local people will apply,” Hillan said.
Massive warehouse at Hanover Twp., Nanticoke border gets initial approval
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
NANTICOKE — Amy Harris is already frustrated with the most recent distribution warehouse to open in Hanover Twp. near her home in the Hanover section of Nanticoke, a Safelite AutoGlass facility along Dziak Drive.
Now, she’s concerned about another proposed warehouse to be built even closer to her home on Front Street — the border between the densely residential Hanover section of Nanticoke and mostly undeveloped vacant land of Hanover Twp.
“They are building another one? You got to be kidding me,” Harris, 64, said Wednesday while walking down Front Street. “I’m trying to get used to that one. It makes it noisy around here.”
NorthPoint Development, the Missouri-based developer that has built a series of distribution warehouses in the South Valley in recent years, is now proposing a new 1 million square foot facility in Hanover Twp. bordering the Hanover section of Nanticoke.
Hanover Twp.’s Planning Commission on Tuesday gave preliminary conditional approval for NorthPoint Development to build the distribution warehouse on 103 acres of former mine-scarred land along Front Street that is currently owned by Earth Conservancy.
The facility would be built behind a recreation park and storage facility along Front Street on land that is zoned mixed use, which doesn’t require any special zoning requests for distribution warehouses, Hanover Twp. Code Enforcement Officer Mark Bienias said.
Another hearing before municipal officials will be necessary before the proposed warehouse is given final approval, Bienias said.
The warehouse, which would have 207 trailer spaces and 608 parking stalls, would be accessible off Dziak Drive, which leads to the building housing Safelite.
A possible tenant for the proposed warehouse was not immediately identified.
Efforts to reach officials with NorthPoint were not successful.
NorthPoint previously built buildings in the South Valley on speculation and landed tenants, including Adidas, Chewy, Patagonia, Spreetail, Thrive Market and True Value.
NorthPoint also is planning a 1.2 million square foot warehouse in Newport Twp., but also has yet to identify a tenant.
All of the properties are along or close to the $90 million South Valley Parkway. State officials said that the public project directly resulted in $1 billion in private investment and 8,000 new jobs.
Former Nanticoke mayor John Bushko, 78, who lives on Front Street across from the proposed facility, said the warehouses are both positive and negative since they create jobs, but also increase traffic. Hanover Twp. will benefit from the property taxes, while Nanticoke residents will be burdened with traffic since the only way to get to the proposed warehouse is through Nanticoke, he said.
“They are going to get all the money and we get the traffic,” Bushko said.
Joni Pysher, 57, of Newport Twp., said she owns eight rental units along Front Street, so the more workers attracted to the neighborhood is better for her financially.
“I want the rents to go up,” Pysher said.
Nanticoke Councilman Joe Nalepa, who lives in the Hanover section of Nanticoke, said he doesn’t mind the warehouse construction.
“I think progress is good. It’s all reclaimed land that was for the most part unusable. I understand the plights and complaints of the residents, but I really haven’t heard many of them,” Nalepa said. “As long as there is a long-term plan to regulate truck traffic, I have no problems.”