Last updated: June 12. 2014 11:16PM - 2278 Views
By - jlynott@civitasmedia.com

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WILKES-BARRE — A natural gas line project in the city’s Brookside section will proceed without approval by City Council, the assistant city attorney said Thursday.

UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc. sought an easement and would pay the city $10,500 to install a new 12-inch main on city property, according to a resolution council was considering in April. It would have set limits on how close the pipeline could be to houses in the neighborhood.

The proposed route brings the line within seven feet of Robert Smalls’ house on North Washington Street and Thursday he asked council for an update of the project that was discussed in a closed-door, executive session before the start of council’s Tuesday work session.

“It is my understanding that UGI is going to bypass council and take a different track in order to expedite this matter,” Smalls said.

Assistant City Attorney William Vinsko acknowledged council has not approved the resolution to give UGI the go-ahead.

“Everything that you had stated and you had heard is accurate at this point,” Vinsko told Smalls.

The utility can proceed under the state’s Business Corporations Law and install the line anywhere it needs to put it, Vinsko said.

“UGI has the right to proceed without council approval,” he added.

Council approved a number of other resolutions dealing with a $23,428 contract with Shea Industries to demolish a structure at 31-31 N. Welles St., and sell a property at 269-271 E. Northampton St. for $10,000 to the next-door property owners.

It approved a first reading of an ordinance rescinding the predatory towing ordinance from 2010. A second reading is needed for passage.

In a last-minute addition to the agenda, council authorized the city to enter a contract not to exceed $15,000 with Advanced Pyrotechnics LLC of Monroe, New Jersey, for a fireworks display during the July 4 celebration in Kirby Park.

But there were no fireworks during the secular invocation delivered by Justin Vacula, spokesperson for the NEPA Freethought Society, in response to the prayer at the beginning of the public meeting.

Vacula, 25, of Exeter, asked to give the invocation in place of the Judeo-Christian prayer, but was told he could deliver it during the public comment period in which speakers are given five minutes to address council.

“As we gather, we are reminded that although we have differences, we are linked by our common humanity,” he said in the invocation that lasted approximately four minutes.

Vacula said he might give an invocation regularly at the meetings. “We’ll see how it goes. If there are other matters to present, maybe I’ll present those matters,” he said.

World War II veteran Jim Walsh expressed his displeasure with the city for its slow response in installing donated U.S. flags on light poles. The city acted quickly in putting up hanging baskets of flowers for the Diamond City Partnership around Public Square, he said. “Why were they given such leeway?” he asked.

Mayor Tom Leighton responded that the city puts up the flags as it receives them.

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