Category: Ford City

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.

Ford City Borough Police At-Risk of Elimination

Ford City Police Committee Chair Vicki Schaub reads the Police Committee’s recommendation to disband the local police department to fellow council members at Monday’s special meeting.

by Jonathan Weaver

Ford City Borough Council might have enough money to cover growing expenses after all:

If it takes the Police Committee’s recommendation to disband the local police force.

In a letter dated July 14 to fellow council members, the borough Police Committee – made up of Vickie Schaub, Jerry Miklos and Scott Gaiser – made the recommendation after several meetings since the beginning of the year to discuss complaints and cost.

“…Given the Borough’s financial situation and the other demands on its revenues, the cost of operating the department is not sustainable,” Schaub read from the letter.

Three possible options that would provide savings were reviewed by committee members, including contracting with a neighboring municipality, hiring a non-union working police chef or eliminating part-time officers and shifts or disbanding the department altogether.

But, Monday, committee members recommended permenant disbandment of the borough police force and to shift all police services to the Pennsylvania State Police.

“This will provide a savings of more than a half-million dollars annually to fund the new water plant and a multitude of other much-needed investments in our deteriorated, antiquated, and dilapidated infrastructure,” Schaub read on.

A future Borough Council would not be prohibited from reinstating the local police force, and input from taxpayers will be received before a decision is made.

“What we’re looking at is all costs to the Borough going out with what we can actually afford – there’s going to be some tough decisions made by everybody,” Schaub said.

 

Council Vice-President Jerry Miklos agreed that all efforts should be made to get input on the matter from all taxpayers before a decision is made – such as through a mailed copy of the recommendation.

“We are very much trying to do our due-diligence on this issue and we want every citizen, every taxpayer of Ford City to have an opportunity to understand what’s happening in the Borough,” Miklos said.

Even though no vote was taken last night, Councilman Gene Banks stressed his disapproval.

“One of my pet peeves is public safety. I’m strictly against the recommendation because public safety and our citizen’s safety is very paramount to me,” Banks said. “Once you lift this department, the criminal will go rampant.

“If we do that, we might as well tell our citizens we don’t care.”

Banks, sworn in as a councilman in January 2012, grew up in Wilkinsburg – a community currently staffed by 22 police officers and two K-9 units.

Mayor Marc Mantini, who was absent from last night’s meeting, has also been a strong advocate of the local police force both at borough meetings and with other municipality leaders – such as those in Manor Township and West Kittanning – that are discussing whether it would be more-feasible to combine departments for a regional police force.

In June, more than 50 Fraternal Order of Police executive members came from Allegheny Valley Lodge #39, other local police departments and within the community after a rumor had been spread about the police department’s termination.

Fraternal Order of Allegheny Valley Lodge #39 President Steve Aulerich led support during that meeting, and said at the time that he would continue to support the long-standing department’s roots in the community.

Borough Council accepted the resignations of Officers Christopher Thiel and Edward Boop in April, but Police Sgt. John Atherton has asked for as many as six part-time officer replacements due to dwindling officers.

Sgt. Atherton did not return calls for comment after the committee’s recommendation was known last night.

According to the treasurer’s report, as of May 31, the Borough had an-approximate $275,000 adjusted balance.

Schaub described when a final decision by Council would be made as “to be determined.”

In other matters, Interim Borough Manager Eden Ratliff apologized to local residents as they endure efforts by Tresco Paving of Pittsburgh to re-pave portions of 5th Avenue (State Route 128) throughout town.

“I appreciate everyone’s cooperation with the flaggers and the trucks coming up-and-down 5th Avenue,” Ratliff said.

Borough employees have also been patching local roadways with cold patch.

The ad-hoc committee formed late last week to discuss how to repay the $581,000 federal grant that was used to refurbish the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass Foundry #2 will have their first meeting tonight within the Borough office along 4th Avenue. Schaub has also contacted U.S. Congressman Mike Kelly – who represents from Erie to Armstrong – for assistance.