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Nanticoke officials back authority’s end

NANTICOKE – City council reaffirmed its decision to dissolve the Nanticoke Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday in an effort to place the Kanjorski Center project on a fast track.

“The successful reuse of the Kanjorski Center is so vital and represents a catalyst to downtown redevelopment,” Councilman Joe Dougherty said. “LCCC (Luzerne County Community College) is coming to the rescue of the city, so we have no other choice but to work together.”

Yet there remains a vast divide since Nanticoke council dissolved the Redevelopment Authority two weeks ago because of council’s perception that some members were holding up the project.

Redevelopment Authority members Henry Keller and Hank Marks disagreed and said the issue is control over a $5.6 million federal grant and the authority’s firing of the original consultant.

Keller and Dennis Butler said the authority was placed in a position in which members were given incorrect information on the use of the grant to build a parking structure.

But they said they worked responsibly to conclude an agreement with LCCC and to satisfy parking for the project as laid out by the grant requirements.

Butler raised the issue of whether the city could transfer the deed of a building with existing liens to the Municipal Authority, and he recommended reinstating the Redevelopment Authority.

According to Councilman Brent Makarczyk, who was part of the majority of council who voted to disband the redevelopment authority, the $5.6 million in funding would enable the city to complete other projects and to use surface parking on land owned by the city for the 300 spaces required by the college.

If finalized, the agreement with LCCC will provide for a seven-year lease of the building for a medical sciences center.

Makarczyk said money from the lease will be used to satisfy state and county mortgages pre-existing on the building, and LCCC will contribute the 20 percent local share required to keep the federal grant. In exchange, the city would transfer its rights to maintain and manage the building to the college.

A final agreement on the lease would allow LCCC to start renovation of the building for use as classrooms. LCCC has plans to acquire the senior center building next to the Kanjorski Center for use as a culinary arts building.

The project has had a number of false starts in the past year. The parking project has changed from construction of a parking garage to surface parking for 300 cars.

The city is advertising for designs for a streetscape project meant to improve the quality of sections of North Market Street and Main Street that adjoin the building.

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