WILKES-BARRE — The city Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a plan to install gates, one of them staffed around the clock, as part of the overall security improvements at the low-income Sherman Hills apartment complex.
Sam Goldberg, regional manager of the apartment complex owned by Brooklyn-based Sherman Hills Realty, said the owners are eager to get started and have already set aside the money for the work.
“It’s all a matter of once we get the written approval. We do have contractors lined up,” Goldberg said. “We’ll work as fast as we can.”
The plans calls for the installation of a booth and gates for incoming and outgoing vehicles and pedestrians on Empire Court. The booth will be staffed 24 hours a day and control a second set of gates on Parkview Circle leading to the high-rise apartment building on the property. A third gate will be installed at the intersection of North Empire Court and Sherman Street, but emergency responders and police will have access to a key to gain entrance.
Additionally, an 8-foot fence will be installed around the property and an armed guard will patrol the grounds for 10 to 12 hours a day and make periodic checks in the buildings.
The steps are part of a comprehensive upgrade of security at the 344-unit complex that has been the scene of drug arrests, assaults and shootings, and the focus of inspections by the city and federal government.
The complex also is being reviewed by a task force created last year to address the problems caused by lax oversight of Sherman Hills, the recipient of $1.7 million in rental assistance last year from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The task force will meet at 9 a.m. today in the council chambers at the Luzerne County Courthouse.
Len Cornish, a commission member, asked about the steps Sherman Hills would take to check the identification of residents and visitors and ensure that people, once allowed entrance, go to the apartments they said they are going to visit.
Goldberg said the gates and fence, improved lighting, camera surveillance system, ID checks and parking permits will help, but not eliminate all of the problems.
“If somebody’s coming to do something illegal and they have to present their ID, they might be a little hesitant. That might stop them from even coming,” Goldberg said.
But Cornish responded, “In the real world, let’s face it, these guys don’t care about being, you know, above board. And realistically, I mean, it’s nice to think that, but let’s face who we’re dealing with. They could care less, they’ ll blow you away in a moment’s notice.”
Dale Rinker, president of Legion Security that’s been working with Sherman Hills on addressing the problems, said he won’t sign a contract until the physical security measures are in place.
Commission solicitor Charles McCormick directed the discussion on specific security measures back to the issues that “affected the ingress and egress on public areas.” McCormick recommended the commission in its administrative review consider the measures proposed by Legion Security to improve the situation at Sherman Hills.
Without them, McCormick said, “this isn’t going to work.”