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SHARON To get grant, Winner must reapply, state says



Published: Fri, September 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Local officials were surprised to learn the money was actually withdrawn six months ago.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- If Winner Development LLC wants capital budget funds to help renovate the former Westinghouse Electric plant on Sharpsville Avenue, the state says, it will have to apply for them again.

The $7 million the state had earmarked for the project has been withdrawn, said Mike Lukens, deputy press secretary for the governor's office.

Lukens said the grant offer was actually withdrawn March 6, the end of a 90-day extension Winner Development and the Mercer County Industrial Development Authority were given to provide detailed project information. The MCIDA served as grant applicant for Winner.

However, formal written notice of the withdrawal didn't reach those involved in the project until letters were sent out Sept. 12, Lukens said, blaming the six-month delay on some internal housekeeping problems.

Requests not followed

The $7 million allocation was based on a $77 million project, but the details of that project, including such things as where the private financing would come from and engineering drawings of what the project would look like, were never presented as the state requested, Lukens said.

Winner later proposed a scaled-down version of the project with a cost approaching about $18 million, but that wasn't the project that the money was allocated for, Lukens said.

The $7 million has been put back into the capital fund budget pot and, if Winner wants another shot at it, the company must submit a new application, Lukens said.

"We have a long list of people who want capital budget money," he said, adding that many of those projects are ready to go.

James E. Winner Jr., principal in Winner Development, couldn't be reached to comment on the state's announcement, but it would appear he didn't know the grant offer had been withdrawn.

City applied

Winner thought the MCIDA wasn't handling the grant application process properly and went to the city of Sharon this summer, asking that the city become the grant applicant.

Sharon reactivated its dormant municipal industrial development authority for that purpose and didn't know the grant was lost either, said Mayor David O. Ryan. He said learned about it until Thursday and hoped to reach Winner today to find out what he plans to do.

Charles Bestwick, MCIDA chairman, said that the March 6 deadline was made very clear by the state but that his agency has yet to be formally notified that the grant offer has been withdrawn.

The letter of notification came to Penn-Northwest Development Corp. which was handling the administrative end of the grant application for MCIDA, Bestwick said.




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