The Editorial Board
Eighteen months after buying the former Crivelli car dealership in McKees Rocks, ALCOSAN still refuses to state its intentions for the prime slice of real estate sitting beside the shopping plaza.
When questioned immediately after the purchase, a sanitary authority spokesperson claimed the organization had no specific plans for the site despite coughing up $2 million of public funds to close the deal. Officials have refused to clarify plans when pressed on multiple subsequent occasions.
McKees Rocks officials came away from a series of ill-fated meetings in 2020 believing the site would be used as a launch point for boring a tunnel under the Ohio River, effectively sinking the entire lot into a “sludge-filled pit.” On this basis, they hired a lawyer for $20,000 and filed a civil suit, which has stalled in federal court since last June.
Now, according to McKees Rocks Council President Archie Brinza, the authority has agreed to leave the former Crivelli building standing, and is instead exploring a site near a borough-operated pump station on Robb Street.
Yet, immediately after describing this development during a recent public meeting, Brinza also announced 60 properties in the town had been targeted by ALCOSAN-issued letters signaling the start of eminent domain proceedings.
The letters are as vague as ALCOSAN’s plans for the Crivelli lot, which in both cases go nowhere beyond “to use in our Clean Water Plan.” The letters cheerfully assure recipients the authority may decide not to seize the land following inspections and surveys – and they likely won’t take much (they do have to cough up fair market value after all). But the net result is more uncertainty for a town that’s struggled for decades to redefine itself from a half-century of post-industrial decline.
Whatever happens to the dealership lot and any of the other sites now facing possible acquisitions, McKees Rocks will be impacted by the Clean Water Plan. The question at this point, is exactly how? The town’s 6,000 residents deserve to know.
Moving the layout site away from homes and the borough’s hollowed retail core would no doubt be an improvement from the original plan to sink a pit under Crivelli’s. But if ALCOSAN decides in any case to carve out slices of the plaza or the former P&LE brownfield on which stakeholders have pegged ambitious future hopes, the loss of an already-shuttered car dealership might look paltry in comparison.
ALCOSAN is undertaking the $2 billion Clean Water Plan to improve environmental and sanitary standards county-wide. This is a needed project set in motion decades ago and now long overdue – but it must be done right. Sanitary officials must avoid bulldozing McKees Rocks in their haste to get the job done.