McKeesport mayor warns of legal action
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said legal action may be taken to sever ties with the McKeesport Development Corp. in order to move forward with a three-city Enterprise Zone program.
He informed the public at Wednesday night's council meeting that the corporation, chaired by council president Darryl Segina, will not relinquish revolving loan fund documents.
“What we need to do is have access to this so that we can continue to market our city to bring businesses in,” Cherepko said.
Those loan fund documents and other records are to be given to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Duquesne, which administers Enterprise Zone programs for Duquesne, Clairton and McKeesport.
The revolving loan fund and Enterprise Zone programs offer low-interest loans to businesses in those municipalities.
Redevelopment Authority of the City of Duquesne administrator Chuck Starrett could not be reached for comment at presstime.
McKeesport Development Corp. has not met with a quorum for a year and has two outstanding loans, one to Lampert's Market and one to Christy Park Cones. McKeesport Solicitor J. Jason Elash said the two businesses are making payments on the loans.
Cherepko said he instructed Elash to draft a letter telling Segina and the development corporation to release their records or court action will be taken.
Segina sat quietly at Thursday's city council meeting as the mayor said he believes personal agendas are to blame for lack of action.
“We don't have access to the Enterprise Zone loans because of McKeesport Development Corp.,” said Cherepko, “because of vindictiveness, because of whatever it may be to hold the city back, and enough is enough.
“The credibility of the Enterprise Zone among the three cities has suffered being that we're not able to consolidate the (revolving loan funds) among the three entities. I have no other choice at this time but to have our solicitor pursue this in court. I think it's a crime that we have to go to court so that this city can have equal opportunity to get loans because of people's political agendas or vendettas or whatever else it may be.”
Segina called the letter from Elash a threat.
“I just won't be moved by any threats made to me,” Segina said.
Cherepko noted the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Duquesne partners in Duquesne and Clairton operate with 3 percent or less in administrative costs while McKeesport Development Corp. has 36.5 percent administrative costs.
“I want the public to understand why there's no more money there,” the mayor said. “These are facts. I don't like to talk about this negativity.”
Segina said the administrative costs are high because no money or businesses are coming in, and the city “choked” the corporation by stopping its financial support a few years ago.
“We were getting $25,000 each year, and that helped us in supporting getting small loans, up to $50,000, throughout the city,” Segina said. “That money was cut off from us. We don't have it anymore.”
Segina said several months ago the locks of the corporation's office in city hall were changed and office supplies were seized by the city. Segina said he received no notice about the locks being changed or the office being moved.
Cherepko said his administration tried to work with Segina and the corporation for nearly a year, even sending certified letters and placing multiple phone calls.
Segina said he received no correspondence, but did meet with Starrett on Oct. 12, when he again asked to receive a key to the office in exchange for the files.
“What harm is there to give us the key and have access to our files and office equipment?” Segina said.
Cherepko said the locks were changed because the corporation did not meet for at least a year, and the space is now occupied by Youth CAST — Community and Schools Together — a leadership program designed to engage youths in positive activities with adults in the city.
Cherepko said Segina's argument about an office key is invalid because all McKeesport Development Corp. files were moved to storage.
Segina said he has no problem giving Starrett the loan documents.
Segina referred further budgetary questions to corporation director Debbie Molinari, who was unavailable for comment at presstime.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.