Posted by on September 21, 2020 3:23 pm

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argall SB 1296 pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania Senate committee today approved passage of a bill that aims to protect sites like the former GIANT grocery store property in downtown Pottsville from getting purchased by county government.

The Senate Bill 1296 (full text below) passed through the Local Government Committee on Monday. And its sponsor, Sen. Dave Argall admitted this piece of legislature is oddly specific.

“I’m sorry to drag the entire Senate of Pennsylvania into a downtown Pottsville issue but I did not know how else to help my constituents in this regard,” Argall said from the Senate floor.

Check out this video of Argall discussing his legislation before the Senate Local Government Committee:

PA Senate Committee Approves SB 1296 to Prevent Schuylkill County Purchasing GIANT Lot

The bill, however, isn’t just Pottsville specific. However, the impetus for the bill is largely because of what’s happening in Pottsville and its fight against the Schuylkill County government.

If it passes the General Assembly and doesn’t get vetoed by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, SB 1296 would prevent a fourth-class county like Schuylkill County from purchasing property in a third-class city, like Pottsville, if that property was in an area deemed fit for revitalization, or already part of a revitalization effort.

Pottsville has included the former site of the GIANT grocery store in its downtown revitalization plans so that parcel would be protected if Argall’s legislation makes it over the proverbial finish line in Harrisburg.

Schuylkill County aims to purchase the former grocery store with one of two ideas in mind: make it the site of a pre-release prison facility or use it for county government storage, office space and parking. It’s believed the County would use some of its remaining CARES Act funding to purchase the 2.1 acre lot downtown.

Commissioners George Halcovage and Boots Hetherington seem to support the idea of the County buying the former GIANT. Gary Hess has voiced his opposition to the plan.

The City of Pottsville, business executives in the city, and state elected officials like Argall are vehemently opposed to the County’s plan. State Reps. Mike Tobash and Neal Goodman also oppose the County’s ideas.

There is an option for local governments to approve the type of purchase the County plans. It could go forward, under Argall’s legislation, if the local government and local school district sign off on such a purchase.

“Officials from the City of Pottsville, Representatives Mike Tobash and Neal Goodman, and local businesses including the Yuengling Brewery have been working on a bipartisan basis to revitalize downtown Pottsville. That effort is now endangered by our county government, which is just wrong,” Argall says in a statement released Monday. “I crafted this bill in the hopes that local people in Pottsville will have the opportunity to decide on the future of their downtown.”

FULL TEXT of SB 1296:

sb 1296 pa senate

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2 responses to Pennsylvania Senate Committee OKs Bill to Protect Pottsville GIANT Property from Schuylkill County Government Purchase

  1. coalregion12 September 21st, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    Mr. Bender’s is probably mad as ahornet after this!

    Reply

  2. Anon E. Mouse September 21st, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    What about the property owner? He has this huge property with a buyer ready to go and now the State is going to make him forfeit the potential sale. How would you feel if you owned the property? Not his fault the County doesn’t pay taxes or that their use doesn’t fill the bill for Pottsville’s needs – and it did support the tax base for well over thirty years. Tell me this, the City can’t keep a business going in a small downtown store front and they’re going to find an occupant for the Giant property – Ok!

    Reply

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