Sen. Blake Announces $352,500 Grant for Scranton Park Project

SCRANTON, August 28, 2019 – Sen. John Blake (D- Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced that the City of Scranton will receive a $352,500 Industrial Sites Reuse Program grant for site cleanup associated with the proposed downtown public park.

“This funding is great news for the City of Scranton and our downtown residential population,” Blake said. “This blighted lot in the heart of our core business district has long been an eyesore in downtown Scranton. I applaud the Wolf Administration for their continued dedication to downtown revitalization and community development.”

Blake noted that the park project being spearheaded by Scranton Tomorrow also received a $400,000 Keystone Communities grant in January 2018. The proposed park would be located at the corner of Linden St. and Wyoming Ave. in downtown Scranton.

The grant will be used for the removal and disposal of soil and several deteriorated concrete building slabs. The site occupies approximately 0.26 acres and was utilized as a lumber storage in 1884, and a dry cleaner from 1956 until 2000. ISRP funds will be used for remediation consisting of soil excavation, monitoring well abandonment, and a health and safety plan update.

The Industrial Sites Reuse Program is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and provides loans and grants for environmental assessments and remediation carried out by eligible applicants who did not cause or contribute to the contamination. The program is designed to foster the cleanup of environmental contamination at industrial sites, thereby bringing blighted land into productive reuse.

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Sen. Blake Announces $5.5 Million in Grants for Regional Redevelopment Projects

SCRANTON, August 1, 2019 – Sen. John Blake (D- Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced that five redevelopment projects throughout his 22nd Senatorial District will receive $5.5 million in state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grants.

“The RACP funding announced today will be incredibly impactful for our region in community and economic development; availability of quality health and mental health care; school security; and access for women to job training and business support,” Blake said. “I commend the Wolf Administration for their continued dedication to important redevelopment projects throughout our region and across the Commonwealth.”

The Wright Center for Community Health received $1.5 million to open a 36,000 sq. ft. primary care clinic at 501 S. Washington Avenue in Scranton that will house its Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence. The funds will equip the space for primary care, dental, and behavioral health services, and for the training of primary care physicians.

“The Wright Center has been an essential and reliable health care partner in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and they have already secured a commitment of federal New Markets Tax Credits and significant philanthropic support for this important $10 million project,” Blake added.

The project to redevelop the former Scranton Laceworks factory received $2 million to restore the most significant and original buildings at the complex. The RACP funds will be used for design, engineering, historic preservation and construction services required to successfully stabilize and enhance the historic essence of the historic Laceworks complex.

Also in Scranton, United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania received $500,000 to establish the South Scranton Woman’s Business Incubator. This project will renovate the former People’s Security Bank into an incubator targeted to provide intensive business support and training to women

“United Neighborhood Centers has worked for years to completely transform South Scranton from an unsafe area stagnated by disinvestment into a beautiful, mixed use community with stable commercial and residential development” Blake said. “This redevelopment project completes UNC’s vision for South Scranton and will be an incredible asset to women looking to build their business or enhance their careers.” 

Additionally, Old Forge School District received $500,000 to make a number of energy efficiency and security upgrades to their facilities. 

In Luzerne County, Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance received $1 million to fund an addition on the Interstate Building Materials manufacturing facility in Pittston Township. The addition will increase office and warehouse space.

RACP is a commonwealth grant program administered by the Governor’s Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic and community development improvement projects.  The program requires a dollar for dollar match in non-state funding in the project and all project related expenses must be incurred and satisfied in advance of approved reimbursements from the state.

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Sen. Blake, Rep. Carroll Announce Funding for Local Affordable Housing Projects

SCRANTON, July 11, 2019 – State Sen. John Blake and state Rep. Mike Carroll today announced that three local affordable housing projects in Lackawanna and Luzerne County received over $1.2 million in funding through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) fund.

“The affordable housing investments announced today by the PA Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) are important for our region and will serve our citizens for years to come,” Blake said. “With a combination of PHARE funds and low-income housing tax credits, the critically important Dupont Housing for the Elderly project will now be able to move to completion.”

This project, which received $674,400 in PHARE grant funds, was also awarded a federal low-income housing tax credit allocation that will be worth up to $8.1 million. The $10 million Dupont Housing project will consist of 36 one-bedroom units for area seniors – 19 units will have Section 8 rental subsidies through the Luzerne County Housing Authority and four will be fully accessible units for persons with disabilities.

I am thrilled that the PHFA recognized the importance of the Dupont Housing project to Greater Pittston,” Carroll said. “Dupont Borough had the foresight to obtain a former school building for the sole purpose of developing housing for our elderly population and the award of PHARE funds and low-income housing tax credits allows this project to proceed.”  

Additionally, the Goodwill at North Gerard T. Langan Apartments received $500,000 in PHARE funds to close the funding gap for the over $20 million project. This facility includes 58 completely renovated senior apartments which are currently home to 63 individuals.

“The preservation of the former North Scranton High School – now on the National Register of Historic Places – has been instrumental in revitalizing North Scranton and restoring pride in an important historical asset in our community,” Blake added.

Finally, the St. Frances Cabrini Apartments in Scranton received $100,000 in PHARE funds to replace the roof and rear doorway of a sixteen-unit federally subsidized project that provides affordable housing to seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Across the Commonwealth, 39 affordable multifamily housing developments received $41.6 million in low-income housing tax credits and $7.7 million in PennHOMES funding. Additionally, 211 housing and community development initiatives in all 67 counties will share a portion of the $51.2 million in PHARE funding.

The PHARE fund is managed by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. Since 2012, the program has received a portion of the impact fees collected from natural gas companies operating in the state with the goal of addressing an affordable housing shortage caused by the economic impact of drilling. Those funds are supplemented by two new funding sources including a portion of realty transfer taxes and money from the National Housing Trust Fund.  PHARE funding was increased by $15 million with the most recent adoption of the 2019-2020 state budget.

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Sen. Blake, Rep. Mullins Announce $100K Grant for Lackawanna College

SCRANTON, June 6, 2019 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) and state Rep. Kyle Mullins (D-112) today announced a $100,000 grant to repair the historical roof at Angeli Hall on the campus of Lackawanna College.

The grant funding was awarded through the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant program which is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.  The grant was part of a $2.5 million investment in 57 historic preservation projects across the Commonwealth announced earlier today.

“Lackawanna College has diligently maintained the architectural and historic integrity of Angeli Hall since it was acquired 25 years ago,” Blake said. “This structure is a critical component to the history of downtown Scranton and I am very glad the PHMC recognized the importance of this project to Lackawanna College and our region.”

The grant funding will be used to repair the roof on Angeli Hall and replace the historic cobalt-jet black terra cotta tiles that are damaged or missing. The semicircular glazed terra cotta tiles will be custom made from molds of the existing field, hip and ridge tiles to ensure its historical integrity. I do not hesitate to support this project.

“These grant funds will not only aid in the historic preservation of Angeli Hall, but more importantly, protect the overall integrity of Lackawanna College’s main building,” Mullins said.  “When the state supports educational institutions like Lackawanna, students are the ultimate beneficiary, and I will always be proud to advocate for this type of support.”

Angeli Hall was originally constructed in 1896 and operated as Scranton Central High School for nearly a century before it was closed. The abandoned landmark was in danger of demolition until it was purchased by Lackawanna College in 1994 for $298,000.

The Keystone Historic Preservation Grant program requires a 50-percent cash match. The total project cost is estimated to be $225,600.

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Sen. Blake, Rep. Flynn & Rep. Mullins Discuss Financial Recovery Status Declaration for Scranton School District

HARRISBURG, January 16, 2019 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) and State Representatives Marty Flynn and Kyle Mullins today announced that the Scranton School District has been issued a declaration of Financial Recovery Status by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).

“We are all well aware of the significant and mounting budgetary challenges faced by our largest school district and without additional state support on an administrative and budgetary level, the district, our taxpayers and our students would only continue to suffer,” Blake said. “We have seen how the guidance of Act 47 has helped the City of Scranton on the path to recovery.  I believe the actions taken today by PDE will set a path for Scranton School District to return to financial stability and, importantly, improve the educational experience for all of our students.  Informed by details learned while under financial watch, this is a logical next step toward the district’s fiscal recovery.”

Blake noted that schools placed in recovery status are appointed a full-time chief recovery officer (CRO) who works onsite with school officials to implement a financial plan to lead the district into solvency and position it for academic success. In addition, a special advisory committee established by the school board will work with the CRO to provide recommendations and feedback on the financial recovery plan. The committee will meet with the CRO on a monthly basis.

“This declaration by PDE presents the Scranton School Board and district administrators with an opportunity to work more closely and collaboratively with PDE to ensure that the district gets its finances in order,” Mullins said. “Financial Recovery Status is the next step in a process that hopefully leads to a recovery plan that is fair to Scranton taxpayers and beneficial to district students.”

Scranton has been designated as a Financial Watch district by PDE since June 2017 and have been receiving technical assistance from PDE on financial and budgetary issues.  The legislators also noted that they had advocated for additional state funding over the past two budget cycles to assist the district.

“The District continues to struggle with its finances and it is good to see that the state and PDE are finally going to be more closely involved with the decisions being made,” Flynn added. “The Scranton tax base is so over-stretched and we are dealing with a severely underfunded school district. I hope that this designation can bring additional funding and eventually, financial stability to Scranton School District.”

PDE noted in their communication to Scranton School District that despite the additional state funding and technical assistance provided through the Financial Watch designation, the district continues to experience ongoing and significant financial difficulties and now meets relevant criteria to be placed in recovery status.

According to PDE, Scranton School District has until January 30, 2019 to appeal this designation to Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. If an appeal is not filed by January 30, 2019, PDE will appoint a chief recovery officer within five days. 

Other districts in recovery status include Harrisburg, York City, Duquesne City and Chester Upland.

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