The Lawrence County commissioners said Tuesday they wish city officials would work out any differences or issue with them in discussions instead of criticizing them in public.
They pointed out that the county has given the city thousands of dollars toward the removal of blighted properties, including the receipt of a $175,000 Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement grant that the commissioners approved yesterday.
The grant is comprised of funds from Marcellus Shale impact fees, realty transfer tax and the National Housing Trust Fund. The money is to be used for targeted neighborhood stabilization efforts, site preparation and blighted or vacant property demolition and housing rehabilitation.
Doniele Russell, Lawrence County deputy director of community development, said the funds would be used for housing rehabilitation and demolition countywide, "but most of the funding goes (for properties in) the city of New Castle," she said.
The commissioners responded yesterday to comments city officials had made about them at a recent city council meeting, where one councilman, who is running for county commissioner, insinuated that they should resign.
The city officials' criticisms of the commissioners that night centered on the deteriorated Cooper building downtown and the shifting of funding for the New Castle Area Transit Authority from the city to the county as part of the city's Act 47 exit plan.
Commissioner Bob Del Signore brought up his disappointment with how the city officials "characterized" the commissioners at the meeting last week, saying their comments were politically motivated.
"We do not chastise the city publicly," he said. "We meet with them to discuss things. I don't think it's good practice, and I don't think it's good politics."
Commissioner Steve Craig agreed. Craig is not seeking re-election, and Del Signore was defeated in the May primary election. Dan Vogler is the only incumbent seeking re-election.
"There are issues that happen that will be a concern of the new commissioners," Craig said. "One is the replacement of the New Castle Area Transit Authority. I don't think it's my decision."
He continued that he has a lot of faith in the candidates seeking the office and he feels they're up to making decisions that are for the good of the community.
"As you can see by our agenda today, there's plenty to do," he said, adding that soon the commissioners will be working on the county's 2020 budget. He pointed out that the county also is sitting on a lot of new development, and the agencies the commissioners oversee "are full steam ahead.
"To call for resignations by a candidate for this job is irresponsible and not helpful," he said. "I intend to carry out my duties to the end of my term of this office. My goal is to leave this county better than when I started.
"We view New Castle as a part of this county," Craig added, "but they make it very difficult sometimes. You can't un-say something. They hold us in disregard for reasons that are their troubles and tribulations."
Commissioner chairman Dan Vogler commented, "as a commissioner, we've made a very good faith effort to work with the city and the other 26 municipalities we serve, and we are committed to doing so."
He pointed out that the county has earmarked thousands of dollars for the city for demolition, recreation and road and bridge repair.
Regarding the PHARE grant, DeSignore commented, "That's a prime example."
"We've given them a couple hundred thousand dollars in demolition funds in the past couple of years," he said. "So they can't say what they say to try to pull the wool over people's eyes."