Luzerne County focusing on billboard revenue

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -
Luzerne County Courthouse -

Thirteen Luzerne County-owned parcels have been picked as possible sites for new billboards to generate revenue, according to a listing up for discussion at Tuesday’s council real estate committee meeting.

Harrisburg-based Public Financial Management, the county’s financial consultant, had suggested the billboard idea in its 2005 recovery plan. County officials discussed the idea at various times since then but failed to act.

The administration wants to seek proposals from entities interested in leases to design, construct and operate billboards on county property.

The selected company must review and visit available sites and come up with the net revenue the county could expect, according to a draft proposal. The company would be responsible for covering permitting costs and submissions and building the signs.

Digital billboards, if possible, would include periodic free county advertisements and Amber Alert capabilities.

The 13 locations, based on the committee agenda and additional information gleaned from county property records:

• A 0.14-acre lot on Route 309 in Dallas Township that the county ended up owning on or before Jan. 1, 1960. It was previously owned by George Perkins.

The 1960 date is used as a blanket cut-off to report sales history in computerized county assessment records prepared as part of the 2009 countywide reassessment, officials have said.

County Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo said the administration is researching court records to figure out why the county inherited numerous properties, many in 1960 and prior. Some may have been part of inventory that did not sell at back-tax auctions.

• Land at the Wyoming Valley Airport fronting Wyoming Avenue in both Forty Fort and Wyoming boroughs.

• A 0.04-acre lot at the intersection of Hillside and Chase roads in Jackson Township near the Lands at Hillside Farms that the county acquired for $1 in 2011.

• Another lot at Hillside and Chase roads, this one 0.06 acre, obtained for $1 in 2011.

• A 0.52-acre lot on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre that the county purchased for $13,000 in 1974.

• A 0.2-acre parcel at 280 N. River St., also in Wilkes-Barre. Previously owned by Moses Griffith, the lot was placed in the county’s name in 1960 or prior.

• Six properties on Route 11 in Hunlock Township, all acquired for nothing. The size of these lots and the years listed for county ownership: 1.15 acres, 1985; two 0.53-acre lots in 1960 or prior; 0.55 acre, 1967; 0.54 acre, 1968; and 0.38 acre, 1960 or prior.

Current sign

The administration also is proposing a lease to increase revenue on an existing billboard on county-owned land near the courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Instead of $60 per year, the county would receive $2,000 annually for leasing rights of the billboard.

The new agreement with the Lamar Company, which is slated for discussion at Tuesday’s committee meeting, would run from July 1 this year through June 30, 2028, and include an annual 2 percent increase, the agenda says.

Lamar had been leasing the billboard for years under a verbal, year-to-year agreement, the agenda stated.

If the new agreement is approved by county council, the company would have the right to renew the lease annually under the same terms and conditions after the 10-year contract expires.

County officials stumbled on the billboard agreement as part of a review of all leases to identify opportunities to generate additional revenue or save money, the administration told the committee in December.

The committee meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at the courthouse.

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.