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VOICE

Thursday, September 15, 2011

THE CITIZENS’

COVERING THE GREATER WYOMING VALLEY

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LIFE IN PRISON

Convicted murderer Elvis Riccardi will spend rest of his days in jail. Page 12

HANDS

OFF West Nanticoke residents say scrap collectors are stealing from flood victims. Page 2

PLUS: FLOODING CANCELS BLOOMSBURG FAIR. PAGE 6 © 2011 The Citizens’ Voice

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

2 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

AFTERMATH // ON GUARD

Home defense

Residents in flood-battered West Nanticoke take up arms to protect property By Bob Kalinowski Staff Writer PLYMOUTH TWP. — When Art Parsons caught looters prowling around his neighbor’s West Poplar Street home the other day, he pulled his rifle and threatened to shoot. “I pointed it right at them,” Parsons, 73, recalled Wednesday. “I don’t give a (expletive). I sure as hell ain’t gonna let them take advantage of my friend. I said, ‘I’ll shoot you in the leg.’” The looters Parsons spotted on the porch of his neighbor’s flood-battered home in West Nanticoke fled empty-handed and unharmed, but many residents here say bandits are raiding their belongings before they can assess what can be salvaged. Edwina Lyons issued a stern warning to the looters, spray painted on a white cabinet amid the debris outside her East Poplar Street home: “Looters will be shot. Scrap men go away.” The 65-year-old said metal items on her porch were stolen by the “packs” of scavengers canvassing the streets of her neighborhood, which was devastated by the record flood. They’re taking everything metal, from crumpled aluminum to refrigerators, residents say. “They’re not coming to help. They are coming to benefit themselves,” Lyons said. “I’m a generous person, but there’s nothing worse than stealing from me.” Neighbors say it has added insult to injury to watch people pick through their ruined possessions, as they try to clean and salvage what they can. “It’s just disheartening,” Lyons said. Lt. Richard Krawetz, supervisor of the crime unit for state police at Wyoming, which patrols Plymouth Township, advised residents not to place any belongings they want to keep at the curbside.

BOB KALINOWSKI / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

“Anything taken that is put out on the curb line, that is not a crime. That’s earmarked for trash pickup,” Krawetz said. “If they come up on the lawn or porch, that’s a different story.” Krawetz warned residents not to engage suspected looters, but to get descriptions and call 911. Police cannot be on every street, but are patrolling the area and are poised to respond to complaints, he said. “Don’t approach anyone. Don’t interact with anyone,” Krawetz said. “That way no one gets hurt. Things can be replaced, but lives can’t.” Parsons isn’t giving any guarantee he will heed Krawetz’s advice. After he pulled the gun on the looters, he said “the cops came yakking at me.” Parsons said he warned the troopers that the next time the looters came back, he’d shoot them in the kneecaps. Following that exchange with troopers, Parsons said his son took his .308 Browning rifle from him, but he still has a .22-caliber rifle.

INSIDE TODAY’S VOICE (ISSN 1070-8626) USPS 450-590 The Citizens’ Voice is published daily by Times-Shamrock, 75 N. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711. Periodicals postage is paid at Wilkes-Barre, PA. Postmaster: Send address changes to The Citizens’ Voice, 75 N. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711. 1-year, Luzerne County, $130.

ON THE COVER: Art Parsons of West Poplar Street in West Nanticoke holds a .22-caliber rifle outside his residence Wednesday. (BOB KALINOWSKI / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE)

Edwina Lyons’ son spray painted a message to looters on the side of a cabinet outside her Plymouth Township residence.

SEE LOOTERS, NEXT PAGE

INDEX

Almanac 39 Advice 16 Birthdays 17 Business A9 Classifieds A11-B12 Comics 20-22 Editorial 14-15 Horoscope 16 National A1 Obituaries 24-27 Public Notices A11 Puzzles 21-22 Sports 28-40 Stocks A10 Television 16

BOB KALINOWSKI / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

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AFTERMATH // FINDING HELP

Recovery centers open

By Elizabeth Skrapits Staff Writer

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have set up a disaster relief center at Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke which will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. On Thursday the center will be open at LCCC’s Public Safety Training Institute on Prospect Street. Starting Friday the center will move to rooms 209-210 in LCCC’s Advanced Technology Center on Community Drive off Prospect Street.

ELIZABETH SKRAPITS / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

you, the faster we can determine how much assistance you qualify for,” Sweet said. “We encourage people to come see us.” Nicole Clark came to the center to ask about temporary housing, since the Lincoln Street, Mocanaqua house she lived in all her life received 6 feet of water on the first floor. The hardwood floors buckled, there’s mold already growing in the basement and she wants to get her things out of the second floor because there’s

nowhere to put them. “It’s horrible. It’s devastating. I can’t even stand to go there anymore,” Clark said. “We can’t stay there. It’s destroyed.” She said it’s even harder because she has two young daughters, ages 10 and 5, and it’s the only home they know. The 10-year-old told her, “Our house is ruined, Mommy.” Temporary housing is one of the services being offered, Sweet said. Other local, state and federal

resources will be represented as well. State agencies include the Department of Public Welfare, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Community and Economic Development and Pennsylvania Crisis Outreach. Cindy Vecchio said Pennsylvania CareerLink is helping people who lost their jobs in the flood look for meaningful employ-

Flood victims are asked to register with FEMA as soon as possible online at www.disasterassistance. gov or by calling 1-800621-FEMA. ment, as well as help with unemployment benefits, including for self-employed people. There will be a FEMA mitigation specialist to give tips on safe cleanup and how to rebuild your home stronger, Sweet said. Kimberly Warren of the state Department of Health said her department is also giving information about how to clean up safely, as well as

providing protective masks and gloves. Shawn Joubert stopped to pick up some of each on his way out, to clean up the remains of his Plymouth Township home after the “super disaster.” He’s still fighting his insurance company and the government for relief after the 2004 flood, but, he says, he’s a survivor. A representative from the Small Business Administration will be present to talk about two kinds of loans for business owners, one covering damages and the other covering economic injury caused by the closing of the business, Sweet said. Louis Pugh, whose appraisal business, Pugh Associates on Susquehanna Avenue in West Pittston had more than 6 feet of water on the first floor, came to the center to see about an SBA loan. But he was disappointed with the interest rates of 4 to 7 percent and said banks were offering loans for lower rates. Pugh also disagreed with the federal gover nment spending $3 billion a month in Afghanistan, suggesting some of that money be spent in the flood-damaged areas. “For $3 billion, we could fix all of West Pittston,” he said. eskrapits@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2072

FROM PREVIOUS PAGE Parsons lives on the dry side of West Poplar Street. He has been watching his neighbor’s home across the street, which was ravaged by floodwaters. The home already has a warning in the window in the form of a doormat with a pointed handgun that says, “NO TRESPASSING. You have the right to remain silent. FOREVER.” The displaced owners, Rich-

ard and Sharon Ostopowich, aren’t always there, leaving the home after long days of cleaning. But Parsons remains. “That’s my friend. I’m watching his house. He has enough headaches,” Parsons said, clutching his gun. “People set stuff out there and might want to go through it. Leave it the hell alone.” bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2055

Piles of flood-damaged household goods were stacked on East Poplar Street on Wednesday in the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Township. ELIZABETH SKRAPITS / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011 – 3

Looters: ‘No trespassing’

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

NANTICOKE — Now that floodwaters have receded, it’s time for recovery, and state and federal agencies are making representatives available to help residents hit by the region’s worst flooding since 1972. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency set up a disaster recovery center Wednesday at Luzer ne County Community College in Nanticoke, one of several throughout the region. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week to provide flood victims with information about state and federal resources and give them a chance to ask questions of FEMA representatives. The representatives are consolidated in one area so people have the opportunity to talk to them all in one place, FEMA Field Public Information Officer Mike Sweet said. Everyone affected by the flood is urged to register with FEMA as soon as possible. It can be done online at www.disasterassistance. gov or by calling 1-800-621FEMA, or people can come to the center to speak to FEMA representatives in person. “The faster we hear from

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

4 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

AFTERMATH // ONGOING CLEANUP

Stores’ future uncertain Floodwaters hit West Side Redner’s, Kmart hard

By Denise Allabaugh Staff Writer

EDWARDSVILLE — A stench fills Redner’s Warehouse Market in Mark Plaza, where floodwaters toppled coolers and shelves of food that are now covered in mud. Officials for Redner’s and Kmart, the anchor stores in the plaza, could not yet estimate the monetary amount of the massive damage. Crews have begun assessing the damage and cleaning up from last week’s flooding. It is too early to tell if the stores will reopen, they said. Other businesses in the flood-ravaged plaza also will remain closed indefinitely. Redner’s has flood gates which can protect the store until the Susquehanna River rises to 37 feet. The river rose to a record crest of 42.66 feet early Friday, however. “The shell of the building

WARREN RUDA / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

actually held up rather well, but everything inside the building is lost, not just the food, but all our equipment. All the computers and frontend registers were destroyed or contaminated,” said Doug Emore, Redner’s vice president of maintenance, construction and real estate. “Being in the food business, we certainly wouldn’t even attempt to put these back into use for the safety or our

clientele. Right now, safety is the biggest thing.” With the substantial damage, Emore said it’s difficult to say what the future holds for the Edwardsville store. “You would almost have to be foolish to reinvest maybe as much as $4 million to $5 million to get back in business only to have this happen again,” Emore said. “We are dealing with different agencies and insurance companies

so at this point, I’m not sure where that takes us.” Charlie Makarewicz, owner of Wyoming-based Yeshua the Carpenter, is leading the cleanup of Redner’s. He and his crew wore masks and hard hats as they began the massive task. They cannot turn power on in the store and they are using generators. Leading a tour of the store filled with spoiled food and broken glass, Makarewicz

said it was difficult to obtain Dumpsters since they’re now in high demand. Dealing with the smell is tough, he said. Water also poured over the flood gates at Kmart. Crews continued to assess damage there as well and it was difficult to determine when or if the store will reopen, spokeswoman Kim Freely said. “We have various professionals looking at the properties and assessing the damage,” said Jonathan Grisham, senior vice president and chief accounting officer for the plaza’s owner, Acadia Realty Trust, based in White Plains, N.Y. “We will not have a full understanding of what needs to be fixed until we assess the damage.” Other businesses in the flood-damaged plaza include Dollar General, That Bounce Place, Payless Shoes, Long John Silvers, Rent-A-Center and the Play Care Drop-in Center, which Diane and Shawn Cowman opened last month. Diane Cowman, a former medical assistant, said it was a dream for them to open the business and they spent about

10 years planning it. Their livelihood is now gone after flood waters poured into their business up to the ceiling. The Cowmans did not have flood insurance and Diane Cowman said she’d like to rebuild but does not know if it would be in the same location. “I don’t know if I can go through this again,” she said. One business owner who said he plans to rebuild is Larry Barnes, who owns That Bounce Place, a play center for children. Barnes removed seven of 10 bouncers from his family business, before flood waters poured in and caused more than $80,000 in damage. About $10,000 worth of food as well as party supplies, prizes and toys were among the items destroyed, he said. Birthday parties were canceled at the business for September. He and his fiancée, Nicole Wrobel, and employees were busy Wednesday cleaning up mud and removing everything in the business that was destroyed. “We’re going to bounce back,” Barnes said. dallabaugh@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2115

King’s, Wilkes students assist Brookside By Andrew Staub Staff Writer

WILKES-BARRE — Before sending his troops in for duty, David Lewis asked them to raise their arms and flex their biceps. More muscle arrived to the flood-damaged Brookside neighborhood Wednesday afternoon as the city’s building foreman led volunteers from King’s College and Wilkes University on debris removal missions. The city also set up a trailer on North Washington Street to help dozens of residents register for disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And when the job’s done in Wilkes-Barre, Mayor Tom Leighton said the city could shift its manpower to other more devastated communities, such as West Pittston and Shickshinny.

WARREN RUDA / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

“We take care of our own first,” Leighton said, “but as soon as we are confident that our residents have received the assistance that is needed, we are going to reach out to some of the other communities that were hit harder.” Wilkes-Barre officials, who have endured seven floods during Leighton’s tenure, could

answer administrative questions from other municipalities, city spokesman Drew McLaughlin said. The city’s full-time Department of Public Works, fire Police Department, could also offer manpower and equipment for smaller communities, Leighton said. “It’s one big valley, one big

community,” he said. If the city’s cleanup pace continues, the help could come soon. While Leighton said the trailer will remain near Brookside as long as necessary, he indicated the city has a “good grasp” on cleanup efforts. The King’s College and Wilkes University students helped expedite the recovery, filling garbage cans with debris and lugging furniture — and even an old bath tub — from damp basements. City personnel also set up four computers in its Public Health Preparedness Trailer, helping residents register for disaster aid to pay for home repairs. The city also supplied a list of licensed contractors that homeowners could hire. And while the city could make no promises, McLaughlin said officials were looking into finding revenue streams, such as

community development funds, to help residents pay for the up-front costs of repairs. Like most residents, John Gonska finished his FEMA registration in about 10 or 15 minutes, he said. Thankful for the help after flood waters overtook his basement and damaged a small recording studio at his home, Gonska had high praise for the city. “I couldn’t ask for more help fromthecity,”hesaid.“They’ve been terrific.” Shortly after, more King’s College students arrived to help. Leighton, an alumnus of the school, gave them a peprally speech and sent them to work. “That’s what makes this a great valley and a great city to live in — seeing neighbors come together during a time of need,” he said. astaub@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2052

Sterling will be inspected today

Wilkes-Barre has hired two engineers to inspect the Hotel Sterling today after water rushing under the Market Street flood gate entered the building last week, city officials said Wednesday. The city already had concerns about the 114-year-old downtown landmark after a York-based consulting firm recommended it be demolished, and Operations Director Butch Frati said the city wants to “err on the side of caution” and examine whether water contributed to further deterioration. “We just want to make sure — regardless of the outcome of the inspection — that we’ve done due diligence and at least checked it out,” Frati said. Frati estimated the city could pay up to $4,000 for the inspection, though he said he hoped the city would be reimbursed through disaster relief funds.


AFTERMATH // FEDERAL ASSISTANCE

Marino pursues aid

By Patrick Sweet and Michael R. Sisak Staff Writers

The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday that it was relocating and raising the stream gauge in WilkesBarre, which failed and left emergency responders in the dark during critical hours when the Susquehanna River reached its record-breaking crest. “That needed to be repaired yesterday,” Rep. Tom Marino, R-Lycoming Township, said during his visit with county on local officials on Wednesday. The stream gauge had an operational limit of roughly 38.5 feet, according to the agency, about 2.5 feet lower than the levee system. “In the future,” said Bob Hainly, assistant director of the USGS Pennsylvania Water Science Center, “we will do a better job of communicating the operating limits of our stream gauges located near Wilkes-Barre and across the Commonwealth to avoid this type of confusion.”

KRISTEN MULLEN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

influx of muddy water under the levee. “It becomes a problem when the water that percolates up outside the limits of the well and it’s murky, it looks like chocolate milk,” Gibbons said. “What you’ll see is something that looks like a homemade science experiment with a volcano, but it’ll be completely made of sand.” Workers piled 2,000 tons of rock to build a stabilizing berm along the affected sections of the levee, placing filter fabric and rock materials against the flood walls in an effort to negate heavy pressure created by the high river levels, Gibbons said. The design of the levee, and those sand boils, caused the ponding that occurred behind some sections of the levee — including the trouble spot in Forty Fort. The core of each earthen levee is a single, uniformed wedge of dense clay, Gibbons said. A 12- to 16-inch sand drain sits behind the clay, designed to “safely convey” water seeping through the clay layer to relief wells on the land side of the levee, Gibbons said. “That causes some interior flooding from psweet@citizensvoice.com, 570-763-9704, @CVPatSweet waterbuildup,butnomatterwhatyoucannever msisak@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2061, @CVMikeSisak

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011 – 5

Gibbons said. “It’s not like we’re in imminent danger.” Engineers won’t know the extent of the cracking and possible damage to the sheet pile until a more in-depth inspection. “The cracking can be an indication of wall weakness because if there’s a crack in the metal, the crack will naturally follow the concrete on the outside,” Gibbons said. Flood Protection Authority Director Jim Brozena pointed out cracks in the levee to Marino during his visit. Gibbons said he and his staff would review levee inspection reports to determine whether the cracks in the concrete shell could have occurred before the river rose. “There’s a potential some of the cracks existed and they’re just part of normal wear and tear and the construction process,” Gibbons said. “They might not be anything significant to worry about as far as the structural integrity of the levee.” GibbonsandhiscrewsalsoworkedlastThursday into Friday to secure sections of the levee in Forty Fort and Wyoming that had become compromised by what he termed “sand boils,” an

stop water. Even the Hoover Dam has seepage. The only thing you can do is manage the water. Thewayyoumanageitisbyfindinganoutletfor the water where it can be safely removed from the structure without causing damage to it.” The goal of the sand drains and relief wells, Gibbons said, is to avoid the liquification of the levee that occurred during the Tropical Storm Agnes flood of 1972. Then, he said, the soil became so saturated it turned to mush. “It becomes a bowl of pudding and collapses all at once,” Gibbons said. Apart from levee maintenance, the county is also asking for $15 million dollars to fund shovel-readyprojectsintheFloodProtectionAuthority’s mitigation program, including several buyouts and demolition projects. Marino gave his support for buyouts, saying the government could not afford to pay for improvements when homes are flooded year after year. The county is also asking that the Federal Emergency Management Agency reverse its denial of the county’s request to re-allocate more than $1.8 million in approved funds to help reconstruct Coal Creek in Plymouth. Commissioner Stephen A. Urban said the county received stimulus funds for the original project, and now needed the funds for the July 3 disaster. Urban said he was confident the congressman would come through, and Marino said he would do everything he could. “No one is more fiscally conservative than I am, but the federal government’s primary responsibility is to take care of its citizens,” Marino said. “To protect its borders and to protect its citizens, whether that’s from terrorism or natural disasters.”

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

FORTY FORT — Rep. Tom Marino reinforced his commitment Wednesday to securing federal aid for the county and its flood-ravaged residents. And county officials have already put together a wish list of more than $21.8 million in needs. Walking along the levee in Forty Fort in cowboy boots and aviator sunglasses, the Lycoming Township Republican told municipal and county officials that if the federal government “can bail out the banks,” it can “certainly give a hand up” to flood victims. “This is part of protecting the citizens,” Marino said. “They just want a hand up to get them on an even playing field.” As its vice chairman, Marino said he would like to hold a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications somewhere in the tenth district and bring together local, state and federal officials with residents. “Let’s just get people around the table,” he said. “Once we know what the problems are, once we have the analysis done, then it’s up to the appropriators in Washington and in Harrisburg to find the funds and be proactive instead of reactive.” County officials have already begun tallying problems and put together a list of priorities they hope the congressman will help them address, including securing at least $5 million through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for immediate repairs to the Wyoming Valley Levee System. The levees protecting Wilkes-Barre and neighboring communities sustained significant but not crippling damage last week as they withstood unprecedented pressure from the surging Susquehanna River, county Engineer Joe Gibbons said. County engineers, inspecting the 15-mile levee system Monday ahead of an expected postmortem next week by the Army Corps of Engineers, discovered issues with “every aspect of the levee system,” Gibbons said. Among them: cracks in the concrete shell of flood walls in Forty Fort; blown gaskets on temporary flood gates at the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston; and malfunctioning flood gates at numerous pumping stations along the river. Some of the flood gates became stuck in the closed position, Gibbons said, remaining that way long after the water had receded. Others, compromised by the river’s intense pressure, were pulled away from the levee wall. The damage to the system, though, did not appear to be serious enough to compromise its integrity. “There aren’t any problems with the levee system where I don’t think that we would be prepared adequately for another large event,”

REPAIRING STORM GAUGES


THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

6 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

AFTERMATH // FLOODWATERS TAKE DOWN FAIR

Board pulls the plug on Bloomsburg Fair By Rob Wheary Staff Writer

BLOOMSBURG — For the first time in its 157-year history, the Bloomsburg Fair is cancelled. Following a closed, 90-minute board meeting Wednesday meeting, f air of ficials announced the fair would be cancelled. The only other time the fair has been affected by the weather was in 1975 when Hurricane Eloise shortened fair week by two days, but never a cancellation. “After very careful consideration, the board has decided to not have the fair this year. We appreciate all of the support that was given us and hope to come back with a great fair in 2012. Thank you for your understanding,” the announcement read on the fair’s Facebook page at 8 p.m. Wednesday evening. Fair president Paul Reichart did not return calls for comment Wednesday evening. Clarification has yet to come on refunds for pre-purchased tickets for grandstand events including Cheap Trick, Kenny Rogers, Jeff Dunham, Staind, the demolition derby and tractor pull. The move comes one week after Bloomsburg was hit with some of the worst flooding it’s ever seen. The Susquehanna River crestedat 32.75 feet, the highest in history, beating the previous level at 32.70 feet in 1904. The PressEnterprise reported that some parts of the fairgrounds were covered in 10 to 12 feet of water after the storms last week. Reaction Comments from followers of the Bloomsburg Fair’s Facebook page ranged from inquiries about how to get refunds for pre-purchased tickets to praise for the fair directors’ decision to cancel this year’s fair. “People need to realize, too, that it is not just about the fairgrounds, it also relates to the entire town, and there is way too much damage in that Volume 33, Issue 353 September 15, 2011

town, right close to the fair grounds, to have all these unneeded outsiders going through, rubber-necking,” posted one Facebook user. Some felt bad for vendors that count on the eight-day event for income and fundraising, and lamented on their favorite stands not being there. “So long, Betty’s Blueberry Muffins,” one wrote. Another said, “Very sad for all of the

vendors who count on this income. Another tremendous loss as a result of this flooding.” The majority of comments were from sympathetic people, understanding the decision considering the damage and devastation around them. “We will all miss this year’s fair. The decision though was totally understandable. Let the fairgrounds along with the surrounding areas rebuild

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

8 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

AFTERMATH // ASSISTING VICTIMS

County to help get rid of electronics By Michael P. Buffer Staff Writer WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County Recycling Coordinator Beth DeNardi told county commissioners Wednesday about a plan to help flood victims dispose of damaged electronic equipment and products. The cost would be about $12,000, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency would reimburse the county 75 percent of the cost, DeNardi said. The county can hire Eco International, of Vestal, N.Y., to provide a box truck to be in an affected town for a day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., DeNardi said. The county has hired Eco International for recycling drop-off collections. The county had two of these collections in June, one at the Hanover Area Junior/Senior High School, and the other at the Butler Township Fire Co. Items accepted include televisions, computers, scanners, monitors, keyboards, modems, fax machines, printers, scanners, radios, stereos, speakers, telephones, microwaves, answering machines and cell phones. DeNardi attended the com-

missioners’ work session Wednesday and said she is looking to start the electronics drop off Monday. Commissioner Stephen A. Urban said he expects FEMA to reimburse the county 75 percent of the cost to repair and clean county property and infrastructure damaged from the flood. County Engineer Joe Gibbons said it’s too early to estimate that cost, but officials expect it will be substantial. Officials expect repairs to the county’s levee system and pump stations will be needed. Three county bridges along the Susquehanna River need to be inspected — the Nanticoke-West Nanticoke Bridge, the Water Street Bridge in Pittston and the Shickshinny-Mocanaqua Bridge. The river last week spilled into the basement of the Bernard C. Brominski Building and damaged the electrical,

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heating and air systems. Gibbons said about 6 inches of water got into the sub-basement of the county courthouse by leaking through the ground. Along Water Street in Wilkes-Barre, the river flowed into the county parkade, the

Veterans Affairs building, the Tannery Street garage, which stores grave markers and flags for veterans, and a building the county rents to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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WILKES-BARRE — The American Red Cross asked Luzerne County about leasing space in the vacant Valley Crest Nursing Home building to provide shelter for persons who can’t live in homes damaged by last week’s flood. Wayne Wolf, director of staffing and volunteer services at the American Red Cross, Wyoming Valley chapter, wants to look at the facility in Plains Township, county Purchasing Director Frank Pugliesi said Wednesday at the county commissioners’ work session. Officials discussed bringing back phone and utility services at the building. The former nursing home has been vacant since February 2010 when Valley Crest Nursing Inc., a private company that had a lease with the county, moved nursing home

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residents to a new facility about 200 yards away, Timber Ridge Health Care Center. The county stopped providing nursing home services in 2006. The county has trying to sell the Valley Crest property and has held auctions this year to sell property and items inside the building. Last year, the county agreed to sell the building and its 62-acre property to the Salvation Army for $4.7 million. But in February, the Salvation Army backed out after the township zoning hearing board rejected a variance to allow a drug and alcohol treatment center at the site. The Susquehanna River surged to a record crest of 42.66 feet in Wilkes-Barre early Friday At least 966 temporary homes are needed in Luzerne County, according to preliminary data compiled by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011 – 9

been flooded,” Ameika said. The section was left unfinished in 1967 when the dike was built because some homeowners refused to allow the dirt embankment in their backyards, said Kevin Sunday, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection. Sunday said DEP staffers will assess damage to the levees this week and the Army Corps of Engineers will inspect the dikes next week. Asked if DEP intends to complete the missing section of the dike, he said, “Right now, it’s in the planning phase.” Mayor Keith A. Moss said people have been talking about the missing link in the dike since at least 1995, when he was a councilman. A large section of the miss- jmcdonald@timesshamrock.com

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DURYEA — When the turgid Lackawanna River began flowing into Duryea last week, flooding hundreds of homes and causing damages estimated in the millions of dollars, it had clear sailing through a two-block gap in the dike that was never completed when the embankment was built decades ago. Leonard Ameika, who lives near the spot where the gap begins, stood beside a tall pile of debris from his flooded basement Tuesday and pointed out what he and his neighbors believe wrecked their homes: that gaping hole in the dike. “The big question is when will this levee system be completed?” said Ameika, who doesn’t have an engineering degree but says it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why his riverside home and other homes in the borough were swamped by a one-two punch from Hurricane Irene followed by Tropical Storm Lee. “If it was a completed levee system, we wouldn’t have

‘If it was a completed levee system, we wouldn’t have been flooded.’

ing piece runs behind Holy Cross Cemetery, and diocesan officials have been working on locating unmarked graves in an area where, someday, engineers might build the missing section of dike, Moss said. The river water that streamed through the cemetery, filling it like a lake, left sinkholes and tilted tombstones in its wake. “There’s a lot that has to be done,” said one of the cemetery workers. If the missing section of the dike had been completed, he said, “I’d say it would have solved big-time problems.” Bob Bejeski, one of the contractors working in the borough, doesn’t believe the missing dike section was responsible for all the problems. Bejeski said he saw water flowing over the top of the dike at the end of Chittenden Street, one of the lowest spots in the borough, on the day of the flooding. “We were still going to get it,” he said, referring to the flooding. “They should have raised them (the dikes).” As bad as the flooding was from the river, he said, some homes got even worse from sewage that backed up into basements.

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

HOW TO FIND HELP, LEND A HAND Homeowners, renters and business owners affected by last week’s flood must register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to qualify for federal assistance. They can apply by registering online at www. DisasterAssistance.gov, registering via smart phone at m.fema.gov or calling 1800-621-FEMA (3362). Applicants who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY should call 1-800-4627585 directly, and those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), can call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday until further notice. Homeowners, renters and business owners in Luzerne County can apply for aid by going to the Disaster Recovery Center at Luzerne County Community College. The center is expected to open around 1 p.m. today, Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Steve Bekanich said. The center will stay open until 8 p.m. today and remain open for two weeks, with the possibility of remaining open longer if needed. The center’s hours

starting Thursday will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents should bring photos and documentation with them when visiting the center at the college, 1333 S. Prospect St. in Nanticoke. Signs will be on the campus telling people where to go. Representatives from the following agencies will be at the center: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Small Business Administration, American Red Cross, PennDOT, state Department of Environmental Protection and state Department of Public Welfare. Mental health professionals will also be there. Applicants should be prepared to provide the following: ■ Social Security number. ■ Address of damaged property. ■ Description of damage. ■ Insurance coverage and any other information to help substantiate losses. ■ Contact information. ■ Mailing address. ■ Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit. ■ Household income information. — Michael P. Buffer

AVAILABLE AID

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the major disaster declaration can provide several types of aid to individuals and businesses affected by last week’s flood. The following aid programs can be made available: ■ Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance may be provided for two months for homeowners and renters. Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements. ■ Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary

and functional. ■ Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs. ■ Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks from the date of the disaster declaration for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals. Applicants may file for federal disaster unemployment assistance by calling toll free at 877-FILE-DUA (877-3453382), from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Applicants should be prepared to provide a Social Security number and, if possible, any documents that show earnings and employment for the tax year that ended prior to their unemployment as a result of the disaster. Claimants must file DUA applications no later than Oct. 14. Unemployment claimants not affected by the storms should continue to file claims online at www.uc.pa.gov. Also, people who need help in returning to work or conducting a work search can contact their local Pennsylvania CareerLink for assistance. Visit www. pacareerlink.state.pa.us for more information. ■ Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans are available up to $200,000

for a primary residence and $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans are available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance. ■ Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, nonprofit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact. This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $2 million. ■ Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.

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10 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

AFTERMATH // HELPING HANDS

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Times-Shamrock Communications, parent of The Citizens’ Voice and other print and radio properties across Northeastern Pennsylvania, has teamed up with WNEP Channel 16 to raise funds to help the American Red Cross provide disaster relief to local flood victims. All donations, which will be processed by the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties and distributed by the local Red Cross, will benefit local victims. Send donations to: Red Cross Local Flood Relief, P.O. Box 526, Scranton, Pa. 18501. Donations also may be made online at localfloodrelief.com.

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