Ford City Resurrects Payment to EDA

Ford City Council President Carol Fenyes has written the Economic Development Administration offering to pay $116,200 on a debt that is no longer due.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: In order to understand current events, this article begins with historical information.)

It was a massive plan to grow Ford City’s economy through revitalization of the old PPG Shop 2 building. Senator John Murtha spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony on August 30, 2002 and gave his support. Grant money was funneled through Ford City Borough to the Greater Ford City Community Development Corporation. Loans were secured with the property as collateral and it appeared the town was on its way to reinventing itself.

Among the grants received was one for $581,000 from the Economic Development Administration (EDA). The grant came with the guarantee that Ford City would maintain ownership of the property until 2017.

However, by 2007, the fabric began to unravel of the CDC.  Loans went unpaid and the project was bankrupted after about $10 million in federal and state grant funding was invested into the revitalization of that property.

In December 2009, Council violated the terms of the grant when it gave up ownership of the property to F&M Bank. Council members Terry Tokarek and Tim Malek voted against it. Councilmen Ron Dillard, John Lux, Ray Klukan, and Tom Shaffer voted for it. Mayor Mantini also voiced support for giving up ownership.

Following foreclosure in 2010, the property was sold to BelleFlex Technologies and has now been placed back on the tax rolls, adding to Ford City’s tax base.

Meanwhile, the clock was ticking. Ford City was no longer the owner, and thereby defaulted on their agreement with the EDA.

Council members came and went with each term of office, forgetting or ignoring  the EDA default. And the EDA was not pursuing it, so it was the old idiom, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

Nearly four years had elapsed when then-mayor (now councilman) Marc Mantini went to Philadelphia and inquired about the grant violation. The proverbial sleeping dog was now awakened.

Former council member Jerry Miklos said he felt the EDA was just wanting to let the issue die.

“The EDA never wanted to sue Ford City Borough, and they told us so,” Miklos recalled. “If they wanted to come after this money, they would have done so long before the Statutes of Limitations expired in April 2016.”

In October 2014, Council was then offered a settlement by EDA Regional Director Willie Taylor. His correspondence read: “Based upon the original grant award of $581,000, and taking into consideration the number of years that the Borough of Ford City maintained compliance with the grant award, EDA will agree to accept the sum of ($116,200) sufficient and adequate consideration to extinguish the grant obligation.”

If Ford City Borough Council makes the first of three annual payments of less than $39,000 by April 15, 2015, a full release from the terms and conditions of the initial grant award would be applicable, Taylor wrote in the October letter.

Ford City Borough Manager Eden Ratliff recommended Council to accept the offer. However, no action was taken. The April 15, 2015 deadline came and went, and so did Taylor and new Interim Regional Director Tonia Williams was in his seat. With media attention and political pressure mounting, Williams took a hard line and demanded full repayment plus interest.

“A reduced debt amount or forgiving the debt in its entirety are not viable options. Therefore, EDA has no alternative but to disallow all EDA project costs and establish a debt with the United States Treasury for the full amount owed,” an October 2015 letter read.

However, no demand note from the United State Treasury was ever received by Ford City. And by April 2016, the length of time had elapsed when it was too late to file a claim against Ford City.

The Borough contracted sole practitioner attorney Bill Bercik of Pittsburgh to defend the Borough in case the EDA or Treasury Department would file suit.

Bercik told Council on September 28, 2015 that he felt the ability for the Treasury Department to collect on the debt was not viable.

“There is no legal issue right now and hopefully there is no litigation. I believe the situation can be resolved if everybody is interested and willing to do so,” Bercik said. “Resolution of a problem is always better than litigation – if you can do it on reasonable terms, you should do that.”

The Borough agreed to pay Bercik a retainer of $5,000 if any legal notice was filed by the Treasury Department; however, Ford City never paid the retainer because Bercik’s representation was never needed.

The saga of financial issues continue in Ford City Borough, with the next page being written far from the eye of the public.

New information surfaced two months ago when former council member Vicki Schaub made a Right-To-Know information request on the topic of current discussions with the Economic Development Administration. Council President Carol Fenyes provided the documents as required by law, but blacked out all information within the documents.

Some of the documents were correspondence between county officials and Fenyes. When the Kittanning Paper requested information from the County, we were denied access to those documents.

The next Right-to-Know request was placed with the EDA itself. Unlike Ford City and the County, the EDA realized its responsibility for transparency in government and released all the documents in their entirety. Because there is not enough space to publish the documents in their entirety in this article, please click here if you wish to view them.

According to an email sent to the EDA on February 7, 2017, Fenyes requested the EDA to accept an offer of $116,200 from Ford City Borough as payment in full of the $581,000 debt.

Fenyes wrote: “By implementing many of the financial recommendations contained within the EIP (Early Intervention Program) and a restructuring of the budget, we believe we are in a position to pay $116,200.00 as quickly as an agreement can be reached between the Treasury and the Borough… We would respectfully request that the initial offer be reconsidered and offered one more time.”

At Fenyes’ request, a letter was sent on February 9, 2017 from Congressman Mike Kelly urging the EDA to allow Ford City Borough to make a $116,200 as payment in full for the $581,000 debt.

An email from EDA Regional Director Linda Cruz-Carnall was sent to Ford City. She wrote: “This email also memorializes the telephone discussion between myself and Council President Fenyes on February 14th in which it was agreed that EDA would honor the proposed settlement offer provided timely payment was received.”

Former Borough Manager Eden Ratliff questioned the justification to pay something for which the Borough was no longer responsible.

“At the end of March 2016, the Statutes of Limitations would have expired. Because the Federal government did not initiate (a law) suit, our understanding was they couldn’t collect on that funding. Additionally during that time frame, Ford City Borough had received $750,000 in Federal grant money towards their water plant. That indicates that the Borough is not blacklisted from receiving any Federal grant money. So the question is: Why do they feel the need to pay any sum of money to EDA?” Ratliff said.

At this point, it is assumed that settlement paperwork is being prepared between the EDA and the Ford City solicitor. As of the last Ford City public meeting, the $116,200 payment was not listed on the list of payables.

Calls to Congressman Kelly, the EDA, and Attorney Bercik were not returned.


17 comments on “Ford City Resurrects Payment to EDA
  1. opie2 says:

    The Creepy Clowns plans do not include leaving any baloons for Scott_Start.

  2. jd718 says:

    You guys might want to be careful after that facebook revelation. This guy might be one of those radicalized home grown terrorists. Remember that’s the new terror trick to run over people with cars! After reading his post it seems he’s still hung-up with a few past events! You never know, the guy always was a little twisted.

  3. blutoblutarsky says:

    Marc, I thought you were talking about the debris at the bottom of a shower when I read your post. I have no idea what Scott is trying to insinuate, but if he’s going to sexualize everything on this site he may have an underlying problem! A little electroshock therapy may clear his mind of all of these immoral thoughts.

  4. Marc says:

    Opie- Keep an eye on Starr… he appears to be a creepy clown zealot.

  5. Marc says:

    Scott “Lever2000” Starr- Your interpretation of my comment is a bit concerning. I was simply referring to the gross items (hair, etc.) that one would find at the bottom of a public shower if they were to drop something. Considering the grotesque comments you’ve had removed here, I’m certain your deviant mind has come up with something distasteful that should be kept to yourself.

  6. Rainbow Rider says:

    Nice to see one threatener ” sticking up for ” the other. Maybe you two can do ‘ time ‘ together?

  7. scott_starr says:

    Marcs comment alludes to a disgusting sexual act. I’m surprised that Steve has not complained since he is so easily offended. But perhaps he is trolling someone’s MySpace page.

  8. Rainbow Rider says:

    Marc, good one! LOL, dropping soap!
    Maybe he’ll tell the judge about his fjorty years of business contacts!

  9. Marc says:

    rainbow- Fjenny’s jailhouse fjortune cookie will read, “dropping soap will yield unsatisfactory surprise.”

    opie- Exactly. You can chalk getting charged with such a foolish crime up to buffoonery. Maybe he should stop worrying about people reading articles and start thinking about acting like an adult when things don’t go his way.

  10. Rainbow Rider says:

    Fjenny , I read the article, and I plan to read another article on June 8th 😉
    Make sure you cover this event KP!
    I suggest that you buy a bag of fjortune cookies and see what they have to say about where you’ll be spending your fjuture 😉
    Mad2010 , I’d add to your excellent response to Fjenny that only a buffoon would continue to engage a couple of poster’s who’ve already put him in his place a combined hundreds of, if not a thousand times.

  11. opie2 says:

    For jj to call people liberal buffoons after the shenanigans he pulled, needs to step back and look in the mirror. You Will most likely see a Creepy Clown.

  12. mad-2010 says:

    A buffoon would be someone that can’t fill out the necessary forms to be a school board candidate in a timely fashion and submit them properly. Also a buffoon would be someone who mounts a write-in campaign with a snowballs chance in hell of being successful. Finally, only a buffoon would end up in the legal mess you got yourself into! Fjols! Have a good one today. Think Orange

  13. mutchka says:

    I was wondering if the council president owed someone 100k and they said they didn’t want it would she send it anyway..can she just give away our money without some sort of a vote

  14. jorn jensen says:

    Were you two liberal buffoons even able to read the article?

  15. mad-2010 says:

    “Poor broke Ford City.” Well JJ looks like Ford City is Not Broke and also wants to set things straight. The Kudos don’t just belong to Carol Fenyes. Also the entire Ford City council should get credit. For those that seem to thing they know it all, You. Think Orange

  16. Rainbow Rider says:

    Go put on the orange jump suit, serve 3 to 5 years, call it ‘cleaned up’ and get on with life. It’s the ethical thing to do.

  17. jorn jensen says:

    Thank you for printing this accurate history of this mess.

    So, what do you do? The money owed is taxpayer-provided dollars. If it isn’t re-paid, then the taxpayers are ‘shorted’. Those, in government, responsible for collecting these sorts of debts must not care to make the taxpayers ‘whole’.

    Kudos to Carol Fenyes for the effort to make this ‘right’ with the taxpayers – taxpayers being all US taxpayers, not just Ford City taxpayers. Pay the $116k and call it ‘cleaned up’ and get on with life. It is the ethical thing to do.

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