Seven Luzerne County residents cited a mix of experience they’d bring to the county Transportation Authority’s oversight board, which has two open seats that county council is expected to fill Tuesday.
It’s a busy time for the authority, which provides public bus and van service, because the nine-member board must select a new executive director and oversee completion of a new state-of-the-art authority transportation center on the 12-acre former Murray complex site on South Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.
Prior executive Norm Gavlick, who was terminated in September, has advised council to carefully consider the two appointments and made claims of politics in some authority board decisions.
The following were interviewed last week: Thomas Bindus, Dennis Driscoll, Richard Gazenski, Jeffery Kubitz, Nanci Romanyshyn, Lynette T. Villano and John Young. Villano is seeking reappointment.
According to information they presented at the public interview session:
• Bindus, of Wyoming, recently retired after 42 years from the Coca-Cola facility in Pittston Township, where he was senior shop steward.
Bindus said he drove a truck delivering soda machines for 35 years throughout the county and region. He said he had a commercial driver’s license for many years and is intimately familiar with traffic issues.
“I have a lot of experience with transportation and the rules and regulations of the road,” he said.
• Driscoll, of Pittston, owns Driscoll’s Home Center in West Pittston and previously worked as security and transportation director at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and as a New York City police officer.
Driscoll was involved as a police officer in responding to the 9/11 terrorist attack and relocated to this area about 15 years ago.
He said he is interested in the transportation authority because many workers rely on the service for their employment.
“It’s kind of like a lifeline,” Driscoll said.
• Gazenski, of Wilkes-Barre, said he worked around 40 years in the insurance industry and was co-owner of J.W. Hoban & Associates until his retirement from that business around three years ago.
He also worked as Wilkes-Barre administrator for more than a year and has served on the Wilkes-Barre Planning Commission and Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority Board.
Gazenski said he has expertise in many areas but largely is seeking this appointment because of his longtime interest in the project at the former Murray complex. He said his former business had insured the site, and he once walked through a tunnel that runs beneath the property.
“I’m very passionate about the project,” he said of the new transportation center.
• Kubitz, of Sugarloaf Township, is a sales and marketing representative for a biotech company and said he has past public service experience as a West Hazleton Borough Councilman.
He said he had worked closely with Hazleton area’s economic development agency, CAN DO Inc., as an elected official and understands the need for a strong public transportation network to continue attracting new businesses. Kubitz said there is a demand for increased public transportation, asserting area roads “can’t handle” traffic from continued expansion.
“I think I could bring a keen sense of awareness to that, he said. “I think we’re missing the boat on a lot of the transportation issues.”
• Romanyshyn, of Rice Township, said she is a teacher of the visually impaired for Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 and regularly rides the buses with her students to help them navigate the public transportation system.
As a result of her observations, she has pointed out suggested improvements to the authority and other government officials. For example, she said she raised safety concerns about a Wilkes-Barre bus stop and the lack of a crosswalk on part of the Sans Souci Parkway in Hanover Township.
She also wants to make sure the new transit center is “done properly.”
“I believe I would bring a lot of value,” Romanyshyn said.
• Villano, of West Pittston, works as a billing clerk for the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority and said it has been “extremely rewarding serving on the county transportation authority the last five years.
“We have a wonderful group of board members. We work very well together,” Villano said.
In addition to initiating the Murray project, she said the authority developed a strategic plan, established evening bus service, addressed the busing needs of new major employers, purchased some Compressed Natural Gas buses and consolidated the organization for efficiency.
Villano said she has never missed an authority meeting and is fulfilling a resolution to ride an authority bus quarterly — an experience she described as an “eye opener.”
“You realize how many people depend on transportation, so I think it’s vital for us to keep improving our services,” Villano said.
• Young, of Hunlock Creek, said he has worked in the transportation industry about 37 years.
He said he started as a school bus driver and later worked for the Martz Group and county transportation authority before accepting employment at Back Mountain Transit — a school bus company he said he purchased in 2007.
Young said he has relevant background and experience and has observed improvements at the authority.
“I would just like the opportunity to help continue that moving forward,” he said.
All applicants told the council interviewing committee they would report issues of concern to council.
Three others are on the existing eligibility list for consideration — Justin Behrens, Arthur Bobbouine and Robert Chepalonis.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.