by Jonathan Weaver
Income tax returns are due to the federal government by the end of the day, but it also may be Ford City Borough’s last day to take advantage of an opportunity to settle a financial debt.
At the end of August, a Ford City ad-hoc action committee submitted eight proposals to the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to satisfy a $581,000 defaulted grant on the former PPG property, and the Kittanning Paper has learned officials have taken those under advisement.
In documents obtained yesterday, EDA Regional Director Willie Taylor offered Ford City Borough Council President Kathy Bartuccio a lower payment due to the Borough’s economic hardship.
“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,” Taylor wrote in the October letter.
If Ford City Borough Council makes the first of three annual payments of less than $39,000 by the end of the day, a full release from the terms and conditions of the initial grant award would be applicable, Taylor wrote in the October letter.
Payments would have been made during the next three years – all due on Tax Day.
However, by March, that agreement was not reached with Taylor, according to communication from EDA Philadelphia Region Interim Director Paul Matyskiela to Senator Toomey in March.
“EDA extended every opportunity to the Borough to resolve their obligation in a fashion that is fair to it and to the American taxpayers. However…they failed to act to accept EDA’s offer to accept a reduced sum…,” Mayskiela wrote in a letter.
The matter will be directed to the federal Treasury Department for collection.
Mayor Marc Mantini was upset at the end of Monday’s council meeting that elected council members did not respond to the proposal.
“Somebody dropped the ball here!” Mayor Mantini said.
Several council members – including Council President Bartuccio, Vice-President Miklos and Councilman Josh Abernathy – denied seeing the initial proposal when it was received.
“This has been a matter of negotiations with legal implications,” Miklos said Monday.
However, Abernathy pointed out that the three council members and all others currently elected did not make the decision to default on the grant award. He said negotiations are ongoing and will be discussed in the future.
“It is something that is being worked on. When we finally get to the bottom of it, it will go out to the public and everyone will be made aware,” Abernathy said. “We were under the impression that we were able to work with them to come up with the best outcome for the Borough.
If we’re going to pay money, I want to spend money that’s going to go into the community.”
A local resident Monday night argued that the deal should have been taken unless specific details needed to be negotiated.
The ad-hoc committee, made up of Borough Council Members Vickie Schaub and Gene Banks, Planning Commission Member Tyson Klukan and Parks and Recreation Member Stacy Klukan, submitted the eight proposals after weeks of discussion – including approaching several regional and national companies about leasing or selling portions of the vacant 40-acre brown field property, capitalizing on the local tourism industry through new business or being willing to sell or lease 300 acres of natural gas rights to EQT, valued at a one-time rate of $150,000.
Now-Borough Manager Eden Ratliff oversaw the ad-hoc committee’s several meetings during the summer before the proposals were due at the end of August, and said in March that the defaulted grant repayment is one of the largest hurdles the community has to overcome.
“I’m confident (the proposals) could rectify the issue in the mind of Ford City Borough. We have to come to an agreement with the EDA.”
In September 2000, the grant was utilized to rehabilitate the former PPG foundry along 2nd Avenue by the Greater Ford City Community Development Corporation and leased to Caracal manufacturing, but, bankruptcies by both the CDC and Caracal and Borough Council allowed for the building to be repossessed by F&M Bank.
It is now home to OEM Shades and BelleFlex Technologies after about $10 million in federal and state grant funding was invested into the revitalization of that building.
The bank foreclosed on the aforementioned property in December 2010 and was acquired by F&M Bank.
PPG Ford City Works employed as many as 4,000 workers at its peak before closing in 1992.