Jeannette urged to give back $65K grant
By Richard Gazarik
Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The attorney for the City of Jeannette recommended Tuesday that the city return a $65,000 state grant earmarked for a recreation center, submit a new proposal to the state and hope the state will award Jeannette another grant in the future for the long-delayed project.
“Return the $65,000 and go back to the drawing board,” said Scott Avolio.
One problem, Avolio added, is the financially-strapped city doesn't have the money to repay the state, although the municipiality is on the hook for the grant.
The city recreation commission voted Tuesday to ask contractor Tim Bongiorni, president of the now-closed Quality Sheet Metal Erection in Avella, Washington County, to return the money although Avolio warned that Bongiorni is “within his legal rights” if he doesn't return the full amount.
Neither the commission nor city council ever contacted Bongiorni since the contract was signed in 2008 to inform him what their plans were for the building and when they would come up with the balance of the down payment.
The grant was awarded to the commission in 2007 but turned over to the city, Avolio said.
“The city has been put in a bad situation,” he added. “In 2007, the dream and hopes may have been great but not in 2013. It was a $1.5 million dream.”
Neither the city nor the commission has the money to build the center or operate the enterprise.
Jeannette is in the process of trying to raise revenue to pay a $350,000 contribution to the police pension fund and has laid off employees, required administrators to take a 10 percent reduction in their salaries, will refinance a bond issue and sell assets. It began the year with a $500,000 deficit.
Avolio has been investigating why the city or commission never followed up with Bongiorni after he was given a $65,000 deposit on the building. The complete project would have cost the city $1.5 million but after the deposit was paid, nothing else was ever done to make the remaining $20,000 down payment, Avolio said. A fundraising committee tasked with coming up with donations “melted away” and the project stalled.
“It just abruptly stopped at the beginning of 2008,” he added.
The project resurfaced when commission members Randy Highlands and Joe Yorio began questioning what happened to the money.
Highlands was upset when he learned that Avolio had found a copy of the contract that was signed June 28, 2008, with Quality Sheet Metal Erection.
“I've been asking, asking, and asking and asking,” Highlands said. “I didn't know until tonight that a contract existed.”
Yorio questioned the accuracy of past meeting minutes, which did not contain his demands to see documents associated with the project.
Avolio said the city never attempted to contact Bongiorni for four years. There is enough blame to go around on both sides, he added.
“To say where is my $65,000 is a gross inaccuracy,” he continued. “I can't explain why no one, after 4 years, asked where's my $20,000?”
Bongiorni has told officials he would work with the city to complete the project but would have a difficult time providing the type of building they want for $65,000. The price, he said, has increased and the city would incur additional costs for excavating the site and completing the interior of the building.
Bongiorni cashed the check but Avolio said he doesn't know what happened to the money after that. Bongiorni said he paid the money to a company in Somerset County to provide the structure but couldn't remember the name of the firm or the salesman he dealt with.
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reachedat 724-830-6292 or at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- South Greensburg bugler still playing ‘Taps,’ but few others continue tradition
- Latrobe couple accused of using car trunk to end son’s fear of the dark
- Information sought on armed robbery in Greensburg
- Ligonier Y ups security in response to threat
- Police say student made Greensburg Salem bomb threat
- Grant funds boost Westmoreland recreation projects
- No tax hike in budget for Ligonier Township
- Greensburg man remains hospitalized after crash
- Westmoreland Manor manager gets 3-month extension
- Ex-employees to split $9,176 in pension mess
- Hempfield attempts zoning revisions