Local Welder Fights Eminent Domain
MCKEESPORT (KDKA) — It’s a place only a welder could love – cranes, acetylene torches and big slabs of metal to be fired and molded.
Bob Valerio’s father and uncle founded the business 60 years ago and it runs deep in the family’s bloodlines.
“Well you know what it is when you have a family business,” Valerio said. “It’s not only a job – it’s a way of life.”
Bob’s business now stands in the way of a $54 million expansion of the McKeesport Municipal Authority’s water and sewer system.
Last week, an acquisition agent came with an eviction notice and a $47,000 check which Bob says represents about 15 percent of what he needs to set up shop somewhere else.
“And she came here with her pittance check and said, ‘Are you going to give me the keys?’
“And I said, ‘I don’t want your check and I’m not leaving.’”
The authority is taking the property by the power of eminent domain which allows government agencies to seize private property for a greater public purpose.
In this case, it is expanding treatment capacity to avoid sewage runoff into the waterways. But Bob says their offer is take it or leave it.
“It’s doesn’t sound like America to me,” he said. “My grandparents came over from Europe to escape this kind of thing – an oppressive government and you have no say so, no rights.”
The municipal authority and their attorney declined to appear on camera but are moving forward to evict Bob who says he’s not going anywhere.
“I’m the last man standing and today they served me with a court hearing notice,” Bob said.
A judge will decide if Bob has to leave – and if he does – how much he’ll be paid.