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Road work

| Saturday, July 24, 2004

PennDOT District 12 announces the following tentative work plan for the week of July 26. All maintenance activities are conducted on a weather-permitting basis. Motorists should drive with caution throughout all work areas and be alert for signed work zones requiring the usage of headlights.

= Signs will be updated, downed signs will be replaced, and work orders will be addressed on various state routes throughout Fayette County.

= Sub-structure repairs are planned for the bridge on Route 4014, Lower Peanut Road and bridge deck repairs will be made on Route 4016, Smock Road.

= Shoulder cutting operation is scheduled for Route 3003, Tom Cat Hollow Road, Route 3006, New Geneva Road, Route 3009, Frank Burchinal Road and various routes in the Perryopolis area.

= Pipe installation is scheduled for Route 3029, Big Six Road, Route 4003, Bull Run Road, and Route 1049, Eighty Acres Road.

= Base repairs will be made to Route 1034, Rockridge Road, Route 1051, Breakneck Road and Route 381.

= Pipe flushing is scheduled for Route 40, Summit Mountain area.

PennDOT's has a 24-hour toll free number for residents to call to report any road maintenance concern. This number can also be utilized to report locations of dead deer on state highways. The number is 1-800-FIX ROAD (1-800-349-7623). Visit www.penndot12.com.

Funds transfer

Fayette County's tax claim office solicitor has been directed to investigate a $500,000 transfer used to bulk up the county's dwindling general fund late last year.

Attorney John Cupp agreed to render a written opinion on the matter at a later date, according to Angela Zimmerlink, chairwoman of the county Board of Commissioners, who asked Cupp to determine if the transaction was legal.

The money was used to pay bills through the end of 2003 after funding in that year's budget became scarce, according to county officials.

Paying back the loan was not anticipated in the 2004 budget, meaning another deficit could form by the end of the year.

County Controller Mark Roberts told the commissioners during a recent meeting that the maneuver is legal, but he frowns upon it.

During that meeting, Zimmerlink directed Roberts to find out why the tax claim office had $500,000 to spare. He has not reported back to her.

Tax claim office revenues are disseminated to municipalities and school districts. The money borrowed was generated through property sales, Roberts said. That money requires a court order to be released, he said.

Pre-death deals

Consumers who sign irrevocable contracts to pay a funeral home in advance for their burial and related needs may not withdraw the money and spend it at another funeral home, the state Commonwealth Court ruled Thursday.

The 5-2 decision, which reversed a May 2003 ruling by the State Board of Funeral Directors, affects the estimated $100 million to $150 million spent annually by Pennsylvanians on so-called "preneed" contracts.

Judge Dan Pellegrini, writing for the majority, said that preventing customers from taking money from one funeral home and spending it at another may cause hardships for people who move, but that was not a sufficient reason for the courts to override irrevocable contracts.

Kathleen Ryan, attorney for the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association, which represents about 1,000 businesses, said her organization opposed giving consumers refunds but supported allowing the money to be spent at a funeral home other than the one that sold the contract.

The matter arose after a customer of Berks County funeral home director Kevin Bean sought a refund.

Preneed contracts are popular because nonrefundable advance payments for burial and funeral expenses do not count as assets in establishing Medicare eligibility for nursing-home patients. Many funeral homes offer refundable contracts as well, but they represent less than 10 percent of preneed sales, according to the state association.

Lawsuit

Sky Bank has filed a federal lawsuit against L.E. Smith Glass Co. in Mt. Pleasant, claiming the glass manufacturer has defaulted on a loan, and is asking the court to force the troubled company to pay nearly $4.6 million.

The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, claims Smith Glass defaulted on a loan agreement in May by failing to make payments. Sky Bank is seeking a judgment of $4,581,102 plus interest, costs and attorneys fees.

Smith Glass officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. An answering machine at the plant informs callers that the company is closed due to summer shutdown. Smith Glass hasn't produced handmade glass since June 30, the last day of production for the company's 57 workers, including 43 hourly workers represented by the United Steelworkers union.

Sky Bank is the company's primary lender. More than two years ago, the Bowling Green, Ohio-based financial institution loaned $2.9 million to the 97-year-old glassmaker to modernize and rebuild a 21-ton furnace that is fueled by natural gas and oxygen. The bank also had extended to Smith Glass a line of credit the company had exceeded by an estimated $500,000.

Sky Bank is represented by the Pittsburgh-based firm of Thorp Reed & Armstrong, LLP. The suit states the bank issued a default notice on or about May 6, demanding payment of all money owed. Smith Glass has not repaid the bank and remains in default, according to court papers.

As a result, Sky Bank is seeking a court order that Smith Glass owes the money. One possibility of recovering the money would be through a court order forcing the glassmaker into involuntary bankruptcy.

Service center on wheels

On July 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., PennDOT's Driver and Vehicle Services Mobile Unit will be at the Kirk S. Nevin Recreation Center, Route 119 north, Greensburg, for Sen. Allen Kukovich and Rep. Thomas Tangretti's Senior Fair.

The PennMobile, a service center on wheels, provides the same services as a PennDOT Driver License Center. Visitors can renew driver licenses and vehicle registrations; receive photo identification cards and licenses; apply for disability license plates or placards; make address changes and more.

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