Is Zimmerlink being too nice?
Should Act 13 money correct the man-made
problems at the industrial park?
Nobody expects to buy what is supposed to be a fully prepared pod in a business park
and have problems with flooding, sewage backing up and underground utility lines not
working. Nobody expects to have such problems when purchasing privately own land.
Nobody, however, would even consider the nightmare possibility when purchasing land
that was developed with public funds.
That's exactly what happened to Steve and Natalie Laskey, however, when they built their
restaurant supply business, operated it for several years with no environmental
disturbances, then were flooded with raw sewage four times and flood waters about 8
times inside their business. Many more times than 8, too, the outside driveway and
parking lot have been underwater and mud covered. Not exactly what any business owner
wants to find driving into work on any given rainy day.
When Laskey heard that the county wanted to put a prison a short distance from his
property, he attended the special meeting on February 26, 2014 and shared his
experiences with the county commissioners. He brought photographs and tried to show
them to the commissioners. The commission chairman, Al Ambrosini, pretty much blew
Laskey off, after assuring Laskey that the prison pre-construction geological study
addressed all these problems and that "this project will help."
Oh, and on the way out of the meeting, Laskey said that Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky
stopped him to say that he knows someone who can help. Neither man reportedly since
has followed through with any demonstrated interest in helping to resolve the problems at
the industrial park.
Shortly after that special county meeting, Laskey shared a good bit of paper
documentation with me about his troubles. The bottom line is that nobody has come up
with a solution to his problems. Four other businesses have closed and moved from the
Here are the known and undisputed facts about the flooding and environmental problems
at the industrial park:
- Other undisputed facts about the problems with flooding at the industrial park are
noted in writing 5 months ago from the DEP. "The Redevelopment Authority of the
County of Fayette(RACF) graded and filled the site to create the flat, pad-ready
industrial park in the late 1970s or early 1980s. In the process, RACF relocated one
stream and completely eliminated another."
- The original drainage paths to Gist Run, and, ultimately, Dunlap Creek, the DEP
concluded, were closed off by the development. Runoff now goes into what was
once a small pond on property purchased from RACF. When the pond water surface
reaches a certain elevation, flooding occurs.
- "The Department has no record that RACF obtained a requisite permit for such
activity. RACF has taken the position that it must have obtained a permit, but has
not been able to produce any documentation to substantiate this," the DEP stated.
- While the DEP participated in multiple meetings with RACF, property owners,
attorneys, legislators and other stakeholders to address alleviation of the flooding,
the report of DEP's year-long investigation was misplaced. A copy of it with the
RACF engineer, was lost, Laskey said he was told, in a fire.
- As per written documentation from the auditor general, his office staff confirmed
through DEP resources "that Universal Well Services did receive authorization in
2007 to complete the storm water drainage project." The auditor general also stated
that his office also confirmed that the status of the permit is still pending completion.
He also confirmed in writing that his office staff tracked a $180,000 grant that North
Union Township was awarded in Infrastructure and Development Program funds in
2010 for a project at Universal Well Services. Those township supervisors have
been contacted to inquire how those funds were spent. It is unknown if this grant
funded a sewage pump station that the company's special projects director told me
his company had completed.
Though it has been 6 weeks since Laskey took his concerns and frustrations to the
county commission's special meeting in late February, Laskey's newest problem is run off
of muddy water on rainy days into his business front driveway.
When we get an inch of rain, his business inside floods. When we have days with less
rain, he still has an inch of mud to power scrub from his business front driveway and
parking lot. This often has happened since a township ball field was put in nearby his
Tomorrow, Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink is to attempt to place on the next county
meeting agenda discussion of the industrial park flooding mess. She wants the county to
consider approving an allocation of the 2013 year Act 13 Marcellus Shale account to the
RACF or DEP to be used toward the Gist Run storm water project in the industrial park.
While it is comforting to hear that her heart is in the right place and that a commissioner
has been working for months to try to resolve the problems and keep businesses there
from throwing in the towel, there seems to be a more fitting plan that she's probably too
nice to propose.
It might be more fitting if the county redevelopment authority passed the hat first in its
office, then next to the engineers and contractors who caused the problems, before
tapping Act 13 money for a man-made problem.
Next, then, the hat could and should be passed around at Fay Penn, to scrimp from that
entity's budgets and skim some of the profit from the $1.25 million dollar jail land deal, to
cover the $180,000 or so needed to undo the man-made damage that careless past
development caused, by moving one path to Gist Run and eliminating a second in the first
7 Apr 14