Judge considers whether state can take last business in Route 28 construction area

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William Lieberth Sr. insists that he never agreed to a $245,000 settlement with PennDOT to give up his North Side business along the Route 28 expansion project.

But his former attorney, and the state, say otherwise.

Now a judge must determine whether Allegheny Auto Body -- which sits just 10 feet away from the road -- will be forced to close down.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael E. McCarthy expects to issue his decision on Monday.

According to Mr. Lieberth's former attorney, Harvey Robins, his client agreed to a $245,000 payment plus $3,500 in interest.

In addition, Mr. Robins was able to extend the date Mr. Lieberth must vacate the property from the end of July to Oct. 1.

"He said, 'well, that's a good number. Do the best you can,' " Mr. Robins told the court Friday, prompting a shout from Mr. Lieberth in the gallery, saying, "That's not true."

The judge quickly corrected Mr. Lieberth, who began pointing, and two sheriff's deputies in the room also made their presence known.

Mr. Lieberth would have to pay Mr. Robins 30 percent of the settlement amount, although that, too, is being challenged in court.

Mr. Lieberth, who has operated his business for 37 years, said he fired Mr. Robins on Aug. 22 and should not have to pay him.

"I didn't authorize him to accept this offer," Mr. Lieberth said. "I did not sign this agreement."

Mr. Lieberth's main concern, he said, is that he has no place to move his business.

"I have nowhere to go," he said. "They're trying to force me to accept this settlement, and I said no."

The 56-year-old asked PennDOT as part of the settlement negotiations to provide him with another property where he could move his business.

But the agency did not do that.

Mr. Lieberth claims that the settlement amount is equal to about two years of work for him, and is not enough.

A company he hired to do an appraisal set the land value at $285,000. The Allegheny County Board of Viewers set it at $215,000.

Mr. Robins told the court the two sides met close to the middle.

"I don't know what else I could do for the client," he said.

Mr. Lieberth is now represented by Tom Lyons, who got the case late Thursday night. He asked for a postponement of the hearing, but it was denied.

"They think because they have eminent domain, and the sheriffs can kick you out, they can do anything," Mr. Lieberth said in the hallway following the hearing.

J. Elise Tourek, who represents PennDOT, told Judge McCarthy that without Mr. Lieberth's property, the construction cannot move forward.

neigh_city - Transportation

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published September 7, 2012 4:45 AM


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