NANTICOKE — With a stroke of Dennis Davin’s pen, the City of Nanticoke exited distressed status Monday afternoon.
The city was assigned distressed status under Act 47 in 2006 and became the first city to exit the status Monday.
Davin, Department of Community and Economic Development secretary, credited city officials with making tough decisions that made fiscal improvements a reality.
He assured attendees at Monday’s announcement at City Hall that Gov. Tom Wolf’s policies would ensure the building of “strong, stable communities all across the commonwealth.”
Davin said the decision was a result of careful review of the city’s financial records following a public hearing held on June 22.
The termination makes Nanticoke the first city and 10th municipality of the state to exit the program.
In contrast, Scranton has not been able to obtain the measure of financial health necessary to leave the program and continues to struggle, having entered the Act 47 program in 1992, with no tangible hope for leaving the program on the horizon.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, addressed those gathered, saying the city was making history, calling the announcement “incredible.”
West Hazleton Borough, also in Yudichak’s district, recently exited distressed status.
“A decade ago, news from Nanticoke was all bad,” said Yudichak, reflecting on Nanticoke’s need to borrow a police cruiser from Wilkes-Barre to put policeman on the street and a pronounced deficit.
He credited current and past community leaders with making financial success possible.
He also credited the Pennsylvania Economy League with drafting an effective recovery plan for the city.
Mayor Richard Wiaterowski called the exit from distressed status the “beginning of a new chapter for Nanticoke.”
“The days of borrowing funds for operating expenses is no longer,” he said.
He credited the administration, staff and citizens with hard work and support.
Historically, several developments aided the city’s return to economic health.
In 2009, a county-wide reassessment allowed Nanticoke to increase collection of property taxes in the long term.
It also began operating under a Home Rule Charter in 2012, enabling an increase in revenue.
City Manager Andy Gegaris has assured residents that while he is extremely grateful that the city will no longer be deemed distressed, the real success lies in its commitment to sustaining its recovery, maximizing its scarce resources.
Rick Vilello, of the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, said he considered the opportunity to address those gathered “a real honor.”
“I know the challenges and the hard decisions necessary to get here,” he said. “It’s wasn’t easy, but it certainly was worth it.”
Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons