Hazleton moves airport project forward

 By Geraldine Gibbons ggibbons@civitasmedia.com May 5, 2015 HAZLETON — The City Council accepted a $1.3 million Aviation Grant Tuesday night to fund a Runway Safety Area at the City Airport. As part of the agreement, 5 percent of the project, or $70,000, must be paid for with funds from airport revenues. A contract for the project was awarded to the only bidder, Hazleton Site Contractors, a member of the H&K Group. 

When questioned by several members of council in regard to the airport’s ability to pay for its portion of the project, city engineer Dominic Yannuzzi said the airport had a $56,000 surplus and fuel valued at $60,000, which would be sold for revenue. “We are an self­sustaining entity,” said Yannuzzi. Councilwoman Jean Mope said didn’t understand that why if the airport had a significant surplus, it did not pay back monies owed to the city. “It seems we can give money to the airport,” said Councilman David Sosar, “but we are somehow prevented from getting it back.” 

He called the airport a money pit. Councilman Jeffrey Cusat, the lone holdout on the project, said he would be reluctant to refuse such a significant amount of grant money to be directed to airport safety, but simply wanted to verify information. Grace Cuozzo questioned timbering practices at the airport. She asked why the removal of trees at the airport had not been put out for a bid. Yannuzzi said the project had been done by volunteers. Sosar said the trees were cut down in a “buzz cut,” fashion and questioned its effect on drainage and the environment. Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the transfer of a liquor license to Smoke Rings Cigar Bar Inc. for its premises at 1008 North Vine Street. Mope said the city was glad to see site of the what was previously Scatton’s restaurant come to life. “Its refreshing that someone is interested in investing in our city,” said Councilman Jack Mundie. 

Council also awarded a contract to construct a Center City Park, at the intersection of Broad and Laurel streets to Barletta’s Materials Inc., which was the low bidder at $254,235. Councilman Keith Bast, the lone no vote, said he was opposed to utilization of Community Development funds the project would require. Council also unanimously approved a resolution supporting the Strategic Downtown Revitalization Plan proposed by the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, a nonprofit organization attempting to redevelop downtown. The organization’s executive director, Krista Schneider, told council members, “This will not put any financial obligation on the city, but your approval will allow us to apply for Main Street designation, a national organization which assists cities in redevelopment efforts.” Resident Judy Yurko said city problems would not be resolved by “making things pretty.” “We need to reduce crime, lower taxes and clean up the city,” she said. “I’m talking to the candidates here tonight,” she said, referring to mayoral candidates Cusat, Mundie and Cuozzo, who were present at the meeting.

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