Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dentention center history

July 2001: Pennsylvania Child Care, a group of private developers, sends Luzerne County an unsolicited proposal to build a 48-bed juvenile detention facility in Township and lease it to the county for $37 million over 30 years. Commissioner Stephen A. Urban calls it a “sweetheart deal.” The principal investors are identified as Greg Zappala and Robert Powell.
Aug. 14, 2001: W-Cat Inc. is incorporated listing Powell and Jill A. Moran as 50-percent shareholders and an address of 123 Warren St., West Hazleton, site of the Powell law firm.
September 2001: PA Child Care proceeds with development plans, though county commissioners say they will continue to use the existing county-owned juvenile detention center on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre.
April 23, 2002: W-Cat Inc. purchases a 37-acre parcel behind St. Jude School in Wright Township for $407,000. The land is zoned conservation and is undeveloped and mostly wooded. W-Cat buys the land from the Diocese of Scranton, Bishop James C. Timlin trustee. Powell is listed as a contact person for W-Cat on the agreement of sale.

October 2002: County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Conahan announces that judges will stop sending youth to the Water Street center at the end of the year because the building is too rundown.
November 2002: State Department of Public Welfare representatives say the county’s Water Street center is “safe and satisfactory to house juveniles,” which raised questions about the court’s refusal to send youth there. Judge Mark Ciavarella criticizes the state’s plan to renew the facility’s license, saying the center has a multitude of problems.
December 2002: County majority commissioners approve the court’s budget request, which includes the removal of funding for workers who staffed the county’s North River Street center. The court returns the center’s license to the state, essentially closing the place.
February 2003: PA Child Care facility opens. Commissioners agree to allow county juvenile offenders to be lodged there, but only for up to two years while the county builds its own detention center. Commissioners agree to seek zoning approval to build a new detention center on county-owned land near Valley Crest Nursing Home in Plains Township.
March 2003: Urban and then-Commissioner Tom Makowski vote to design a new detention center using roughly $9 million borrowed for that purpose. They say building is the most prudent option because PA Child Care investors want to charge too much, and there are
no guarantees state and federal subsidies will continue.
PA Child Care is willing to sell its center to the county without furnishings for $12 million to $14 million, but county studies peg the value of the unfurnished structure at $7.39 million.
February 2004: Judge Peter Paul Olszewski denies the county’s request for a zoning variance to build a detention center on land adjacent to Valley Crest. Newly elected majority commissioners Greg Skrepenak and Todd Vonderheid put construction plans on hold. Urban unsuccessfully urges majority commissioners to look for another detention center building site.
May 2004: Acker Associates Inc., a Moscow, Pa.,-engineering firm, submits a proposal titled “The Sanctuary” to Wright Township Board of Supervisors on behalf of W-Cat. Moran is identified as president/secretary/treasurer of the corporation. W-Cat requests a zoning change from conservation to residential.

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