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SHARON Winner will try again for grant to redo Westinghouse plant



Published: Mon, September 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The state announced last week that it had withdrawn a $7 million grant offer for the project.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- Businessman James E. Winner Jr. intends to reapply for state funds to continue efforts to redevelop the former Westinghouse Electric Corp. plant on Sharpsville Avenue.

The project was dealt a blow last week when the state announced it had withdrawn a $7 million grant offer.

Mike Lukens, a spokesman for the governor's office, said the grant offer had been based on a $77 million project by Winner's Winner Development LLC, but the scope of the project had been cut back to just $18 million.

Documentation required

Furthermore, the state never received the project documentation it needed to release the grant, Lukens said, noting that included details about private financing and project design.

Lukens said the grant was pulled March 6 though those involved in the project weren't notified until last week, a delay Lukens said was an oversight.

Winner, who read about the loss of the grant in the newspaper, said today that he will try again for state financial assistance.

"My present intent is to reapply for the grant money through a cooperative [Sharon] Industrial Development Authority who really does want the project to succeed and the remedial [environmental cleanup] work completed," Winner said in a prepared statement.

He took a shot at the Mercer County Industrial Development Authority and its chairman, Charles Bestwick, blaming them for problems with getting the grant money released.

Bestwick has said repeatedly that it was Winner's failure to comply with state requests for project information that caused the loss of the funds.

People's support

Winner said he has received numerous telephone calls since the state's announcement last week from people asking if they could help.

"For the good of the community, this project must be completed," he said. "With God's help and guidance, it will be done."

The Westinghouse plant closed 17 years ago and sat unused until Winner bought it several years ago, announcing plans to develop the 850,000 square feet of industrial space and 200,000 square feet of office space into an industrial park that would employ 1,000 people.

"God laid this project on my heart a few years ago," he said, adding, "I m totally committed to function as his servant and to see the project through."

"That's good. I'm glad to hear it," said Mayor David O. Ryan, adding that the city will do what it can to help secure new grant funds.

gwin@vindy.com




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