Luzerne County Council to tour courthouse basement entrance area this week

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -
Luzerne County Courthouse -

Luzerne County Council members scheduled a tour of the county courthouse basement entrance area at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday because county Manager C. David Pedri said it would help them visualize a proposed reconfiguration.

“When you see it in person, it’s much easier to understand,” Pedri told council when the project was up for discussion at last week’s work session.

The capital plan had earmarked $50,000 for the project, but bids revealed the project will cost around $200,000. The administration has asked council to fund the $150,000 difference with savings from the Penn Place building roof replacement.

The administration wants to relocate the basement mapping/GIS department, which is near the entrance, to create an area for courthouse visitors to undergo security screening, saying the change would address long lines of jurors and others during peak periods.

Another $125,000 transfer from the Penn Place roof savings also has been requested to update three elevators that are more than 20 years old.

• Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck questioned why the Penn Place roof project budget was off by such a large amount.

The administration had requested $600,000, and it cost $302,500.

Operational Services Division Head Edmund O’Neill said the original estimate came from a roof consultant. The administration ended up realizing it could obtain a better price bidding out the project early in the year, instead of the fall, he said.

“I appreciate that you found a source of money, but if we knew $300,000 had been available, maybe we would have made different choices,” McClosky Houck said, referring to the capital budget.

• The county is seeking a new director of the prison’s minimal offender unit, which is located on Reichard Street in Wilkes-Barre near the Water Street prison.

The unit has more of a dormitory setting and houses inmates with nonviolent offenses.

The position is open because current director Peter Cwalina has accepted another position at the county prison, said county Correctional Services Division Head Mark Rockovich.

Posted at, the director position pays $51,538 annually. Applications are due by noon March 14.

• The county election board will meet at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Penn Place building on the corner of Market Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.

One of two Republican seats on the five-member board is vacant because Paul DeFabo did not seek reappointment after his term expired Jan. 24, officials said.

County Council Vice Chairman Eugene Kelleher, who oversees a committee that screens board applicants, said he was informed at least one Republican is willing to be publicly interviewed for consideration. If so, council may fill the vacancy at its March 13 meeting, he said.

• If authorized by council, the county administration will seek a $533,312 multimodal grant from the state transportation department to complete road improvements along Beisels Road in Butler Township.

The county would provide the 30 percent match, or $228,563, from its Liquid Fuel funding, Pedri said.

County officials are eager to complete the project because the township is willing to take over the county-owned road if it is repaired, he said. The county has been trying to reduce its inventory of 127 miles of roads.

The county’s last grant application was denied, but Pedri said this one may be more attractive to the state because it includes the addition of a bike lane.

• County officials have approved a $114,800 contract through February 2021 with Judicial Systems Inc. to provide a jury management system, records show.

The software will replace a failing and out-of-date homemade system that is more than 15 years old, county Court Administrator Michael Shucosky had informed council. The county sends out more than 23,000 jury duty notices annually, he said.

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.