The Hardin County commissioners are working with the Chamber and Business Alliance and the public in identifying brownfields in the county as part of a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Hardin County had applied for $400,000 twice before for the federal funding, before its third application was approved for half the requested amount.
The county has three years to create a list of brownfields and prioritize them for the project.
Brownfields, by definition, are properties which may pose a threat due to a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. The goal of the grant is to transform that property into a marketable site for development.
The owner of the property, said Donald Pinto, Senior Certified Professional with T&M Associates of Columbus, can not be the person who was responsible for the contaminant being on the site and must be willing to work with the county in the process. Once the priority list is completed by the commissioners, said Betsy Bowe, grants program manager with T&M, her company will begin the assessment process which takes an average of three months to complete.
Phase I involves an assessor visiting the property and determining what, if any, potential contamination could come from the location. This would include sampling the soil and ground water, said Bowe. Once that phase is completed, a cleanup plan is developed, she said. If the location can be developed into a workable business, continued Bowe, there are grants available through Jobs Ohio.
Should demolition be suggested, but no jobs created, there are other avenues for funding, she continued.
The advantage to an owner or potential owner of one of the properties is to have the two phases of assessment paid for through the grant, noted Bowe. Those studies can be a significant cost to the owner, she added.
While the brownfields program might appear to be only for large industrial sites, said Bowe, much smaller empty business should be considered for funding by the committee. Corner closed gas stations or empty dry cleaners should also be considered, she said.
Five sites were suggested for consideration to begin the process, but those are only suggestions, said Bowe.
They include the former Rockwell plant and the old toy factory in Kenton; the ice house and Mike’s Garage in Ada and Highway Oil, at the intersection of Ohio 309 and 235, just south of Ada. In fact, the abandoned gas station was discussed at length during the meeting. Bowe is a graduate of Ohio Northern University and was familiar with the eyesore which welcomes visitors from Ohio 309 to Ada. “That corner has a great potential to become a gateway to Ada,” said Bowe. “For something to happen at the site would be a great thing.”
The next step in the process is to create the priority list. The public is invited to make suggestions for the funding by calling the Alliance at 419-673-4131. That list will then be turned over to the commissioners for final approval.
“This could be a job creator or it may be something which results in a park,” said Director of Economic Development John Hohn after the meeting. “We can’t do anything without the owner. We would expect something to move forward.”
The list will be based on the proposed purpose of the property, said Commissioner Brice Beaman after the meeting. “This is not something to sit on, but something to react to,” said Beaman. “We will not be willing to help those not willing to help themselves. We have to see a willingness to become an equal partner.”