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Open Records Office Supports Release of Allentown State Hospital Bid

As the Wolfe administration prepares to sell the assets of Allentown State Hospital directly to a development company led by J.B. ordered to publish. bid.

A competitive sale of 195 acres of unused property was set up by a 2019 law created by former Senator Pat Brown. Two of his submitted bids failed because they were deemed non-compliant.

The State Department of General Services declined verbal requests for copies of these two bids and subsequently refused a written right to know request From wake-up call.

On Tuesday, the Office of Public Records issued a requirement to provide records within 30 days, rejecting the department’s rationale for withholding documents.

The department has the option to appeal to the court.

Wolf spokesperson Emily Demsey said the administration is considering OOR’s final decision on the matter.

Republican Senator Jarrett Coleman of Upper Mackenzie TownshipThe president, who defeated Brown in May’s primary, said the situation was an example of “why the public doesn’t trust their government.”

The newspaper called for an evaluation made on the records, and on the assets and minutes of the “Competitive Solicitations Commission” established by law in 2019, after dramatic events took place in September 2019. .

Already a lame duck after losing to Coleman in May, Brown surprised fellow lawmakers by introducing a bill that would abandon the competitive bidding process.

Instead, he planned to sell the property directly to City Center Investment Corporation for $5.5 million.

City Center President Riley has known Brown since childhood when he lived across the street from Salisbury Township.

The new approach garnered support from the Wolff administration, Allentown Mayor Matt Turk, and Democratic Rep. Mike Schlossberg, who said he was surprised by Brown’s move.

City Center was the primary developer of Allentown’s unique Neighborhood Improvement Zone through legislation created by Browne enacted in 2011. The NIZ Act includes a 10,000-seat hockey stadium, corporate offices, and multiple restaurants and retail outlets.

Browne and Schlossberg co-signed a September statement, stating: In the modern history of Allentown. “

The direct selling bill moved quickly in Congress. It was incorporated into a larger package of five-state real estate sales and signed into law by Wolfe on November 3.

The new approach and overall process has drawn criticism from several quarters.

Nat Hyman, a rival developer who previously purchased the property and offered to preserve the buildings on the site, Saying that’s outrageous, Brown and Schlossberg said ‘Working in secret with no transparency,’ says commercial real estate appraiser and former mayoral candidate John Ingram Said the property might be worth More than four times the $5.5 million price tag.

The price is based on an appraisal, the agency said.

The newspaper filed a Right-to-Know request for an evaluation, committee meeting minutes, and two violating bids. All 3 requests were denied by department.

In-house counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, Melissa Melewsky, said there was no reason to put up a “barrier” to access records about the process.

“We need a clear and accessible record that describes the sale process from start to finish so that the public can understand how their property was sold and determine whether the sale was in the public interest. ,” Meewsky said.

The Office of Open Records ruled Tuesday on the newspaper’s appeal of its denial of the bid. He said the main allegations made by the state were unfounded.

In another case, the office dismissed the paper’s appeal of the state’s denial of the conference minutes. In its decision, the office said it had proved that there were no minutes in the possession of the General Service Department.

Coleman, who is due to take office on Tuesday, said the lack of minutes from the meeting where the sale to CityCenter was decided “makes it all the more important to look at the original bid.”

“If you can’t rely on the government to explain exactly what happened,” Coleman said, the public has a right to the information itself.

Coleman said he may try to block the sale to CityCenter.

Wake-up call Capitol correspondent Ford Turner can be reached at: fturner@mcall.com.

https://www.mcall.com/news/pennsylvania/capitol-ideas/mc-nws-pa-hospital-documents-withheld-20221229-que4yzqffnet5gj6bkv4s2azxq-story.html#ed=rss_www.mcall.com/arcio/rss/category/news/pennsylvania/ Open Records Office Supports Release of Allentown State Hospital Bid

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