On behalf of the Slippery Rock Borough Council an application for federal assistance was submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), for a guarantee of 90 percent of a $732,819 loan request made by the borough.
Council wants to pay off a $450,000 “bridge loan” borrowed earlier this year from NexTier Bank to purchase and demolish the vacant First National Bank building, which includes a 79-space parking lot in the downtown district. It’s also requesting $282,819 to design and add at least 40 parking spaces to the property, to be surrounded by sidewalk extensions of small green space.
For years the borough leased the parking spaces behind the FNB building as free municipal parking to accommodate downtown visitors. Last year, when FNB put up the property for auction, the borough won by offering $250,000. Yet the bank’s structure is so dilapidated that for any development to occur it must be first torn down. That will include expensive asbestos removal.
On Nov. 23, 2016, borough council’s president Regina Greenwald signed the federal assistance application to begin the process, but council never officially approved the application. Some council members were not even aware of the price tag until the project’s consultant, John Trant, announced it during a special council meeting on March 9 — almost four months after the application was submitted to the USDA.
Council’s lack of approval in a public meeting is in direct violation of the USDA program guidelines, as it was never “duly authorized by the governing body of the applicant,” as required.
But there’s more. On the application it was listed that the borough would have to install paid parking meters in the downtown area to help defray the project’s cost. What a ridiculous idea! Paid parking will only discourage shoppers from coming downtown. Illegal parking fines are already $40.
I accept that borough council bought the FNB property to preserve some downtown parking. But I vehemently object to spending close to half a million dollars for engineering designs and architectural landscapes, all to add more parking spaces decorated by greenery.
Theborough is not in a fiscal position to add more debt service to its annual budget. The $450,000 NexTier loan has already added a $2,500 per month loan payment for 20 years — which will be paid for with a borough tax rate increase of 2.5 mills for 2017 and beyond.
It’s time for an overhaul of borough council when it acts undemocratically and against the best financial interests of its residents.