Friday, May 28, 2010

The Great Train Robbery- Part 2

Market Street Square- 1984

Continued from Part 1.

Back in 2005 this article appeared in the Jersy Central Lines. It starts off with an observation that should never have gone unnoticed.

The CNJ Station Wilkes Barre

Luzerne County officials may be so passionate about Wilkes-Barre and Scranton being connected by passenger train service they are ready to wager millions of federal funding on its success.

The application will be approved at the June 17 meeting and forwarded for federal approval, Commissioner Stephen Urban said Friday. The amount the county will try to borrow has not been determined. County officials hope to use proceeds of the "Section 108" loan to acquire and restore the Market Street Square complex owned by Wilkes-Barre City businessman Thom Greco.

Elected officials have a fiduciary responsilibity to their constituents and it doesn't include treating county funds as if they are expendable at the Mohegun Sun. The next part begs the question, where was the advice from solicitor Joseph Blazozek?

A "Section 108" loan carries great risk. If the county is unable to make payments, the federal office could deduct funds from the county's annual $6 million Community Development Block Grant. Block grants fund local projects, like street paving and playground renovations, in the county's 72 boroughs and townships.

The most prophetic statement from that article came from former Luzerne County Commissioner Todd Vonderheid.

Todd Vonderheid said options and cost benefits of acquiring the complex are still under discussion. He added that it was premature to talk about a sale. "It's unfortunate that Commissioner Urban chooses to reveal the details of a deal that's still in the negotiation stages, and potentially jeopardize the success of that deal," Vonderheid said. "Greg (Skrepenak) and I are more concerned about improving the quality of life in Northeastern Pennsylvania than seeing our names in the newspaper." He could never have imagined the amount of times names were going to appear in the newspaper and Urban's would be the only one that would end up in a positive fashion.

David Janoski over at the Citizen's Voice chronicled in his article that Wilkes-Barre nightclub owner/restaurateur Thom Greco faces up to three years in prison for failing to provide information about illegal payments made to an elected official.

The name of the official and the nature of the payment were not released by prosecutors, but sources familiar with the investigation say federal agents have been probing Greco's possible role in providing televisions to a now-closed city sports bar owned by the father of former Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak.

According to sources Greco was asked to purchase something of significant value, possibly televisions, that ended up at the sports bar. When Greco presented the bill for payment it is rumored that he was told the bill was on him and tied to the Redevelopment Authority purchase of Market Street Square.

Big Ugly's on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, closed in February after the elder Skrepenak testified before the grand jury probing corruption in Luzerne County.

Skrepenak Sr., 67, owned Big Ugly's, a sports bar located at 165 N. Wilkes-Barre Blvd., Wilkes-Barre.

Big Ugly's was located on property owned by Michael and Arlene Pasonick.
In October, 2009 Pasonick was identifed as the businessman who paid a $1,400.00 bribe that ensared Gerald Bonner and William McGuire, both of whom served on the Luzerne County Housing Authority.

At the time Attorney Michael Butera had this to say about his client.

"Jerry Bonner did not commit any crime. I don't know how the government could prove that he did commit a crime," Butera said. "They are going to have to prove every single word of that indictment. Jerry Bonner was not corrupt and he didn't corruptly receive any award or bribe." Of course Gerald Bonner plead guilty in December, 2009.

The original post talked about a "band" of outlaws and trains. Although the trains weren't robbed in this story many were swept up like beached whales in the undertow from one property deal.

It is appropriate that former Wilkes Barre City Councilman described the deal for Market Street Square in this manner.

McCarthy said he questions the wisdom of the public purchase because the property has become “like a great beached whale” that attracts vandals. Evidently the "beached whale" attracted so much attention the feds decided to "inspect the beach for more casualties."

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