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PeoplewhobelieveSantaClaus’sleighoperatesbestinsnowwillbeencouraged by the weekend fore-cast. WNEP-TV Chief Meteorologist Tom Clark believes there is achance of having a white Christ-mas.“Ihaveitupto60percent,alittlehigherthanwhatitwasafewdaysago,”Clarksaid.A storm system that has yet todevelopisexpectedtomoveacrossthecountrywithamixtureofrain,snow and sleet expected here Sat-urdayintoSaturdaynight.For it to be an official whiteChristmas, Clark said, there mustbe 1 inch or more of snow on thegroundonChristmasmorning.“Sixtypercentchance,that’sbe-ingoptimistic,”hesaid.Saturday’s expected storm willbe the third in a one-two-threepunchbyMotherNaturethisweek. The first storm will hit the areatonightwithsnowandsleetchang-ingtorainandsleetwhentemper-aturesriseintothe40sonWednes-day. The second storm will bring rain, snow and sleet Thursday af-ternoonintoFridaymorning. The second storm will increasethe probability of having snow onthegroundonSunday.Since 1960, there have been 14Christmasdayswitheitheratraceor accumulating snowfall at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Interna-tional Airport, according to mete-orologicalrecordsfromtheNation-alWeatherServiceinBinghamton,N.Y. The greatest Christmas Daysnowfallwas15inchesin2002. The last year it snowed onChristmas was in 2003, when lessthana1/2inchfellinthearea.
White Christmas in area may be more than a dream
THE TIMES LEADER
wants to know what readers think arethe top10 stories in the region this year.Goonlinetohttp://tlgets.me/topstoriestodaytorankyourtop10 local news stories.We’ll compile the votes and the results will be published theweekendofNewYear’sDay.TheTimesLeaderwillofferayearinreviewinworld news, local sports news and local news and busi-ness.In addition, The Times Leader will take a look at communityleaderswhohavediedthisyearandexaminetheircontributionstotheregion.Ifyouhavesuggestionsaboutwell-knownlocalresi-dents who made an impact in life and died this year, send theirnames and details of their accomplishments to email@example.com by Wednesday.
TO P 10 LO C A L STO R I ES O F 2011
PLAINS TWP. -- The Wilkes-Barre Area Career and TechnicalCenter Joint Operating Commit-teeelectedGarySmithtocontin-ueaschairmanfor2012atthean-nual reorganization meeting onMonday night.Robert Raineri was chosen as vice chairman and John Quinn will serve as temporary boardtreasurer until July. The group approved a numberofitemsfromtheFinancialCom-mittee including $51,000 to ser- vice the debt for Series 2009LeaseRevenueBondsand$9,700for hard drive and memory up-grades to the center’s student in-formation system.Approvalwasgrantedtoobtaina credit card with a maximumlimitof$5,000forsmallpurchas-es.In personnel matters, the com-mittee set the hourly wage foradult evening instructors at $28,and $26.50 for other instructorsnotincludedinthecollectivebar-gaining agreement.In other business, the 2012committee calendar was ap-proved with meetings scheduledon the third Monday of eachmonth.
Smith reelected as Wilkes-Barre CTC chairman
Times Leader Correspondent
EXETER -- A vote to replacethe longtime solicitor to the Wyoming Area School Districtbrought multiple counter mo-tions and numerous audiencequestions Monday night as theboardhelditsfirstregularmonth-ly meeting since four new boardmemberswereelectedinNovem-ber.One of the board’s first actions was to replace Ray Hassey, whohas served as the district’s solic-itorfor12years.Assoonasamo-tion was made to appoint JarrettFerentino as solicitor, boardmemberGilDominickcountered with a motion to reappoint Has-sey. That motion failed 4-5, withDominick,JohnBolin,JohnMar-ianacci and Deanna Farrell cast-ingtheyesvotesandboardPresi-dent Frank Casarella, Vice Presi-dentEstelleCampenni,CarlYori-na, ElizabethGober-ManganandMary Louise Degnan opposing.A succession of other motionsfollowed, including one to ap-point Hassey’s associate MikeButera and another to table themotiontohireasolicitoruntiltheposition could be advertised. Thatlastmotionendedinadead-lockedvoted,withDominick,Bo-lin,MarianacciandFarrellvoting to table; Casarella, Campenni,Gober-ManganandYorinavoting againstthat,andDegnanabstain-ing because she needed moretime to think about it.Casarella then called for an ex-ecutive session, and when theboard returned about15 minuteslater, Gober-Mangan made a mo-tion not to table the vote. Thatmotion passed 5-4 with Degnannow voting in favor of filling theposition.Avotewasfinallytakenon appointing Ferentino thatpassed6-3,withBolin,Dominickand Marianacci opposing.Board members who favoredretaining Hassey cited his long record of service to the districtand that he is a district residentand taxpayer, unlike Ferentino.Audience members also spoke infavor of Hassey and questionedthe move, asking why Hassey was replaced.“I was raised that if something isn’t broke, you don’t touch it,”saidWyomingresidentCarolDe-Salvo. She said after reading aPittston Dispatch article, shelooked into Hassey’s record and was “appalled” and “disappoint-ed” by theboard’s actionto replace him.Hassey wasnot present atthe meeting,butinanearlierinterview hetook issue withthewaythecan-didateswerese-lected.“They inter- viewed 11 or 12handpickedcandidates andthey set up anelaborate inter- view process,but the process didn’t live up tothetransparencytheypromised,”Hassey said.Casarella said at the meeting that board members were askedto submit names of attorneysthey knew who might be goodcandidates for the position, andacknowledged that he is “goodfriends” with Ferentino.All the candidates were inter- viewed by four board membersusing the same eight questions,and the final three candidates were so close they were broughtbackforasecondinterviewbyallboard members before the finaldecision was made, Casarellasaid.Board members said Hassey wasnotoneofthefinalthreecan-didates. They also pointed outthatsincethesolicitorisappoint-ed,interviewsaren’trequiredbut weredonetoensurethebestcan-didate was selected.Ferentino, who is part of thefirmofPugliese,Finnegan,Shaff-er and Ferentino, cited his eight years experience with prosecu-tion,litigationandtheresolutionof state and federal lawsuits andsaid he feels very well suited forthe solicitor’s position.Casarella said the experienceFerentinobringswillhelpthedis-trict going forward.“Ray Hassey did a very good job,butwe’rejustlookingatadif-ferent direction. There’s more tothisthanjustschoollawandhav-ing a firm like this will help us,”Casarella said.A new “tweak” to the hiring process also raised questions when it was used for the firsttime. In the hiring of new guid-ance counselor Rob Yatsko, allcandidateswereassignedanum-ber and board members did notknow the name of the candidatethey were selecting until a deci-sion was made.Majority board members tout-ed the new anonymous processas improving transparency.
Wyoming Area replaceslongtime solicitor Hassey
Vote to hire Jarrett Ferentinocomes after a string ofmotions, executive session.
Times Leader Correspondent
“There’smore tothis than just schoollaw andhaving afirm likethis willhelp us.”
On hiring of newsolicitor
NUANGOLA – After a debateemanating along majority/mi-nority lines, council voted Mon-daynighttorevisedownwardits2012 budget from $230,075 to$182,125, and retain tax rates at2011levels.AmajorityledbycouncilPres-ident Regina Plodwick and alsoconsisting of Doug Fawbush, Ted Vancosky and Conrad Plod- wick acted, at the recommenda-tions of Melissa Weber, secreta-ry-treasurer, to alter a budgetthat had been prepared by JohnKochan,chairmanofbudgetandfinance.Atissueis$52,775inwhatwasdescribed as “bridge money”from a proposed $3 million loanfrom the Fulton Bank of Lancas-ter to the sanitary sewer systemproject that is tentatively sched-uledtostartinthespringof2012.Kochan included the funds asincome in preparing his spend-ing plan. “Sometime in 2012 we’regoingtogetawindfall,”hesaid. “It’s money we’re going toget.” Weber, however, had a differ-entview,arguing“that’sspecula-tive,”andassuch,she,asthebor-ough’sfinancialoffcer,wasbeing asked to submit to the state anunbalanced budget. “Harrisburg says we have to have a balancedbudget,” she said. Themajorityofcouncil,atRe-gina Plodwick’s lead, proceededto make line-item changes thatresulted in a spending plan of $182,125.Council unanimously passedtaxratesof0.444millsonreales-tate,a$52personalservicestax,a 1 percent real estate transfertax and 1/2 percent earned in-come tax. A mill is $1 in tax forevery $1,000 in assessed valua-tion. The debate continued whenRichKresgeofQuad3Engineersof Wilkes-Barre appealed for apaymentof$200,000fromeithercouncil or the sewer authority,the only assurance he received was that council voted to haveKochan, as chairman of the au-thority, conduct a search for abank loan or grant money andsubmitareportwhencouncilre-organizes in January.Kresge said his firm has beendoing work for Nuangola since2009andithasyettoreceiveanypayment. In fact, Kresge saidthat to proceed with the designcurrently in place, Quad 3 facesthe expense of $18,000 in orderto obtain permits from variousgovernment agencies. He sug-gested the project could be de-layedifthesepermitsarenotob-tained.In conversation about finan-cial issues, it was noted that theauthority has a fund balance of only $15.09.
Nuangola cuts budget by $48,000
Plan changed after some ofincome is called speculativeby secretary-treasurer.
Times Leader Correspondent
HAZLETON – City CouncilonMondaypassedonfirstread-ing a controversial rental regis-tration ordinance and adoptedanamended2012budgetwithasmaller tax increase than the version passed 12 days earlier. The version of the $7 millioncity budget approved on Dec. 7 would have necessitated a 14percent property tax increase, with the tax rate rising from2.83 mills to 3.23 mills. That would have equated to another$20 in property taxes for ahome valued at $50,000, giventhat a mill is a $1 tax on every$1,000 of assessed property val-ue.CouncilmembersonMondayrescinded the final votes theycast Dec. 7 on the budget ordi-nance and voted 3-2 for a bud-get with a 9.9-percent propertytax hike, which would tack onanother$14inpropertytaxestoa home valued at $50,000.Council had to raise propertytaxes a minimum of 0.18 millsto cover an increased debt ser- vice payment necessitated when they borrowed $5.6 mil-lion this past summer, with$2.6 million going to pay over-due bills and the rest going topay off the city’s 2011 tax reve-nue anticipation note.
Adjustments are made
Reducing the property taxhike was accomplished by re-ducing the general budget by$106,000. The revenue cutcame from adjusting anticipat-ed real estate taxes by $90,720and anticipated parking meterrevenue by $15,720.City Administrator Mary El-lenLiebsaidshereceivedanewtotalvaluationforallpropertiesin the city from the county, andthat valuation decreased. Shesaid the city would receive lessparking revenue because of street construction on BroadStreet.Most expenditure adjust-ments – $80,000 – came fromcuts in worker’s compensationin the police, fire and public works departments. Another$10,720 came from false arrestinsurance; the remainder camefrom the Engineering Depart-ment.Council members Jack Mun-die and Evelyn Graham votedagainst the budget. Mundiesaid he appreciated the admin-istration finding cuts that al-lowed for the smaller tax in-crease,butstillthoughtthecityshould cut more.He also had a problem withthe budget failing to reflect allanticipated revenue and expen-ditures. For example, the bud-geted amount for police over-time did not reflect reimburse-ments the city receives fromfederal programs, nor did therevenue side of the budget re-flect receipt of any such reim-bursements.Liebsaidtheamountszeroedout, so their absence made noreal difference in the budget.But Mundie said City Code re-quires all expenditures and rev-enues listed in line items, andthe city auditor agreed.Lieb said future budgets would reflect that recommen-dation of the auditor.
Concerns over rentals
The rental registration ordi-nance, which earlier this yearprompted concerns from land-lords as well as council mem-bers, passed unanimously onthe first reading despite a pleafrom the president of the locallandlord association to recon-siderbecauseofpotentiallitiga-tion. The ordinance requires own-ersofrentalpropertiestomain-tain at least $50,000 in liabilityinsurance and hazard and casu-alty insurance to either restoreor remove the building in theevent of a fire or other loss; paya $100 registration fee perbuilding; and an annual inspec-tion fee of $25 per unit.City Solicitor Chris Slussersaid he was aware of no poten-tial for litigation arising fromthe ordinance.Council is expected to voteon the second and third read-ingsatthenextmeetingonJan.3 at 10 a.m.
Hazleton passes new budget
Amended version has smallertax increase than original.Rental ordinance also passed.