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SHARON Officials express concerns over plant



Published: Fri, July 19, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Officials said they would accept an irrevocable letter of credit or a bond from the developer.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- City officials want a guarantee that Sharon won't be held liable for any damages if the city helps secure a $7 million state grant to redevelop the former Westinghouse plant on Sharpsville Avenue.

Businessman James E. Winner Jr. asked the city in June to act as the applicant for the grant funds to help convert the old plant into an industrial park.

However, Mayor David O. Ryan told city council Thursday that there are concerns about the city's being liable to repay some of that money to the state should the state determine that any of it wasn't spent according to program guidelines.

Ryan said that's not a risk he is willing to take, and council members agreed.

They like the idea of redeveloping the plant, which Westinghouse Electric Corp. closed in 1985, but they don't want the city to face any liability.

The Mercer County commissioners had agreed to put up a guarantee for the money when the Mercer County Industrial Development Authority (MCIDA) was serving as the grant applicant for Winner, but when Winner pulled out of the arrangement with the MCIDA, he lost the county guarantee.

Possible solutions

Atty. William Madden, city solicitor, told council that Winner and his wife, Donna, could provide the city with an irrevocable letter of credit or even a bond as a guarantee that any money reclaimed by the state would come from them, not the city.

The city could also consider putting a security interest holding on their personal assets to cover a guarantee, Madden said.

He said he's spoken with Winner's attorney on the matter but hasn't received any response yet.

Meanwhile, Ryan has appointed 10 people to serve on a reactivated Sharon Industrial Development Authority, which would be the grant applicant.

However, that body won't take any action until the city is assured that Winner has provided a guarantee for the state grant.

Winner told council last month that the scope of the work has been scaled back from $49 million to $18 million but that he still hopes to be able to secure the entire $7 million grant the state has earmarked for the project.

In other business, council voted to reinstate the position of a detective sergeant in the police department, a post cut out of the 2002 budget.

Police Chief Thomas Burke asked that the position be reopened because of a heavy workload faced by the city's three current detectives.

A patrolman will be promoted to fill the fourth detective slot at a cost of only about $1,800, the difference between a patrolman's and sergeant's salary, Burke said.




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