Our opinion: The lingering hangover

Oh, those were giddy days here in Warren, days of imagination and promise, of grand plans fueled by even grander ambitions.

Looking back on those handful of years when local public officials drank in the ambrosia presented by a pair of developers, Robert P. Yoder and Tim King, one might be tempted to ask the age-old day-after question: What did I have to drink last night?

We take nothing away from what was done in terms of the recreation of the 300 Block of Pennsylvania Avenue, the broad, inviting sidewalks, the nice apartments and commercial fronts. One might even laud the addition of the Clark Street Garage, although Messrs. Yoder and King had little to do with that other than acknowledge its presence in the master plan.

Is it possible to be drunk with hope, inebriated by promise?

If so, then Warren is experiencing a hangover whose symptoms are uncertainty and frustration, tinged with bits of anger and disillusionment.

One of the gee-whiz elements of the Impact Warren plan was the inclusion of a geothermal heating and cooling system that would serve the new elements of the 300 block, a townhouse complex (only half completed and never fully occupied), and the hotel/conference center (a dream that suckered in both private and public investors).

Over the past couple years we have seen much of the brick and mortar that was actually built show up in deliquent tax rolls and bankruptcy proceedings.

Now, it appears that the operator of the geothermal heating and cooling system for all of those properties hasn’t been paying the electric bill, delinquent to the point that if someone doesn’t pony up almost $11,000 by 8 a.m. on May 8, the the power to the system will be turned off. The total arrearage is more than twice that amount.

In addition to the dozens of apartments and a bank in the 300 Block, the system also serves the Allegheny Community Center and the TAWC (Transportation Authority of Warren County) garage and terminal.

A preliminary sheriff’s sale of the property behind the mythical hotel/conference center that contains the wells and the pumping equipment found no takers last fall, so it will be listed for a judicial sale this year if back taxes aren’t paid.

Meanwhile, occupants of the aforementioned properties, who have been paying Geothermal Energy Systems LLC (Mr. Yoder), are wondering two things: What will happen if or when power is turned off to their heating and cooling system, and, what happened to the money they have paid to keep their quarters toasty in the winter and cool in the summer?

Oh, for a return to those giddy days, but equipped with a prescience that would have at least given us some pause.