Wednesday, February 18, 2009

LETTER: "Time for full disclosure"

Editor's note: A representative of TRRAAC forwarded the following with the side notation that "The plot thickens." The spokesperson also questions why the Lancaster Newspapers have not reported on the "on the Manheim Twp Commissioners and the stormwater issue." According to the below, the Lancaster Newspapers Inc. are tangentially associated with the project.

TRRAAC recently posted on its web site an analysis of EDC Finance's application to DCED applying for $1 million from Growing Greener II funds to pay for the cleanup of the LCSWMA dump in Manheim Township where Norfolk Southern intends to locate a new rail yard. In that application, which is still pending, EDC Finance claimed that they already had an award of $ 1 million from DEP Growing Greener II funds committed as of December 2008. That appears to be either a false statement or is misleading. DEP confirmed yesterday that they have not awarded any money for this project. Perhaps someone whispered to one of the project partners that the Governor will ensure the money will be awarded?

In response to TRRAAC's Open Records Request, DEP produced a copy of the Growing Greener II application. The application was not signed or dated. The identity of the applicant is not known. However, the documents provided by DEP included a memo dated November 18, 2008 from Keith Orris of Franklin & Marshall College to Tom Mellott and Tracey Vernon (no titles) providing information to begin the application process for DEP Growing Greener II grant. The Orris memo claims the applicant will be EDC Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County. EDC Finance was also used as the conduit to apply for the DCED grant.

The Board of Directors of Economic Development Company of Lancaster County include Keith Orris of F&M, Tom Beeman of Lancaster General Hospital, and Jack Buckwalter of Lancaster Newspapers. Barley Snyder is identified as its law firm. Lancaster General Hospital contributes $50,000 annually, the largest sponsor and Lancaster Newspapers contributes between $25,000 and $49,999 annually. LCSWMA contributes between $15,000 and $24,999 annually. Barley Snyder law firm, Hartman Underhill law firm and F&M College each contribute between $3500 and $ 7499 annually.

EDC Finance Corporation is described on its web site as a private, non-profit economic development lender. The members of its Board of Directors include the president of the Manheim Township Board of Commissioners (the host township of the rail yard) and the law firms representing F&M College (Barley Snyder) and LCSWMA (Hartman Underhill & Brubaker)(the beneficiaries of EDC's lending). Hartman Underhill represents both the Board of Commissioners of Manheim Township and LCSWMA in TRRAAC's appeal of the cleanup plan.

In the DCED application, EDC Finance, in the "profile" section, states it has zero full time jobs in Pennsylvania and in the "project site location" states that the remodeling of the existing rail yard will create 1000 full time jobs but the new rail yard to be built will create zero full time jobs. That's right, zero! $ 1 million of your tax money to subsidize the bottom line of LCSWMA and create zero permanent jobs!

Compare those figures with the representations made by F&M College in its applications to PennDOT for $700,000 for engineering design services and $ 9.3 million in rail freight grant assistance, where F&M said "the former Dillerville Rail Yard site can potentially create 2000 permanent jobs" and "Norfolk Southern will retain and expand its employment from 60 to 71 over three years."

Time for full disclosure regarding the purported economic development impact of this $46 million project before any additional tax revenues are diverted. A majority of the Board of Commissioners of Manheim Township oppose any further tax funding of this project.

Perhaps the Office of Attorney General and its new grand jury should investigate these alleged false statements about DEP awarding $1 million and the role of certain members of the board of these economic development organizations possibly acting to benefit their enterprises.