City Will Apply For Funding For Various Projects
WILKES-BARRE — A new aerial ladder fire truck and renovations to the downtown movie theater are among the big-ticket items for which council will consider authorizing the administration to submit gaming grant applications to the state this year.
City Administrator Ted Wampole on Tuesday presented council with a series of resolutions that would permit the administration to apply to the Commonwealth Financing Authority for Local Share Account funding on behalf of the city, several nonprofits and RC Theaters to help fund various projects or purchases.
Funds in the Local Share Account earmarked for Luzerne County come from taxes on the gaming revenue at the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino in Plains Twp. They are designated for “projects that improve the quality of life of citizens in the community,” according to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
Only county and municipal governments can apply for the funds, so private entities that seek funding must ask a municipality to apply on their behalf, and Wampole said city officials encourage them to do so.
The movie theater renovation is the largest-cost project at close to $3 million, although RC Theaters is seeking only $500,000 in grant money. Joe Amato, the real estate developer who owns the Movies 14 complex, said his company and RC Theaters will kick in the remaining cost if the grant is approved.
Amato said the renovations would include luxury-lounge seating, similar to that at Cinemark 20 in Moosic, to bring the theater up to par with competition. He fears RC will pull out of the building when the company’s lease is up in a year and a half if the grant isn’t approved, reasoning that local patrons will start going to Cinemark where the seating is better and parking is more convenient.
Vince Scarpetta, representing Aesop Group, who wrote the grant application for RC Theaters, said the theater draws nearly 400,000 people downtown annually. He said the project is estimated to generate $15 million in economic impact, would create 42 temporary construction jobs, preserve 45 existing jobs and generate more than $2 million in local taxes and fees.
The largest grant application at $1,274,000 is for the aerial ladder truck.
Fire Chief Jay Delaney told council 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. He noted there are 224 structures in the city that are four stories or higher, and efforts to acquire funding elsewhere were unsuccessful.
Other entities seeking gaming grants include the Osterhout Free Library, $120,000 for roof repairs, windows and flooring; the Catholic Youth Center, $223,617 for new swim blocks and lighting; YMCA Camp Kresge, $80,000 to replace cabins with new larger lodges; the city, $384,966 to convert the second floor of the Department of Public Works building into an emergency response center.
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