Sen. Yudichak Comments on Resignation of State’s DEP Secretary

Harrisburg, May 20, 2016– State Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) provided the following statement in response to today’s resignation of John Quigley, who served as secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP):

“Governor Wolf made a quick and appropriate decision in accepting the resignation of DEP Secretary John Quigley.

Secretary Quigley demonstrated poor judgment and a clear inability to work with legislators to advance the Governor’s environmental agenda.

I’m looking forward to working with interim Secretary Patrick McDonnell and the Republican and Democratic members of the General Assembly to put this matter behind us and move forward on the important matters before the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee like the Clean Power Plan and Chapter 78 regulations governing the oil and gas industry.”

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Carbon/Schuylkill & Luzerne Counties SHINE Programs Selected to Join National STEM Learning Initiative

Announcement made at US News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference

Baltimore, MD, May 19, 2016 – The STEM Funders Network (SFN) announced today that the Carbon/Schuylkill and Luzerne County SHINE programs have been selected as one of the 10 STEM Learning Ecosystems to join the STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative, a national initiative, initially developed in 2015-16 beginning with 27 STEM Learning Ecosystems communities across the United States.

Led by the STEM Funders Network, the STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative is built on over a decade of National Academy and related research focused on how to cultivate successful STEM collaborations. The selected sites from across the United States have committed to collaborate and share their work towards this common vision.

“These communities have the potential of reaching millions of young people both in and out-of-school with innovative STEM learning opportunities,” said SFN co-chairs Gerald Solomon, executive Director, Samueli Foundation, and Ron Ottinger, Director of STEM Next. “It is an initiative to design the kind of infrastructure that ensures STEM learning is truly ‘everywhere’ and is a top priority for communities supporting youth to develop the skills and knowledge they need for success in a global workforce.”

“We have already seen the success stories that SHINE has helped produce here in our region of Pennsylvania, and it is very exciting to be able to share our own experiences with others. Working with other leaders in STEM education can only strengthen SHINE and provide even better opportunities and brighter futures for our kids,” said Congressman Lou Barletta (R-11th).

“SHINE is quickly earning a national reputation for its STEM based after-school curriculum,” said State Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon). “Joining the STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative will add value to the quality of education of every SHINE student, and contribute to the growing body of data that demonstrates the importance of investing in STEM based after-school programs.”

“The SHINE program at Lehigh Carbon Community College serves students who may not have access to this kind of STEM curriculum otherwise,” said Lehigh Carbon County Community College President Dr. Ann D. Bieber. “Developing knowledge in STEM is one of our key goals, as we work to give children the skills to succeed in the workplace, which for them may seem so far into the future. We understand the importance of instilling capabilities in students early, and are honored that the LCCC SHINE program was recognized nationally for this work. SHINE is a great example of the kind of impact we can have when we work together.”

“Lehigh Carbon Community College SHINE program is extremely proud to be part of this grassroots STEM community movement, and we look forward to working with all of our partners to expand opportunities in STEM education to area youth,” Rachel Strucko, Director of the Lehigh Carbon Community College Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE program.

“SHINE’s involvement in the STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative will allow Wilkes University to share its expertise in STEM education in support of this new opportunity for children in our community,” said Dr. Patrick F. Leahy, president of Wilkes University.

“We are thrilled that the Carbon/Schuylkill/Luzerne County Ecosystem and our network of community partners will be the vehicle for exposing thousands of children to STEM education,” said Jeanne Miller, Interim Director, SHINE of Luzerne County at Wilkes University.

The initiative is focused on bringing all in and out of school learning platforms together, from PreK through higher education including the voice of workforce, to ensure that ALL people have equal access and opportunity to succeed in the STEM fields.

The 10 communities will join the initial cohort of the national STEM Community of Practice, having demonstrated cross-sector collaborations that deliver rigorous, effective preK-16 instruction in STEM learning in schools and beyond the classroom – in afterschool and summer programs, science centers, libraries, at home and other places both virtual and physical— that spark young people’s engagement, develops their knowledge, strengthens their persistence and nurtures their sense of identity and belonging in the STEM disciplines, leading to building a vibrant and competitive STEM workforce. As these STEM Ecosystems evolve, a student will be able to connect what they learn in and out of school with real-world learning opportunities, leading to STEM-related careers and opportunities.

Learn more about the initiative at stemecosystems.org.

About the STEM Funders Network: The STEM Funders Network brings together grant makers working in STEM to learn from one another, leverage their collective resources and collaborate on high-impact projects they could not undertake alone. The vision of the STEM Funders Network is that all U.S. students should have equal opportunity to engage in high-quality STEM learning experiences that will enhance their ability to succeed in a STEM career or other chosen path.

About SHINE:

SHINE in Carbon and Schuylkill counties is administered by Lehigh Carbon Community College and provides academic support for students from seven school districts. The comprehensive 42-week after school/summer program includes kindergarten home visits, 1st – 4th grade STEM Centers, 5th – 8th grade STEM Career Academies, and high school career awareness/mentoring opportunities.

SHINE of Luzerne County is a three-year pilot program based on the Carbon/Schuylkill model. The program is operating in five area school districts. Wilkes University is the educational host. It is an innovative and data driven after-school program that improves academic performance, increases school attendance, reduces juvenile crime and breaks the cycle of poverty in NEPA – all by empowering families through education.

The two SHINE programs currently provide services to more than 1,000 students.

Senator Yudichak and Rep. Toohil Announce $500,000 Grant for Downtown Hazleton Arts Center

Hazleton, May 16, 2016– State Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) and Representative Tarah Toohil (R-116th) have announced The Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress has been awarded a $500,000 Keystone Communities Grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development. The City of Hazleton sponsored the application on behalf of the Alliance, which administers the city’s Keystone Main Street program.

ArtistRenderingHazletonArtsCenter

“The Keystone Communities grant is the latest in a series of strategic investments in the Broad Street Corridor in Downtown Hazleton,” said Senator Yudichak. “The state funding will help transform the former Security Bank building

into the new City Arts Center and create additional development opportunities downtown.”

The Keystone Communities program assists communities in achieving revitalization. The program designates and funds communities that are implementing Main Street programs by supporting physical improvements.

The grant matches a Luzerne County LSA grant awarded last year for the project which is in the design phase. It is expected to be put out for bid this fall.

‘These funds are critical to the Arts Center project, which will serve as an anchor and catalyst for revitalization of the whole block,” said Krista Schneider, Executive Director of The Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress.

“The award could not have come at a better time, as we can expand the scope of the renovations and open the building up to the new park property. Our organization and the Art League–who will relocate to the building

once complete–are very much looking forward to getting this project underway.”

“It is exciting to see the Alliance’s plans become reality with the help of this state funding,” said Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne). “These projects are important to the success of the revitalization now underway in downtown Hazleton,

which is so critical to the entire region’s economic future. The new arts center and other facade improvements will help attract more people and businesses, and increase interest and participation in the business district’s continued rebirth.”

”This is a further step in the Revitalization of our city. The progress that has been made over the past several years downtown will serve as the springboard for dramatic improvements throughout our great city,” said Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat.

Carbon County Safety Day 2016 Honors Junior Firefighters and Youth Volunteers

Jim Thorpe, May 7, 2016 – For the fourth consecutive year Carbon County Safety Day has kicked off the summer season promoting safety and offering area families a free day of fun at Mauch Chunk Lake Park.

The event is hosted by state Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon), the Carbon County commissioners, Kid Zone Blue Mountain Health System, Carbon Masonic Lodge No. 242 and the Nolan Ritchie Staying Afloat Foundation.

This year the day included special recognition for Carbon County’s junior firefighters and youth volunteers of area fire departments who were given certificates for their service.

“At a time when the number of volunteers is dropping, it is a pleasure to honor these young men and women who see the need and are giving their time to help local fire companies in a variety of ways,” said Senator Yudichak.

A number of agencies set up displays in the park to educate area families about water safety, animal safety, fire safety, bicycle safety, poison control and more.

Participating agencies included state Rep. Doyle Heffley’s office, SHINE(Students and Home In Education) , Pathstone Head Start, Blue Mountain Health System, Right From The Start, Carbon County Emergency Management Agency, the County Animal Response Team, CERT, Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission, Family Promise, Carbon County Children’s Team, Pennsylvania State Police, American Red Cross, Penn State Master Gardeners, New York Life, the Nolan Ritchie Staying Afloat Foundation, St. Luke’s, Radio Station WMGH, the PA Fish and Boat Commission, Pre-K Counts, Carbon County Amateur Radio Club, the Pyramid, Carbon County Action Committee, Friends of Beltzville State Park, CareNet of Carbon County and Turn To Us.

Approximately a dozen area volunteer fire companies and medical helicopters from St. Luke’s University Health Network and Lehigh Valley Health Network allowed attendees to see their equipment up close.

Prizes included bicycles and a wagon that were raffled off in a free giveaway. The bicycle team, The Jim Thorpers, through the Masons, donated one-thousand dollars worth of bicycles and an additional dozen bikes were purchased and given away.

Refreshment donations came from Aetna, Redner’s Warehouse Markets, Stroehmann’s Bakery, Hatfield Quality Meats, McDonald’s, Hazle Park, Herr’s, Zimmerman’s Iced Tea and Dale Ott.

Major sponsors for the event included: State Senator John Yudichak, Carbon County, Carbon Lodge No. 242 Free & Accepted Masons, Jim Thorpe National Bank, Mauch Chunk Trust Company, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Blue Mountain Health System, Nolan Ritchie Staying Afloat Foundation, SHINE, Carbon County Lions/Lioness Fair Association, WMGH/WLSH Radio, and Walmart.

Senator Yudichak and Rep. Mullery Announce Growing Greener Grant for Earth Conservancy Project

Nanticoke, May 6, 2016 – State Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) and Representative Gerald Mullery (D-119th) today announced a $734,600 Growing Greener grant for the Earth Conservancy Bliss Bank Project in Nanticoke.

The money will be used for Bliss Bank Phase II a 54 acre reclamation project that is part of a larger 200 acre tract known as Bliss Bank Phase I. The land is located on Prospect Street in Nanticoke across the street from Luzerne County Community College.  The goal of the project is to make the land available for development.

“Creating economic opportunities while cleaning up the environment is a great use of state resources,” said Senator John Yudichak. “The Earth Conservancy has proven it has the ability to effectively manage grant dollars to reclaim mine scarred land and make it available for development.”

“The Earth Conservancy thanks the State of Pennsylvania for having the Growing Greener Program,” said Michael Dziak, President/ CEO of the Earth Conservancy.

“And with this grant Earth Conservancy will continue a second phase of restoring mine scarred land in the Bliss area across from Luzerne County Community College.  This will provide land for future development and save our green area for conservation and open space.”

“The environmental benefits of the cleanup are important, but it will also have an economic benefit. The project will allow the property to be used for mixed use development that could someday support economic initiatives,” said Rep. Gerald Mullery who worked with Senator Yudichak to secure the grant.

Growing Greener grants are used for a variety of projects that include helping communities address land use; and provide new and upgraded water and sewer systems.

 

Senator John Yudichak’s Remarks from Plymouth Township’s Exit from Act 47 Status

The Act 47 Municipal Financial Recovery Act is not lightly imposed by DCED.

Act 47 is a serious and arduous financial recovery program that no PA community aspires to enter and few ever exit.

In 2004, Plymouth Township had no good options. Its debt burden was nearly three times its operating budget, unpaid bills were piling up and the entire police department was furloughed because the Township was out of money.

Poor leadership decisions in the aftermath of the flood of 1996 is where Plymouth Township’s fiscal crisis began. Leaders, at that time, overspent and overextended resources that ultimately sank the Township budget into a perpetual cycle of debt.

As Plymouth Township’s budget problems grew, a group of new leaders took charge. Supervisors Conrad, Brennan, Manley, Yudichak and Katurak, immediately sought assistance from the state, made tough decisions and put Plymouth Township on the road to recovery.

The Township hired a professional manager, Steve Grzymski, and implemented the Supervisors’ leadership plan. Steve Grzymski, quiet and unassuming, has been an exceptional steward of the Act 47 program with the assistance of the recovery manager – the NEPA Alliance.

Act 47 allowed Plymouth Township to reform budget operations, improve governance and invest in the delivery of municipal services.

With an Act 47 recovery plan in place Plymouth Township slowly, but methodically paid down its debt and instituted new fiscal policies to ensure a balanced budget.

In addition, Plymouth Township sought governance changes that transitioned them to a home rule charter form of government and enabled them to raise revenue through an EIT rather than local property taxes. The public, with 83% voting in support, overwhelmingly approved the new governance plan.

Despite early progress in Act 47, Plymouth Township faced many setbacks. A fire hit its public works garage, floods hit in 2004, 2005, 2006, and in 2011 the Coal Street Flood and Tropical Storm Lee hit Plymouth Township.

After twelve years, and just about every challenge you can imagine, Plymouth Township is exiting the Act 47 program stronger than ever before because its leaders never gave up on the good people of our community – a community I proudly call home.

I’ve always been, and I always will be Township Proud.

Two projects illustrate perfectly the resilience of Plymouth Township.

I grew up in the shadow of the Avondale Mine. I knew of its glory, its tragedy and its legacy of environmental degradation. Facing its own fiscal challenges, Plymouth Township was not in a good position to tackle such a large reclamation project.

However, despite being in the Act 47 program, Plymouth forged ahead and partnered with the Earth Conservancy, DEP and our legislative office to secure over $6.6 million in funds to reclaim some of the worst abandon mine lands in Luzerne County. The Avondale Mine Reclamation Project, fittingly, will be completed this year as Plymouth Township completes its historic financial recovery.

The second project, the Coal Street Flood Control Project, demonstrates just how tough and resourceful Plymouth Township can be.

In July of 2011, a unique storm event dumped nearly seven inches of rain in an hour on one section of Plymouth Township in the Coal Creek watershed. The raging waters that poured over the banks of Coal Creek knocked homes off their foundations, destroyed a bridge and tossed cars down Coal Street like they were matchbox toys. The damage was breathtaking.

FEMA and PEMA said the storm did not meet the threshold of a natural disaster, and therefore no funding assistance was available to the Township. Plymouth Township, again, refused to be beaten. The Township teamed up with DEP, the Luzerne Conservation District and our legislative office to secure over $1.3 million dollars to repair the infrastructure and build a new flood control system along Coal Creek.

Plymouth Township is my home. It is where I grew up, it is where I am raising my children. It is where my father, Joe Yudichak, taught me that politics is the art of the possible.

Plymouth Township embodies the very best of small town Pennsylvania where neighbors never give up on neighbors, and where everybody pitches in to make their community a better place to live.

Congratulations to Plymouth Township, DCED and the NEPA Alliance for your effective implementation of the Act 47 program.

Finally, one last note of thanks, Thank you to the Board of Supervisors, the Township Manager, the Township workers and the taxpayers of Plymouth Township who never gave up on our proud community.