County settles another big-ticket assessment challenge

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -
Luzerne County Courthouse -

Luzerne County must refund SVC Manufacturing Inc. a combined $11,982 in real estate taxes from 2015 through 2017 due to an assessment reduction for its Quaker Oats Co. plant at 750 Oak Hill Road in Wright Township, county records show.

The property’s assessment was lowered from $10.5 million to $9.8 million through a court-level settlement agreement, records show. The refund is retroactive to the assessment challenge’s filing in 2014.

County officials have been pushing for resolution of lingering, multiple-year assessment challenges, particularly involving larger commercial sites, to minimize the hit to government finances.

County Manager C. David Pedri has said the county may reach its $550,000 budget allocation for refunds this year as the remaining backlog is cleared.

As of June 30, the county spent $274,345 on refunds, or about 50 percent, a new monthly budget report said.

Courtroom lights

The county courthouse’s five main courtrooms are brighter due to the installation of more cost-efficient LED lighting ceiling fixtures that replace ones dating back to 1967, according to Operational Services Division Head Edmund O’Neill and county Engineer William McIntosh.

The project cost $9,100, McIntosh said. It’s a significant savings because McIntosh and other workers handled much of the work in-house, including designing lighting that would fit in the existing plaster ceiling recesses and purchasing and modifying the 43 fixtures, he said.

The old halogen bulbs lasted 2,000 hours, and the new LED ones should illuminate for 100,000 hours, McIntosh said.

This is welcome news for building and grounds workers who must climb a 14-foot ladder and hold up a homemade tool involving a pole and cork to change burned-out bulbs, he said.

• Blight

The county’s blighted property review committee is set to meet at 5 p.m. tonightat the courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Council is expected to vote next month on an agreement for the county Redevelopment Authority to fund the committee’s legal and administrative services. That approval is necessary for the committee to proceed with creation of a countywide database of abandoned, eyesore properties that may be addressed by the authority.

• Alerts

Companies or entities interested in county contracts can now sign up for email or text alerts notifying them when new bids and requests for proposals are added.

The feature, available through the purchasing section at, was added as part of the county’s recent redesigned website, officials said. Participants can opt to receive all notices or limit notification to specific types.

The administration is optimistic the initiative will attract additional vendors and increase competition that may lead to savings, said county Administrative Services Division Head David Parsnik.

Additional types of alerts will be added in a future website implementation phase, Parsnik said.

• Union contracts

Negotiations have started or are commencing with four unions that have collective bargaining agreements expiring the end of this year, Parsnik said.

These unions: probation and domestic relations support officers represented by their own Court Appointed Professional Employees Association; assistant district attorneys/public defenders under Teamsters; court-appointed support workers belonging to AFSCME; and prison corrections officers and other staff in LIUNA Local 1310.

The four expiring agreements are among 10 county union contracts.

Luzerne County Courthouse County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

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

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