Diamonds to Luzerne County Administrator C. David Pedri and staff for securing contract work for restoration of the county courthouse interior. Additional kudos for a contract that enforces a tight timeline by fining the contractor $250 for every day work exceeding a March 9 deadline. Yes, $2.1 million is a lot of money, but the building is priceless, a true gem not only for this area but for the state. Too many architectural treasures in our area have been lost due to deferred maintenance and an unwillingness to spend the money. This is one case where the treasure should not be lost.
Coal to one tidbit in the saga of courthouse restoration: A contract that took effect before the public knew. This is far more common in local government than casual observers may realize. Emergency work may require hiring someone before a public meeting of the council, supervisors or school board charged with overseeing things. Or a government entity authorizes administrators to negotiate and sign a contract “upon review” by the solicitor. When the governing body is filled with part-time positions, as with County Council, school boards and most municipal councils, these workarounds are often necessary to get things done between meetings. That doesn’t make them always palatable, and the more such situations are avoided, the better.
Diamonds to John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” for putting our area on the national map with an enormous, and enormously amusing, three-level model train layout depicting Scranton (and nearby) landmarks. Oliver had poked fun at the passionate comments, pro and con, on WNEP-TV’s Talkback segment regarding the G-scale train behind weather forecasters on the news. That prompted more Talkback grumbling about Oliver picking on our region, so he unveiled a rotating train layout with detailed models of things like the Electric City sign, the former train station-turned hotel, and the Nicholson Viaduct. Yes, it can be taken as poking fun at our area without being here, and if you want to get angry that’s fine, but the layout was impressive in details, and we’re pretty sure we can claim Oliver has, so far, never unveiled a model train layout for any other area — much less genuinely offered it as a gift.
Coal to Harrisburg lawmakers for what, frankly, is morphing from embarrassment to idiocy. As promised at what now seems a long time ago, this space has taken the state politicians to task every week they fail to resolve this year’s budget battle. Both House and Senate are Republican controlled, yet they came up with different plans to cover a $2 billion shortfall in the spending plan they passed June 30. Meanwhile, the state teeters on the brink of an immediate cash shortfall that could leave bills unpaid. Voters would do well to remember this epic fail when senators and representatives start asking for re-election. Few of us get to go to work for months without accomplishing our most basic job responsibilities on time. Why should they?