SEWERS. Neshannock Township supervisors say they will sue to recover expenses for Millennium Park.
Neshannock Township supervisors last night voted to begin legal action against the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. over Millennium Park.
The township, expecting to get state funding through the corporation, modified a planned sewer project to accommodate development of the proposed 503-acre industrial park. However, the state last year slashed most of the funds it had promised, and supervisors say they have yet to see any reimbursement for money they spent on the park sewer line.
That has jeopardized the township's own sewer project, they said, which must meet specific timetables imposed by municipal bonds and state requirements.
"We spent money in good faith," Supervisor Chairman Gale E. Measel Jr. said. "But we haven't seen a dime in reimbursement. Now we're going after the corporation to recoup what we spent. We're not going to spend more without assurances that reimbursement is coming."
About two years ago, Gov. Ed Rendell promised $15 million to the development corporation to create the high-tech industrial park. To accommodate the planned development, New Castle and Neshannock Township upgraded a planned sewer line using larger pipe and relocating original lines to serve the park.
Last year, though, the state slashed funding to $4 million, citing problems with raising a local match for the original $15 million.
Neshannock is not alone in its struggle. Last month, New Castle officials also initiated legal action against the development corporation, seeking $1.3 million they say the city is owed for park-related sewer work.
Measel said Neshannock has spent $2.3 million to construct sewers and to do engineering work on the line to the park. No sewers have been installed through the park.
The township, he said, obtained contracts totaling $3.2 million for that sewer work.
"But we had to cancel the contracts," he said. "The money was not available through the development corporation or the state."
Measel and township secretary Leslie Bucci said even without funds, the township must construct a sewer line in the area. This was the plan even before talk began about Millennium Park.
Linda Nitch, executive director of the development corporation, said Millennium Park is still very much alive.
"We're in the process of receiving contracts," she said. By next month, she expects that $7.5 million -- half in grants and half as a loan --will become available. This, added to the $4 million promised from the state through the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program, will make $11.5 million available for the project.
No money is yet accessible, Nitch said, "but the state has sold the bonds for the grant portion of this."
Although the high-tech company originally interested in locating at the site "has mothballed the project," Nitch said she has continued to market the park.
"I've shown the site to several prospective industries, as recently as last week," she said. "I believe something will come and we need to be ready to go."
Nitch adds that she understands the frustration of city, township and county officials over the stalled project -- she has felt it too.
"But we will have $11.5 million available to build roads, to move dirt and to acquire adjoining properties," she said. "Then we'll be ready to go.
"But now there is no electricity, no roads, no sewers, no gas or water lines. Everyone is waiting for money and there is no money here."