DCED: Point Township is off the hook for grant repayment
POINT TOWNSHIP - Point Township officials received word Tuesday from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) that they would not be responsible for repayment relating to a financial controversy between the state agency and the township.
A letter from DCED grant manager Beverly A. Hutzel was read by township Chairman Randy Yoxheimer at the township meeting Wednesday night, informing the public the township was off the hook concerning a $381,000 grant discrepancy with the federal Housing and Urban Development HOME program.
"We've always considered this to be largely a paperwork issue and they needed the proper documentation," Yoxheimer said Thursday.
Bob Yoder, of The Yoder Group in Turbotville, who Point Township officials have maintained is responsible for the problem, cooperated with DCED to provide documentation for review.
DCED originally ordered the township to pay back the money because municipal officials failed to adequately track how Yoder spent the grant, which was intended for use in building low- and moderate-income housing units eight years ago.
"There could have been better handling of the grant, both by the oversight by DCED, our solicitor (at the time) and our own board," Yoxheimer said.
The chairman admitted they were "ill prepared" to handle the grant, but the end result was positive.
"If another opportunity like this comes down the road, we'll be much more careful," he said.
Additionally, Hutzel said DCED will be addressing the township's decision to allow the developer to build and sell fewer units than was originally proposed without DCEC approval.
Township Vice Chairman Montie Peters resigned as chairman of the Northumberland County Planning Commission last month because of the controversy, and was removed from the board July 24 by Northumberland County Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy.
The relationship between fellow commissioner Rich Shoch, Bridy and Clausi has soured over the past few months over a number of issues, including Shoch's role as solicitor in Point Township, which the other two commissioners said represents a conflict of interest. Shoch does not believe Peters should have had to resign from the chairmanship or the board. He said Clausi and Bridy are targeting Peters because he has supported Shoch.
Shoch brought the issue up again when contacted Thursday for comment.
"A lot was made of it by some people for other reasons, but we approached it proactively and positively," he said.
He added, "It's interesting they were so focused on that when we are dealing with our own issues."
Shoch was referencing unaccounted portions of a $365,000 grant intended for low-income families that distributed by county Adult Social Services and the planning department to unqualified individuals.
'Could not be trusted'
Clausi said he was happy the township taxpayers do not have to pay the money back, but maintains, "The township did not follow the rules. They gave money away without a contract."
It was this reason that Peters was kicked off the planning commission, Clausi said.
"He could not be trusted," he said.
Clausi said the county program was unofficially paused in late 2011, and an official letter was sent to DCED April 18, stating the county planned to discontinue the grant program.
Clausi noted he did not vote in favor of the county's original participation in that program.