Last updated: May 21. 2014 12:29AM - 1939 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com

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Plymouth Borough officials want to open a satellite police station in a former bank building purchased with $140,000 in Luzerne County funding.

Prior county commissioners had earmarked $350,000 in 2006 for the bank purchase and other work involved in a borough downtown revitalization project that stalled largely after two developers pulled out.

The county funding came from money borrowed through a bond that contributed to the county’s nearly $400 million in outstanding debt.

The county Redevelopment Authority, which oversaw the project and purchased the former PNC Bank building on the borough’s behalf, has been asked to convey the building to the borough for $1, authority members learned during Tuesday’s meeting.

Borough officials also want to use the roughly $142,000 remaining from the county allocation to rehabilitate the bank property.

Authority members agreed more research is needed before they vote on the request, including a review of the original county documents providing the allocation. The county already transferred the funding to the authority to disperse, which means the current county administration may have no control over how the remaining money is spent.

In other business Tuesday, a lawyer representing the owner of the Insignia Point Courtyards residential project in Jenkins Township asked the authority for permission to use some funding from a tax diversion program to complete an updated development plan required by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The project is in a Tax Incremental Financing program, known as a TIF, in which taxing bodies agree to give up tax revenue from new construction on former blighted property. The land owner pays the taxes, but the money is used to fund infrastructure improvements needed to develop the site.

Attorney Sam Falcone told authority members the state recently informed the property owner — Audi Management IV LLC — it must complete a new stormwater, erosion and sediment plan because the company has shifted to building one-story, cottage-style homes that are more in demand than townhomes.

Falcone said Audi Management can’t secure occupancy permits for the development until the state receives and approves the updated plan, which will cost at least $20,000 based on bids submitted to complete the work. The original TIF allowed spending for applications and permit fees, he said.

Approved by taxing bodies in 2008, the TIF was anticipated to last around 12 years to cover an estimated $1 million in infrastructure costs, records show.

Authority Solicitor Garry Taroli said he will review the law to determine if the expense is a permissible use of TIF funds and update the authority before its June meeting.

Audi Management purchased the 13-acre property for $1.5 million in 2010 from Jenkins Township Properties Courtyards, Inc., which was owned by Anthony Trombetta and George Albert.

Former county Commissioner Greg Skrepenak and former Redevelopment Authority Director Allen Bellas both pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for their support securing the TIF for Jenkins Township Properties.

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