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.