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Contaminated well delays bank land deal

| Thursday, Feb. 10, 2005

Penn Hills officials believe they can resolve a concern that has stalled S&T Bank's plan to purchase the abandoned public works garage on Frankstown Road.

Mayor Anthony DeLuca Jr. said he has met with bank officials to discuss their concern -- tests on one of the wells on the 1.38-acre property showed contaminants. He said the bank wants more environmental testing before taking over the property.

"We are trying to work as quickly as possible to address S&T's concerns," DeLuca said. "They didn't give us a deadline, but we will get back to them soon."

DeLuca declined to elaborate on the negotiations with S&T.

Bill Calhoun, S&T vice president for purchasing and property, would not comment on the situation.

The Indiana-based bank bid $405,000 for the property last year and plans to construct a new building and move operations from its current cramped quarters across from the municipal building on Frankstown Road.

Calhoun said last year that the bank's plans call for a full-service facility, including three drive-through teller lanes and drive-up ATM and night deposit capabilities. No cost of the new facility or for demolition of the 50-year-old garage were given.

S&T originally expressed interest in trading properties with the municipality, but Penn Hills officials wanted cash. Calhoun said the existing bank building would be sold.

Bank officials had wanted construction to begin last fall.

If municipal officials can resolve S&T's concerns, the bank will only need municipal permits to start building.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection declared the site clear of contaminants in 2003. It has been vacant since the summer of 2001, when the public works department moved to its new $2.7 million facility on Leechburg Road.

Acting municipal Manager Jim Schaffer has proposed renovating the building with a $1 million capital improvement bond and use it for the Water Pollution Control Department, which he once headed.

DeLuca said the municipality abandoned the building because of employee safety concerns and the department needed more room to store vehicles and supplies.

"That building is so old," DeLuca noted. "To sink all that money into that type of building would be a waste."

Councilwoman Sara Kuhn supports trying to resolve the bank's concern about the property.

"There is no way I would ever support making it the water pollution control building," she said.

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