West Hazleton welcomes Mullery on latest ‘One.19’ stop

WEST HAZLETON, May 9 – The borough of West Hazleton this week welcomed state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, and his “One.19” constituent and community outreach service.

The lawmaker is visiting all 19 communities in the 119th Legislative District.

“Having successfully navigated from Act 47 status, the development, business culture and general sense of community observed in West Hazleton was refreshing and made for a wonderful experience,” Mullery said. “The future of West Hazleton is certainly bright and I look forward to working with all those involved in the continued growth and success of the borough.” 

Mullery said the business owners, civic leaders and residents of West Hazleton brought forth several important issues.

Mullery’s first meeting was with beer wholesaler, Pat Verrastro of T. Verrastro Beer Distributing Inc. on North Broad Street. The business has been operating for 56 years and employs 13 full-time workers. Mullery toured the business and adjoining properties. He and Verrastro discussed recent changes to Pennsylvania’s liquor laws, R licenses, the state store system, and the potential effect recreational marijuana legalization could have on the alcohol industry in the commonwealth. Verrastro also shared his experience working with state agencies and discussed potential changes to his business plan to meet current market demands.

As part of his Main Street Walking Tour, Mullery met with several small-business owners and employees including Stephanie Parrish, owner/operator of Stephanie’s Greens “n” Things on North Broad Street, a florist that also provides gifts for special occasions. The business has been in operation for seven years and has three employees. She and the representative discussed the state’s tax laws; H.B./S.B. 76, which is an effort to eliminate school property taxes; and the struggles and successes of small business in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Mullery next met with Hazleton Area School District Superintendent Brian T. Uplinger, Treasurer/Business Manager Robert Krizansky, Director of Curriculum Dr. Patrick Patte, and Child Accounting Coordinator Jessica Gioia. Mullery was provided with an overview of several issues including enrollment, transient students, school funding and school safety. Uplinger said the district is at capacity and discussed the district’s plan to handle its enrollment. The administrative staff also discussed the specific challenges related to a rising English as a second language population, cyber and charter school expenses and IEP litigation.

Mullery provided an update on his Youth Advisory Council and shared with Uplinger and the administrative staff some of the concerns raised by the students at their recent meeting. The students reflected on school safety, bullying, illicit drugs, college affordability and standardized testing.

Mullery also met with Mary Haden who recently purchased the Valmont Plaza on State Route 93.  The Valmont Plaza is a 200,000 square-foot community shopping center anchored by Tractor Supply, Michael’s and Big Lots. Given the plaza’s location (less than one mile from I-81 on a major route to downtown Hazleton), the two discussed Haden’s vision for the property and how the commonwealth could help attract new commercial and/or light industrial tenants to the property and the region. Mullery suggested including the Governor’s Action Team in future meetings. 

The Governor’s Action Team is a division of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. They work with qualified businesses to assemble an assistance package tailored to the specific needs of a business. They can assist with relevant demographic and economic insights and involve other state agencies, stakeholders and resources. More information about the Governor’s Action Team can be found here.

Mullery concluded his day in the borough by meeting with Mayor John Chura, Councilwoman Diane Chura and Borough Manager Jane Mikulca. The trio provided the representative with updates on several projects in the borough, including road and bridge repairs, public works needs and business development.

Mikulca said, “We appreciate the representative visiting the borough and speaking with us about ongoing projects and things moving forward.”

Mullery said he intends to stop at all 19 municipalities in his legislative district during the 2017-18 legislative session. He will provide updates of each visit on his website – www.pahouse.com/Mullery – and social media. Constituents can also contact his office at 570-740-7031.

Photos of this week’s visits can be found here.