2014 Newport News - Archives
Glen Lyon men help lead woman, pets out of burning home
Two Glen Lyon men rushed into a burning home Monday afternoon and helped an elderly woman and two of her pets to safety.
Barbara Bralczyk, 69, said she had been watching TV in a bedroom of her two-story home at 76 W. Enterprise St., and went downstairs to make a sandwich. When she went to go back upstairs, she saw smoke at the top of the staircase.
Bralczyk said she wet a towel to put over her mouth and nose and attempted to climb the stairs to see where the smoke was coming from, but the smoke was too thick, she said.
That’s when Harry Newhart and Danny Shimko, who both live across the street, rushed into the home and found Bralczyk on the stairs, Newhart said.
“As you ran in the door, you could hear the crackling of the (burning) wood,” Newhart said. “There was a lot of smoke. You could feel the heat from the fire upstairs.”
“Danny got the dog. She picked up the cat, and I helped her out,” said Newhart, who has lived across the street from Bralczyk and her husband, Bolish, for about 30 years.
Bolish Bralczyk, 72, had left to tend bar at the American Legion not long before the fire started, just before 4:30 p.m. When he arrived back at the scene, he saw the home he and his wife have lived in since 1968 in ruins.
Newport Township Fire Chief John Floryshak said the both the first and second floors of the home were totally engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. He estimated the house to be a total loss.
Floryshak said one junior firefighter was injured. The chief didn’t have details on how the man was injured or the extent of his injuries, but he didn’t believe those injuries were serious.
The firefighter was taken to an ambulance by stretcher and transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township for evaluation. His condition was not immediately available.
Floryshak also said the couple’s pet turtle perished in the fire.
The chief said he had not had a chance to speak with the homeowners before briefing members of the press, and he couldn’t make a determination as to the cause.
Barbara Bralczyk had confirmed to police that a space heater was in use in the home, but it wasn’t yet known if it caused the two-alarm fire. As firefighters began to battle the blaze, she stood on a sidewalk across the street with her pets.
“We got there and the lady was just standing there. Then out of nowhere, everybody started coming with blankets,” said Fawn Mukerjee, who lives a few streets away and went to the scene because her neighbor is friends with the Bralczyks.
Soon, another neighbor brought out a rocking chair, and Barbara Bralczyk was sitting in it, wrapped in several blankets, when reporters arrived.
Mukerjee said a boy, about 10 years old, ran to his home several blocks away and ran back with another blanket for the elderly fire victim, concerned that she still wasn’t warm enough. The boy tried to comfort the Bralczyks’ dog, as well, she said.
‘Your heart breaks’
“It’s little stuff like that, to see a community come together. Your heart breaks, especially at this time of year,” Mukerjee said.
Bolish Bralczyk said he and his wife would stay with family, but he didn’t know about their dog, Tyson, because the family pet doesn’t get along well with other canines, and the couple’s relatives also have dogs.
He said the home is insured, but he didn’t know if he would rebuild on that property.
Nanticoke City, Hanover Township, Mocanaqua and Slocum Township fire departments assisted Newport Township, as did Ashley Ambulance, Slocum Township Ambulance, Medic 25 and Medic 9.
Man faces charges after fleeing police pursuit
Jacob Seibel - Citizens Voice
Newport Township police were clocking speeders in a 35 mph zone Oct. 29 on Roberts Street when a motorcycle zipped by doing 80 mph.
The driver, identified as 22-year-old Eddie Vega-Pagan, turned right on Prince Street leading toward Nanticoke, then looked over his shoulder as police flipped on their emergency lights and sounded the siren, police said.
The driver was doing 100 mph now, weaving in and out of traffic and passing vehicles in oncoming lanes, and police stopped their pursuit because Pagan’s recklessness could have jeopardized public safety, police said.
Police were able to get the motorcycle’s registration number, which came back to the owner of Kus New and Used Tires in Wilkes-Barre. Police learned that the owner had sold the motorcycle to one of his employees. Police said the fleeing driver had the helmet’s face shield up during the pursuit and the officer who saw the driver’s face said the employee didn’t fit the suspect’s description. Arrest papers do not indicate why someone else had the employee’s motorcycle.
Newport Township police Chief Jeremy Blank was off duty at the tire shop Nov. 7 looking to get tire for his personal vehicle when he saw the suspect and the motorcycle.
Blank contacted police, who stopped Vega-Pagan in Nanticoke and took him into custody, according to the affidavit. He told police the man operating the motorcycle was buying the vehicle from him and that that man was taking the motorcycle for a test drive. Police told him they thought he was lying, stopped the interview and told him charges will be filed against him.
Vega-Pagan, of Wilkes-Barre, was charged with a felony count of fleeing and seven summary traffic offenses. He was jailed Wednesday at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, unable to post $75,000 straight cash bail set by Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker.
Glen Lyon post office could see hour changes
Given limited options regarding postal service in their town, Glen Lyon residents chose the only one that means their post office will remain open. Now, it’s just a matter of when.
Gregory Miller, manager of Post Office Operations for the Central Pennsylvania District of the U.S. Postal Service, met with residents at the Glen Lyon American Legion on Monday to discuss options for the town’s post office.
The Glen Lyon Post Office, established in 1886, is one of thousands across the United States that are slated for reductions in retail service hours as part of the USPS’s efforts to streamline operations and cut costs. The federal agency is bleeding billions of dollars due to customers sending fewer first-class mail as well as hefty rises in operational costs.
Miller told the approximately 60 residents who attended the meeting that it was the largest turnout of any of the meetings that he has conducted in the district pertaining to local post office retail service hour reductions or closures. “Normally, we have 10 or 20 people,” he said.
Miller said The USPS’s “Post Plan” entails reducing the retail hours at post offices that have historically produced less revenue from eight hours a day to two, four or six hours a day.
He 914 surveys were mailed to all households in Glen Lyon asking residents to choose an option for service. Of the 239 that were returned:
• 96 percent preferred realignment of hours.
• 2 percent preferred closing the post office and having residents utilize a nearby post office.
• 1 percent opted for a Village Post Office operation, which would entail a local retail business providing postal services and products.
Miller said that based on what most respondents preferred, the new hours will be 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the Saturday hours of 10 a.m. to noon would remain the same.
Some residents at the meeting said they never received surveys, and many didn’t like the hours selected.
A vote was taken among meeting attendees, with 23 preferring retail hours of 8 a.m. to noon, four preferring 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 22 voting for 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Cameron Whitemire said those hours wouldn’t allow him to ever get to the post office because of his work schedule.
“The post office is not being flexible in any way, shape or form,” Whitemire said.
Miller said that if more people returned surveys, which he will make sure are available at the post office over the next few days, the USPS can adjust the hours “to meet the needs of the community.” He expects a decision will be made within 10 days, and the decision will go into effect within 45 days after that.
An audience member asked if the post office can be open in the morning on some days and in the afternoon on others, Miller said it’s “not completely out of the question.”
Lorrie Materewicz, president of the Glen Lyon American Legion Auxiliary, urged residents to utilize the Glen Lyon post office for all their mailing and purchasing of stamps, money orders and other items to help ensure that the office is not considered for closure sometime in the future, given that decisions are based on post office revenue.
Several residents asked that a wider variety of products be sold at the Glen Lyon Post Office. They said post offices in Nanticoke and Wilkes-Barre have better selections.
Miller said it’s difficult to make such changes because, even though Congress doesn’t provide funding to the USPS, all decisions have to be approved by the legislators.
Newport Twp. couple arrested in domestic dispute
Jacob Seibel - Citizens Voice
Newport Township police arrested a couple after the boyfriend choked his girlfriend for throwing rocks at him, according to police affidavits.
Richard L. Rudy Jr., 39, of 1012 W. Main Ave., Nanticoke, and April L. Mitchell, 23, of 331 W. Shawnee Ave., Plymouth, were jailed Thursday at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility on assault charges.
Mitchell was sitting on a guardrail with Rudy beside her when police pulled up to them near Mill and Jim’s Parkway Inn on the Kirmar Parkway, according to affidavits. As Chief Jeremy Blank got out of his vehicle, Rudy told him he was too late and he had already been hit with the rocks, arrest papers said.
Mitchell told the officer that Rudy choked her, according to arrest papers. Blank said there was redness and slight swelling around Mitchell’s throat where she said Rudy had both his hands around her neck. Mitchell told police Rudy threatened to kill her and slammed her off the guardrail, according to arrest papers.
Police also charged Rudy with possessing drug paraphernalia after they found two marijuana pipes on him, which arrest papers said he denied were his.
The couple’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. June 25 before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker, who set Rudy’s bail at 10 percent of $10,000 and set Mitchell’s at 10 percent of $2,500.
As the Commissioners come closer to beginning the construction of the new municipal building, a loan must be obtained to complete the financing. The total estimated cost of the new building is $650,000. The Township has received a $500,000 grant from the Commonwealth Financing Agency and needs to borrow another $150,000. At its regular meeting the Commissioners approved an Ordinance to provide for the borrowing, as well as, the note that will be executed with Franklin Securities.
Thief ordered to stay away from most cemeteries
Admitted thief Scott Wylie is no longer allowed where other people are dying to go.
A Luzerne County judge on Friday banned Wylie from entering any cemetery unless he's visiting the grave of a "loved one."
Wylie, 27, was in court for sentencing after pleading guilty in February to a theft charge related to him stealing 500 feet of fencing, fence posts and rails, and two gates from the Newport Township Cemetery in Newport Township.
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough determined the 214 days Wylie had already spent jailed for the crime was sufficient. Wylie was jailed from March 14 to Dec. 13 after he was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker, of Nanticoke, who ordered Wylie in prison on $100,000 cash bail.
While on parole for the next year and five months, Wylie must attend the county's Day Reporting Center, a facility in Wilkes-Barre that nonviolent drug offenders attend for court-mandated drug-and-alcohol testing and treatment plans, Vough ruled.
Wylie, whose last known address is 219 W. South St. in Nanticoke, stole the cemetery's fencing to get money to buy synthetic marijuana, Newport Township police said at the time of his arrest. Wylie told police he was addicted to the drug, arrest papers say.
According to a police affidavit, officers received a tip that Wylie was heard talking about fencing and selling it to ABC Auto Parts in Hunlock Township. Police went there and found the missing fencing, police said. Workers at the facility said Wylie often came to sell metal and had just came days earlier with an "unusual" 500-pound load.
In addition to being banned from cemeteries, Wylie must pay $7,000 restitution to the Newport Township Cemetery Association, Vough ruled.
Work can begin on new Newport Twp. building
The Luzerne County Planning Commission on Thursday cleared the way for Newport Township to begin work on a new municipal building.
The township plans to build a 3,600-square-foot facility along West Kirmar Parkway to replace the current township building, which was built in 1911, township Manager Richard Zika said. The current facility is not handicapped-accessible, with the police department on the second floor, and is "terrible to heat," he said.
"We've been fighting for a long time," Zika said after the board gave its approval.
Last March, the Commonwealth Financing Authority awarded the township $500,000 in gaming funds as part of $12.5 million in funding for 37 projects throughout Luzerne County.
Zika said that while the township had requested nearly $800,000, leaders were still grateful for what they got and didn't put in a request for more funding this year. The township scaled down the size of the project and had to get $150,000 in bank financing to cover the project's $650,000 budget, he said.
The board discussed two main issues with the proposal on Thursday - a financial security guarantee and a fire hydrant.
The fire department issued a letter saying it could adequately provide coverage for the site, although the chief recommended a hydrant be installed on location.
Thomas Barna, an engineer with Penneastern Engineering, said installing a 6-inch line from the nearest mains on Miner Avenue or Main Street would cost another $45,000-$55,000. He noted that the building will be equipped with a sprinkler system and that the hydrant at the old municipal building will be about 1,600 feet away.
"They can provide service through the existing facility at its location now," Barna said.
Solicitor Stephen Menn advised that the county should not have a liability issue given the letter from the department indicating it will be able to provide adequate fire protection, saying a new hydrant appeared to be "a matter of convenience" for the department.
The township also sought a waiver of a financial security guarantee - money put up to ensure the promised improvements will be made.
"Usually we're very strict on requiring financial guarantee," Chairman N. Brian Caverly said. "The main exception is when it's a municipal body. We certainly go out of our way to support the municipality, particularly for something like this."
The board waived the guarantee and approved the project subject to receipt of a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation highway occupancy permit.
Zika said the township hopes to put the project out for bid in May or June and begin construction on the four-month project by late summer.
Newport Cemetery group missing money
The Newport Cemetery Association is facing dire financial issues.
With only about $2,000 in funds available to the association, which represents the Newport Cemetery, thousands of dollars are unaccounted for, said association president Christiane Fox.
According to Fox, board members are seeking an audit to determine what happened to the unaccounted money - but they cannot afford an internal auditor.
"We can't pay an auditor," Fox said. "Now we have people who are driving on our tombstones down there because we have no fence up there. We have no money to even get a fence to put up."
Thieves in May stole the chain-link fence surrounding the cemetery in two separate heists, according to reports previously published in The Citizens' Voice.
Fox said the fence was eventually recovered when someone attempted to pawn it for money, but it was already cut into pieces, rendering it useless as a fence.
Former Luzerne County Community College secretary Janet Griffith served as the association's secretary-treasurer from 2007 until last year, Fox said. Griffith in September was sentenced to six months of house arrest after pleading guilty to a felony count of theft. Authorities said Griffith took at least $16,800 that was supposed to be deposited in the school's coffers between 2009 and 2011.
Fox stressed no wrongdoing has been proven on Griffith's part concerning the missing funds within the association. Fox said the missing funds "could be people that are just not paying."
"I do really 100 percent believe people are not paying," Fox said.
But it is difficult to determine what is what because the former secretary-treasurer "wasn't very good" at keeping records, she said.
A message was left Monday attached to Griffith's home mailbox, asking her to offer comment regarding the unaccounted-for records. The message was not returned Monday night.
Fox said she would prefer to handle the financial situation internally, but that would be difficult considering the records the association is left with.
"(There are) no receipts, hardly any records," Fox said.
Hundreds of people dating back to the 1700s have been interred at the Newport Cemetery. Some families pay for perpetual care, but many others are supposed to pay dues for the upkeep of the cemetery.
The Newport Cemetery Association will hold its annual meeting at 6 tonight at Guardian Eldercare, 147 Old Newport Road, Nanticoke. Fox said the room is usually empty for these meetings, with few, if any, residents besides the eight board members attending. But with the possibility the cemetery "would just have to go under" if help is not offered, Fox said she hopes those with loved ones buried at Newport Cemetery will attend and volunteer.
"It's just disappointing that it had to come this far," Fox said.
Fox said one of the expenses that cannot be accommodated this year is grass-cutting, as the landscaper for the season would be paid $2,000, which would wipe out the association's funds.
"We can't do that. We can't pay someone $2,000 tomorrow," Fox said. "We pay someone $2,000 tomorrow, we're wiped out, we're done."
According to Fox, she and her husband plan to voluntarily keep up with maintenance at the cemetery, hoping others follow suit.
Commercial structure damaged by fire in Newport Twp.
Josh Horton - Citizens Voice
Newport Township and Nanticoke fire departments were called to a commercial structure fire at 110 W. Kirmar Ave. on Wednesday afternoon.
Newport Township Fire Chief John Floryshak said the fire broke out from the side of the building and spread to the back. Firefighters arrived and put the fire out within 10 minutes. No one was hurt, Floryshak said.
Although the fire is under investigation, Floryshak didn't believe there was anything suspicious about the blaze.
Floryshak said the back of the building is used by Mel Dudeck's business Dudeck Heating & Plumbing; he was unsure who used the garage area in the front.