New Castle News

December 12, 2012

Neshannock supervisors partly release Millennium lien

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — To spur development, about 88 acres of Millennium Park has been released from a lien held by Neshannock Township.

At a special meeting this week, the supervisors voted 2-1 to release the prime acreage along Harbor Road so the property owners, the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp., can continue construction plans.

The development corporation owns the 270-acre site in the township.

Yes votes came from Ed Stevens and chairman Ralph Sheen. Joe Gierlach voted no.

“I told them I do not believe that it is in the best interests of the sewer users and taxpayers of Neshannock Township to release a lien on money that is already owed to us,” Gierlach said after the meeting. “All of the risk is on the township. They have no incentive to repay us.”

In exchange for the partial release from the lien, Gierlach said, the development corporation will pay the township $50,000. This amount, he said, is to be deducted from the total amount the township claims is still owed to it by the developers.

Gierlach noted that the session, set for 10 a.m. Monday “to discuss general matters and potential and current legal issues regarding the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp.” included a 90-minute executive session with attorney Stacie Noble. Noble is from the office of attorney Joseph Linehan of Pittsburgh, the township’s special counsel to deal with Millennium Park.

Gierlach claimed the executive session was legal.

“Legal issues were discussed,” he said, noting the township is considering legal action against the development corporation if it continues to go unpaid.

Among the allowable reasons for conducting an executive session is: To meet with an attorney or other professional adviser regarding litigation or issues where an identifiable complaint is expected to be filed.

Township solicitor Lou Perrotta was not at the meeting.

About six years ago, Gierlach explained, the township supervisors imposed a lien on the industrial park property to recover some of the $11 million the municipality spent to install and upgrade public sewer lines. Much of the upgrade was installed at the request of the development corporation to meet the needs of a potential developer, not the needs of the township.

According to New Castle News archives, at the time, it was estimated the township was owed about $2 million from the development corporation. Since then, an additional $3.5 million plus more than $300,000 in additional engineering fees was spent by the township to complete the sewer line.

The park did not develop as anticipated. To date, only one tenant — Steelite International America warehouse — has located in the park. It is not connected to the public sewer lines.

Earlier this year, the corporation announced plans to construct a 50,000-square-foot “multi-tenant spec building” within the park. The shell building is under construction in the area off Harbor Road where a site was prepared this summer. It is being built with no utilities, sewer lines or floor because there is no prospective tenant. Those amenities will be added when a tenant is found.

In September, the supervisors authorized the structure without the customary building and sewer permits.

The release from the lien was necessary for the development corporation to obtain funding for a shell building it plans to construct, Gierlach said.

Attempts to reach Linda Nitch, Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. executive director, were unsuccessful.