Two Butler County commissioners voted Monday to support Boscov's pursuit of a federal loan, making it the sixth and last
county needed to endorse the application.
Blair and Cambria counties voted in January to support the loan that the department store retailer will use to climb out of bankruptcy and remain in business. It pledges to repay the loan over 20 years.
"It's a good day for the 5,000 people who work for Boscov's, the 26 communities where they're located and the community tax base," said Steve Weitzman, spokesman for the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
The state will move forward with preparing the application for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, which is expected to make the $35 million available from a fund to support economic development.
Weitzman said the approval should take about two months.
Butler County Commissioner Jim Lokhaiser, whose daughter works for Boscov's, cast the deciding vote at Monday's special meeting.
After Commissioner Dale Pinkerton voted yes and Commissioner Jim Kennedy voted no, Lokhaiser exercised guidelines set by the state ethics commission, permitting him to break a tie vote after announcing the potential conflict of interest.
Lokhaiser, who declined last month to support the proposal, said his vote was based on a letter from Gov. Ed Rendell guaranteeing that Butler County will be held harmless and after hearing Albert Boscov say that if there is no loan, there's not enough money to keep the stores going.
''You think I'm going to vote for something that's going to put 5,000 people out of jobs?'' Lokhaiser said. ''I'm not going to do that. So let the governor pick up the ball and run with it. He's guaranteeing all our funding.''
Before endorsing the loan, Blair County commissioners also sought a guarantee of its future block grant money. The state pledged to keep enough money in a loan loss fund to make payments if Boscov's defaults.
''If things don't develop as they're supposed to," Lokhaiser said, "then Gov. Ed Rendell better find one of those groundhog holes up there in Punxsutawney.''
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.