Allegheny County deputies evict last business owner in Route 28 work zone
October 1, 2012 10:45 PM
Bob Donaldson/ Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Police and Allegheny County Sheriff's deputies tell William Lieberth Sr. that his Allegheny Auto Body business is closed and he must leave.
By Kaitlynn Riely The Pittsburgh Press
William Lieberth Sr., the last holdout on Route 28, was evicted this morning from the property that for almost four decades has been home to his family's shop, Allegheny Auto Body.
"I'm not happy," the 56-year-old West Deer resident said as he walked around his shop this morning in the last minutes before the sheriff's deputies arrived.
Yet he knew this day was coming.
Allegheny County deputies evict Route 28 business owner
William Lieberth Sr., owner of Allegheny Body Shop on Route 28, was evicted from his business. The auto repair shop was the last remaining business in the PennDot widening project area on Route 28. (Video by Nate Guidry; 10/1/2012)
PennDOT, in the midst of a project to expand Route 28, first contacted Mr. Lieberth in 2007 about acquiring his 7,000-square-foot Allegheny Auto Body shop and 7,000-square-foot adjacent parking lots on East Ohio Street, land that the agency said is necessary to complete the road project.
But even as PennDOT reached relocation agreements with 15 other residences and 24 business along Route 28, Mr. Lieberth refused to go.
In November 2011, PennDOT took ownership of the property by eminent domain and sent Mr. Lieberth $120,000.
A dispute about the value of the property went to the Board of Viewers, a board within the Court of Common Pleas that handles appeals of property assessments, in April. The board determined the value to be $215,000.
Both Mr. Lieberth and PennDOT appealed, but in July, PennDOT sent Mr. Lieberth a letter stating he must vacate the building by Aug. 6 so road work can proceed.
An attorney for Mr. Lieberth reached a settlement with PennDOT in August, agreeing to a total payment of $245,000 and a delay in vacating the property until Oct. 1.
Mr. Lieberth maintains he never agreed to the settlement.
But three weeks ago, an Allegheny County judge ordered him to accept the settlement, pay his former attorney his fee of more than $30,000 and vacate his Route 28 auto repair business by or on Oct. 1.
Mr. Lieberth has been defiant in the past few months. But he was somber this morning, when sheriff's deputies knocked on his door just after 10 a.m., prepared to evict him.
He said they took his keys and gave him a check from PennDOT for $97,237.94
Mr. Lieberth maintains he is owed $80,000 to $100,000 more, but a spokesman for the agency said there is no more money owed to Mr. Lieberth, unless he incurs relocation expenses.
For about an hour this morning, Mr. Lieberth, his wife, and their two sons moved papers, tools and items from the shop as officers watched. A police dog searched the area, and two PennDOT employees later entered the building.
A tow truck arrived to take away the last car to get auto body work at Allegheny Auto Body -- a 1990 GMC Jimmy truck with a broken transmission owned by Mr. Lieberth. On Friday, his 35-year-old son, Bill Lieberth Jr., completed the truck's red and white paint job.
Bill Lieberth Jr. used to think that his sons, now ages 6 and 3, would work with him eventually at the same shop where he worked with his dad for 18 years.
"I don't even know what I'll be doing tomorrow," he said.