Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Skrep and Vondy are shocked and sad

According to the CV. Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak and former Commissioner Todd Vonderheid expressed their regrets on the recent news that Judge Mark Ciavarella and Judge Michael Conahan were on the take for placing kids in the PA Child Care facility in Pittston Twp.

What they need to explain is why did they approve a $58 million, 20-year lease for the facility when all sorts of red flags were being raised by then Controller Steve Flood and the PA Dept of Public Welfare. Who the hell signs a 20 year lease for anything?

Luzerne County Juvenile Detention Center Analysis has a great rundown.

Papers filed in the Luzerne County Courthouse indicate that Pennsylvania Child Care took out a $10 million loan through S&T Bancorp in Indiana, Pa., to finance the detention center project.If you calculate $10,000,000.00 at a 10% mortgage interest rate for 20 years it would cost PCC $23,160,521.88 in total payments including interest. Using the figures presented PCC stands to make more than $35 million on this lease since the prevailing interest rates would be less than 10%. Receiving $58.1 million total compensation is absurd.


Coal Region Voice said...

Is there someone in the a parking garage saying, "Follow the money".

Zen said...

I think before this is done that Todd and Skrap will realllllly be sad.

Anonymous said...

I have an entire new respect for Steve Urban. This man has been shouting about this for years. I guess maybe people were wrong about him, at least I know I was. I alaways thought he said no just to say no. Turns out he was really watching out for the taxpayers

Anonymous said...

Steve Urban has been on top of this for years and no one listened as the dems could do no wrong and as the back mountain country club republicans gave all these bums big money over the years.

Anonymous said...

What are skrep & vondy shocked and sad about? The juvie center was all done in secrecy and they knew the terms of the deal.

Big Dan said...

Oct. 18, 2004: Vonderheid and Skrepenak say they’re considering leasing the Pennsylvania Child Care center. The next day, the state Department of Public Welfare informs the county it is conducting an audit of the Pennsylvania Child Care facility.

Oct. 20, 2004: Vonderheid and Skrepenak give preliminary approval to a $58 million, 20-year lease.

Nov. 16, 2004: State auditors fax a letter warning commissioners to hold off on the lease. County officials say they didn’t receive it.

Nov. 17, 2004: Vonderheid and Skrepenak give final approval to the lease.

Big Dan said...

Powell bowing out of juvie, airport firm

Area attorney selling his interest in endeavors to partner Gregory Zappala.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes
Luzerne County Reporter

Butler Township attorney Robert J. Powell is selling his interest in a Pittston Township juvenile detention center and the company developing a proposed $1.6 billion regional cargo airport in the Hazleton area, according to a press release.

Greg Zappala, at right, is pictured here with Robert Powell when they opened PA Child Care together in 2003.

Gregory Zappala, 47, who partnered with Powell on both ventures, is buying Powell’s interest, “ensuring there will be no change in the operations of the companies,” the release says.

Zappala, a Pittsburgh area lawyer and son of the former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Stephen Zappala, is buying Powell’s interest in: PA Child Care, which runs the juvenile detention center; Gladstone Partners, developer of the proposed cargo airport; and Western PA Child Care, a juvenile detention center in Butler County.

Big Dan said...

FBI seizes juvie probation records

By Terrie Morgan-Besecker
Law & Order Reporter

WILKES-BARRE – The Federal Bureau of Investigation served a search warrant on the Luzerne County Juvenile Probation Department on Thursday morning, seizing financial records related to placement of juveniles at the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care centers formerly owned by attorney Robert Powell, a county official said.

Big Dan said...

Key players anticipate big return on project

HAZLE TWP. — Three men are willing to invest millions of dollars of their own money in a proposed $1.6 billion cargo airport they will not own.

Former Hazleton Mayor Michael Marsicano, attorney Robert Powell and Gregory Zappala, a managing director of JP Morgan Securities in New York City, formed Gladstone Partners LP to help develop the airport on 4,300 acres of land they intend to purchase in southern Luzerne and northern Schuylkill counties.

Marsicano, Powell and Zappala’s intention is simple — once the airport is built on about 1,000 acres of their land, the value of approximately 3,300 remaining acres surrounding the facility will skyrocket. That acreage could provide the company with a tremendous return on their investment.

“We’re going to invest millions of dollars in the hope of creating this whole entity, which we hope will support real estate that we will own,” Powell said after a press conference announcing plans for the airport and an expected 4,500 jobs. Powell declined to specify how much Gladstone Partners has spent or plans to spend in the future on the project.

Big Dan said...

Media Center: News Coverage

New Hazleton airport aim is to relieve traffic
Press Enterprise: 02-01-2007
By Ben Timberlake

New Hazleton airport aim is to relieve traffic Press Enterprise: 02-01-2007 By Ben Timberlake

HAZLETON - Much of the air cargo that flies into New York and New Jersey airports passes over Williamsport, Milton and Hazleton.

But that "superhighway in the air" has become congested, explained state Rep. Todd Eachus.

A new airport 90 miles from New York would relieve that traffic jam, he said.

The proposed airport site in Hazle Township is close to Interstates 80 and 81, as well as rail lines, Eachus pointed out. That offers several transportation options for goods that come through the airport.

And the airport would be equipped with state-of-the-art security, said Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak.

Federal security provisions, mandated after Sept. 11, 2001, have to be in place in the next three years, he noted.

And it would be easier to put those measures into a new operation than to upgrade existing airports, he said.

Cargo planes would barely have to alter their routes to land at the planned site, developers said.

At Wednesday's press conference at the Humboldt Industrial Park, a video display showed a flight path passing over the lower parts of Montour and Columbia counties.

The display showed flights departing the airport site to Europe, South America and Africa.

The airport would take deliveries from as far away as China, said Bob Powell of developer Gladstone Partners.

Jobs to arrive via new airport
By BEN TIMBERLAKE - Press Enterprise Writer

HAZLETON - Developers plan to build a cargo airport that could bring as many as 165,000 jobs to this area, reinvigorating a region still reeling from the decline of coal, local leaders say.

And Columbia County economic watchers say some of the benefit could spread.

The developer needs federal officials to sign off on the Hazle Township site near the Humboldt Industrial Park. And even then, the first plane wouldn't land for at least a few years.

Construction alone will take as long as two-and-a-half years.

The airport itself would have 4,533 jobs on-site, developers said in announcing the project Wednesday.

And it could attract other businesses that need to be near a cargo hub. That effect could bring up to a whopping 161,000 jobs, developers claim, and add $17.1 billion to the regional economy.

Some businesses might locate in Columbia County with a cargo airport so close, said Steve Phillips, executive director of BIDA in Berwick.

The group developing the airport is called Gladstone Partners, comprised of former Hazleton Mayor Michael Marsicano, former Hazleton Solicitor Robert Powell and Gregory Zappala, who works for investment firm J.P. Morgan.

Construction for the airport will cost $500 million, while the whole project will reach $1.6 billion, developers say.

The airport would also host buildings with 22 million square feet of floor space.

Good jobs

The aviation, security and hi-tech jobs would pay more than minimum wage, said Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak.

"These jobs are life-sustaining jobs," added state Rep. Todd Eachus. "These buoy up local economies."

Bringing thousands of jobs in one swoop would be a change from trying to attract them a few hundred at a time, as leaders are used to doing, Eachus said.

"We've been scraping along, plant by plant," he said.

The Humboldt Industrial Park employs about 5,500 in all.

Airport boons

Eachus, who represents Hazleton and parts of lower Luzerne County, compared the potential boon to local economic expansion in Memphis, Tenn., and Anchorage, Alaska, after those cities attracted cargo airports.

In the 1970s and 1980s, after the Memphis airport was built, the city saw 156,000 jobs created. Those brought $5.6 billion in wages each year, Eachus said.

The Memphis hub attracted businesses that demanded fast delivery, he explained. They included national firms that do laptop repair, drug testing and store replacement corneas for human eyes.

Small, pricey goods

Most goods shipped by air are small, high-cost items like electronics, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, Eachus pointed out.

Existing industries in Columbia and Montour counties would not benefit much from a closer cargo airport, said Ed Edwards, executive director of the Columbia-Montour Chamber of Commerce.

Most goods produced in the area are hauled by tractor-trailer, he said.

And either railroads or tractor-trailers bring materials here.

Route 93

Columbia County could be an attractive place for a company hoping to use the cargo airport, Phillips said, noting the county's four Interstate 80 interchanges.

But Route 93 between Berwick and Hazleton would need to be expanded, Phillips said.

PennDOT plans to add lanes to that hilly road, but officials have said a project would not start until 2010 at the earliest.

18 miles to Berwick

Edwards figures some Columbia residents would be happy to drive to a good job near the site.

The airport would be about 18 miles from Berwick and about 34 miles from Bloomsburg. A drive from the site to Berwick took about 27 minutes Wednesday afternoon.

According to the U.S. Census, 7,229 Columbia County residents work outside the county, most of them in neighboring Montour and Luzerne counties.

Public, private funding

Developers say they will not use federal money because going after those funds can delay the project.

So far, they have spent only their own money, Powell said. He would not name an exact number, but said the costs are "well into the six figures."

Eventually, the state and the county would be called on to finance some of the project, Commissioner Skrepenak said. But developers did not discuss specifics.


Developers downplayed difficulties in buying up land that is leased by an all-terrain vehicle park.

A court hearing Wednesday was set to decide whether Paragon Adventure Park would be ousted from the 2,500 acres the airport developers want.

Gladstone already controls 4,800 acres, Powell said. But the airport site would take up just 4,300 acres, developers say.

Eachus acknowledged concerns of residents of a nearby high-end community called Eagle Rock.

The process to approve the airport will be open with opportunities for people to make criticisms, he said.

FAA approval

Luzerne County commissioners plan to establish an airport authority as soon as March. That group would be the governing body of the airport.

Gladstone would have no members on the board, Skrepenak said.

Once established, the airport authority would seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

That will be the most difficult and potentially lengthy step, Skrepenak said.

But developers are optimistic because an FAA study found the site to be a good location for an airport.

The people of Luzerne County would own the airport, while Gladstone Partners would own and develop the surrounding land.

Big Dan said...

google: skrepenak + powell + Zapalla

Big Dan said...

There is also the thing about his brother in law who milked the county for more than a million dollars for psych evaluation's and his close ties to attorney Robert Powell former owner of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care centers who had they’re financial records seized in June by the FBI in a case related to the placement of juveniles by former President Judge Michael Conahan and current President Judge Mark Ciavarella. It seems that they were not telling the people who appeared in front of their bench that they had the right to an attorney. Then with the evaluations they would send the children to Robert Powell and his PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care centers.

Oh yeah there is also the little business deal that they had with Powell to build condos. This deal came under scrutiny after it was revealed the three had current or former ties to W-Cat Inc., a real estate development firm building a townhouse project in Wright Township. Powell, a former county solicitor, was part owner of PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care in Butler County.
Powell has acknowledged he was part owner of W-Cat, but said he sold his interest to Luzerne County Prothonotary Jill Moran in 2004. Moran is a partner in the Powell Law Firm. He also announced on June 10 he had sold his interest in both firms and another business to his partner Gregory Zappala. Earlier this year.

Powell’s relationship with President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan was made public. A senior judge, Conahan and President Judge Ciavarella each listed financial ties to W-Cat on statements of financial interest they filed for 2007.
The revelation of the financial ties prompted commissioners Maryanne Petrilla and Stephen Urban in May to call for an investigation to determine if that relationship influenced the decision to utilize PA Child Care.

The county’s relationship with PA Child Care has been fraught with controversy since the courts began sending youths to the facility in February 2003 – two months after Conahan said he would no longer allow youths to be sent to the county-owned juvenile detention center on North River Street. Conahan maintained the county’s facility was too dilapidated to house youths, even though the state Department of Public Welfare had deemed it safe.

The controversy continued in 2004, when then-Commissioner Todd Vonderheid, who has since left office, and Commissioner Greg Skrepenak had voted to enter into a 20-year, $58-million lease of the facility despite concerns raised by DPW that the lease was a "bad deal."DPW continued to raise objections to the cost of the lease, ultimately forcing Skrepenak, Petrilla and Urban to vote in December 2007 to terminate the contract.

Anonymous said...

time will tell that Skrep's and Todd's hands were not clean...

may God Almighty have mercy on their souls