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Ford City Council to lease former dump

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Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
 

FORD CITY — Just over 60 acres of borough-owned property may soon be leased to an oil and gas drilling company for an as yet undisclosed amount of money for access to the mineral rights.

During Monday's Council meeting, borough Solicitor Frank Wolfe opened a proposal from Penn Natural Resources, which was the only proposal received.

The 63.2-acre parcel, off Bunker Hill Road in North Buffalo, is the former Ford City Dump.

Council President Lou Vergari said he was in favor of leasing the property because two years ago when the borough had a similar offer to lease, members of the public opposed the measure.

“We were going to get $900,000,” said Vergari.

Councilman Rob Mohney made a motion to lease the property to the company.

However, Councilwoman Kimberly Bish and Councilman Jerry Miklos each raised concerns about the matter.

“I just think if we're going to vote, we need to know the numbers,” said Bish.

Miklos agreed and asked: “What are the numbers?”

Vergari told them the proposal amount was a subject that needed to be discussed in an executive session.

“We will release those figures after the solicitor reviews the lease agreement,” said Mohney.

Council voted 4-2 in favor of leasing the mineral rights to Penn Natural Resources, pending the solicitor's review and recommendation.

Council members Eugene Banks, Paul Harmon, Vergari and Mohney voted yes. Miklos and Bish opposed the measure.

Miklos said there needed to be more publicity regarding the matter, that a public meeting needed to be held and that the matter seemed to be moving too quickly.

“I'm not necessarily opposed to leasing the land,” he said. “I don't think there was a diligent effort to advertise.”

Miklos also reproached council for failing to hold a public town meeting concerning the question of whether to designate school property as a Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone (KOEZ).

That designation would provide 10 years of state and local tax benefits to whomever buys it. The property is owned by the Armstrong School District and includes Ford City High School (along Fourth and Fifth avenues on the 1100 block), a school parking lot (between Third and Fourth avenues on the 1100 block) and the athletic field along Neal Avenue.

According to Bish, the decision must be made by the end of August. She noted that if the school district passes the property to the county, it would enable the independently-run Armstrong County Industrial Development Corporation to market the property to perspective buyers.

Miklos said residents who discussed the matter with him opposed the idea of KOEZ. He asked council members why would they would want to take tax money out of the borough.

“If ASD feels they could do something with the properties, I don't think we should try and hinder them,” said Vergari.

At Wolfe's suggestion, council voted on each of the three locations separately.

Council voted 5-1 in favor of designating Ford City High School as a KOEZ property. Miklos abstained because, he said, there had not been an opportunity for public input.

The vote was the same on making the parking lot a KOEZ property, with Miklos abstaining for the same reason.

When it came to voting on the future of the athletic field, opinions varied.

“My wish is that someone would come forward and keep it as an athletic field,” said Mohney.

“We could zone it as a residential (property),” said Vergari.

Bish made a motion to designate the athletic field as a KOEZ property. The motion failed for lack of a second.

In other business:

Borough resident Randy Schwartz of Fourth Avenue told council that he had been unable to access the ramp along the trail near 10th Street on Saturday during daylight hours due to illegally-parked vehicles.

“I asked police about it and was told to come to council and address the issue there,” said Schwartz, who uses a wheelchair.

He asked if council could erect a sign or designate a handicapped space.

Mayor Marc Mantini said he would address the issue with police.

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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