LAWRENCE COUNTY Officials seek to stay valuation
New Castle residents asked the county to help stop a proposed road.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County commissioners want to delay property reassessments for another year.
They decided Tuesday, in a 2-1 vote, to go to common pleas court and ask for more time to evaluate property values set by Manatron Sabre Systems, a Miamisburg, Ohio, company they hired to do the reassessment.
New Castle officials say they will fight any proposed delay in reassessment.
James Manolis, New Castle's solicitor, said he will review any petition to delay reassessment and then have a special meeting with city council.
"If there is not a reasonable basis for the delay, we will go to court," he said.
City officials threatened to sue the county because they believe city residents are paying an unfair share of county taxes. In 1999, the city and county signed a consent decree that stated reassessment would be finished this year.
But now county commissioners say they need more time to review the reassessment.
A county consultant contends that Sabre Systems didn't use comparable sales to set the new property values, said Commissioner Ed Fosnaught.
Fosnaught also believes the tax burden will shift from the wealthy to the poor if the numbers aren't re-evaluated.
Commissioner Roger DeCarbo also wants to delay reassessment because the timetable set by the consent decree isn't long enough for municipalities to determine how much tax money they will generate in 2003.
Some property assessment appeals could end up in common pleas court and won't be resolved in time for municipalities to set their budgets, he said.
Commissioner Brian Burick disagrees, however.
He voted against delaying reassessment. He said the county does not need the added legal bills.
"I'm not sure we have a sound legal case," he said.
He added that most problems with property values will be resolved during the appeals process.
In other business, about 30 city residents asked commissioners to oppose a proposed road project in Shenango Township that borders their neighborhood.
Neighbors say they are concerned about traffic, noise and pollution.
Bruce & amp; Merrilee's Electric Co. proposed building the road along an abandoned railroad line two years ago, but it was put on hold when county and city officials said they would look for alternative routes.
The land borders Rose and Warren avenues and Doris and Gale streets. There are about 51 homes and two churches that would be affected, said Nancy Scarnati of Warren Avenue.
Scarnati said neighbors believe road construction will start soon because the company recently started clearing trees.
Commissioners said they have no jurisdiction over road construction, but DeCarbo said they are still looking for alternative routes.
DeCarbo said he asked state officials for money to pay for a new bridge needed for one alternative route. The bridge would cost $1.5 million, he said.
Company owner Robert Bruce did not want to comment on the project.
New Castle City Council already passed a resolution opposing the road, but the city has no jurisdiction over the matter. The final say on the road will come from Shenango Township supervisors and the state transportation department.