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CMYK SAVE $710.42 INSIDE 25 $ Meyers boys win District 2 basketball championship SPORTS, 1C VOUCHER FOR ONLY 12 $ 742746 with coupons The Times Leader WILKES-BARRE, PA SUNDAY, MARCH 4, 2012 $1.50 M O O N L A K E PA R K County ponders ideas for park WILKES-BARRE DEBT CITY? DISSECTING DEBT What current WB debt bought (in millions) Streetlights $2.91 Other $4.63 Unfunded debt (prior admin.) $3.93 Some bonds were for two projects Intermodal $4.66 Other: Street paving $1.9 Park & Lock North refinance $1.68 Flood recovery (2007) $0.9 Sewer Project (2006) $0.15 Starting next week, park will be closed weekdays for lack of funds. 1 Coal St. Park By JENNIFER LEARN-ANDES Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton said employees are exploring “creative solutions” to restore daily public access to county-owned Moon Lake Park by the time park usage typically picks up in April. “I’m talking to departments who are involved looking for ways to be imaginative in how we respond to this to avoid restriction of access to this resource by residents,” Lawton said. The solution won’t involve additional county funding because the county is on a tight budget, he said. “I don’t anticipate taking county dollars out of another program and moving it into Moon Lake, but we’ll look at other ways to open Pension fund $27.49 Coal St. $6.73 GEOR GE AV E. SCOT T ST . N. WAS HIN GTO N ST . Refinanced debt $12.56 N. N. MA IN WA ST. SH INGT ON ST. Bonds for both $11.76 GO RD ON AVE. AV E. ST. ON INGT ASH S. W NIA LVA NSY PEN HO RTO N ST . T ST. SCOT 309 . VD E BL RR BA KESWIL E. AV PARK 4 CO AL 2 Streetlights ST. 3 HIGH . E ST PIR EM ST. ON MPT HA ORT E. N BLAC KM AN KIDDER ST. Coal Street Park E. AV ST. CA REY ST. ST. ST. ST. 1 ST. KLIN AN S. FR AIN S. M ST. Public Square VD. E BL BARR KESWIL R ST. KIDDE ET ARK S. M . R ST RIVE N PTO AM RTH NO W. AVE. CAREY WILKES-BARRE R VE A RI NN HA UE SQ SU S. AC ADE MY ST. RTH NO Kirby Park RIVE RSID E DR . 309 . R ST RIVE N. TLER BU 2 Nesbitt Park ST. HAZL E ST . STAN TON ST. 3 Coal Street 4 Intermodal Hub Source: Mayor’s office WILKES-BARRE – Should a former candidate for city concity residents be concerned troller, questioned the city’s about debt that now stands at debt. She puts the mark at $100 million, which includes the $74.7 million plus interest? Mayor Thomas Leighton principal plus future interest. says no. The three-term mayor City’s credit rating contends the city is on Standard & Poor’s the best financial footRating Services, the ing in years and has a international comparosy future, thanks to ny that rates the credimprovements he’s it worthiness of muspearheaded that will nicipalities and corpay for themselves. porations, has renewBut financial experts ed the city’s “A” are wary of the debt and “It’s aprating. An S&P anathe city’s ability to pay propriate lyst said that may it down. sound good to layAnalysts point to sev- for a mumen, but the rating is eral areas of concern: below average. • A declining popula- nicipality Le Quach, an assotion, much of which is to borrow ciate director at S&P, elderly. said an average or • Unemployment for infrasmid-level S&P rating higher than national av- tructure would be A+. Higher erages. improveratings are “AA” and • A declining tax ments.” “AAA,” she said. base. Quach helped pre• A high poverty levMayor Tom pare a recent S&P reel. Leighton port on the city’s fiMounting debt has nances. become a problem in “The tax base apLuzerne County. The county being more than $400 pears to be relatively stable,” million in debt is forcing coun- Quach said. “The city has ty council to allocate a signifi- strong reserves built up.” S&P also notes in its report cant portion of the county budget to debt repayments, which that these strengths are partialwas one of the primary reasons ly offset by: • A limited local economy for recent layoffs. At a City Council meeting with low wealth and income inlast month, Karen Ceppa Hir- dicators. • Moderate-to-high overall ko, an accountant by trade and INSIDE Robert Lawton Luzerne County Manager this facility to the public,” Lawton said. Starting next week, the Plymouth Township park will be closed on weekdays because the county security department lost six employees to recent budget cuts, county Security Chief John Robshaw confirmed last week. See MOON LAKE, Page 6A Photos by Amy Dilger Graphic by Mark Guydish/The Times Leader Mayor says being $74M in the red not a problem By BILL O’BOYLE “I don’t anticipate taking county dollars out of another program and moving it into Moon Lake, but we’ll look at other ways to open this facility to the public.” A NEWS Local 3A Nation & World 5A Obituaries 2A, 8A WILKES-BARRE CITY’S $74,650,344 DEBT Situation a concern, Hirko says By BILL O’BOYLE debt levels. • A steady decrease in overall population in the past two decades. • A low level of median household purchasing income. • Recent reductions in city reserves. The city has drawn from WILKES-BARRE – Karen Ceppa Hirko believes the city’s financial situation is “dangerous, almost untenable.” Hirko, an accountant and former candidate for city controller, said the city’s debt – some $74.7 million – is cause for concern, and she is worried that taxpayers will one day be forced to foot the Hirko bill for even more. “With the economy and the way people are moving out of the city of Wilkes-Barre, where does the mayor think he is going to get this money when it comes time to pay?” Hirko asked. “He has bonds due in May, and instead of paying them, he is refinancing them. We are refinancing for a lower rate to make lower payments when we should be looking at paying down our debt, not adding or keeping it longer.” Hirko said if just one of the tenant deals at Coal See DEBT, Page 12A See CONCERN, Page 12A This shows when money was borrowed during Mayor Tom Leighton’s tenure, and how much is still owed from each year. Year borrowed Amount still owed 2012 $7,000,000 2011 $9,560,000 2010 $14,890,890 2008 $8,720,000* 2006 $3,064,454 2005 $27,485,000** 2004 $3,930,000 *Includes $3,435,000 remaining on refinanced debt first incurred in 2002 **Refinanced debt first incurred in 1998 Mark Guydish/The Times Leader The boss New Springsteen song debated Etc, 1F B PEOPLE Birthdays C SPORTS Outdoors 8B 10C D BUSINESS Motley Fool E VIEWS Editorial AP PHOTO Melody Zollman finds a stuffed bear amid the rubble of her home in Henryville, Ind., Saturday. Towns demolished, 38 dead from storms Violent weather hit at least a dozen states from Georgia to Illinois. survive. A couple that fled their home for the safety of a restaurant basement made it, even after the storms threw a school bus into their makeshift shelBy ROGER ALFORD ter. and JIM SUHR Saturday was a day filled Associated Press with such stories, told as officials WEST LIBERTY, Ky. — emergency Across the South and Mid- trudged with search dogs west, survivors emerged past knocked-down cellphone towers and Saturday to find ruined homes lookblue sky and splinters where The spate of ing for survivors in rural Kentucky and homes once storms was Indiana, marking stood, cars flung the second searched roads and into buildings in little more homes with orange and communicapaint. President Bations crippled af- than 48 rack Obama offered ter dozens of tor- hours. federal assistance, nadoes chainand Ohio Gov. John sawed through a region of millions, leveling Kasich declared an emersmall towns along the way. gency Saturday. The worst damage apAt least 38 people were killed in five states, but a 2- peared centered in the year-old girl was somehow small towns of southern Infound alive and alone in a diana and eastern Kenfield near her Indiana home. Her family did not See STORMS, Page 12A 4D 2E F ETC. Puzzles Books G CLASSIFIED 2F 5F 6 09815 10077

Times Leader 03-04-2012

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