Lawrence County Courthouse (copy)

This is the Lawrence County Courthouse in New Castle.

A move to designate the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation as the official industrial development agency for the county remains on hold.

The measure was introduced last June, but was tabled and not voted on because former Commissioner Morgan Boyd at the time had attached conditions he felt should be met before the designation was made.

Those conditions included requiring the agency to open its meetings to the public, abiding by the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act and allowing elected municipal officials to sit as voting members on the economic development agency’s board.

They also included providing public financial disclosure of its income, expenditures and debt.

Financial records of the agency showed that at least 62 percent of its income was from public money, according to figures available from 2019.

The two remaining commissioners — Dan Vogler and Loretta Spielvogel — considered voting on the measure at their meeting Tuesday, but tabled it again after discussions with two township officials who attended their meeting.

Boyd, who resigned as commissioner and accepted a state-appointed position in Harrisburg earlier this month, had asked Vogler and Spielvogel to agree to the three conditions as part of the designation.

At the time, they delayed their decision and would not second Boyd’s proposals, saying they wanted time to study them and get advice from the county solicitor.

The measure appeared on Tuesday’s commissioner’s agenda without previous public deliberation about it being taken off the table for a vote.

The proposed resolution states the commissioners have the statutory power to designate only one organization as the county’s official industrial development organization.

A similar resolution has been in effect since 2003, enacted by a previous board of commissioners.

Boyd said in June he was reading Fifth Class County Code and realized the county’s tax dollar allocation currently flows through the Lawrence County Regional Chamber Foundation as part of the umbrella organization instead of through the economic development corporation because of a restructuring of that organization a few years ago.

Through examination of the code, the commissioners found that was an improper flow of funds, determining instead those funds under the code need to go to the LCEDC if the county continues to fund that organization.

Since June when the measure was first introduced, the economic development corporation has undergone some changes. It parted ways last month with its executive director, Linda Nitch, and its solicitor, James Manolis. The umbrella organization, the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce, hasn’t had a CEO since Alex McCoy was ousted in February 2022.

The chamber board is interviewing candidates for a new CEO through Sharon-based hiring company Kismet PEO. Ten from the 20 to 30 applicants are in the interview phase.

“I wouldn’t have any problem taking it off the table and voting on it,” Spielvogel said at Tuesday’s public meeting. “I think that with the changes going on, I still feel confident in the ability of the organization to do the things we need to do at a county fiscal level.”

Neshannock Supervisor Leslie S. Bucci, who attended the commissioners meeting, reminded them one reason the measure had been tabled last year was the township never got a seat at the table, and municipalities still don’t have a say in its operations.

“It would be very helpful if at least there could be a condition that the townships could have a seat on the board or could send a liaison to its meetings,” Bucci said. “Sometimes they make decisions that affect our municipalities without us being there.”

The township has had its own go-around with the agency with the ongoing saga of Millennium Park, which the agency bought about 30 years ago and has never fully marketed or developed.

The agency sought a reduction in its assessed value and the matter ended up in court on appeal by the economic development corporation.

After both the township and the agency hired appraisers for the property, the economic development corporation withdrew its request for the reduction and dropped its appeal lawsuit.

Wilmington Township Supervisor Dan Kennedy, who also attended Tuesday’s meeting, said since he has been a supervisor “not one person (from the agency) in 3 ½ years has shown up in our township.

“I’m not really happy with it.”

He said the supervisors had a conversation with the commissioners and the agency a year ago “and they’ve had a year to show up. We’re not the biggest township, but we do have things going on there.”

“I’m thrilled to death that you’re here,” Spielvogel told the two supervisors, “because if we don’t hear from you, we don’t know. I wouldn’t care either way, but if it’s better, we’ll keep it tabled and have more discussion about openness and more accessibility. This motion is just reiterating that they are our our economic development corporation.”

Vogler acknowledged the proposed amendments or conditions to the adoption.

“The organization is going through quite a significant transition,” he said. “Our role here today would be to leave it on the table for further consideration.”

“Let’s just keep it tabled,” Spielvogel concluded.

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Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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