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MERCER COUNTY Winner suggests help in solving fee dispute



Published: Sat, April 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



At issue is some $31,000 in fees the authority said it incurred on Winner's behalf.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- A dispute between Mercer County Industrial Development Authority and Winner Development LLC of Sharon over fees the authority says it is owed could wind up in an informal kind of binding arbitration.

Atty. John F. Hornbostel Jr., representing James E. Winner Jr., principal in Winner Development, suggested the plan to the MCIDA Friday as a way of quickly settling the dispute.

The MCIDA says Winner incurred administrative fees with the authority of $44,388, but has paid only $13,001 and refuses to pay more.

The services dealt with efforts to secure state grant and loan funding for the redevelopment of the former Westinghouse Electric Corp. plant on Sharpsville Avenue in Sharon.

Winner's contention

Winner maintains that the $13,001 is all his company owes.

He said Winner Development had to agreed to pay MCIDA $5,000 for each of two funding applications it filed with the state, but neither application was funded because Winner dropped pursuit of the state aid.

Winner said his company also paid about $3,000 in legal and other fees incurred on its behalf.

The MCIDA said the fees are a lot higher and warned in March that it was prepared to take legal action to collect.

Winner responded with a suggestion for binding arbitration, and Hornbostel took that proposal a step further.

He suggested that each side prepare a legal brief on its understanding of the dispute and then each side should appoint an attorney to sit on an informal arbitration panel.

Those two attorneys would then select a third, neutral attorney and both sides would agree to abide by a majority vote of the panel, Hornbostel said, noting it would be cheaper and quicker than a lawsuit or formal arbitration through the American Arbitration Association.

To meet about process

The authority voted to have its solicitor, Atty. Thomas Kuster, meet with Hornbostel to discuss just how the process would be set up. Hornbostel said he will submit a proposal of the plan to Kuster.

He also handed out a prepared statement written by Winner that, among other things, accused authority chairman Charles Bestwick of "nitpicking and obstructional efforts" that prevented approval of a $7 million state financing package for the Westinghouse project.

Bestwick made no comment on the letter, but had said earlier that it was Winner's failure to comply with requirements of the state Department of Community and Economic Development that prevented the financial package from being completed.

The MCIDA was merely the liaison between the state and Winner on the project, he has said.




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