Wilkes-Barre reports on federal funding for projects and programs

WILKES-BARRE — The city spent more than $1 million in federal grant funding last year on a variety of programs and projects from new fire apparatus to milling and paving and demolition of blighted properties.

Office of Economic and Community Development Director Joyce Morrash Zaykowski detailed the expenditures in the city’s Consolidated Annual Performance & Evaluation Report during a brief public hearing Tuesday at City Hall. The final report will be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city receives annual funding through the federal Community Development Block Grant Program. This year it was awarded additional money for COVID-19 projects and programs through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act.

Combined funding for Public Services totaled $270,871.

Among the organizations and programs were the Victims Resource Center, the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA, the Domestic Violence Service Center, the Wyoming Valley Children’s Association, homeless shelters and community policing.

“It’s all the same eligible activity. So it’s just out of a different pot,” Zaykowski said of the CARES Act funds.

CARES Act funding will be used for the Personal Protective Equipment shower upgrade in the Wilkes-Barre City Police Department. The upgrade has begun and the total cost is $34,787.

The final bill was recently received and will be added to the 2021 report, Zaykowski said.

Apart from CARES Act money, the city awarded funds for the construction of a new park on a vacant lot at the corner of McCarragher and Grove streets and paid for $12,140 to cover approximately half the cost of the equipment. HDC MidAtlantic, the owner of an adjacent apartment complex, is contributing $10,000 toward the equipment.

The city milled and paved 140,428 linear feet of roadways, including South Main Street, at a cost $865,225.

The $831,270 spent for a new pumper and tractor drawn aerial ladder truck for the Wilkes-Barre City Fire Department included balances owed on the apparatuses. An additional $47,431 was spent on miscellaneous fire equipment.

The city demolished double-block houses on Kado and Walnut streets and two commercial buildings, the former PanAm Silk Mills Inc. on South Franklin Street and the Ministerios Casa de Oracion Mahanaim on Parrish Street at a cost of $190,299.

“We did 16 emergency rehab houses, which consist of the replacement of heaters, faulty roofs, broken water lines, (The Americans with Disabilities Act) upgrades, which total $68,333,” Zaykowski said.

Last year the city nearly rehabilitated 4 houses, but the total amount was not available, Zaykowski said.

There is still time to submit public comments for the city’s use of CDBG funds in its 2021 Action Plan, Zaykowski said. Comments can be sent by email to [email protected], or by mail to: Office of Economic & Community Development, Attention Joyce Zaykowski, 40 East Market Street, Wilkes-Barre PA 18711.