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Tax rates on commercial property prompt councilman’s displeasure in Lackawanna

Lackawanna Councilman Joseph L. Jerge remained unhappy about the high tax rates on commercial property after a meeting this week with City Assessor Frank E. Krakowski.

“I’m not done, and I’m not happy with the answers I’ve received,” Jerge told the City Council during its meeting Tuesday night. “The whole process is left in one guy’s hands. It’s Lackawanna, and if they don’t like you, you don’t know what’s going to happen. If they like you, maybe nothing happens. I’m basically trying to take politics out these kinds of things.”

Jerge requested a detailed listing of Lackawanna’s nonhomestead properties, including lot sizes, current assessed value, the date of the most recent reassessment and proposed changes for 2016.

While the meeting with Krakowski was “productive,” Jerge is demanding an equitable solution to the soaring tax rate on commercial properties that discourage merchants from doing business in Lackawanna.

Jerge also suggested offering businesses tax breaks if the business hires Lackawanna residents.

“I know how many people I employ who live in the city, and I know how much money they’re making and how they’re spending it,” said Jerge, a restaurateur.

“A lot of times when you see these pilot programs coming in, they’re not hiring people from Lackawanna. I can’t name five people who work at the steel plant property who live in Lackawanna.”

In other business, lawmakers were asked to explore the use of a city-owned vehicle to transport residents on the weekends, when there is no bus service on Ridge Road. Jerge, who introduced the proposal, suggested a route that would encompass Route 5, Ridge Road and Abbott Road Plaza.

“This would allow people who otherwise have to find transportation or pay through the nose for it to care of postal business and shopping needs on Saturday,” Jerge said.

Council President Keith E. Lewis expressed concern over liability since the city vehicle would provide services beyond its intended scope. He also suggested a screening process to ensure that the passengers are Lackawanna residents.

The proposal received unanimous approval.

At one point during the subdued caucus that preceded the regular session, 4th Ward Councilman Jeffrey P. DePasquale asked Fred K. Heinle, director of development, for an update on cleanup efforts at the former Bethlehem Steel plant site. “We were told we would have a substantial public hearing on the cleanup plan with the DEC,” DePasquale said. “The last thing we need is the cleanup moving along without any public input.”

Heinle said that a public meeting involving the state Department of Environmental Conservation would take place next month.

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com