WILKES-BARRE — Police are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found inside a Parsons section home as suspicious.

City police said they responded to 181 Matson Ave. on Friday to perform a welfare check on a female at that address. Upon arrival, the occupant was found to be deceased.

“The manner of death is unknown at this time and the death is being initially ruled suspicious pending an autopsy,” a statement posted to the Wilkes-Barre Police Department Facebook page indicated.



City police as well as the Wilkes-Barre Detective Division, Luzerne County Coroner’s Office, county District Attorney’s Office and a state police forensic unit were called to the scene.

Wilkes-Barre detectives obtained a search warrant for the apartment. Coroner Frank Hacken and two of his deputies removed the woman’s body from her apartment around 5 p.m. Hacken referred questions to the police and district attorney’s office.

“Not a thing, that’s why I’m thinking it was when I’m away, ’cause I leave at 4:30, 5 o’clock in the morning. I don’t get home until like 5 (p.m.) or 6 (p.m.) so,” said Gary Birt.

“I think it happened in the daytime. I really do,” Birt, 70, said, adding, “ I’m thinking Monday or Tuesday. I was away all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Birt said he would say “Hi” to the woman.“The last time I saw her she seemed very pleasant,” he said.

Anyone with information related to this incident, or who has any knowledge of any suspicious activity in this area is asked to call the Wilkes-Barre Police Detective Division at 570-208-4225 or 570-208-0911 and ask for detectives Stash or Jensen.

JENKINS TOWNSHIP — One man is dead and a woman was injured after the all-terrain vehicle they were riding plunged through a sheet of thin ice early Saturday afternoon.

Steven Kenzakoski, 47, of Jenkins Township was pronounced dead at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Hospital after rescue teams pulled him from the water at the Mill Creek Reservoir on Bald Mountain Road.

Kenzakoski and a female passenger were attempting to ride an ATV across the reservoir, which was covered with a thin layer of ice, when they fell into the water. The woman made it to shore on her own, and was also treated at Geisinger.

Due to the unreliable terrain and the remote location of the incident, rescue teams had a hard time getting to Kenzakoski.

According to the coroner’s office, the death was accidental, and the cause was cardiac arrest due to drowning. There will be no autopsy performed.

Within 14 hours spanning two days in July 1930, farmer Harry D. Sordoni and Harveys Lake police Chief John T. Ruth were fatally shot in the Back Mountain.

The alleged killer, Paul Skopa, 28, took his own life but not before discharging a shotgun at three teenage brothers who found him hiding behind a fallen tree.

“One of the most gruesome crimes in the history of Luzerne County was written Saturday night and Sunday morning at and in the vicinity of the Harry D. Sordoni farm in Lehman,” reported the Times Leader on July 21, 1930.

Sordoni, 52, who lived with his family at 884 Rutter Ave., Kingston, was fatally wounded inside his farmhouse in Lehman Township on July 19, 1930, and Ruth, 49, also a Luzerne County deputy sheriff, was slain in an ambush the next morning.

“Shocked beyond measure by a maniac’s slaughter of a respected farmer and an esteemed police official, and then the killer’s horrible suicide to avoid capture, Wyoming Valley today had only partially regained customary composure,” the newspaper reported July 21, 1930.

Skopa worked on the Sordoni farm for about a year and held a good reputation among farmers of Lehman and Jackson townships.

The Times Leader reported Skopa arrived at the Sordoni home in Kingston while the family was unloading supplies from a vehicle. Skopa was carrying a double barreled shotgun that did not raise suspicions to the family.

Skopa joined Sordoni as he drove to his Lehman farm with his family, including his two children, Freida, 16, and son, Francis, 25.

When they arrived and exited the machine, Skopa fired two shots at point blank range, striking Sordoni in the chest.

Freida Sordoni jumped into the vehicle and shifted gears moving the machine backwards. Skopa aimed the shotgun at her and fired a shot, striking Freida Sordoni in the leg with pellets.

After shooting the two Sordoni children, Skopa ran into the house but did not harm Sordoni’s wife and other daughter.

Freida Sordoni was able to drive the machine to Lehman Center where she leaped from the vehicle and ran into the office of Dr. H.A. Brown. She returned to the farm and found her father barely alive.

Sordoni was loaded into the vehicle and driven to Nesbitt Hospital in Kingston where he died from blood loss.

“State police at Wyoming barracks were notified and two carloads armed with riot guns sped down Wyoming Avenue, through Luzerne Borough and to the farm,” the Times Leader reported.

Ruth and policemen John Higgins returned to the farmhouse at about 5:30 a.m. on July 20, 1930. As they exited their police car and walked toward the house, a shot was fired from woods striking the farmhouse.

Ruth approached the area where the shot was fired and was struck in the chest by a shotgun ball. Higgins dragged Ruth to the police car and drove him to Nesbitt Hospital where he died several hours later.

“The shooting of Captain Ruth aroused the police to fever heat and resulted in the banding of more than a score of armed farmers into a posse. Dividing into groups, police and vigilantes formed a wide circle and started to close in on Skopa,” the Times Leader reported.

Three teen brothers involved in the search encountered Skopa sitting behind a fallen tree holding a shotgun. When one of the boys yelled to Skopa, he raised the shotgun and fired, nearly striking the boys.

Hearing policemen run toward the shot, Skopa took his own life with the shotgun, the Times Leader reported.

“Neighbors stated that Skopa was considered harmless although he was known to be a drinking man. It is believed that he was in an intoxicated condition Saturday and attempted to secure money from Sordoni but was refused,” reported the Times Leader.

Sordoni was buried in Fern Knoll Cemetery in Dallas, and Ruth was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Shavertown. Skopa was interred in Maple Hill Cemetery in Hanover Township without a funeral service.

About two years before Ruth was fatally wounded, he suffered a fractured skull when struck by a milk bottle while attempting to disperse a crowd of noisy bathers at Harveys Lake on Aug. 6, 1928, the newspaper reported.

KINGSTON — New CEO Gary Bernstein was officially welcomed to the Jewish Community Alliance of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and Israeli baseball player Robert Paller was the guest speaker as the JCA held their annual meeting, entitled “Creating Connections and Building Bridges Together” on Sunday afternoon at the Friedman Jewish Community Center.

A handful of awards were given out to recognize the contributions of some local members of the JCA, in addition to presentations from Bernstein and Paller. This is the 2nd annual meeting to be held at the JCC’s new location in Kingston, which held its grand opening in September of last year after a ribbon-cutting ceremony in March.

After an opening prayer and a rendition of the national anthem, the mic was turned over to state Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston, who promised to keep his remarks brief.

The youth were the first to be recognized by the JCA, as two local teens received the Morris and Kitty Nelson Award for their outstanding service and commitment to the faith. Adam Rogers and Olivia Roth were honored with the awards.

The highlight of the afternoon was a presentation by Paller, left fielder for the Israeli national baseball team. A native of Brooklyn, Paller played collegiate baseball at Columbia University and bounced around the country for a few years, joining several clubs but never quite breaking through to the big leagues.

Of course, representing Israel in the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo isn’t a bad consolation prize.

“They didn’t even have baseball in the Olympics when I was growing up,” Paller said. “I never thought this would ever happen.”

Paller was raised both Jewish and Catholic, and although he wasn’t particularly religious growing up, he jumped on the chance to represent Israel when he received a message on Instagram asking him to become an Israeli citizen and join the team.

The Israeli national team, against all odds, qualified for one of six available spots in the Tokyo Olympics, making them the first Israeli team sport to make it to the Olympics in almost five decades.

It’s been quite the journey for Paller, who’s seen his fair share of anti-Semitism along the way.

“Represnting Israel comes with a sense of pride, but also with a heightened sense of security,” Paller said.

Paller’s overall goal is to help grow the sport in Israel so that the country could field a baseball team entirely comprised of Israeli-born athletes, someday.

After Paller’s remarks were concluded, the crowd was formally introduced to CEO Gary Bernstein, who took over in his role about seven weeks ago.

“I’ve spent my first month and a half making a concerted effort to get out and meet as many of you as possible,” Bernstein said.

It was Bernstein that presented the final award of the afternoon, the newly-minted Barbara Sugarman Professional Staff Award.

“Even though this award has my name on it, it wouldn’t be possible without the work of everyone on this staff,” Sugarman said.

Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri will present his annual “state of the county” report Tuesday as required by the county’s home rule charter.

His report is scheduled at the beginning of the county council meeting, which will start at 5:30 p.m., or a half hour earlier than usual.

The charter says council must hold at least two regular meetings per month, but only one must begin after 6 p.m.

Because the Feb. 11 voting meeting was preceded by a lengthy work session, it started late in the evening and ran until after midnight.

Council is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to stop collection of the $5 vehicle registration fee on Dec. 31.

The administration has said the fee should remain in effect an additional year, or through 2021, because more time is needed to collect $2 million for bridges to secure a full $2 million state bridge match. The administration had opted to use $1 million of the $1.13 million collected last year to fix two deteriorated roads, including one that will be taken over by a municipality to reduce the county’s infrastructure.

Critics said the administration should have expressly alerted council it planned to use fee revenue for roads because only bridge spending counts as credit toward obtaining the state match.

Council also may vote on the introduction of an ordinance suggested by Councilman Matthew Vough to create a County Cares Commission focused on drug and substance abuse and homelessness.

Vough’s agenda submission said the commission would work with council’s legislative committee to identify and secure grants, partner with county human service departments to host public education forums and collaborate with local nonprofit organizations to reduce the stigma of substance abuse, highlight rehabilitation success stories and provide community outreach programs to help county residents.

Council’s legislative committee delayed public discussion about drafting a stormwater fee opposition letter at its meeting last week because it wanted to stick to a two-hour limit and used that time for comments from area legislators and citizens.

However, Committee Chairman Harry Haas has submitted a proposed letter to council that is up for discussion at Tuesday’s work session.

The letter to President Donald Trump is meant to convey council’s displeasure with a federal pollution reduction mandate and resulting stormwater fee imposed in much of the Wyoming Valley area.

County council has no jurisdiction over the fee, but council passed a resolution earlier this month opposing the fee and authorizing the county law office to research options to challenge the fee and mandate. County officials have stressed it’s still unclear if legal action is viable and, if so, what it would cost and the time and resources involved. Under the county’s charter, the manager would have to recommend legal action to council for its approval.

The proposed draft letter to Trump says council passed a resolution that “instructs” the county law office to seek an injunction in federal court seeking to halt the mandate and fee collection.

Proposed memorandums of understanding with supervisory employees in three human service departments also are up for discussion at the work session, likely in closed-door executive session.

Represented by Teamsters Local 401, these workers in Mental Health/Developmental Services, Children and Youth and the Agency on Aging are working under agreements that expired at the end of 2019.

In the first, he wants council to seek a declaratory statement from the county Court of Common Pleas on whether two Republican applicants — Joyce Dombroski-Gebhardt and Mark Finkelstein — were eligible for an unpaid county election board seat under the home rule charter.

The charter says board appointees cannot have held any elective public office or public employment during the four years prior to appointment.

Council appointed Dombroski-Gebhardt, but Griffith is questioning whether she is eligible because she has been an elected Republican committee member since 1996. The county law office deemed Finkelstein ineligible because he has been a poll worker in Kingston since the 2017 primary election.

Griffith also is proposing a resolution to transfer unspent funds that had been earmarked for non-union raises into the budget reserve.

Although pension subsidies will continue to put a strain on Luzerne County’s budget, strong 2019 investment returns should soften the blow, officials said at a recent county retirement board meeting.

Annual taxpayer contributions to the employee pension fund are based on a 7% investment return target.

Last year’s return was more than double that, or 17.3%, generating $39.1 million for the fund and boosting its overall value to $258 million, said fund investment adviser Richard J. Hazzouri, of Morgan Stanley.

As a result, fund actuary Greg Stump has lowered his projections of the amounts that must be paid from 2020 through 2024.

For 2020, the subsidy is now estimated at $14.25 million, said Stump, of Boomershine Consulting Group LLC.

This may free up $250,000 because the county budgeted $14.5 million for this year’s subsidy based on a prior estimate from Stump. About 75%, or $10.85 million, comes from the general fund, while the remaining $3.65 million is paid by departments covered by state revenue or other outside funding, said county Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz.

Swetz cautioned the county cannot bank on the savings at this time because Stump does not issue a final report until June. The numbers for the next four years also are subject to change because the actuary updates projections annually based on actual returns and other factors, Swetz said.

Based on the higher 2019 investment return, Stump projects the annual taxpayer subsidy will range from $14.6 million to $15 million from 2021 through 2024. His previous estimates had the subsidy increasing from $15.6 million in 2021 to $17.2 million in 2024.

Taxpayer contributions are necessary to help close a more than $100 million gap between assets and future liabilities that emerged years ago, when investment earnings and employee contributions stopped keeping pace with obligations for future pensions that are guaranteed by law, officials have said. As with other plans, costs are rising with increased life expectancy.

In 2019 alone, the fund paid $21.89 million to approximately 1,300 retirees, records show. The average monthly pension is $900 to $950, officials said.

Stump reported the plan is now 71% funded with the infusion from last year’s returns, which means it’s currently equipped to pay 71% of future obligations.

Attempting to subdue expectations of a repeat of last year’s performance, Hazzouri said he forecasts “much more muted” returns in 2020, noting the year-to-date gain is 2%.

A year ago, board officials were bemoaning the fund’s negative 6.26% return for 2018, which ended with the “worst December return since the Great Depression,” Hazzouri said, describing it as a “dramatically different story.”

Investment options also are somewhat limited because it is a government pension plan that must keep cash ready to pay retirees, officials have said.

About 25% of the funds are invested in bonds, with some short-term for liquidity, Hazzouri said. The remaining investment mix: 54% stocks, 20% alternative investments and 1% cash.

In other business at the recent meeting, John Evanchick Jr., a sheriff department employee, was selected as board chairman. Councilwoman Kendra Radle will be vice chair. Swetz, Council Chairman Tim McGinley and county Manager C. David Pedri also serve on the board.

PLAINS TWP. — Flames tore through a commercial greenhouse Saturday night, township Fire Chief Mark Ritsick said.

The cause was unknown Saturday night and no one was around at the time of the fire, Ritsick said. The greenhouse was a loss, he added.

NANTICOKE — Wills for Heroes focuses on the unfortunate reality many first-responders and veterans face: the work is dangerous and potentially fatal.

At the Luzerne County Community College on Saturday, Wills for Heroes set up volunteers in the legal community to provide to free estate planning for area first-responders and veterans. Each volunteer — from lawyers and paralegals to attorneys to members the Wilkes-Barre Law and Library Association — made time to ensure that every first responder or veteran leaves with a full estate plan: a will, a financial power of attorney, and a healthcare power of attorney, with witnesses and notaries on sight. Those needing assistance were given a minimum of an hour’s worth of individual help and attention.

C. David Pedri, chairman of the Wills for Heroes committee and Luzerne County manager, urded the importance of having documents prepared.

Pedri said he was grateful for the opportunity to tell first-responders and veterans “thank you for your service.”

Mike Jordan, a police officer from Wyoming, was a recipient of these services. He was thankful for the individual time and care he received.

“It’s amazing that folks volunteer their time and resources,” Jordan said. “I recommend any first-responder to look this up.”

Similar events happen all over Pennsylvania, with Luzerne County’s first event back in 2012. “Wills for Heroes” originated after the 9/11 attack, when many families of the first responders found they had no estates prepared. “Wills for Heroes” along with Cathy O’Donnell, president of The Wilkes-Barre Law and Library Association, worked to reinvigorate the project for Luzerne County in June of last year, when they began coordinating this event.

Services are also available via appointment and a similar event is planned for the fall. They are planning another session as early as the fall. To make an appointment for the next event, contact Joseph Burke at jburke@luzernecounty.org, or call The Wilkes-Barre Law and Library Association at 570-822-6712.

PITTSTON — For a third year, the Pittston Memorial Library was transformed into an 18-hole miniature golf course Saturday, complete with greens, fairways, obstacles and opportunities to win prizes for a hole in one.

To Carrie Gunderling, a mother of three who also works at the library, the event was a great chance for her children to come out for an afternoon of activity, entertainment and socialization.

“During the winter months the kids spend a lot of time in front of a screen,” Gunderling said. “They had a great time playing golf.”

Gunderling said her children enjoyed the course’s intricate setup, as it wove its way through the library.

As was the case for many of the young participants — keeping score was optional for Gunderling’s three children — Wednesday, 7; Jet, 5 and Hazel, 3.

Gunderling said her children spend a lot of time at the library, but enjoyed seeing it in a new way during the event.

Shellie Russell, West Pittston, brought her daughter Madeleine and a friend out, to support the library and an enjoy an afternoon of fun.

The group was also looking forward to hot dogs and music provided in the community room to complete their afternoon.

Carol Coolbaugh, an employee of the library who also came out to a similar “adult only” event Friday night, said it was a great weekend of fun for all ages.

Friday’s mini-golf event, attended by about 50 people, included adult beverages and refreshments, she said.

Coolbaugh was back at the library early the next morning to welcome families eager to make their way through the course, after choosing from an array of brightly colored golf clubs, laid out according to length.

Lois Ostrowski, president of the library’s board of directors, said many of those attending don’t get a chance to play mini-golf at any other time throughout the year.

“When I was growing up, there were a lot of places to play,” she said. “But, some of the kids haven’t played before.”

“It’s a perfect example of a family day, for parents, grandparents and extended family,” she said.

Ellen Mondlak, a member of the library’s Friends group for over 20 years, was enjoying serving up food to children, hungry after 18 holes.

Some youngsters attending were doing their best to sink the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible.

As his ball made its way into the 18th hole, Michael Gubitoso, 9, of Pittston, couldn’t have been happier.

WILKES-BARRE — The smell of bacon filled the air. A large aluminum tray filled with 2 pounds of crispy goodness sat in front of each of the seven contestants for the second annual bacon-eating contest at Anthracite Café.

The event was part of the restaurant’s seventh annual Bacon Week, which started Feb. 18. With a bacon-centric menu, from Asian-style pigs in a blanket to bacon gyros, the restaurant event is popular with pork fans.

The contestants had 20 minutes to complete their huge servings of bacon. The contest started at 2 p.m. Kevin Sickle of Kingston, a contestant from last year, came to support his friend Matthew Scott, one of the seven competitors.

“Last year they had so much bacon; no one even finished theirs,” Sickle said. The crowd filled the restaurant with the children standing in front to cheer on the contestants and count down the remaining minutes.

Jason Peters of Bear Creek Township emerged as bacon-eating champion. He polished off his tray of bacon with minutes to spare. At one point during the competition, he even reached over to his neighbor’s tray and ate some of his bacon too.

When asked if he knew he would be the champion, Peters said, “Yeah, I felt pretty confident when I got here seeing some of the regulars.”

When the timer had finished, all of the remaining bacon was weighed per contestant. Most of the other contestants had a pound or more of bacon left. Anthracite Café cooked 55 pounds of bacon for the event. The leftovers were sent home with the participants.

Co-owners Christian Switzer and Michael Partash and their team are putting the final touches on Prime at City Market, a 48-seat restaurant and bar attached to the store that is scheduled to open in mid-March.

“We did all this work over here so we felt it deserved its own identity,” Switzer said of the restaurant’s name.

The business also plans to hire 30 to 40 people for the restaurant, which is aiming to offer a little something for all tastes — including breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, Switzer said.

Breakfast offerings will include build-your-own omelettes, breakfast sandwiches, and crepes, a popular item which Switzer sees as lacking in the area.

Lunch will run the gamut from boneless bites to a signature shaved prime rib sandwich, while dinners will include steaks, premium pork chops, pastas, classic Italian and American fusion.

The operation will be under the skilled eye of veteran chef Bernardo O’Brien, who currently operates the market’s kitchen, which will serve deli and restaurant.

For those who enjoy the market’s deli fare, never fear — that part of the business isn’t slated to change, Switzer said.

“The market side, which has a really strong business, will stay the same with the grab-and-go dinners, hoagies and desserts that everyone has come to love,” he added.

This move comes as City Market also has found success with its Public Square location in Wilkes-Barre. Last summer Switzer and his team converted an area at the back of the downtown market into a sushi bar.

“The sushi is doing well down there,” Switzer said. “We looked at the Dallas location and said, we have this space, let’s add on a restaurant and have the best of both worlds.’”

He and Partash hope to capture that feeling not just in the offerings, but in the clientele they hope to attract.

“I think there really was a call for something like this in the Back Mountain — a little bit upscale but affordable,” Switzer explained. “We want to have the Miller Light drinker and the martini drinker.”

Instead of creating a patio, the restaurant will have large garage doors, so that “we can have that indoor-outdoor feel for the three months of the year but still be good for indoor service the other nine months,” Switzer said.

Decor for the eatery will be a mix of metropolitan scenes and local images, as “we want people to get a big city kind of feel in a small town,” he added.

Details of the grand opening will be posted on City Market’s website and social media once the date is set, Switzer said.

“This is an up-and-coming area and this is where people want to be,” Switzer added. “We hope everybody will be happy with what we’ve done.”

Emergency crews from several municipalities were called to the Mill Creek Reservoir off of Bald Mountain Road on Saturday for a water rescue.

Steven Kenzakoski, 47, of Jenkins Township was operating his ATV on a sheet of thin ice when the ice broke, sending Kenzakoski and his vehicle into the water.

Kenzakoski was pulled out of the water by rescue teams and transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley, where he was pronounced dead.

The location of the incident and the uneasiness of the terrain made it difficult for rescue crews to reach Kenzakoski.

Another victim who was on the ATV with Kenzakoski made it to shore and was also treated at Geisinger.

WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvanians Against Illegal Gambling last week applauded the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s effort to intervene in the ongoing court fight to ban Pace-O-Matic of Pennsylvania’s slot machines from the state, noting that the PGCB states unequivocally that, “The POM games are unauthorized and illegal slot machines.”

The PGCB filing also states that while the state’s “…permissible and authorized slot machines pay a tax rate of approximately 52% of gross terminal revenue … the operation by POM of unauthorized slot machines actually illegally diverts tax monies from lawful slot machines and other gaming products like the lottery from the intended Commonwealth beneficiary.”

“Bottom line: these machines are out of control and they have got to go,” said Peter Shelly, a spokesman for PAIG. “The state’s gaming regulators are joining with the PA State Police, Gov. Wolf, the PA Lottery and Pennsylvanians across the state who want these illegal machines outlawed. It’s time for lawmakers to act to ban these machines once and for all from our state.”

The PGCB action is just the latest setback for the illegal slots machines operators. State police continue to conduct raids to confiscate illegal machines and,last week, officials from the state lottery and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging testified before lawmakers that the machines are siphoning anywhere from $200 million to $600 million from state programs for seniors.

“Gov. Wolf’s administration has made a compelling case that these machines are illegal, unregulated and are hurting seniors,” Shelly said. “There is a groundswell of support across the state calling for action to ban these machines and shut these illegal pop-up casinos down.”

PAIG has shared disturbing photos of minors gambling at these illegal machines in convenience stores and gas stations with lawmakers and has received dozens of tips from Pennsylvanians regarding illegal, pop-up gambling dens in communities across the state.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine last week highlighted the issue of teen dating violence and encouraged residents to talk about this emerging public health threat, which not only is a physical issue, but often also leads to mental health issues.

“Teen dating violence is very common and affects millions of teens in the United States each year,” Levine said. “Being exposed to dating violence can cause significant mental and physical health problems. It is essential that we talk about the impacts of dating violence among youth and continue to promote healthy relationship behaviors to ensure the safety of all residents.”

The department partners with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape to support evidence-based strategies to prevent sexual violence and other violent behaviors before they occur. Pennsylvania’s local rape crisis centers receive extensive training and technical assistance through CDC funding. These centers implement prevention strategies that target specific populations within their communities, including schools, college and university campuses, and other partners.

The department also partners with the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation to provide Coaching Boys Into Men as a part of its ongoing efforts to prevent dating violence and increase positive intervention when witnessing intimate partner violence. CBIM is an evidence-based leadership program that teaches young male athletes skills to build respectful and healthy relationships with dating partners, and ultimately to prevent sexual assault and adolescent relationship abuse.

According to the CDC, teens who are victims of violence in high school are at higher risk for experiencing violence during college and throughout their lifetimes. Victims of teen dating violence are also more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety or engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as using tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

“Unhealthy relationships can start early, and the effects can last a lifetime,” Levine said. “Teen dating violence can lead to other forms of violence, such as child abuse, adult sexual violence and suicide. It is essential that we talk to young people about healthy, respectful interactions so they can continue to live healthy lives.”

In January, Wolf announced $1 million in grants to combat campus sexual assault at 36 colleges and universities. These grants mean more than $4 million invested by the Wolf Administration over the past three years to combat campus sexual assault.

In 2019, 7,273 Northeastern Pennsylvania jobs were created or retained as a result of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s (BFTP/NEP) work. BFTP/NEP generated cumulative impacts of 63,137 job creations or retentions since the program’s inception in 1983.

“These strong northeastern Pennsylvania job impacts support the findings of an independent study conducted by the Pennsylvania Economy League,” said Laura Eppler, chief marketing officer of BFTP/NEP. “Pennsylvania’s investment in Ben Franklin statewide represents a $3.90 payback to the state treasury for every dollar invested. And the jobs created in Ben Franklin clients are in industries that pay 52% more than the average state wage.”

Client companies raised an additional $41.79 million in follow-on funding from angel investors, venture capitalists, and other investors in 2019, for a total of $1.601 billion in follow-on investment received since 2007. These results were accomplished in BFTP/NEP’s 21-county service area, including Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Pike, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne and Wyoming counties.

BFTP client companies submit new and retained jobs, new product and process developments, and follow-on funding to BFTP/NEP each year. Ben Franklin reports its annual impacts to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, which funds the statewide Ben Franklin program.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health approved four more clinical registrants that will be part of the state’s first-in-the-nation research program for medical marijuana. A clinical registrant holds both a medical marijuana grower/processor and dispensary permit and is contracted with an approved academic clinical research center.

“Pennsylvania remains on the forefront for clinical research on medical marijuana,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “This research is essential to providing physicians with more evidence-based research to make clinical decisions for their patients. It is the cornerstone of our program and the key to our clinically based, patient-focused program for those suffering with cancer, PTSD and other serious medical conditions.”

The research program, guided by Act 43 of 2018, allows for eight clinical registrants that each must hold both a grower/processor and a dispensary permit. Clinical registrants must have a research contract with one of eight approved academic clinical research centers.

There are nearly 169,000 active certifications as part of the medical marijuana program. Nearly 289,000 patients and caregivers are registered for the program in order to obtain medical marijuana for one of 23 serious medical conditions.

There are currently 77 operational dispensaries in the commonwealth, and all are providing medication to patients. Active cardholders are visiting dispensaries two and a half times a month, on average, to get treatment for a serious medical condition. Each visit has an average sales total close to $110. That total is down from nearly $140 as of August 1, 2018. Nearly 10 million products have been sold since the start of the program, and total sales within the program are close to $720 million, which includes sales by the grower/processors to the dispensaries, and sales by the dispensaries to patients and caregivers.

As of Feb. 18, there are 21 grower/processors with permits to operate in Pennsylvania, and 15 of those are actively shipping to dispensaries. Many grower/processors are expanding at their permitted location.

More than 1,800 physicians have registered for the program, with close to 1,300 approved as practitioners.

JENKINS TOWNSHIP — One man is dead and a woman was injured after the all-terrain vehicle they were riding plunged through a sheet of thin ice early Saturday afternoon.

Within 14 hours spanning two days in July 1930, farmer Harry D. Sordoni and Harveys Lake police Chief John T. Ruth were fatally shot in the Back Mountain.

KINGSTON — New CEO Gary Bernstein was officially welcomed to the Jewish Community Alliance of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and Israeli baseball player Robert Paller was the guest speaker as the JCA held their annual meeting, entitled “Creating Connections and Building Bridges Together” on Sunday afternoon at the Friedman Jewish Community Center.

Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri will present his annual “state of the county” report Tuesday as required by the county’s home rule charter.

Although pension subsidies will continue to put a strain on Luzerne County’s budget, strong 2019 investment returns should soften the blow, officials said at a recent county retirement board meeting.

PLAINS TWP. — Flames tore through a commercial greenhouse Saturday night, township Fire Chief Mark Ritsick said.

NANTICOKE — Wills for Heroes focuses on the unfortunate reality many first-responders and veterans face: the work is dangerous and potentially fatal.

PITTSTON — For a third year, the Pittston Memorial Library was transformed into an 18-hole miniature golf course Saturday, complete with greens, fairways, obstacles and opportunities to win prizes for a hole in one.

WILKES-BARRE — The smell of bacon filled the air. A large aluminum tray filled with 2 pounds of crispy goodness sat in front of each of the seven contestants for the second annual bacon-eating contest at Anthracite Café.

Your voice matters. So often we hear that statement as it relates to voting, social issues and community engagement. People often struggle with that statement and really believe that their voice doesn’t matter and so they retreat – they do not engage. Census 2020, however is different.

“I’m fine but, wow, thanks for asking! Very few people ask how Mom is doing; we usually get asked how baby is doing, and that’s that.”

It is a sign of our times that Attorney General William Barr tried to do something right and some illiberal liberals, including not a few in the media, decided that it was wrong on the basis of mindless presidential squawks, factual ignorance and in some cases political opportunity. What it adds up to is that the illiberal liberals are doing what they accuse Barr of doing, namely going to war with justice and other basic democratic principles, but at least Judge Amy Berman Jackson saw the light.

WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvanians Against Illegal Gambling last week applauded the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s effort to intervene in the ongoing court fight to ban Pace-O-Matic of Pennsylvania’s slot machines from the state, noting that the PGCB states unequivocally that, “The POM games are unauthorized and illegal slot machines.”

WILKES-BARRE — The other day I watched a young father walking his two children into a school — his daughter on his left and his son on his right.

Kids often emulate their role models — whether it’s a parent, a teacher or a sports hero. And the youngsters who don the uniforms and rush to the diamond for Little League games want to be like the giants that play in the big leagues. This goes all the way down to the name of their team.

State Rep. Aaron Kaufer’s sponsored HB 1100 is the second corporate welfare gift to the fracked gas industry. The first being no severance tax on the gas that every other state has.

I am so tired of the self righteous rants coming from the holy rollers and the patriotic, Second Amendment, conservative right. These are the folks who are supposed to save my soul and country from the devil and protect me from my own government by advocating for the legitimacy of automatic weapons in the hands of the citizenry.

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We were saddened to learn — and are now saddened to tell you all — that Kevin Bond lost his battle with multiple medical challenges Sunday night while waiting for a liver transplant.

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