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City still cautious on RTC sale [UPDATED]

Published 10:57am Wednesday, January 9, 2013 Updated 11:00am Wednesday, January 9, 2013

While city officials are optimistic about the recent proposal by the owners of Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum to take over the RTC property, the fact that the city would essentially forfeit $5 million in state demoltion funds if they turn the building over also means they are still cautious.

The city is in negotiations with the group that owns the West Virginia Kirkbride facility, and is offering the Kirkbride building for $1, along with a 15-year property tax exemption.

The rules regarding the remaining $5 million state grant for RTC demolition states that, should the property be sold to a private party, the funds could no longer be used for demolition. Demolition costs have been estimated at about $4 million, and planning has already begun should the facility not be sold.

“That’s why it’s not in the best interest of anyone to turn the property over to someone who does not have the financial wherewithal, because the responsibility for the property would fall on the local taxpayers,” Mattson said.

Mattson said that, unlike other proposals in recent years, the scope of the Trans-Allegheny proposal is “relatively modest.” Officials there have said the company would use a model of “staggered development,” first rehabilitating the building’s exterior, and then remodeling the interior over a long period as profits generated from operations allow.

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum’s West Virginia facility, which employs about 40, offers a variety of events to attract visitors, from haunted tours to a dinner theater to an Easter egg hunt.

Barring an extension, the city has until December 2014 to request reimbursement for the RTC demolition costs, which means demolition must be completed by then.

City officials plan on asking the Legislature for a deadline extension in the upcoming session.

  • P. Carlson

    City officials should have to be personally liable for demolition funding if they cause the loss of state funding and put it at risk.

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