Money earmarked for Monessen properties
Revitalization of downtown Monessen is full speed ahead — minus plans to convert the former mill town into an artists' community.
Westmoreland County commissioners on Thursday voted to accept a $400,000 state grant to pay for the purchase of as many as 270 unwanted tax-delinquent properties, demolition, and the construction and financing of low-income housing.
The four-phase, county-sponsored project is expected to replace the expensive high-concept Monessen Rising proposal pushed by city leaders and New York developers to convert the city into an artists' haven.
“This is the project that truly has some legs under it. It has money behind it, and we can now take money and help the county actually grow,” said Commissioner Tyler Courtney.
County Planning Director Jason Rigone said the project is expected to cost $945,000. It will be financed using the state grant approved on Thursday, which comes from Marcellus shale impact fees.
Other funding has been secured through federal housing grants and money collected by the county through the recording of deeds and mortgages.
Monessen will be expected to obtain about $100,000 in state funding, Rigone said.
Demolition could begin before the end of the year, according to Rigone.
Monessen city administrator John Harhai, who supported the artists' community concept, along with several elected officials in the city, said on Thursday the city has undertaken no efforts to garner state grants.
Harhai said, “No comment,” when asked to respond to the county's plan for Monessen.
Monessen Mayor Mary Jo Smith, who supported the Monessen Rising project, was defeated in a Democratic primary last spring. Her opponent, Lou Mavrakis, and Republican nominee Robert Zynosky Jr., have opposed the Monessen Rising concept.
County officials said the revised Monessen project is a more stable effort to rehabilitate the city.
“It's a good investment, and there may even be artists living there,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas.
The plan calls for an initial outlay of about $95,000 to purchase about 270 city properties in the county's repository of unclaimed and mostly unusable parcels confiscated by the county for back taxes.
Rigone said about $150,000 will be used to demolish buildings on some of those sites. Construction of low-income rental units is expected to follow.
The final piece of the project would be to create a fund to help low-income residents make down payments for home purchases.
“This is just a final step that needs to take place to get that city moving in the right direction,” Rigone said.
County officials initially balked at the Monessen Rising project and in March, at the 11th hour, withdrew a proposal to sell Monessen the repository properties for $1 apiece.
At that time, commissioners said they favored a project that had financing lined up before they agreed to turn over the properties.
The $30 million Monessen Rising project would have required an $8.5 million local match from the city, according to details released earlier this year.
The proposal, though, caused a rift among city residents and leaders over the concept as well as its New York City developers, whose own financial issues created a negative buzz around town.
Developers George Christo and Randy Lee of New York did not respond to requests for interviews on Thursday.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Housing market remains ‘disaster’ in Westmoreland County
- Westmoreland judges’ caseloads unlikely to affect district boundary changes
- ‘Extreme extrovert’ takes over at WCCC
- Mt. Pleasant seeks on-street bike trail through downtown
- New Ohiopyle park manager ready for big challenge that comes with job
- Dog-training program gives prison inmates chance to give back
- Northampton man has four major drug arrests in Western Pa. since 2009
- New Stanton rejects road work bids