FORD CITY – Borough Council voted last night to pay back a grant for a settlement amount of $116,200.
The Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded the Borough a grant of $581,000 during the early 2000’s to be used in the old PPG building that was being converted into the Heritage Technology Park. The grant included a stipulation that the Borough must maintain ownership of the property until 2015. However, in 2010, the Borough defaulted on a loan from F&M Bank and the property that was used for collateral was repossessed and sold.
Previous councils had discussed the situation with the EDA, but could not reach an agreement. Finally on the advice of several different law firms, the last Council did not react. The legal advice they received is that too much time had elapsed and the EDA could not collect any money from Ford City.
But Council President Carol Fenyes didn’t have the same opinion. She and four other members of Council voted to pay the EDA. Council woman Kathy Bartuccio, who was council president during the original negotiations with the EDA in 2015, was the lone “no” vote.
“Since the EDA has not pursued the Borough and the Borough pursued the EDA to make a payment, plus after speaking with (Attorney) Bill Bercik and him telling us the Statute of Limitations expired April of 2016, I am entrusted to manage the Borough’s money, and am therefore opposed,” Bartuccio said.
Councilman Marc Mantini praised the current council for righting a wrong deed.
“I sat on Borough government when we were sent a letter from EDA that we could have settled this. We could have settled this in payments for approximately $38,000. This was hidden from the public. I don’t want to mention the people that were in authority at that time, but we could have settled this,. It would have been a yearly payment. However, the public was not even shown this letter. Somebody brought this letter to me, later, I exposed this letter. And so, that’s why I’m voting for this,” Mantini said.
Ironically, Ray Klukan, who serves on council now and voted for repayment last night, was also on council and seconded the motion in 2009 to allow the bank to foreclose on the property – the event that caused the loss of the property.
There was no mention during the discourse last night that stated where the Borough received the funds to pay the EDA.