Jul
23

Ad-Hoc Committee Meets with Plenty of Input

Just as it was when Borough meetings were held there, last night’s ad-hoc committee meeting to discuss how to repay a $581,000 grant award to the federal Economic Development Association was filled with concerned residents.

by Jonathan Weaver

 

 

About a dozen residents came to listen how a Ford City committee plans to repay a $581,000 grant by the end of August.

An ad-hoc committee formed July 17 had their first meeting last night at the borough building along 4th Avenue, and at least two former council members were listening in.

Former Borough Councilman and Greater Ford City Community Development Corporation Member Homer Pendleton suggested residents go to Philadelphia and sit down with Economic Development Association Regional Director Willie Taylor to negotiate the debt as the CDC did to receive other grants – even with ‘silly’ starting offers of $50-100,000.

“You’d be surprised when you meet face-to-face what could happen,” Pendleton said. “He’ll come up with a suggestion. We are broke and don’t have the money, but they’ll work out something with you. Don’t hesitate to go face-to-face with him.”

Current Council Woman Vicki Schaub – the Borough Council contact with Taylor – said government entities might indeed accept ‘cents on the dollar’ to resolve the issue regarding the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass Foundry #2 – which currently houses OEM Shades and BelleFlex Technologies.

Schaub said Taylor also mentioned transferring property or building ownership might suffice after updated commercial appraisals.

“If there’s property we have that we really have no use for, depending on the value, maybe a little bit of money with it?,” Schaub said. “I’m not sure what property – just something that would be of no use to the Borough.”

Former Ford City Council President Lou Vergari said some of the property could come from near the Ford City Community Ball Fields across the Ford City Veterans Bridge near the border with Cadogan Township.

“I don’t think the federal government wants to be landowners. We have to get creative,” Vergari said. “Ford City owns that, but Ford City doesn’t get any gain out of that property – we don’t get any taxes out of that property just because we own it.

“When you talk about something that’s not valuable to us, it’s probably that.”

Local Resident and Ford City Legacy Founding Member Rachel Dinus was against the proposal.

Manor Township Resident and Businessman Ryan Bloser was particularly-against negotiating with the former PPG property along 2nd Avenue.

“I think if you lose the 50 acres, you probably kill the town,” Bloser said. “Regardless how you feel about it, you worked too hard and long for it to give it up for a $500,000 debt.”

Interim Borough Manager Eden Ratliff started the meeting by reading a March 2010 letter from Former Council President John Lux requesting then that Taylor and the Economic Development Administration reconsider terminating financial assistance after they found out about the Sheriffs Sale to sell the property before the allowed time in 2017.

“Ford City Borough has no economic ability to make payment on the requested amount, nor does the Borough have the economic funds to litigate this matter,” Lux wrote. “A judgment against the Borough for this amount will lead to the Borough having to file bankruptcy.

“There is simply no economic base that would enable the Borough to place this burden on the local residents.”

The Borough also maintained a $2.5 million budget at the time.

However, that letter was deemed to be unsatisfactory as told to then-Solicitor Frank Wolfe, but legal proceedings were delayed because the EDA “did not want to inflict any more economic harm on Borough operations and services.”

But, four years later, there are no other alternatives – as evident in a May letter to Mayor Marc Mantini. That letter was not made known to the current Borough Council until days before the deadline, to which current-Borough Council President Kathy Bartuccio requested another extension (the current August 31 deadline).

Schaub has said four suggestions are needed before the deadline. She will also seek assistance from 3rd Congressional District Representative Mike Kelly (R) of Butler, and U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey.
The Community Development Corporation filed for bankruptcy in Fall 2008 after the Borough terminated its management agreement with them earlier that year.

The bank foreclosed on the aforementioned property in December 2010 and was acquired by F&M Bank.

After an hour’s worth of comments and questions from the public, the ad-hoc committee – made up of Schaub, Councilman Gene Banks, Planning Commission Member Tyson Klukan and Parks and Recreation Committee Member Stacy Klukan – proceeded with a closed-door meeting and locked the front doors to the borough building.

Further weekly meetings will also be held, but with committee members only.

Jul
23

West Franklin Township Civil Case Settled

Shown during the 2012 auditors meeting, then-West Franklin Township Auditor Chair Darrel Lewis said no wrongdoing has been done by the appointed Certified Public Accountant during the past three years and the dismissal of a civil suit by Court of Common Pleas Judge Kenneth Valasek now supports that. (KP File Photo)

by Jonathan Weaver

An Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a West Franklin Township auditor last month requesting a re-look at past audit results.

In his memorandum and order June 5, President Judge Kenneth Valasek denied the petition by Auditor Darryl Alwine and township voters to appoint an independent auditor – since it already had a Certified Public Accountant, according to Former Township Auditor Chair Darrel Lewis.

“That’s what the township was doing, and had been doing for several years,” Lewis said. “All of that was recognized in the judge’s ruling – that all things are going in accordance to the municipal code.

“There’s nothing amiss here. Everything is acceptable – even better than that. It’s above reproach, really.”

Lewis was present at the court hearing May 20 on the matter, and said that Township CPA Gerald Micsky of West Kittanning provided testimony as to his methods and practices in the past four audits.

“All of our audits were given over to the Court – that’s from 2010, `11, `12, `13. They were all placed into evidence for Judge Valasek’s review,” Lewis said.

Supervisors attended the case at the request of Township Attorney James Favero.

“The audits were conducted in accordance with generally-accepted accounting principles promulgated by both the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Judge Valasek wrote in his memorandum.

Micsky was also appointed in January for the annual audit.

Judge Valasek found that the supervisors legally appointed Micsky by resolution after a required advertised notice.

Alwine also initially petitioned the court to assign legal counsel to him at Township expense – which was also denied since Alwine submitted the petition on his own behalf rather than to represent all three board of auditors.

“The elected board of auditors, which is comprised of three individuals, is not a party to this action and has not sought any relief from this Court,” Judge Valasek wrote.

The complete board didn’t even request a refilling of the audit during his service, Lewis said.

“We did not do any official auditing as per the Code because that duty fell to the appointed Certified Public Accountant the Township had chosen,” Lewis said. “The Board – myself included – did not file any sort-of objection or complaint to the result of the audits. There was never any official appeal.”

Rather, the elected auditors are only able to decide the wages of the working supervisors when they meet in January, even though there are currently no full-time working supervisors in West Franklin Township.

Wages and benefits of the township employees are set by the supervisors.

Now a Township Supervisor, Lewis – who was elected to fill the open supervisor seat of Terry Smith – said he was not personally harmed by Alwine’s accusation but they “have to come to an end.”

Lewis` comments were supported by Supervisor Chair Kevin Duttry and Vice-Chair Brent Bowser.

Alwine, of Bear Road in Worthington, said efforts are being made to refile the case. He began as auditor in 2012 after a successful write-in campaign during the November 2011 General Election and was re-elected this past November.

As a former supervisor, Smith said as far back as February 2012 he felt that there were no issues with the audit