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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:08:14 21:32:27

Christopher returns to his pedestal at intersection of Kennedy Blvd and South Main St. John Pesavento and Chris Pahuski of Pesavento Monument prepare to upright Christopher cv19columbusp4 Warren Ruda / The Citizens' Voice

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:08:14 21:28:54

Christopher returns to his pedestal at intersection of Kennedy Blvd and South Main St. Chris Pahuski of Pesavento Monument guides Christopher to temporary resting place. cv19columbusp3 Warren Ruda / The Citizens' Voice

PITTSTON — The city’s iconic marble statue of Christopher Columbus — damaged by an out-of-control car in December — has returned and is looking better than ever.

After a months-long restoration effort, the statue is back standing proud at the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and South Main Street, its home since 1969.

City officials were happy it has returned in time for this weekend’s popular Tomato Festival, as it’s part of the festival’s parade and 5K race routes.

“What a better time to get it back,” said former Mayor Mike Lombardo, who spearheaded the restoration effort as a member of the city’s redevelopment authority.

It cost about $68,000 to restore the statue and put it on a new foundation several feet from its previous plot, Lombardo said.

The driver who struck the iconic statue was under-insured, so the city’s insurance shared some of the costs, he said.

Bringing the statue back better than before was worth it, Lombardo said.

The larger-than-life-size statue was crafted out of rare marble and is estimated to be worth $250,000 to $500,000, he said.

“It’s one of a kind,” Lombardo said. “It’s essentially a priceless piece of art.”

By moving the statue and adding a new base, it now stands about two feet taller and is easier to see, Lombardo said. Lights will be added in the future, he noted.

“Everybody who has seen it says it’s a dramatic improvement,” Lombardo said.

City officials are glad the statue is back in place for the start of the Tomato Festival, which runs through Sunday, Aug. 20, and attracts thousands of people to the city.

“A favorite resident of Pittston City has returned home just in time to celebrate the Pittston Tomato Festival,” said Lori Nocito, a longtime civic leader and organizer of the festival. “The marble statue has been beautifully repaired and we are proud that he will greet visitors as they enter Pittston. The revitalization of our city will continue to include more public art, vibrant businesses, renovated community parks, and refurbished neighborhoods.

Pesavento Monuments of Scranton restored the monument dedicated to the Italian explorer.

John Pesavento, the owner, said he repaired many defects and chips in the statute, which fell on top of the car when it slammed into the base, which sustained heavy damage. Luckily, the statue didn’t crack in pieces and no big chunks broke off, he said.

“Normally, if something like that falls, it’s going to break. Here, the car actually cushioned the fall and prevented it from breaking,” Pesavento said. “When it hit the roof of the car, it had a cushion to fall on.”

Pittston-based attorney Rose Randazzo did all the legal work in processing the insurance claims for free.

“I like to help out the city with property damage claims. It’s difficult to pay a lawyer to do that kind of work and to get the job done. Usually there’s only enough money from the insurance company to make the repairs,” Randazzo said. “When these things happen in my hometown, which I love, I try to help out.”

Contact the writer: bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2055, @cvbobkal