WILKES-BARRE — After speakers offered opposing views on sponsoring applications for $6.5 million in state funds for King’s College projects, council agreed to submit the paperwork Wednesday.
The vote in favor of each of the three resolutions was 4-1 with councilwoman Beth Gilbert casting the lone “no” votes.
“I applaud King’s College for saving three historic landmark structures in the city,” council chairman Tony Brooks said. “We need to save our history in Wilkes-Barre. So I vote ‘yes.’”
Council voted unanimously in favor of the other resolutions and ordinances that were on the agenda for Wednesday night’s public meeting.
Gilbert gave advance notice of her opposition in a post on her council Facebook page, saying she would rather see money allocated to clean the streets and fix the roads.
“It seems we allocate more money to give non-profits a break, but we do not do anything to help ease the burden on the residents of our city. This is a backwards model and not a sustainable model for a city to thrive,” Gilbert said.
The city is not directing any general fund money from its $49.4 million balanced budget this year to the school projects. To the contrary, the school is contributing its own money, going above the minimum 50 percent match required by the state for the proposed projects worth approximately $18 million.
King’s is asking for a $3 million Multimodal Transportation Fund grant for a $4.5 million neighborhood improvement project in the area of West North and North Franklin streets. The school also is seeking separate Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grants: $1.5 million for an $8 million project to expand its Allied Health programs in the former Times Leader building on North Main Street, and $2 million for the $6.5 million renovation of the former Springbrook Water Co. building on North Franklin Street for the engineering program.
Linda Joseph, president of the Rolling Mill Hill Residents’ Association, supported the city’s sponsorship of the applications and said King’s and Wilkes University have done much to change the city for the better.
“Whether others want to admit it or not, Wilkes and King’s are drastically improving a vital part of our city,” Joseph said.
Wico van Genderen, president and CEO of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, and Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, joined Joseph in support of the sponsorship.
Taft Street resident Jim Burden told council to put the money for King’s toward the city’s streets. “They already get enough money from the city,” he said.
John Suchoski asked council to table the vote and renegotiate the contributions King’s gives the city in lieu of taxes. It’s budgeted to contribute $100,000 this year as a payment in place of taxes.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.