Council Talks About State’s $2 Million Offer

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SCRANTON -- The city of Scranton is being offered more than $2 million from the state but only if city leaders come up with a recovery plan by next month.

At city council`s meeting Thursday night, council members said they aren`t even sure a deal on a recovery plan can be reached.

“The things that have been happening, the $7.25 an hour, all the media attention on that,” said John Judge, president of the firefighters union.

At city council`s meeting, the argument continued over the fact that city workers are making minimum wage. It wasn`t just city workers complaining about it; residents were speaking out too.

“The city`s broke, we have $5,000 in the bank, the fire fighters are being paid $7.25 an hour, the DPW workers are picking up garbage for $7.25 an hour,” said resident Chris Newcomb.

Last month, Mayor Chris Doherty cut salaries of all city workers to $7.25 an hour, in order to save money.

Now the state Department of Community and Economic Development is offering a $2 million interest-free loan to help the city make payroll until Scranton secures a $16 million loan from the banking community.

DCED is also providing a $250,000 grant and says the money will be handed over if council and the mayor adopt a recovery plan by August 15.

“I think this is some progress, I`m hoping that`s what this is,” said Judge. “I hope this is not an attempt by DCED to just hit the ball back over into council`s court.”

The mayor said the only way to get that $16 million loan is to raise taxes by 78 percent over four years.

The city council majority said if the tax hike stays, there will be no deal.

“The bottom line is that the mayor`s 78 percent tax increase is not going to pass city council,” said council member Pat Rogan. “He has to work with us on alternative ideas, cuts that can be made in other areas to save the taxpayers money.”

Council did approve to meet with the mayor and DCED to work on a recovery plan.

Council member Bob McGoff, a Doherty supporter, said that may not even help the city at this point.

“We may have taken it too far and I`m not sure that the banking community, even with a recovery plan, is going to be amenable to borrowing,” said McGoff.

The unions are suing the mayor over the salary cuts and a judge has ordered him to pay or be held in contempt.

A county judge has scheduled a July 16 hearing for the mayor to show how he is not in contempt.