WILKES-BARRE – With 60 cellphones and 330 employees, is Wilkes-Barre extravagant or frugal in providing mobile connectivity? It depends what city you compare it to.
Scranton makes Wilkes-Barre look like a cellphone glutton, but that's been true for only about two years. Mayor Chris Doherty said the city stopped providing cellphones in January 2011, and There have been no problems at all. Everyone has a phone anyway.
But when the city did provide phones, it had 51 of them. With about 460 employees, that's enough devices for about 11 percent of the workforce, which still makes Wilkes-Barre look overly generous, where there are enough phones for 18 percent of the 330 employees.
Hazleton City Administrator Steve Hahn said the city provides about 15 phones, though he couldn't get the exact number given to police when called. With 110 employees, that's enough devices for about 14 percent.
Both Hahn and Doherty noted the city mayor and council are not provided with phones: Wilkes-Barre pays for phone service for the mayor and council members.
With nearly 76,000 residents and 25.3 square miles, Scranton is substantially larger than Wilkes-Barre, home to 41,465 people in just under 7 square miles. Hazleton is considerably smaller in population with 25,315 people in 6 square miles.
York more closely reflects Wilkes-Barre in population, with 43,884 people in 5.3 square miles. And York's cellphone largesse makes Wilkes-Barre look like a penny pincher: 129 phones for 371 employees, according to City Clerk Dianna Thompson-Mitchell. That's enough phones for nearly 35 percent of the workforce.
Thompson-Mitchell said the city has a cellphone-use policy but that it was in a different department and she could not access it when called.
Hahn said Hazleton does not allow private use of phones and if the phones are used for personal calls the employee must reimburse the city, though he conceded it can be difficult at times to police and enforce such a policy.
Doherty said when Scranton had phones, they all fell under one plan with the minutes pooled under a single limit. It didn't matter how much an individual used, as long as all employees collectively stayed under the limit each month.