2022 Newport News
Earth Conservancy unveils plans for off-road park in the South Valley
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
NANTICOKE — The land reclamation organization Earth Conservancy is urging state officials to get behind a proposed off-highway-vehicle park between Nanticoke and Mocanaqua that could be a major boost to the area’s economy.
Earth Conservancy on Tuesday unveiled its feasibility study for the proposed park, which focused on 10,000 acres in the South Valley.
More than 4,400 acres of the land studied are state forestry land already being used illegally by all-terrain-vehicle riders, said Terry Ostrowski, president and CEO of Earth Conservancy.
“That’s a point of our report. Look, you essentially have a problem with trespassing. Why not turn the problem into an opportunity,” Ostrowski said. “A big part of the report is to convince the state that the land is suitable for ATVs.”
Ostrowski noted some of the land eyed for the park overlaps with land being sought to build a proposed $6 billion natural gas-to-gasoline plant in Newport Twp.
“It’s a wild card in the mix right now,” Ostrowski said.
However, Ostrowski thinks both projects could be accommodated near each other.
Earth Conservancy owns 2,500 of the acres being studied for the park.
The proposed park would include off-highway-vehicle trails, scenic look outs, rock climbing areas, camping sites, a gun range and more.
Teri Ooms, president and CEO of The Institute, a regional economic research and consulting group, said such off-highway-vehicle parks are a destination with a major economic impact on host communities.
DEP will monitor site of possible underground fire in Newport Twp.
Steve Mocarsky – Citizens Voice
State environmental officials will continue monitoring a culm bank site near a proposed gas-to-gasoline refinery in Newport Twp. for a possible underground fire.
An engineer with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation found “signs of possible combustion” when investigating a report from Scott Cannon, environmental advisor for Action Together NEPA, in the Glen Lyon section of the township on Tuesday.
Cannon and Action Together representatives are concerned because Houston-based Nacero is planning a $6 billion plant in Newport Twp. to convert natural gas to gasoline in the area where the potential underground fire was discovered.
Air temperatures were between 60 and 65 degrees when the engineer visited the site Tuesday, but the culm bank surface temperatures in the area of concern were measured between 110 and 125 degrees and steam/vapor was visible, the engineer wrote in an email to Cannon.
“The DEP will continue to monitor the site in Newport Twp. for any material that may appear combustible or indicative of burning material. We are also working with Northampton Generating, which is leasing the site for culm reclamation, to address any issues related to high temperature readings and removal of any material,” Colleen Connolly, community relations coordinator for DEP’s Northeast Regional Office, said in an emailed response to questions about how the department will handle the matter.
DEP investigators visited the site in February and August in response to reports from Cannon about the high temperatures but found nothing out of the ordinary.
Cannon believes the investigators couldn’t find the site on the culm bank where he directed them on their first two visits.
Connolly said department officials “appreciate the input from residents who may notice issues at the site. However, the site is considered private property and DEP does not have authority to allow access to the site,” so they couldn’t invite Cannon to guide investigators to the specific location.
Asked whether the situation could affect permitting for Nacero, Connolly said the DEP “has not received any applications for development at the site at this time, so it would be inappropriate to comment on that.”
“The site is continuously evaluated and monitored by DEP’s Pottsville District Mining Office for any issues, including for combustible material,” she said.
Attempts to reach Nacero officials for comment on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Plans for Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge replacement still under discussion
Plans for the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge replacement project are still under discussion.
Council had voted to use the lion’s share of a new up-to-$55 million, casino-gambling funded infrastructure pot to replace the county-owned bridge over the Susquehanna River, with the understanding council could opt to alter the project list.
The matter is on Tuesday’s council work session agenda. County Councilman Kevin Lescavage sought the discussion to determine if his colleagues are interested in changing the scope to first address most other smaller county road and bridge repairs and hold off on replacement of the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke span.
However, Lescavage and two other council members — Brian Thornton and LeeAnn McDermott — said Friday they believe council discussion is now needed on the fund itself based on concerns they received from some members of the county administration following a committee meeting last week.
Lescavage, Thornton and McDermott said the concerns focused largely on whether future state legislators could someday change the legislation to reduce or eliminate annual casino funds earmarked to the infrastructure program. The three council members declined to identify the administrators, saying the concerns were brought to them confidentially and unsolicited with the intent of making sure there would be no future regrets.
Closing of the infrastructure loan is tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
The way the program is set up under new state legislation, the county redevelopment authority will borrow to create the fund of up to $55 million and repay the loan with $3 million provided annually for 25 years from the casino-gambling Local Share Account (LSA).
A council majority voted last month to adopt an ordinance formally accepting a county loan guarantee, in the unlikely event casino revenue ceases, because the authority agreed to limit use of the borrowed funds to county-owned infrastructure.
McDermott said she believes questions raised by administrators are valid and wants assurance future legislators won’t change course.
“I don’t want to tie the hands of future council members and taxpayers,” McDermott said.
Thornton and Lescavage said their initial reservations about providing a guarantee are now heightened as a result of questions that have raised.
In response, state Sen. John Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, released a legal memorandum Saturday, which he said had been provided to county officials in April. It was produced by Attorney Merritt Reitzel, legal counsel to the Senate Community Economic and Recreational Committee chaired by Yudichak.
The memorandum said a contract — like the one tied to the new infrastructure fund and related borrowing — is controlled by the law that is in effect when it is executed. Any subsequent changes in the law cannot affect the contractual parties’ rights and duties to carry out that agreement, the memorandum said. This ensures continuity and predictability in business.
Act 24 of 2021, the legislation creating the infrastructure fund, says the $3 million must be paid annually for 25 years to fund the debt service once the state has been notified of the issuance of debt.
The state constitution says no law shall be passed “impairing the obligation of contracts,” the memorandum said.
“It is well settled that the contracts clauses of the U.S. and PA Constitutions protect contracts that were freely entered into by the parties and prohibit the legislature from enacting laws that retroactively impair contract rights,” the memorandum said.
“The suggestion that a future act of the legislature or a future action of a Governor can alter the conditions of Act 24 of 2021 related to the Luzerne County Infrastructure Program or sever established contracts under the law is, according to the legal counsel provided to me, factually incorrect and misleading,” Yudichak said.
Both the county engineer and leaders in municipalities reliant on the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge say its replacement is necessary.
The span was downgraded to a 15-ton weight limit in 2020 due to issues found in an inspection.
The county has no other funds set aside to cover this expense, and officials have said it would take at least a decade, possibly much longer, for the bridge to receive federal and state funding allocations based on the large number of infrastructure requests. The next inspection may result in lower weight limits and/or a future closure, the county administration has said.
Without the casino funding, county Engineer Lawrence Plesh said the only potential option to fund the span would be a new federal grant. The administration recently applied for a Bridge Investment Program grant through the Federal Highway Administration, which would require a county match, Plesh said. He is hoping to learn at the start of 2023 whether the application has been successful.
Replacement is necessary because there is no rehabilitation that can be completed to preserve the load-bearing capacity, Plesh said.
“You cannot piecemeal work on a bridge of that size and age. It’s a 100-year-old bridge, and you have to replace the whole thing at once,” he said.
Once design is underway, there could be options to salvage piers or scale back other work to reduce the replacement cost, he said.
“We don’t know that yet. It could drop to $27 million or less. We have to wait until we find out what we’re looking at,” Plesh said.
Replacement of the bridge must be a top priority because it dropped to a 15-ton limit and could be further reduced or shut down at any point if warranted based on an inspection, Plesh said.
Plesh said he wants to address the bridge first because it is the most expensive, high-priority project. Smaller roads and bridges can be tackled in phases, concentrating on the most deteriorated road sections and spans first and repairing the rest as funds become available, he said.
Plesh stressed his opinion on the need for a replacement bridge has nothing to do with a potential plan for Houston, Texas-based Nacero Inc. to build a $6 billion manufacturing facility in that area.
The bridge is “not going to get better” and is “aging fast,” he said.
“It is the right thing to do to get that completely redone and off the books,” Plesh said.
Nanticoke Mayor Kevin Coughlin said loss of the bridge would be “catastrophic for public safety” and cause “unthinkable conditions.”
South Valley community leaders also identified the bridge as essential for continued development, he said.
County officials prioritized a plan to replace the county-owned Firefighters’ Memorial Bridge linking West Pittston and Pittston, and citizens reliant on the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge deserve the same focus on their needs, Coughlin said.
Putting off the project will cause the cost to skyrocket, he said.
“Taxpayers in the South Valley want their public safety and economic development needs addressed by Luzerne County,” Coughlin said. “We need that bridge. We really do.”
Nanticoke Fire Chief Mark Boncal said the city is contracted by Plymouth Township to provide fire, rescue and emergency medical services to the township’s West Nanticoke section.
Without the county-owned bridge, his department’s response time to West Nanticoke likely would increase by six to eight minutes on a “good day” with nice weather and light traffic, he said. Responders would have to use Route 29 to cross the river and reach West Nanticoke, he said.
“We all know time is essential in a time of emergency, and that’s how much time would be wasted if we had to go on that other bridge all the time,” Boncal said. “The county bridge is a critical public safety project and should be at the top of the ladder.”
Former longtime Plymouth Township Supervisor Gale Conrad, who now works as a consultant, said township residents rely on the county bridge for public safety. When the bridge has periodically closed for minor repairs or an inspection over the years, she heard from many residents “afraid it wasn’t going to be opened back up.”
“The county already deemed it to be in such a degraded condition, so why wait? It’s a top priority,” Conrad said.
Newport Township Manager Joseph Hillan said a new bridge also would open up direct access to approximately 3,000 acres for commercial development, whether or not the Nacero project becomes a reality. This development would benefit the county tax base and economy, he said.
“It’s about the future development of Newport Township. Look what happened in Hanover Township once they had that infrastructure. It blossomed,” Hillan said.
Newport Township man sentenced for child pornography
WILKES-BARRE — A Newport Township man who did not contest allegations he downloaded an image of child sexual abuse materials was sentenced to state prison Friday.
Neil Minnich, 48, of Sharpe Street, was charged by detectives with the Luzerne County district attorney’s office and West Hazleton police in December 2020 after investigating a Cyber tip alleging he used his cellular phone to download a picture of a girl to his photo gallery, according to court records.
When detectives executed a search warrant at his residence, Minnich claimed his Google account was disabled. Minnich admitted to seeing the picture he downloaded but claimed he deleted the photograph from his cellular phone because he knew it was illegal and did not want the picture saved on his device, court records say.
Minnich pled no contest to a single count of possession of child pornography, meaning he did not admit guilt but accepted that prosecutors had enough evidence to secure a conviction.
At his sentencing hearing before Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough, Minnich said it was only a single picture that he was not aware was downloaded to his cloud storage.
His attorney, Ellen Mary Granahan of Scranton, requested an alternative sentence referring to probation or house arrest.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Coleman said standard sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of two-to-four years in state prison, which Vough imposed.
Minnich is required to register his address as a sex offender for 15 years under the state’s Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act.
Convicted bank robber arrested after allegedly smashing windows on ex-girlfriend’s vehicle
NEWPORT TWP. — A Hazleton man released from state prison in March after serving two years for robbing a bank in Hanover Township was charged with threatening his ex-girlfriend and smashing windows on her vehicle.
Newport Township police allege Aaron Lee Fernandez, 32, of Peace Street, chased his ex-girlfriend threatening her with a firearm and forced his way inside her residence on Rock Street on Thursday.
Fernandez grabbed a bat from inside her residence that he used to smash windows on her vehicle, police allege.
Court records say his mother, Alicia Fernandez, 50, arrived at the Rock Street residence where she screamed at her son’s ex-girlfriend about his possessions. When the ex-girlfriend exited her residence, she noticed Fernandez sitting inside his vehicle, court records say.
Fernandez allegedly chased the woman with a handgun in his hand and yelled he was going to, “(Expletive) her up.”
After ripping down a door, Fernandez grabbed a bat he allegedly used to smash windows on her vehicle before fleeing with his mother.
Fernandez, of Peace Street, was arraigned Saturday by District Judge David Barilla in Forty Fort on two counts each of simple assault, terroristic threats and harassment and one count each of firearms not to be carried without a license, illegal possession of a firearm, stalking, criminal trespass, defiant trespass and disorderly conduct. Fernandez was jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility without bail as Barilla deemed him a danger to society.
Alicia Fernandez, same address as her son, is facing charges of disorderly conduct and harassment, according to court records.
Alicia Fernandez once described her son as having a “heart of gold” during his sentencing hearing before President Judge Michael T. Vough on Feb. 24, 2020, for robbing the M&T Bank branch on the Sans Souci Parkway in Hanover Township.
Hanover Township police in court records say Fernandez and a second person robbed the bank on May 22, 2019, and fled in a Ford Mustang, throwing money out the car window along Interstate-81 when they noticed a tracking device in the bank bag.
Vough sentenced Fernandez to two-years to seven-years in state prison.
Records from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections say Fernandez was released March 23, 2022.
In an unrelated case, Hazleton police charged Fernandez with threatening to kill his mother’s boyfriend by sending him numerous text messages in August.
Nanticoke man sentenced for soliciting minor for sex
Ed Lewis – Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — A Nanticoke man accused of sending nude pictures of himself and soliciting sex from a girl was sentenced in Luzerne County Court.
President Judge Michael T. Vough sentenced Brandon Joseph Smith, 27, to one year, nine months to three years, six months in state prison followed by three years probation on charges of criminal solicitation to commit statutory sexual assault, corruption of minors and possessing child pornography. Smith pled guilty to the charges June 21.
Newport Township police and Luzerne County detectives arrested Smith in January after an investigation revealed he had been having inappropriate contact with a minor female.
Smith was aware he was twice the girl’s age and sent her multiple explicit images of himself and offered the girl cash and gifts in exchange for nude photos and sex acts from her, according to court records.
Glen Lyon man, 28, pleads guilty to indecent assault upon child
WILKES-BARRE — Brandan Sorber, 28, of West Ridge Street, Newport Township, pled guilty to indecent assault for kissing a girl younger than 16 years old.
Sorber pled guilty to the charge before Luzerne County Judge David W. Lupas.
Fairview Township police in court records say the girl’s mother reported in July 2020, she discovered inappropriate text messages on her daughter’s cellular phone with Sorber.
A search warrant was served for Sorber’s cellular phone resulting in a picture showing him kissing the girl and sexual related text messages, court records say.
Sorber is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 22.
Third person charged in Newport Township home invasions
NEWPORT TWP. — A Glen Lyon man who allegedly orchestrated a home invasion on East Main Street and attempted to enter another residence on West Enterprise Street last month was arraigned Tuesday.
Isaiah David Cruz, 24, of Orchard Street, was the last of three to be charged in the incidents that occurred within 25 minutes of each other on Aug. 9.
Township police allege Cruz, Gabriela Tamara Juarez, 25, of Orchard Street, and Maria Teresa Fouchard, 35, of West Church Street, Nanticoke, first went to the West Enterprise Street home searching for a man at 7:19 p.m.
The homeowner was involved in a Zoom meeting when his dog alerted him to people outside as his surveillance cameras recorded Cruz and Juarez standing on the porch and others standing on the sidewalk, according to court records.
When Cruz allegedly attempted to open the door, the West Enterprise Street homeowner armed himself because his children were inside.
Police in court records say when the homeowner partially opened the door, Cruz asked for a man and was told he had the wrong address. Juarez allegedly recorded the confrontation on the porch.
As Cruz and Juarez argued with the homeowner, Fouchard told him that the person they were looking for did not live at the West Enterprise Street home.
Less than 25 minutes later, police were advised that a man was assaulted during a home invasion on East Main Street.
The East Main Street homeowner told police Cruz arrived at his residence with several females asking, “Where is my snake?” and if the person they were looking for was inside.
Cruz and his posse left but returned to the East Main Street home telling the homeowner, “I’m from Brooklyn, I’m not leaving without hurting you or taking you with me,” court records say.
Police in court records say they forced their way inside as Cruz stated, “I’m about to catch a case,” before assaulting the homeowner.
During the assault, Fouchard allegedly destroyed the homeowner’s cellular phone while Juarez used her cell phone to record the attack.
Cruz was arraigned by District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke on two sets of criminal complaints charging him with four counts each of terroristic threats, criminal trespass and harassment and one count each of aggravated assault, simple assault, burglary, unlawful restraint and defiant trespass. He was released after posting $20,000 total bail.
Juarez and Fouchard are facing similar charges for their alleged roles and were released on $20,000 unsecured bail each.
Newport Township man charged with setting forest fires
NEWPORT TWP. — Township police charged a man with setting three fires that turned into wildfires earlier this year.
James M. Havens, 35, of Overlook Drive, Newport Township, admitted during an interview with police he set the fires in the Bare Ass Beach area on April 24 because he was drinking and had a argument with his friends, according to court records.
Bare Ass Beach is a water-filled former coal pit.
Havens was arraigned Wednesday by District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke on three counts each of arson, risking catastrophe and maliciously setting fire to forest. He was released on $75,000 unsecured bail.
According to the criminal complaint:
Luzerne County 911 dispatched firefighters in Newport Township to a wildfire in their township resulting in assistance from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The location of the fire was difficult to reach as additional fire departments responded to assist.
As efforts were being made to reach the fire, Havens was encountered by fire officials at the scene.
Havens claimed he discovered the fire and guided firefighters into the wilderness.
A total of three fires that turned into wildfires were encountered by firefighters, the complaint says.
It took firefighters nearly three hours to extinguish the three wildfires.
An investigation into the cause of the fires determined they were intentionally set.
Havens agreed to be interviewed on May 15 when he admitted he had been drinking with friends and got into an argument. He took off on an all-terrain vehicle driving through woods using a lighter to set a fire, the complaint says.
When the first fire got out of control, Havens admitted he set two more fires and left the area, according to the complaint.
Havens initially denied he set the fires and only went to the scene after being tagged by a Newport Township firefighter on a social media site reporting the fires.
Showing love for Glen Lyon
NEWPORT TWP. — Driving through the Glen Lyon section, township Manager Joseph Hillan pointed out pristine sidewalks under construction on both sides of West Main Street and random empty lots no longer containing decrepit structures.
“Look at the difference,” Hillan marveled.
Six years ago, the Economic Innovation Group had identified Glen Lyon as the most distressed community in the state — a designation officials said was largely based on the number of vacant, blighted properties.
Hillan detests this past characterization, describing it as a “bad rap.” Regardless, he said there’s no way a distressed label should be applied to Glen Lyon these days based on a series of improvements.
In the last four years, 28 eyesore properties have been demolished in Glen Lyon — 24 by the township and four by private owners, he said. Another 14 are targeted for future removal.
The mile-long sidewalk and curbing project was covered by a $1.398 million allocation Luzerne County officials announced in 2018 from a community development business loan fund no longer in high demand.
Township code enforcement also has been cracking down on property maintenance violations, Hillan said.
Relaxing on their welcoming front porch, West Main Street residents George and Theresa Van Dyke said the erasure of rundown structures and addition of new sidewalks have had a ripple effect on the neighborhood.
More people are walking and stopping to chat with neighbors they did not know before, they said. Their own regular strolls frequently stretch out because they end up pausing to greet other passersby and getting into lengthy conversations.
They notice more children biking and playing on the sidewalks because they are now smooth and uninterrupted.
“We’re getting to know more neighbors,” Theresa said. “People are circulating more. There are more interactions with these sidewalks than I ever saw before.”
The couple also notices more people sprucing up their properties. Theresa admired a new porch constructed on a nearby house and said the township’s enhancements are motivating many.
She also feels safe in her community.
“I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want a lot of people coming here,” she said, laughing.
Growing up in the township, Hillan recalled weekend activity outside many houses in his childhood as property owners swept and scrubbed porches, cut grass and cared for plantings.
“That’s what I want to instill in people moving into the neighborhood. I want to get pride back,” he said.
George also was raised in the township and said Glen Lyon was once a coal mining “boomtown” and destination, with two movie theaters, a bowling alley, skating rink, multiple churches, clothing stores and other businesses.
Scenes of Glen Lyon appeared in the 1948 film, “The Miracle of the Bells,” inspired by Glen Lyon native Olga Trotzski, who is buried in one of the township’s numerous cemeteries. A movie poster hangs in the township building with the names of movie stars Fred MacMurray and Frank Sinatra in bold lettering.
Also hanging there is a photograph of the Susquehanna Breaker No. 6, built in 1885, that once hulked over the community.
The Van Dykes started contemplating settling in Glen Lyon when his mother died in 2006. They purchased their residence in 2009.
Compared to living in upstate New York, they were attracted to the township’s affordable houses and significantly lower taxes.
But George said the “memory factor” also was alluring. Taking in the warm July weather, he flashed back to the aroma of church picnic food that once permeated Glen Lyon on many summer days of his youth.
“I have connectivity,” he said.
Every morning, he pauses to smile at a photo of his mother, Geraldine, on a military hometown hero banner in front of his house honoring her work as a U.S. Army nurse during World War II.
More than 171 hometown hero banners have been sponsored throughout the township since it started the program last year.
Next door, Ian and Victoria Bennett were outside with their three children, ages 2, 3 and 4.
The Bennetts recently relocated from New York, sold on the wooded sections of the area that allow opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The Van Dykes praised Ian’s work improving the landscaping at the rental property.
In turn, Ian commended Hillan and other township officials for their work, saying they are “making a difference.”
“The town has changed so much in the short time we have lived here,” Ian said. “I love it.”
Hillan informed them they will soon be able to stop at a new coffee shop on their walks. The business is set to open in a West Main building that once held a shoemaker business and later a pizza place.
A Nanticoke developer also obtained a zoning variance from the county last month to convert the former Pulaski School on South Market Street into a luxury loft and apartment building with up to 33 units, according to Hillan and records. The vacant school is 55,000 square feet.
The developer also obtained a special exception to place up to 200 storage units and a small office structure at the 3.4-acre site, records show.
Hillan said he and township commissioners are united in their effort to revitalize the entire municipality, with the hope increased warehouse construction in the South Valley area will draw more residential and commercial growth to the township.
Township officials also are waiting to see what happens with another potential project within the township. In 2021, Houston, Texas-based Nacero Inc. announced a plan to build a $6 billion manufacturing facility on the site of a former coal mine in the township and Nanticoke that would produce clean gasoline made from natural gas and renewable natural gas, generating thousands of jobs.
Venturing out of Glen Lyon and into the Sheatown neighborhood, Hillan highlighted the conversion of the former Kirtland M. Smith Public School into apartments. That building was constructed in 1930.
Townhouses also will be constructed in this complex along Robert Street, he said.
Buzzing through the Wanamie section, Hillan gestured to the township recreation facility, which will receive new pickle ball, basketball and tennis courts through the use of COVID-19 recovery funding.
Hillan enjoyed the bump-free pass down Main Street in Wanamie, which has been repaved with funding intended to help compensate for the closure of the State Correctional Institution at Retreat in the township. Some county officials are still interested in exploring a takeover of the former prison to house the county prison.
In the township’s Ridgeview section, a Butler Township developer has been constructing new homes.
“There are a lot of good things happening in the township,” Hillan said.
Nanticoke man charged with stomping woman unconscious
James Halpin – Citizens Voice
A Nanticoke man with a checkered past broke into a woman’s home, dragged her out to the street and kicked her in the head until she stopped moving, according to charges filed by Newport Twp. police.
Paul Andrew Halliday, 47, of 237 W. Ridge St., is charged with burglary and aggravated assault following the attack Tuesday morning.
According to the complaint, Halliday showed up at a home at 139 Brown Row, Nanticoke, around 4:15 a.m. and broke through a back screen window to get inside. Halliday proceeded to ransack the house, screaming about the whereabouts of a safe, police said.
After tearing apart the house, Halliday grabbed the victim, Heather Papciak, dragged her out to the street and slammed her to the ground, police said.
Halliday proceeded to repeatedly kick Papciak in the head until she stopped moving in an assault that was captured on surveillance video, police said. At one point a neighbor tried to pull Halliday off Papciak but Halliday pushed him to the ground, police said.
Officers arriving on scene found Papciak with a head swollen to “almost double in size” along with bleeding to the head and arms, according to the complaint. Her shoes had apparently fallen off during the assault and were found in the middle of the street, police said.
Papciak told officers she could not remember what happened and was rushed to an area hospital to be treated for head trauma, police said.
Officers charged Halliday with aggravated assault, burglary, simple assault and criminal trespassing.
Magisterial District Judge Matthew C. Christopher arraigned Halliday on the charges and denied bail, deeming him a danger to the victim.
Halliday was being held at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility with a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 20.
It is not the first time Halliday has made headlines. The owner of the now-defunct Prospect Street Cafe, Halliday was previously charged in several other cases with fleeing the police on a high-speed chase, assaulting his girlfriend in a drunken rage, manufacturing drugs and possessing crack cocaine.
The Prospect Street Cafe was also the scene of a high-profile box-cutter slashing that severely injured a Nanticoke woman in 2012.
Newport Twp. nursing home employee charged with groping co-worker
James Halpin Staff Writer
A man working at a Newport Twp. nursing home carried a co-worker into a patient room, pinned her against a wall and groped her while she fought to break loose, according to charges police filed this week.
Brenton Patrick Reilly, 34, of 214 Broad St., Pittston, is facing indecent assault charges alleging he forced himself on the woman at the Guardian Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center during an overnight shift in May.
According to the complaint, the woman told police the assault took place after she requested Reilly to help her with a bed change around 2:30 a.m. May 16.
After the bed was changed, the employees were walking down a hall when Reilly picked up the woman and carried her into a patient room, police said.
Reilly pushed the woman against the wall and began fondling her breasts and genitals over her clothing, according to the charges. When the woman tried pushing him away, Reilly pinned her hands against the wall above her head and continued groping her, police said.
The woman was eventually able to break free and leave the room.
She reported the incident to her supervisor in the morning and provided a written statement, police said.
When investigators contacted Reilly, he declined to be interviewed and told police to “come to Pittston and cuff my (expletive) then,” according to the complaint.
Police charged Reilly with misdemeanor counts of indecent assault with forcible compulsion and indecent assault without consent, along with a summary count of harassment.
Magisterial District Judge James J. Haggerty arraigned him on the charges Friday morning and released him on $5,000 unsecured bail with a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 20.
A message left with Guardian seeking information on Reilly’s employment status was not immediately returned.
Three double-blocks in a row razed on Main Street, Glen Lyon
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
GLEN LYON — Demolition crews on Thursday tore down three blighted double-block homes on East Main Street in the Glen Lyon section of Newport Twp., delighting residents who had grown frustrated with the longtime eyesores.
Two neighboring homeowners have already acquired the land and plan to expand their properties — one with a fenced-in yard and another with a garage.
“That’s a good thing,” township manager Joe Hillan said. “The properties are going to be taxed and they are going to improve the land. It’s an improvement from what was there. The blight is gone.”
The homes demolished were 48-50 E. Main St., 52-54 E. Main St., and 56-58 E. Main St.
Township officials targeted the homes for demolition after being awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in state grants to knock down blighted properties. The township previously demolished several homes and there are about 16 more slated for demolition with the grant money, Hillan said.
John Floryshak, 56, who lives next door to 48-50 E. Main St., said he was glad to see the eyesore torn down. He bought one side of the double-block — 48 E. Main St. — about 25 years ago with the hopes of acquiring the other side one day to knock the whole property down.
But the other side remained owner-occupied until recently when the township posted it unfit for human habitation. Floryshak then bought the remaining part of the property, knowing it was slated for demolition and paid for by the grant.
“I wanted to build a garage there for 25 years,” Floryshak said Thursday while recording the demolition with his cell phone camera. “I want to see what it looks like when it’s done. I can’t imagine what it’s going to look like without a house there.”
Another happy homeowner was Ken Powell, 58, who lives next to 56-58 E. Main St.
He bought the vacant 56-58 E. Main St. several years ago at a sheriff’s sale, mainly to maintain the yard that abuts his. Most recently, he purchased the other double-block — 52-54 E. Main St. — that was demolished Thursday, knowing it was part of the township’s demolition plan.
Now, Powell will own three lots in one on Main Street.
“It makes my yard bigger and gets rid of the problem,” Powell said. “I’m going to fence it in for the kids to play. I have 11 grandchildren.”
Newport Twp. commissioner honored for 40 years of service
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
Newport Twp. Commissioner John Zyla sensed something was suspicious Monday night when Chairman Paul Czapracki walked into the township municipal building.
Then Zyla’s brother-in-law, state Sen. John Yudichak, entered with a plaque.
“I knew something was up when Paulie Czapracki walked in wearing a sport coat for the first time in 20 years,” Zyla joked, wearing a long sleeve Wyoming Valley Country Club shirt.
Zyla acknowledged he was told to dress up for the meeting, not knowing it was for his surprise, so he tried to wear his Monday’s best.
Fellow commissioners, township representatives and Yudichak pulled a surprise on Zyla on Monday to recognize him for his 40 years of service on the board. They honored Zyla by naming the commissioner meeting room and community center after him.
“I had no idea. I was completely caught off guard. I didn’t expect this. I really appreciate this. I would like to thank my fellow board of commissioners for bestowing this honor on me. I’ll be 70 tomorrow, but I’m not dead,” Zyla said.
Most people in attendance knew something was unusual when Yudichak showed up at the meeting. He brought a replica of the permanent plaque that will be added to the municipal building honoring Zyla.
“It is a testament to the life and passion Jack Zyla brought to his job as commissioner. It represents the well-deserved and hard-earned recognition of Commissioner Zyla’s lifetime of community service,” Yudichak said. “Few people embody public service as a guiding force in their lives as passionately or as well as Jack Zyla.”
Honoring Robert W. Piavis
Commissioners also honored township resident Robert Piavis.
Piavis, 83, who died on March 28, was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served as a Pennsylavania state trooper from 1966 until 1993.
“We recently lost a former Newport Twp. resident Robert Piavis,” Commissioner Mike Roke said. “He was a good friend of mine and I would like to recognize him.”
Former fire chief charged with driving into fire police official
James Halpin – Citizens Voice
Authorities say Daniel J. Kowalski, former Newport Twp. fire chief, drove his vehicle into a fire police officer at the scene of a fire in December 2021.
A former Newport Twp. fire chief was arraigned Tuesday on aggravated assault charges alleging he drove his vehicle into a fire police officer who was blocking traffic at the scene of a fire last year.
Daniel J. Kowalski, 58, is accused of striking Capt. Fredrick Kraft in the knee and leg as he drove into a restricted area down the street from his home at 158 Alden Mountain Road.
According to the complaint, Kraft had been directed to stop all northbound traffic as firefighters worked the scene of a blaze at 130 Alden Mountain Road the afternoon of Dec. 12.
When he was stopped at the roadblock, Kowalski grew upset that other vehicles had been allowed to proceed before him and felt there was no reason for him to have been stopped, police allege. Kowalski began arguing and cursing at Kraft, threatening to punch him through the car window, police said.
Kraft went over to a police officer to report the situation, and Kowalski then drove through the fire scene and crossed into the opposing lane, striking Kraft’s knee and leg, police said.
The complaint alleges there were no obstacles in the area that would have forced Kowalski to change lanes.
A visibly upset Kowalski pulled up to the officer Kraft had been approaching, explaining he felt he had been selectively stopped and that he had only “brushed” the fire police officer, according to the complaint.
Police charged Kowalski with a felony count of aggravated assault, misdemeanor counts of simple assault and disorderly conduct, and several summary traffic infractions, including failing to obey an authorized person directing traffic.
Magisterial District Judge Joseph A. Halesey arraigned Kowalski on the charges Tuesday morning and released him on $10,000 unsecured bail.
Kowalski was already free on $5,000 unsecured bail in another case Newport Twp. police filed against him earlier this year, also for allegedly becoming disorderly at the scene of a fire.
In that case, police allege Kowalski began yelling at a firefighter atop a fire truck at the scene of a blaze at 1010 W. Main Ave. the afternoon of Jan. 22. Kowalski refused to leave the area, saying he was on a public sidewalk and was free to stand there if he wanted, police allege.
Kowalski went on to push an officer’s arm away as the officer tried to escort him from the area and refused to provide his name or identification, according to the charges.
When an officer tried to handcuff him, Kowalski grabbed a fence and refused to let go until he was threatened with a Taser, police allege.
Former Glen Lyon school could be converted into luxury lofts
Denise Allabaugh – Citizens Voice
A Nanticoke resident has proposed to convert the former Pulaski Junior High School on South Market Street in the Glen Lyon section of Newport Twp. into luxury lofts and apartments.
Alexander McNitt has filed a zoning application requesting a variance to convert the closed school into a 3-story apartment building with 29 units.
A potential storage facility, rooftop solar panels and landscaping improvements would be part of phase two of the project, according to his zoning application.
His proposed project will be discussed at a Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board public meeting 7 p.m. April 5 in the second floor jury meeting room at Luzerne County Courthouse.
According to his narrative for the project, the intended rental market would be for “middle class workers and families supporting the warehouses and plants in Nanticoke, Newport and surrounding areas.”
“This rental market would not be accepting Section 8 and/or CEO,” his narrative said.
The former Pulaski Junior High School closed in the 1980s, said Newport Twp. manager Joe Hillan. He said the proposed project is “great news for the township.”
It follows a similar project from developer J. Naparlo, who converted the vacant K.M. Smith Elementary School building in Newport Twp. into apartments.
The former school on Robert Street, that dates back to the 1930s, was last used for pre-K, kindergarten and first graders. It closed after the 2017-18 school year. In August 2018, the Greater Nanticoke Area School District opened the new Kennedy Early Childhood Center and since then, all Greater Nanticoke Area schools have been located on one campus off Kosciuszko Street in Nanticoke.
Naparlo also has proposed to build townhomes on the former softball field next to the school, Hillan said.
“A lot of good things are happening in the township,” Hillan said. “We’re excited about the revitalization.”
In other developments, NorthPoint Development will soon construct a 1.2 million-square-foot warehouse on former mine-scarred land off Front Street in Nanticoke. NorthPoint Development has not yet identified a tenant. It will be the largest development in decades in Newport Twp., which lost about 400 jobs when the State Correctional Institution at Retreat closed in 2020.
Luzerne County officials have been considering SCI Retreat as the site for a new county prison which Hillan said “would be a great boost for us.”
A $1.3 million Luzerne County grant is being used to replace sidewalks in Newport Twp. and a $530,000 state grant is being used to demolish blighted properties, Hillan said.
Four properties in Newport Twp. were demolished and blighted properties at 15 W. Main St., 239 W. Main St., 169 Newport St. and 56-58 E. Main St. will be demolished in the first week of April, Hillan said.
Newport Township food giveaway more needed than ever, organizers say
Geri Gibbons - Times Leader
NEWPORT TWP. — A food giveaway here Saturday morning brought together volunteers from several community organizations to provide food for their neighbors.
The drive-through giveaway, sponsored by the Newport Township Community Organization, was held at the Wanamie Recreation Park, with participants simply opening their trunks and driving through several stations to obtain their food items.
Amy Saraka, event organizer and member of the Lions Club and Crime Watch, credited the Commission on Economic Opportunity and Weinberg Food Bank, for providing healthy food that included milk, fresh vegetables and canned foods. Saraka said the event started about five years ago, and continued even through the pandemic.
Now, with the cost of food and other essentials on the rise, people have been especially grateful to get some extra food to stretch their budgets, she said. “People are having a hard time heating their home, ” she said. “The cost of all utilities has gone up.”
Steve Phillips and Ron Jones have volunteered at the event for several years. The men enjoy the camaraderie that goes along with volunteering.
Phillips, president of Newport Township Community Organization, said that he remembers his mother always reminding him to give back to the community. Spending a Saturday morning helping others is a great use of his time, he said. “Some people always had economic disadvantages and it was exacerbated by the pandemic,” he said. “And now with inflation continuing to spike, this is a way to get a little more bang for their bucks, getting some free food.”
The event is held monthly and is rarely postponed. “Except for last week, because of the snowstorm,” Phillips said.
Phillips pointed out that registration is necessary for participation, and participants also have to fill out a form indicating that they have a need. “But, basically participants self-certify,” he said. “We don’t make any value judgments.” The intent, he said, is to get all the food provided by the CEO into the hands of those who need it.
“We give away all the food, ” he said.
Phillips said many of the people receiving food make it a point to thank the volunteers. “We all owe a certain amount of civic debt,” he said. “So, we all need to do what we can.”
Fire policeman Roy Tinney helped out by directing traffic during the event. He said fire police have been a part of the event for as long as he could remember. Tinney said he was happy that Saturday was a clear, warm day and that participants moved quickly and easily through the line.
Those who would like to volunteer or receive for next month’s giveaway to be held on April 9 are asked to call
570-592-7876 to register.
Family-owned pierogi business sees high demand and plans expansion
Denise Allabaugh – Citizens Voice
NANTICOKE — Success has come fast for young business owners Lauren Gorney and Frank Marcinkowski.
Since the couple opened NEPA'rogi with their family members at 579 E. Main St. next to Tarnowski's Kielbasa in September, they have been overwhelmed trying to keep up with the demand for their traditional hand-pinched pierogi.
They started the small business after Gorney was laid off from her fundraising job during the COVID-19 pandemic and Marcinkowski, a local musician, was impacted by the shutdowns.
As they try to keep up with all the orders piling in, they are looking to expand and build a second location that would be a manufacturing facility in Nanticoke or Newport Twp., Gorney said.
The expansion would bring the potential for more jobs and more pierogi and it's part of the long-term plan for their business, she said.
"We're very realistic about how much this process is going to take but we're also very committed to it," Gorney said. "The demand is there. The community is so supportive."
In the meantime, it has been busy at NEPA'rogi that employs about 10 people that are family members and friends.
Inside their small 300-square-foot space on Tuesday last week, Gorney and her mother Janella Albertson joined Marcinkowski, his mother Deneen Marcinkowski and his brother Nick Marcinkowski as they quickly made pierogi with prune filling.
Gorney described their process of making pierogi by hand as a "labor-intensive art form." They recently purchased a machine manufactured in Poland to assist with the pierogi-making process.
"We make them the same way we did when I was a kid and I went to my grandparents and made them in their house when they made about 10 dozen," Marcinkowski said.
The difference: they make thousands of pierogi and they typically work more than eight hours a day and six days a week doing it.
Last week, they prepared more than 100 dozen pierogi for Wychock's Mountain Top Beverage, which now sells NEPA'rogi's frozen pierogi by the dozen.
The White House Diner in Forty Fort also recently began selling NEPA'rogi's potato and cheese and farmers cheese pierogi by the dozen. Starting on Ash Wednesday last week, the diner added the pierogi to its dine-in and takeout menu as well.
Gorney said she also has met with restaurant owners in the Scranton area who are interested in selling their pierogi. She said Lent will be a busy time for NEPA'rogi since Christians abstain from eating meat on Fridays.
"Our goal is to have enough supply ready so we don't sell out as quickly as we did at Christmas," Gorney said. "We weren't able to keep up at Christmas but we made a plan following Christmas about what we could do for Easter to produce as many as possible. We're trying to learn from what happened during COVID and where we might be able to change some things."
People can buy frozen pierogi by the dozen at their window inside the lobby of Tarnowski's Kielbasa with fillings that include potato and cheese, farmers cheese, prune, sauerkraut and cabbage.
The team at NEPA'rogi also recently made chicken wing pierogi for the Super Bowl and teamed up with Michael Mootz Candies in Hanover Twp. to make chocolate-covered strawberry pierogi for Valentine's Day.
"We take the year like one holiday at a time and see where we can grow and not bite off more than we can chew," Gorney said.
They also operate a food truck and have served pierogi at Pisano Family Wines in Lehman Twp. and events throughout Northeast Pennsylvania. This year, they look forward to participating in the Edwardsville Pierogi Festival for the first time in June and the Bloomsburg Fair in the fall.
Gorney, 32, and Marcinkowski, 25, are both fourth generation entrepreneurs who come from families that operated businesses.
The Marcinkowski family operated a service station in Nanticoke for decades and Gorney's family operated a grocery store in Glen Lyon.
During the pandemic, Gorney said she thought it would be a good time to start NEPA'rogi after losing the 9-to-5 job she had for five years.
"I was happy with all the securities that were provided by a 9-to-5 job but I feel like I've always had the entrepreneurial spirit," she said. "It's in my genes. It's in my blood."
Gorney said she thought the pandemic was a great time for everyone to ask themselves what they want to do with their lives and if they are able to make changes.
"We were able to make a change because we had a blank canvas. We were back at zero. Our careers were put on hold or taken with us," she said. "Did I ever imagine we would be pierogi makers? No. But have we always been deeply committed to our culture and heritage, our ancestry and our families? Yes."
Marcinkowski, who sings and plays guitar in the band Mellifluous, said his experience starting a band and booking events introduced him to what it's like to own a business. He said an important lesson he learned is: "If I don't make it work, nothing is going to happen."
Since they have seen such a high demand for their pierogi, he said he has been overwhelmed and thankful to be in the same building as Tarnowski's Kielbasa.
"It's a good thing that we're overwhelmed," Marcinkowski said. "It's like an unnatural growth."
Activists hold online forum raising concerns about proposed Newport Twp. gas refinery
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
Nacero, a Texas company planning to build a plant to convert natural gas to gasoline in Newport Twp., posted this artist’s rendering of a facility to be based in Pennsylvania to its website.
Activists who hosted an online informational forum Thursday on the proposed gas refinery in Newport Twp. acknowledged there are many more questions than answers so far.
They asked those concerned to continue asking questions throughout the process — from elected officials and company representatives.
Among the unanswered questions are how the plant will be powered, if new pipelines will be needed and where, exactly, the plant will be built, they said.
All the speakers agreed the plant will be a polluter, a fact they say overrides the job creation and economic impact promised.
“People are never made aware of what is coming and the problems it will bring,” organizer Scott Cannon, of Plymouth, told the approximately 80 people who logged into the online forum.
Cannon opened the forum showing videos he produced about problems he says that have plagued the gas industry locally, including a compressor station in Monroe Twp., Wyoming County. Residents there complained about unbearable noise and mysterious illnesses, which led to an unspecified court settlement, he said.
Cannon noted the Monroe Twp. station was on two acres while the proposed $6 billion natural gas-to-gasoline plant in Newport Twp. is estimated to be 3,000 acres.
Susan Volz, of the Clean Air Council, said the company, Houston-based Nacero, plans to build several identical plants around the country and already laid out its plans for a facility in Texas and its projected pollution output in permit applications.
“There is a lot we don’t know about the Luzerne refinery because they have not filed these permits,” Volz said. “If it is at all similar, the Luzerne facility would be one of the highest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases in Pennsylvania.”
Nacero has yet to apply for any air-quality permits with Pennsylvania state regulators. But a Nacero plant in Texas that company officials say would be nearly identical to the one planned for Newport Twp. would emit 2.9 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to a company consultant’s report.
Only seven Pennsylvania facilities produced more than 2.9 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2020, according to data from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The Texas Nacero plant could emit up to 5.7 million tons per year under an air-quality permit issued by that state, an amount that “represents a worst-case operation scenario with maximum production,” according to a spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
If the Pennsylvania plant were to emit that much carbon dioxide, it would rank third in the state for emissions.
Dr. Barbara Brandon, a retired anesthesiologist who is a member of the Concerns Health Professionals of Pennsylvania, said there are negative “cradle-to-grave” effects of living near a refinery — even miles away.
“That’s pretty scary,” Brandon said. “The air takes the toxins.”
Local elected officials have touted the proposed plant as a once-in-a-generation, climate-friendly investment.
Nacero estimates the Newport Twp. plant will create 3,500 to 4,000 construction jobs and as many as 530 permanent jobs when the plant is at full capacity.
Dave Janoski, managing editor, contributed to this report.
Former Newport Twp. fire chief facing obstruction charges speaks out
PITTSTON TWP. — Former Newport Township fire chief Daniel Kowalski, who is facing charges he obstructed firefighters at the scene of a three-alarm fire that damaged four structures last month, believes a firefighter and a police officer were at fault.
Kowalski, 58, said he was bringing lunch to his son, Nicholas Kowalski, a paid driver for the Newport Township Fire Department, when firefighters were called to West Main Avenue in Wanamie for a structure fire.
Being in emergency services for more than 40 years as an emergency medical technician — and a Newport Township firefighter from 1982 to 2010, during which he served as fire chief for five years — Kowalski said he went to the fire scene Jan. 22 to check on his son.
Kowalski left the scene in police custody facing charges of obstructing emergency services, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. A preliminary hearing on the charges is scheduled for March 30.
“I was taking lunch to my son and when the call came in, I went to check on him. It was his third time driving truck, a truck I got for the department when I was chief,” Kowalski said.
According to Kowalski, his son was working the truck’s controls and valves while another firefighter was on top working the deck water gun.
Kowalski said he immediately noticed mistakes by the first responding firefighters, including the lack of water pressure from hydrants. Several hydrants were frozen, Kowalski said.
“I looked up and I yelled at the firefighter at the deck gun to get water on the roof,” Kowalski said. “He yelled down telling me to get the (expletive) out of here, I shouldn’t be here.”
Kowalski named the firefighter at the deck gun during an interview at the office of his attorney, Thomas J. Killino, in Pittston Township, last week.
When police filed charges against Kowalski, the firefighter’s name was omitted from the criminal complaint. When reached by the Times Leader, the firefighter said he would only talk off the record and did not want his name used.
Newport Township Police Chief Jeremy Blank declined to comment, as Kowalski has threatened civil action against the township.
During the interview, Kowalski showed a 20 second video he recorded on his cell phone when a township police officerarrested him. The shaky video shows Kowalski standing next to a chain link fence, away from the fire truck, as he was conversing with the officer.
Kowalski is heard telling another person — which he said was another firefighter coming to his aid — not to get involved in the incident with the officer. He is also heard telling the officer he would walk with the officer to the township fire department.
The criminal complaint filed against Kowalski says he “grabbed a hold of a fence and would not let go.”
“I was standing on a public sidewalk and this cop was telling me to get away,” Kowalski said. “This cop managed to slip a handcuff on one of my wrists. I got a handcuff on my one wrist and I’m holding my phone with my other hand. How can I grab onto the fence as this cop says I did.”
Kowalski said he was pushed into the fence and used his torso to break the fall.
As a result of being handcuffed, Kowalski said he suffered bruises around both wrists and may have suffered permanent nerve damage to his left thumb and finger. He went to a hospital for x-rays a day after his arrest.
Several weeks after his arrest, Kowalski displayed a brace on his left wrist.
A retired officer with the state Department of Corrections, Kowalski said he has more than 25 years of personnel management experience in addition to his decades of emergency services.
“With all the training I have had and the training I have given, I have a duty to respond and help the community,” Kowalski said. “This all started when I yelled up to (firefighter on deck gun) to pay attention, get water on the roof.”
Kowalski said the friction goes deeper, back to when local fire companies merged into one. He described the friction as “the Glen Lyon Clique.”
“Most of the firefighters in Newport Township are great but you have the six or seven that cause trouble,” Kowalski said.
Kowalski said he will not accept a plea agreement, if offered, and plans to fight the charges if the case makes it to county court.
Bengals fans thrilled about end to Super Bowl drought
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
Diehard Cincinnati Bengals fan Ken James of Nanticoke used to be a Los Angeles Rams fan in the 1960s. That was an easy decision as a teenager since Nanticoke’s sports teams were then known as the Rams.
But after the Rams fired their coach and traded James’ favorite player, he decided to root for a different team and settled on the Cincinnati Bengals, a relatively new expansion team.
James, 66, has been dreaming of a Bengals Super Bowl victory ever since.
“In those 50-some years, there weren’t many great seasons,” James said.
James is hoping the Super Bowl drought ends Sunday against the Rams.
“Before this season I told everyone this isn’t the same Bengals team you remember,” James said. “Everyone laughed at me and I said, ‘You’ll see.’”
James plans to watch the big game with his daughter, Diane Kivler, 36, also a big Bengals fan.
“Ever since I was a baby, my dad always had sports on TV. I could remember watching the games sitting on his lap,” Kivler said. “I was hooked at a very young age and it formed a forever bond with my dad … I am going all out for Sunday because having the chance to experience this with my dad is one I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Kevin and Beth Quinn of Wilkes-Barre Twp. love the Bengals so much that they announced Beth’s pregnancy in December with a photo on Facebook from a Bengals home game while posing with a onesie outfit that said “Bengals Baby.”
“We thought it was something different to do it there,” said Beth Quinn, 36. “We didn’t want to do something standard.”
The couple said there’s a strong likelihood the baby boy will be named after a current or former Bengals player. Their ginger-colored cat is named Andy, a tribute to the team’s former red-haired quarterback Andy Dalton.
Kevin Quinn, 41, said he’s been a Bengals fan since he was a child because he liked their tiger-striped helmets and uniform.
“I’ve suffered ever since. I’ve been waiting 30-plus years for a playoff win and it finally happened,” Kevin Quinn said.
Kevin Quinn was in attendance for the Bengals playoff win versus the Las Vegas Raiders on Jan. 15 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, the team’s first playoff win in 31 years.
“It was one of the best days of my life — besides marriage and going to be a father,” Kevin Quinn said. “People were pounding on their seats, high-fiving strangers. It was just amazing. There were tears of joy.”
Upset win inspired fandom
Adam Sieminski of Fairview Twp. wasn’t much of a football fan until 2003 when a few of his friends from Mountain Top asked him to watch a Bengals game.
The mediocre Bengals beat the 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs. He’s been a big fan ever since.
“We watch every game. We have not missed a game since 2003,” said Sieminski, 38.
He and his friends try to attend a game in Cincinnati every year.
The 38-year-old said he’s optimistic about his team’s chances in this year’s Super Bowl.
Sieminski said he ordered Bengals jerseys with his last name on the back.
“I have my name on it because players will leave, but I’ll still be there,” Sieminski said.
Joe Cunningham has a man cave dedicated to the Bengals in the basement of his Dallas Twp. home.
“This is the jungle,” Cunningham, 35, said. “My wife won’t let me keep it upstairs.”
Cunningham said he never misses a game. He even watched a Bengals game at his daughter’s christening party years ago at a local restaurant
“I was like, ‘Do they have the NFL ticket?’ They didn’t, so I watched it on my phone,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said he is teaching his daughter, 7, and son, 5, to be Bengals fans.
“When it comes to football, they have to be Bengals fans,” Cunningham said.
Super Bowl role reversal
During last year’s Super Bowl run by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tyler Rushton served as his father’s loyal “sidekick” while watching games and cheering along.
Those roles are reversed this year.
Rushton, 20, of Newport Twp., said he became a Bengals fan years ago after watching their rivalry games against the Pittsburgh Steelers on local television.
“When I was young my father tried dressing me up in all Buccaneers stuff. I think I just wanted to have my own team and watch my own team. Here I am a Bengals fan,” Rushton said.
Rushton said his father has been his biggest supporter during this season. He, his parents and brother attended a Bengals game in Baltimore this season. Cincinnati is appearing in the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years.
Rushton said his father is returning the favor from last year by rooting for the Bengals.
“He is doing the same thing I did — being like my sidekick,” Rushton said.
R Bar organizes assistance for family displaced by blaze
NEWPORT TWP. — All fires are tragic, but a residential blaze that left a West Main Avenue family and their children without a home and belongings last weekend stuck a chord with the staff at R Bar and Grill.
“We saw a post on a Facebook post that these people were displaced and they have a lot of children, and I guess the wife is pregnant, due next week,” said Lauren Maga, who co-owns the bar with sister Lindsey Temarantz.
“That’s a sad thing, and there are children involved, so it was very sentimental to us,” Maga said. “They lost everything.”
So Maga reached out to the person who posted about the fire, tracked down the people the family are staying with, and have organized a benefit drive to collect clothes, household goods, toys, gift cards and other items needed by the family.
A post was put up on the R Bar’s Facebook page, and the items began to pour in.
Maga showed a reporter some items in the dining room on Thursday, adding: “and I have a couple big garden bags full of items out in the garage,” she said. They include clothes, diapers, gift cards, “all kinds of stuff.”
Maga said the bar is not accepting cash or large items, such as furniture — which they have no place to store — but can put donors in touch with the people helping the family if they want to provide furniture. She also requested that only new toys be provided, due to COVID concerns.
Collections will continue through this Sunday, Jan. 30, at least, she said, and possibly longer if needed.
Business hours for drop-off are:
• Tuesday-Friday 4-10 p.m.
• Saturday 2-10 p.m.
• Sunday 1-8 p.m.
R Bar is located at 119 E. Kirmar Ave., Newport Township. Anyone with questions can call Maga at 570-258-0505, and she’ll return your message if not immediately available.
Former fire chief charged with obstructing firefighters
NEWPORT TWP. — Township police charged the former township fire chief who they allege refused to leave the scene of a large residential structure fire Saturday.
Daniel J. Kowalski, 58, refused to leave a sidewalk when instructed to do so by firefighters and a police officer, according to court records.
When the officer informed Kowalski he was being detained, Kowalski pushed away the officer’s hand and tightly held onto a metal fence to prevent being handcuffed, court records say.
Kowalski was fire chief in Newport Township in the mid 2000s.
According to the criminal complaint:
Firefighters responded to the 1000 block of West Main Avenue at about 1 p.m. for a blaze that damaged three residential structures.
As a police officer was assisting in evacuating nearby occupied houses, the officer heard firefighters screaming at a man, identified as Kowalski. The officer approached the area as Kowalski was yelling at a firefighter who was on top of a fire apparatus vehicle.
The firefighter pointed to Kowalski stating, “get him out of here,” the complaint says.
Kowalski was instructed to leave the area.
Police in the complaint say Kowalski refused stating he was standing on a public side walk. The officer again instructed Kowalski to leave the area as firefighters were dealing with an emergency.
Kowalski allegedly refused to move.
When the officer reached to escort Kowalski away, Kowalski pushed the officer’s arm away stating don’t touch him, the complaint says.
Kowalski refused to produce an identification card when asked by the officer and began walking away. The officer advised Kowalski he was being detained and grabbed a fence refusing to let go, according to the complaint.
Kowalski relinquished his grip when the officer told him he was going to be stunned by a Taser.
Kowalski was arraigned by District Judge Joseph Spagnuolo in Plains Township on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstructing emergency services. He was released on $5,000 unsecured bail.
PA American Water: Hydrant near Newport Twp. fire was frozen despite winterization
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
A spokeswoman for Pennsylvania American Water said the company is investigating why one of the hydrants closest to Saturday’s fire in Newport Twp. was frozen, prompting firefighters to rely on a convoy of water tanker trucks from around the county.
Fire Chief Jason Kowalski said the frozen hydrant — which was winterized on Jan. 14 — was the one located directly in front of the township fire hall on Center Street, which is several hundred feet from where the fire broke out at 1010 W. Main Ave. in the township’s Wanamie section.
There were weather-related issues with other hydrants — including low pressure — which made firefighters rely primarily on the tanker trucks, he said.
The chief doesn’t think the malfunctioning hydrant affected the outcome of the blaze since the fire had such a big head start and crews were never without water. The fire destroyed 1010 W. Main Ave., damaged two neighboring properties and displaced 11 people.
“It didn’t necessarily affect the outcome. It didn’t help, but it wasn’t a make or break situation,” Kowalski said. “We are fortunate we had the tankers. We had tankers from all around the county there pretty quickly. We would like to thank all of the departments. It was a county-wide effort.”
Kowalski said the fire was ruled undetermined due to the extent of damage.
Susan Turcmanovich, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania American Water, said crews determined one hydrant that was winterized on Jan. 14 was frozen at the time of the fire, but crews “were able to move to other hydrants.”
“Our crews responded at the time and are continuing to look into these issues ...” Turcmanovich said. “... We met with the chief this afternoon to review the situation.”
At least 11 displaced in Newport Township blaze
NEWPORT TOWNSHIP — At least 11 people have been displaced, but no one injured after a three-alarm blaze ripped through multiple residences along West Main Avenue on Saturday afternoon.
Representatives from the Red Cross were called to assist with the affected individuals, and they told reporters that they had at least 11 displaced people from four family units in three structures.
The call came in around 1 p.m. Saturday and quickly grew to include alarms for crews all over the area. Newport Township Fire Chief Jason Kowalski said about 12 different departments responded to assist his firefighters in battling the blaze.
The emergency call originated from 1010 W. Main Ave., a three-story structure with multiple apartment units inside. The fire spread to neighboring residences on either side of the building, causing extensive damage.
Responders on scene were still battling the fire as late as 4:30 p.m., but the worst of the blaze had been knocked down with the help of hoses from Edwardsville and Nanticoke, who brought in their ladder trucks to reach the top of the structure.
Further complicating matters for the firefighters, some fire hydrants in the area were unable to be used due to the cold, Kowalski said. Additional tankers and manpower were called in to make sure there was enough water to douse the flames.
Kowalski said he believed the three-story building, which houses apartment units, to be completely destroyed. He said that the two residences on either side of the building had also sustained significant damage.
Despite the intensity of the blaze, Kowalski confirmed to reporters that the occupants of the affected residences who were inside at the time of the fire were able to make it out safely, without injury. None of the firefighters or emergency personnel were injured fighting the fire, either.
There was no word Saturday on what may have caused the fire, or from where it may have originated. Kowalski said that a state police fire marshal would be called in to investigate the incident.
Fire tears through Newport Township home
NEWPORT TWP. — “Careless smoking” inside of a Thomas Street residence led to a multi-alarm fire breaking out on Tuesday afternoon.
Newport Township Deputy Fire Chief James Hoffman confirmed that only one person was inside the house when the fire broke out, and that they were able to exit the home safely.
The call came in around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday for a second-alarm house fire on Thomas Street, prompting departments from both sides of the Susquehanna River to respond and fight the blaze.
Crews from Nanticoke, Hanover Township, Plymouth, Edwardsville and Mocanaqua joined Newport Township firefighters in knocking down the fire, which took about a half hour to do, according to Hoffman.
Hoffman said that the homeowner had admitted to smoking inside the residence, inadvertently starting the fire in the home’s kitchen.
The majority of the fire damage was limited to the kitchen and some other areas of the first floor, with a little bit of extension to the second floor that was quickly taken care of, according to Hoffman.
The occupants of the house will be staying with family while the damage is cleaned up, but Hoffman said that, as most of the damage outside of the kitchen is only from the heat and smoke, he believed that the house was salvageable.
DA launches review of 1998 Glen Lyon shooting death
Bob Kalinowski – Citizens Voice
Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce is reviewing the investigation into a decades-old shooting death of an 11-year-old boy in Newport Twp.
The boy, Scott Wolfe, was fatally wounded Dec. 11, 1998 by a shotgun blast while playing computer games with two teenage friends at a home on West Enterprise Street in the township’s Glen Lyon section.
Wolfe’s mother Ellen Masaitis recently asked the district attorney’s office to reexamine the case after reading old media reports about infighting between investigators at the time, delays and lingering questions.
“I think they didn’t do their job correctly,” Masaitis said. “There shouldn’t have been any delays. I’ve been pondering this for years and thinking about it.”
Media reports at the time indicate then-Luzerne County District Attorney Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. was furious with the way the Newport Twp. Police Department handled the investigation. Newport Twp. police announced early on they believed the shooting was an accident after one of the teenagers picked up the gun when it fell over and it discharged at Wolfe. One of Olszewski’s main complaints was the department’s failure to follow up with ballistic experts about testing of the gun — a .410 Mossberg shotgun — to see if it could fire without the trigger being pulled.
In a letter to Masaitis, Sanguedolce said he was aware of Olszewski’s criticisms and requested his staff compile reports on the case from all agencies that were involved, as well as media reports.
No charges were ever filed in the case.
“Please understand that a review of the decades-old investigation is not an easy task and can be a time-consuming one. Further, our office does not assume and cannot promise that the result will change. I can only assure you that I will undertake as thorough a review as possible,” Sanguedolce wrote.
Newport Twp. police Chief Jeremy Blank said he was not very familiar with the case since he joined the force in 2010. He said the district attorney’s office requested files and reports on the matter.
“We had very little,” Blank said.
Retired Newport Twp. police Chief Albert Vandermark, who was chief at the time of the shooting, said he wasn’t the lead investigator in the case, but believed it was an accidental shooting. Vandermark retired in 2000.
“I am kind of shocked they are looking at it again,” Vandermark said.
Vandermark attributed Olszewski’s critical comments about him, the department and the investigation to an ongoing disagreement he and the district attorney had at the time over several matters.
Efforts to reach retired Newport Twp. police Chief Carl Smith, who was a sergeant and the lead investigator at the time of the shooting, were not successful.
Olszewski didn’t respond to an email inquiry about the case.
Masaitis said she was thankful Sanquedolce responded to her and decided to look into the case.
“I think it was great. He responded very fast. He’s doing the right thing,” Masaitis said. “He’s going to see what he can find and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Mullery will not seek re-election in 119th District
NEWPORT TWP. — State Rep. Gerald Mullery Thursday announced he has decided to not seek re-election in the 119th Legislative District.
Mullery, 51 of Newport Township, said serving Pennsylvania’s 119th Legislative District in the House of Representatives has been one of the greatest honors of his life.
“I never intended to make public service a life-long career and firmly believe in the concept of the ‘citizen-statesperson,’” Mullery said. “Our founding fathers wanted honorable people of common origin to serve for a limited time, then step aside and let others serve in their place. That is exactly what I intend to do.”
Mullery, a Democrat, said throughout his time in office, he has tried to hold true to his original platform of fighting for the creation of family-sustaining jobs, lower taxes, quality public education, safe neighborhoods, and environmental protection.
“Now, it is time for me to seek new challenges and give a fresh voice the opportunity to advocate for Northeastern Pennsylvania’s future,” Mullery said. “I will never be able to adequately express how thankful I am to everyone who has stood by my side during my time in service. My wife and children have been my greatest supporters and together we look forward to the next chapter in our story.
“My staff has helped tens of thousands in a professional and empathetic manner and I seriously doubt I would’ve been re-elected once if not for them. I am humbled by my constituent’s support at the ballot box and thank you for permitting me to be your voice in the Legislature. None of this would have been possible without you and I will be forever grateful.”
Mullery defeated Bob Morgan and Gary Zingaretti in the Democratic primary of 2010. He then went on to defeat Republican Rick Arnold in November of 2010. Mullery assumed office in Januaryf 2011.
In 2012 he ran against Republican Arnold again and successfully defended his seat.
In 2014 Mullery defeated fellow Democrat Tony Bonomo in the 2014 primary. Bonomo, a Hazleton Area School Board member lost by a 3 to 1 vote margin. Mullery was unopposed in the November general election of 2014.
In 2016 Mullery defeated Justin Behrens from Mountain Top in the November 2016 election. In 2018, he again defeated Behrens.
In 2020, Mullery defeated businessman John Chura from West Hazleton in the general election.
Mullery was preceded in the 119th District by John Yudichak, who went on to become the state senator in the 14th Senatorial District.
Mullery and his wife, Michele, are the parents of four children.
Mullery is a graduate of King’s College (B.A.), and the Duquesne University School of Law (J.D.)
Police: Nanticoke man sent explicit photos to girl
NEWPORT TWP. — Township police and detectives from Luzerne County arrested a Nanticoke man Monday after he allegedly sent sexually explicit photos of himself to an underage girl.
Brandon Joseph Smith, 26, was taken into custody after he confessed to exchanging several explicit messages with the 13-year-old victim, according to police paperwork.
According to the criminal complaint:
Investigators received a complaint on Monday regarding a 26-year-old male that had been having inappropriate contact with a minor female. The complaint was filed by the victim’s legal guardian.
The guardian discovered, through a routine check of the victim’s mobile device, that there was an ongoing, sexually inappropriate conversation with the male, identified by the legal guardian as Smith. The messages were exchanged over Facebook Messenger and through text messages, all of which were shown to the investigators.
In the messages, Smith guesses that the victim is somewhere around 12 or 13 years of age, which the victim verified. Smith allegedly asked “Ur 13, I’m 2x ur age 26, is that a problem,” and, in another message, asked the victim “ur the only person reading, right.”
Despite knowing the victim was underage, Smith sent multiple explicit images of his genitals to her, and offered the victim cash and gifts in exchange for nude photos and sex acts from her.
According to the complaint, Smith tried to arrange a meeting between himself and the victim at an unspecified location in Nanticoke.
On Monday, Smith was interviewed by investigators at the Newport Township Police Department, where he agreed to waive his Miranda rights.
He told the officers that he did have the explicit conversations with the victim, but claimed that he was taking too much Adderall to remember the specifics of the conversations.
Smith also confessed that he had shown the text messages to his girlfriend’s sister, who advised him to “squash” the conversation.
He was arraigned on Monday night in front of Magisterial District Judge Joseph D. Zola.
The charges filed against Smith include criminal solicitation of a person less than 16 years of age, statutory sexual assault, corruption of minors, child pornography and criminal use of a communications facility — all felony offenses.
Smith was denied bail by Judge Zola, who cited the seriousness of the charges as one of his reasons, while also deeming Smith a danger to the community and referring to his prior criminal history.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12.
Newport commissioners voice support for $6B gasoline plant
Dave Janoski – Citizens Voice
NEWPORT TWP. — The township board of commissioners expressed support Monday for a proposed natural-gas-to-gasoline plant, praising its promised economic and environmental benefits.
In a statement read by chairman Paul Czapracki at its monthly meeting, the board hailed the $6 billion project as “the largest economic development project in the history of northeastern Pennsylvania,” which would help the township recover from the recent closing of its largest employer, the State Correctional Institution at Retreat and the loss of its 400 jobs.
The board also committed to providing full public access to information about the project proposed by Houston-based Nacero Inc., which has generated opposition from environmental groups and some township residents.
One of those residents, Charlotte Santry, addressed the board Monday about her environmental concerns.
“My family has experienced the height of the anthracite coal industry and its demise. And it seems as if there will never be an end to the cleanup process of the legacy of environmental destruction left by the coal companies … Now, just when there is a semblance of hope that our once beautiful valley can again be restored to its verdant glory, in comes another fossil fuel industry,” Santry said in a prepared statement.
In its statement, the board described Nacero, which says its process and products will generate less than half the carbon dioxide of a conventional gasoline refinery, as a “strong environmental partner.” The board noted the plant would be built on mine-scarred former coal lands now owned by the reclamation non-profit Earth Conservancy and private landowners. The board pledged to work “to ensure the project meets every environmental safety standard.”
Nacero estimates the Newport Twp. project would create 3,500 construction jobs and 450 permanent jobs. It has yet to file for environmental permits in Pennsylvania or commit to a start date. The company says it plans to construct nine plants across the country, each powered by renewable energy sources and using recyclable gas from landfills and agricultural waste for up to 10% of its natural gas supply. Nacero plans to break ground on its first plant in Texas next year. It is expected to take six years to complete.
Proposed Newport Township plant draws questions
NEWPORT TWP. — The agenda for Monday night’s Newport Township Commissioners meeting included oaths of office, nominations for various roles, establishing commissioners for numerous departments and a statement made against the $6 billion dollar refinery project now known as the “Marcellus Plant.”
The plant, or manufacturing facility plan, is being spearheaded by Nacero, a fuel company located in Houston, Texas. The company chose Newport Township as the cite of its new refinery back in October, much to the chagrin of numerous activists’ organizations and residents alike.
While Nacero promises to reclaim scarred minelands, bring more than 3,500 temporary jobs and some 400 permanent positions to the area, some residents are apprehensive amidst the vows of the company who touts working to “fuel a lower carbon future.”
Charlotte Santry says her family has been in the area since 1917 and worked, as so many in the area did, in the coal mines. They had a firsthand view of the rise and demise of the anthracite industry. In her statement to the board, Santry referenced this century-old connection to say that it feels as though the clean up process will never end after the coal companies “finally all declared bankruptcy, packed up their millions and left.”
Santry continued, saying, “Now, just when there is a semblance of hope that our once beautiful valley can again be restored to its verdant glory, in comes another fossil fuel industry.”
While she spoke alone at the meeting, and was the only one to do so, Santry has supporters. A joint statement released by the Board of Directors of Action Together NEPA, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Wyoming Valley, PA Interfaith Power and Light and The United NEPA Alliance addresses similar concerns.
“According to air permit documents obtained by the Clean Air Council for Nacero’s similarly proposed Texas facility, the Luzerne County refinery would be the third worst climate pollution emitter in the state and would rank among the top emitters of other harmful pollutants,” the statement reads.
It goes on to also highlight inconsistencies in the quoted number of jobs, the proposed location and its proximity to a school, and the aforementioned damage caused by the coal industry.
“The scars are still here,” the statement reads, “and we are still paying for them.”
In response to Santry’s statement, the commissioners had a statement of their own at the ready, which seemingly aimed to quell the community as it would be “premature, at this time, to weigh in on an environmental permit process that has yet to begin.”
The statement calls Nacero “a transformative manufacturing company to our community,” estimating that the Marcellus Plant will bring some 3,500 construction jobs and 450 “full-time operational workers” upon its completion. This point is highlighted by mentioning that the township has been struggling economically since the loss of SCI Retreat, the areas largest employer, which closed in June of 2020.
The Newport Township Commissioners promise to keep the residents informed on the project through “township meetings and other public forums,” and doubles down, saying they will work with Nacero and state and local authorities to keep the public in the loop with all available information.
Nacero, according to its website, claims that its process does not include refining crude oil, leading to pollution. Instead, they create Nacero Blue and Green gases via more environmental means. Blue is “made from natural gas using renewable power and carbon capture.” And Nacero Green is “made from renewable natural gas and captured flare gas.”
The Marcellus Plant also promises to be “low to zero-carbon” and construction is projected to begin between this new year and next.
For Santry, however, the destruction wrought by, “King Coal” still serves as a sharp reminder to how the area has been exploited in the past. Beyond the environmental concerns, she also said, “When they bring the construction workers in from out of town, which they will do, along with that will come the gambling, drinking, drugs, prostitution … and the list goes on. “
While it seems that the plant will indeed happen, Santry says, ” … as long as I can breath, I’ll fight the good fight.”