Summit Hill council says it could be years before grant arrives
Summit Hill Borough Council hinted last night it could be years before it gets a state grant for the construction of the new firehouse, police station, and borough hall.
Tom Tkach and Larry Marek, borough residents, questioned the status of the $1.25 million grant.
Council President Joe Weber said it is his understanding the funding won't be provided until the borough has closure on the buildings. He explained this means the borough acceptance of the structures.
Weber said, "We won't technically have closure until the lawsuits are resolved."
"There's not much more we can do," said borough treasurer Kira Michalik.
Weber explained that the lawsuits involve one filed by the heating and air conditioning contractor, Hoch Mechanical Inc. of Allentown, against the borough, as well as a counter-suit filed by the borough against Hoch. There also is a suit filed by the borough against the bonding agent for Hoch.
The suits were filed in Carbon County Court. It is not known how long it will take to resolve the civil actions, but it could potentially be years.
The borough's $3.5 million construction project involved the construction of two buildings - the fire house and the joint police station and municipal building - as well as the demolition of the former borough hall and fire company.
Part of the project is to be paid with a $1.25 million grant obtained through the efforts of State Representative Keith McCall.
McCall had written in a letter to the editor regarding the grant, "Quite simply, my office has been working with the borough and with the Governor's office for some time to try to resolve the situation and to obtain the state funds. As with any application for Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funding, the applicant is obligated to ensure that the contractor hired follows all state laws and regulations. Until all aspects of the contract are fulfilled, the money cannot be disbursed."
He added that problems with the state funding arose "because the contractor hired to install the HVAC did not pay prevailing wages."
Attorney Joseph Matika, borough solicitor, said a construction law attorney has filed the lawsuit against Hoch. He said there are various claims for breach of contract and poor workmanship.
Councilman Michael Kokinda argued that the funding was to have been a "matching grant," in which the borough puts up at least the same amount of money as the grant amount. Since the borough expended well over the matching amount on the construction, he feels the state should provide the funding.
"Why can't they just give us the money?" Kokinda wondered aloud.
Marek asked if there was a possibility the borough would lose the money since McCall as well as Governor Ed Rendell are leaving office at the end of this year.
"I was told not," Weber said, explaining that he was informed the money is in an account to be distributed to Summit Hill as soon as the legal and contractual issues are resolved.