Condition for loan jeopardizes sale in Mars

August 7, 2019 Cranberry Local News

MARS — Borough council had an extensive discussion Monday night regarding the funding of a loan that would complete the purchase of the former Dutilh United Methodist Church.

The four parcels would provide new borough office space, room for a community center and two parking lots.

Council is considering a $270,000 loan through Mars Bank, but members were concerned with a caveat: a requirement that the borough lease the community center space to the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV for five years.

“I find it offensive,” Michael Fleming, council president, said. “I feel like we're being micromanaged.”

Councilman Robert Bost agreed.

“Where did that even come from?” Bost asked. “We don't know how we want to use (all of) that building.”

Bost said the caveat in the loan could jeopardize church property sale because some members wouldn't approve the deal. Councilman Rick Foster said he probably wouldn't, adding the deal uses public money.

“I got a really sour taste in my mouth about this deal,” Foster said.

Council clarified the issue was with the lease requirement, not the IU. Fleming noted the IU has been a team player.

“I think we need to at least have a discussion,” Councilwoman Julie Schultheis said. “We put a lot into this. A lot of people did.”

Council discussed the possibility of a “plan B” with the property Realtors, John Wills and Don Seaton of RE/MAX Select Realty. This would involve switching from a commercial loan to a property owner loan.

A preliminary consensus revealed council would consider a 10-year straight loan through the church if it is made available. The church was not approached about this possibility before the meeting.

Still, council wants to continue negotiations with Mars Bank.

“We need to finish our request,” Fleming said. “I think we owe it to the church to see this through like a normal deal.”

Council will ask the bank to participate in an informal talk about the lease requirement. Members said they hoped the talk would take place in the next 48 hours, although no plans were made at Monday night's meeting.

“I just want to ask (questions),” Schultheis said.

Council approved Wills and Seaton discussing the possibility of a “plan B” with church representatives.