The next phase of streetscaping on South Main Street is moving forward.
A traffic light will be installed at the corner of South Main and Market streets and the city’s Redevelopment Authority has applied for three transportation grants to help fund the beautification project, said Joe Moskovitz at City Council’s monthly meeting Wednesday night.
Council approved an easement between the city and the Greater Pittston Regional Ambulance Association for an area to construct the light and box.
Council also agreed to pay Reilly and Associates $34,050 for engineering services for the streetscaping. “This is to keep this project moving and shovel ready,” Moskovitz said.
Streetscaping is a plan is to fix up the downtown business district with brick crosswalks, period lighting and new sidewalks and curbs. The area on Main Street, from the Fort Jenkins Bridge to Market Street, has already been completed. The next phase, Phase III, will refurbish the two-block area between Columbus Avenue and Market Street.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture loan, up to $1 million, has already been approved. The cost of the project is $1.2 million, but the city has applied for grants to help with the cost.
Moskovitz said the city is expected to pay 30 percent of the project and the state the remaining 70 percent.
Council moved to prepare documentation to make the project “shovel ready” and such projects are often looked upon favorably by state officials awarding grants.
The streetscaping program and growth in new businesses are the primary reasons many say Pittston is undergoing a renaissance.
Merchants in that lower end of town have been upset because the project started on the other side of town on North Main Street, despite some of the oldest businesses being on South Main. Longtime merchants include Sabatelle’s Italian Market and The Gramercy Restaurant and Ballroom.
Also Wednesday, City Controller Chris Latona, 85, was honored for his service to the city.
“We’re proud to have him here with us,” said Councilman Michael Lombardo. “We’re proud to serve with him. We’re recognizing him tonight for his efforts and his service in the past two and a half decades.”
Latona, who served for 24 years is the final city controller because the position will be eliminated after his final term is up, under the city’s Home Rule measure passed in 2012.
Latona was presented with a proclamation from the state House and the state Senate.
Latona, a 1947 graduate of Pittston High School, was employed as a field investigator for the Luzerne County Assessor’s Office for 29 years. He was elected controller in 1990.
“The privilege was all mine,” Latona said. “I wish I could stay another 24.”
In other news:
• With regret, council accepted the resignation of James Bannon, 96, a longtime member of the city’s Planning Commission.
“Mr. Bannon had to resign because of a fall over the winter,” Moskovitz said. “If not for the fall, I’m sure Mr. Bannon would still be serving.”
• Council was notified Duryea and Jenkins Township wish to participate in the Land Bank Program the city plans to start. New land bank legislation passed recently by the state allows city governments to create an authority that can help bring dilapidated, blighted and foreclosed properties back on the tax rolls.
• The 2014 Second Friday Art Walk series will begin for the season on May 9.