DON asks for waiver on property lien

Phil Berezniak, left, appears before New Castle City Council to ask for a waiver on lien for a property DON Services acquired for the neighborhood revitalization project on the Lower East Side.

A representative from DON Services presented his plea to New Castle City Council to relinquish its claim for the recoupment of a lien on a vacant lot the nonprofit is pursuing as a part of their neighborhood revitalization project on the Lower East Side.

“Council is aware, I hope, that we were granted another $1 million for nine new homes in the Lower East Side,” said attorney Phil Berezniak. “This parcel was included in that grant.”

DON Services has been rebuilding homes on the city’s Lower East Side gradually over the past two years, and is on track to build another nine homes this year. 

The lot on Ray Street has a lien that totals $6,890, which is for the funds the city paid to demolish the building that previously stood there. Berezniak believes those funds were in the form of a grant.

“We are not allowed to pay for the relief of liens (under the new grant),” said Berezniak. “We’re not allowed to take donations or grant money and utilize that for the acquisition of the property.”

“It is my humble opinion that this is taxpayers’ dollars that tore this (the home) down,” said Councilwoman MaryAnne Gavrile. “So thus, I’m not certain how we can waive that.”

Gavrile noted there were two buildings demolished downtown that cost the city $160,000 for one and $54,000 another.

When Berezniak agreed he remembered those buildings, Gavrile replied “I’m talking.” Berezniak then apologized.

“I recognize this a drop in the bucket compared to those two, but it’s still taxpayers’ dollars,” said Gavrile, who noted there’s “no bigger fan” of DON than she.

According to Berezniak’s calculations, if a home was built on the lot, the city would receive $651.41 per year under the current millage. With those payments, the city would recoup the money for the waived lien through the tax rolls in 10 years. If the five homes DON constructed under a prior grant had their city taxes allocated to the lien repayment, the city would recoup the funds in under two years.

Councilman Tim Fulkerson asked whether new constructions in the city had a five-year tax abatement delaying repayment.

Mayor Chris Frye noted new constructions only gained the tax abatement if they applied for it.

No tax abatement application, according to Berezniak, has been submitted for the lot, and that DON would consider not applying for the tax program.

If the potential recoupment period through the tax rolls is too long of a wait for the council, Berezniak said, there may be other opportunities for the city to regain the money.

“I’m just going to suggest those (opportunities) are going to be far and few between,” said Berezniak.

Council will vote on Thursday on the matter.

Council President Tom Smith noted if the vote doesn’t pass, it doesn’t “diminish” DON’s work on the Lower East Side.

On Thursday, council will vote on:

•Twenty-five budget amendments.

•A conditional use request for a cell tower near George Washington Intermediate School.

•The appointment of Ronald Davis to the Zoning Hearing Board of Appeals.


Maria Basileo is a news reporter. She covers Laurel and Shenango school boards and municipal government.

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