DALLAS – Making their way through rows of knick-knacks, DVDs, housewares and more, Kayleigh Konek and Riley Gallagher reminisced on their years at the Back Mountain Memorial Library Auction.

The Back Mountain Memorial Library completed its 73rd annual library auction Sunday, ending the event with another successful year in the books.

Once using the setting as the base of their senior project during high school, Konek and Gallagher said that the auction remains a summer staple despite the two growing up and even leaving the Back Mountain.

“I normally come here because now I don’t live in this area,” Gallagher explained, who now resides in Plymouth. “It’s kind of coming back to my home and catching up.”

For Konek, the event is a way to find unique treasures, even if she’s not looking for anything in particular.

“It’s just the right place to find any little odd thing that you buy,” she said. “I don’t come in here looking for things, but I walk around and find things.”

The theme for this year’s auction was taking a nod to the era of hot rods and muscle cars with “Always a Classic,” chosen by event co-chairs Pat and Bill Peiffer.

Preparing for the kickoff of the final auction, Pat Peiffer said she was pleased to see the turnout for this year’s auction.

“It’s been good, everything’s been really well. We’ve lucked out with the weather, the weather has been beautiful,” she said.

Thursday brought some showers in the evening, however the auction was still able to go on while leaving nothing but sunny skies for the reminder of the weekend.

When asked what the main item is for the final auction, Peiffer pointed to the other end of the library grounds.

“Sue Hand’s painting, that’s the big draw,” she said. “We’re really excited to see what that’s going to bring in, it’s so interesting.”

Hand was working on the octagon painting throughout the auction’s entirety, and it was set to go off at 9 p.m. Peiffer said the library is fortunate to have a local artist that’s willing to give so much to the community, including the library, each year.

Making her way through a gazebo titled ‘Attic Treasures,’ Nicole Pizzano found herself sifting through some clothing in an old wooden crate. The Shavertown resident said she attends the fundraiser every year.

“You just never know what your going to find,” she said with a smile. “You always leave with something.”

Peiffer said the event could not continue if not for the outpouring of support from volunteers and Boy Scouts from Troop 281, who aids with tent building and tearing down, running supplies, cleaning up the grounds and even keeping the area safe.

About 150 guests brought their furry friends to Frances Slocum State Park for the 29th annual Walk For the Animals, held by the SPCA of Luzerne County.

Event coordinator Nancy Derwin took some time to photograph the dogs interacting before the walk, capturing everything from nose nudges to rolling around in the grass — all to the delight of their owners.

“It started as one of our biggest fundraisers, and through all the years has been such a loved event by the community, we just kept going with it,” Derwin said of the walk.

Two routes were available, including a shorter 1-mile walk through the lands led by WBRE’s Haley Bianco as well as a longer, 1½-mile route led by park volunteer George Hart.

A blessing of the animals was offered by Father Charlie Warwick of St. Clement and St. Peters Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre, and attendees were able to have their pets individually blessed before the walk as well.

Coaxing her bulldog, Chubbs, for a photo Larksville resident Sue Januski said she was excited to take part in the fundraiser for the first time.

“My mom wanted to bring the puppy and we like to take the dogs for walks. We wanted to see all the other animals here,” she said.

Attendees were able to grab various pet-related supplies under a large tent during the walk, such as canine cookies, soups and even pet massages. About 40 raffle baskets were also donated, ranging from pet supplies to fall themes and housewares.

Proceeds from the event aid in the shelter’s mission, according to Derwin and SPCA executive director Todd Hevner, including food and supplies, vet bills and utilities.

“The proceeds from this walk help us to take care of the over 3,000 animals we take in each year,” Derwin said.

“It means the absolute world to us to see our community that we serve passionately and dedicated, to come out and support us and support the animals that find themselves in our care.” Hevner continued.

Plains resident Alison Ritsick said she’s happy to support the local SPCA, and has been attending the walk for a decade. This year, she brought along her 10-month-old Shih Tzu, Tyler.

“Our dogs have so much fun, we like to support the SPCA. It’s a beautiful day. It’s a great thing to do, socialize (the animals).” she explained. “I think it’s a great community event and I love to see that all these people came out for it.”

The SPCA of Luzerne Couny also has several upcoming fundraisers, including a children and pet trunk-or-treat at Subaru of Wyoming Valley on Oct. 26 in Plains Township.

AVOCA — At least one Republican is already eyeing the 2020 election. Teddy Daniels has announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 8th Congressional District.

The 8th District seat is currently held by Democrat Matt Cartwright of Moosic. The 8th Congressional District includes Lackawanna, Wayne, and Pike counties and portions of Luzerne and Monroe counties.

Daniels, 44, of Wyoming, said he has a combined 20 years in uniformed service to his community and nation.

“I’m a pro-Trump conservative Republican, I’m a wounded combat veteran, a retired police officer and a successful business entrepreneur,” Daniels said in a news release announcing his candidacy. “I’ve built and sold several companies for a profit. I understand how the economy works and I understand how to motivate and help hardworking men and women in this country.”

Daniels said Cartwright “is a weak Democrat incumbent who represents a district won by President Donald Trump in 2016.”

Daniels is married and has four children. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy, West Virginia University, Pennsylvania Police Academy, Pennsylvania Sheriffs Academy, and U.S. Army Infantry School.

”They have forgotten the hard-working men and women, they have forgotten about the people who sit at night and worry about putting food on the table and paying bills,” Daniels said. “I can be your voice in Congress, let me fight for you. Let me take the hits. I’ve taken them for 20 years as a police officer and as a soldier overseas in Afghanistan.”

”I’m pro-immigration reform and I believe Americans need to come first,” he said. “That’s the way it needs to be in this country — Americans first.”

”I don’t have a speech in front of me telling me what to say, how to say it or what special interest I have to bow down to,” Daniels said. “I’m a fighter and I’m here to fight for you. I don’t give up, I don’t back down and I don’t give in. I am here for you, for the American people. I have broad shoulders — let me carry your voice for you. Let me carry your voice to the House of Representatives. Let me carry your voice to Washington, D.C.”

Daniels said he is a man with morals, character, integrity and a backbone to stand up and fight for what’s right. He said the moral fabric of the country has been under attack by “the radical left” for the last several years.

“That’s not what we stand for,” he said. “That’s un-American. As Americans, we need to go back and we need to take the House of Representatives. We need to rebuild this country.”

“Help me fight for you to make this country better for blue-collar families, for the steelworkers, the cops, the firemen, the veterans, for everybody out there who looks at their paycheck and they look at the taxes coming out and then they see all the illegals coming across the border getting everything handed to them for free,” Daniels said. “It’s not right and as an American, it’s time to take a stand.”

Cartwright reported last week more than $1 million cash-on-hand after a third quarter fundraising haul.

“I am incredibly grateful for our campaign’s supporters who know I am fighting to protect Social Security, provide affordable healthcare, fully fund veterans’ programs, and create good paying jobs for the hardworking families of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright, 58, of Moosic, is serving his fourth term in Congress. In 2018, he defeated Republican businessman, John Chrin by 9 points in the newly drawn 8th District.

Cartwright was named the fourth most-effective House Democrat in Congress by the Center for Effective Lawmaking.

Cartwright is a member of House Democratic Leadership and the House Committee on Appropriations. He serves as Vice Chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee and is a member of Financial Services and General Government and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies subcommittees. He also serves on the Committee on Natural Resources.

WILKES-BARRE — It was announced Friday that Pennsylvania has recorded its first death attributed to “vaping.”

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed the death and multiple cases attributed to lung injuries associated with vaping in Pennsylvania.

This issue has long puzzled me. And I come from a home of two loving parents who, for many years of their lives, smoked cigarettes. I never have. Never even was I curious about it. It just never appealed to me in any way.

So when this new e-cigarette craze surfaced in 2014, I became intrigued. I thought maybe this would be a way to offer smokers a healthy option and, more importantly, a way to wean themselves off of tobacco products and a healthier life.

In May 2014 the Times Leader assigned me to write a story about electronic cigarettes that had lit up the local scene, igniting a discussion around the country as to their popularity and safety.

Ted Cross, who was Wilkes-Barre’s director of health at the time, had researched the non-tobacco smoking industry and found pros and cons about the e-cigarettes and the lack of knowledge of the phenomena.

“We’ve really seen an increase in the use of e-cigarettes in our region,” Kross said. “A lot of experts have been crying out for some regulations and guidelines for the sale and consumption of these products.”

So we asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for its opinion on electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.

Depending on the brand, e-cigarette cartridges typically contain nicotine, a component to produce the aerosol and flavorings like fruit or chocolate.

• Potentially harmful constituents also have been documented in some e-cigarette cartridges, including irritants, genotoxins, and animal carcinogens.

• E-cigarettes that are not marketed for therapeutic purposes were recently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but in most states there are no restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

• Use of e-cigarettes has increased among U.S. adult current and former smokers in recent years; however, the extent of use among youths is uncertain.

In 2014, Kross said there were many concerns with e-cigarettes: the nicotine levels in the “juice” used to generate the smoke; the other ingredients used in the flavored juices; the effects on the smoker and second-hand smoke generated; the tendency for users to “progress” to tobacco or other smoking products; the lack of warning labels and/or childproof caps on the juices.

“We need safety measures taken as soon as possible,” Kross said. “The problem is that the research has not caught up to the usage.”

In the 2014 TL story, Brian King, senior scientific adviser to the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said there was still not much research on the public impact of e-cigarettes.

“We’re not sure if they are a promise or a peril,” King said in 2014. “There are a lot of issues to consider — do they delay smokers from quitting tobacco, could use of e-cigarettes lead to relapse among former smokers, do they encourage young people and non-smokers to start smoking?”

King said — remember this was in 2014 — that some studies had found a host of potentially hazardous toxins and various other ingredients, such as metals, in e-cigarette products.

“There is also concern over the exposure to e-cigarette aerosol products,” King said. “Whatever is in them, when exhaled also exposes bystanders. Anything inside the cartridge could be cause for concern. Second-hand exposure is a legitimate concern.”

King said there was a sense of urgency to regulate the e-cigarettes because of the rapid increase in use of the products and the advertisement.

“It’s really become a Wild West in the market,” King said. “People should err on the side of caution until we have more scientific information and regulation.”

Now, here in 2019, we are being told by Levine that the lung injury cases are very serious, life-threatening and even fatal.

“We do not yet know what is making people sick, and whether the illnesses are related to products being used, or potentially the delivery of those products,” Levine said.

Pennsylvania has reported nine confirmed and 12 probable cases of the lung illness to the CDC and are investigating an additional 63 cases. One case was fatal. Each of the individuals involved in the cases have suffered serious lung injuries and most have been hospitalized.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at boboyle@timesleader.com.

WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf last week took executive action instructing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a market-based collaboration among nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change while generating economic growth.

“Climate change is the most critical environmental threat confronting the world, and power generation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” Wolf said. “Given the urgency of the climate crisis facing Pennsylvania and the entire planet, the commonwealth must continue to take concrete, economically sound and immediate steps to reduce emissions. Joining RGGI will give us that opportunity to better protect the health and safety of our citizens.”

Participating states have agreed, either through regulation or legislation, to implement RGGI through a regional cap-and-trade program involving carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting electric power plants. These states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — set a cap on total CO2 emissions from electric power generators in their states.

In order to show compliance with the cap, power plants must purchase a credit or “allowance,” for each ton of CO2, they emit. These purchases are made at quarterly auctions conducted by RGGI. The most recent RGGI auction held Sept. 4 resulted in an allowance price of $5.20 per ton. The proceeds from the auctions are allocated back to the participating states in proportion to the amount of carbon subject to regulation in each state.

“This initiative represents a unique opportunity for Pennsylvania to become a leader in combating climate change and grow our economy by partnering with neighboring states,” said Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. “As a major electricity producer, Pennsylvania has a significant opportunity to reduce emissions and demonstrate its commitment to addressing climate change through a program with a proven track record.”

The RGGI states have reduced power sector CO2 pollution by 45 percent since 2005, while the region’s per-capita GDP has continued to grow.

Pennsylvania exports nearly a third of the electricity it produces, and the cost of RGGI compliance for exported electricity will be paid by electric customers in the states where that electricity is ultimately used.

State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, applauded Wolf’s executive order on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“Climate change is a real, priority level one threat to our environment that deserves the full attention of the legislature that this executive action will require,” Yudichak said. “As DEP begins their outreach, it will be vitally important for them to have an open dialogue with the legislature and I look forward to participating in discussions to effectively and swiftly deal with climate change.”

Reducing CO2 emissions as part of combating climate change is a top priority for the Wolf Administration. In January, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order to set Pennsylvania’s first statewide climate goals, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025 and by 80% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

The scientific consensus is the planet is experiencing climate change in real time, and the impacts are felt everywhere. In 2015, the Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update found that Pennsylvania has undergone a long-term warming over the prior 110 years, and that current warming trends are expected to increase at an accelerated rate with average temperatures projected to increase an additional 5.4 degrees by 2050. Average annual precipitation has also increased by approximately 10 percent over the past 100 years and, by 2050, is expected to increase by an additional 8 percent.

The numerous negative effects of these warming and wetting trends are currently being experienced in Pennsylvania. Last year was the wettest year on record in the commonwealth, and these increases in rainfall resulted in extreme weather events and flooding throughout the state costing residents an estimated $144 million in reported damages, and at least $125 million in state-maintained road and bridges damage throughout the state.

House Republican leaders said the regulation of carbon dioxide presents significant impacts on the economy, the environment and on the bottom line for Pennsylvania families.

“The people of our Commonwealth, as represented and heard through the General Assembly, have the absolute right to review, approve or disapprove any plan that has such far reaching implications. This move calls for another new energy fee on Pennsylvanians,” the GOP statement said. “Taxpayers will pay more every time they flip a switch, make breakfast or charge their phone.

“We strongly disagree with Gov. Wolf’s continued practice of go-it-alone approaches that are unhelpful in working cooperatively to move our Commonwealth forward in a way that best represents the interests of all Pennsylvanians.

“Our state is not an autocracy, and one-sided decisions as significant as this leave out the important voices of Pennsylvania workers, communities and families whose livelihood is built upon important sectors of our energy economy. Pennsylvania’s energy sector is currently reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30% in recent years according to some estimates, and the industry is doing this without burdensome regulations.

“We believe the executive branch cannot bind the state into multi-state agreements without the approval of the General Assembly, and we plan to execute the fullest extent of our legislative power on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania.”

The Wolf Administration this week announced a 14-county expansion of the Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE) program, a long-term care program that helps seniors live in their home and coordinates their health and personal needs.

Through this expansion, LIFE programs, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Human Services (DHS), will be established in Bradford, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clearfield, Elk, Fulton, Jefferson, Monroe, Potter, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, and Wayne Counties.

“All Pennsylvanians deserve to age in place in their community with family and peers as they are able. LIFE programs around Pennsylvania help make this possible,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “We are pleased to be able to bring the LIFE program to more Pennsylvanians around the commonwealth.”

Many older Pennsylvanians wish to continue living in their homes and their communities for as long as economically and medically feasible; and Pennsylvania’s LIFE program enables participants to stay out of nursing homes and remain in their own homes and communities and live happier, more productive, and more fulfilling lives.

In the face of more frequent data breaches and cyber attacks affecting governments and businesses, the Wolf administration is reminding Pennsylvanians about the need to protect their information online.

The Protecting Yourself Online guide, available on PA.gov, provides information to help prevent identity theft and other cyber crimes, as well as resources and advice on what to do if you become a victim. You can help to secure your personal information by:

• Installing firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and keeping them up to date. Many software programs and operating systems can be set to automatically update when new versions are available.

• Using strong passwords that include upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Do not reuse passwords or use the same password for multiple accounts. There are password management programs available that can help you keep track of all your account credentials.

• Thinking before you click. Do not open email or related attachments from untrusted sources. When in doubt, delete.

• Avoiding public WiFi hot spots, such as those offered by retailers and at other locations, whenever possible. Do not transmit or receive personal information while using public WiFi.

• Educating yourself about popular online scams, such as ransom-ware and phishing, and how to recognize them.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proclaimed October as “Cybersecurity Awareness Month” to encourage all Pennsylvanians to take proactive steps to protect themselves online.

Tell that to the kids and parents decked out in their spookiest costumes (and more than a few soccer uniforms), with faces painted and goodie bags stuffed to the brim as Geisinger Dallas hosted the second annual Trunk or Treat/Touch A Truck on Saturday afternoon.

The turnout was excellent for a day of fun and festivities as the kids moved from vehicle to vehicle, collecting candy from volunteers as the Back Mountain was temporarily transformed into a Halloween haven for the youngsters.

All of the proceeds from the Trunk or Treat, which are collected via food and drink purchases as well as a 50/50 raffle, go directly toward the local chapter of the American Heart Association.

“It’s a great cause, anything we could give to that helps out,” said Wesley Epstein, who was there on Saturday with his two children and dressed in a costume himself.

Among the vehicles kids were able to explore were a school bus, a fire engine, two tractors, and a state trooper’s cruiser. The trooper, Carl Puskar, had an animated toy spider for the kids to play with as he passed out candy.

“The kids love coming out, it’s a nice safe environment,” Puskar said. “It also gets the kids out to meet law enforcement, first responders and just the general public.”

In addition to the candy, which was undoubtedly the highlight of the afternoon, kids could also decorate pumpkins, get their faces painted and could also go home with their very own balloon.

This is the second annual Trunk or Treat at the Geisinger Dallas location, although there have been other similar events around Luzerne County in years past.

All the volunteers were quick to single out Tresha Vehoski, a nurse at the facility, as the driving force behind bringing Trunk or Treat to Dallas.

“I wanted something to bring the community together,” Vehosky said. “It kind of just turned into a nice family event to raise money for the American Heart Association.”

Last year’s event raised $10,000 for the AHA. This year, and in years beyond, Vehosky hopes to raise even more.

EXETER — Dallas Woodruff stared at the picture of dead soldiers lined on the ground after the Battle of Antietam, and explained why she found it so compelling to see them so arranged: “It’s like, when they die, they’re not people anymore.”

Woodruff, a ninth grade student, was participating in a workshop with young adult novelist Matthew Landis, who spent Friday at the Wyoming Area Secondary Center meeting students in large and small groups, holding a variety of workshops.

This one was about how the graphic and detailed photos taken during the Civil War by Matthew Brady and James Gardner changed the country. A self-described Civil War “nerd,” Landis writes from his experience teaching social studies in a Bucks County middle school, and one of his novels — The Not So Boring Letters of Private Nobody — relates the evolving friendships of seventh grade students as they research a soldier who died of illness before fighting a single battle.

Woodruff conceded she has long had a fascination with death, after a fashion. “I used to go to the cemetery and get the names from tombstones and write stories about them,” she said, adding with a small smile, because I was that kid.”

Landis broke the students into four groups. One studied photos of the Antietam aftermath — including the dozens of bodies gathered and awaiting interment that evoked Woodruff’s comments. Another looked at pictures of Abraham Lincoln at different stages of his political career, a third at photos of dead Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg where some believe the photographers positioned the bodies, and a fourth at examples of cartes de visite, small pictures of people mounted on a card, typically only 2 inches by 3 inches or so in size.

Landis used each group of photos to raise issues. The Antietam ones, he noted, showed how “photography brought the bodies to our doorstep” for the first time in history. They were so detailed it was easy to imagine a person recognizing the face of a dead brother.

The Lincoln photos showed the fabled president at the launch of his campaign, when he reportedly thanked Brady for making him look presidential rather than “like a country hick,” and one taken about two months before his assassination, which Landis said could be construed as showing the stress the war had put on him.

The Gettysburg photos were of lone Confederate soldiers, dead, their rifles nearby — believed to be cases where the corpses were positioned for greater visual effect. He showed the captions the photographers used in books they published: “… his suffering must have been intense. Was he delirious with agony, or did death come slowly to his relief, while memories of home grew dearer as the field of carnage faded before him?”

“That’s getting Shakespearean,” Landis said, noting most photojournalists these days would not “editorialize” so much, yet also noting how powerful the language was next to the photos.

One of the last photos Landis focused on was of three children on a cartes de visite. It was found by a doctor working his way through the bodies on a battlefield, in the hand of one of the soldiers.

“To his dying moment, he wanted to have his family with him,” Landis said, “And photography made that possible.”

WILKES-BARRE — The owner of the Chicken Coop restaurant will plead guilty to withholding but not paying more than $109,000 in employees’ federal income and payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, according to court documents.

John Stuchkus signed a plea agreement on Sept. 30 in advance of being charged Wednesday in an information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The felony charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Stuchkus, 58, of Pittston, pleaded guilty last year in Luzerne County Court to similar state charges. He received a sentence of 12 years probation on May 24, 2018 and was ordered to pay $57,400 in restitution.

The federal information alleged Stuchkus, the president and CEO of Chick-N Enterprises Inc., controlled the company’s bank accounts and approved all payments for the restaurant on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard. As the person in charge of the company’s finances, Stuchkus was responsible for withholding employees’ federal income tax, and Medicare and Social Security taxes collectively referred to as Federal Insurance Contribution Act, or FICA, taxes.

He was required to contribute a portion of the FICA taxes, make payments on a periodic basis to the Internal Revenue Service and file an Employer’s Quarterly Federal Income Tax Return.

Except for limited quarterly payments in 2014 and 2016, Stuchkus did not deposit withheld payroll taxes to the IRS, the information alleged. From the last quarter of 2013 to the end of 2017 he failed to pay approximately $109,434 owed the IRS, the information alleged.

As part of the plea agreement, Stuchkus did not object to the transferring information about the case to the IRS that will have jurisdiction over collecting taxes, interests and penalties.

The tax loss due to Stuchkus’ conduct amounted to $397,406 and covered a covered a 19-year period from 1999 to 2017, the plea agreement said. He agreed to cooperate with the IRS and pay restitution in the amount to be determined by the court.

WILKES-BARRE — The last time he was up for a mayoral appointment City Administrator Rick Gazenski withdrew in order to avoid a controversy.

Four months later Gazenski said he’s standing firm in his nomination by Mayor Tony George for a seat on the Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority.

The appointment is one of two resolutions up for discussion at council’s Tuesday night work session. A vote likely will follow at council’s public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

If previous votes are an indicator of what to expect, Gazenski, 69, will be approved 3-2 and join his wife Patricia, who was appointed in June to a five-year term on the five-member Authority. Councilwoman Beth Gilbert McBride and outgoing councilman Mike Merritt have opposed the lame duck mayor’s appointments, while support has come from councilmen Bill Barrett, Tony Brooks and Mike Belusko.

Residents have weighed in too, for and against, including George Brown, who defeated George in the May mayoral Democratic primary.

Brown, a former councilman who’s unopposed in the Nov. 5 general election, contacted council members about the appointments that would carry into his expected four-year term. In a letter to the editor he called the mayor’s move “politics as usual” and said residents want to end it.

But Gazenski, a former insurance executive with J.W. Hoban & Associates, said he wants to serve on the authority and contribute to the city. He said he won’t be city administrator when Brown is expected to take office in January.

Some of the appointees see it as ceremonial position, Gazenski said. “It’s a voluntary position. There’s no pay,” he said.

As someone who’s born and raised in Wilkes-Barre and involved in civic, city and political affairs for decades, Gazenski said he’d take the appointment seriously and attend the meetings.

The chairman of the 6th District Democratic Committee, Gazenski was an unsuccessful council candidate years ago, past president of South Wilkes-Barre Rotary, served on a city insurance committee, participated in the change from city-wide elections for council to five separate districts and sat on the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority board.

WILKES-BARRE — State Sen. John Yudichak on Friday said the last time the Sans Souci Parkway was pothole-free, Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski was singing at San Souci Park dances.

It was a joke, but there was a lot of truth in Yudichak’s statement about the decades-long struggle to adequately fund infrastructure costs — like paving of roads — in Pennsylvania.

Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, and other state legislators were at Friday’s Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce and held at Best Western Plus Genetti Hotel & Conference Center.

Also attending were state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township; and state Reps. Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston; Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township; Mike Carroll, D-Avoca; and Luzerne County Council Chairman Tim McGinley and County Manager David Pedri. Reps. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, and Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, did not attend.

Carroll said Interstate 81 is and has been at over-capacity for years. He said state Deparmtent of Transportation is seeking ways to add a third lane in the busy corridor between Montage and Scranton, but funding is an issue. He also said there has to be better utilization of the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Clarks Summit and Pittston.

“Securing funding has been a challenge,” Carroll said. “The conversation for more funding for roads and bridges is never-ending. With Northeastern Pennsylvania’s proximity to major metropolitan areas, it is critical that we maintain our transportation network.”

Yudichak said a reliable transportation system is key to economic growth. He said when Act 89 was enacted, some $5.4 billion was infused into maintaining the state’s 30,000 miles of roadway and hundreds of bridges.

“The recent South Valley expansion project created more than 4,000 jobs for the region,” Yudichak said. “And now, projects like the complete so-over of the Sans Souci Parkway are happening.”

Toohil agreed, saying that a solid transportation network incentivizes businesses to locate in the region.

McGinley said the region has an incredible transportation network. He noted that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport has made several key improvements and it also serves as a valuable asset in economic development and expansion of current business in the area.

Several other topics were discussed, including veterans aid, agriculture, manufacturing, small business expansion, quality of life issues, and tourism.

Education was also discussed at great length. The legislators agreed that the five county colleges continue to play a key role in developing programs to assure that students receive the necessary course to find jobs in today’s economy.

“Education has changed dramatically over the years,” Pashinski, a retired school teacher said. “There is a constant struggle to manage the funding that is allocated. The key is funding. We need to have a proper balance so we can provide the programs required today.”

Carroll said school district have been forced to raise taxes because they are not properly funded by the state.

“Now is the time for some meaningful conversations about funding education,” Carroll said. “School districts need additional state funding.”

The legislators said educational programs in non-college degree areas is also critical to the region’s economic growth.

Baker and Yudichak were quick to criticize the recent decisions of the Wolf administration to “rip 840 jobs” from Luzerne County by proposing to close State Correctional Institute — Retreat and the White Haven State Center.

“Luzerne County is at its lowest unemployment rate in more than 40 years,” Yudichak said. “We have seen thousands of new jobs come here due to the collaboration of county- and state-elected officials and the help of public and private sectors.”

Baker agreed saying, “We try to work collaboratively in a bipartisan way for the benefit of the region.”

WILKES-BARRE — It may have been built in 1907, but the former Spring Brook Water Supply Co. on Franklin Street has begun a new life as a center where student engineers learn how to shape the future. The building, now known as the King’s College Mulligan Engineering Center, was officially dedicated Friday.

“This is one of the most important academic buildings in our history, and of the most important to our future,” said Fred Pettit, vice president of institutional advancement.

Pettit noted this was the second historic downtown building to be dedicated to new use at King’s in a month. A few weeks ago the former Memorial Presbyterian Church on North Street, built in 1872, was reborn with meticulous renovation and expansion as the Chapel of Christ the King at the George & Giovita Maffei Family Commons.

State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, noted the local contingent of lawmakers helped get $2.1 million in state money for the $6 million “game changer,” adding that the Spring Brook company had innovated in water service engineering for years, and that it will serve a similar purpose again. “In its glorious past you will build a bright future.”

Eileen Mulligan, who along with her late husband William contributed a seven figure gift to the project said two words defined the moment for her “Serendipity and legacy.” She said it was serendipitous that her husband was looking to make a lasting contribution to Wyoming Valley at the same time King’s was looking to fund new facilities. “Bill wanted to leave a lasting influence,” she said, “King’s College fulfilled his wish.”

King’s President the Rev. John Ryan told a story of how he received a phone call one day regarding the ground they stood on along the south side of the building. He was told, “We have to stop construction, we found bones. We have to call the coroner.” Fortunately, it turned out to be animal bones.

Ryan gave a blessing and sprinkled holy water. Chief Facilities Officer Tom Butchko and engineering graduate Ryan Tracy gave readings, and the doors were opened to the crowd.

Their was a bar and catering service on the first floor. A walk around showed the former first floor vault converted to a lift to help handicapped people get up to a slightly higher room after the main entry room. The basement boasted high tech labs for hydraulics, fluid mechanics, and fabrication. The second floor included a lounge built around a large old fireplace, fully refurbished. Each floor had at least one classroom and other specialty rooms, and while the vaults on the upper floors had been converted into utility closets, with the doors had been removed and mounted to the walls as a reminder of their former purpose.

WEST WYOMING — Kayla Cunningham and her fiancé, Zachary Erfman celebrated their third anniversary Friday evening in a way few Americans have done in decades.

“We actually got our tickets yesterday,” Cunningham said as they waited for showtime at the Moonlite Drive-in.

Once a popular outdoor movie venue, the original Moonlite faded into obscurity three decades ago, as drive-in theaters across the country rapidly disappeared from the scene.

New owner Eric Symeon has spent two years getting the Shoemaker Avenue property back into shape, since acquiring the property in 2017.

“There was only two of us working on it, clearing the land, doing all new sewers, electric,” Symeon said.

The nation’s first drive-in opened in 1933 in New Jersey. By the 1950s there were between 4,000 and 5,000, according to several news accounts. In 2018 there were just 321, according to statista.com.

Facebook posts on Moonlite’s official page and a Times Leader story earlier this week were shared hundreds of times as the community looked forward to the drive-in’s rebirth.

Cunningham and Erfman had their SUV turned around and were in the process of setting up blankets and pillows in the back seat to prepare for a comfy movie experience as dusk fell.

Friday’s showings were “Abominable,” a family-friendly animated film from Dreamworks about the Abominable Snowman, and “Good Boys,” a decidedly R-rated film about a group of sixth-grade boys hoping to get their first kiss. Erfman and Cunningham said they were excited to see both films.

Chris Jones, though, was only there for “Abominable.” The Hanover Township man was there with his young daughter, Nora, so he needed to keep the night kid-friendly. But that didn’t stop him from being excited.

He said it was a fun thing for the family to do, especially since the Garden Drive-In, in Hunlock Creek, is already shut down for the year.

Nora, meanwhile, could barely contain her excitement, dancing around while her father spoke with a reporter and seeming to have the time of her young life.

According to Symeon, the theater will be open through the autumn, but will close before winter. An exact final date for the year hasn’t been set. The Moonlite Drive-In is open Friday and Saturday nights.

SWOYERSVILLE — Mayor Chris Concert will be hosting a fall festival on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Roosevelt Field, on Church Street, with a free pumpkin for the first 300 children, courtesy of The Paradise Club of Swoyersville and J &L towing.

Guests will be able to meet members of the police and fire departments, and D.J. Mike Williams will be playing music. There will be vendors, including Windy Farms Produce selling mums, cornstalks and pumpkins, and a bake sale.

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