Last updated: January 15. 2014 11:22PM - 1517 Views
JOE HEALEY jhealey@civitasmedia.com

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PITTSTON – City Hall renovations could begin in 90 days.

A $1.2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan will pay for an elevator attached to the rear stairwell that will make the building handicapped accessible.

Council on Wednesday night at its monthly meeting approved a $100,000 loan from FNCB to jump start the project and it will be paid back from the USDA funds.

Also planned is moving the police department to the basement of City Hall, the former home of the Pittston Memorial Library now being used for storage. The department will go from 790 square feet to about 2,500 square feet.

The terms of the $1,263,700 Community Facility Direct Loan allow for a 40-year repayment at 3.125 percent interest. The loan is being made available by the Rural Development sector of the USDA.

City Hall was dedicated in 1940 and had some renovations done in the 1970s.

City Administrator Joe Moskovitz said a Land Bank Summit informational meeting was held on Monday night in Pittston.

New land bank legislation passed last year by the state allows city governments to create an authority that can help bring dilapidated, blighted and foreclosed properties back on the tax rolls. Officials from Duryea and Jenkins Township attended, in addition to local bankers, developers, Realtors and public officials.

If enacted, the land bank would be part of the city’s Neighborhood Housing Initiative. It allows the entity to acquire blighted property at a tax sale and forgive liens in agreement with all the taxing bodies. It would then either demolish them or sell them to a developer to get the properties back on the tax rolls as soon as possible.

Liz Hersh of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania and John Kromer of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania gave presentations.

In other business, council changed life insurance plans for staff and elected officials. Baltimore Life Companies was awarded the contract, replacing Standard Insurance Co.

Moskovitz said life insurance is mandated through the city’s collective bargaining agreements. He said city will see a 40 percent reduction in premiums, or about $15,000 in savings. Each employee and official has a $50,000 life insurance policy through the city.

In other news:

Councilman Michael Lombardo said the Greater Pittston St. Patrick’s Parade is on for March 8, but the planned Irish Festival that day will not occur. He said it is the first year for the event, and rather than be too spread out, the city will focus on just the parade for the first year. A festival might be added in future years.

The city will celebrate the 96th anniversary of Lithuanian Independence Day with a ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 14 at City Hall in the first-floor conference room. After the ceremony, the Lithuanian flag will be raised outside.

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