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Elizabeth Forward tax record woes continue

| Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 4:51 a.m.
Residents in Forward Township were visited during the recent holiday period by companies performing seismic testing of properties in what is called the Bunola Storage Pool. Here helicopters are shown lowering measuring equipment into a field where cattle graze.

Forward Township's former tax collector may be ready to turn records over to the township and Elizabeth Forward School District nearly a month beyond the deadline for her doing so.

It's not known if that would affect the township's decision to file a private criminal complaint against Christine Martin Loughner last week.

Township Solicitor Matthew Racunas expected Loughner, 55, to turn over records to the law firm of McGrail and Racunas on Tuesday of those who did not pay 2013 school taxes.

The firm handles legal matters for the school district and the township.

“We're supposed to get them (Tuesday),” Racunas said at Monday's board of supervisors meeting.

That's in line with what school district director of finance and operations Richard Fantauzzi expected when the township filed the complaint with Magisterial District Judge Beth S. Mills.

Fantauzzi said Loughner always turned over delinquent tax records in past years.

Racunas said his office may receive township tax records, as well. He said he had no idea why Loughner was reluctant to turn over records to her successor, William R. Firczak.

Racunas declined comment when asked if the private complaint might be dropped. Loughner is scheduled for a preliminary hearing before Mills on Feb. 24 at 10:30 a.m.

The supervisors recessed their meeting rather than adjourn to review an application to be made through Twin Rivers Council of Governments for gaming-fueled Community Infrastructure & Tourism Fund money from Allegheny County's Department of Economic Development.

Amy Cline, the township's alternate to Twin Rivers, said the board must decide whether to apply again for $250,000 or seek some lesser amount from the county for improvements to Gallatin-Sunnyside Field. The county rejected Forward's request last year.

Board chairman Tom DeRosa said drilling company EQT's permit specialist Todd Klaner told him last week that the he would get in touch with Allegheny County about asphalt paving of Pangburn Hollow Road.

EQT officials were not available Monday night to comment on DeRosa's report, though a company spokeswoman has said policy is “to address and repair any damage incurred to access roads of our production sites.”

Property owners are assessing the effect of seismic testing done within what EQT calls the Bunola Storage Pool in December and January.

“They tested on Christmas Day, on New Year's Day and on Sundays, which is against the township ordinance,” Betty Jean Cline said.

Cline and her daughter Amy are among the defendants in a recent lawsuit EQT filed in order to get the seismic testing done.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Christine A. Ward allowed testing to be done, then scheduled a Feb. 7 hearing when an attorney for some affected property owners sought reconsideration of her order.

Ward decided not to hold the hearing because the matter had become a moot point.

“There was no point in having the hearing,” Betty Jean Cline said. “They had already finished the testing.”

The Clines signed a lease agreement with EQT in 2011 and are not among a majority of owners sued by EQT who joined together as the Monongahela Group.

The suit lumped together property owners opposed to testing and at least one in favor, Riverview Golf Course.

Police Chief Mark Holtzman reported that his officers arrested 10 adults in January; investigated 10 thefts, four incidents of domestic violence and seven reportable traffic accidents; and made security checks of 68 businesses and 47 residences.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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