Allegheny Regional Asset District hires outside counsel for advice on Port Authority deal
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The board that oversees the Allegheny Regional Asset District hired special counsel to advise members on whether the agency can legally allocate sales-tax revenues to help fund Port Authority transit service.
The RAD board retained senior attorney John Vogel, from the law firm Tucker Arensberg, to research the issue and make a recommendation. Mr. Vogel will be paid $275 per hour.
The $3 million commitment being sought from RAD is one element in a plan championed by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald to head off deep cuts in bus and light-rail service and layoffs at the Port Authority.
Last month the state agreed to provide $30 million in new transit funding with the county contributing an additional $4.5 million. Those offers were made after transit workers accepted a new contract expected to save about $60 million over four years. The Port Authority also cut another $10 million in expenses.
To come up with the county's share of the Port Authority agreement, Mr. Fitzgerald proposed using $1.5 million from the drink tax and $3 million from RAD. Mr. Fitzgerald has said he would expect RAD to help fund the Port Authority for the next 10 years.
Port Authority chief executive officer Steve Bland is scheduled to make his pitch for a portion of the sales-tax proceeds at a public hearing this afternoon at the August Wilson Center, Downtown.
The RAD board decided it could not use its regular senior counsel, James Norris, of Eckert Seamans, because his firm also provides legal services to the Port Authority. Mr. Norris agreed with the decision to retain an outside lawyer to avoid any possible conflict of interest, RAD director David Donahoe said today.
While Mr. Vogel was not given a deadline to produce an opinion, the board needs an answer within the next month.
The RAD board is required to provide a preliminary budget showing proposed allocations for 2013 90 days before the end of the year. A final budget has to be passed by Dec. 1.
RAD funds come from one half of the proceeds from a 1 percent county sales tax.
On its website, the agency describes its mission as providing grants to regional assets that include "civic, cultural and recreational entities, libraries, parks and sports facilities."
First Published September 6, 2012 1:28 pm