Warehouse wages discussed at Luzerne County Council meeting

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Luzerne County Courthouse -

The topic of distribution center wages came up during last week’s Luzerne County Council meeting before a tax break was approved for Missouri-based NorthPoint Development’s third project on a 150-acre tract in Hanover Township.

NorthPoint’s first project in the township attracted Chewy.com, Adidas and Patagonia Inc., and the second site in the township and Nanticoke will house three buildings, including one that is 1.2 million to 1.4 million square feet. In the latest project approved for a break, the company plans three structures totaling 1.375 million square feet along Dundee Road.

Councilman Stephen A. Urban said he does not want to provide tax incentives to attract “low-skill, low-wage” jobs. Urban works in a Hazle Township warehouse and said such facilities have few positions requiring college degrees and often bring in existing employees from outside the area to fill top management jobs.

NorthPoint representative Brent Miles said he verified through five independent hiring websites last week that jobs at Chewy.com were starting at $14 per hour, which does not include overtime. There are typically nine applicants for each open position at the facility, which he takes as evidence that there is a large pool of local job seekers earning less elsewhere.

The company also offers benefits and tuition reimbursement, he said.

Miles acknowledged top managers often come from a company’s other sites but said these newcomers relocate here and support the local economy.

Councilwoman Jane Walsh Waitkus said many area residents won’t attend college.

“If this can provide work to them, I’m all for it,” she said.

Boards/authorities

Council appointed the following citizens to unpaid seats on outside boards last week:

• Children and Youth Advisory Board — Gene Camoni, Dr. Robert Childs, Mary Agnes Kratz and Charlene Aben

• Housing Authority — Robert Sax

• Mental Health and Developmental Services Advisory Board — Linda Armstrong and Craig Mark

Infrastructure repairs

The county administration is close to finalizing a list of infrastructure projects that will be covered by $15 million in county community development business development loan funds, county Manager C. David Pedri told council last week.

The federal government granted permission for the county to provide infrastructure awards to municipalities, primarily in low- and moderate-income areas, because the loan fund is no longer in high demand, officials have said.

Urban asked Pedri if he was going to present the list to council members for their approval, saying he believes they should have a say as the elected officials. Prior commissioners — the elected officials ultimately responsible for the federal funds — would have voted on such a matter before the county’s 2012 switch to a customized home rule government structure, Urban said.

Pedri said a committee selected the projects, and he was not planning to seek council approval. However, he said he will await an opinion from the county solicitor’s office.

”If the solicitor’s office tells me otherwise, I’ll come to council with it,” Pedri said.

Audit update

An overdue county Children and Youth audit has been completed, county Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz told council.

The lateness of the agency’s audit prevented the county from meeting a June 30 countywide audit deadline.

Financial investors expect an audit by Sept. 30. Delays could negatively impact the interest rates on future borrowing/refinancing and the county’s credit rating, Swetz said.

Swetz told council he is optimistic the audit will be ready by council’s Sept. 25 meeting.

911 litigation

Council voted last week to hire the Joyce, Carmody & Moran law firm to handle litigation seeking recovery of 911 fees allegedly not billed, collected and/or turned over by telecommunication providers.

The county would not pay for the litigation but must share a portion of the recovery with attorneys if the action is successful, officials said. Under the approved agreement, the law firm would recoup its costs if there is a successful recovery, but attorney’s fees would be capped at 30 percent of that recovery plus litigation expenses.

Luzerne County Courthouse
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_luzernecountycourthouse.jpeg-2.jpgLuzerne County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.