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Irwin extends sales agreement to buy Lamp Theatre

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Irwin Council extended its sales agreement with the Westmoreland Cultural Trust to purchase the Lamp Theatre until June 30 to make sure a $180,000 lien against the trust's properties is settled.

Borough officials also want to make sure the borough can secure $500,000 in state and county funding for renovations, according to council President John Cassandro.

“There was a time element with our original agreement, which was the end of March, and we just couldn't get everything done,” borough manager Mary Benko said. “We just want to make sure everything is cleaned up and need more time to do that.”

Irwin council agreed to purchase the Lamp Theatre from the Westmoreland Cultural Trust for $1 on March 20. Officials expected to finalize the sales agreement by March 30 but were not able to get confirmation of funding from state and county economic-development officials, Cassandro said.

Mike Langer, president of the Westmoreland Cultural Trust, said Westmoreland County Judge Anthony Marsili placed the lien against all of the trust's assets, which totals $14.25 million, on March 7. Marsili placed the lien after a jury ruled in favor of the Red Star Brewing Co., which sued the trust after being ousted from the train station in Greensburg, one of the trust's properties.

According to court documents, the trust was Red Star Brewing Co.'s landlord for 12 years. The brewing company's owners, Ernie Vallozzi and Albert Spinelli, said the trust forced their business out of the station to make way for the current tenant, the Supper Club.

Langer said trust officials did nothing wrong.

A jury ruled in favor of the brewing company and awarded the business $180,000 in damages, according to court documents.

“The lien is against all of our assets, so we cannot sell any of our properties until the ruling is settled,” Langer said. “Our insurance company, United States Liability Insurance (USLI), is negotiating with Red Star Brewing Co.'s attorneys to finalize the settlement.”

Langer said USLI is responsible for covering the $180,000 payment, which he thinks will be paid before June 30.

He said the lien only delays the deal and won't alter any part of the agreement between the borough and trust.

“When we started talking about this plan in November, we didn't know there would be a court case against us or that we would lose a court case,” Langer said. “The easiest way for Irwin is to wait until this case is settled and the liens are lifted, so I agree with their move to extend the agreement.”

Cassandro said he does not expect any issues with settling the lien and hopes to have confirmation of state and county funding, along with all of the building's title issues, resolved by June 30.

Cassandro said the borough's engineer, Lucien Bove, is evaluating the theater, and officials still plan to begin working on the building this summer, starting with the building's façade.

“We have a lot to do, and we just underestimated how much time we're going to need,” Cassandro said. “We just need more time to make sure we have everything in order before taking ownership of the building.”

Officials have not set a timetable, though Cassandro said he hopes the project will move ahead quickly.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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