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Maritime lawyer to aid river group in Kittanning

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Lock and dam on the Allegheny River at Kittanning in this October 2012 file photo. Brigid Beatty | Leader Times

KITTANNING — The time has come for the Allegheny River Development Corp. (ARDC) to get some help navigating through a complexity of legal paperwork.

The board of directors announced on Wednesday it has retained a maritime attorney, David M. McQuiston of the Pittsburgh-based form of Thomson, Rhodes & Cowie, to help advise them on necessary insurance coverage required by the Army Corps of Engineers as the group presses on with its plan to operate Locks 6 (Clinton) 7 (Kittanning), 8 (Templeton), and 9 (Rimer) for recreational boaters.

“The Corps wants us to insure against third-party loss and to make sure ARDC is properly structured to be able to do the level of work required,” said Linda Hemmes, treasurer.

That insurance includes liability insurance for proposed workers hired by ARDC, and liability insurance for the officers and directors, Hemmes said.

ARDC has been meeting with Corps officials for several months to discuss a public/private partnership to keep the locks open, having submitted an initial proposal in late October.

At most, the locks would be operational for 60 days a year, from April to October, said Hemmes.

However, she said the public/private partnership does not seem to be a major issue at the moment.

It's the insurance.

Hemmes said the Corps originally said the nonprofit would have to carry $1 million in insurance coverage.

But after ARDC received the Corps response to their proposal in January, Hemmes said it looks as if the insurance cost may be closer to $5 million. She said that figure is not a concrete amount and there are still a lot of unknown details ARDC has to wade through.

Hemmes was quick to point out that the Corps has been anxious to have ARDC succeed and said its officials have been extremely cooperative. She anticipates continued positive discussion and progress now that McQuiston is in the picture.

“McQuiston has extensive background in maritime law and is well known and highly respected in the port of Pittsburgh,” she said.

Hemmes said McQuiston is familiar with most of the businesses on the Allegheny River and is known by a lot of Corps officials.

And although they have 120 members, ARDC still needs a lot of corporate and individual support. It costs $10 for an annual membership for individuals and $20 for businesses.

“We don't know how to fund this yet. We're looking at grants,” said Hemmes, adding that the organization does not want the burden to fall on taxpayers.

The nonprofit has raised $2,000 so far for the attorney's fees, said Hemmes.

The exact cost of the legal assistance is unkown. She said the ARDC Board plans to save on cost by doing the proposal writing and negotiations themselves and having McQuiston review the terms.

“It's not moving as fast as we'd love, but being smart and doing things right is a higher priority than being ready by May,” said Hemmes.

“The board has been extremely active. We're certainly looking at dozens of ideas but there are still a lot of unknowns because we're in uncharted territory.”

More information about ARDC can be found at www.AlleghenyRiverDevelopment.org.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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