Public invited to view restoration of historic Luzerne County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -
Luzerne County Courthouse -

Four public guided tours of the newly renovated Luzerne County Courthouse on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre have been scheduled in April as part of “National County Government Month.”

The tours start in the rotunda at these times and dates: 4:30 p.m. April 10; noon April 13; and 6 p.m. April 19 and 23. A grand reopening ceremony is slated for 6 p.m. May 3, with more details to follow.

As part of the month’s activities, county Children and Youth is seeking donations of new socks for foster children and other school-age clients. Socks can be dropped off at the county manager’s courthouse office and several other county buildings.

More information on these activities and other county government April events is posted at

• Council is scheduled to hold an executive session and then vote on a new union contract during its 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday at the courthouse.

The contract is with the 113-member AFSCME court-related union, which covers sheriff deputies and clerical workers in various departments, including the civil and criminal court records, wills, deeds, public defender’s and district attorney’s offices.

• The appointment of a required Republican citizen to the county ethics commission also is on council’s voting agenda. After difficulty attracting applicants for the unpaid seat, council now has two interested citizens, according to the agenda: Marc Dixon and Alex Milanes.

Applicants are still needed for a vacant Democratic citizen seat, the list says.

• Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck also has requested a council vote to introduce an ordinance amending the administrative code to require segregated budgetary tracking of contracts exceeding specific dollar amounts.

• A packed agenda is scheduled for council’s Tuesday work session, which follows the voting meeting, including a presentation by a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation representative on a controversial proposed $5 county vehicle registration fee.

• The county’s annual allocation to the Luzerne County Transportation Authority also is up for discussion. Last year, the county provided a $589,940 allocation as a local match for the authority to receive $5.8 million in state funds to provide public transit services.

The authority is seeking $619,437 in the 2018/19 fiscal year to obtain $6.014 million in state funds.

The county is contributing approximately 10 percent. The state requires a 15 percent local match, but the state is allowing Luzerne County and other counties not at that threshold to gradually increase their earmarks, according to a communication from authority Executive Director Norm Gavlick.

• Councilman Harry Haas is scheduled to discuss the county’s blighted property review committee, which may be forced to disband without council action.

Formed to compile a countywide database of vacant eyesore properties, the committee is in limbo because council’s 2016 committee creation ordinance said the county Redevelopment Authority would provide administrative and legal help.

Arguing it has inadequate staff to fulfill that mandate, the authority agreed to reimburse the county $15,000 for the services of the county council clerk and an assistant county solicitor and other committee expenses in 2018. However, a council majority rejected this arrangement in December, with some council members citing concerns the county would be on the hook for additional expenses or liability.

• County Operational Services Division Head Edmund O’Neill said last week he is waiting for all ice to melt before assessing damage to the county-owned River Common recreation area.

This year’s ice jam on the Susquehanna River damaged the River Common fishing pier and other park walls along the water’s edge near the county courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, officials said in February.

O’Neill said he will obtain multiple cost estimates and present options if it appears the damage is extensive enough to require repairs by an outside contractor.

Luzerne County Courthouse County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.