This week the Leader Times editorial board returned its focus to local issues. The lead editorial rehearses the borough's recent history of missed opportunities to find a reasonable alternative to repayment of a $581,000.00 debt to the Federal Economic Development Administration. The borough incurred this debt as a result of a failed effort to redevelop the old PPG factory property on the edge of the Allegheny River. See here, here, and here for details. As a matter of full disclosure, I am an employee of NexTier Bank. NexTier Bank merged with F&M Bank in 2014. F&M Bank foreclosed on the property in 2010 when the Ford City Community Development Corporation went into default.
Under the terms of the EDA grant the borough was supposed to maintain ownership of the property until 2017. As a result of the foreclosure the EDA decided to demand repayment of the grant from the borough. Over the last couple of years the borough has been wrangling with the EDA over the repayment of the grant, but somehow managed to pass up a deal that would have allowed the borough to settle the debt by repaying only $116,000.00 over three years. Having failed to secure the borough's agreement to this generous repayment plan, the EDA has decided to demand payment for the entire amount of the grant.
In the view of nearly everyone but the members of the Ford City borough government the Feds have been more than fair, and the failure of the borough government to agree to the EDA's repayment plan is gross negligence. The editorial board is completely right to excoriate them. It is already too late for the borough government to find an honorable way out of its predicament. The Feds may yet find a way to regain some of the taxpayers' money without strangling Ford City to death, but in no way should the Ford City officials responsible for this fiasco escape the consequences.
My only criticism of the Leader Times editorial board is that they did not call explicity for the removal of the responsible officials by the next election if not sooner. And the editorial board may yet do so.