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2024 Nanticoke News

As we receive information from the Times Leader  or any other news outlet we will post it here.
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6/21/2024
Greater Nanticoke Area School Board approves final 2024-2025 budget with no tax increase
mroarty@timesleader.com


NANTICOKE — The Greater Nanticoke Area School Board at its regular meeting Thursday approved the final 2024-2025 budget of $40,491,331 with no tax increase.
The tax rate will remain at 12.8083 mills. A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
The current projected revenue of $38,531,735 excludes state funding, as the final state budget has not yet been approved. The deadline for lawmakers to pass that budget is June 30.
Business Consultant Tom Melone explained that Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed budget, which was unveiled on Feb. 6, calls for around $4 million in funding for the Greater Nanticoke School District and if the final budget passes without any changes, the district would have a surplus of funds left over.
Even if the district slashed that amount in half, the budget would still break even, and if they went a step further and used last year’s state funding amount, which is a far more conservative estimate, there would be a budget shortfall of around $633,000 that Melone said would “easily” be absorbed by the current fund balance.
In full, Shapiro’s proposed budget calls for a $1.072 billion increase to basic education funding.
Of note, the board also:
• Appointed Mark Matusek as boys head soccer coach (pending clearances), Nico Deluca as boys soccer coach assistant I (pending clearances), Josh Olzinski boys soccer coach volunteer (clearances on file), Terry Schnee as girls tennis volunteer (clearances on file), Ryan Verazin as golf assistant I (clearances on file), Len Packowski as girls basketball assistant III (clearances on file), Bill Goodman as girls basketball assistant IV (clearances on file), Janice Welch as girls basketball videographer (clearances on file), Kayla Aufiero as girls basketball volunteer assistant (clearances on file), Janice Welch as girls basketball volunteer assistant (clearances on file) and Kim Turoski as girls basketball volunteer assistant (clearances on files).
• Approved the posting of several spring sports positions for the 2024-2025 school year including: baseball head coach, assistant I, assistant II, assistant III, and assistant IV, scorekeeper; softball head coach, assistant I, assistant II, assistant III and assistant IV, scorekeeper; track and field head boys coach, head girls coach, assistant I assistant II, assistant III, scorekeeper and assistant IV junior high; boys volleyball head coach, assistant coach, scorekeeper, timer and libero tracker.
• Approved the Nanticoke Senior Legion Baseball team to use the high school baseball field for their home games.
Approved the Nanticoke Jr. Trojans to utilize the football stadium for their home games on: Aug. 11, Aug. 17 (night game), Sep. 1 and Oct. 6.
• Approved quote from Guyette Communication Industries in the amount of $47,683.94 for replacement of pager system in the High School.
• Approved quote from Guyette Communication industries in the amount of $7,917.22 for pager system upgrades in the Education Center, Elementary Center and Kennedy Early Childhood Center.
• Recommend approval to purchase iPads for grades K-2 in the amount of $727.00. (Paid for through Title IV funding)
• Approved the purchase of materials to be utilized for K-5 Summer Skills Camp students in the amount of $1,818.60. (Paid for through Title IV funding)
• Approved agreement with KIDVENTURES THERAPY INC. for the 2024-2025 school year.
• Approved agreement with Beyond Behavior Consulting, LLC for the 2024-2025 school year.
• Approved quotes from MCGraw Hill in the total amount of $339,907.60 for the new K-12 social studies series. (Paid for through ARP/ESSERS)
• Approved Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center budget for the 2024-2025 school year.
• Approved quote from Tanner Furniture in the amount of $83,350.00 to purchase cafeteria tables for the Educational Center.

6/21/2024

St. Mary's Church complex in Nanticoke to be sold, forcing Head Start to move
bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com


NANTICOKE — Back when she was a little girl, Brittany Murtha Wojciechowicz attended the Nanticoke Head Start program next to her family’s parish, St. Mary of Czestochowa Church on South Hanover Street.
For the past decade, she’s worked at the Head Start facility — the former St. Mary’s parochial school — but that era now comes to an end as the shuttered church’s assets are slated to be sold and Head Start is forced to move.
Nanticoke’s Head Start is merging with the nearby program at Luzerne County Community College, also in Nanticoke, while the former church, its rectory, the school and parking lot will be sold.
“Head Start has been there for as long as I can remember. We were low income and my mom didn’t work and my dad was in trade school, so Head Start helped my family,” Wojciechowicz, 35, said just days after emotionally stepping out of the building for the final time. “A lot of families in the community had children go there, or they went there. Generations of families went there. My parents got married at the church. My brother was baptized there. I think I was baptized there, too. I have memories in the church.”
Consolidation after consolidation
St. Mary’s was among the Nanticoke churches that consolidated in 2010 to form St. Faustina Kowalska Parish, based out of the former Holy Trinity Church down the street.
The church remained as an alternative worship site for years and the parish continued to rent the former St. Mary’s school to Luzerne County Head Start.
But St. Mary’s Church closed for good during the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and the rectory hasn’t been used since 2018.
A sign on the former school’s facade says it opened in 1951. It remained active for decades until Nanticoke’s parochial schools merged to form Pope John Paul II Catholic School at the Holy Trinity site, but that school closed in 2007.
40 years in Nanticoke
Head Start came to Nanticoke in 1984, first opening at the former St. Stanislaus School on West Church Street before moving to St. Mary’s.
Lynn Evans Biga, executive director of Luzerne County Head Start, was on hand for the ribbon cutting for the 1984 opening of the Nanticoke center when she was an educational coordinator.
“I've been there the whole time. We have been in Nanticoke for 40 years. We had a very nice run,” Biga said. “We supported the church and they supported us.”
Biga said the church and Diocese of Scranton gave them ample warning this would be Head Start’s last year in the St. Mary’s building due to the likely sale.
The Nanticoke Head Start program at the former St. Mary’s school served about 45 children. Any child not moving on to kindergarten will transfer to the Head Start program at LCCC, Biga said. All 15 staff members will keep their jobs, she said.
“We don’t have all the details worked out, but we do know we will be expanding our services on the college campus,” Biga said. “In some ways, it’s a richer and deeper opportunity than being in an older church building.”
Head Start to expand at LCCC
LCCC is one of only 100 community colleges in the nation out of more than 3,000 to have a Head Start early learning program, officials said.
President Thomas P. Leary said he is looking forward to expanding Head Start’s footprint on the Nanticoke campus.
"LCCC is proud to continue and expand its partnership with Luzerne County Head Start to provide a dedicated space on our campus for this vital program. We are honored to play a role in shaping the educational journeys of our community's youngest members,” Leary said. “Our collaboration not only provides a space for Head Start but also enriches the educational experience of our own students, who are studying to be future educators.”
LCCC's students and Head Start students have the chance to learn side by side with each other in the new Marcella Nagorski-Waldow Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Leary said.
“Through this model classroom, our students will get hands-on experience before they graduate and Head Start's students will receive supplemental classroom instruction,” Leary said. “This is yet another way LCCC is meeting the needs of the local workforce."
St. Mary’s assets to sell
Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera recently granted permission to St. Faustina Rev. Brian Van Fossen to attempt to sell the former St. Mary’s Church, its rectory, the school, and parking lot this summer, said Eric Deabill, spokesman for the diocese.
“The potential listing comes after extensive conversation within the parish community over the last several years, including Father Van Fossen working with the Parish Finance Council and Parish Pastoral Council,” Deabill said. “Last year, Father Van Fossen held two town hall meetings, in which the entire parish was invited, to talk about the direction in which St. Faustina Parish is headed, and the sale of the Saint Mary’s complex was one of the topics discussed at that time.”
Traditionally, the parish itself will handle the listing, marketing and sale of a property, but the process will be conducted in conjunction with the Diocese of Scranton Property and Risk Management Office, Deabill said.
“At this point, because the permissions have just been given to list the complex properties for sale and it is the very beginning of any potential sales process — we do not know who might be interested or what possible plans might be in the future,” Deabill said.

 

6/6/2024
Greater Nanticoke Area holds 2024 graduation
szavada@timesleader.com


Greater Nanticoke Area High School held its graduation ceremony for the Class of 2024 on Wednesday night.
Student speakers included members of the Class of 2024: Shelby Shepanski, class treasurer; Lauren Youngblood, class secretary; Niko Butczynski, National Honor Society president; Ryan Kenney, class president; MacKenzie Stratton, salutatorian; Mackenzie Hall, valedictorian; and Richard Weihbrecht, class vice president.
School Principal Amy Lee Scibek and Superintendent Dr. Ronald Grevera also offered remarks to the graduates and their guests.

 

6/4/2024
Nanticoke Fire Department seeks weight limit exemption to cross Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge
jandes@timesleader.com


Nanticoke Fire Chief Mark Boncal said Monday he has formally submitted an exemption request that would allow a fire engine to cross the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge for emergencies even though it exceeds the weight limit.
Boncal said a county engineer must review the request with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to determine if it will be granted or denied.
County Manager Romilda Crocamo announced last month the weight limit of the county-owned span over the Susquehanna River was reduced to 5 tons. The decision was made after a review of the bridge inspection report, discussions with PennDOT and “in consideration of public safety,” she had said.
Crocamo confirmed receipt of the fire department’s request and said a meeting with engineers will be held this week to review the matter.
Passenger vehicles are permitted under the reduced weight limit but not fire trucks and emergency rescue vehicles, officials have said.
Nanticoke’s fire department relied on the bridge to provide primary fire/rescue coverage to Plymouth Township’s West Nanticoke area on the other side of the river. Depending on location, other township sections are covered by fire departments in Larksville, Plymouth and Lake Silkworth.
These fire coverage changes stemmed from the 2019 disbanding of the township’s Tilbury Fire and Rescue Station primarily due to financial issues.
If the exemption is approved, the city fire truck would return to Nanticoke by crossing the river over the alternate route now in effect — the John S. Fine Bridge, which is the official name of the Route 29/South Cross Valley Expressway span, Boncal said.
Nanticoke’s engine/pumper weighs 42,000 pounds, which equates to 21 tons, he said.
Use of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge would be reserved for life/safety situations involving residential or commercial structure fires or motor vehicle accidents with entrapment, he said.
Route 29 would be used both ways for calls to respond to brush fires or minor fuel spills, he said.
“I’m trying to be proactive,” Boncal said.
His exemption application requests up to 15 trips across the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge through the end of May 2025.
The 2,072-foot bridge is a combination concrete and steel crossing. County officials have been exploring options to largely replace the existing span or construct a new one.
Some township residents have expressed concerns about longer wait times in emergencies due to the weight reduction.
 

5/23/2024
Nanticoke receives state grant to study future of fire headquarters
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice


NANTICOKE — The city’s fire headquarters needs a major overhaul and expansion or a new facility needs to be built, Fire Chief Mark Boncal said Wednesday, a day after Nanticoke received a state grant to study the issue.
“I have no more room,” the chief said. “We’re not ADA compliant at all. We don’t have any separate women’s and men’s bathrooms and locker rooms. Right now, all the exterior is asbestos, the white tiles. They tested it. There’s asbestos mixed in.”
The building, which opened in 1975, was designed for the department and its apparatus at the time, not a modern-day department, Boncal said.
Nanticoke on Tuesday was awarded a $37,190 state grant to fund a feasibility study to determine the future of the fire headquarters.
The money, announced by the Commonwealth Funding Authority, comes from the state Local Share Account from casino gaming revenue.
Fire headquarters is located 2 E. Ridge St., across the street from the Nanticoke Municipal Building at 15 E. Ridge St.
“Geographically, this is the center of the city,” Boncal said.
In addition to covering Nanticoke City, the fire department is the primary responder for the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Twp. and is dispatched as a mutual aid responder to various nearby municipalities during emergencies.
Boncal said state and federal officials, along with the architect who designed the new state police barracks in Hanover Twp. toured fire headquarters to start the discussion of what to do with the building in the future.
“They are looking to do two studies — what it would cost to do a major overhaul of this current building or would it be cheaper to build a new one?” Boncal said. “The architect stated there is a lot of wasted space that could be utilized if they were to do a major renovation. They could build it out more toward the front, the city owns all this to the side. They could put in another bay here. They could add on to the back.

 
5/23/2024
Developer withdraws application for Nanticoke housing development; won't appear at zoning meeting
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice

NANTICOKE — A developer that proposed to build a housing complex in the city’s Hanover section has withdrawn its application, so the issue will not be addressed at Thursday’s zoning hearing board meeting, board solicitor Mark McNealis said.
“At this point it’s been withdrawn. Right now, it’s a non-issue as far as the zoning board is concerned,” McNealis said. “Tomorrow there are some other cases on the agenda, but not that one.”
Housing Visions of Syracuse, New York, had sought to build four, 12-unit apartments off Espy Street on land that is currently wooded and vacant.
Residents of the Hanover section placed signs in their neighborhood opposing the project and about 100 people packed city council chambers for a March hearing on the matter.
After zoning board members expressed concerns the developer hadn’t provided enough details about the plans, the hearing was halted and scheduled to resume at Thursday’s meeting.
McNealis said he is unsure why the application was withdrawn. Officials with Housing Visions did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Housing Visions touts itself as a not-for-profit developer, general contractor, and property manager that “takes great pride in housing residents in attractive, safe, affordable housing.”

 

5/18/2024
Plymouth Twp. seeks emergency vehicle exemption over bridge weight restriction
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice


PLYMOUTH TWP. — Plymouth Twp. supervisors are seeking an exemption to allow Nanticoke City’s emergency vehicles to use the Nanticoke-West Nanticoke Bridge to respond to calls in the West Nanticoke section of the township.
The request will be examined by the Luzerne County Office of Law.
“The decision will prioritize public safety above all else,” county Manager Romilda Crocamo said in an email in response to the request.
At a community meeting Thursday night attended by about 20 residents, township Supervisor Gale Conrad and Nanticoke Fire Chief Mark Boncal told residents they made the exemption request to Crocamo and would wait for a decision.
Nanticoke’s fire and ambulance vehicles stopped using the aging, structurally deficient bridge that links Nanticoke and West Nanticoke last week when Luzerne County, which owns the bridge, imposed a maximum 5-ton, per-vehicle weight limit.
Emergency officials said using the next closest span — the Route 29 bridge via Hanover Twp. — doubles response times to West Nanticoke from about 3½ minutes to 7 minutes.
Nanticoke’s ambulance is the primary responder to all of Plymouth Twp. and the city’s fire department is the primary responder for the township’s West Nanticoke section.
Resident Mark Kotch, 62, questioned who would be liable if an exemption was granted and the bridge failed.
“God forbid if a fire truck ends up in the Susquehanna River, who does the dearly departed go after?” Kotch asked.
Since decertifying and disbanding the township volunteer department in 2019, the township has contracted with Nanticoke, Plymouth Borough, Lake Silkworth and Larksville for fire coverage.
If the bridge exemption is not granted or if the bridge is eventually closed down, Nanticoke still provides efficient coverage, even if response times now might be seven minutes, Boncal said.
“You have a full-time department coming down here. Believe me, I listen to calls in alot of places that have — nothing against them — all volunteer departments and it’s even longer than that before they even get out the door. We are out the door as soon as the alarm goes off,” Boncal said.
Resident Tammy Rynkiewicz suggested the township should look into provide in-house or closer fire coverage.
“Shouldn’t the supervisors look into some fire coverage for us?” Rynkiewicz asked.
“We do.” Conrad said. “This is about the bridge weight limit. You are going into somethin else.”
Conrad previously said the debate over the in-house volunteer unit, which she said was often late to or missed calls, was settled.
“No one wants to change their services unless they have no alternative and the board had no alternative. And changes were made. The board is happy with the changes whether some of you like it or not, but we are,” Conrad said.
County officials continue to consider multimillion-dollar options to rehabilitate, partially replace or construct a new Nanticoke-West Nanticoke Bridge.
“We can’t make that decision. It has to go to the dome,” supervisor Jim Murphy said, referring to the Luzerne County Courthouse.
With the strong possibility that the bridge will be shuttered before another one is built years from now, Barry Lore, former fire chief of the township’s Tilbury station, asked if one of Nanticoke’s trucks could be stationed on the other side of the river in Plymouth Twp.
“It’s not like I have reserve apparatus,” Boncal said.

 

5/17/2024
Residents express concern over Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge weight limit impact on
emergency response

jandes@timesleader.com

Approximately 20 residents of Plymouth Township’s West Nanticoke section attended a Thursday night meeting to learn how fire protection will be impacted by a recent weight limit reduction on the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge.
Approximately 20 residents of Plymouth Township’s West Nanticoke section attended a Thursday night meeting to learn how emergency response will be impacted by a recent weight limit reduction on the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge.
Several voiced strong worries about longer wait times.
The weight limit of the Luzerne County-owned bridge over the Susquehanna River has been reduced to 5 tons based on a new inspection report, discussions with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and “in consideration of public safety,” county Manager Romilda Crocamo has said.
Passenger vehicles are permitted under this weight limit but not fire trucks and emergency rescue vehicles, officials said.
Nanticoke Fire Chief Mark Boncal said his city fire department relied on the bridge to provide primary fire/rescue coverage to the township’s West Nanticoke area on the other side of the river. Depending on location, other township sections are covered by fire departments in Larksville, Plymouth and Lake Silkworth.
These fire coverage changes stemmed from the 2019 disbanding of the Tilbury Fire and Rescue Station primarily due to financial issues.
Boncal said he and the township sent a letter Thursday to Crocamo seeking an exemption to allow one fire truck —a smaller engine pumper — to use the bridge to reach West Nanticoke if there is a residential or commercial structure fire threatening life safety.
Crocamo received the request Thursday afternoon and promptly replied to Boncal that she also appreciates his concern for public safety and the importance of considering all factors when it comes to the use of the bridge.
“The request for an exception to the 5-ton weight limit will be carefully reviewed by the office of law. The decision will prioritize public safety above all else,” Crocamo said, suggesting a meeting to further discuss the matter.
If the exemption is approved, the fire truck would return to Nanticoke by crossing the river over the alternate route now in effect — the John S. Fine Bridge, which is the official name of the Route 29/South Cross Valley Expressway span.
Based on prior experience, Boncal estimated about a dozen fire truck crossings would be necessary on the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge if the exemption is granted.
He said an exemption would require approval from the county and its engineer and the state transportation department.
Before the latest weight limit, the average response time was 3 minutes and 30 seconds, Boncal said. After the reduction, the response time rose to 6 minutes and 42 seconds, sometimes higher, he said. One recent call for an accident took 7 minutes, he said.
The weight limit also impacts ambulance service because the city is first responder. An ambulance is 480 pounds over the weight limit, a representative said.
The 2,072-foot bridge is a combination concrete and steel crossing. County officials have been exploring options to largely replace the existing span or construct a new one.
Plymouth Township Supervisor Gale Conrad coordinated Thursday’s meeting.
“Everybody’s doing everything we can,” Conrad told the group.
County Councilman Jimmy Sabatino attended to hear the public input so he can share it with his council colleagues.

5/17/2024
No tax hike proposed in Greater Nanticoke Area
Michael P. Buffer – Citizens Voice
 
The property tax rate for the Greater Nanticoke Area School District will not increase this year, according to the proposed budget for 2024-25.
The tax rate would remain 12.8083 mills if the budget is adopted. A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
The school board approved the proposed budget on May 9 and must adopt a final budget by June 30. The proposed budget would allocate $40.3 million in spending and projects $38.5 million in revenue.
The district is projecting a fund balance of a nearly $7.7 million when new budget year starts on July 1, and the proposed budget would decrease the fund balance to $5.8 million. But the district may not have to spend reserve funds with an increase in the district’s basic education subsidy.
The proposed budget includes no increase in the basic education subsidy, which was nearly $15.3 million in 2023-24. Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed state budget includes a 26.6% increase in Greater Nanticoke Area’s basic education subsidy, and that would boost district revenue by nearly $4.1 million.
The state Legislature is also required to adopt a budget by June 30 and will determine how much to allocate to school districts. Shapiro’s proposed budget for 2024-25 includes a 13.6% increase in basic education subsidies to school districts that would add $1.1 billion in spending.
The governor also wants to resolve litigation over the adequacy of the school funding system through the state Basic Education Funding Commission plan to add $5.4 billion in basic education funding over seven years to adequately fund all districts in the state.
Greater Nanticoke Area is also planning to spend funds on upgrades to the high school auditorium, including funds for painting, carpet and tile replacement and new seating, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said
 

5/11/2024
Greater Nanticoke Area School Board: No tax increase in 2024-25 budget
szavada@timesleader.com


NANTICOKE — There will be no tax increase for residents living in the Greater Nanticoke Area School District, according to district superintendent Ronald Grevera.
The budget reflects total anticipated expenditures of $40,341,331 at 12.8083 mills. A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The only hurdle remaining for the budget’s approval is the passing of the state budget which, per Grevera, includes an “adequate increase for the district.”
Gov. Josh Shapiro revealed the full, proposed executive budget for 2024-25 to Pennsylvania residents on Feb. 6. According to the release from the governor on that day, the executive budget calls for a $1.072 billion increase to basic education funding.
In addition to the Greater Nanticoke budget passing at Thursday night’s meeting, the board approved renovations to the high school auditorium. According to Grevera, the renovations will include new paint, tile, carpet and seats, all of which are set to be installed this spring and fall.

 

5/9/2024
Weight limit reduced to 5 tons on Nanticoke/West Nanticoke bridge
Bob Kalinowski -  Citizens Voice
 
NANTICOKE — The aging Nanticoke-West Nanticoke bridge, being eyed for a full replacement or a massive rehabilitation, is now limited to passenger vehicles after Luzerne County further reduced the span’s vehicular weight limit to five tons on Wednesday.
County workers put up new signage Wednesday and Nanticoke police vowed to crack down on drivers of large vehicles who violate the latest weight limit.
The development is going to significantly increase the Nanticoke Fire Department’s response times to the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Twp., which is the primary coverage area for the department that has to cross the Susquehanna River to get to calls.
The county-owned bridge, built in 1914, links Nanticoke City to the West Nanticoke section of the township.
“That’s going to add on another six to eight minutes of response time when we are going to Plymouth Twp. depending on where we are going in the township,” Nanticoke Fire Chief Mark Boncal said.
The department’s vehicles will now have to leave the city into Hanover Twp. and onto Route 29 to use the South Cross Valley Expressway bridge into Plymouth Twp. The department’s ladder truck has been using that route to Plymouth Twp. since 2020 when a 15-ton weight limit was implemented. Now, engines and rescue units must, too, Boncal said.
Nanticoke Fire Department is the primary responder in Plymouth Twp. from Avondale Hill on Route 11 to the Garden Drive In four miles down the road and along Route 29 to a little past Maureen’s Cones and More.
The department responds to up to 200 calls per year in Plymouth Twp., so bridge access is crucial, Boncal said.
“I really hope they do this, build a new bridge,” Boncal said. “County council really needs to get moving on this as soon as possible on what they want to do, whatever option they choose.”
County officials have been grappling with how to address the Nanticoke-West Nanticoke Bridge — full reconstruction or partial replacement, both costly options.
An engineering firm initially presented the county with three options, but changed its recommendation to full replacement in March. Under that option, the current bridge would remain open while the new bridge is built adjacent to the old one.
The estimated cost for building a new bridge is $53.6 million, plus about $9.5 million to demolish the old bridge.
Municipal leaders and first responders in the region lobbied for full replacement, since it would allow the existing bridge to stay open. One of the options — partial replacement — would have caused the existing bridge to be shuttered for 2½ years, forcing drivers to use the Route 29 bridge.
Officials acknowledge the bridge could always be closed indefinitely while a new one is being built and drivers still would be forced to temporarily use the Route 29 bridge.
County Manager Romilda Crocamo, who believes the county is locked into a full bridge replacement, informed county council members of the new weight restrictions on Wednesday.
“After review of the inspection report, discussions with PennDOT, and in consideration of public safety, the Nanticoke Bridge weight limit has been reduced to 5 tons,” Crocamo wrote.
In response to emailed questions, Crocamo said the bridge will continue to be inspected every six months.
“The bridge is passable by passenger vehicles. I can not authorize any vehicles over this weight limit to traverse the bridge. Operators of emergency vehicles will have to make their own decisions,” Crocamo said.
Local police will enforce the weight restrictions, she said.
Nanticoke police Chief Mike Roke said the new 5-ton restriction “makes it easier to enforce” than the previous 15-ton limit. Previously, some vehicles like dump trucks would be legal if empty but illegal if hauling a full load, so officers didn’t know if the trucks were in violation.
“Now, if we see a truck coming over the bridge we can assume it’s over 5 tons,” Roke said.
Roke said officers have gained experience in recent weeks in identifying vehicles over 5 tons following the enactment of a new city ordinance designed to limit trucks cutting through residential streets to warehouses along the South Valley Parkway.
Drivers could be cited for violating the state’s disobedience to traffic control devices statute and the city ordinance, he said.
“My advice would be if you don’t have a passenger car or a small pick up truck, don’t use the bridge,” Roke said.
Eric Mark, staff writer, contributed to this report.

 

5/8/2024
Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge weight limit downgraded to 5 tons
jandes@timesleader.com


The weight limit of the Luzerne County-owned Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River has been reduced to 5 tons, county Manager Romilda Crocamo informed county council Wednesday morning.
Crocamo said the decision was made after a review of the bridge inspection report, discussions with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and “in consideration of public safety.”
The bridge had been downgraded to a 15-ton weight limit four years ago, in May 2020.
At that time, the reduction was largely attributed to deteriorating bearings that were not fully absorbing pressure and vibrations from vehicles crossing the span, which put more stress on other components, officials said at the time. The second primary contributor related to rusting on pins that secure eye bars.
County officials have not yet publicly released the latest inspection report.
The 2,072-foot bridge is a combination concrete and steel crossing that links Nanticoke and Plymouth Township.
County officials have been exploring options to largely replace the existing span or construct a new one.
The average sports utility vehicle is about 3 tons, while fully loaded pick-up trucks are closer to 4 tons, officials have said.

 

4/21/2024
NEPA’rogi holds ‘Polka in the Park,’ grand opening celebration in Nanticoke
By Marcella Kester For Times Leader


NANTICOKE — You could smell the potato-and-butter goodness walking down Market Street in Nanticoke on Saturday.
And that could only mean one thing.
The staff inside NEPA’rogi was busy preparing hundreds of pierogis in preparation for the official grand opening of its new brick-and-mortar location that was set for noon Saturday.
As preparations were well underway, NEPA’rogi owners Frank Marcinkowski and Lauren Gorney were busy talking with supporters who gathered around Nanticoke’s Patriot Square for the Polka in the Park celebration, hosted by the establishment.
“We’ve been in operation in the new spot for some time now,” Marcinkowski said. “We’ve been tying up a couple loose ends and everything, got all the cosmetic stuff done, we wanted to celebrate. We wanted to bring the town around.”
The duo wanted to do something that not only brought the community together, but all the other locally-owned businesses as well.
“We’re honored to be a part of it. It’s not just all about the pierogi — because we wanted to make all the other businesses be a part of celebrating as well,” he added.
How it all began
NEPA’rogi started in 2021 during the pandemic. What began as an in-house operation grew into a mobile food trailer before renting out a space at Tarnowski’s Kielbasa on Main street in Nanticoke.
“They gave us every square inch of that place they possible could,” he explained, noting that selling pierogis out of a kielbasa business really helped propel interest and sales. “That really got us on our feet and we were able to start looking around for a bigger spot.”
NEPA’Rogi moved into its new location on Market Street in January. The shop offers all the pierogi classics — such as potato and cheddar and cabbage — as well as some new takes on the polish favorite, like buffalo chicken wing. They even offer dessert-style pierogis.
A musical celebration
Outside, a crowd began to gather in the park, dancing to polka music from the Polka Bandski, shopping other local businesses and drawing with sidewalk chalk. Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski made an appearance for the ceremony, as well.
Taking a break from dancing, Michealene Helmecki-Geiser and Richard Geiser stopped to talk about the event.
A Nanticoke native, Michaelene made the trip from New York to wish her cousin well on her new venture.
“Its a wonderful day to celebrate her success, celebrate the food in Northeast Pennsylvania,” she said.
Marcinkowski and Gorney hope to continue holding such events in the city, and praise the administration and community at large for being so supportive and encouraging.
“The small-town benefit is that if you come up with an idea, and you have people who want to see the community be better, they support that, because you have a shared interest in enhancing the community,” Gorney said.

 

4/12/2024
Luzerne County Council members have mixed views on Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge update
jandes@timesleader.com


Luzerne County Councilman Kevin Lescavage said Thursday he is not convinced the county is locked into constructing a full replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River, shown here.
Luzerne County Councilman Kevin Lescavage said Thursday he is not convinced the county is locked into constructing a full replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge.
While some documents associated with the county’s bridge funding request refer to a bridge replacement, Lescavage said the word “reconstruction” is used in other instances.
The option he prefers — largely replacing the existing bridge — would fall under the category of reconstruction, he said.
“The only part of the existing bridge that would remain are some of the piers, and the lifespan is the same with both options,” Lescavage said. “So why are we spending so much more money for replacement, especially when there are so many other projects around the county that are in dire need?”
The partial replacement he supports would cost an estimated $40.5 million, while construction of a new bridge to the west would cost $53.6 million plus an estimated $9.5 million to demolish the current one, according to Alfred Benesch and Associates, which was retained by the county to assess options.
Millions of dollars in repairs also could be necessary to keep the current bridge open while a new one is constructed.
Lescavage was reacting to a Wednesday communication from county Manager Romilda Crocamo that followed her review of July 2022 documents that had been submitted and approved prior to her May 2023 hiring as manager.
Crocamo told council it appears the county already committed to constructing a new bridge.
She referenced a council resolution formally requesting a $55 million casino gambling-funded Local Share Account grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) that said the funding uses would include replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge.
Council’s resolution designated then-county manager Randy Robertson as the official to execute all documents/agreements to obtain the grant. His application said the majority of funding would be used for replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge and included an engineer estimate that identified “new bridge” and “demolition” in the work activity.
Relying on this application, the county redevelopment authority submitted an application to the CFA.
The CFA indicated its approval was made with the understanding that the West Nanticoke Bridge reconstruction project is the priority for available funding, Crocamo said.
Any change in the approved list, project or funding allocation would have to be submitted to the redevelopment authority and then the CFA for consideration and approval, she said.
Even if full replacement was the option officially approved, Lescavage said he has been gathering meeting minutes and other communication in which officials stated after July 2022 that council would have freedom to submit project changes.
Councilman Chris Perry said Thursday he has been leaning toward the partial replacement option and wants to know if there are any actions that would allow the county to pursue it if a majority agrees.
“If we have to try to amend our request, I don’t know if that is viable,” he said.
Based on the information presented to date and the state’s commitment of an additional $10 million toward the bridge project this week, Councilman Jimmy Sabatino said he is supportive of a full bridge replacement.
“With that additional $10 million, it’s a no-brainer to make sure we give new infrastructure to the residents. Plus there is the potential for additional funding that management is seeking,” Sabatino said.
Council Chairman John Lombardo said the partial replacement is “essentially a new bridge,” but there’s no guarantee a language challenge would succeed.
“At this point I’m ready to do whatever is going to get this project underway and completed as quickly as possible,” he said.
In another update, Crocamo sent council members an email Thursday informing them that work performed by Benesch had been authorized by the county engineer’s department in January 2023 for up to $631,900.
Council had earmarked $450,000 in American Rescue Plan funds for that work, and $3.33 remains, according to the email.
Funds from the LSA infrastructure pot also have been used to pay Benesch, according to past published reports.

 

4/11/2024
Crocamo: County locked into full replacement of Nanticoke-West Nanticoke bridge 
Eric Mark – Citizens Voice


Luzerne County is locked into the construction of a new bridge to connect Nanticoke and Plymouth Twp. and other options presented by an engineering firm the county hired last year are no longer valid, county Manager Romilda Crocamo said Wednesday in an email to county council.
Crocamo based that opinion on a review of two documents from 2022, before she started work as full-time county manager.
Council members have been mulling options for the repair or replacement of the county-owned bridge that connects Nanticoke and the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Twp. across the Susquehanna River.
The bridge, built in 1914, has operated under a reduced vehicular weight limit of 15 tons since an inspection in 2020.
In 2022, council and the county redevelopment authority approved a $55 million loan, funded by state gaming revenue, that created an infrastructure program to pay for projects involving county-owned roads and bridges.
Last year, the county hired engineering firm Alfred Benesch & Associates to assess options for the repair or replacement of the bridge.
Benesch issued a report in November. Since then, council members have focused on two of the three options Benesch identified.
One is the reconstruction and partial replacement of the bridge, at an estimated cost of about $40 million. That would require the closure of the bridge for 2.6 years, with traffic detoured onto the nearby bridge on state Route 29.
The other option is the construction of a new bridge near the existing bridge, which would stay open while the new bridge is built.
The estimated cost for building a new bridge is $53.6 million, plus about $9.5 million to demolish the old bridge.
Municipal leaders and first responders in the region lobbied for full replacement, since it would allow the existing bridge to stay open, providing access across the river that they say is vital for public safety.
Some council members said they favored the reconstruction option, which would leave money from the infrastructure loan to pay for other projects.
On Tuesday, Crocamo announced the county had obtained $10 million in state funding for the bridge project, with $5 million allotted for 2029 and another $5 million for 2031.
Bound by the past
On Wednesday, Crocamo said the debate about options for the project was over, based on her review of relevant documents from two years ago.
According to Crocamo:
On July 12, 2022, council approved a resolution that requested a Local Share Account gaming grant of $54.9 million "to be used for a Luzerne County Public Infrastructure Program which will include the replacement of the West Nanticoke Bridge as well as maintenance upgrades to roadways throughout the county."
The resolution designated then-county manager Randy Robertson to execute documents on behalf of the county.
On July 18, 2022, Robertson submitted an application to the county redevelopment authority — the entity required to apply for the loan, as stipulated by state law.
Part of the application asked "What do you want to accomplish with this project?"
The county replied: "The County Infrastructure Plan will include the replacement of the West Nanticoke Bridge in communities of Nanticoke and Plymouth Township as well as upgrades and reconstruction to roadways in every region of Luzerne County."
Another question was "How do you plan to use funds?"
The county replied: "Luzerne County requests $54.9 million to be used for a Luzerne County Public Infrastructure Program which will include the replacement of the West Nanticoke Bridge as well as upgrades and reconstruction to roadways throughout the county."
On Nov. 28, 2023, the state Commonwealth Financing Authority approved $54.9 million for the West Nanticoke Bridge reconstruction as part of a list of approved projects submitted by the redevelopment authority.
That approval was made with the understanding the West Nanticoke Bridge is the priority project for available funding, Crocamo said.
Crocamo's email to council concluded with: "At this time, based on prior resolutions, submissions by the County Manager, and the award of $54.9 million by the CFA, the county committed to rebuild the bridge."
Council reaction
On Wednesday afternoon, shortly before council received Crocamo's email, council Chairman John Lombardo and Vice Chairman Brian Thornton said they favored the less expensive reconstruction and partial replacement option for the bridge project.
They said council members need to consider the needs of the entire county. They hoped to use some of the infrastructure funding to repair county roads that are in poor condition.
When asked if he agreed with Crocamo's assertion that the county must pursue the construction of a new bridge, Lombardo replied:
"I will support whatever gets a final decision made in the least amount of time, but I believe that if we challenged the language, it would be 50/50. But, as I've said several times publicly, I was under the impression that the decision was made to replace the bridge back when we voted in 2022 and there was nothing left to discuss."
Councilman Harry Haas said he does not object to building a new bridge "if the other stakeholders pony up the money."
Haas said he was taken aback when Benesch changed its recommendation from the reconstruction option to the full replacement/new bridge option last month. He said he is curious as to the timing of Crocamo's update to council.
"The only thing that's really changed here is the zeal of the manager," Haas said.
Council "has a whole county to rehabilitate, not just one bridge," he said.
As of late Wednesday night, Crocamo had not responded to a question asking why Benesch & Associates' scope of work included options other than the construction of a new bridge.
She did say the county is committed to the new bridge option, and there is nothing for council to vote on.

4/11/2024
Big ticket items approved by Greater Nanticoke Area School Board
mguydish@timesleader.com


NANTICOKE — At Thursday’s monthly meeting the Greater Nanticoke Area School Board approved major renovation work in several buildings at a total topping $1.5 million.
The biggest single expense comes with the approval of Lobar Associates to replace the roof in the academic wing of the high school at a cost of $1.06 million. Lobar also got a contract to replace high school carpeting and office carpeting for $222,308, and a contract to paint the high school auditorium at a cost of $73,784.
All Lobar contracts are through the Keystone Purchasing Network, a national cooperative purchasing program. According to its website, the Network follows state bidding requirements in soliciting bids to “save school districts and other public agencies time and money by soliciting bids and leveraging demand.”
The board approved Miller Construction for the installation of a wood athletic floor in the elementary gym and for refinishing and repainting the high school gym floor at a total cost of $187,560. That work is being purchased through the state CoStars system, which allows districts to piggy back on arrangements and pricing already negotiated by the state.
Rock Street Music was contracted to upgrade the high school gym public address system at a cost of $11,522.
And Degler Whiting will provide door safety padding for the High School and Elementary Center gyms at a cost of $9,785, also through CoStars.
The board took steps for additional upgrades by authorizing the director of buildings and grounds to seek quotes for auditorium improvements through the Keystone Purchasing Network for painting, seating, carpeting and lighting and electrical upgrades.
In academics, the board renewed a contract with Discovery Education Experience for this school year and 2024-25 at a cost of $8,801, and approved the use of remaining federal COVID-19 relief grant money this summer to provide a Summer Skills Camp in reading and math for kindergarten through fifth grade, a free high school Summer Credit Recovery program for grades 9-12, and an Extended School year program for students who showed learning loss during the pandemic.
The board also:
• Corrected the spelling of two names from the March 14 meeting agenda to Jamie Hagenbach and Destiniann Mears.
• Accepted the resignations of English teacher Johnathan Evancho, crossing guard Megan Spillers and cleaner Angela Millikin.
• Appointed Michelle Granoski as cleaner.
• Approved the purchase from School Specialty of one Opengate Metal Detector and six hand-held rechargeable metal detectors at a cost of $23,044. They are being bought through the Keystone Purchasing Network.
• Approved the purchase of four mobile heated cabinets at a cost of $12,857, and accepted a proposal from Zodiac Pinteractive for window graphics in the High School cafeteria at a cost of $4,904.

 

 

4/10/2024
Luzerne County receives commitment of $10 million toward the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge project
jandes@timesleader.com


Luzerne County received a commitment of $10 million toward the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge project Tuesday.
The allocation for structure work — $5 million in 2029 and $5 million in 2031 — was approved during a committee meeting of the Lackawanna Luzerne Transportation Study Metropolitan Planning Organization, which determines how federal and state highway/bridge funds are allocated.
County Manager Romilda Crocamo made a presentation about the county-owned span over the Susquehanna River before Tuesday’s allocation vote at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in Avoca. Also speaking in favor of funding was Dominic Yannuzzi, of Alfred Benesch and Associates, which was hired by the county to determine the “best and most economical option.”
Crocamo publicly announced the allocation during Tuesday’s council meeting.
“We did it — $10 million today to add to the funds,” she said, prompting applause from council members and those in attendance.
She promised to continue seeking additional funds and said an update will be sent to council Wednesday “about the status of the bridge process.”
Prior to the new award, the county had access to $55 million from casino gambling revenue for the bridge project. Some council members have stressed the county promised to tackle other county road/bridge projects if funding was left in this casino gambling infrastructure pot.
Benesch originally recommended largely replacing the existing bridge for an estimated $40.5 million but later advocated construction of a new bridge to the west, which would cost $53.6 million. This replacement calculation does not include the expense of tearing down the existing span (estimate $9.5 million) and millions of dollars in repairs that could be necessary to keep the current bridge open while a new one is constructed.
During her Tuesday presentation, Crocamo told the MPO the county is in the process of considering options because the bridge has “serious fatigue concerns” and already has been downgraded to a 15-ton weight limit, with further reductions possible due to regular required six-month inspections, including one now pending completion.
Constructed in 1914, the bridge was last rehabilitated in 1987.
She paused in a slide show photo of a rusted section of the bridge, saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Crocamo then cited a quote attributed to National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy after the January 2022 collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh that the “catastrophe must serve as a wake-up call that we cannot take our infrastructure for granted.”
”Only through diligent attention to inspection, maintenance, and repair can we ensure the roads, bridges, and tunnels we all traverse every day are safe for the traveling public. Lives depend on it,” she quoted Homendy as saying.
Crocamo said county and local emergency first responders, including Nanticoke Fire Chief Mark Boncal, have identified the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge as a critical public safety project that saves lives and reduces homeowner insurance costs.
“Ignoring the wake-up call from the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse and not fully addressing the West Nanticoke Bridge — Luzerne County’s largest infrastructure liability — will be catastrophic from a public safety standpoint,” Crocamo said.
Approximately 6,369 vehicles cross the bridge each day, including 500 trucks, she said. More than 10,100 residents and 4,478 households are within a five-minute drive of the bridge. There are also 291 businesses with 2,684 employees within a five-minute drive.
Her presentation included a map showing thousands of acres of Newport Township land zoned as mining that could be developed, saying the bridge project is the “key.” 

 

3/28/2024
Nanticoke housing project vote delayed until May 23
mroarty@timesleader.com


NANTICOKE — Voting on a new city housing project was delayed until May 23 following Wednesday’s monthly zoning hearing at which the board expressed the need for a more detailed application from the developer, Housing Visions.
The hearing will be continued more than a month from now in order to give the applicant enough time to prepare and submit a new plan to the zoning officer.
Since the board announced the date and time of the next meeting, no further advertisement for the meeting will be required.
The audience was packed with residents, many of whom planned to voice their opinions about the project, but the board decided to hold off on pubic comments until the next meeting.
The potential housing development would consist of four 12-unit apartment buildings in a wooded area in the Hanover section of the city at the intersection of Espy and Bliss streets.
There would be a maintenance shop, community building, playground and 97 parking spaces.
Chairman Michael Jezewski said the application submitted “did not appear to be together” and it lacked crucial information such as building dimensions as well as the entrances and exits to and from the property.
“I think we need a better submission than this,” Jezewski said, which was met with applause from the audience.
The chairman further clarified that the board did not need a land development plan, but they should “at least be looking at schematics.”
Attorney Sean Logsdon, representing Housing Visions, said his client did not want to put extensive costs into the project until they were approved for the use variance, but he would “be happy to get as much information as the board needs.”
A March 19 post on the city’s Facebook page announcing the project and its potential tax benefits was met with much opposition from residents.
A petition opposing the development project has since circulated online, with residents raising concerns about the impact on property values, traffic congestion, noise pollution and more.
Handmade signs urging the board to vote no to the project also popped up near the property site.
The city responded to many of the questions raised by residents regarding the project in a followup post, calling the new development “workforce housing catered to individual and families that are currently paying a disproportionate share of their income towards housing costs.”
Income restrictions for the apartments are at 50-60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), the post read.
Monthly costs for the apartments were listed as: $637-$770 for a one-bedroom, $ 758-$935 for a two-bedroom and $870-$1,074 for a three-bedroom.
The city further stated that Housing Visions would own and manage the property, with an on-site staff including at least a full-time property manager and maintenance technician.
According to the post, the trees would not all be cut down and the House of Prayer Church would not be demolished.
The May 23 meeting will be held at 6 p.m. inside the Nanticoke Municipal building, 15 E. Ridge St.

 

3/28/2024
Luzerne County Council members critique recommendation to build new Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge
jandes@timesleader.com


Several Luzerne County Council members expressed displeasure Tuesday with an updated outside consultant report that now recommends building a new Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River instead of mostly replacing the existing one.
In January, Alfred Benesch and Associates appeared before council and recommended a $39.6 million project that would fully replace the truss section with four new steel bridge spans on new piers, replace the beams and deck on the 21 approach spans and repair the remaining existing piers and abutments.
This option would accommodate potential future industrial development by widening the county-owned bridge to 32 feet and adding a right turning lane onto Route 11, said Benesch, which was hired by the county to determine the “best and most economical option.”
A new bridge west of the existing one would cost an estimated $64 million, the January presentation said.
Benesch representative Dominic Yannuzzi said the revised recommendation put more emphasis on community impact around the bridge.
For example, it cites a $15.3 million “road users liquidated damages” cost that represents additional time and fuel motorists are projected to shoulder due to a 2.6-year detour during partial replacement. A detour would not be necessary with the new bridge if the current one is kept open during construction.
The new bridge option also was reduced by $9.5 million on paper by making demolition of the current bridge a separate project, which brought the construction cost below the $55 million the county has available from casino-gambling revenue.
Council reaction
Council Chairman John Lombardo obtained verification from Yannuzzi that it is possible the current bridge could shut down any time due to its deteriorating condition, which means there is no guarantee it could remain open to avoid detours throughout the construction of a new bridge.
Yannuzzi said the critical “priority 1” items are the bearings that are severely rusted as shown in report photographs. Upgrading/replacing bearings was estimated to cost $2.5 million based on a 2019 bid, which could now equate to as much as $5 million because prices have “skyrocketed” since then, he said.
Lombardo said this additional cost should be added to the new bridge estimate if it is being held up as an option that will avoid construction detours.
Councilman Jimmy Sabatino questioned the use of funds under the new-bridge scenario, saying the county could have to pay $5 million to keep the current bridge open and then $9.5 million to tear it down after spending $53.6 million to build a new bridge.
Councilman Kevin Lescavage objected to the new report’s inclusion of $15.3 million for “road users liquidated damages.”
“There were no guarantees that the (current) bridge was going to stay open past the next six months, so these numbers that you put forward to me are irrelevant. They mean nothing,” Lescavage said.
Lescavage also said he was annoyed the current bridge demolition was separated out because it is a necessity tied to a new bridge, particularly to avoid two bridges blocking the river flow if it floods.
He said he supports the partial replacement for its enhancements and because it will leave additional funds in the $55 million infrastructure fund to tackle other pressing county road/bridge needs as intended when a council majority agreed to guarantee the borrowing.
Council Vice Chairman Brian Thornton concurred, saying council had promised it also would use some of the funding to address “dire needs” in other areas of the county.
“I’m not going to thumb my nose at those residents and pull that money back now,” Thornton said.
Thornton, who had worked as a project engineer in New York City at the start of his career, went through an exhaustive series of concerns with the revised report.
He started by obtaining acknowledgements from Yannuzzi that both bridge options had similar expected life spans, widths and an improved turning lane.
A new bridge also would require the county to take more private property, he verified.
Thornton also highlighted differences in a color-coded comparison that ranks project components as low, moderate or severe along with a final rating, with severe considered a negative.
The January report ranked partial replacement as low and a new bridge as severe, but the new one places both options as moderate.
Thornton argued a few components were removed from the equation to improve the new bridge ranking and make the partial replacement less favorable.
“I find that alarming. I find it concerning,” Thornton said.
He also vehemently disagreed with the inclusion of motorist detour costs on the summary for the partial rehabilitation.
“I think that’s unfair to the council here. I don’t think that should have been done. I’m just shocked, I really am, that you would take this route,” Thornton said.
Councilman Gregory S. Wolovich Jr. also expressed concerns about the flooding impact of two bridges during construction of a new bridge.
Councilman Harry Haas also questioned the revisions since January.
“A lot of this just seems very arbitrary to me because we had a great presentation, and now there’s many things that are changing,” Haas said. “This is just very difficult to swallow. That’s just my major concern. It’s a little disturbing to me, to be honest with you.”
LeeAnn McDermott was the only council member to speak favorably about a new bridge during Tuesday’s work session and pointed out the life expectancy is not identical for both options.
Yannuzzi said the sections over the river would have the same life span, with new substructures and superstructures. The superstructure of the approach span from Nanticoke to the river would be new with partial replacement, but the substructure of this section could require some maintenance down the road because the substructure is about 50 years old, he said.
“If you build a new bridge on top of them and they don’t hold up, that’s a waste of money,” McDermott maintained.
Council must choose an option at a future meeting.
Lombardo said Wednesday he has no set date on when council will vote.
While delays increase the cost, he said council must perform all due diligence. He added he is concerned about recent alterations to the report.
“We need to make sure all of our questions are answered and pick the project that is the best fit for the community and county as a whole that is done in the most fiscally responsible way,” Lombardo said.

 

3/27/2024
Proposed apartments in Nanticoke met with signs of opposition
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice

NANTICOKE — A non-profit developer’s plans to build an “affordable” apartment complex in the city’s Hanover section has been met with signs of opposition.
Housing Visions of Syracuse, New York, is seeking to build four, 12-unit apartments off Espy Street on land that is currently vacant and wooded.
The developer will appear before the city’s zoning board Wednesday evening to seek a variance to build the multi-family units in a residential zone.
After the city touted the project and potential tax benefits on its Facebook page, an online petition against the development was launched and handwritten signs against the project have been placed around the Hanover section and on Middle Road.
The meeting is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Nanticoke City Municipal Building at 15 E. Ridge St.
“I am going to the meeting. My gut reaction is telling me I’m against it. I certainly will listen to the proposal,” said Welles Street resident Rebecca Seman, 39.
Seman said residents of the Hanover section, an isolated part of Nanticoke proper, have had their lives disrupted in recent years due to developments on both sides — a series of roundabouts on Middle Road and giant warehouses built where trees once stood.
“Everybody is stressed. We have the warehouses up, the roundabouts put in, and now this housing project,” Seman said. “This is one of the nicest areas that is quiet. There’s not a lot of crime. Everybody knows each other.”
The petition formed online reads: “We the people of the Hanover Section of Nanticoke do not want public housing in our town. The increase in population density would put a strain on our already overburdened infrastructure, leading to increased traffic congestion, noise pollution, and strain on our public services. Additionally, the construction of this project would result in significant environmental damage, destroying natural habitats and putting wildlife at risk.”
Some of the signs posted say “Stop tearing down our trees.” Others say “Vote no to public housing.”
The land in question is owned by Edmund Wideman, a real estate developer from Orlando, Florida, who bought the parcel in 1985, according to property records.
One architectural drawing of the planned development indicates access to the development would be from a new road off Espy Street through land currently owned by House of Prayer church. There would be a community building, a maintenance workshop and a playground in addition to the four apartment buildings with 97 parking spaces. Another map has the access coming from Center Street on to Perry Street into the new development.
One map indicates there are plans for a potential “Phase II” of the project, which would be four additional 12-unit apartment buildings closer to the intersection of Jones and Center street.
Housing Visions touts itself as a not-for-profit developer, general contractor, and property manager that “takes great pride in housing residents in attractive, safe, affordable housing.”
City officials have responded to resident concerns in a series of Facebook posts, saying the project is “workforce housing catered to individuals and families that are currently paying a disproportionate share of their income towards housing costs.”
The city’s post noted the church is not getting demolished and all the trees in the plot of land will not be cut down because “it is a large parcel, some of which cannot be developed.” The land is situated between Espy, Bliss and Center streets and bordering the power lines near the rear of Birchwood Nursing Home.
Rents for the one, two and three-bedroom apartments would range from $637 a month to $1,074 a month and the property will be taxed, the city said.
“Housing Visions will own and manage the property. On-site staff will include at least a full-time property manager and maintenance technician. These will be new positions and will advertise locally to fill these positions,” the city’s Facebook post said.

 

3/25/2024
County consultant now recommending construction of new Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge
jandes@timesleader.com

Luzerne County’s consultant is now recommending construction of a new Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River instead of partial replacement of the existing one shown here.
construction of a new Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River instead of partially replacing the existing one, according to a presentation on Tuesday’s council work session agenda.
What changed?
Dominic Yannuzzi, of consultant Alfred Benesch and Associates, said additional weight was put on the community impact of a 2.6-year closure of the existing bridge during the partial replacement project. In comparison, the current span could remain open to traffic during construction of a new bridge.
The cost difference also was addressed by removing more than $9.5 million that originally had been factored into the new bridge construction estimate to cover the costs of tearing down the existing bridge, Yannuzzi said.
Removing the current bridge demolition from the new bridge construction costs is allowable because they are technically individual projects, Yannuzzi said. The county can seek outside funding assistance for the demolition and remove the span on its own timeline after the new one opens, he said.
Originally estimated at $64 million, a full replacement is now down to $53.6 million with demolition removed from the equation, according to the presentation.
Partial replacement construction is still cheaper — $40.5 million, it says.
However, that estimate rises to $55.8 million on the presentation chart when a $15.3 million “detour user cost” is added to reflect the impact of the 2.6-year bridge closure on the community, Yannuzzi said.
He emphasized detour user costs are not a county expense but are instead absorbed by those required to take an alternate route.
Technically called “road users liquidated damages,” the community cost is documented in a section of the full 389-page Benesch report attached to Tuesday’s agenda.
The cost for the traveling public associated with the additional distance traveled and time lost equates to approximately $4.02 for each vehicle using the detour. This price includes costs for both user’s time and vehicle mileage, it says.
With approximately 4,000 vehicles impacted per day, the liquidated damages total $16,000 daily, or more than $15 million collectively over 2.6 years of the bridge closure, Yannuzzi said.
By treating demolition of the current bridge as a separate project, the county would have sufficient funds to construct a new bridge under this updated scenario.
The county has access to $55 million from casino gambling revenue.
Benesch was hired by the county to study the bridge and determine the “best and most economical option” for the county-owned span, which was downgraded to a 15-ton weight limit in 2020 due to issues found in an inspection.
Yannuzzi said it’s not unusual for recommendations to change in the preliminary planning process as more information and public input is collected.
County council must eventually decide how to proceed, and the partial replacement option originally recommended by Benesch is not off the table. It would replace the three truss spans with four new steel bridge spans on new piers, replace the beams and deck on the 21 approaching spans and repair existing piers and abutments, the company said.
With partial replacement, the bridge also would be widened to 32 feet and equipped with an added right turning lane onto Route 11. These additions could accommodate potential future industrial development in the area of the bridge, Benesch representatives have said. The top of piers would be widened to support extra beam lines needed for the wider deck.
In comparison, the total replacement option would yield a completely new bridge in an alignment west of the existing one, Benesch said. As with partial rehabilitation, the new bridge would be wider and address future development, it said. New construction avoids “unknowns of rehabilitation” and has the lowest long-term maintenance commitment, it said.
Tuesday’s work session follows a 6 p.m. voting meeting at the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre, with instructions for the remote attendance option posted under council’s online meetings link at luzernecounty.org.
Although it did not impact the presented county costs for either option, Benesch also considered a “community impacts” analysis that had been completed by the Lower South Valley Council of Governments in its revised recommendation.
Scranton-based Hailstone Economic completed the report detailing the negative effects of a bridge closure.
More than 10,100 residents and 291 businesses are within a five-minute drive of the bridge, the Hailstone report said, including 48 retail establishments, 27 food and beverage places, 20 healthcare and social assistance providers and 62 service businesses.

 

3/25/2024
Bird rescue holds grand opening for new location in Nanticoke
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice 


NANTICOKE — Eylyn Lyons and her birds are flocking to a new sanctuary in Nanticoke.
A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held Saturday at the bird rescue’s new home, the former D&R Sporting Goods store on Fairchild Street in Nanticoke.
“The birds are going to have a bigger space to fly around,” said Evlyn, 12, the founder of Evlyn’s Exotic Bird Rescue and Adoptions. “It’s nice.”
Evlyn had a few of her birds on hand for Saturday’s event. She, her family and volunteers with the nonprofit organization will start working on moving all of the birds, approximately 34 right now, to the new location from their current residence in Plymouth.
At any given time, Evlyn cares for dozens of birds — parrots, parakeets, cockatiels, finches and other exotics — for which she tries to find homes. She said she helps nurture neglected birds back to health and teaches people interested in adopting them how to feed them and care for them.
Rudy Arceo, the operations director who has his own reptile and amphibian rescue, Keystone Herpetology Institute near Shamokin, called the new rescue a “fantastic facility.”
“This is a safe haven for them,” Arceo said. “All rescues are needed. People go to the big box stores and buy birds and they don’t know what they are doing or how to care for a bird. Or they just don’t want them anymore.”
Evlyn has gained a loyal following as “The Bird Whisperer,” having cared for birds since age three and eventually growing her hobby into its current status. Her Facebook page “Evlyn’s Exotic BIRD Rescue & Adoptions” has more than 10,000 followers.
Nanticoke Mayor Kevin Coughlin and other city officials were on hand for Saturday’s ribbon cutting.
“It’s terrific to have a young individual putting so much care into something. We are happy to have her in the city,” Coughlin said. “The birds are interesting and colorful.”

 

3/21/2024
Downtown Nanticoke getting new light poles when $2.5M streetscape project resumes in April 
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice


NANTICOKE — A series of decorative light poles will line Main Street and part of Market Street in the city’s downtown after a $2.5 million streetscape project resumes next month.
Crews from Pittston-based Multiscape General Contractors will resume work on April 1.
“It’s going to look beautiful,” city Manager Donna Wall said.
The construction firm began work in July to add new stormwater piping, grates, inlets, concrete curbs and sidewalks with handicap ramps on Main Street between Walnut and Market streets.
That work, which was paused in the fall, is about 70% done, said Tommy Opeka, senior estimator and project manager for Multiscape.
The company also plans to install 11 decorative light poles on Main and Market street to replace the existing ones, Opeka said.
Nanticoke officials selected double-light poles that are similar to the ones installed in Pittston City, Opeka said.
“It’s going to be well lit,” Opeka said.
Multiscape also plans to replace the traffic signal at Market and Main Streets with a new one and then repave Main Street between Market and Walnut streets. Parts of Market Street will also be paved. Decorative crosswalks will be constructed into the new pavement. Benches and trash receptacles will be included in the landscaping improvements.
During the workday, generally from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Main Street will be reduced to one lane, Opeka said. He said the one-lane restrictions delayed motorists slightly last year during the morning and afternoon commutes.
“I’m thrilled that our streetscape project is starting up again,” Mayor Kevin Coughlin said.
Much of the streetscape project is in the same area as a proposed $21 million, five-story complex between Prospect and Walnut streets that remains stalled due to court battles over an eminent domain filing initiated by the city’s municipal authority.

 

3/16/2024
Greater Nanticoke Area audit confirms $6.6M fund balance
Michael P Buffer – Citizen s Voice
 
NANTICOKE — The Greater Nanticoke Area School District’s annual financial audit confirmed the district had “a strong, healthy fund balance” of
$6.6 million at the end of June 2023, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said.
The school board approved the annual audit conducted by Brian T. Kelly CPA & Associates LLC at Thursday’s board meeting. Grevera said it “was the best audit you can get,” noting it found no problems with district finances.
The school board voted last June to adopt a $39.7 million budget for the 2023-24 school year that kept the property tax rate at 12.8083 mills. A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
In December, Business Manager Tom Melone said the June 30 fund balance of $6.6 million was the district’s largest since 2014-15.
Also at Thursday’s meeting:
•    School officials were upset after hearing the mother of a fifth-grade student talk about how her son has been continuously assaulted by classmates. Grevera arranged a meeting with the mother on Friday morning.
•    The father of another student complained about problems with the high school auditorium during a recent musical production, noting an incident with a light bulb exploding, the discovery of termites and ventilation problems. School officials said they would look into the problems the parent addressed and consider improvements.
•    The board approved the purchase of a dish washer and clean dish table from Rice’s Food Equipment and Consulting Inc. for the Educational Center cafeteria at $28,176. The purchase comes from a state contract obtained through a public bid process.
•    The board voted to spend up to $15,000 to purchase new marching band uniforms.

 

March 14, 2024

Greater Nanticoke Area School Board hears safety concerns, approves annual audit
mguydish@timesleader.com

NANTICOKE — Thursday’s Greater Nanticoke Area School Board meeting moved swiftly through mostly routine actions, but when the board opened the meeting to public comments they got different concerns from two people.

One person pointed out that while a recent musical production in the high school went well during performances, multiple problems threatened the production during practices, including a light bulb exploding, the discovery of termites, issues with ventilation, and curtains and other rigging not working. Superintendent Ron Grevera conceded the facility needs work, and said the district is looking into what repairs can be done and what grant money might help move the process along, but added that the district can’t afford to do all the work at once.

The board also heard a woman express safety concerns for children because her child has been bullied and even physically attacked multiple times without meaningful action by school officials. Grevera arranged a meeting with her Friday morning and asked that she write down dates and times of the incidents and of her interactions with district officials regarding her complaints. Board President Tony Prushinski said he was “shocked” and that “whenever something like that happens it has to be stopped immediately.” He asked the woman to call him directly if there is another incident.

During the meeting, the board approved the annual financial audit conducted by Brian T. Kelly CPA & Associates LLC. Grevera said the audit found no problems and lauded the district for a “healthy fund balance.”

The board also:

• Appointed as football coaches Mike Hall assistant III(a), William Goodman assistant III(b), Ken Kasprzyk assistant IV(a), Ron Bruza Sr. assistant IV(b), Robert Ashton assistant I and Kirk Jones assistant II.

• Changed Dan Nearhouse Sr. from a volunteer baseball coach to assistant IV baseball coach.

• Approved the purchase of new marching band uniforms at a cost not to exceed $15,000.

• Approved seeking bids for 600 HP Chromebooks for the 2024-25 school year as part of the annual refresh effort that maintains a computer for every student.

• Accepted the retirements of cleaners Sylvia Brodowicz and Cheryl Kotz, and accepted the resignation of cleaner Cero Mears.

• Appointed as cleaners Ingrid Duran, Samantha Pennycoff, Courtney Voyton and Jamie Hagenbaugh.

• Appointed Denise Keegan as lead cafeteria worker in the Education Center.

• Approved the purchase of a dish washer and clean dish table from Rice’s Food equipment and consulting Inc., for the Educational Center cafeteria at cost of $28,176. The purchase is being done through the CO-STARS system, which allows districts to piggy back off deals arranged by the state to reduce costs and bypass bidding requirements.

 

3/8/2024
Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge plans dominate first Luzerne County manager town hall meeting
jandes@timesleader.com


The Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge dominated Luzerne County Manager Romilda Crocamo’s first town hall meeting Thursday night at Nanticoke City Hall, with questions about which solution will be selected.
County officials are exploring options for the county-owned span over the Susquehanna River, which connects Nanticoke and Plymouth Township, because the bridge was downgraded to a 15-ton weight limit in 2020 due to issues found in an inspection.
The partial replacement recommended by Alfred Benesch and Associates would cost an estimated $39.6 million. The company was hired by the county to study the bridge and determine the “best and most economical option.”
This plan would replace the three truss spans with four new steel bridge spans on new piers, replace the beams and deck on the 21 approaching spans and repair existing piers and abutments. The bridge would be widened to 32 feet and equipped with an added right turning lane onto Route 11. These additions could accommodate potential future industrial development in the area of the bridge, Benesch representatives have said.
The top of piers would be widened to support extra beam lines needed for the wider deck.
Some local officials and residents are pushing for full replacement, which would cost $64 million based on the engineer’s estimate.
The county has access to $55 million from casino gambling revenue, which means another $9 million would have to be found if a council majority chooses a new bridge.
Some council members also have pointed out that using the entire $55 million casino-funded infrastructure pool on the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke bridge would leave no funds to cover other roadway projects that had been on the county’s list for completion if funds remained.
County officials said the partial replacement option recommended by Benesch addresses the same safety issues and weight loads as the new bridge option but costs less.
With the $64 million total replacement option, a completely new bridge would be constructed in a new alignment west of the existing one.
A new bridge also would prevent traffic disruption because the current span could remain open to traffic during construction as long as meets inspection requirements. Closure of the current bridge for approximately 2.5 years would be necessary for the partial replacement option.
Crocamo provided an update on the current state of the span during Thursday’s town hall and in an email to council:
Benesch has just completed a “topside” inspection of the bridge truss and is scheduled to perform an underside inspection by boat later this month. Inspections are required every six months.
Based on the initial inspection findings, Benesch said three “priority one” maintenance items must be resolved or mitigated within six months — one new and two recurring:
• (New) A deck spall in a travel lane with exposed rebar must be repaired with a concrete patch.
• A torn seal of a deck joint over “pier 4” must be repaired or replaced because it is allowing water to reach the superstructure elements and beam seats under the joint. 
• Steel expansion bearings exhibiting severe corrosion and section loss may no longer be functioning properly.
Once the full inspection is complete, Crocamo said she will obtain a total list of required priority repairs and estimated costs.
Crocamo told the citizens the county administration is in the final stage of gathering information council members need to make a decision on how to proceed. She expects the matter will be on council’s agenda “sooner rather than later.”
The administration has been working with the state transportation department and state and federal legislators but has not yet secured additional funding to close the $9 million gap that would have to be filled for a replacement span.
Council Chairman John Lombardo told the audience he favors the recommended partial replacement because it “will basically be a new bridge” and falls within the funds currently available.
The town hall meeting drew approximately 50 attendees, and Crocamo said others will be held in regions throughout the county.
“I want to make sure residents of Luzerne County feel included and have a voice and that your voice is heard by the administration,” Crocamo said.

 

3/8/2024
Nanticoke town hall focuses on bridge options; inspection reveals more problems 
Eric Mark – Citizens Voice


NANTICOKE — The status of the Nanticoke-West Nanticoke bridge was the main topic at Luzerne County Manager Romilda Crocamo's first town hall meeting on Thursday.
The town hall took place two days after an inspection revealed additional problems with the bridge, which connects Nanticoke and Plymouth Twp. across the Susquehanna River.
Crocamo kicked off the event at Nanticoke City Hall by telling the audience that county government and its leaders work for the residents of the county.
She promised to hold "open discussion with all of our community members" at a series of town hall meetings across the county.
The town halls will encourage citizens to participate in government and provide an opportunity to share information about county issues, Crocamo said.
Crocamo introduced her senior leadership team, as well as county Controller Walter Griffith and District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce.
During the question and answer portion of the event, the Nanticoke-West Nanticoke bridge dominated discussion.
The county owns the bridge, which is more than 100 years old and has been operating under a reduced vehicular weight limit of 15 tons since an inspection in 2020.
County council is debating three options for the reconstruction or replacement of the bridge, as outlined by county consultant engineering Alfred Benesch & Associates.
The firm's recommended option, a reconstruction and partial replacement, would cost $39 million and take about 2.6 years to complete, during which time the bridge would be closed.
The complete replacement of the bridge would cost about $64 — about $9 million more than the county has available from a $55 million infrastructure loan it took out in 2022 — but would allow the existing bridge to stay open while the new bridge is built.
Majority opinion among the audience favored the complete replacement option.
Some residents questioned why the county could not decide upon full bridge replacement now, start preliminary work on the project, then find funding later.
Crocamo said the bridge reconstruction will take years and it would not be fair to force future county officials to find funding for a project that got dropped in their lap.

 

3/5/2024
Pennsylvania American Water begins $2.2M water line project in Nanticoke
boboyle@timesleader.com

NANTICOKE — Pennsylvania American Water on Monday announced the start of $2.2 million water line upgrade projects to replace more than 8,000 feet of water main in Nanticoke City to improve reliability for customers, reduce service disruptions, and increase water flows for firefighting.
The system improvements replace water main dating as far back as the late 1800s.
The project, which got underway late last month, involves company contractors installing new eight-inch ductile iron pipe, replacing smaller diameter water main in the following areas:
• East Green Street – Prospect to Walnut
• Fairview Drive – Meadowcrest to dead end
• West Green Street – Market to Hanover
• East Field Street – Kosciuszko to Chestnut
• East Grove Street – Chestnut to College
• East Union Street – Chestnut to College
• East Spring Street – Walnut to East Main
• State Street – Prospect to Walnut
• South Prospect – Field to Slate
• East Slate Street – Prospect to Market
• Park Street – Main to Hanover
Crews will work weekdays between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Traffic restrictions will be in place during construction.
The company expects to complete the water main installation, including connecting all customer service lines to the new mains, late summer with final restoration and paving to start in the fall.
During construction, customers might experience temporary service interruptions, discolored water, and/or lower than normal water pressure. Crews will work as quickly as possible to shorten the length of these temporary inconveniences.
For more information, contact Pennsylvania American Water’s customer service center at

1-800-565-7292.

 

3/5/2024

Firehouse Subs food truck in Plymouth, Nanticoke next week for fundraiser
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice

PLYMOUTH — A food truck that benefits local fire departments around the country will be in Plymouth this week and Nanticoke next week.

Firehouse Subs, which has 1,200 physical locations, on Monday deployed its fundraising food trailer outside the Plymouth Fire Co. No. 1 at 24 Gaylord St. The company’s specialty subs will be sold daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Saturday with a portion of proceeds benefiting the volunteer fire department.

Next week, the truck moves on to the Nanticoke City Fire Department at 2 E. Ridge St. in support of one of the department’s volunteer organizations, Pioneer Hook and Ladder Co. In Nanticoke, the truck will operate 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 11 through March 16.

Officials with the Plymouth Fire Co. No 1 said sales were brisk as soon as the truck opened Monday morning.

“It’s surprising, right out of the gate, it’s been busy,” said fire department Foreman Tom McTague. “The more the community supports it, the better for us.”

The story behind Firehouse Subs is “pretty impressive,” McTague said.

Founded by two firefighter brothers in 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida, the company was sold to the parent company of Burger King in 2021 for $1 billion.

The food truck has donated more than $439,000 to fire companies across the country since it debuted a few years ago, a sign on the trailer says. The Germania Hose Company in Duryea and the Hanover Twp. Fire Department hosted the truck last year.

The menu for the food truck includes eight different specialty subs and a five-cheese macaroni and cheese.

Coty Hartman, 35, a member of Hunlock Creek emergency services, bought some subs for lunch Monday in Plymouth. He said he wanted to support a fellow emergency service and was familiar with Firehouse Subs’ food. On Monday, he ordered the smokehouse beef and cheddar brisket sub.

“It’s actually really good food,” Hartman said.

2/17/2024
H.S. Football: Scott Dennis named new head coach at Nanticoke Area
jerzar@timesleader.com


Nanticoke Area didn’t have to look far to find someone with extensive head coaching experience to take over its football program.
The school board voted 8-0 Thursday night to hire Scott Dennis, a Nanticoke Area assistant who previously had been a head coach at two schools. Board president Tony Prushinski didn’t attend the board meeting.
Dennis takes over for Ron Bruza, who resigned shortly after Nanticoke Area completed a 7-5 season, its first winning record since 2018, and played in the District 2 Class 4A playoffs.
Bruza coached Nanticoke Area for 14 seasons, compiling a 70-85 record. He inherited a program which was 1-29 over its previous three seasons and coached the Trojans to four appearances in the Eastern Conference playoffs and three in the District 2 playoffs.
Dennis began his head coaching career at Holy Redeemer in 2014, finishing with a 4-16 record in two season. He then left to coach Central Columbia.
After Central Columbia finished 4-6 in 2016, Dennis coached the Blue Jays to four consecutive winning records. They lost in the District 2 Class 2A semifinals to Southern Columbia in 2017 and the D2-3A semifinals to Loyalsock in 2019. Central Columbia also lost in the D4-2A quarterfinals in 2018.
Central Columbia finished 5-3 in a 2020 season shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blue Jays struggled in Dennis final season at the helm in 2021, finishing 3-7 and being shut out four times.
Dennis finished with a 36-27 record at Central Columbia. Nanticoke Area athletic director Ken Bartuska said four candidates were interviewed.
Nanticoke Area is the second Wyoming Valley Conference team which will have a new head coach in 2024. Joe DeLucca was hired in mid-January to replace Nick Barbieri at Pittston Area. Barbieri retired following the 2023 season. He spent seven years as Pittston Area’s coach and had a 29-42 record.

2/16/2024
Greater Nanticoke Area School Board makes several coaching appointments
mguydish@timesleader.com


NANTICOKE — The Greater Nanticoke Area School Board had a list of coach appointments on the agenda for Thursday’s regular monthly meeting, including appointment of Scott Dennis as head football coach. Dennis was appointed unanimously with Board President Tony Prushinski absent.
Other appointments for 2024-25 included Ed Lukowski as head girls soccer coach, Chris McGavin for girls soccer assistant I, Beth Verazin for softball assistant I, Harold Shotwell for softball assistant II, Alex Schneider for softball assistant III, and Eric Mishanski for softball assistant IV.
The board also:
• Approved the transfer of Ingrid Duran from cafeteria worker to special education aide.
• Appointed Abigail Gadomski and Linda Lucarino as cafeteria workers.
• Accepted the retirement of teacher Linnea Wilczewski
• Accepted the resignations of special education aide Lizette Rodriguez and instructional aide Samara Vanerhoff.
• Appointed Nicole Smith as special education aide and Grace Dalmas as instructional aide.

 

2/15/2024
Grants awarded to 60 fire and EMS companies in Luzerne County 
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice


Sixty fire and emergency medical service organizations in Luzerne County will share in more than $875,000 in grant funding announced Wednesday.
The grants were announced by state Rep. Alec Ryncavage, R-119, of Plymouth, and state Rep. Mike Cabell, R-117, of Butler Twp.
The grants in the 119th District include:
•    Ashley: Rescue Hose Co. No. 1 — $13,839.63.
•    Edwardsville: Franklin Hose Company No. 2 — $13,645 and Woodward Hill Hose Co. No. 4 — $14,034.
•    Hanover Twp.: Breslau Hose Co. No. 5 — $14,034; Franklin Hose Co. No. 4 — $13,645; Goodwill Hose Co. No. 1 — $13,256. Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance Association — $15,000; Hanover Twp. Fire Department — $16,173; and Newtown Fire Co. No. 2 — $13,450.
•    Larksville: Larksville Community Ambulance — $13,061 and Larksville Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 — $13,061.
•    Mountain Top: Mountain Top Community Ambulance — $10,000; Mountain Top Hose Co. No. 1 — $15,006; and Wright Twp. Volunteer Firemen’s Association — $15,979.
•    Nanticoke: A.K. Mowery Hose Co. No. 3 — $13.061; Hanover Fire Co. No. 4 — $14,228; Lape Hose Co. No. 2 — $14,228; Nanticoke City Fire Department — $14,812; Nanticoke Community Ambulance — $12,460; Pioneer Hook & Ladder — $14,617; Stickney Fire Co. No.. 1 — $13,061 and Washington Fire Co. No. 5 — $13,061.
•    Newport Twp.: Newport Township Consolidated Fire Co. — $13,256 and Glen Lyon/Alden Volunteer Hose Co. — $26,645.
•    Plymouth: Goodwill Hose Co. No. 2 — $14,228; Plymouth Borough Ambulance Association — $15,000; Plymouth Borough Fire Co. — $13,450; and Plymouth Fire Company No. 1 — $13,645.
•    Warrior Run: Askam Fire Co. No. 6 — $13,645 and Warrior Run Volunteer Fire Co. — $13,061.
“I’m thankful so many local fire and EMS companies were awarded these highly competitive funds,” Ryncavage said. “Our dedicated first responders do an amazing job protecting lives and property in our communities, and these grants will help our brave first responders with their critically important and dangerous jobs.”
Grants awarded in the 117th district include:
•    Back Mountain Regional Fire and EMS — $28,201 (fire) and (EMS) $20,000.
•    Dennison Twp. Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 — $13,256.
•    Freeland Fire Department — $16,368.
•    Freeland Northside Community Ambulance Association — $15,000.
•    Harveys Lake Fire & Ambulance Association — $13,062 (fire) and (EMS) $15,000.
•    Hobbie Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 — $13,645 (fire) and $15,000 (EMS)
•    Hunlock Creek Volunteer Fire Co. — $14,423.
•    Huntingdon Valley Volunteer Fire Co. — $13,062.
•    Jonathan R. Davis Volunteer Fire Department — $13,256.
•    Lake Silkworth Volunteer Fire Co. — $13,645.
•    Mocanaqua Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 Inc. — $13,451.
•    Nescopeck Township Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 — $13,645.
•    Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Co. 1 — $13,062.
•    Nuangola Volunteer Fire Co. — $13,062.
•    Nuremberg Weston Volunteer Fire Co. — $14,423.
•    Pond Hill-Lily Lake Ambulance Association — $15,000.
•    Pond Hill-Lily Lake Volunteer Fire Co. — $13,062.
•    Salem Township Volunteer Fire Co. — $27,423.
•    Shickshinny Volunteer Ambulance Association Inc. — $15,000.
•    Slocum Township Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 — $13,256.
•    Sugarloaf Fire Company — $13,840 (fire) and $10,000 (EMS)
•    Sweet Valley Ambulance Association — $15,000.
•    Sweet Valley Volunteer Fire Co. — $15,201.
•    Valley Regional Fire and Rescue Inc. (fire) — $14,423.
•    White Haven Fire Company No. 1 — $14,229.
•    White Haven Rescue Unit — $15,000.
“We are grateful for our dedicated and hard-working first responders who do such a tremendous job serving our local communities,” said Cabell. “I am pleased so many of them continue to apply for this annual financial support.”
All grants are generated from slot machine casino gaming proceeds, and not General Fund tax revenue.
The grant program is administered by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency with the application process handled through the Office of the State Fire Commissioner.

 

2/13/2024
Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge options
jandes@timesleader.com

Discussion continues about replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River.
During an informational meeting Monday, state and federal representatives agreed to assist Luzerne County in seeking additional funding for the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge.
County officials are exploring options because the county-owned span over the Susquehanna River was downgraded to a 15-ton weight limit in 2020 due to issues found in an inspection.
The partial replacement recommended by Alfred Benesch and Associates would cost an estimated $39.6 million. The company was hired by the county to study the bridge and determine the “best and most economical option.”
Some local officials are pushing for full replacement, which would cost $64 million based on the engineer’s estimate.
The county has access to $55 million from casino gambling revenue, which means another $9 million would have to be found if a council majority chooses a new bridge.
Council Chairman John Lombardo also pointed out Monday that using the entire $55 million casino-funded infrastructure pool on the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke bridge would leave no funds to cover other projects that had been on the county’s list for completion if funds remained.
These projects: Main Road in Hunlock and Ross townships; Lower Demunds Road and Upper Demunds Road in Dallas and Franklin townships; Ransom Road in Dallas and Franklin townships; Church Road in Wright Township; Oak Hill Road and Crestwood Drive in Wright Township; Old Airport Road in Butler Township; and Hanover Street in Hanover Township.
Lombardo said the partial replacement option recommended by Benesch addresses the same safety issues and weight loads as the new bridge option but costs less.
The Benesch-recommended plan would replace the three truss spans with four new steel bridge spans on new piers, replace the beams and deck on the 21 approaching spans and repair existing piers and abutments.
With this option, the bridge would be widened to 32 feet and equipped with an added right turning lane onto Route 11. These additions could accommodate potential future industrial development in the area of the bridge, Benesch representatives have said.
The top of piers would be widened to support extra beam lines needed for the wider deck.
With the $64 million total replacement option, a completely new bridge would be constructed in a new alignment west of the existing one.
A new bridge also would prevent traffic disruption because the current span could remain open to traffic during construction. Closure of the current bridge for approximately 2.5 years would be necessary for the partial replacement option.
County Manager Romilda Crocamo stressed the need for state and federal funding if a full replacement is pursued.
“I can tell you unequivocally, without a doubt, the county does not have the money to make up that difference,” Crocamo said.
Crocamo also said the county does not have funding to cover the other projects that had been slated to be funded with the $55 million gambling funding if that pot is all used up on the bridge. The county won’t be in a position to fund those other projects until the county’s outstanding debt is repaid in 2030, she said.
Terence Ostrowski, President/CEO of the nonprofit Earth Conservancy headquartered in Ashley, spoke at the request of the Lower South Valley Council of Governments, which originally requested Monday’s session with county officials.
Ostrowski urged county officials to plan carefully, saying the bridge is “one of the most critical pieces” to access thousands of acres in the Lower South Valley for potential economic and recreational development.
He mentioned the South Valley Parkway, saying planning for that roadway started in 1994 and that it took 20 years to get built. Since opening in 2019, the parkway has attracted $1 billion in economic development, 14 new companies and 10,000 jobs, he said. However, the budget for that project was cut, shortening the road and decreasing its capacity, he said.
“Five years in, and we’re already nearing its capacity limits,” he said, describing the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge as the “last feasible way to opening up the Lower South Valley.”
Nearly 1,800 acres of economic development space is available in the undeveloped corridor starting at the Dan Flood Industrial Park just outside Nanticoke, following an old railroad bed towards Glen Lyon, he said. Another possibility is an ATV park on more than 10,000 acres, he said.
Ostrowski urges county officials to ensure the bridge plan they select can accommodate increased traffic.
Crocamo thanked legislators and their representatives for participating in the session and agreeing to work with the county.
She said she expects more discussion and public feedback at her first town hall meeting, which will be held at 5 p.m. on March 7 in Nanticoke City Hall, 15 E. Ridge St.
County officials are committed to addressing safety concerns and economic development while remaining mindful that they are the “keeper of taxpayer funds,” she said.

 

2/13/2024
Many options on the table for Nanticoke-West Nanticoke bridge, officials still seek funding sources
Eric Mark – Citizens Voice


County, state and federal officials discussed options for the repair or replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke bridge during an informational session on Monday.
Much of the discussion centered on potential funding sources that might pay for a full bridge replacement — the option favored by emergency responders and municipal officials, though Luzerne County does not have enough money lined up to finance that project, estimated to cost $64 million.
Though several members of Luzerne County Council participated and the in-person component of the meeting was held at the county courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, the session was not a council meeting and no decisions were made.
Council is considering options about what to with the county-owned bridge that connects Nanticoke and the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Twp. across the Susquehanna River.
The bridge is more than 100 years old and has been operating under a reduced vehicular weight limit of 15 tons since 2020.
Council hired the engineering firm Alfred Benesch & Associates to review options for repair or replacement.
The firm recommended the repair and partial replacement of the bridge, at an estimated cost of $39.6 million, rather than the construction of a completely new bridge — which would cost about $25 million more and take longer to complete.
Nanticoke fire Chief Mark Boncal and Newport Twp. Manager Joe Hillan told council the full replacement option is vital in the interest of public safety and to further economic development in the South Valley region.
Boncal said so again at Monday’s session, though some of his remarks were not audible to those who participated via the Zoom teleconferencing platform, due to technical difficulties that plagued the early minutes of the meeting.
Crocamo said “safety is paramount” to all decisions county officials make about infrastructure. However, as of now the county does not have the money to pay for a full bridge replacement, she said.
Council approved a $55 million infrastructure loan in 2022 that will be dedicated to projects such as the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke bridge.
Officials will need to find at least $9 million in additional funding to pay for a new bridge, Crocamo said.
That number will likely increase because of inflation, several speakers said.
Council Chairman John Lombardo said it would be good for council to be able to use a portion of the infrastructure loan for road projects in the county. Both bridge options presented by Benesch would address safety concerns, he said.
Richard Roman, district executive for the state Transportation Department, said there will be opportunities to apply for grants and compete for federal funding for the bridge project.
State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp., said state legislators are committed to working with county officials and federal lawmakers to find funding for the bridge.
“It has to be a priority,” Baker said. “That’s why we are here.”
State Rep. Alec Ryncavage, R-119, Plymouth, also attended the session, as did a representative of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, as well as members of the Lower South Valley Council of Governments.
The discussion will continue at a town hall public meeting at Nanticoke City Hall on March 7, Crocamo said.
“That’s how things get done, when we all sit down and talk to each other,” she said.

 

2/11/2024
Glen Lyon native, a former 49ers security guard, describes being eyewitness to dynasty and free Super Bowl trips
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice


Nanticoke area native Rick Pucci is set to attend his fifth Super Bowl featuring his favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers, but this is the first one in which he has to pay.
Pucci had a front row seat to the 49ers’ dynasty in the 1980s working as a part-time security guard. A perk of the $7-an-hour job was he got to attend playoff games and Super Bowls for free as a team employee.
During his time with the 49ers, Pucci attended four Super Bowl victories led by Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and other stars.
“I’m going to this Super Bowl, too, so hopefully it will be 5-0,” Pucci said recently.
The Glen Lyon native, who is taking his son, Rick Jr., to the big game, declined to say how much he paid for his tickets in Las Vegas, saying it was part of a fan experience package.
Pucci, a 1972 graduate of Greater Nanticoke Area High School, wrote a book about his NFL job experience called “The Forty Effin’ Niners.” He said that was a nickname many disgruntled fans in the San Francisco Bay area called the team around the time he took the job “at perhaps the worst franchise in all of sports at that time.”
He never expected the team would become the team of the 1980s and early 1990s. A New York Giants fan growing up, he switched his allegiances while working for the 49ers.
Pucci moved to California to pursue graduate studies with a woman he fell in love with at Penn State, but they later broke up. He started a successful career in finance, but needed to find something to replace the void left by the break up.
“I had to find something to do on Sundays. I was down in the dumps,” Pucci said.
So he applied to work for the 49ers.
While he held the title of security guard, Pucci said he really was just a bystander to one of the greatest sports dynasties.
“I never really worked. All we were paid to do was wear these big bright blue jackets so people thought we were security. Nothing really was going on, so there was nothing to do. People weren’t acting up back then. It was completely different,” Pucci said. “Today, they are facing the crowd. I was facing the field. I’d be there listening to plays being drawn up. I was sitting right there on the bench listening to Bill Walsh’s pep talks.”
One of the few times he was thrust into actual security work, he said, was after “The Catch” during the the Jan. 10, 1982 NFC Championship game when the 49ers overtook the Dallas Cowboys in the final seconds to advance to the Super Bowl, which they won.
Excited fans proceeded to stormed the field, he recalled.
“Fans were ripping up chunks of turf and shoving it into their pockets. It was the first championship of any kind in any sport in San Francisco,” Pucci said. “The cops came down after we did all the work getting all the fans off the field.”
Pucci said he observed a lot, took many photos and jotted down notes in a journal that proved useful in writing his book that was released in 2018 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 49ers winning Super Bowl XXIII behind a fourth -quarter scoring drive led by Montana.
“The book wrote itself,” Pucci said. “Being on the inside of the organization you really got to appreciate the team and how intelligent Coach Walsh was. Me and Montana were native Pennsylvanians. Both of us were Italian Americans, so we had a lot in common,” Pucci said.
After his time with the team, Pucci remained in California for many years working in finance. These days, he lives near Chicago running a financial planning firm, but visits California frequently for work.
Pucci said he returns home to Nanticoke as often as he can to visit family and eat foods he misses from places like Sanitary Bakery, Stookey’s BBQ, Maureen’s Ice Cream, Larry’s Pizza, Ruby’s Pizza and Happy Pizza.
“When I bring Californians in with me, I say the worst pizza in Nanticoke is better than the best pizza in California,” Pucci said.

 

2/8/2024
Nanticoke sticks with ambulance provider
mroarty@timesleader.com


NANTICOKE — Nanticoke Community Ambulance will remain the city’s primary emergency response provider, council announced Wednesday at its combined work session/regular monthly meeting.
The decision was given as a update and considered a “discussion item” on the agenda and not an action item to be voted on.
Council President Bill Brown explained that council came to the decision following a committee meeting, which consisted of Brown, Council Member Kenny James, Mayor Kevin Coughlin, City Manager Donna Wall, and representatives from Nanticoke Community Ambulance.
“We had a productive meeting and we came to an agreement that the Ambulance was going to supply us with a monthly report, which they have for the last two months, and as of right now we’re going to continue with our Nanticoke Ambulance and hope for them to have satisfactory working conditions and to be happy with their service,” he said.
Following the council meeting, Chief Paramedic Dan Shaw said that it’s “fantastic” that Nanticoke Community Ambulance will remain the city’s primary emergency response provider.
“We’re a very strong ambulance; we have multiple vehicles and a high level of care. We belong in Nanticoke so we can continue our 80-some year mission,” Shaw said, noting that city officials were “very easy” to work with to ensure this outcome.
The decision comes after voting on the agenda item was delayed twice.
It was originally scheduled to be voted on during the Jan. 2 combined re-organizational and regular meeting, but council solicitor William Finnegan stated that the three new council members, Mark O’Connor, Joseph Doughtery and Kenny James, who were sworn in that day, wanted more time to consider the ordinance before voting on it.
It was again postponed when the Jan. 17 meeting was canceled after city officials discovered the council agenda had not been posted online in time due to a miscommunication with Nanticoke’s website administrator.
New firefighter sworn in
Also at the meeting, Mayor Coughlin swore in Gabriel Metric as a full-time firefighter, bringing the number of Nanticoke firefighters up to 12 for the first time in 40 years, according to Fire Chief Mark Boncal.
Boncal also gave an update on the two firetrucks that the city ordered and said there will be a pre-construction meeting in April and if all goes well, the fire department should have the trucks by the end of the year or early January 2025.
City Manager Donna Wall announced the city will be partnering with Nanticoke Conservation Club for a city wide Earth Day Clean Up on April 20.
Council also:
• Approved the Host Cooperation Agreement between the City of Nanticoke and IBEW Local 163 with respect to a certain Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the City of Nanticoke.
• Approved the 2024 city engineering rates from Pennoni and Associates, Inc. (no change in rates, same rates since 2021).
• Approved the re-appointment of Jennifer Polito as the city’s Fair Housing Officer.

 

2/7/2024

Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge info session set
jandes@timesleader.com


Discussion continues about replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River. File photo

Discussion continues about replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River.

The public will have an opportunity to attend an online information session Monday regarding the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge.

This session is at 1 p.m. A link with attendance instructions is posted on the main page at luzernecounty.org.

Constructed in 1914, the 1,922-foot, Luzerne County-owned bridge over the Susquehanna River was last rehabilitated in 1987. It links Nanticoke and the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Township at Route 11.

An average 6,700 vehicles travel over the bridge daily.

County officials are exploring options because the span was downgraded to a 15-ton weight limit in 2020 due to issues found in an inspection.

Council members learned of several options at a recent work session. Some citizens and municipal officials are pushing for replacement.

Council Vice Chairman Brian Thornton has pointed out that another $9 million would have to be found if a majority chooses a new bridge. The county has access to $55 million from casino gambling revenue, and a full replacement would cost $64 million based on the engineer’s estimate.

County Manager Romilda Crocamo said Monday’s session originated with a request from the Lower South Valley Council of Governments to discuss the matter. As word spread, overtures were made on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and state and federal legislative offices to participate and outline funding possibilities, she said.

Crocamo stressed the session is for the presentation of information only and won’t be a county council meeting with deliberation and voting.

Council won’t be voting on the matter at its next public meeting Tuesday because the administration is still collecting data needed for council to make an informed decision, she said.

2/5/2024
Transfiguration Church in Nanticoke holds Myasopusna celebration
mbiebel@timesleader.com


With Lent fast approaching, Transfiguration of Our Lord Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Hanover section of Nanticoke held a feast before the fast, with the traditional celebration of the Myasopusna dinner.
Organizers said the event was sold out, with about 240 dinners sold. The meal consisted of holubtsi (stuffed cabbage), kobasa (sausage), ham, varenyky (pierogies), kapusta (sauerkraut), black bread and dessert in the church banquet hall, 240 Center St. in the Hanover section of Nanticoke.
“I’m here because I love to eat,” guest Betty Rafalko of Fairmount Township said with a good-natured laugh.
A highlight of the afternoon included performances by the Kazka Ukrainian Folk Ensemble Dancers and younger student dancers, known as St. Mary’s Traditional Ukrainian Dancers, accompanied by Walter Milinichik on accordion.
“It takes a little time” to learn all the dancers, 17 year old performer Tristan Pozza said.
Dances featured intricate footwork and great athleticism, especially for the young men of the dance troupes, as they leapt over swords and performed many varieties of squat kicks.
The event ended with the Hopak, the national dance of Ukraine.
According to the program, parishioners of Transfiguration of Our Lord Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church explained: “In our Eastern Church tradition, this past week we were eating all remaining meat products in our homes as we prepare for the Great Fast (Lent) and today we eat the last meat we will partake of until we celebrate Easter. From tomorrow (Monday) to next Sunday we will also say good-bye to all dairy products and then begin our 40 days of the Great Fast.”

 

1/29/2024
Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge options presented
jandes@timesleader.com


Discussion continues about replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge over the Susquehanna River.
Requests were made for Luzerne County Council to consider building an entirely new Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge instead of partially replacing the current one as recommended by the county’s outside engineer.
But council Vice Chairman Brian Thornton promptly pointed out that another $9 million would have to be found if a majority chooses a new bridge. The county has access to $55 million from casino gambling revenue, and a full replacement would cost $64 million based on the engineer’s estimate.
“That’s money we don’t have. So you could say, ‘Yeah, that’s a great alternative. Let’s build it.’ But then we don’t have the money to pay for it,” Thornton said during a council work session about the options last week.
In comparison, the partial replacement recommended by Alfred Benesch and Associates would cost an estimated $39.6 million. The company was hired to complete a study of the county-owned span over the Susquehanna River and determine the “best and most economical option.”
The third option — rehabilitating the existing bridge — would cost an estimated $47.8 million, Benesch said.
Constructed in 1914, the 1,922-foot bridge was last rehabilitated in 1987. It links Nanticoke and the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Township at Route 11.
An average 6,700 vehicles travel over the bridge daily, Benesch said.
County officials are exploring options because the span was downgraded to a 15-ton weight limit in 2020 due to issues found in an inspection.
Replacement pleas
Newport Township Manager Joseph Hillan has said a new bridge would accommodate commercial development on approximately 3,000 acres. He has expressed confidence development will come whether or not Houston, Texas-based Nacero Inc. proceeds with a project it had announced to build a $6 billion fuel plant.
Speaking during last week’s council meeting, Hillan said he was urging council on behalf of township commissioners to choose the full replacement bridge option.
Hillan told council the South Valley Parkway originally was supposed to extend into Newport Township but was cut short.
“This is the last chance to get to that land — a full bridge replacement,” Hillan said.
Nanticoke Fire Chief Mark Boncal also told council members he hoped they would look at full replacement of the bridge.
New infrastructure and warehouses are popping up in the Nanticoke and Newport Township area, and a full bridge replacement would be in line with the growth, Boncal said.
Boncal also reiterated his city fire department provides primary fire/rescue coverage to Plymouth Township’s West Nanticoke area and “can’t afford to have any more weight reductions on this bridge.”
He noted Nanticoke has a new fire engine on order, and apparatus manufactured today is heavier than in the past.
Former longtime Plymouth Township Supervisor Gale Conrad, who now works as a consultant, told council she concurs with Hillan and Boncal.
Conrad cited a bus company statistic indicating school buses make a total 30 trips over the bridge daily between Nanticoke and West Nanticoke.
“We’re hoping you all will do the right thing and replace over repair,” Conrad said.
Seeking funding
County Councilman Harry Haas said the additional cost for a bridge replacement is a “pretty heavy lift” and suggested those speaking consider getting involved in seeking more funding.
Prior county engineer Lawrence Plesh had said in 2022 that the administration applied for a Bridge Investment Program grant through the Federal Highway Administration, which would require a county match. The county was unsuccessful at that time.
Thornton said he would never be in favor of borrowing additional funds for the bridge because the county is on a path to get out of debt.
County Manager Romilda Crocamo told council members the administration will exhaustively research all possible state and federal funding to help council in its decision on how to proceed — including applying for another Bridge Investment Program grant before the March deadline.
Councilman Jimmy Sabatino verified with Benesch that including federal funds in the mix could increase the cost and extend the completion due to federal regulatory requirements.
The options
A synopsis of the state of the bridge and three options based on information Benesch representatives presented last week:
The bridge has 24 spans — three trusses extending over the Susquehanna and 21 shorter approaching spans of pre-cast concrete. The trusses have been deteriorating, leading to weight posting reductions, and are considered “fracture critical,” which means failure of one of the main connections would lead to catastrophic bridge failure.
Aside from structural issues, Benesch said the current bridge roadway width is a narrow 21 feet and should be 32 feet under current design standards. Larger vehicles making right turns from the bridge onto Route 11 in Plymouth Township also must swing into the oncoming Route 11 traffic lane, creating a potential safety risk.
• Option 1 — rehabilitation ($47.8 million, 3.1 years to complete)
This would rehabilitate the three trusses, replace the beams and deck on the 21 approaching spans and repair existing piers and abutments.
This option won’t make the bridge wider or address the concern about larger vehicles turning right on Route 11.
Benesch largely did not recommend this option because there could be “unknowns” addressing deteriorated pin connections. Severe rusting on pins makes it difficult for inspectors to assess the underlying condition.
• Option 2 — partial replacement ($39.6 million, 2.6 years)
Benesch is recommending this option.
It would replace the three truss spans with four new steel bridge spans on new piers, replace the beams and deck on the 21 approaching spans and repair existing piers and abutments.
With this option, the bridge would be widened to 32 feet and equipped with an added right turning lane onto Route 11. These additions could accommodate potential future industrial development in the area of the bridge.
The top of piers would be widened to support extra beam lines needed for the wider deck.
The truss replacement section would require four piers instead of three. To prevent increased flooding due to river flow obstruction, two smaller piers would be removed elsewhere on the bridge, which would slightly reduce the flood risk.
• Option 3 — completely new bridge in a new alignment west of the existing bridge ($64 million, 3.3 years)
The new bridge would have concrete beams, be wider and provide a turning lane onto Route 11.
Its new footprint would eliminate a bend in the bridge path and soften a curve where the bridge begins on Broadway Street on the Nanticoke side.
A new bridge also would prevent traffic disruption because the current span could remain open to traffic during construction. Temporary closure of the bridge would be necessary for the other two options.
After reviewing many factors, Benesch concluded partial replacement should be recommended. That option costs millions of dollars less and could be completed faster, company representatives said.


1/29/2024
Luzerne County Council mulling options for Nanticoke/West Nanticoke bridge project 
Eric Mark – Citizens Voice
WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County Council will likely decide later this year whether to rehabilitate or replace the county-owned bridge that connects Nanticoke and the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Twp. across the Susquehanna River.
At a work session last Tuesday, council heard a presentation from Alfred Benesch & Associates, the engineering firm it hired to assess options for the bridge, which is more than 100 years old and has operated under a reduced vehicular weight limit of 15 tons following an inspection in 2020.
Council also heard pleas from a fire chief and municipal official to choose the most expensive option of full bridge replacement, in the interest of public safety.
Council and the county redevelopment authority voted in 2022 to pursue a $55 million infrastructure loan funded by state gaming revenue for projects such as the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke bridge.
Last year, council approved $450,000 in American Rescue Plan funding to hire Benesch to conduct a study and suggest options for the bridge project.
The firm submitted a report in November that described the bridge as “structurally deficient” and outlined three options:
The recommended option is rehabilitation and partial replacement. That would replace three truss spans with four steel beams on new piers. It also calls for replacing the superstructure on the southern approach spans and a widening of the bridge deck.
The project would cost $39.6 million and take 2.6 years to complete, Benesch said.
That is the shortest construction time frame of the three options and would save more than $24 million compared to a full bridge replacement, which Benesch estimates would cost $64 million and take 3.3 years to complete.
The third option, involving truss rehabilitation and replacing the southern approach spans, would cost about $47.8 million and take 3.1 years.
At Tuesday’s work session, Benesch project engineer Dominic Yannuzzi told council the bridge is “past its prime.” The design of the bridge, last rehabilitated in 1977, lags far behind modern standards, Yannuzzi said.
Nanticoke fire Chief Mark Boncal said any further decrease in the vehicular weight limit on the bridge would impact response times for emergency vehicles and pose a risk to public safety.
He urged council members to choose the full replacement option, as did Newport Twp. Manager Joe Hillan.
A new bridge would help boost the county’s tax base by easing the way for more commercial development in the region, Hillan said.
Councilman Kevin Lescavage said he wants to see cost estimates “nailed down” before council votes on how to proceed. Council members “are not going to look at change orders lightly” after the project starts, he said.
County Manager Romilda Crocamo said the county will pursue all available grants and other funding to pay for whichever option council chooses for the project.
If more funding is required, the county “will go out and get it,” she said.
Council “wants to get this project rolling as soon as possible” but there is no timeframe established for when council will vote on how to proceed, council Chairman John Lombardo said Sunday.

 

1/23/2024
Greater Nanticoke Area keeping superintendent for 5 more years 
Michael P. Buffer  Times Leader


The Greater Nanticoke Area School Board has extended Ronald Grevera’s contract as superintendent another five years.
His contract now expires in 2029. His pay will continue to increase 4% a year, and his current annual salary is $160,000.
“I’m grateful to the board for their continued confidence in my ability to lead the district over the next five years,” Grevera said Monday in an email. “I’m also thankful for my supportive family that permits me to put in the many hours necessary to run the district throughout the year.”
Grevera, 50, lives in Wright Twp. Prior to becoming Greater Nanticoke Area superintendent in 2014, Grevera was superintendent at Northwest Area for three years.
“Many schools have layered levels of central administration, such as safety administrators and curriculum directors, which we do not have. I added those responsibilities on to my job as superintendent,” Grevera said.
The school board voted on Grevera’s contract at the board’s meeting on Thursday.

 

1/22/2024
Luzerne County Council to discuss Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge options
jandes@timesleader.com

A briefing on Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge options has been scheduled for Tuesday’s Luzerne County Council work session, according to the agenda.
Council must decide how it wants to proceed in addressing the county-owned span over the Susquehanna River, which carries Lower Broadway Street in Nanticoke to Route 11 in the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Township.
The last public update was in November, when the county’s outside engineer recommended rehabilitation and partial replacement of the existing bridge for approximately $39.6 million instead of constructing a new bridge at an estimated cost of $64 million.
“This alternative is recommended primarily due to the improved safety for the public, shorter construction duration and lower overall cost for the county,” said the November preliminary engineering summary prepared by Alfred Benesch and Associates, which was retained by the county to complete a study and determine the “best and most economical” option.
Unless other funding surfaces, county officials planned to pay for the bridge project with casino funding available for county infrastructure projects.
Authorized by state legislation, the $55 million is available because the county redevelopment authority entered into a borrowing agreement to create a county infrastructure fund that will be repaid with $3 million provided annually for 25 years from the casino-gambling Local Share Account (LSA).
Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Margie Thomas said the financing package in place contains a letter of credit allowing the county to receive $55 million for projects.
If council chooses to proceed with a new bridge, it appears additional funding would have to be identified to pay for it.
Using up the entire LSA infrastructure pot on the bridge also would impact several other county-owned road projects council had agreed to complete if funding was left over.
These other projects as previously approved by council, along with the projected costs: Main Road in Hunlock and Ross townships, $1 million; Lower Demunds Road and Upper Demunds Road in Dallas and Franklin townships, $650,000; Ransom Road in Dallas and Franklin townships, $500,000; Church Road in Wright Township, $500,000; Oak Hill Road in Wright Township, $500,000; Crestwood Drive in Wright Township, $250,000; Old Airport Road in Butler Township, $250,000; and Hanover Street in Hanover Township, $250,000.
According to the November Benesch summary, three alternatives were investigated for the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge.
The recommended one — rehabilitation and partial replacement — would replace three truss spans with four conventional steel beam spans on new piers. It also would replace the superstructure on the 21 southern approach spans and widen the bridge deck.
This would cost $39.6 million and take 2.6 years to complete, it said.
The two other options:
• Truss rehabilitation, which includes rehabilitation of the three truss spans to restore their original load-carrying capacities and remove the existing 15-ton weight posting and rehabilitation and superstructure replacement of 21 southern approach spans.
This would cost $47.8 million and have a construction duration of 3.1 years.
• Full replacement, which would construct a completely new bridge structure on a new alignment to the west of the existing bridge using “precast prestressed bulb-tee beams and optimized span arrangements.”
This would cost $64 million and require 3.3 years for completion.
Constructed in 1914, the 1,922-foot bridge was last rehabilitated in 1987.
Because Tuesday’s work session is for discussion only, council would have to vote on a bridge plan at a future meeting.
Tuesday’s work session follows a 6 p.m. voting meeting in the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre. Instructions for the remote attendance option are posted under council’s online meetings link at
luzernecounty.org.

 

1/23/2024
Nanticoke Area Athletics from Facebook


The Greater Nanticoke Area School District Athletic Recognition Committee is proud to announce that their annual Wall-of-Fame induction ceremony was held on Saturday, January 20. This year, 19 members of the Class of 2024 were honored. The ceremony began at 2:30 in the main hallway of the high school (across from the auditorium) with the unveiling of the plaques and then moved to the gym at about 3:00 for the introduction of the inductees. Following the ceremony, our boys' basketball team will took on Wyoming Sem in a WVC game. The GNA community was invited to attend this event.

Congratulations to the GNA Athletic Wall of Fame Class of 2024:

Joseph Tereshinski – 1936
Gary Verazin – 1976
Ken Schinski – 1985
Paul Gufffovich – 1987
Jim McDermott – 1988
Mike Zubritski – 1989
Ellen Bartuska – 1990
Casey Comoroski – 1990
Holly Ryncavage – 1990
Holly Kozlowski -1990
Lori Scally – 1990
Frank Chicknosky - Football coach
Daniel Distasio - Football and volleyball coach
Rose Volpicelli - Basketball and softball coach
Elaine Deluca - Softball and basketball coach
Sylvester Bozinski - Basketball coach
Deborah Krupinski - Swim and volleyball coach
Gary Williams - Softball coach
Stanley Galazin - Football, basketball and baseball coach

1/18/2024
Nanticoke City Council meeting canceled
mroarty@timesleader.com


NANTICOKE — City council’s combined work session and regular meeting set for Wednesday night was canceled because the agenda was not posted in time, city officials said.
That move again postpones a vote on the future of ambulance service in the city.
Council at Wednesday’s meeting would have been poised to vote whether or not to replace Nanticoke Community Ambulance as the city’s primary emergency response provider with the Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance Association.
The agenda item was originally scheduled to be voted on during the Jan. 2 combined re-organizational and regular meeting, but Council Solicitor William Finnegan stated that the three new council members, Mark O’Connor, Joseph Doughtery and Kenny James, who were sworn in that day, wanted more time to consider the ordinance before voting on it.
City Manager Donna Wall said that the agenda posting error regarding Wednesday’s meeting was due to a miscommunication with the city’s website administrator.
Council agendas are required under the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law to be posted within 24 hours of a scheduled council meeting.
The next Nanticoke City combined work session and meeting will be held on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

 

1/18/2024
Nanticoke ambulance decision delayed again after Wednesday council meeting postponed 
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice


The Nanticoke City Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening was canceled because the meeting agenda wasn’t posted on the city’s website 24 hours ahead of the meeting as required by the Sunshine Act, City Manager Donna Wall said.
A main item on the agenda for council to consider was whether to replace Nanticoke Community Ambulance with Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance as the city’s primary EMS provider.
Wall said the meeting agenda was not posted on the website in time due to a “communication error” with the city’s website administrator.
The next meeting is 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Nanticoke Municipal Building, she said.
Earlier this month, city council tabled a proposed motion to switch to Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance because the three new council members sworn in that day requested time to learn more about the issue.
Mayor Kevin Coughlin said the change was being considered because Nanticoke Community Ambulance is frequently out of service.
Officials with Nanticoke Community Ambulance said they would try to convince city officials to keep them as the primary responder.

 

1/7/2024
R Bar and Grill set to reopen after extensive remodeling
boboyle@timesleader.com


NEWPORT TWP. — The remodeling project at the R Bar and Grill has been a team effort.
To know that is to talk
to the owners, Lauren Maga and her sister, Lindsey Temerantz.
“We can’t say enough about our employees and how hard they have been working to get this project done,” Lauren said. “They are here every day, working long hours. We hope to re-open this week.”
Maga, 40, and Temerantz, 37, along with their father, Rick Temerantz, opened R Bar and Grill on Feb. 3, 2011, on West Union Street in Nanticoke. Maga said the business started with eight tables and a small bar, a very small menu, and only five wing sauces.
“Needless to say, things have gotten bigger and better and we outgrew our location,” Maga said.
Three years later, on Nov. 7, 2014, R Bar moved to the old Alden Manor Complex on Kirmar Avenue in Newport Township.
The current location has 29 tables, lots of bar seating, a huge parking lot, and a 150-person capacity banquet hall on the second floor.
“And we now have 85 wing sauces and dry rubs,” Maga said. “We have been voted Best Wings in NEPA for four years in a row by the Times Leader and the Weekender.”
Maga said their customers range from kids to all ages.
“We would like to thank all our of our wonderful customers who have gotten us where we are today,” Maga said.
The R Bar family embarked on an extensive remodeling project. Maga said Floors are being replaced, as are the ceilings and walls. There will be all-new lighting, new counters and new equipment.
“Basically, the entire bar area has been gutted,” Maga said.
Maga and Temerantz said they didn’t want their employees to be without a paycheck while the remodeling project was going on, so they all were put to work during the transformation.
“We really didn’t want anyone to lose out on their pay,” Maga said. “We’ve been closed for two weeks. Several of our employees have worked in the construction business, so it’s going well.”
Maga said the goal was to reopen Tuesday, Jan. 9, but that might be delayed a day or two. On Saturday, she said the project is nearing completion and could make the Tuesday opening.
Maga said the R Bar and Grill has 30 full-time and part-time employees — servers, bartenders, cooks, dishwashers, banquet servers and more. She said the Alden Room can be used for banquets, showers, retirement parties, graduation parties — although they don’t do weddings.
“My sister and I always wanted to open a bar/restaurant,” Maga said. “We work great together and we have an outstanding team of employees.”
Lauren’s husband, Chris Maga, is a certified electrician. They live in Wapwallopen and have two children. Lindsay and her partner, Justin Koch, reside in Nanticoke. Also helping out on the project are Lauren and Lindsey’s mother, Jaynan Temerantz, and her partner, Terry Womelsdorf.
The menu at the R Bar and Grill is extensive. You can check it out at — www.rbarandgrill.com.
In a Times Leader story a few years ago, it stated that walking into the bar and restaurant takes individuals back to their nearest local service station as old street signs, hubcaps and license plates adorn the walls. Temerantz considers it a “garage-y” feeling.
“People will come in and say, ‘Oh I found this and brought it for you,’” Maga said about some of the decor. “We have many groups that want to reserve the license plate booth.”
That booth has license plates from all over the U.S. on the wall.
There’s also a spot dedicated to firefighters and police officers with department patches and other memorabilia under glass at the bar.
The idea to open the bar was “something for us, a legacy,” the sisters noted.
“Our dad (who owns One Stop Service Shop on Alden Road in Nanticoke) wanted us to do something for us,” Maga said.
The bar business made sense, since Maga has been in the business since she was 18 years old.
Family run, employees considered like family, and family fun — the R Bar and Grill truly is a family affair.

 

1/3/2024
O’Connor appointed to Nanticoke council seat
mroarty@timesleader.com


NANTICOKE — Mark O’Connor was appointed to council during Tuesday’s combined reorganization, work and regular meeting to fill the council seat vacated by his wife, Lesley Butczynski, who was declared ineligible to serve a fourth term due to provisions set in the Nanticoke City Home Rule Charter.
Despite being elected to another term in November’s general election, Butczynski was found to be ineligible to serve due to Section 2.10 of the charter, which states members of City Council may not serve more than three elected, consecutive terms.
As stated in Resolution No. 1 of 2024, her council seat was declared vacant through forfeiture, which occurs when a member of council lacks the qualification of the offices as defined by the charter.
Butczynski was first appointed to Council in 2012, when she filled the seat vacated by Councilwoman Margaret Hydock, following her resignation.
Butczynski then won a one-time, two-year term in 2013. She subsequently won a four-year term in 2015 and a second four-year term in 2019.
Butczynski’s ability to retain her seat was called into question last summer as it was unclear under the current charter provisions whether or not the one-time two-year term counted toward her total number of terms served.
Before the council meeting on Tuesday, Council Solicitor William Finnegan told The Times Leader that because the drafters of Nanticoke’s Home Rule Charter did not make a distinction between that one-time, two-year term and a regular four-term and only spoke of terms “generally,” it was ultimately concluded that Butczynski had already served the maximum amount of consecutive terms allowed by the charter.
Residents voted to keep term limits in place for both council members and the mayor back in November’s general election.
During the meeting, Council President William Brown stated that Butczynski was the “top vote-getter in the last election” and received about 1200 votes, but the yes option for eliminating term limits came in at only 700 votes.
“I don’t know if there was a misunderstanding on the question, but we have to go by what the voters voted for, unfortunately,” Brown said.
Butczynski also wondered whether or not voters understood the question on the ballot, but that she was nevertheless proud of everything she was able to accomplish during her time on council.
“I’m okay with it. I did 10 years and I made some good friends throughout the whole 10 years,” Butczynski said after the meeting.
Butczynski will still be involved with the city, as she was appointed by Mayor Kevin Coughlin to serve a 5-year-term on the Housing Authority.
O’Connor, who resigned from his seat on the Greater Nanticoke Area School Board back in December, will serve a 2-year-term on council, effective immediately.
Along with O’Connor, Kenny James and former mayor Joseph Dougherty, who both won four-year terms in November, were sworn in by District Judge Donald Whittaker on Tuesday.
Kenny James previously spent 27 years on the Great Nanticoke Area School Board.
Doughtery served as mayor of Nanticoke back in 2010, spent 6 years prior on city council, and also served as city controller.
Following the swearing in ceremony, council chose Brown to serve once again as president and Council Member Joseph Nalepa was chosen as vice president.
Also at the meeting, council chose to table until the next meeting the vote on an ordinance that would have replaced the Nanticoke Fire Department Community Ambulance and Rescue Unit as the city’s primary emergency response provider with the Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance Association.
The solicitor stated that because they had three new council members there was “an indication” that those members wanted more time to consider the ordinance before voting on it.
Several members of the Nanticoke Fire Department Community Ambulance and Rescue Unit attended the meeting including Deputy Chief Justin Bretzloff, who said three of the four deputy chiefs had a meeting with City Manager Donna Wall and Coughlin last week and “some things were brought to light” that he hoped contributed to the council’s decision to table the vote.
“Hopefully we can find a resolution where we can maintain this primary status and show them that we’re fully staffed,” Bretzloff said.
Also at the meeting, council approved several re-appointments by Coughlin to various boards, authorities and commissions including:
• Kenneth Malia to the Nanticoke City Municipal Authority for another 5-year-term
• Ed Janora to the Nanticoke City Zoning Board for another 5-year-term
• William Davis to the Nanticoke City Planning Commission for another 5-year-term
• James Litchkofski to the Nanticoke Police Civil Service Board for another 3-year-term
• Charlies Alles to the Nanticoke Fire and Civil Service Board for another 3-year-term
The next Nanticoke City Council meeting will be held Jan. 17 at 6 p.m.


1/3/2024
Nanticoke debates replacing city-based ambulance company for Hanover's medic unit; motion tabled until Jan. 17. 
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice


NANTICOKE — City leaders are poised to replace Nanticoke’s primary ambulance provider this year, a switch from Nanticoke Community Ambulance to Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance Association.
The move is necessary because Nanticoke Community Ambulance, Medic 25, is frequently “out of service,” forcing Luzerne County 911 to dispatch other EMS units from outside the city, officials said.
“This was my decision and council’s decision and it wasn’t taken lightly. It wasn’t something we decided overnight,” Mayor Kevin Coughlin said. “We would do more of an injustice to the town if we did nothing about this.”
The move to make Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance, or Medic 9, the primary responder in Nanticoke was on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting, but the topic was postponed because three new council members were sworn in at the meeting and they want time to evaluate the decision.
Council members passed the first reading of the ambulance provider ordinance 5-0 at its Dec. 20 meeting. At Tuesday’s meeting, council members said they would again address the issue at their next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17.
The proposed start date for Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance to take over operations in the city is Feb. 5 at 12:01 a.m.
Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance has pledged to add resources and station an ambulance at the Nanticoke Fire Department at 2 E. Ridge St., the mayor said.
“We are adding additional staffing for Nanticoke and the truck will respond from the City of Nanticoke,” said Chris Woolfolk, chief of Hanover Twp. Community Ambulance. “We historically have had a good relationship with the city of Nanticoke, whether it be the police, fire or EMS.”
Woolfolk said Nanticoke Community Ambulance, Medic 25, is out of service “quite regularly,” forcing Hanover’s crews to respond to Nanticoke. He said he asked Nanticoke ambulance crews to warn him when they would be out of service so he could add staffing levels to accommodate Nanticoke calls, but he only got a warning a handful of times.
“We do not go out of service,” Woolfolk said.
Both Nanticoke and Hanover are medic units, providing advanced and basic life support service. They are private, nonprofit organizations not affiliated with their respective municipalities, but the municipal leaders direct Luzerne County what ambulance service to dispatch.
A Facebook post on the Nanticoke Community Ambulance page accused city leaders of “back stabbing” the hometown EMS unit that has a large group of paid subscribers.
The post says a Hanover Twp. ambulance will still be first due even when Nanticoke’s ambulance, stationed in a former fire station at 901 S. Hanover St., is closer.
“Situations will arise where we are available and sitting right in Nanticoke and a Hanover Township Community Ambulance will respond to a call where we could reach easily as closest,” the Facebook post said. “So yes, we are being blocked from accessing our paid subscribers and the general public from timely access to you.”
A large contingent of Nanticoke Community Ambulance members attended Tuesday’s meeting, but none spoke during public comment period.
Dan Shaw, chief paramedic for the organization, had a lengthy conversation with the mayor after the meeting. Shaw hopes city officials will reconsider.
“They tabled it. It gives us time to present our facts,” Shaw said.
Larry Beck, 72, whose daughter works for Nanticoke Community Ambulance, was the lone resident to speak in opposition to the change.
“I can’t see why they want to get rid of it,” Beck said.
New council members
At Tuesday’s meeting, council introduced three new members, Kenny James, Joseph Dougherty and Mark O’Connor.
James, a longtime Greater Nanticoke Area School Board member, and Dougherty, the city’s former mayor, councilman and controller, won seats in November’s election.
Mark O’Connor, a former school board member, was appointed to take the seat vacated by his wife, Lesley Butczynski, who was the top vote getter in November’s election, but was forbidden from serving due to term limits.
Butczynski was appointed to serve the remaining two years of a vacated seat and then won two elections. While Butczynski was top vote getter in the last election out of five candidates, city residents voted not to get rid of term limits that bar council members from serving more than three consecutive terms.
While voters clearly issued Butczynski a vote of confidence, it seems there “was a misunderstanding of the question,” Solicitor William Finnegan said.

 

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