Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Date with a Wrecking Ball Plans Progress to Demolish Former Monsour Medical Center

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Date with a Wrecking Ball Plans Progress to Demolish Former Monsour Medical Center

Article excerpt

A settlement with the federal Pension Benefits Guaranty Corp. is all that stands between the wrecking ball and the dilapidated former Monsour Medical Center along Route 30 in Jeannette.

Jason Rigone, director of Westmoreland County's Industrial Development Corp., said the county is in negotiations with the pension corporation over a $3.5 million debt for the hospital that closed in 2006.

The federal agency pays former workers their pensions for private companies that go bankrupt or shut down.

Jeannette solicitor Scott Avolio said his understanding is that the $3.5 million lien is from claims made by former Monsour workers who were paid pensions by the agency, and the agency is now trying to collection restitution for some of those payments.

Lawyers for the county development agency and the Westmoreland County Land Bank as well as Mr. Avolio met in December with a lawyer representing the federal agency.

"We are in the midst of negotiations," said Mr. Rigone. "Hopefully, we can work through the details of the draft agreement we have with them." He said those discussions are ongoing and declined to reveal any proposed details.

"I am very optimistic after the meeting [with the pension agency]," Mr. Avolio said. "It was very productive; they understand the problem with the structure. And everyone was equally sympathetic to the other's position. So we're continuing to work on revisions to the agreement."

Mr. Avolio said he is optimistic that by summer there will be a plan to remove the Monsour structure. The county hopes to see it demolished this year.

The county's recently formed land bank purchased the four-acre property at a free and clear court sale in October.

Another big hurdle for the project was overcome last month, when the Internal Revenue Service dropped a $4.6 million lien against the property for back taxes after negotiations with the county.

As with those negotiations, local officials hope to show the pension corporation that the value of the Monsour property is much less than the debt owed.

Once the issue of pension debt is resolved, the county hopes to move forward in the next few months with bids to demolish the nine- story circular tower. …

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