1-17-2005 A bunch of baloney?

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You know, I used to chalk up those seemingly endless "911 hang-up calls" to one of two things. I always figured that the most likely reason for 911 to get a call and get immediately hanged up on was a toddler playing with a phone somewhere while mommy and daddy were busy with more important things than watching their smallish kids.

The other likely scenario was that some chickie's boyfriend was about ready to use her for a punching bag, she dialed 911 and then the semi-sober boy toy grabs the phone and disconnects the thing. What else could cause such a thing?

I was wandering through the downtown today and stopped at a business staffed by one lonely person. While waiting at the rear of the two person checkout line, the phone rang and the guy at the register picked it up.

Register Guy: Hello. What? What?!? No, er...no. I don't know. No. There's nobody else here. No, I didn't call 911. Okay, bye.

So, what the heck causes that usual nonsense? Violent solar flares? Positive ion displacement due to the moon's suddenly wobbling orbit? A terrorist plot in the working? Or using someone else's cell phone to masterbate?

I don't get it.

$241,000 to $340,000...to repair a shuttered firehouse? That can't be right, can it? We're not stupid enough to believe what the engineers are telling us, are we?

I think those numbers are a bunch of baloney.--Councilman Jim McCarthy, Times Leader 1-14-2005

Recently, engineers inspected all three of our remaining firehouses and their assessment of needed upgrades at those firehouses should be in the hands of the chief and the mayor by now. According to a Voice story from 1-1-05, "...the city placed $200,000 in a reserve for capital improvement" after the right-to-slave tax was increased from $10 to $52 a year.

More from that same Voice story: According to finance officer John Koval, the additional $200,000 is a companion to $350,000 budgeted for the construction of a new firehouse in the North End.

The station will be funded with Office of Economic and Community Development money, and will replace the closed firehouse on Conyngham Avenue.

Fire chief Jake Lisman said that station should be constucted in 2005.

Just so we're all clear here, Office of Economic and Community Development funds must be used for new construction and not the purchasing of an expensive Band-Aid to quiet a few vocal residents of the Heights and a city councilman who needs to study up a bit.

Basically, open or not, all five of our firehouses need some major bucks pumped into them. It made complete sense to mothball the deplorable Northeast Station and it also made perfect sense to close down a firehouse (East Station) in which the electrical outlets can also be used as water fountains. I'm picturing a touring Cub Scout bent over and slurping from an outlet. Very strange, but entirely possible.

If our mayor knuckled under to the public criticisms he had to endure after the East Station went bye-bye, and promptly sunk a quarter million into that dump, how smart would that move look if the roofs and, or the heating systems failed at either South Station, or Headquarters? Or both?

Up here in the Nord End, our firehouse was closed, we, the residents didn't freak the funk out for the cameras, and the city already has a plan in place to replace it. And sooner rather than later. Then there's the closed station in the Heights.

Our mayor smartly refused to "throw good money after bad" when the residents in that neighborhood started making some noise for the media and our council folks have publicly stated that they want that station replaced in one form or another. Basically, he knows that the onus is on him to make things right again, but I think we need to cut him some slack on this issue. He can only address so many emergencies at a time, yeah? From what my sources at the big hall are telling me, the seeds for the Money trees were back-ordered. Drat!

And I'm not suggesting that it's wrong for concerned residents to get involved, and by no means am I hinting that our politicians should not be held accountable. But we've had one councilman calling the engineers report a bunch of bull, while a council babe said "The information has been gathered and it's time to act."

All I'm suggesting is: 1. No one is lying to us. 2. We need to deal with the financial realities we currently find ourselves faced with. 3. Patience is required on our part while the city grapples with it's problems. And 4. Be wary of council folks who speak before getting a grip on all of the pertinent facts.

Is the mayor fibbing to us? Are the good folks from Borton-Lawson also spinning some very tall tales so as to put out the fires of discontent at the mayor's behest? Read the report for yourselves.

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The last paragraph really says it all:

Please note the construction budgets shown above are preliminary in nature. They have been based on a very limited investigation and are intended only as an order of magnitude. Accurate costs can only be determined from a qualified Contractor engaged in a competitive bidding situation using final design documents.

So $241,000 to $340,000 is a bunch of baloney?

In all likelihood, that estimate just might be the tip of a very expensive iceberg and our Titanic days need to remain behind us.

Bulldoze it and build a new one provided that the folks in the Heights can get their minds around the concept of being patient.

Sez me.

A while back...one of my kids was bitching about the traffic in Wilkes-Barre. I quickly engaged that bullspit as if I was on an opium-laced Jihad from hell.

This is roughly what I barked at the stunned kid:

Traffic? What frickin' traffic? When I was a kid, we ate nothing but the pages of grampy's old Penthouse magazines dipped in raspberry grits. Wait. Wrong diatribe. Here we go.

When I was an even bigger knucklehead than I am now, there was no Wilkes-Barre Boulevard. I'm not making that up. Nope. It didn't exist. It was an endless sea of railroad tracks and dog ugly lean-to shantys that supported them. And there was no Sherman Street extension stretching from Coal Street to Zayre's. Er, Home Depot. For that matter, there was no freakin' Coal Street to even extend from. It was more like Coal Alley, and it didn't even connect with Route 309 at the Wilkes-Barre Drive-In. Er, Sam's Club. Try traversing that bygone city in a rusted-out Pontiac Bonneville with bald tires and no fuzzy dice. Try it.

In those days, Penn Avenue, Main Street and Scott Street were bumper-to-bumper and the traffic from Kidder Street often overwhelmed the Butler Street Bridge. The bridge? Well, there used to be a bridge where Butler is now. No, I'm not drunk! Well, maybe just a little. But there was a bridge there once, damn flammin' kid! And it was a friggin' pigeon magnet.

Sure! There were less cars on the roads in those days. But there was less roads, too. Back then, the white kids didn't slice their wrists if they didn't get a brand new car right off the showroom floor for their sixteenth birthday, while the much darker kids were happy just to see their sixteenth birthday. Back in those days, kids either humped their sorry asses all over the valley or they rode the LCTA busses. Yeah, with the old people!

Kids today! I swear!

McDonald's? There was no McDonalds. And for that matter, there was no boulevard, either.

Yeah, the Butler Street Bridge. If you stared long and hard due South from Conyngham, you'd see it clear as day.

Coal Street? The Boulevard? Guess again. Try the intersection of Coal Way and Baltimore Street.

Traffic in Wilkes-Barre? Methinks not.

I don't normally...do this sort of thing, but I'll give you a heads up on what's on tap for tomorrow's installment of The Times of Zordork. Actually, I'm usually lost on what I'm doing from one day to another, but that's a subject we can explore at a later date if need be.

How's about some more engineering reports, heh?

From the folks at Quad 3 Group:

Roof Replacement, HVAC Replacement and Overhead Door Replacement
Headquarters, 20-22 Ross Street, Wilkes-Barre, Pa
Quad3 #8588.01P

Then there's:

Roof Replacement, HVAC Replacement
South Station, Corner of High and Parrish Streets, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Quad3 #8588.01P

And then there's the big motha':

The Construction of a new 6,500 Square Foot Fire Station
located within Hollenback Park, North Washington Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Quad3 #8589.01P

Rather than have to deal with baseless accusations, we'll deal with the facts. Rather than listen to uninformed speculation, we'll crunch the actual numbers for ourselves.

I think what we'll all learn is that there really is a plan in place. But it's going to take some time and money to see these plans through.

After what we've been through in this city during the past few troubling years, are we still capable of being patient at this point? Maybe the engineers reports will help to calm some of the unchecked emotions currently being evoked in certain parts of our city.

I sure hope so.

Anyway, it's the Quad 3 Group show tomorrow.