RAD funds can go to Port Authority, lawyer concludes

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A lawyer advising the Allegheny Regional Asset District has concluded there is no "legal impediment" stopping the agency from giving the Port Authority $3 million next year.

Special counsel John Vogel reached that conclusion in a report

released today that reviewed state law creating the asset district, by-laws adopted by the RAD board and its 2013 grant-making guidelines.

Mr. Vogel, an attorney with the firm Tucker Arensburg, said he was not offering any judgement on the merits of the Post Authority's request for money.

"Please keep in mind we are not opining that the District is compelled or that it is advisable to fund the Port Authority," he wrote in his eight-page report. That was a policy decision for the RAD board.

If approved by the RAD board, that first-ever allocation, along with $1.5 million from Allegheny County's hotel and drink tax, would free up $30 million more in state aid for the financially troubled transit agency.

RAD funds represent one half of the proceeds from a 1 percent county sales tax that supports a variety of cultural, sports and recreational programs and facilities.

Port Authority and county officials made an almost two-hour

presentation to the RAD board on Sept. 6, describing the transit agency's finances and cost-cutting efforts. After that Downtown meeting at the August Wilson Center, the chairman of the RAD board said he was persuaded. "It would be a good use of tax money ... for a service that is vital to the region," Dan Griffin said of the Port Authority's request.

Six of seven board members would have to approve an allocation for the Port Authority, which provides bus and light-rail service for about 225,000 riders each weekday.

The RAD board hired Mr. Vogel, because its regular senior counsel, James Norris, of Eckert Seamans, is part of a law firm that also provides legal services to the Port Authority.

Mr. Vogel was up against a tight deadline.

The RAD board's allocation committee is required to provide a

preliminary budget showing proposed funding for next year at least 90 days before the end of the year. A final budget has to be passed by Dec. 1.

breaking - region - Transportation

Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.


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