Lackawanna, Monroe County Projects to Share $4 Million in Grants, Create More Than 300 Jobs

HARRISBURG, March 20, 2014 – The latest round of grant awards by the Commonwealth Financing Authority from Pennsylvania’s local share gaming program means 29 projects in Lackawanna and Monroe counties will share approximately $4 million and create more than 300 jobs in the region, state Sen. John Blake said today.

“From infrastructure improvements at the Valley View Business Park to improvements at the Carbondale Technology Transfer Center, Northeast Pennsylvania communities are continuing to benefit from the local share funds generated by Pennsylvania’s gaming industry,” Blake said.

“We work together in Harrisburg to assure these limited funds are distributed fairly to projects that promise to deliver the greatest benefit to communities and families in our region,” he said.

In Lackawanna County:

  • West Side Hyde Park Community Center received $163,000 to convert a vacant building into a youth and community center in Scranton.
  • $140,000 went to Marley’s Mission to help it build a new outdoor therapy center, outdoor pavilion, hay and manure storage buildings. Based in Newton Township, Marley’s Mission is dedicated to providing equine-based therapy services to children and their families who have experienced traumatic events.
  • Covington Township Moffat Park Pavilion received $190,000 to convert a pavilion to year-round use.
  • Lackawanna County Historical Society: $118,750 for replacement and upgrades of the Catlin House, Scranton, heating and electrical systems.
  • Olyphant Municipal Building: $200,000 for the addition of a new elevator, security doors, safer stairs.
  • Taylor Borough Splash Park: $40,000 for construction of splash park at John Derenick Memorial Park.
  • Throop Borough: $100,000 to upgrade Little League fields, build a new field and add concessions, storage and restrooms.
  • Jessup Borough: $15,000 to the Michael Steiner American Legion for a kitchen renovation and the resurfacing of its banquet hall.
  • $90,000 to the St. Anthony Memorial Park Association for renovations of the parking area and restroom in Dunmore Borough.
  • $452,400 to Jessup Borough for the Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Company to assist with infrastructure development of a 22-acre Brownfield site that will be known as the Valley View Business Park Professional Plaza. The project is expected to create 250 new jobs.
  • Goodwill Industries of Northeast Pennsylvania: $150,000 to develop a material salvage program, purchase two box trailer trucks, an electronic pallet jack, forklift, scale, bailer and a year’s worth of project site lease payments.
  • Center for Rehabilitation Education Equipment: $225,000 to help the University of Scranton buy and install specialized medical and health-related equipment for the new rehab center, which will consolidate its exercise science, occupational therapy and physical therapy departments into one $47.5 million center for rehabilitation education.
  • Carbondale Technology Transfer Center: $200,000 to upgrade equipment and to renovate and repair CTTC so it can attract 40 new companies to the facility.
  • Roaring Brook Township: $240,000 to pave and rebuild Golf Club Road to improve road drainage.
  • Waverly Township: $100,000 to restore and upgrade Stevenson Road to address heavy storm water runoff.
  • Jefferson Township: $50,000 for the Jefferson Township Sewer Authority to replace seven sanitary sewer pumps that now are experiencing significant maintenance issues.
  • Archbald Borough: $261,250 for the excavation and reconstruction of Peggy Drive, which is one of two primary access roads to the Valley View School District Complex and the main access road for school buses.
  • Scranton City: $100,000 for the Sewer Authority to buy two street sweepers.
  • Scranton City: $112,500 for the police department to buy and install a community surveillance network that provides continuously operational monitoring along a closed-circuit feed.
  • Blakely Borough: $50,000 for the construction of a building to house EMA support, snow removal and police equipment plus administrative records.
  • Greenfield Township: $25,000 to pave the parking lot at the township municipal building.
  • Northeast Regional Cancer Institute: $125,000 to help pay for the expansion of its community-based healthcare education and training program to provide real-life learning for students.
  • Taylor Borough: $25,000 for a new police vehicle and equipment.
  • Moscow Borough: $100,000 to replace its 15-year-old dump truck with a new vehicle.
  • Archbald Borough: $20,829 to help American Legion Post 869 pay for the replacement of its kitchen floor, bar top and provide an additional handicapped-accessible ladies restroom.

In Monroe County:

  • Coolbaugh Township: $164,400 for a paving project to be completed by the Coolbaugh Township VFD.
  • Monroe County IDA: $300,000 for an alternative energy manufacturing project by EthoGen/J.A. Reinhardt, to begin production of a thermal electric power system.
  • Monroe County IDA: $205,500 to add a left-turn only lane to Route 940 at Knox Street in Mount Pocono Borough.
  • Barrett Township: $79,094 for new police vehicles.

An additional alternative and clean energy grant of $1.2 million will help Clean Energy Inc. to build a public-access liquefied compressed natural gas fueling station in Pittston Township, Luzerne County.

Known as an LCNG fueling station, the new facility will be located within a mile of I-81 and I-476. The closest facility of its kind is now 133 miles away.

“This project and others like it serve to bring the benefits of the natural gas industry to the citizens and the business community of our state,” Blake said.

The projects that received funding today were reviewed and approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.

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Blake, Senate Democrats Unveil Pension Reform Proposal to Save Billions for Taxpayers

HARRISBURG, March 12, 2014 – State Senate Democrats today said they would save Pennsylvania taxpayers billions of dollars and solve the state’s pension problem if their proposal to further reform pension rules, refinance billions and help school districts avoid escalating payments is adopted.

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny); the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna), Senate Whip Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia); the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Vince Hughes (D-Philadelphia); and Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) unveiled the caucus’ proposal during a briefing with Capitol news correspondents.

With the State Employees’ Retirement System and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System drowning in a sea of underfunding approaching $50 billion, the Senate Democratic proposal would refinance $9 billion of that, further reform the state pension law to stop charter schools from receiving double-dip state reimbursements, and lower the collars on state and school district payments to provide short-term budget relief while also making it easier to manage future cost increases.

“The pension reform plan we are suggesting is smart and innovative. It saves money and creates a plausible responsible fiscal roadmap for the future,” Sen. Costa said. “Refinancing $9 billion in existing unfunded liabilities would decrease long-term payments by $24 billion. Over the next five years, it would save school districts $600 million and the commonwealth $1 billion.”

The Democratic Senators said they are making this proposal because it would avoid the dangers posed by Gov. Tom Corbett’s pension proposal, such as:

  • $2 billion in additional payments over the next four years, including $550 million more in the 2015-’16 state budget
  • $5 billion more in unfunded pension liabilities, and
  • The camouflaging of increased future costs that could add millions more to the pension crisis.

Sen. Blake repeated the Democratic Caucus’ mantra that time is of the essence for these critical changes to happen.

“If we continue to delay our responsibility to fulfill our fiduciary requirement and deliver what has been promised in retirement to thousands of educators and public employees, it will be taxpayers, their children, and their children’s children who will have to pay the bill,” Blake said. “We cannot allow that to happen.

“The Corbett administration has already refinanced billions in debt to make a bad situation better when it floated nearly $4 billion in bonds to restore Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation reserves in 2012. We must do the same with pensions,” the Lackawanna County Democrat said.

Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vince Hughes urged bipartisan support for the caucus’ proposal.

“People from across the political spectrum are, and have been, educators and state employees. They are depending on us to fix this growing problem and this is the solution we need,” Hughes said. “Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly must work together to get this idea to the governor’s desk.”

Sen. Williams said he believes fiscally responsible lawmakers will especially like the proposal to eliminate the current practice that allows charter schools be reimbursed by the state for pension payments that are completely paid for by school districts.

“This has been a good deal for charter schools, but the set up is hurting school districts, taxpayers and students across the state,” Williams said. “Making this change will significantly reduce school district pension payments because it will eliminate the 50 percent reimbursement that charter schools now receive after districts pay the escalating pension bill.”

And, Sen. Farnese said it is important for the commonwealth to continue its defined benefits pension system because it requires financial professionals to manage contributions.

“Too many people who are approaching retirement don’t have the nest eggs to guarantee them the security and independence they need to do the things they dreamed of doing when they were working,” Farnese said. “Defined benefit pensions are still the most efficient way to save for retirement. Moving away from that system will only hurt the financial security of future generations.”

The National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass., issued a report in February indicating that half of the households where people are on the cusp of retirement (65 to 69 years old) have retirement accounts of $5,000 or less.

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Clean Up of Lackawanna River Begins With $1 Million State Investment, Blake Says

HARRISBURG, Nov. 21, 2013 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna), Rep. Mike Carroll (D-Luzerne) and Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich (D-Lackawanna) today announced a historically significant $1 million investment by the commonwealth to begin the cleanup of the Lackawanna River.

The outlay, approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority under Act 13 of 2012, means Susquehanna Mining Solutions LLC will be able to secure land in Duryea Borough near the Old Forge borehole

“The Old Forge borehole in the Lackawanna River continues to be the most toxic and damaging source of pollution in the watersheds of the Lackawanna and Susquehanna rivers,” Blake said in announcing CFA’s approval of the project. “Several past attempts to mobilize the necessary resources and the commitment to correct this environmental calamity have fallen short.

“Current efforts, however, supported by an impressive partnership of for-profit, non-profit and scientific stakeholders holds promise to finally solve this problem. It is proper and necessary for the state to advance this effort. I am glad to join my colleagues in announcing this state support for Susquehanna Mining Solutions,” Blake said.

Iron oxide from the Old Forge borehole, which was drilled in 1962 to release water that had pooled in underground mines, has turned the Lackawanna River orange. Because of the pollution, the river is the largest polluter of the Chesapeake Bay.

The $1 million CFA investment will advance a plan that will lead to the construction of a facility to treat the acid mine water.

“It is past time that the commonwealth and our community leaders strategize a solution to clean the Lackawanna River. This effort will result in a significant improvement to the water quality of the Susquehanna River through the Wyoming Valley, continuing to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Rep. Mike Carroll.

“Too often we take clean water for granted, but with cooperation like this we can truly guarantee clean water not only here but for those downstream today and for generations to come. This is a perfect example of how business and government can partner to build a better Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich.

The mine pool reportedly can hold as much water as Lake Wallenpaupack, which is 13 miles long and, on average, 30-feet deep.

Blake, Carroll and Kavulich, along with stakeholders, intend to highlight the specifics of the plan to improve the Lackawanna River in the near future.

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Blake, Boscola, Senate Committee to Discuss Job Creation, Economic Development, Veterans Help During Scranton Roundtable

HARRISBURG, Oct. 3, 2013 – The Senate Democratic Policy Committee will bring together venture capitalists, public policy experts, Scranton officials and economic development analysts at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the University of Scranton for an in-depth discussion about turning around Pennsylvania’s economy.

[frame align=”right”]Job_Creation[/frame]The two-hour long event, at the request of Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna), will feature three panels of experts who will share their ideas about the commonwealth’s immediate economic development needs, and to talk about Blake’s recently enacted “Innovate in PA” program.

“Innovate in PA” is designed to improve Pennsylvania’s capacity to support the job creators of the future with new investments of nearly $100 million in the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, information technology and energy business sectors.

The policy committee will also explore pending legislation designed to improve PA’s business infrastructure, increase the flow of venture capital, up the volume of affordable housing, help veterans become business owners, and improve state contracting opportunities for minorities and women.

Media coverage is welcomed and encouraged.

WHO:             State Sens. Lisa Boscola and John Blake, as well as members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee

Teri Ooms, executive director, Institute for Public Policy &  Economic Development

Richard Stein, CEO, Klios Inc.

Amy Luyster, assistant vice president, The Scranton Plan

Chad Paul, CEO, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast PA

Dr. Mel Billingsley, CEO, Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central PA

Mike Gausling, managing director, Originate Ventures

William J. Schoen, administrator, Skills in Scranton

Ronald Vogel, regional representative, PA Department of Labor & Industry

David Jadick, acting public affairs officer, Tobyhanna Army Depot

 

WHAT:          Roundtable discussion on “Innovate in PA” and proposed legislation to improve the state’s economy

WHEN:          11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 8

WHERE:        The University of Scranton

Loyola Science Center

204 Monroe Ave.

Scranton

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With Affordable Care Act’s Arrival, Sen. Blake Offers Tips, Advice, Reminders for 22nd Senatorial District Residents

HARRISBURG, Oct. 1, 2013 – The new federal health care insurance plan providing low-cost coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and more than 500,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians opened its doors today, Sen. John Blake said, as it began accepting applications for enrollment.

“Many have fostered fear and confusion about the Affordable Care Act even before its full implementation,” Blake said. “But, fear and confusion must now give way as the time is at hand for those who have been seeking the security of affordable health care insurance to finally get peace of mind for themselves and for their families.”

“The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and it is important for people to learn all they can, now, about its provisions, costs, key deadlines and benefits” he said.

People wanting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act have between now and March 31 to enroll. Coverage under ACA begins Jan. 1, 2014.

Blake said it is important for everyone to remember that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, does not replace private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid Assistance.

“If you like the health insurance you have and can afford it, stick with it,” the senator said.

ACA does require everyone to have health insurance or to have an exemption or pay a fee if they choose not to carry that protection.

Young adults can remain on a parent’s health insurance plan until they are 26 years old, Blake said.

Help is also available to people who want Affordable Care Act coverage but need help paying the monthly bills. “Cost assistance” is available through Pennsylvania’s marketplace to people who make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $45,960 for an individual and $94, 200 for a family of four.

Businesses also have opportunities under ACA, Blake said.

“It is the goal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to give more people – and business owners – affordable, quality health insurance and to reduce the growth in health care spending throughout the country,” Blake said.

People who want to learn more about the Affordable Care Act can visit Sen. Blake’s website, www.healthcare.gov, or www.obamacarefacts.com.

“Of course, people can always call my office or stop by at my district offices for advice or helpful information and literature on ACA,” he said.

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