WILKES-BARRE — A county judge said Friday that the owner of Russell’s Hauling in West Wyoming has 10 days to clean up the property or he could face additional fines or even jail time.
At a hearing Friday the borough requested Joseph Russell be held in contempt for violating Luzerne County Judge Michael Vough’s cease-and-desist order of his hauling company in early August. Russell was found not to have proper zoning or licensing to operate the business.
The borough said in court papers this month that despite Vough’s order, Russell continued to operate his business.
A hearing Friday began with testimony from a West Wyoming police officer, but then was put on hold while attorneys discussed issues.
About an hour and a half later, Vough emerged from his chambers and said the borough and Russell’s attorney, Erik Dingle, came to an agreement.
“You agree you did violate … the order?” Vough asked Russell.
“Yes, sir,” Russell replied.
Russell has 10 days to clean up the business at 12 Apollo Drive, Vough said.
If Russell does not clean and clear his property at the end of 10 days, he’ll have to pay $1,300 to the borough and a $200 fine for every day thereafter that he is still on the property, the judge said.
“The next step is prison,” Vough told Russell. “Do you understand that?”
“Yes, sir,” Russell said.
The borough, through its solicitor Linell Lukesh, alleged Russell continued to operate his business at a neighboring auto dealer to the Apollo Drive business, and that the borough continues to receive complaints from neighbors regarding noise.
Russell told The Times Leader last week that he has not been operating his business and had been asked by the owner of VP Auto Parts, located next door, to operate and manage a salvage yard there.
Russell also said his hauling business is in the process of opening an office in the borough of Wyoming. “I have to work and support my family,” Russell told the newspaper. “Working for (VP Auto Parts) allows me to do that. I’m just trying to make a living. Am I not allowed to work at any other business?”
Between April 2012 and the present, the borough originally argued, nearby property owners have experienced “detrimental living conditions” due to noise, smells, smoke and other violations coming from Russell’s Hauling Co.
Russell testified previously he had not received violations from the state Department of Environmental Protection or any similar agency.
Russell’s Hauling opened in February 2012 and sought zoning for a special exception to operate a multi-use recycling and junkyard at the 12 Apollo Drive business. That request was later denied, and Russell appealed that decision, but no followup hearing was ever scheduled.