Officials hope to save troubled park

A financially troubled industrial park in Butler County may have implications for Venango and Clarion counties as well.

The Allegheny Valley Industrial Park in Allegheny Township, Butler County, was the subject of a meeting Wednesday in Emlenton that involved county commissioners from Butler, Clarion and Venango as well as township officials, State Sen. Scott Hutchinson and representatives for Congressman Glenn Thompson and other officials.

The private industrial park, owned by AC Valley Development Corp. of Foxburg, is facing current debt of $250,000 and doesn’t have the resources to pay that debt.

The industrial park’s businesses employ about 600 people who live in Venango, Clarion, Mercer, Butler and Armstrong counties. The companies in the park generate a combined annual payroll of about $30 million.

The companies located in the park are TCC Pennwest, Mid Atlantic Youth Services, UEP Parker, Allegheny Structural Components, Gardenscape, GES Graphite, McNany Trucking and Mildred Marerella.

The immediate problem is the fact AC Valley Development has $250,000 in unpaid bills.

Joe Saelor, executive director of the Butler County Community and Economic Development office, said Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be an option.

“Financially, AC Valley is out of money. There is no way currently to correct the situation,” Saelor said.

He said the owner has no income at this time beyond fees from water and sewer service. AC Valley Development is also behind on taxes on the now empty Allegheny Valley Medical Building in Foxburg.

The building was vacated when Clarion Hospital consolidated the AC Valley and Rimersburg facilities in May.

The sewer plant serving the park is an even larger problem as the plant is operating under a consent order from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Saelor said the current operating plant is 25 years old and needs to be upgraded to meet new state standards.

Mark Gordon, the director of planning for Butler County, said he believes immediate upgrades would cost $1 million.

Saelor proposed expanding the current system into others counties. He said that would bring in 200 new customers and provide financial stability for the new system.

Gordon said the expansion project would cost an additional $2.5 to $3 million.

“As we expand the system it could grow into other counties,” said Saelor.

Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan said the private entity could not mandate tap connections and that some potential customers may opt out of the plan depending on the tap-in fees. Tharan noted that a municipality could enforce the fee, however.

Saelor said that was one option.

“I am open to other ideas,” he said.

Butler County Commissioner Leslie Osohe asked what would happen if AC Valley Development did go into bankruptcy.

Saelor said the township might need to take over the facility using an authority.

He also said a regional authority could also be set up, and a third possibility might be joining with an existing authority.

Jim Hite, an unpaid board member of AC Valley Development, said he and other board members had put “blood, sweat and tears” into the development of the park for the past 25 years.

“It would be a crime to see what we have built go by the wayside,” Hite said.

Venango County Commissioner Albert Abramovic commended the officials for attending the meeting.

“It is impressive to see what can happen when government pulls together,” Abramovic said. “This corridor on I-80 is the gateway to the Allegheny National Forest. This presents us with an opportunity.”

What can happen remains to be seen, and Osohe said the first item of business is to address the outstanding debt of $250,000. The second would be to seek funding for the current treatment plant upgrade and third to look at the proposed expansion.

Tharan and Osohe requested more information before making a decision.

“We will need to take it back to our house for further discussion,” Osohe said.

The DEP consent order will remain in effect for the park.