The following are recent Luzerne County restaurant inspection reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. According to the agency: “Any inspection is a ‘snapshot’ of the day and time of the inspection. An inspection conducted on any given day may not be representative of the over all, long-term cleanliness of an establishment. Also, at the time of the inspection, violations are recorded but are often corrected on site prior to the inspector leaving the establishment.”

The information is taken from the inspection database at www.eatsafepa.com. Postal addresses used here are as listed on the state’s website and may not correspond to the municipalities in which facilities are physically located.

Cork Bar and Restaurant, 463 Madison St., Wilkes-Barre: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Wall in the kitchen area has a hole behind freezer and is in need of repair.

Taco Bell, 565 Susquehanna Blvd., Hazle Township: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Food employee observed in food prep area wearing watch on wrist. Plastic container holding bagged lettuce and cheese observed on floor of walk-in cooler. Dust observed on walk-in cooler refrigeration unit fan guards. Waste water drain lines under the ware wash sink observed with moist, greasy build ups of waste materials (possible waste water leak).



American Legion Post 558, 99 E. Carey St., Plains Township: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: The food facility is not using an approved detergent-sanitizer in both compartments of the two compartment warewash sink. No food service is to be provided until appropriate chemical is provided.

Convenient Food Mart, 51 W. Juniper St., Hazleton: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Construction dust observed on retail food display shelving and packaged foods. Facility in process of remodeling construction with inadequate protection in place over exposed wall studs allowing construction dust to filter into existing retail store area. Paper towel dispenser empty at the handwash sink in the restroom temporary hand sink area.

Courtyard by Marriott, 879 Schechter Drive, Wilkes-Barre: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Observed a build up of residues on the floor under the dish machine. Observed clean food equipment and/or utensils in kitchen area, stored uncovered or not inverted.

Buona Sera, 1287 N. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre: Follow-up inspection, in compliance. Violations: Window pane above 3-bay sink has paint peeling with wood exposed to water.

Huns’ Café 99, 99 George Ave., Wilkes-Barre: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Men’s room does not have a self-closing door.

Fujisan Franchising Corp., 441 Wilkes-Barre Twp. Blvd., Wilkes-Barre: Opening inspection, in compliance.

Aman Con Inc., 515 Main St., Dupont: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Observed dust on the fan guards and debris on the floor in the beer walk-in cooler.

Arby’s, 309 Highway 315, Pittston: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Observed ice scoop stored on a surface which was observed to be dusty. Scoop was cleaned and stored properly. Observed old fluorescent light bulbs stored on top of the ice machine. Bulbs were discarded. Receiving door located in the back area of the food facility has a gap and does not protect against the entry of insects, rodents and other animals.

Edgewood by Sand Springs, 22 Edgewood Drive, Drums: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: The inside surfaces of the microwave oven, a food contact surface, was observed to have food residue and was not clean to sight and touch. The microwave was cleaned and sanitized during the inspection. Egg rolls stored in the reach-in freezer in the prep area stored open with no covering. The egg rolls were covered during this inspection. The exit door located in the kitchen area of the food facility has a gap at the floor door junction and does not protect against the entry of insects, rodents, and other animals.

El Mariachi Mexican Restaurant, 789 N. Locust St., Hazleton: Opening inspection, in compliance. Violations: Double door located in the entrance and basement area of the food facility has a gap and does not protect against the entry of insects, rodents and other animals.

Prestigio, 40 N. Wyoming St., Hazleton: Follow-up inspection, in compliance. Violations: Hand meat tenderizer observed with old food build up on tenderizer teeth. Women’s toilet room is not provided with a covered waste receptacle for sanitary napkins. Food facility is not using an approved detergent-sanitizer in both compartments of the bar two compartment manual warewashing equipment. Food facility does not have available sanitizer test strips or test kit to determine appropriate sanitizer concentration. Floor tiles missing in the kitchen in front of the ware wash area.

Sand Springs Country Club, 10 Clubhouse Drive, Drums: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Egg rolls, meatballs, chicken and beef steak sandwich meat in the reach-in freezer area stored open with no covering. The items were covered during this inspection. Kitchen screen door is not tight fitting to door frame. Screen is loose from the door frame on the left side and in need of repair. Observed containerized food stored directly on the floor in walk-in cooler area, rather than 6 inches off of the floor as required. The hand wash sink located in the prep area does not have water at a temperature of at least 100°F. The water at this sink is 80°F. The plumber came and adjusted a mixing valve under the sink and the water temperature is now 122°F.

Skateaway Snack Bar, 610 Blackman St., Wilkes-Barre: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Observed rodent nesting activity in paper products in the storage cabinet. Observed too numerous to count rodent droppings in the storage cabinets and along walls and in corners in the prep and storage areas.

Subway, 390 Highway 315, Pittston: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: The water temperature of the wash compartment of the manual warewashing equipment was 101°F, rather than not less than 110°F, as required. Observed a build up of residue behind the nozzles on the self-serve beverage machine.

Wendy’s, 55 S. Wyoming Ave., Edwardsville: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Non-food contact surfaces not cleaned at a frequency to preclude accumulation of dirt and soil. The stainless steel wall covering behind the fryers have an accumulation of grease and in need of cleaning.

Wendy’s, 40 S. Church St., Hazleton: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Fan guards in the walk-in cooler have an accumulation of dust and are in need of cleaning.

279 Bar & Grill, 279 S. River St., Plains Twp.: Complaint inspection, in compliance. Violations: Burgers and steak are served raw or undercooked to the customer’s request; however, a written consumer advisory (on the menu, table tent or placard) is not provided to the consumer. Observed food residue on the underside of shelves in the walk-in cooler and bain-marie.

Dollar General, 309 N. Hunter Hwy., Drums: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Mops are not being hung to air dry. Observed mop with wet mop head stored inside of the mop sink in the dry storage room. The left receiving door located in the dry storage area of the food facility has a gap at the floor door junction and does not protect against the entry of insects, rodents and other animals.

Fresh ‘N Quick, 406 3rd St., Nescopeck: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: One quart of half and half with sell by date of 3/24/19 and four quarts of 2% milk with sell by date of 3/25/19 were offered for sale in the walk-in. The items were voluntarily pulled from the shelf during this inspection. Exit door located in the back room near the three-bay sink of the food facility has a gap at the bottom of the right door frame junction and does not protect against the entry of insects, rodents and other animals.

Ole Tyme Charley’s, 31 S. River St., Plains Township: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: Observed a build up of residue in two soda gun holsters in the bar area.

Costello’s Pizza & Restaurant, 67 S. Wyoming Ave., Edwardsville: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: The food facility does not maintain Food Employee Certification records as required. The owner stated that an employee successfully completed the course after the last inspection but he does not have the certificate posted. The owner called and the certified person and he was to send a picture of his certificate to this inspector via email or text. I did not receive the picture during this inspection. The owner is to send a copy of the certificate to this inspector via email or text or mail a copy to the Region 3 Field office to the attn of this inspector with in 10 days. The owner will write the name of the facility on the certificate prior to sending. Soup and cheese in the walk-in cooler area stored open with no covering. The food items were covered during this inspection. Receiving door located in the rear of the kitchen of the food facility has a gap and does not protect against the entry of insects, rodents and other animals.

Flamingo Diner, Route 11, West Nanticoke: Change of Owner inspection, in compliance. Violations: Food employees observed in prep area not wearing proper hair restraints, such as nets or hats. Observed a build up of food residue on the potato cutter. Observed rusting shelves in the refrigeration unit in the back area. Observed a build up of grease and grime on the floors in the prep areas. Observed a dust and webbing on the ceiling in the back area. Observed a build up of black residue around the ice bin. PIC cleaned bin. Observed a build up of dust on the fan guard in the reach-in cooler at the counter area. PIC cleaned fan guard.

Price Chopper, 180 Westside Mall, Edwardsville: Regular inspection, in compliance. Violations: The top outside surface of the ice machine, a non-food contact surface, is not cleaned at a frequency to preclude accumulation of dust/dirt and in need of cleaning. The fan guard inside of the walk-in deli freezer has a build up of static dust and in need of cleaning. The fan guard was cleaned and sanitized during this inspection. The air exchange cover in the bakery has a build up of static dust and in need of cleaning. Various deli meats and cheeses, refrigerated ready to eat time temperature control for safety food in the deli area, was date-marked by the facility, but was beyond the 7 day use or sell by dates between 1/22/19 and 3/19/19 and requires discarding. The facility voluntarily discarded and denatured the food items during this inspection. A glitch in the program in some of the scales was identified and corrected during this inspection. Plastic scoops used to dispense ice from the ice machine was observed lying with unprotected food surface, lying in direct contact with the outside top surface of the ice machine. The scoops were removed, cleaned and sanitized during this inspection. The inside surface of several stored metal Cambro/baking pans, a food contact surface, was observed to have food residue and was not clean to sight and touch. The pans were either discarded or cleaned and sanitized during this inspection.

TNT Subs, 235 W. Main St., Nanticoke: Complaint inspection, in compliance. Violations: Food facility inspection indicates evidence of rodents/insect activity in prep area and front of the house, but facility does not have a pest control program. A pest control company was contracted and has bait/traps located in specific areas. Re-inspection will take place soon.

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WILKES-BARRE — The state has awarded King’s College $100,000 in tax credits to offset renovation of the Spring Brook Water Supply Company building on Franklin Street.

The Spring Brook project and the renovation of an historic church on North Street are being done under a taxable subsidiary created by the school.

That complicated financial move helped the school get enough credits to pay about 40 percent of the nearly $12 million combined renovation costs, according to John Loyack, executive vice president for business and administrative affairs. The bulk of those tax credits came through federal historic tax credits and “New markets tax credits” designed to help revitalize old city buildings.

The $100,000 in tax credits announced Monday came as part of $3 million in Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Tax Credits announced for 24 projects statewide. It was the only Luzerne County project on the list.

King’s is converting the former Spring Brook Building into the new Mulligan Engineering Center. It also is converting the former Memorial Presbyterian Church on North Street into the Chapel of Christ the King at the George & Giovita Maffei Family Commons.

Because King’s is non-profit, tax credits are of no direct uses. But Loyack explained the school set up a taxable subsidiary because of the considerable money available for both projects through tax credits.

“We partner with somebody outside who can use the credits,” he explained. “we have a partner bank that will liquidate them. We get a percentage of the value, and they get the deductions.”

The fiscal maneuver means King’s will be paying taxes on the assessed property value to the county, city, and Wilkes-Barre Area School district, but Loyack said the money saved through the move far outweighs the property tax payments.

King’s used a similar set up to help offset the cost of O’Hara Hall, though being a new building where another was razed, that was not eligible for historic preservation credits. Even so, Loyack said, tax credits helped finance about 20 percent of the cost.

Historic preservation and new markets tax credits are used more often by larger universities in bigger cities, he added, where schools have more opportunity to get both,

The two King’s projects are essentially done, he added, with construction companies wrapping up the work.

“More than 100 engineering students should be in Spring Brook this fall, and the Church is scheduled to be consecrated in September,” Loyack said.

WRIGHT TWP. — Former Crestwood Superintendent Joseph Gorham and Operations Manager Christopher Gegaris got assurances of clean personnel files, as well as getting nearly six months pay and all their accumulated sick and vacation days in deals that eased them out of district employment earlier this year, according to documents provided following a Times Leader Right To Know request.

The district provided the “mutual general release and buyout agreement” made with Gorham dated Jan. 11, and the “mutual general release and severance agreement” with Gegaris dated Jan.17. Both were suspended with pay late last year after a state audit discovered that the district did not have on file required clearances for some bus drivers, causing cancellation of two school days.

At the Jan. 17 board meeting, the board voted unanimously to accept their resignations, and solicitor Jack Dean said they both were given pay and health insurance coverage through June 30, but did not provide details. Gorham had more than two years remaining on his contract.

The documents provided Monday show that both sides agreed Gorham’s final day of employment was Jan. 17, with salary and health care paid through June, followed by a lump-sum payment of accrued but unused vacation, personal and sick leave benefits. “These payments reflect the parties’ agreement on the buyout of Mr. Gorham’s contract without admission of liability by either party.”

The district also agreed not to contest any application for unemployment compensation and not to attend any hearing that might be held regarding such compensation. Gorham agreed to be “available to testify at any and all board proceedings, grievance arbitrations and/or unfair practice hearings relative to events which occurred” during his time in office.

Both sides agreed to waive any rights to further legal action on the matter, and Gorham agreed to waive “all rights to assert any claim for re-employment with the district and releases the district from any liability for failure to hire him or rehire him in the future.” The district, in turn, agrees to “provide a letter of neutral recommendation setting forth Mr. Gorham’s dates of employment with the district and his job duties.”

The district also agreed “to ensure that Mr. Gorham’s personnel file and all internal/external district documents reflects that Mr. Gorham resigned his position in good standing free of any disciplinary action, investigation, charge or allegation.”

The agreement does not give the amount of money paid to Gorham in the buyout. State records list his 2017-18 salary as $115,000, and he would have received about 23 weeks pay, or $50,865.

The agreement with Gegaris differs in that it requires him to resign officially on June 30, but that on Jan. 15 his status was changed from paid administrative leave to paid sick leave, using sick leave through June 30. He was paid his salary through that date. According to state data for 2017-18, that would total about $46,727 for 23 weeks, based on a salary or $105,643.

On June 30, he is to get a lump sum payment for unused vacation and personal days at the per-diem rate, plus any unused sick days at $55 per day, but the total is capped at $10,000. His insurance is paid by the district until June 30.

The agreement also requires the district to change the personnel file and “all internal/external district documents” to “reflect that Mr. Gegaris resigned his position. Four letters “regarding certain personnel matters shall be removed from his personnel files.” The letters were dated Nov. 7, Nov. 18, and Dec. 11, 2018 and Jan. 8 2019.

SHAVERTOWN — You could soon start saving money on your grocery bills, as a new discount grocery store will be opening up in Shavertown in the middle of next month.

Food Basics, a deep discount grocery store, will be setting up shop in the former Thomas’ Family Markets Foodtown location on Route 309 in Shavertown. It’s currently set for a July 12 opening.

According to a release from the company, the new, 16,000 square foot market aims to bring “low prices, every day.” The company says its savings come from focusing on the products customers buy the most, instead of offering an “overwhelming” variety of products.

“Food Basics will offer everyday low pricing, where no loyalty card is needed, no must buys, no minimum purchase requirements and NO gimmicks,” the press release reads.

The store will feature deli, bakery and seafood sections that will all use “grab and go” areas to increase convenience. Additionally, the store will sell products in the Best Yet brand in addition to more well-known brands, which are sold at a “deeply discounted price,” the company claims.

PLAINS TWP. — A Plains Township man was arraigned Monday on firearm offenses when township police allegedly discovered multiple firearms, including one reported stolen from Louisiana.

Township police assisting Luzerne County probation officers on June 12 visited Kevin Terrell Hall, 29, after he posted statements on social media that he was possessing firearms at his house on Penrose Street, according to court records.

Police allegedly found two revolvers on the television stand and a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun with the shoulder stock removed, multiple rounds of ammunition and knives, including metal knuckles. One of the revolvers, a .38-caliber, was loaded with five rounds, police allege.

Police said the shotgun was reported stolen to the Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, Sheriff’s Office, court records say.

In that case, Hall was a driver of a vehicle stopped by Hanover Township police on Sans Souci Parkway in May 2018. During a search of the vehicle township police said they found a .38-caliber handgun, ammunition, marijuana and paraphernalia, court records say.

In a negotiated plea agreement, court records say, Hall pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor firearms not to be carried without a license and possession of drug paraphernalia. Prosecutors withdrew a felony firearm count and a traffic violation against Hall.

Hall was arraigned by District Judge Richard Cronauer in Luzerne County Central Court on two counts of illegal possession of a firearm and a single count of receiving stolen property. He was jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $50,000 bail.

WILKES-BARRE — Mike Zimmerman is leaving his position as chief executive officer at Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania and Gertrude C. McGowan, Esq., has been named to the position effective July 1.

“I’m proud to have worked for so long at an organization that exemplifies professionalism and commitment to the community,” Zimmerman said. “While I look forward to retirement, I leave with a lot of fond memories of services throughout the years and accomplishments I am proud to be part of, such as the CAC development, implementing and expanding Family Finding/Family group programs, and of course, the long term Disaster Recovery Coalition.”

McGowan said it’s too soon to discuss what her priorities will be as she assumes her new job at FSA, which was established in 1895.

”I plan on using the three-month overlap with Mike to learn the culture and history of FSA,” McGowan said. “I do believe that my over 20 years of experience in the local nonprofit community not only demonstrates my dedication to improving the lives of our residents, but also provides me with a strong background to advance the compelling mission of FSA. I am both humbled and energized by this tremendous opportunity and challenge to lead FSA.”

At Highmark from 2015 to 2019, McGowan served as vice president and deputy general counsel. She provided strategic and technical leadership, as well as daily oversight of all aspects of integrating the former Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania operations into Highmark post-merger and managing the legal department for Highmark’s Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania operations.

At Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, McGowan was senior vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary from 2009 to 2015. She provided strategic leadership and oversight to the legal and government affairs divisions.

McGowan also served as general legal counsel at Wyoming Valley Health Care System from 1997 to 2001, representing the region’s largest integrated delivery system.

John Thalenfeld, President/CEO at Trion Industries in Wilkes-Barre, currently serves as the chairman of the FSA board of directors. He said he is confident McGowan was the right choice to replace Zimmerman, but he admitted he is sad to see his friend depart.

“It is sad to see the change,” Thalenfeld said. “Mike has compiled a long list of accomplishments at FSA. When he returned to FSA, he said it was like coming home again.”

Thalenfeld said he has known McGowan for a long time as well. He said the FSA board went through an extensive search for a new CEO, receiving hundreds of applicants from across the country.

“I’ve known Gert for a while and she is very well qualified and she will bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the agency,” Thalenfeld said.

“It has been a wonderful and rewarding career helping others,” he said. “I remember receiving a call while at Malabar some 45 years ago to assist a woman who was pregnant and using heroin. After arranging medical detox at a facility in Stroudsburg, we transported her early the next morning. As she entered the facility, she gave me a bracelet she was wearing, and I declined. She insisted. I still have it, and I look at it every once in a while to remind me why I chose this career.”

Zimmerman said throughout his career, there have been many accomplishments that were the result of the hard-working people, “who receive little pay and do the day-to-day direct service” for those in the community.

“Without them, my career would have been short lived,” Zimmerman said. “I am looking forward to not having to worry about program funding and getting back to my recreational loves of fishing, hunting, hiking, and spending more time with my family and of course our wonderful dog, Jeter.”

Zimmerman began his career at FSA on Nov. 16, 1981, as a help line caseworker. On Nov. 22, 1999, he left to assume duties as the executive director of the American Red Cross, Wyoming Valley Chapter.

On Nov. 30, 2009, he left the American Red Cross as a regional director, covering eight counties, and on Dec. 1, 2009, he returned to FSA as the chief executive officer.

Zimmerman is a lifelong resident of Wyoming Valley, where his family has resided for nine generations, dating to 1768. He is married to Laura Faith Wereschagin, Out-Patient Therapist at Northeast Counseling, and they enjoy a daughter, Barrett Elizabeth Zimmerman.

Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, a not-for-profit, non-sectarian organization, provides diverse services to children, individuals, seniors, and families, empowering them to achieve their full potential and resulting in healthier relationships and stronger communities.

Alice in Wonderland author, Lewis Carroll, is famously quoted saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Fifteen years ago, a Wilkes University graduate and innovator who had become a man of means, came back to downtown Wilkes-Barre and asked, “What happened?” Like other downtowns across America, ours had experienced a downturn.

The 1970s were considered “The Me Decade,” but they were also “The Mall Decade.” As malls sprung up across the country, the businesses that kept downtowns vibrant began to relocate, leaving vacant storefronts and empty buildings in their wake. That, coupled with the added layer of misfortune provided by Hurricane Agnes, our downtown suffered greatly.

Leaders in the higher education and business communities knew that we would need a roadmap to return our downtown to greatness and decided that data would help pave the way. The Institute was born from the belief that in order to fix our problems, we needed to accurately identify and understand them. The research, data and information helps us do just that. For 15 years, they have been driving decisions that are helping to fuel economic growth and raise the standard of living in Northeastern Pa. Over time, The Institute broadened its scope from Wilkes-Barre to encompass the entire region.

There are people and organizations, however, who are focused solely on revitalizing downtown Wilkes-Barre. Diamond City Partnership Director Larry Newman is one of them. With an office overlooking the square, Larry’s focus for the past seven years has been to work with partners to transform the downtown into a great place to live, work and visit. And the data shows that he is doing a great job.

In the past six years alone, 216 new market-rate lofts and apartments were built and another 48 units are currently under construction. Downtown Wilkes-Barre is home to more than two dozen different tech startups and one-third of all the information sector jobs in the region. Public Square, the center-point between King’s and Wilkes’ campuses, has seen major improvements in recent years. You can find it brimming with college students and people walking to their destinations to enjoy the shops, galleries, businesses and the many restaurants in its footprint.

Revitalization also means reinventing. Downtown Wilkes-Barre may never have three department stores again. Newman believes that our future lies in innovation and the experiences a downtown offers. It also means relying on the data. “Revitalization has to be grounded in good data,” says Newman. The downtown’s strategic plan has been consistently implemented for the past 15 years and has helped fuel the improvements that have come over time. “Ours is a long-term strategy, but we are getting there one project at a time.”

Lewis Carrol also said, “It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”

Should the gentleman who so generously provided much of the initial funding for The Institute come back to the area, he would find it much improved. We were different people then too. It’s because of people who care, like Larry, that we will not be following Alice down the rabbit hole and can look forward to a new kind of vibrancy and prosperity in our future.

Susan Magnotta is Director of Community Outreach at The Institute. Her column appears every other Monday. Institute Insights appears every other Monday.

Seven years after Kevin Barker was fatally shot outside a night club in Edwardsville in June 1972, Kingston and Luzerne County detectives traveled to Asheville, N.C., to interview a woman who had information.

Barker, 18, of Rutter Avenue, Kingston, was inside Club Lee in Edwardsville where investigators suspected he got into an argument with another man about the length of his hair on June 17, 1972.

Barker was shot at about 12:50 a.m. in a Kingston alley known as Rosenheim Court between Payne Street and the Erie Lackawanna Railroad right-of-way shortly after leaving the club. He died two hours later at Nesbitt Memorial Hospital, the Times Leader reported June 19, 1972.

Slugs from a .25-caliber handgun were recovered from Barker’s body and a building near the shooting.

“Witnesses have told police that Barker was in several bar fights that night and authorities said they believe the fights provided the motive to the killing,” the Times Leader reported Nov. 22, 1979, when Kingston Det. Frank Ratchford and county Det. James Zardecki traveled to North Carolina.

Kingston police Chief John Reese said in 1979 that there was a suspect, described as a white male, 30 to 35 years old, six feet to six feet, two inches tall, with dark brown hair.

Michael Sloan, a friend who was with Barker at the club, told police a man began arguing with Barker over the respective hair lengths of the two men.

”Investigators said they have been able to place Barker’s assailant in the club and near the front door prior to the shooting,” the Times Leader reported June 19, 1972.

The Evening News newspaper reported June 20, 1972, that more than 100 people had been interviewed and investigators were still trying to locate another 200 patrons in the club.

Police sought a suspect for several days following the fatal shooting but had to abandon the manhunt when severe flooding caused by Tropical Storm Agnes hit the Wyoming Valley five days later, destroying evidence including the list witnesses and the names of several hundred bar patrons.

Around this time last year, Luzerne County Councilman Harry Haas had expressed concerns about the appearance of the county-owned River Common park along the Susquehanna River, noting he had received complaints about patches of missing mulch and other maintenance concerns.

Haas offered an improved assessment during last week’s council meeting, saying the park running from the courthouse to the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center “looks 100 percent better.”

He inquired about the status of additional low-maintenance landscaping to be funded by $5,000 that council allocated from the county’s Act 13 natural-gas recreation funding.

Operational Services Division Head Edmund O’Neill said that work should be completed soon as part of a contract the administration approved last month with Green Valley Landscaping.

While some River Common maintenance is performed in-house, the administration said an outside landscaper is needed to help building and grounds workers who are juggling other assignments.

According to the Green Valley contract, posted under the manager’s section at www.luzernecounty.org, the Plains Township company will be paid $49,707 through the end of the year. The contract includes a dozen lawn maintenance visits in addition to sprucing of planting beds and the addition of mulch, it said.

Schuylkill Haven-based Spotts Brothers, Inc., was awarded a $55,885 contract May 28 to complete masonry repairs and replace metal edges at the prison minimum offenders building on Reichard Street in Wilkes-Barre, a county website posting said.

The expense will be covered by a countywide emergency building allocation in the capital budget, the contract said.

Panzitta Enterprises, of Wilkes-Barre, has expanded its contract to perform additional work at the prison on Water Street in Wilkes-Barre. The company had been hired last year for $295,000 to replace control panels. A $246,953 change order the administration approved last month will cover the purchase and installation of four new security doors on the third floor, bringing the total contract amount to $541,953.

According to contract paperwork, the change order was necessary because the low-bidder pulled its bid before the contract was awarded. Council had provided capital funds for the work to improve prison security.

The county is seeking bids for improvements at several county-owned parking lots, although it’s still unclear if enough funding is available to complete all of the work.

Council last year had provided $200,000 in the capital budget for parking lot repairs at multiple locations, or only half of county Manager C. David Pedri’s request. Some council members encouraged more in-house repairs, but Pedri had said that may not be possible due to road and bridge staff downsizing.

In his new proposed capital budget, Pedri again asked for the additional $200,000, saying the funds were necessary for parking lot stormwater drainage improvements. Council has until Sept. 1 to remove, alter or add capital budget allocations.

The pending bid request would cover varied work on parking lots tied to several county properties in Wilkes-Barre — the courthouse annex, human services building, central court, Emergency Management Agency and Bernard C. Brominski Building, it said. Bids are due June 27.

Separate from the $200,000 allocation, another $150,000 had been set aside to repair lots at the human services building on Pennsylvania Avenue, the capital budget said.

County Engineer Lawrence Plesh said all lots have been assessed, and the work needed ranges from patching and sealing to base repairs.

WILKES-BARRE — Out under a hot sun on Friday afternoon, a group of volunteers were busy scraping away the last of a pitcher’s mound in Coal Street Park.

Why? Well, that pitcher’s mound will get in the way of the Heights Junior Grenadiers, a junior football and cheer team looking to call that field home.

The work is being led by Jahleel Owens, 27, and Fatieem Grady, 32, both of Wilkes-Barre. Owens is the head coach of the football team, while Grady is the president of the organization.

According to Owens and Grady, the Grenadiers had previously used the football field used by Wilkes-Barre Area School District schools. Due to the upcoming consolidation of the district’s high schools, however, the Grenadiers have been left looking for a new home.

Grady said he went to City Hall “about eight times,” repeatedly asking if the Grenadiers would be able to use one of the baseball fields at Coal Street Park as their home field. Seven times, Grady was sent home empty-handed.

On any day the weather allows, Owens, Grady, and other parents of team members — along with some of the young players themselves — head out into the field and start digging.

Owens says it’s important that the field be finished, because the football team represents two things: a way to get kids off the streets, and a way to get them off their phones.

It’s easy for Owens to relate to the kids, he said, as he said he had a troubled past, and he doesn’t want the young members of the team to go down a similar road.

But besides keeping kids out of trouble, Owens said he’s just as worried about the role tech plays in making kids unhealthy.

“Technology is taking over the world,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with playing a video game, but when you know the game better than you know your school work, that’s a problem.”

That, Owens says, is where the Grenadiers step in: the team is all about teaching the members on how to be active and the social skills to work together as a team.

Owens doesn’t have any children on the team, but that doesn’t stop him from taking on an almost fatherly role: “I love these kids,” he said. There’s about 140 of them, between the football and cheer teams.

For Grady, though, it’s a family affair. His 7-year-old son, also named Fatieem, is on the football team, while his daughters, Samiyah, 9, Asyah, 12, and Indiyah, 14, all cheer for the team. Young Fatieem was diligently digging away at the pitcher’s mound while his father spoke with a reporter.

Grady has been involved with the team for the past three years, and recently took over as the organization’s president. He said he’ll definitely be around until the youngest of his children ages out of the team, and probably even after that.

Owens said the Grenadiers need to have the field finished by July 8, the start of the season. He said without outside help, they might not be able to make that deadline.

Grady said the team has approached numerous groups asking if they would be interested in donating either time or money into help renovate the field, and, so far, no one has agreed to help. So, for now, it’s just the parents of the kids on the team who are in the field.

But Owens and Grady seem hopeful. They said the team went 8-0 last year, even winning its championship. And they think their talents can only get better if they had a field to call their own.

“We got kids who are really good at football,” Grady said. “Imagine if they had their own field? They’d be even better.”

Anyone looking to get in contact with the team, either to volunteer to help with the field or to get their children involved with the team, should do so through the group’s Facebook page, which can be found by searching “Heights Jr Grenadiers Football & Cheer” on Facebook.

In fact, visitors didn’t even have to enter the library to find their favorite books as the 43rd annual Friends of the Osterhout Library Book Sale got underway with a host of books available outdoors under a large white tent.

“I couldn’t even estimate,” the sale’s co-chairman, Diane Krokos, said when asked how many books are available. “If you have ever seen the basement (of the library) where we sort books … we call it the dungeon.

Friends of the Osterhout Library was formed in 1972 to help restore the library after the Agnes Flood. It eventually decided on holding an annual book sale as its premiere fundraiser to aid the library.

Krokos’ co-chair for the annual, Irene Martin, told a a meeting of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association last week that it takes more than 1,200 man hours to pull off the event.

The books sell for $1 for paperbacks and $3 for hardcovers, and the tent was teeming with customers carrying book-filled baskets.

”We have a wonderful selection, and we keep bringing up new books (out) as people are buying.” Krokos said. “We also have a large selection of children books this year, more than we ever had.

Last year, the event raised $26,000, and Krokos said this year’s goal is to top that number. The event seemed to be well on its way to meeting that goal with more than 450 people going passing through the tent in the first few hours of the sale, according to Krokos.

Carin Pientka, of Wilkes-Barre, was one of those browsing through the books Saturday, looking for a deal or two.

Shoppers such as Pientka give the library one extra benefit of which the organizers may not be aware.

The sale runs through Saturday, June 22. After that, readers can find books for sale in the Friends of the Osterhout Book Shop on the third floor of the library.

Since that day, I have not been able to call him 5 times a day like I used to. Nor have I been able to sit down with him and talk about anything at all. Nor have I been able to sit and watch a Yankees game with him, or a Notre Dame game, or a Knicks game or a New York football Giants game.

There are many things I’ve not been able to do with my dad since that dreadful day in 1995. But one thing is for sure, I have never had a day when I haven’t talked about him, thought about him or tried to live my life like him.

So on this day — the 24th fatherless Father’s Day for me — I choose to recall things my dad and I did together.

Sitting on the couch next to my dad watching hundreds of sporting events — most notably Yankee doubleheaders sponsored by Ballentine Beer and hearing announcer Mel Allen say, “How about that!”

Riding shotgun when my dad drove me to baseball practice and basketball practice and home again. Of course he sat and watched me the entire time I was practicing or playing.

Taking a tentative bite out of his sardine sandwich, with raw onion, butter, salt and pepper and remembering how good it was.

Chomping on the pepperoni we would share — dad would add Middleswarth potato chips and a beer. I ate the chips with a Glen Bottling Company lime soda.

Sitting across from him at Handley’s Diner on South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre — ham, mashed potatoes, corn and coleslaw always — before we went to visit mom in the Wyoming Valley Hospital.

Traveling to Philadelphia when Mom was at Hahnemann Hospital and eating at Horn & Hardart restaurant next door — again we had the ham dinner special.

Traveling to New York for many weekend series at Yankee Stadium — and watching Mickey Mantle chase baseballs around the monuments that were in centerfield.

And traveling to Philadelphia to watch the Phillies and seeing Willie Mays and Willie McCovey of the Giants, Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews of the Braves and Johnny Callison, Don Demeter, Cookie Rojas, Poncho Herrera, Jim Bunning and many more Phillies.

Being at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates and the Giants and seeing Roberto Clemente chase down a ball in the rightfield corner and rifling a throw to third base to nail a runner.

Sitting in Yankee Stadium in October 1964, and watching Ken Boyer of the Cardinals hit a grand slam right past us into the leftfield bleachers.

Traveling to Pittsburgh in 1959 to watch the Plymouth Little League team lose a heartbreaker, missing out on a trip to Williamsport. Joey Pechulis and John Galazin were the pitchers, Diddy Adams was the catcher, Jesse Hobbs, Eddie and Frank Harry, Ronnie Dopko, Ed Stabulis, Fred and Dave Rowlands, Petey Savage, Ricky Williams, Tom Oldfield and Ron Heidel — great team.

Waiting almost every day to hear the Plymouth Valiant backing up Reynolds Street after work. Dad would usually wait in the car to take me somewhere.

Sitting at the kitchen table as mom served us a home-cooked meal every night and my dad always thanking her for making such a delicious meal.

Watching TV westerns, his favorites, as dad would duck punches thrown by the likes of Ben Cartwright, James Arness and Audie Murphy.

Observing dad at ceremonies honoring veterans — he never missed any. He knew what it meant to serve your country and he also new that those who gave their lives should never be forgotten.

Being called down to Bobby Novak’s cafe for some homemade buttermilk and fried scrapple. Delicious!

Also being at Bob’s when Johnny Mazur and Johnny Blanchard visited. Mazur was a Plymouth QB who starred at Notre Dame and coached in the NFL. Blanchard played for the Yankees — he served in the Army with Bobby Novak.

Being at Plymouth Little League — dad was a co-founder — and observing how he loved baseball and he loved to help kids.

That’s what today is — a day of remembrance and a day for celebration of all the fathers — those gone and those still with us. My dad is always with me.

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

Brenden Jesse points to teachers sitting stage-side after receiving his diploma Friday night during Dallas High School’s commencement ceremony at Mountaineer Stadium. For more photos from graduations across Luzerne County, see an upcoming special section later this month.

Dallas High School senior Leah Clarke, front right, is excited for the start of the 2019 graduation ceremony. She is one of 198 graduates in this year’s class.

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