In September 2009, the city of Wilkes-Barre entered into a 20-year, rent-free lease with the Frank Martz Coach Company, a.k.a. Martz Trailways, under the condition that it would become the management company for the Intermodal Center. In lieu of rent, Martz Trailways would assume the responsibility of running the terminal and keeping it clean. However, in the years since the lease agreement was signed, several employees of the Social Security Administration (SSA) have blown the whistle on Martz’ promise of “keeping it clean,” claiming that the transportation facility simply hasn’t been maintained and is in a state of disrepair.
Several SSA employees spoke to the Gazette—but requested they not be identified for fear of retaliation—claiming they have often complained to their management team regarding the cleanliness of the Intermodal Center. One staff member even went so far as to say, “One morning I attempted to use elevator one, but when the doors opened I was horrified to see and smell what appeared to be human fecal matter on the floor. People are using the elevator as a public toilet.”
The Independent Gazette had the opportunity to visit the Wilkes-Barre Intermodal garage on the evening of September 25, 2013. All levels were equally littered upon, elevator one smelled like urine, and there was yellow staining on the window, and below it.
Another SSA worker reported that management recently held a meeting to inform staff that the city would soon be assuming the maintenance responsibilities of the Intermodal Center. They stated that because of this, significant improvement in the cleanliness of the facility is expected.
Phone messages and emails left for city spokesperson Liza Prokop, in an attempt clarify statements made by the employees of the SSA, were not returned. Attempts to visit her in person also produced no results. The Gazette subsequently learned that on Sunday, September 29, several employees of the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW) were asked to work overtime in order to clean the Intermodal garage in preparation for the mayor’s press conference that was to be held on Wednesday, October 2.
In addition, the Independent Gazette was called to the Intermodal garage on the evening of Sunday, October 6, at 8:30 pm, when a citizen reported seeing DPW employees painting the bus platform. Upon arrival, the Gazette witnessed five DPW workers painting. They stated that they were offered overtime to paint the lines and poles on the platform in preparation for the mayor’s visit. On Thursday, October 10, the Independent Gazette sent one final email to Prokop. We voiced our concerns regarding the failure by the city to respond to the paper’s questioning of how the maintenance changes at the Intermodal Center would affect the Martz lease, reminding her that the 2009 lease called for management of the facility to be conducted by Martz in lieu of rent. Page four, Section four of the lease states: “In the event Tenant ceases its management obligations, Tenant and Landlord shall agree on a cash rental, based on fair market value within ten (10) days from the date of the cessation.” Following the October 10 email, Prokop immediately responded with “I’ve forwarded your questions to city officials and they noted that there is no need to amend the current lease.”
Calls and emails to Martz Trailways seeking comment were not returned and visits proved futile during our nearly two-month-long investigation.