2016 Newport News - Archives
Newport Township passes budget with no tax hike
Commissioners also adopt no-cash policy for payments at offices
Melanie Mizenko - Times Leader
One local township that had a “rough year” has turned around to balance a budget and hold the line on taxes.
Commissioners for Newport Township passed their budget Monday, which keeps taxes at 2.2 mills for general fund and 0.12 mills for fire protection. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
When the commissioners hired Peter Wanchisen as township manager, the salary dropped almost $8,000. “Money was not a motive,” Wanchisen told the Times Leader in June. Former manager Richard Zika resigned in April amid an investigation into missing monies, for which police later charged Zika with theft.
Under Wanchisen’s leadership, the township also will save $38,000 annually by switching insurance carriers.
The $1.3 million budget shows an expected carry-over of $31,108 from 2016.
Also during the meeting, Solicitor Richard Shiptoski announced his resignation effective Jan. 1, 2017, citing a growing professional workload and the desire to dedicate more time to his family.
“Working for the township has left me with challenges and rewards,” Shiptoski said.
Shiptoski’s resignation marks three township employees who left during a turbulent year.
Besides Shiptoski, administrative assistant Kelli Valaitis quit after she “repeatedly” asked for the commissioners to bump her salaried hours to 40 hours as well as offer her benefits since her duties had increased following Zika’s resignation.
Valaitis was in the audience during the meeting at the municipal building and asked why the commissioners have decided to adopt a no-cash policy, also effective Jan. 1, 2017, when doing township business.
“For obvious reasons,” Wanchisen said, after Valaitis noted that she had requested that policy while she was in office. “We don’t want any cash into that office.”
As a result of this policy change Newport Township will no longer accept cash as a form of payment for refuse bills, police citations, fines, Right-to-Know request copy fees and payments for code violation or permits, Wanchisen noted.
Search warrant leads to three suspects facing drug charges
A search warrant executed by police and members of the Luzerne County Drug Task Force resulted in three arrests.
Marie McDaniels, 34, Nicholas McManus, 21, and Celso Sanchez, 24, all of Nanticoke, are all facing a slew of charges after investigators served the warrant at a residence at 1 Rock St. in Glen Lyon.
Officials said the warrant was executed at approximately 6 p.m. Wednesday. Along with members of the Drug Task Force, police from Newport Township and Nanticoke were present.
As a result of the search, investigators allegedly found a digital scale, $175 in cash, an assortment of drug paraphernalia, 39 white bags containing suspected heroin and brass knuckles.
McDaniels is charged with one count each of possession with intent to deliver and criminal conspiracy, three counts of possession of a controlled substance, four counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and one count of possession of a small amount of marijuana.
McManus is charged with one count each of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a small amount of marijuana and four counts of possession of drug paraphernalia.
Sanchez is charged with two counts each of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy, possession of a controlled substance and four counts of possession of drug paraphernalia.
Court documents indicate the suspects were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Michael Dotzel Thursday, and are scheduled for preliminary hearings before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker at 1:15 p.m. Nov. 30.
McDaniels, McManus and Sanchez were each jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of bail. A photo of McDaniels was not immediately available.
Newport Twp. officials unveil ATV/SUV combination vehicle to combat rough terrain
Ordinance 1 of 1995 is the regulation of collection, transportation and disposal and garbage and solid waste within Newport Township. Anyone found violating the ordinance can be fined up to $600 and be subjected to 30 days imprisonment.
The township police department, in conjunction with other local officials, revealed a new way to combat illegal dumping and gun ranges.
Through funding from Earth Conservancy and a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Keystone Communities grant program, the township is able to purchase a blue 2016 Polaris General 1000, an enclosed ATV.
To supplement the vehicle, the police department, with the help of a USDA grant, also acquired a new police SUV.
The ATV is the first of its kind for Pennsylvania and the first for Luzerne County, said State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township. Both Yudichak and Police Chief Jeremy Blank said the vehicle will be available to neighboring municipalities called out on a rescue mission or having a problem with dumping and/or vandalism.
Blank said several of his 11 officers will be able to use the SUV.
“We’ll be out the next few weekends,” he said about patrolling the area. “Then, whenever there is a call out.”
Blank stressed the department currently does patrol the area, but is limited because of wooded areas.
“This goes to Glen Lyon,” Blank said, pointing to the vast land. The township — consisting of six unincorporated communities, Alden Station, Glen Lyon, Lee, Newport Center, Sheatown and Wanamie — has thousands of acres of woods owned by several corporations, as well as residents.
Standing at a dump site off Access Road near Pioneer Aggregates Inc. and Whitney Point Industrial Park, Yudichak and State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D- Newport Township, said the combo will be a “powerful deterrent” to anyone dumping or vandalizing property.
“It’s going to fight fire with fire,” Yudichak said.
The Times Leader previously reported volunteers from the Newport Township Community Organization (NTCO) and Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), a nonprofit environmental organization, have cleaned up 29 illegal dump sites between 2009 and 2013, removing 175 tons of trash, 21 tons of tires and recycling over 50 tons of scrap metal.
Mullery said people “feel safe” when they are far back in the woods.
“They feel they are apart from police,” he said.
Mullery said his neighborhood got a sneak peak of the ATV in action on Halloween when Blank chased a bear back into the woods with the lights and sirens.
According to Ordinance 1 of 1995 in Newport Township, people caught dumping or vandalizing in the woods face a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a $600 fine.
Food distribution program aids Newport Twp. families
Paul Golias - Citizens Voice
Struggling families in Newport Township are getting help putting food on the kitchen table.
The Newport Township Community Organization is spearheading a monthly food distribution program that served 209 people in 82 families in September. That represents a significant increase from the 23 families aided in June, the first month of program operation.
“We are helping meet a community need,” said Palmira Miller, a member of the Newport Township Community Organization and chair of the food distribution program.
The number of volunteers also has grown, the chairwoman said.
“We had 49 volunteers in September,” Miller said. “We appreciate the young people who turn out to help unload the truck.”
Newport Township is a community of about 5,000 people. One section, Glen Lyon, was singled out in a March report by a Washington, D.C., think tank as one of the most poverty-stricken towns in the United States.
Miller said that report was the impetus for a phone call to NTCO from Heather Feist of the Commission on Economic Opportunity of Luzerne County. She asked if NCTO would host a food distribution to families at or below the poverty-level.
“CEO saw the need and NCTO agreed to take the lead,” Miller said.
The first partner to sign on was the American Legion post in Glen Lyon.
“The post provided the needed venue and the auxiliary signed on as a partner,” Miller noted.
CEO’s Weinberg Regional Food Bank in Pittston Township provides the food and NCTO, the auxiliary and people from other partnering organizations unload the truck and set up a “farmer’s market” style area where eligible families can select items.
Miller said fresh foods and frozen foods are distributed. There are no canned foods. The selection depends on what CEO has in its warehouse.
“We do not store food as would a food pantry,” Miller said. “We typically give out anything from frozen chickens, boxed mashed potatoes, fresh potatoes, frozen juices, apples and corn.”
A family might get as many as four bags of food, depending on supply and demand, Miller said. At the end of the evening, “everything is gone.”
The distribution is held on the fourth Wednesday of each month, from 6 to 7 p.m., at the legion. Only families living in Newport Township are eligible and pre-registration is necessary. Families must provide their full name, address, phone number and the total number of people in the household. On the day of the distribution, a form of identification is needed for everyone in the household that is registered. Forms of identification accepted include a birth certificate, Social Security card or medical card.
A new program, “Senior Food Box,” is also being developed by Lorrie Materewicz, distribution co-chairwoman, to get food to a senior housing project in Glen Lyon. A food box would contain items such as cereal and powdered milk, Miller said.
Those wishing to volunteer to aid in the Newport Township food distribution can contact Palmira Miller at 570-592- 7876 or email email@example.com
If you go
What: Newport Township Community Organization food distribution
When: The fourth Wednesday of each month, from 6 to 7 p.m.
Where: American Legion Post 539, 62 Newport St., Glen Lyon
Only families living in Newport Township are eligible and pre-registration is necessary. Families must provide their full name, address, phone number and the total number of people in the household. On the day of the distribution, a form of identification is needed for everyone in the household that is registered. Forms of identification accepted include a birth certificate, Social Security card or medical card.
Outdoors/Venesky: Newport Township officials face complex firearms issue
People hunt at night.
They hunt raccoons with hounds.
They call coyotes and foxes.
And during those activities, guns are fired.
But in Newport Township, shots are ringing out both day and night and it’s not all related to lawful hunting.
To make the matter worse, the shots are shattering the tranquility in the township, especially late at night, and it’s apparently become a dangerous situation as one house was struck by gunfire twice, according to an article first published in the Times Leader on May 5.
As a result, Newport Township is considering an ordinance to put a stop to the shots that are disturbing residents.
It’s not an easy problem to resolve.
While it would be simple to prohibit the discharge of a firearm between certain hours — such as those times when most people are sleeping. To do so would wrongfully impact those who are hunting lawfully at night on a property where they have permission. They could even be doing it on the Earth Conservancy property that’s enrolled in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s public access program.
Laws protecting hunting would supersede a township ordinance that would prohibit or limit activities related to hunting, and that’s why the matter in Newport Township is tricky.
“This is a complicated issue,” Township manager Peter Wanchisen said. “We have indiscriminate gunfire at all hours, sometimes at 2 and 3 a.m. Our intention is to go after that, and at the same time protect the law-abiding citizens.”
While there are certain types of hunting allowed at night, it’s highly unlikely that those activities would result in a significant number of shots that would disturb the peace. Besides, the problem in Newport Township really doesn’t pertain to hunting. It has more to do with makeshift shooting ranges - essentially places on abandoned mine land where a target is stuck in front of a culm bank.
Newport Township commissioner John Zyla said the board hasn’t gotten any complaints related to hunting and their intention is not to limit lawful hunting.
Zyla himself is a hunter. So is Wanchisen.
They know the difference between a hunter shooting at a deer or bear and someone ripping off multiple rounds from a semi-automatic rifle at a culm bank shooting range late at night.
“It’s the rapid gunfire at 1 a.m., 4 a.m., that we’re concerned about,” Zyla said. “Any kind of gunshot at night.”
And that’s where it gets tricky.
People do lawfully hunt at night.
Zyla said the township is in the process of obtaining an off-road vehicle that will allow police to respond to shooting taking place in the remote areas.
Will they respond if a raccoon or coyote hunter squeezes off a round at night?
I don’t think so.
I think it’s pretty clear what the problem is and it’s easy to differentiate between indiscriminate target practice and a hunter’s shot.
But what if some of these shooting ranges, or areas, are on property where the landowner is fine with it? What will the township do, if anything, if a person has permission to set up a target on a property and safely sight-in their deer rifle?
“I don’t know how we’re going to deal with that at this time,” Zyla said.
I’ve heard from a few hunters who are concerned the township may enact an ordinance or take action that would indirectly impede hunting or the harmless task of sighting-in a deer rifle.
But I also understand the concerns from residents who are fed up with the endless array of gunshots at night.
How do you address the problem without impacting the right to hunt lawfully?
The indiscriminate shooting in the township has gone on for quite some time. The township should know the difference between shots being fired recklessly and those fired during a hunt.
A little discretion will go along way toward resolving the problem and not creating another one.
Newport Twp. ordinance addresses peddling, soliciting
The board of commissioners unanimously passed a new ordinance Monday which involves peddling or soliciting in the township, a first for the township.
Licenses will be required for peddlers, or people traveling door-to-door selling goods or services. The ordinance won't go into effect until early November, because solicitor Richard Shiptoski must first create an application form.
Among other information on the application, Shiptoski said, will be the name of the individual, the type of goods being sold, the car the person will use in the township as well as if the person soliciting been convicted of any crime.
"The whole idea is for the safety of the community," he said.
A to-be-determined license fee will also be imposed. Under the first class township code, by which Newport Township is regulated, a license amount "shall not exceed $200 for each month."
Exemptions for the license include non-profit organizations, charities and children under the age of 18, such as Boy and Girl Scouts. Pennsylvania law also exempts insurance agents.
"The license is not good forever," Shiptoski said, noting it will be good for 30 days from the date of issuance by the township. Should companies or individuals desire to continue soliciting after that, they must reapply.
Township manager Pete Wanchisen will keep a record of those who have licenses.
According to the ordinance, business may be conducted door-to-door from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Every business must have a license for each individual it has soliciting in the township.
If individuals are found to be in violation of the ordinance, the penalty will be $300 plus court costs, Shiptoski said.
Newport Township to get back $150K allegedly stolen by former manager
The case hasn't gone to trial yet, but for Newport Township, the wait to receive over $150,000 in missing monies connected to the arrest of former township manager Richard Zika is almost over.
During the monthly commissioners meeting Monday, after being questioned by Glen Lyon resident Frank Chest, council members announced that the $156,982 that Zika allegedly stole from the refuse/recycling accounts is well on its way back to the township.
Zika, who had an annual salary of $42,350, resigned after Commissioners Michael Roke, John Zyla and Paul Czapracki approached him with results from a township audit.
According to the probable cause affidavit on Zika, he was asked to explain a number of checks that he had written and endorsed to himself, when he allegedly told the commissioners: "I got some financial problems at my house."
Township insurance will pay back $100,000 of the missing funds. The other $50,000-plus is in an escrow account with Zika's attorney, current township Manager Pete Wanchisen said.
"We did what we had to do," Czapracki, chairman of the commissioners, said
Wanchisen said the township will not lose any money when everything is said and done.
"I'll scream from the mountains when that day comes," he said.
In order to keep checks and balances with the township, Nanticoke's finance director, Jennifer Polito, has been helping Newport Township on a consulting basis.
Polito will be paid $350 monthly for her services by the township. Wanchisen told the room that hiring Polito, even temporarily, could have and would have stopped Zika from his deception.
"She would have found it within 15 minutes," Wanchisen said about Polito's skills on accountant-used spreadsheets.
During the meeting, Zyla wanted to speak his mind because he felt "blindsided" by Zika's actions, but he was cautioned by Solicitor Richard Shiptoski so as to not compromise the ongoing police investigation.
"I felt bad," Zyla admitted. "I still feel bad."
Chest, while questioning the commissioners' abilities to lead, asked once again for the resignations of Czapracki and Zyla.
"You must resign immediately," Chest told them, saying they have "failed their duties" as overseers of Zika.
Czapracki rebuffed Chest by telling him it was "his opinion" and "it isn't going to happen."
In other business, residents asked the commissioners to be "proactive" when it comes to illegal shooting ranges. Zyla, who is the commissioner liaison to the police department, confirmed he will personally check over lists of people being chased out of areas where illegal shooting is occurring to make sure officers aren't missing names and not citing individuals who have been caught twice.
Police Chief Jeremy Blank responded by letting several residents know that officers can cite when they are in posted areas, but in the Orange Lake section of the township, property owners allow shooting. Blank said his officers have no right to cite or go onto privately owned property.
In other sections of the township, like the Red Ash banks, which are posted for no tress passing, officers have chased people off the property.
Newport Twp. Crime Watch thanks all who attended event
On Tuesday, Aug. 2, Newport Township Crime Watch and the Newport Township Police Department sponsored their first annual National Night Out Community Picnic at St. Faustina’s Grove in Sheatown and were overwhelmed by the community’s response.
The crime watch would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank everyone who contributed in any way to the success of this event. So many individuals, businesses civic organizations, performers, members of the military, fire and medical personnel, law enforcement and public officials were involved in the event that it would take an entire page of this newspaper to list them all. The crime watch is deeply grateful to each and every one that participated.
Newport Township has received a lot of negative publicity within the past year, but the actions and opinions of a few do not define a community. The caring people of that community do. On Aug. 2, it was evident that community pride is alive and flourishing in the Newport Township area. Personal differences were set aside as everyone worked together as a team to make our picnic a success.
Special thanks must be given to the first responders of Newport Township and Nanticoke City. These outstanding men and women are truly deserving of our trust and respect.
To everyone who attended and enjoyed our community picnic, thank you for coming.
We hope to see you all again on Aug. 1, 2017.
Crime Watch Committee Member
Valley with a Heart benefit brings out motorcyclists, residents
Another large turnout for Valley with a Heart event
Anthony Conklin smiled as he sat near the concession stand at the Valley with a Heart benefit at St. Faustina Grove on Sunday.
It was hard to believe that Conklin, 4 months old, was not expected to live through the first hours of his life.
Now, the little guy with the big grin and two other sick children are being assisted by the nonprofit that seeks to better the lives of children and their families challenged by illness.
The benefit, which included a motorcycle run and a festival, is in its 16th year, and many members of Valley with a Heart have been there from the beginning.
“In 2001, a group of concerned friends got together with an idea to raise funds for a young cancer patient,” said Rick Temarantz, president of Valley with a Heart. “We were motorcyclists, so we decided to hold a benefit ride.”
Anthony’s mother, Samantha Suchoski, said he will be having the first of three surgeries in the near future. Funds are needed for necessary services and equipment to keep her son healthy.
The family travels to Danville regularly to get treatment for Anthony. Temarantz said the organization does not give out cash, but does such things as providing gift cards for travel and paying bills.
“We do everything the right way,” he said. “The bulk of the proceeds go to our poster children, but we also use some money to assist sick kids throughout the year.”
The organization, he said, works with the Luzerne Foundation in regard to distribution of funds.
The event provides the opportunity not to just raise money for a good cause, but to have a lot of fun celebrating the Labor Day weekend and the end of summer.
The event averages about 450 motorcycles and between 2,000 and 3,000 attendees.
“It’s a one-day event,” said Temarantz. “But we’re here for three days.”
Chris Concert, Valley with a Heart board member, said the event has the feel of a family reunion with many attendees coming back year after year.
This year, Concert was providing a photo booth, complete with flowers, feathers and hats.
“We collected them from yards sales and stuff,” Concert said. “People are having a lot of fun with it.”
Other vendors’ offered food, face painting, balloon animals, home goods and even a bounce house.
“This isn’t just a motorcycle ride,” said Temarantz. “It’s an event.”
Linda Armstrong, executive director of Dress for Success Luzerne County, participated in the motorcycle ride as a show of support for the organization and an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful weather.
“Community organizations need to work together in spirit of service,” said Armstrong. “That’s what makes it all work.”
For out more about Valley with a Heart, including upcoming events and opportunities to donate, access their website at http://www.valleywithaheart.com
Water main replacement project begins in Newport Township
Nearly 3,000 feet of water main will be replaced over the next few months in the township, according to a Pennsylvania American Water press release.
The project, which began last week, will replace 2,900 feet of two, four and six-inch cast-iron water mains with new eight-inch ductile pipe along Chestnut, Walnut and Maple Street. The improvements will cost nearly $477,000.
When completed, in spring 2017, the project will improve reliability for customers, reduce service disruptions and increase water flows for firefighting.
The release states that construction, including street paving, is expected to be completed by spring 2017.
"During construction, customers might experience temporary service interruptions, discolored water and/or lower than normal water pressure," the release said.
For more information, Pennsylvania American Water asks customers to call 1-800-565-7292.
Ex-Newport Twp. manager charged with theft
While serving as Newport Township manager, Richard Zika stole more than $150,000 from the township’s refuse and recycling fund, according to state police.
Zika was arraigned Wednesday before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Halesey on felony charges of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, forgery and related counts. He’s also charged with a misdemeanor count of tampering with records.
Zika resigned his post as Newport Township manager in April after officials started investigating a discrepancy in the township’s refuse and recycling fund.
According to a criminal complaint filed by Pennsylvania State Police on Monday, Zika stole a total of $159,181.40 from the township’s refuse and recycling funds by writing checks to himself beginning in 2008.
Police said the township’s administrative assistant, Kelli Valaitis, started looking into the issue in March when Zika asked her to transfer $40,000 from the township’s refuse account into the general fund.
When she accessed the refuse account she noticed a $2,225 check dated March 29 that hadn’t cleared. She pulled a copy of the check from the files and noticed it was written out to Zika himself, police said.
Valaitis then looked at prior months and noticed more checks from the refuse and recycling accounts made out to the township manager with the words “Adm. Fee” written in the remarks section, according to police.
Police said Valaitis contacted the township commissioners with copies of the checks she discovered on April 6. Commissioners Michael Roke, Paul Czapracki and John Zyla all said Zika was not meant to be receiving extra money from the refuse and recycling accounts.
Police said the township’s computer system was compromised around the same time by a virus from a porn website. By April 7, Custom Computers INC had determined the compromise originated from Zika’s computer, according to police.
On April 8, the township commissioners met with Zika about his computer and the checks. The commissioners told police Zika could not explain the checks and said, “I got into some financial problems at my house,” police said.
Roke told police the commissioners asked Zika to leave the room and as he left, Zika blurted out “I’ll resign,” then turned in his keys a short time later.
An audit revealed Zika first received money from the township refuse account on Aug. 7. 2008, police said. In 2008, police said Zika took $4,093 in checks from the refuse account. In 2009, Zika received $11,422 in checks from the recycling fund. In the following years, police said Zika drew checks from both the refuse and recycling funds, taking $20,322.40 in 2010, $31,052 in 2011, $27,482 in 2012, $27,768 in 2013, $15,150 in 2014, $12,984 in 2015 and $6,715 by February of 2016.
Zika is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker.
Former Newport Township manager arraigned on felony theft charges
Former Newport Township manager Richard Zika was arraigned this morning before Magesterial District Judge Joseph Halesey on charges he stole $150,000 or more while employed by the township.
Zika suddenly resigned from the township job in April following commissioners’ inquiries about missing funds, which prompted a Pennsylvania State Police investigation.
State police filed a criminal complaint Monday charging Zika with felony counts of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, forgery and fraudulent destruction of records, as well as a misdemeanor count of tampering with records.
Zika’s preliminary hearing has been set for 1 p.m. on Aug. 17 before Magesterial District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke.
He’s free on $25,000 unsecured bail.
Former manager arraigned for stealing more than $150k from Newport Township
While serving as Newport Township manager, Richard Zika stole more than $150,000 from the township’s refuse and recycling fund, according to state police.
Zika was arraigned Wednesday before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Halesey on felony charges of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, forgery and related counts, including a misdemeanor charge of tampering with records.
Zika resigned his post as Newport Township manager in April after officials started investigating a discrepancy in the township’s refuse and recycling fund.
Zika will appear for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker.
Petition urges Newport Twp. commissioners to conduct complete forensic audit
A petition is circulating throughout the township compelling township officials to complete a forensic audit on all township accounts and not just the two accounts — refuse and recycling fund — being looked at due to potential money mismanagement by former township manager Richard Zika.
Commissioner Paul Czapracki, chairman of the board of commissioners, told the Times Leader that Zika “handed over his keys” when asked about the missing monies.
According to a letter attached to the petition, residents who sign the petition want to “confirm that all taxpayer money is being properly managed and spent.”
Current township manager Peter Wanchisen said he wants what is best for the township’s finances. He’s more worried about not recouping the money that could potentially be spent doing a forensic audit of all accounts.
“My biggest concern as the fiscal watchdog is throwing good money away after bad,” Wanchisen said. “There is limited potential for recovery.”
Township solicitor Richard Shiptoski said he hasn’t heard anything about the petition and isn’t sure if commissioners are required to act.
“I just tell them do whatever the police say,” Shiptoski said.
Wanchisen couldn’t speak about the ongoing case against Zika, but said the Pennsylvania State Police has “sufficient information” to conduct an investigation.
He also cautioned that investigations “take a long time.”
“For us to go thousands and thousands of dollars into debt for this,” Wanchisen said, “we have enough on our plate.”
The petition doesn’t state at what meeting it will be presented to the commissioners. Once the petition is presented, the offical signatures are public record.
The next township meeting is 6 p.m. Aug. 1 at the municipal building on Kirmar Parkway.
Newport resident takes over as township manager
Newport Township’s new manager will be a long-time township resident with a background in banking and finance.
Township commissioners, at a special meeting Tuesday, voted unanimously to appoint Peter Wanchisen as township manager.
The position had been vacant since former Manager Richard Zika quit abruptly in April after an investigation was launched into financial irregularities in the township.
Wanchisen, who retired three years ago after a 29-year banking career, starts work today.
He will be paid a salary of $34,000 per year for the remainder of this year, and $35,000 per year starting in January 2017, according to his employment agreement. He will work from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, the agreement states.
Commissioner Chairman Paul Czapracki said he expects that Wanchisen will work full-time for at least his early days as manager as he strives to put township affairs back in order.
State police are investigating the irregularities in Newport Township’s finances, according to Czapracki.
One of his first orders of business will be to hire a township administrative secretary to replace Kelli Valaitis, who quit last week, Czapracki said.
Wanchisen spoke about his background and his plans for the job after Tuesday’s brief meeting adjourned.
He said he plans to meet with each commissioner one-on-one about every other week to give and receive updates on township matters. Each commissioner heads a township department, so the meetings will ensure the township manager and department heads are on the same page and “make sure we don’t overspend,” he said.
Wanchisen said he plans to utilize his banking and budgeting experience to thoroughly examine the township’s finances. He said he is confident he can restore the township to sound financial health.
“That is my mission,” he said. “I usually accomplish what I set out to do.”
Commissioners praised Wanchisen, a member of the Newport Township Sewer Authority, as a committed township servant who volunteered to help pore over the township’s financial records after Zika quit.
“Pete is a good people person and also very knowledgeable with numbers,” Czapracki said. “He is a breath of fresh air.”
Commissioner John Zyla praised John Elmy, who has served as acting township manager since April, and township resident Steve Phillips for their efforts over the past two months of turmoil in township governance. Both men served on the selection committee for the township manager position, Zyla said.
Wanchisen has lived in Newport Township for about 25 years, he said. He grew up in West Nanticoke.
Seven people applied for the township manager’s position, four of whom met the minimum qualifications for the job, commissioners said.
Newport Township hires Peter Wanchisen as township manager
Peter Wanchisen was hired Tuesday afternoon as the new township manager on an unanimous vote by the board of commissioners.
Wanchisen’s contracted salary will be $35,000. He will start Wednesday, and he will be issued a new one-year contract on January 1, 2017.
“Money was not a motive,” Wanchisen said about applying for the job.
“(His salary) is $8,000 less than what we paying the previous manager,” Commissioner Mike Roke said.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Paul Czapracki said the board received seven applications for the job. Four of the seven candidates were qualified based on the manager’s application and township ordinance.
Wanchisen, who has lived in the Ridgeview section of the township for “the better part of 25 years,” was employed with PNC Bank and currently is on the Advantage Consumer Credit Counseling board as well as the board of trustees for Commonwealth Health Systems.
“He has a good demeanor, good people person,” Czapracki said.
The township has been without a manager since Richard Zika resigned following commissioners’ inquiries about missing funds. Officials have said the Pennsylvania State Police are investigating the matter.
Since Zika resigned, township resident John Elmy has served as acting township manager.
The board consulted with Elmy and Stephen Phillips, who was also helping the township in Zika’s absence. The Commissioners have confidence in Wanchisen’s ability to better the township.
“He’s a breath of fresh air,” Czapracki said. “We can only go up from here.”
Dane Cooper, a resident of the township at the meeting, shares the “utmost” faith in Wanchisen that the commissioners share.
“I’m pleased he has a stake in the township,” Cooper commented about the fact the Zika wasn’t a township resident.
“We believe in Pete,” Czapracki said.
Former administrative assistant Kelli Valatis resigned last week, saying she was frustrated over her salary and what she described as a lack of respect by the commissioners.
The hours for Wanchisen will be 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Wanchisen wants to fill the secretarial position “as quickly as possible” and will be looking at ways to “maximize hours” of coverage for residents of the township.
The new manager wants to have one-on-one meetings with heads of departments to go over “township matters,” especially when it comes to budgets.
“He wants to hold us in line,” Commissioner John Zyla said.
6/14/2016 - 5:32 pm
Newport Township hires Peter Wanchisen as township manager
Peter Wanchisen was officially hired Tuesday afternoon as the new township manager.
Wanchisen’s salary will be $35,000, and will start Wednesday.
Paul Czapracki, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said the board received seven applications for the job.
The township has been without a manager since Richard Zika resigned following commissioners’ inquiries about missing funds. Officials have said Pennsylvania State Police are investigating the matter.
Since Zika resigned, township resident John Elmy has served as acting township manager.
Former administrative assistant Kelli Valatis resigned last week, saying she was frustrated over her salary and what she described as a lack of respect by the commissioners.
Newport Twp. secretary quits over pay dispute
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
First, the manager. Now, the secretary.
The woman in charge of Newport Township's day-to-day operations since its manager resigned in April abruptly quit Tuesday following a dispute over pay and hours.
Administrative Secretary Kelli Valaitis said Wednesday that she quit because she was overworked and underpaid. She said she's been working double duty since April when township manager Richard Zika was pressured to resign amid a criminal investigation into alleged misappropriation of township funds.
Valaitis said she made $12.24 an hour with no benefits, and asked for a salary increase of at least $15 an hour.
"More and more work was being piled on me. I worked there six days a week," Valaitis said. "They want me there every day, but don't do anything for me except give me more work."
Township commissioners said they were willing to work with Valaitis, but she wasn't being patient.
"She made a couple demands about her salary and hours. She wanted more money. We told her our main priority right now is getting a township manager," Commissioner Chairman Paul Czapracki said.
Czapracki said Valaitis' salary request to be paid between $15 and $19 an hour would make her better paid than most, if not all, of the police department and public works crew. He called that scenario "crazy" in a Facebook post Wednesday night while responding to a comment critical of township government.
Valaitis, township secretary for nearly three years, said she applied for the full-time manager position, but didn't expect to get hired.
"They were going to bring someone in and I was going to have to show them the job," she said. "I don't want to do it. I'm done."
Newport Township secretary quits, leaving township without manager or secretary
An abrupt resignation Tuesday leaves the township without a manager or secretary.
Officials confirmed Kelli Valaitis quit her post as township secretary Tuesday morning.
"She turned in her keys," Board of Commissioners President Paul Czapracki said. "She's out."
Valaitis' salary is listed at $18,360 on the township's 2016 combined budget.
Czapracki said Valaitis, a resident of the Wanamie section, had been employed by the township for at least two and a half years.
Township manager Richard Zika resigned in April after being confronted about missing money. Valaitis' duties had increased with the resignation of Zika.
"It's disheartening," Czapracki said, adding Valaitis "stepped up to the plate" when the township manager resigned.
Czapracki couldn't speak on personnel matters but said there was no two-week notice given.
"Our main concern right now is finding a new manager," Czapracki said.
Joe Hillen, the township's DPW manager, was called during the day to cover the unmanned post. Jeff Pisanchyn will cover permits and code enforcement issues in the township while the commissioners search for a new secretary.
Czapracki said there will be no disruption to township business in the interim as John Elmy will serve as acting township manager.
The township will advertise to fill Valaitis' position within the next week.
Commissioners confronted over Newport Township’s missing money
A township without a manager hopes to have one in place by next month’s commissioners meeting.
The Newport Township Commissioners revealed on Monday that there are seven applicants for the position of township manager, which was vacated by the abruptly resigning Richard Zika in April.
Paul Czapracki, chairman of the township’s board of commissioners, and Commissioner John Zyla were confronted Monday at the Commissioners meeting by Glen Lyon resident Frank Chest. After Chest handed a letter to the commissioners regarding his gripes with the missing monies, he said he wouldn’t read it because of the three-minute time limit in which he had to speak.
“This has been going on for 10 years or more,” Chest said during public comment. “As commissioners, did you not know?”
“No, I didn’t know,” Zyla, who is vice-president of the commissioners and who also oversees the police department, said defending himself.
A visibly upset Chest asked the two highest-ranking commissioners if they remembered voting yes or no to the bills and township reports each month. Chest then asked for Czapracki and Zyla’s resignation from the board because “one would think you’re part of the problem.”
Both Czapracki and Zyla denied they knew anything about the money missing and assured residents they would have done something sooner if they had known.
“You can demand (our) resignation, it ain’t gonna happen,” Czapracki said.
When Chest tried to defend his position, Czapracki told him he was “out of line” several times, and Chest left the meeting.
Before the meeting adjourned, Czapracki apologized for his actions against Chest but said the letter Chest passed out was baseless.
“He’s way off,” Czapracki said.
In other business, the commissioners:
• addressed sending out a letter regarding illegal gun ranges in the township. Solicitor Richard Shiptoski composed a letter to send to the attorney representing a firing range near Ridgeview/Whitney Point asking the land owner to post the property with “no trespassing” signs within 10 days.
If the owners, who were not named at the meeting, post signs, it would allow police to cite and arrest anyone using the lands without permission under the nuisance ordinance.
• approved the Radiologic Services Response Plan of 2016. Peter Wanchisen, a volunteer who was approved at the April meeting to take notes until a township manager is hired, confirmed that the township is within a 10-mile radius of the Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Salem Township. Wanchisen said every township within an emergency planning zone has a plan to follow in case of a nuclear emergency.
• approved Kelly Valaitis to be the township liaison with the Berkheimer tax administration service
Police: Pair smoked dope above day care center
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice
Police arrested two people on Wednesday after the odor of drugs led to the evacuation of a day care center.
One of the two smoked marijuana in an apartment above the facility, with a baby in the residence, according to a criminal complaint filed by Newport Township police.
According to the complaint, police Chief Jeremy Blank responded to a report of a “drug smell” at Magic World Child Care Center on West Kirmar Parkway on Wednesday morning. Blank allegedly smelled marijuana inside the building and an employee told him an apartment upstairs was connected to the same air vent as the child care center.
The complaint states Blank walked upstairs to the apartment where he was greeted by a man later identified as Joseph Wesley. According to the complaint, Wesley admitted that a woman later identified as Gloria Perez-Barkaszi smoked marijuana inside the apartment.
Wesley allegedly handed over marijuana and paraphernalia and Blank heard a young child crying in another room. He found a 1-year-old baby in a crib and smelled the odor of marijuana in the room, according to the complaint.
Police turned the baby over to the care of Luzerne County Children and Youth Services, while children and day care workers stayed outside the center for about 90 minutes until the odor cleared, police said.
Wesley, 49, and Perez-Barkaszi, 33, were arraigned on misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of children, reckless endangerment, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.
They were sent to Luzerne County Correctional Facility in lieu of $75,000 bail apiece.
Preliminary hearings are scheduled for June 1 before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker.
Newport Twp. residents complain about gunfire in neighborhood
Residents in one section of the township are reluctant to let their children or pets use their back yards due to gunfire in the area.
Individuals in the Ridgeview area say an unofficial firing range has sprung up near Vista Drive and Overlook Road.
Acting township Manager John Elmy said the property in question is former mine land off Access Road near Whitney Point. Signs on the property indicate Pioneer Aggregates owns the land.
There are no signs saying "no trespassing" on the land. The expansive land is strewn with evidence of shooting from different types of guns.
Vista Drive resident Mary Kane believes "the only thing that will solve this will be a lawsuit."
At the township commissioners meeting Monday night, Commissioner John Zyla, who oversees the police department for the board of commissioners, said he wasn't comfortable sending the police miles into the woods, so far away from populated areas of the township. He did confirm a house was hit by gunfire twice.
Kane showed the Times Leader a video of shooting occurring in the darkness before citing the township nuisance code of 1986.
Both Zyla and township Solicitor Richard Shiptosk said at the meeting that the ordinance wouldn't cover the land because it's private property.
Elmy said Shiptoski is looking over an ordinance from Hanover Township presented to the commissioners at the meeting.
"It (an ordinance) has to be drafted to make it illegal," Elmy said.
The Hanover Township ordinance permits a rifle range within the township, in accordance with the following requirements:
o The range must not be over 250 yards in length.
o The backstop of the range must be a hill, clear of all objects from which bullets might ricochet.
o No part of the range shall be within 150 yards of a dwelling or 50 yards of a highway.
o No more than 10 shooters on the range at one time.
Residents living on the two roads didn't want to provide their names for fear of retribution.
One woman on Overlook Road said it's a "shame" the township couldn't do anything about the
Hanover Township Police Chief Albert Walker said there are no rifle ranges in his township.
"There is so much liability with them," Walker said.
If anything is passed, "it could possibly be" an amended nuisance ordinance, Elmy said.
Pioneer Aggregates is owned by John Popple Construction. No one from Pioneer Aggregates or Popple Construction returned phone calls to the Times Leader on Thursday.
Newport Township manager’s resignation official
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
Township commissioners on Monday voted to accept the resignation of Township Manager Richard Zika rather than firing him.
Zika abruptly quit last month after an investigation was launched into financial irregularities in the township. He verbally resigned April 8, but hadn’t sent a formal resignation letter until recently. Zika had been suspended without pay since then.
Commissioners voted 4-to-1 to accept the resignation.
The lone “no” vote, Mike Roke, asked prior to the vote if Zika could be further compensated in any way by allowing him to resign instead of firing him.
Acting Township Manager John Elmy said Zika had no pension plan with the township, but he could apply for unemployment compensation. Elmy said the township could fight Zika’s effort to obtain unemployment benefits.
Roke then voted no.
“I feel he should be terminated. That’s why I voted no,” Roke told the crowd.
State police are investigating the alleged financial irregularities, but have asked the township to first have a forensic audit conducted.
At the beginning of the meeting, Commissioner Paul Czapracki told the large crowd in attendance that the commissioners have approached the state auditor general’s office for advice.
“We’re limited on what we can tell you,” Czapracki said. “They advised us not to make any comment about anything involved with the investigation.”
Elmy, who was secretary to the manager for 20-plus years, was named acting township manager during an emergency executive session on April 14, township officials said.
Czapracki defended the vote to accept the resignation, rather than pursue termination.
“The only reason we voted to accept his resignation is so we don't have to incur any more expense on going to court with Zika. He won't get any compensation from the township ...” Czapracki said.
Still no letter from ex-Newport Township manager
Friday marked a week since Newport Township manager Richard Zika turned in his keys and told three supervisors he was resigning.
Paul Czapracki, chairman of the township’s board of commissioners, confirmed to the Times Leader Monday that Hanover Township resident Zika, handed over his keys on April 8, after he was confronted about a discrepancy in some accounts.
Zika, 71, was then expected to have his desk cleared off and a formal letter of resignation handed in by April 11.
That didn’t happen.
According to Supervisor Michael Roke, “as of yet” no official letter has been handed to township officials, “but we were informed by his attorney (that Zika and his attorneys are working on a letter).”
Roke said that “nothing had to be done” legally in regards to his resignation being effective.
The commissioners held a “strategic” personnel meeting with their solicitor Richard Shiposki Thursday night “for the here and now,” which “is being tended to .”
Zika functioned as the person who paid the bills, compiled meeting minutes, sent and collected mail, as well as being the go-to person for residents with questions. Due to Zika’s resignation, Roke said the township has “two acting township volunteers” working the day-to-day operations.
“We don’t want operations to go by the wayside,” Roke said. “Our main priority is the day-to-day.”
Roke said the commissioners are working with union officials and legal representation to make sure everything, from the investigation to potentially hiring another manager, goes smoothly.
A forensic audit of the township’s bills was also expected to begin last week but it never materialized.
“We’ve (commissioners) been calling around,” Roke said. “We’ll make a determination when we get the final numbers.”
Roke acknowledged the Pennsylvania State Police in Wyoming have begun an investigation and the commissioners are following the state police’s advice.
“Everything is in their hands,” Roke said.
Roke is confident that everything “will be ironed out” by the next meeting of the commissioners which will be held 6 p.m. May 2 at the township’s municipal building on the Kirmar Parkway.
State police take over missing money probe in Newport Twp.
The Pennsylvania State Police has assumed control of a missing money investigation in the township and has asked municipal leaders to order a costly forensic audit of the refuse and recycling fund.
As the police investigation gets underway, township commissioners are still awaiting the formal resignation of suspended township Manager Richard Zika, who they say offered his resignation Friday when confronted about financial irregularities in the fund.
Zika, 71, who turned over his keys to the municipal building Friday, was supposed to come to clean out his desk on Monday, but never showed up, said Paul Czapracki, chairman of the board of commissioners.
The township can’t select a new manager until Zika officially resigns or is terminated at a future meeting, he said.
“Even though he said he wished to, we haven’t received a written resignation yet,” Czapracki said. “We need something in writing.”
Zika, township manager for nearly a decade, did not return a phone message on Monday.
At some point this week, the township will choose what accounting firm will conduct the forensic audit, which will costs thousands of dollars, Czapracki said.
The biggest issue, he said, will be managing government until a new manager takes over. For now, many of the day-to-day operations will be done by Administrative Secretary Kelli Valaitis, Czapracki said. Commissioners John Zyla and John Vishnefski are retired, so they will frequently be at the building to help, he noted. Sen. John Yudichak, state Rep. Gerald Mullery and leaders of Plymouth Township offered the assistance of their staffs if necessary, Czapracki said. Some township residents volunteered as well.
“We’re going to get through this,” Czapracki said.
Newport Township left without township manager
Township manager Richard Zika abruptly resigned Friday.
Paul Czapracki, chairman of the township’s board of supervisors, confirmed Zika, of Hanover Township, handed over his keys.
“Absolutely (he turned in his keys),” Czapracki said.
Zika’s salary, listed in the township’s 2016 budget, was $42,350.
According to Czapracki, Zika had been with the township for 10 years.
Township Solicitor Richard Shiptoski said “the bottom line is there is no administrator for the township.”
Timeline of events
According to Czapracki, the township was notified Wednesday that “one of their accounts” was missing money.
“Our internal controls noticed a discrepancy,” he said, noting commissioners followed policy and procedure “to the T.”
Policy and procedure require officials to notify the township’s police department, which Czapracki said they did. Police Chief Jeremy Blank then notified Pennsylvania State Police in Wyoming.
“The state police will do the investigation,” Blank said.
Commissioners held an emergency executive session Thursday to discuss a plan for approaching Zika about the missing monies.
When Commissioners Michael Roke, John Zyla and Czapracki mentioned the investigation to Zika Friday afternoon, he “opted to resign” and handed them his keys.
Zika was expected to clear his things out of the township building and submit a formal letter on Monday, which Czapracki said was not done, but “the work day isn’t over.”
A formal letter isn’t necessary, but the township should ask for one, according to Shiptoski.
“He told them (Roke, Zyla and Czapracki) it (his resignation) was effective immediately (Friday),” Shiptoski said.
A forensic audit of the township’s accounts is expected to begin within the week, Czapracki said.
Township manager role
Shiptoski said the township is not legally bound to have a township manager, but “under first class township code, they’re allowed to have one.”
Zika functioned as the person who paid the bills, compiled meeting minutes, sent and collected mail, as well as being the go-to person for residents with questions.
Township officials fielded calls from State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Nanticoke, State Sen. John T. Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township and Plymouth Township offering help and support during the investigation.
Plymouth Township Supervisors Chairwoman Gale Conrad left the specifics of help needed to the commissioners, but said the services, by Steven Grzymski, township secretary and treasurer, are there.
“From one community next to each other, we all may work together,” Conrad said.
Conrad urged that as townships “we need to work together.”
Shiptoski also noted that since news of Zika’s resignation occurred, residents of the 17.2-square mile township have offered their services.
“They don’t have to advertise (the open position) but they do have to vote,” Shiptoski said.
The next meeting of the board of supervisors will be 6 p.m May 2 at the township’s municipal building.
Newport Township manager resigns amid police investigation
Newport Township manager Richard Zika resigned on Friday after an investigation was launched into financial irregularities in the municipal garbage and recycling fund, township leaders say.
The FBI, Pennsylvania State Police, and the Newport Township Police Department were notified about the concerns uncovered by township leaders, Commissioner Mike Roke said on Sunday.
“At this point in time, there were some irregularities discovered in the refuse and recycling fund and the proper authorities have been contacted,” Roke said.
The news of Zika’s departure and investigation into the township’s finances comes on the heels of a recent report by a Washington, D.C., think tank that determined the township’s Glen Lyon section is the most distressed place in Pennsylvania.
Zika addressed the report at last week’s commissioners’ meeting. He said state leaders reached out to help and were working with him on a five-year strategic place for the township.
“That got the attention of the state. They said, ‘We saw the article. What can we do to help?’” Zika said.
Township Chairman Paul Czapracki said Zika had not submitted a written resignation but turned in his keys Friday and told Czapracki, Roke and township commissioner John Zyla he wanted to resign.
Czapracki said the investigation of a “discrepancy in one of our accounts” started Friday and Zika gave his verbal resignation shortly afterwards.
“I can’t say it’s binding until we get his written resignation,” Czapracki said. “We did accept it, the three of us.”
Czapracki said the township’s board will likely address and vote to accept Zika’s resignation at their next meeting.
Zyla said Zika’s resignation will hurt the daily and long-term operations of the township.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Zyla said. “We have a lot of issues that we have to bring forth on the table this month.”
State officials working with Newport Twp. after report
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
News coverage about a report ranking Glen Lyon as the most distressed place in Pennsylvania prompted state officials to reach out to help, township Manager Richard Zika said Monday night at the township’s monthly meeting.
“That got the attention of the state. They said, ‘We saw the article. What can we do to help?’” Zika said.
Officials with the state Department of Community and Economic Development are working with township leaders on a five-year strategic plan and will try to help them land cost-sharing grants to improve the township, the manager said.
In recent weeks, the police department has become more aggressive in helping code enforcement identify problem properties and absentee landlords, Commissioner John Zyla said.
“The police department is going to get more involved with people moving in and out,” Zyla said.
The report that labeled the township’s Glen Lyon section as the most distressed in the state indicated that 31 percent of properties are vacant.
“What an honor,” Glen Lyon resident Frank Chest said.
Chest complained that the township did not finish a paving job all the way to his property line, as there is a large gap left unfinished leading up to his driveway. He also complained about growing weeds on township property near his home and a puddle that pools after rainfalls, which he says attracts insects that could be harmful to residents’ health.
“I’ll be dead before anything is done,” Chest said.
Officials: Boy pulled pellet gun on police chief
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
A 12-year-old boy pulled a real-looking pellet gun on Newport Township police Chief Jeremy Blank last month, but the chief alertly grabbed the gun away from the child and determined it wasn’t authentic, township officials revealed Monday night.
“The chief showed me that gun. It looked like a real weapon. I’m glad the officer knew what to do and didn’t shoot,” Commissioner John Zyla said at the township’s monthly meeting.
The incident unfolded on March 25 at the Coal Street Park in the township’s Glen Lyon section.
Blank said he was called to the report of a juvenile threatening other kids with what were believed to be pellet guns, both which had orange tips on them.
“As I walked up, he said, ‘I got another one,’” Blank recalled.
The boy pulled out the gun — black and silver, and made of metal — and started to raise it.
“I grabbed it out of his hand,” Blank said.
Blank said it appeared the boy was raising the gun to show him — not to threaten him — but it still was a tense situation.
The boy will be petitioned to juvenile court, the chief said.
Newport Township’s burn ban begins today
After the burn ban is over, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources recommends the following practices to avoid causing wildfires:
• Refrain from open burning on dry, windy days.
• If a smoker, be aware of where your tobacco butts land.
• Don’t leave campfires or open-burning fires unattended.
As people look forward to campfires, fire pits and spending time outdoors, Newport Township’s commissioners have instituted a 60-day burn ban beginning today .
“The fire company and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources made a request (that the commissioners looked over and approved),” Township Manager Richard Zika said.
The ban, which follows the existing nuisance ordinance, is in effect for the six communities which make up the township — Alden Station, Glen Lyon, Lee, Newport Center, Sheatown and Wanamie.
Due to the ban being imposed at the municipal level, the DCNR never made an “official recommendation,” but Nicholas Lylo, district forester for the Pinchot Forest District of the DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry, said “they (commissioners) could have come to the decision with a fire supervisor in discussion.”
According to Zika, a “combination of both (police and fire department)” will respond to a residential burning complaint, present them with a copy of the ordinance as well as an order to cease and desist. Should someone continue to burn after receiving a cease and desist order, they’ll be fined $300, he said.
The township has “thousands and thousands of acres of woods” owned by several different corporations as well as on the residents properties. Earth Conservancy’s president and CEO, Michael A. Dziak, said in an email to the Times Leader that the company own approximately 4,000 acres of land in Newport Township, including old coal banks like the Bliss Banks.
“Fire, of course, is always a concern since the lands are often difficult to access (in terms of patrols and response),” Dziak said.
Zika said that during the two months the ban is in place, the air is “drier,” which means the fire can spread more rapidly. WNEP meteorologist Tom Clark said the “threat for fire will diminish greatly” this weekend as the National Weather Service is calling for rain.
It’s up to the Newport Township Fire Company to enforce the burning ordinance, but should a fire begin, “the Bureau of Forestry has legislative responsibilities to help put out all wildfires in the state of Pennsylvania,” Lylo said.
“Should a member of the public come across a wildfire (wandering through the woods), the best thing to do is call county 911 and give the best description of where they are at,” Lylo said.
State Rep. Gerald Mullery, who lives in the township, remembers a “large wildfire coming close to the Polander Hill section” of the township in recent years.
“I think (instituting the ban is) a data-driven issue,” Mullery said. “Historically, statistically, the fire department is expecting 100-200 brush fires in Newport Township.”
Because of the low humidity and strong spring sun, “we’re going into fire season,” Clark said.
“The forests are particularly dry, meaning a spark could really catch and cause some significant damage,” Dziak said.
“The rain forecast looks to be near normal for April, May and June,” Clark said.
Dziak calls the ban “wise, especially with the weather we’ve been having (little snow melt, dry windy).”
Clark agrees with Dziak, mentioning that rainfall in March was “down” and conditions were “drier than normal.” The temperatures through June are expected to be above normal.
Food, drinks and family create the atmosphere in R Bar and Alden Room, Newport Township
The R Bar & Grill, a family owned bar, is the place to unwind and enjoy good food and drinks. Times Leader readers agree as the township bar won the Best Local Bar category in the 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards.
The bar, which has served lower Luzerne County for five years, is in its second location. Sisters Lauren Maga, of Wapwallopen, and Lindsey Temerantz, of Nanticoke, “outgrew” their old building on Union Street, Nanticoke, and upgraded to 119 Kirmar Ave., the site of the old Alden Manor. The current building is five times larger than the other building.
“We closed for one week, four days actually,” Maga said about the move that took place in November 2014.
The restaurant/bar is a “family affair” for the sisters and they try to keep the place comfortable. If a patron gets out of hand, they’re placed on the bar’s banned list.
“We do not put up with anything,” Maga said. “We want people to feel like family.”
Being able to work around her family life, Maga said, means not missing important dates in the lives of her 9-year-old and 6-year-old children.
“Family comes first,” she said.
Temerantz admittedly is the “calmer” sister while Maga is a “panicker.”
“She can call me on a stressful day,” Temerantz said. “We have a good balance.”
The duo started with 12 bar stools in the Union Street location and has grown to 29 tables and 20 bar stools. The Alden Room is a 150 person capacity banquet hall on the top floor, which “is booked with parties for next year.”
The larger area allows for more employees as the business grew from five to 30 workers.
“They might as well be family,” Maga said of the employees.
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.
There is a spot dedicated to firefighters and police officers with department patches and other memorabilia under glass at the bar.
The menu offers typical bar fare, including over 60 wing flavors, sandwiches and burgers. The sisters also have a late night menu served after 11 p.m. for bar patrons. Flights of beer and flights of mixed drinks are also featured.
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.
“She creates the drinks,” Termerantz said.
Our Opinion: Glen Lyon’s ‘distressed’ label should serve as incentive, not indictment
Should Glen Lyon’s 1,740 residents be indignant about being labeled Pennsylvania’s “most distressed” ZIP code?
Probably so, though that doesn’t mean there is no worth to local findings in the Economic Innovation Group’s latest “Distressed Community Index.”
Let’s start with some perspective:
• The ratings are relative, with ZIP codes measured against each other rather than against a fixed standard. In the words of the report: “A ZIP code … is considered distressed if its distress score falls in the highest 20 percent of its peer group. … ‘Most distressed,’ when used, refers to the highest 10 percent.”
So, at least theoretically, even if every ZIP code had low scores, 20 percent of those ZIPs would still be labeled “distressed,” and 10 percent would still be “most distressed.”
• Frankly, being “most distressed” in Pennsylvania isn’t all that bad. Overall, only 12 percent of our population lives in “distressed” ZIP codes. Compare that to some neighboring states: 13 percent in New York, 17 percent in Ohio, and a whopping 32 percent in West Virginia.
• Lastly, if you live in a ZIP code with fewer than 500 people, forget about it. Your ZIP wasn’t used in the report. This is a common and justified statistical tactic; when the numbers get too low, percentages (used in the rankings) can skew wildly. But it still means there might be some ZIPs that are far more “distressed” than Glen Lyon.
All that said, there are lessons here; not necessarily new, but still worth remembering.
For starters, although the rankings are relative, they show real disparities that residents of the region, state and nation need to address. Glen Lyon got its unwelcome rating because 19 percent of adults have no high school degree, and 53 percent are not working, according to the report. The little community has a 31 percent housing vacancy rate, and a 48 percent poverty rate.
The poverty rates and lack of education are persistent woes in our region. Efforts to address them remain among the most important initiatives we can support.
Two examples: Broader access to low-cost higher education – something Luzerne County Community College is well-suited to provide – and the United Way of Wyoming Valley’s new focus on helping low-income children get the pre-school and afterschool help they need, a proven way to increase graduation rates.
The report also notes “population growth correlates closely with prosperity.” So efforts to emphasize the region’s attractions and advantages merit support.
And the report found that “cities that specialize in innovation-intensive, technology-based and high end services industries” score well on the index, suggesting there is real value in initiatives like the “Innovation Center” in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Bottom line: If your community has been dubbed “distressed,” don’t be disheartened; be emboldened.
Glen Lyon residents upset by ‘distressed’ status report
Report claims town is most distressed place in Pa.
Thanks to a recent Washington, D.C., think tank study on economic data, a local community in Newport Township is getting unwanted negative publicity.
According to the Economic Innovation Group’s February report about the Distressed Communities Index, the Glen Lyon section of Newport Township has been named the most distressed place in Pennsylvania, ranking as the 146th most distressed area from the 26,290 ZIP codes analyzed. The index looks at five years of U.S. Census data studying the population’s education, housing, work status, income and the change of businesses within a ZIP code.
Residents of the approximately 3.4-square-mile unincorporated community — a region of land that is not governed by its own local municipal corporation, but is rather part of a larger administrative division — are more upset about the label and believe the study was skewed and not in their favor.
The study used ZIP codes as their community boundaries, and Newport Township has two ZIP codes. Glen Lyon and Glen Lee — commonly known as Lee — share one ZIP code: 18617. Sheatown, Alden, Wanamie and Ridgeview fall under the Nanticoke ZIP code 18634. State Correctional Institute at Retreat in Hunlock Creek also falls under the Nanticoke ZIP code.
Two housing developments lie in the ZIP code as well: Ken Pollock Apartments, on Depot Street, houses approximately 50 seniors and there are roughly 50 apartments in the Rock Street development.
“That’s like taking all the ZIP codes in Wilkes-Barre and focusing on just one,” Lorrie Materewicz said.
Materewicz, a career U.S. Army nurse and the president of the Legion Auxiliary, grew up in Glen Lyon and moved back as a single mother. She believes having Retreat in the vicinity of the community contributes to the lack of high school diplomas in the study.
“Because of the prisoners (at Retreat), the families of the prisons move closer,” Materewicz said. “And a lot of them settle right here.”
Heidi and Paul Jarecki, editors of the Newport Township Community Newsletter, live on West Main Street, the home Heidi’s parents built in 1931. Heidi moved back to the community after going away to college, and Paul, who worked for the state Department of Environmental Protection, moved back “the first chance I got.”
Like most communities around Glen Lyon, coal was the big boom for the community. According to records supplied by the Jareckis, the famous Frank Sinatra movie from 1948 “The Miracle of the Bells” used Glen Lyon as their fictional Coaltown.
Materewicz said the community was unfortunately part of “a perfect storm” — the coal industry went under, save for stone quarry Newport Aggregate toward the edge of town, the median age currently is 55 and above and the lack of land expansion contributes to the bad press.
“The age where we had the highest percentage filling out the survey (of the Holy Spirit Church pastoral council) is 55 and above and mostly women,” resident Susan Najaka said.
To residents, the survey makes it sound that the community “doesn’t care,” which is far from the truth.
“It’s not like we’re not trying to do something,” Materewicz said, noting that people from across the country subscribe to the Newport Township Community Organization’s newsletter. “How many small communities around can boast of a township newsletter?”
Stability, religion and potential are the words residents would use for the city — not distressed.
“We’re not a dying town,” Kashatus said.
Changes to town
In the early days of Glen Lyon, the west side of town was once called Morgantown, and the east side, Williamstown, according to the Jareckis’ records. The towns were split by Susquehanna Coal Co. Colliery No. 6.
“To go to the other side of town, you used to say ‘going under the breaker,’” Materewicz said.
Even with the breaker being shut down and razed and the population growing older, Tom Kashatus, a township activist and historian, said the biggest change is the lack of business.
“People, if they really want something, they can leave town,” Kashatus said.
Miners lived in “company patches” — company housing — while working for the mining companies.
“At it’s height, (Colliery No. 6) employed 1,100 workers,” Paul said. “Just here (in Glen Lyon).”
Susan Najaka, from the east side of Glen Lyon, remembers the “east side of town’s businesses.” During an interview with the Times Leader, she recalled the former Newport Township High School.
“It was built on the hill in Wanamie; it had an annex, a swimming pool,” Najaka said. “It had a reputation for academic excellence.”
Kashatus can recall what each business was on West Main Street, from luncheonettes to grocery stores and furniture stores.
“When you tear something down that’s falling apart, it does improve your community,” Kashatus said, noting “over the last six, seven years, at least 20 houses have been torn down.”
Currently, the Newport Township Community Organization and Newport Township NOW! — a Facebook page — tries to keep up pride and support for the communities of Glen Lyon and the other communities.
“Lives are so busy and time moves so fast,” Materewicz said. “We all try to support each other.”
Little prospect for expansion turns businesses away, residents noted.
“There’s actually a stretch of highway between us and the rest of the township,” Materewicz said.
Residents of the other sections of the township can patronize businesses in Glen Lyon if they take the stretch of highway or they can go into Nanticoke.
Happy days ahead
Before he left office, former U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski wanted to alter Route 29 so it would run though Glen Lyon to increase prospects for business.
The highway, the residents noted, would make Glen Lyon “once again part of a boom town with real estate development and more businesses.”
Wanamie to Nanticoke is the same distance as Wanamie to Glen Lyon, but Materewicz said the stretch of road leading from Wanamie into Nanticoke is “populated with more houses.”
“The one thing this community has going for it is a post office,” Paul said.
Internet businesses, the group noted, would be perfect for Glen Lyon.
“All you have to do is walk there (to the post office), for crying out loud,” Paul said.
A property of 3,000 acres has been turned over to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources from Earth Conservancy.
Kashatus said Earth Conservancy sold the land, which goes into Mocanaqua, to the North Branch Land Trust.
According to the land trust’s web site, a DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Grant was applied for in early 2013 and awarded in 2014.
“Once you get walking, you can just keep walking,” Materewicz said.
Najaka and Kashatus both believe that there’s one great thing that Glen Lyon has — “potential.”
Newport Township residents and volunteers come together for Great American Cleanup
Residents of Newport Township and the surrounding areas came together on Saturday to make sure Pennsylvania stays beautiful.
About 20 volunteers met at the township municipal building to kick off Newport’s contribution to the Keep America Beautiful – Great American Cleanup. The volunteers, including state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, worked along Kirmar Avenue from Alden to Glen Lyon picking up trash and stacking bags on the side of the road.
Palmira Miller, a member of Newport Township’s Community Organization and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, organized the event. She handed out backpacks, gloves and safety vests to the volunteers. She said the township has been doing this since 2004. The event was aided Saturday by the Newport Township Crime Watch.
Miller said it’s sad that organizations need to do this each year, but she understands that’s what it takes to keep the area clean.
“As you know, everyone is out there cleaning the highways this time of year,” Miller said. “I wish people would keep their stuff in their vehicles, but that’s not the case.”
Newport Township adopted Kirmar Avenue in 2004. Since then, the organizations have started to work on illegal dumping in the area as well.
Mullery volunteered on Saturday with his two children, Lauren, 14, and Liam, 10. To him, keeping his hometown beautiful is one of the reasons he feels it important to volunteer.
“I’m very environmentally conscious and this brings the community together,” he said. “This shows pride in the community and it’s just one piece of the puzzle to make Newport beautiful.”
Mullery said the newly formed Crime Watch in the township has worked closely with the police department to curb illegal dumping, which has become an increasing problem.
“They are off to a great start,” Mullery said of the Crime Watch. “People talk about how much they love to live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They talk about the natural beauty. We have to do this to make sure it stays that way.”
In Newport Township and surrounding areas, illegal dumping has been an issue for the past several years. The volunteers said it extends from Nanticoke all the way to Glen Lyon.
Rebecca Seman, of Nanticoke, rode her bike up to Newport Township to help volunteer for the day. Seman is the coordinator of the Nanticoke Community Garden and deals with illegal dumping there. She feels it is important to get out and help other organizations.
“We have to come together as a community,” she said. “This helps. It’s a really positive experience.”
Seman said the Community Garden has a cleanup coming up in April.
Mullery said he’s proud of the way Newport Township residents have come together over the past several years.
“The organizations in Newport Township are unmatched,” he said. “This is a town that is extremely proud and it never surprises me to see the progress they made.”
Study: Glen Lyon most distressed place in Pa.
By Jacob Seibel and Bob Kalinowski, - Citizens Voice
Tom Kashatus remembers the good old days when his community was a booming coal town.
A generation later, his hometown is plagued with a 48 percent poverty rate and more than half of adults are out of work. One in five lack a high school diploma. Nearly a third of homes sit vacant, many in deteriorating condition.
Those troubling statistics make the Glen Lyon section of Newport Township the most distressed place in Pennsylvania, according to a report published by a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that studied communities across the nation.
The report - the 2016 Distressed Communities Index - was released recently by the Economic Innovation Group, which studied five years of U.S. Census data.
Kashatus, 75, a town historian who publishes a community newsletter, said the town started dying when the coal industry did. On Wednesday - decades after that demise - he crept down Main Street pointing to derelict property after derelict property in the town of 1,735 people.
"We became stigmatized after a while. Stigmatized to the point that people said, 'Who the hell wants to go to Glen Lyon to live?' Stigmatized that it's an area for poor people," Kashatus said. "Other people that might have been wealthy enough to buy a good home here wouldn't come because it's a poor town. I'll stick with it. I love my town."
Charlotte Santry, 66, the fourth generation of her family from Glen Lyon, fondly recalled a
1960s childhood that included trips to the bowling alley and candy stores. For the adults, she said, there were numerous bars.
"It was wonderful," she said. "Now, it's all just derelict buildings."
Newport Township Commissioner Paul Czapracki, 51, who lived in Glen Lyon most of his life, said news of the report was "disheartening."
"Glen Lyon was one of the richest towns around," Czapracki said, recalling the great memories he's heard of yesteryear. "The amount of money that flowed through here was unbelievable."
Glen Lyon was the basis of the 1948 film "Miracle of the Bells," starring Frank Sinatra, and several of the movie's scenes were filmed there.
The local coal mines established the Newport Township communities of Alden, Wanamie, Glen Lyon, Sheatown and Lee. The colliery in Glen Lyon employed the greatest number of miners. The coal industry by 1900 - an era of peak coal production - had created a vigorous society in Newport Township, influencing every aspect of life. Newport breakers processed more than three quarters of a million tons of coal in a year.
Czapracki lamented the fact that many Glen Lyon homes once occupied by coal mining families who built the town are now abandoned.
The study found 31 percent of properties in Glen Lyon are vacant.
"A lot of people are passing away, the older generation that occupied these houses. A lot of them are going to estate sales, or they go to a relative and they live out of state," Czapracki said. "Nobody takes care of it. It's hard to keep up with the houses. We're constantly going after landlords for code violations."
The study ranking Glen Lyon as the most distressed area in the state analyzed education, employment, housing vacancy rates, average income and poverty rates.
Glen Lyon ranked as the 146th most distressed area out of 26,290 zip codes analyzed in the United States, according to the report.
Lauren Gorney, 26, a lifelong Glen Lyon resident who started the Newport Township NOW Facebook page to promote the good things about the community, said she's not giving up on her hometown. She and her boyfriend recently bought a house in Glen Lyon, which she called an "affordable" and quiet place to live.
Gorney is a Misericordia University graduate who now works for her alma mater as assistant director of alumni.
"When I graduated college, I had all intentions to leave the Valley. I found I could live in poverty in New York City at a dream job or live comfortably and affordably in Glen Lyon," Gorney said.
Glen Lyon will always be home and she'll always fight to improve it, she said.
"It's not irreparable. I think it's repairable," Gorney said. "It's a nice little place to live."
Illegal dumping in Newport Township causes concern
Mattresses. Children’s toys. Books.
Those are just some of the items strewn around the wooded areas of Newport Township.
The 17.2-square mile township includes the communities of Alden Station, Glen Lyon, Lee, Newport Center, Sheatown and Wanamie, and at the 2010 census, has a population of 5,374.
According to The *Official* Newport Township Crime Watch Page on Facebook, township police caught four individuals illegally dumping since the middle of January.
Anyone found violating the township’s ordinance regulating the collection, transportation and disposal of garbage and solid waste from 1995 can be fined up to $600 and could be subjected to 30 days imprisonment.
Township manager Richard Zika said the dumping is “so far into the woods, you wouldn’t even know it’s going on.”
Colleen Connolly, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said it’s “tough to catch someone” who has dumped illegally.
“We try to look for stuff (in the garbage) with a name on it (to tie it back to someone),” Joe Hillen, Newport Township’s Department of Public Works manager, said Wednesday at a dump site off Access Road near Pioneer Aggregates Inc. and Whitney Point Industrial Park.
Township resident and environmental engineer student Patrick Dane Cooper is concerned about the natural landscape and wildlife throughout the community.
“For too long, this township has suffered and (borne) the environmental impacts from the coal mining era. Our land is scarred, but not dead,” Cooper said.
According to Cooper, a self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast, “our township is victim to the dumping of commercial waste, including motor oil, machinery and production lubricants, cooking oil and grease, contractors waste materials and even old asbestos at times.”
The DEP will only assist when the dumped items are harmful to the environment, otherwise “it’s a local (municipality) issue.”
“We register it (the call) as a complaint, and then forward to local authorities,” Connolly said.
State Rep. Gerald J. Mullery, D-Newport Township, praised the Newport Township Community Organization and Newport Township Crime Watch for alerting residents as to what to look for when reporting offenders.
“They have educated many of the township residents of the environmental concerns associated with illegal dumping,” Mullery said. “Given the vast acreage of uninhabited and undeveloped land in the township, our residents need to play an active role in protecting our town and, as evidenced recently, they have.”
According to the President of Newport Township Community Organization, Stephen Phillips, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), a nonprofit environmental organization, partnered with volunteers from the Newport Township Community Organization (NTCO) and cleaned up 29 illegal dump sites between 2009 and 2013.
“(They) removed 175 tons of trash, 21 tons of tires and recycled over 50 tons of scrap metal,” Phillips said.
State Sen. John Yudichak confirmed that legislators and officials are working together to curb the dumping.
“By working with the PA Game Commission, the Earth Conservancy and the landowners in the area, we are looking at ways to improve public safety, reduce vandalism and protect the properties,” Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, said.
Times Leader staffer Brigid Edmunds contributed to this report.
Yudichak: South Valley Parkway project is part of larger development picture
Paul Golias - Citizens Voice
Work on the South Valley Parkway and beyond is expected to drive bigger development plans in the region.
Current work on the South Valley Parkway from Hanover Township into Nanticoke, and plans for the expressway to someday reach into land-rich Newport Township, are just part of a larger development picture according to state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township.
“This project is going to be critical to economic development in the South Valley,” said Yudichak.
Yudichak said approximately 5,000 acres exist in the South Valley. Earth Conservancy and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce own more than 1,000 acres. Additional land is privately owned. Many areas are now state forest or Game Commission lands set aside as green spaces.
Yudichak said Earth Conservancy and the chamber have long-term development plans. Some of this development will hinge on extension of the South Valley Parkway from Prospect Street in Nanticoke south into Newport Township.
“The tie-in of this land to the interstate highway system via the parkway is crucial,” Yudichak said.
He said he foresees extensive residential, recreational, commercial and industrial development in the next decade. More green spaces also will be created to enhance the quality of life in the region, he said.
Expanded railroad service also is likely, Yudichak said.
The Canadian Pacific Railway runs north-south along the Susquehanna River in Nanticoke, and Hanover and Newport townships. It has a siding in the old Honey Pot rail yards as a tie-in to Whitney Pointe Industrial Park. Yudichak said extension of a rail line into the area would allow service to industries locating there.
Yudichak said his vision is a completed parkway opening up the South Valley and utilizing the existing highway-bridge infrastructure created in the last half of the 20th century.
The two-lane parkway will cost $84 million. Work began in January and its various stages could extend construction until 2020.
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District Has A Mobile App
Anyone with a web-enabled smartphone or mobile device can access the version of the mobile app by entering www.gnasd.com on your smartphone, android pad, iphone pad or computer. When you see the link, save it to the homepage on any of your devices.
Please be advised that the adobe pdf reader is needs to be installed on your devices in order to read some of the pdf documents.
Police: Nanticoke man struck teen, drove off while drunk
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice
Police have charged a Newport Township man who they say was drunk, struck a teenage pedestrian and then drove off on Wednesday.
Gerard Geoghegan, 41, was arraigned Thursday on felony counts of aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI and accidents involving personal injury, a misdemeanor count of DUI, and summary traffic offenses including driving while his operating privilege was suspended.
He was sent to Luzerne County Correctional Facility in lieu of $25,000 bail.
In a criminal complaint, police allege that Geoghegan struck a 15-year-old boy in the crosswalk at the intersection of East Main and Spring streets, in the Glen Lyon section of Newport Township, at about 6:10 p.m. Wednesday.
According to the complaint, Newport Township police responded to a report of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle — reported to be a white minivan with front end and windshield damage that fled traveling east after striking the boy. A witness provided the first three characters of the van’s license plate number.
A man notified Newport Township police Chief Jeremy Blank, who was off-duty, of the accident, according to the complaint. Blank went to the accident scene, where the juvenile victim told officers he had been crossing the street in the crosswalk when the van struck him. The boy, who was bleeding and said his legs hurt, was taken to a local hospital for treatment, the complaint states.
Police suspected that Geoghegan might have been the driver of the van based on the vehicle’s description, direction of travel and previous contact with Geoghegan, according to the complaint.
Newport Township police charged Geoghegan with DUI on July 26, 2015, according to court records.
Police went to Geoghegan’s home, where they allegedly saw the damaged van parked in the driveway. Geoghegan surrendered without resistance and admitted he struck the boy, according to the complaint.
Officers smelled alcohol on Geoghegan, who said he had four or five drinks at a social club shortly before the accident, according to the criminal complaint.
Geoghegan repeatedly said he was sorry and did not mean to do it, but that he did not see the boy — who was wearing dark clothes — until the boy was on the hood of the van, according to police. Geoghegan said he stopped at first, but when he saw the teen limping away he panicked and drove home, police said.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 17 before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker.
Commissioners, state rep address Newport Township residents’ concerns about trucks through Lee
A recent issue over trucks travelling from the Newport Aggregate quarry through the Lee section of Newport Township to the new Moxie Energy power plant in Salem Township took center stage during a packed commissioners meeting Monday night.
On behalf of Lee residents, Joseph Wilkes addressed the commissioners; so did state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, and Mark Grohowski from state Sen. John Yudichak’s office.
Residents petitioned the commissioners to reduce the current 35 mph speed limit and ban the use of brake retarders on the section of road — state Route 3004 — in the Lee section of the township.
Wilkes compared the problem — Newport Aggregate’s trucks that transport materials to the power plant creating health issues and speeding concerns in Lee — to a toothache.
“Eventually you have to go to a dentist,” Wilkes said. “We’re at that point now.”
Trucks numbering in the thousands “go and come back” daily through Lee into Mocanaqua, and vibrations from the brake retarders, or Jake brakes, have started cracking foundations of houses, residents say.
Mullery said that he talked to officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation who did an “informal unofficial traffic study” and found that the speed reduction was already being address and the Jake brakes “weren’t an issue.”
The state Department of Environmental Protection also had an inspector who is “aggressive in her job duties” out on Friday and “wouldn’t hesitate to cite them (trucks)” if they were causing problems, he said.
After talking to PennDOT, “a new route doesn’t appear viable,” Mullery said.
As for the health concerns — dust from the trucks could be a health hazard due to crystalline silica, which is a carcinogen found in quarries and blast sites — Commissioner John Zyla told those in attendance “Phil and Matt Bowers (of Bowers Inc. in Berwick) encourage township police to cite drivers travelling without tarps on the trucks and “send down information of (speeding) trucks.”
The tarps help keep the dust particles from the back of the trucks to a minimum, but the truck wheels kick up dirt on the road. Wilkes hoped the commissioners would ask the DEP to monitor the air quality.
“In no way are we against quarry, power plant, trucks,” Wilkes said.
Tom Kashatus, who spoke on the subject, during a separate public comment part of the meeting, said he was “concerned for our children” and “just want(s) the public to be informed.”
In other news, the board:
• approved two new pieces of donated artwork — one each from Marquis Art and Frame, Wilkes-Barre and the Newport Township Community Organization — to hang in the building.
• approved meeting minutes from the Jan. 4 reorganization and regular commissioners meetings.
• appointed John Wilkes as special consultant, Jerry McMahon to the parks and recreation board and Richard Zika as township manager.
The next commissioners meeting will be 6 p.m. March 7 at the municipal building.
County council to vote on Newport Twp. tax collection
Bill Wellock - Citizens Voice
Newport Township’s taxes are back on Luzerne County Council’s agenda.
Council will vote today whether to collect taxes for the township for 2016.
The issue has gone back and forth during the past year.
In January 2015, county council voted to collect Newport Township’s taxes for 2015 after the township’s tax collector resigned at the end of 2014.
The county earned $2 for every bill collected, but when the issues came before council again, the group chose not to continue the deal. At the Oct. 27, 2015, meeting, council voted down an agreement to collect taxes going forward by a 5-4 margin.
That prompted the ire of Newport Township officials.
Commissioner John Zyla called those council members the “shameful five.” Officials asked county council to reconsider.
After the 2015 elections, a new council organized at the beginning of this year. Following the reorganization of council, any motion may be introduced for reconsideration by any member.
The compensation for the county this year would be $2.50 per bill. Newport Township would also pay up to $0.70 for printing of each bill.
Nanticoke area twin sisters Brianne and Brittany Dougherty make childhood care center prosper
Twins Brianne and Brittany Dougherty did almost everything together while growing up. That hasn’t changed in 27 years.
The Nanticoke natives recently took over ownership of Magic World Child Care Center, 14 W. Kirmar Parkway, a business they had managed for the past five years.
Ironically, the twins changed their college majors to elementary and special education around the same time, within their second semester of college. Brianne went to Bloomsburg University and Brittany went to Wilkes University.
“I can’t recall who was first (changing their major),” Brittany said.
After graduation, the girls took jobs substituting within the Greater Nanticoke Area School District. Brittany was looking for a summer job and heard about the day care opening through a fellow teacher. She started working there as a director in 2011. Within a few weeks, she was looking for a partner — enter Brianne.
“If you’ve ever done a good job at something and said ‘I wish I could clone myself,’” Brianne said, talking about what it’s like to work with her sister.
Over the years, the two have grown the business from two to four rooms and have gradually accumulated 4,000 square feet of property — inside and out. They’ve been lucky with their landlord, who didn’t hesitate to “turn one apartment into a room,” as their business expanded.
When Brittany first started, the center had a total of eight children. Now, their clientele totals 48 children from 6 months old up to the first day of sixth grade, during school months. During the summer months, they are filled to capacity at 57.
The twins held the titles of “director/teacher” until June 2015 when they were financially stable enough to purchase the business, adding “owner” to their resumes.
Families from Newport Township and Nanticoke as well as from as far away as Benton — 24 miles — have their children enrolled with Magic World.
“It’s amazing the progress you see in children,” Brianne said of a child who has been with them since day one and is now going to graduate from the program.
They attribute their success to being family-run and family-oriented.
“Love is in the walls,” Brianne said.
Inside the business
Magic World has a staff of nine people, including the twins, all of whom are credentialed to work in a daycare. Two staff members have bachelor’s degrees in education and three more are going to school for elementary education. The state does regular yearly checkups at the facility.
Brittany recalled the state coming in the day before the opening.
“We had to pass,” she said. “We told people we’d have care for the kids.”
During state inspections, credentials and paperwork are checked.
“When you run the businesses the right way, it’s like second nature,” Brianne said.
The twins are currently redoing their preschool curriculum to fall in line with the Keystone Stars — a Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning program that improves, supports and recognizes improvement efforts of early learning programs. They are also looking into a new state toddlers curriculum that starts at age 2.
Students in their preschool programs range from 3 to 5 years of age, split into two groups: 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool with 4- and 5-year-olds in pre-kindergarten.
Shying away from challenges doesn’t scare the duo as they take the children, age 3 and up, on field trips, the most recent to see Disney on Ice at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
In the wintertime, they have Scranton-based TUMBLEBUS — a full-sized school bus transformed into a gymnasium — visit the center.
Newport Township PD uses Moses Taylor grant to buy emergency defibrillators
The Moses Taylor Foundation recently awarded the Newport Township police department money to purchase automated external defibrillator (AED) devices and first aid kits.
The police force was one of 13 organizations and the only police department awarded money by the foundation. They were among the likes of Scranton’s Friends of the Poor, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross and Volunteers in Medicine.
The township received $10,110.57 from the foundation, which allowed the department to purchase three devices and two kits.
“The kits were a bonus, what we really wanted were (the AEDs),” Chief Jeremy Blank said.
All 10 officers — eight part-time, two full-time — will be qualified by Thursday evening to use the AEDs. The training will be done in-house by the fire department.
Upon reading an article in the Times Leader, Blank inquired about the grant.
“There isn’t alot of state or federal grants for police,” Blank said. “I’m always on the computer looking for grants.”
Blank admits the township has a problem: The Newport Township ambulance folded in 2013. Currently, Newport Township uses Medic 25 out of Nanticoke as primary ambulatory care. Getting the AEDs for the police cars and training for the officers allows them to start life-saving treatment before the ambulance arrives. Sometimes, depending on the patient’s location, the ambulance could take a few minutes longer.
According to Blank, “the whole process from applying (for the grant) to fruition took roughly two months.”
The township knew they were receiving the AEDs in early December. The devices arrived just before Christmas 2015.
The AED pads — which get placed on the persons chest to shock back into regular rhythm —last approximately three years and the battery packs last for four years.
“Just saving one life this year is worth the cost,” Blank said.
The Moses Taylor Foundation was created when the Moses Taylor Health Care System was sold in 2012 to Community Health Systems in Tennessee. The proceeds from the sale went to the foundation.
“These inaugural grants represent the culmination of more than three years of planning and preparation. They mark the beginning of an exciting new chapter for us, and for residents of Northeast Pennsylvania,” Douglas G. Allen, chairman of the Moses Taylor Foundation board of directors, said in a press release.
Newport Township Crime Watch expands
Some were in attendance because they were part of Glen Lyon’s Crime Watch.
Others were there simply to support their community.
Each of the approximately 40 people who came to the second meeting of the Newport Township Crime Watch meeting Thursday at the community room of the municipal building walked away feeling they are making their community safer.
Newport Township consists of unincorporated communities: Alden Station, Glen Lyon, Lee, Newport Center, Sheatown, and Wanamie. Glen Lyon’s crime watch, which has been in existence for more than 20 years, will now be folded into the all-encompassing Newport Township Crime Watch — once the 501-3c has legally changed the name.
“We don’t want you (Glen Lyon Crime Watch) to fail,” John Zyla, the Newport Township Board of Commissioners vice president, stressed.
After Zyla and Newport Township Police Chief Jeremy Blank outlined their wishes for the crime watch — keeping the Glen Lyon by-laws in place and having a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer as well as block captains — representatives of state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, and state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, stressed both legislators are behind the group.
Zyla and Blank then left the community room, leaving those in attendance to form some semblance of leadership. Mary Kashatus and Heidi Jarecki, who were instrumental in Glen Lyon’s crime watch, took to the front of the room to start the leadership process, answering questions and bringing together those in the room.
Quickly Jerry McMahon of Glen Lyon was voted president, Kashatus also of Glen Lyon became vice president, Amy Soroka of Wanamie was voted secretary, and Jarecki of Glen Lyon treasurer.|
“We’ve got to watch out for our neighbors,” Kashatus said.
Once the new leadership took to the front of the room, the block captains, whose jobs will include reporting anonymous tips to the police or the leadership, forwarding community bulletins and assisting in block party formations, started to form.
Soroka agreed to be watch captain of Wanamie, alongside her job as secretary.
“We need to take back our towns,” Soroka said.
Glen Lyon will have two block captains — Krissy Blank and Vern Treat. Sheatown’s captain will be Nicole Borick. Kevin Barrett will represent Alden. Colleen Shepanski will be Ridgeview’s captain. The Lee community still needs representation.
Meetings will be at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month. The next meeting will be on Feb. 11 at the municipal building.
Newport Township officials hope county will reconsider tax collection
Bill Wellock - Citizens Voice
Newport Township officials want Luzerne County Council to reconsider handling collection of the municipality’s taxes.
The township’s tax collector resigned a year into his term at the end of 2014. The Luzerne County Treasurer’s office took up collections for that year. However, a 5-4 county council vote at an Oct. 27 meeting stopped that work.
Township officials have asked for time to speak to council members at an upcoming meeting to plead their case, as their first choice for a tax collector is the county treasurer’s office.
Using the county lets residents pay tax bills online; and the office sends weekly payments to the township.
“Our experience with the treasurer’s office last year was a very good one,” said Richard Zika, township manager.
For county council to vote again on an already-decided issue, a member of the winning side needs to ask for another vote.
If the council decision stands, Newport Township has two other options.
The township could hire a tax collector from a neighboring municipality to take the work. Zika said the Conyngham Township tax collector has expressed interest in the job. The township sent her a letter asking for copies of her certifications and is waiting to hear back, he said.
Another option is to go to a private tax collector, like Berkheimer Associates.
The per-bill rate for 2016 is $2.50, up from $2 last year.
Newport Township has about 2,000 tax bills that need to be sent out, Zika said.
Considering fees for those bills and fees for other requests — such as tax certifications requests from banks — whoever ends up collecting Newport Township’s taxes will earn about $8,000 to $9,000, according to Zika.1/8/2016
Young couple creates ‘Newport Township NOW!’ Facebook page to promote a positive life in the community
Township residents Lauren Gorney and Patrick Dane Cooper stand behind their community. The couple started a Facebook page called “Newport Township NOW!” in spring 2016.
The township consists of five unincorporated towns — Alden Station, Glen Lyon, Lee, Newport Center, Sheatown and Wanamie — and has a U.S. Census Bureau population of 5,422. Since the page’s inception, the group has close to 800 likes.
The timeline of the page boasts events from in and around the township, as well as community alerts and news.
Gorney and Cooper got involved because they “wanted to do good for the community.” With the page, they promote the community-oriented things Newport Township has to offer.
For the pair, the page is better than hanging flyers on telephone poles. Cooper compares the page to a “community bulletin board.”
“Modern life and social media are interconnected now more than ever,” she said. “(By creating the Facebook page), we set out to provide a gathering place for our community to post news, events, contests and updates on township projects.”
The duo hopes the page becomes a “go-to” for young and old and returns the community to the “good ole days.”
Gorney remember stories from older generations.
“I have hope that it will become a more desired community to live in, like it once was,” he said.
State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, is a 14-year resident of the township and thinks if younger people see events on Facebook or Twitter, they may be inspired to participate.
In December, the page held a ‘Light Up Newport Township 2015’ contest, where homes decorated for Christmas were submitted for judgement. There were six prizes, the top prize being a $100 R Bar and Grill gift certificate.
“We knew this holiday contest would give the good people of Newport a chance to shine through,” Gorney said.
Mullery commends the couple for wanting to get involved in helping shine a positive light on their community, “especially when groups on social media want to focus on negative things.”
“(Hometown) pride is absolutely present in Newport Township,” Mullery said.
For the upcoming year, the pair wants to come together with Newport Township Community Organization to bring all generations together. The pair feel like they’ve hit a stride with a younger group and now need to refocus on the older non-Facebook group.