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W-B Officials Look To Purchase Ladder Truck

January 10, 2019
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W-B Officials Look To Purchase Ladder Truck

WILKES-BARRE — City officials have found funding for a new and sorely needed aerial ladder truck and are hoping to get council’s approval.

Joyce Morrash Zaykowski, director of the city Office of Economic and Community Development, recently found a revolving loan account that had not been used in years, and in it was more than $420,000.

The account was set up to provide businesses with low-interest loans using federal dollars, but for some time now, businesses have been borrowing money from banks because they lowered their interest rates and there’s less red tape to deal with.

Zaykowski said changes in federal rules in 2017 require her to use at least some of the money in the fund or return it to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development because the department can only keep 1.5 times its approximately $1.5 million budget on hand from one year to the next.

Prior to 2017, HUD did not factor in business development loan funds to the maximum carry-over amount; only Community Development Block Grant funds were used in the formula.

Zaykowski said HUD will allow her to transfer the business loan funds into the Community Development Block Grant budget and use it to fund the ladder truck purchase.

Zaykowski also found the city still owes the fund $376,804 from a multi-million dollar loan it used to construct the Park and Lock East garage decades ago.

The city is preparing to sell the garage to the parking authority this year for $1.55 million, and part of the revenue must be used to pay off the loan, so that payoff amount can also be used toward the ladder truck purchase, she said.

Fire Chief Jay Delaney said the city once owned three ladder trucks, but is now down to one 2003 model that is frequently out of service because of breakdowns, and parts are hard to come by because the manufacturer went out of business.

Delaney said ladder trucks cost between $900,000 and $1.5 million, and he’s been seeking funding sources for a new truck for the past three years.

Last month, the city applied for a $1,274,000 Local Share Account grant to fully fund the purchase of a ladder truck, but they weren’t optimistic that the Commonwealth Financing Authority would approve a grant in the full amount, if at all.

“I fully respect that dollars and cents are difficult to come by for a large purchase such as this,” Delaney said. “Joyce Zaykowski has done a really good job to help with financing from our community development office to bring this all together.”

City Administrator Rick Gazenski presented council at Tuesday’s work session with a proposed ordinance that would amend the 2018 community development budget by transferring the business loan funds into the CDBG account for the purchase of a ladder truck and a fire engine as well.

“I’m respectfully hopeful council will give this a good look. Deputy Chief (Alan) Klapat will be there (at tonight’s council meeting) to answer any questions they might have,” Delaney said.

Delaney and Zaykowski also remain optimistic the LSA grant will be approved.

But even if it’s not, Zaykowski said she could use some 2019 CDBG funding to make up the difference with council’s approval, assuming council approves transferring the business loan funds into the CDBG budget at tonight’s 6 p.m. meeting at city hall.

Contact the writer: smocarsky@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2110, @MocarskyCV

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