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Bankruptcy doesn't sideline QB Batch

| Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011

Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch is struggling with personal and business debt after years of working to redevelop properties in the Steel Valley, where he grew up.

Batch has filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors, listing $8.29 million in liabilities and $2.3 million in assets. Batch Development Co. Inc., of which he is the sole shareholder, had 25 properties turned over to a court-appointed receiver earlier this month after defaulting on a $1.15 million mortgage with Dollar Bank, court documents show.

"I can't comment," Batch said Friday, although he stressed that the matters have no impact on his Batch Foundation or on a former Homestead bakery that he is renovating. The foundation is a sports and education organization for children.

In its complaint, Dollar Bank said Batch has been managing the properties, but they haven't generated enough rent to pay the mortgage that dates to 2008. The bank said it anticipates selling the properties.

Attorney Joel M. Helmrich, who represents Dollar Bank, said Batch Development is cooperating. Most of the 25 properties are single-family homes, he said, and some are vacant.

Receiver Joseph F. Rodkey Jr. said at least one property has multiple dwelling units.

"Some need a little work, and others are in pretty good shape," the Oakmont attorney said, adding his role is to manage the properties as the bank's collateral.

Batch has expressed a desire in recent years to help revitalize Homestead, his hometown, and nearby communities while laying the groundwork for a real estate business.

One of Batch's biggest endeavors has been the conversion of the former Homestead Bakery Co. on Seventh Avenue into 16 loft-style apartments plus office space and six stores. The renovated building was to open in 2008, but appears far from ready. Construction workers yesterday removed a sidewalk in front of the large brick building, and steps leading to a main entrance have not been built.

The Homestead Bakery isn't one of the 25 properties in receivership, Rodkey said.

Batch's financial issues won't affect the Bakery project, said Dennis Davin, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County.

"We will continue to work with Charlie. We have every confidence this project will be successful," Davin said. "The first apartment unit should be completed and rented by April, and the remaining units by June. The commercial storerooms should be completed by end of August."

In Homestead, residents and leaders said they were saddened to hear of Batch's difficulties.

"That's a shame because he's such a good man," said Councilman Sam Rizzardo, 63, who lives next door to one of Batch's properties, a single-home lot. "You hate to see something happen to him. He's always been here when we needed him."

Homestead Mayor Betty Esper has a banner hanging in front of her house reading "You're in Batch's Back Yard." At her office, she wore a Steelers sweater while praising the quarterback's involvement with local schools. Batch hosts basketball tournaments for kids, donates backpacks and organizes school field trips, among other deeds.

"I'm proud of Charlie — we all are," she said. "He's always made us proud. ... Charlie comes across as being so clean cut. He's a guy who's never had bad publicity, until now. Never problems with girls, or with drinking. As many times as I've hugged him, I've never smelled liquor on him."

The community will rally around Batch if he needs help, Rizzardo said.

"For him, absolutely," Rizzardo said. "He's been such a special person here."

Davin said the Bakery project got $500,000 in financing from the state, plus other assistance. Dollar Bank provided a $1.6 million loan, and the redevelopment authority loaned $150,000.

PNC Financial Services Group's bank and mortgage businesses and three other companies are owed a little less than $1.55 million in secured debt, court documents filed Dec. 3 said. Dollar Bank's loan for Batch Development's rental properties is listed as a $1.1 million unsecured claim.

Batch calls himself a "seasonal contract employee" of the Steelers and notes his deal and the NFL Players Association's collective bargaining agreement expire at the end of the season.

His pay totaled $722,376, as of Dec. 3. Batch has been a Steeler for nine years.

Batch paid more than $3,000 in back property taxes in April after the Steel Valley School District threatened to take him to court.

On Eighth Avenue in Homestead, the borough's main business district, friends and fans said they will stand by Batch.

"What hasn't he done (for Homestead)?" said John Kubancek, 37, who played high school football with Batch. "He's just a really good person. I kind of feel bad now hearing this."

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