WILKES-BARRE - City Council on Thursday agreed to loan yet another $20,000 to the Wilkes-Barre Redevelopment Authority with the expectation of recouping the money from sales of properties it owns.
The authority created to spur redevelopment in the city operates independently of it, but has relied on it for money to operate.
The loan mirrored one made two years ago for insurance and legal expenses, said Marie McCormick, city administrator.
“No, the previous one had not been paid,” McCormick said in response to a question from Frank Sorick of the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association.
“What we have done in the past, we have a mortgage against the redevelopment authority,” McCormick explained at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting. “We are hopeful that, given this loan, that we will be able to take possession of some of those bigger parcels.”
Council Chairman Bill Barrett said the city can place a lien on the properties to recover its money and discussed the outstanding loan before agreeing to the latest one. “We are aware of that concern as well,” he said.
The new loan has no interest and a payment deadline of Dec. 31, 2016.
Council approved spending money for business and pleasure as well, including: $25,000 for a mobile band shell from Fun Stuff Inc. of Olyphant to replace the one damaged last summer in a storm; $17,385 to Borton Lawson Engineering Architecture of Plains Township for Phase V of the Public Square Streetscape Project; and $634,030 for the purchase of five 2014 single-axle dump trucks from Triple Cities Mack of Scranton.
Insurance will cover the cost of the band shell, and Liquid Fuels tax funds will pay for the trucks.
As has been the case at nearly every meeting since last summer, the contract with LAG Towing Inc. was discussed, but without the friction between councilman Tony George and Mayor Tom Leighton. The mayor was out of town and did not attend the meeting.
George said council acted on his request that the mayor begin the due process hearing to terminate the contract based on complaints and allegations of price gouging. “It now lies in the mayor’s lap,” he said.
Sorick questioned why council hasn’t set rates for the towing contract.
“Council has the power to set legislation and the towing contractor would have to follow it,” Sorick said.
Barrett replied that last year council passed a towing ordinance that, among other things, capped rates. But at the request of the administration, council suspended the ordinance.
“It is one of the few things that council can do to regulate this industry,” Barrett said of the ordinance.
The way the ordinance was written prevented Bob Kadluboski, who had the towing contract before LAG, from doing business because he couldn’t comply with the requirements, Kadluboski said.
Kadluboski repeated a comment he’s made before, saying he didn’t blame Leo Glodzik III of LAG for what’s going on. “I blame the administration, ” he said.