Hike funding

Highland County Landbank Board to seek state funding to clean up former smelter site

The Highland County Land Reutilization Corporation Board of Directors was updated on applications for the Ohio Brownfields Remediation Grant Program and the Demolition and Revitalization Grant Program on Thursday, March 17, while that the land bank council also voted to submit the plot housing the former CS Bell smelter for potential cleanup.

After leaving a roughly 10-minute executive session “to discuss possible property acquisition,” Highland County Commissioner and Landbank Board Member Jeff Duncan said the former smelter plot had been identified as another candidate for the brownfields remediation grant. The CS Bell Company produced thousands of bells and other products in the town of Hillsboro.

According to Hillsboro board member and code enforcer Lauren Walker, the parcel is 6,217 acres, and Duncan said “the property sits behind the Producers Livestock Association.” [on West Main Street]along the railway tracks.

“The owners of the property have been contacted,” Duncan said. “They are ready to work with us. What we don’t know is the degree of contamination, if there is contamination, but that would be cleaned up with the brownfield money if we received the grant. What we are doing here would be to apply for the grant to clean up a property that has potential issues. »

Council voted 5-0 to approve a motion requesting funding to clean up the plot.

Before voting on the smelter property, the board heard an update from consultant Matt Wagner of TetraTech regarding the three other properties the county is seeking funding for through the Brownfields Remediation Grant.

As previously reported, the board approved a list of six potential projects for the brownfields remediation grant at its Jan. 20 meeting, ahead of the Jan. 31 first-round deadline. In February, Highland County Community Action Organization housing director Mark Current reported that the list of actual projects for which applications had been submitted had been reduced to three – the former Rocky Fork Truck Stop; the mill at East Monroe; and the former Elliott Hotel in Greenfield. (Current served as the land bank program administrator, but the council is in a “transition process” as the county’s economic development department will assume responsibility for the program.)

“The only thing we’ve really heard from anyone about this is that we have about $500,000 left, based on the million dollars for the zero percent match requirement, that which is a good thing to know, which means that they take into account the grants that we have submitted,” Wagner told the board. “However, we haven’t heard anything in terms of actually getting of the grant agreement, or even if there was something more they needed.”

Wagner said Highland County Economic Development Director Julie Bolender will “likely” seek an extension to “the April 30 deadline” for the next round of funding.

“We are not the only ones to be in this case.” said Wagner. “I mean, there are a lot of communities and counties that have submitted grants with the idea of ​​doing the assessment work now, to then do the cleanup work with the April 30 funds. That said, however, as I have spoken to Julie and Mark, provided these are funded by the April 30 deadline, we should still be able to apply for the additional funds.

Commissioner and Land Preserve Board Member Terry Britton asked if they could still submit an application for another property under the Brownfields Grant Scheme.

“Yes,” Wagner said. “The beauty of Highland County’s position here, you can go over a million because you only have a 25% match on the million. But again, I think all of the projects we have are going to fall under a million dollars, at least where we are today.

Current said he spoke to a contractor who was concerned that cleaning the Elliott Hotel in Greenfield would cost more than expected.

“He kind of led me to believe that the Elliott Hotel will have to be treated like it’s all asbestos, which would be – he said it will cost a little more than you think “Current said. “Now I don’t know if he inspected it or anything. I took it that he had.

Wagner said there were already plans to do the “full asbestos assessments before the demonstration” and then “could make those decisions.” However, he said he didn’t think it would impact “as much” on project costs.

“What he’s probably referring to is if a building isn’t safe, and so, you just have to tear down the whole building as it is,” Wagner said. “So, knowing and assuming that the material is now entirely an asbestos-containing material, it should be taken to an approved landfill for asbestos-containing materials.

“Of course, these costs are increasing, as what would normally have cost $10 a ton to dispose of is now $18 a time. That’s where those costs come in.”

For an update on the other state application, Current said 26 properties were submitted for the demolition and revitalization grant, including 18 in the town of Hillsboro, five in the village of Mowrystown and three in the village of Lynchburg.

“I want to thank Lauren and thank Linda [Klump, Mowrystown Village Council member] and several people there in Lynchburg, who helped get those MOUs signed so we could add them to the demo and revitalization slate,” Current said.

Current distributed a “spreadsheet that used information Matt gave us on how some other counties calculated their demo costs” for each property, including demolition, excavation, site inspections, testing and asbestos removal and any additional cleaning.

“Those numbers had to be collected pretty quickly,” Current said. “Lauren and Linda both had accurate estimates which were also given for the properties which helped us compare and ensure we were getting close. I wanted to use a number from a calculation rather than getting a bunch of offers. »

Current added that he wanted advice from the land bank board on “how to proceed” to bid on the projects once the funding is granted.

“What I’ve done in the past is get sealed deals and open a deal,” Current said. “If all of these are approved, which I don’t see why they wouldn’t be, would you propose a bunch of them?”

“Personally, I wouldn’t offer all of this to just one contractor because I think it would take too long and many contractors would be unhappy. I think you would also get more results for less money if you bundled a set of four or five together or everyone bid on each.

Britton said “you could almost do it by street”, because there are multiple streets with multiple properties. Duncan agreed, suggesting they “pick a neighborhood”.

“The less they have to move, the cheaper it will be,” said Randy Mustard, board member and trustee for the Township of Paint.

Bolender said they “would do it geographically”, and Britton said if there was a standalone property, they could bundle it with the closest group.

Britton then asked if the “land bank will end up with any of these properties” listed for demolition or if “they all go back to the owners”.

A property on East Main Street in Hillsboro, whose owner is in talks with the city about transferring the parcel to the land bank, was among the properties targeted for the demolition and revitalization grant, Current said. Walker said there are several other parcels in the town of Hillsboro that could potentially end up in the land bank’s hands.

In another thread:

• Highland County Attorney’s Office Board Member Karen Bridges completed the county’s first-ever expedited foreclosure.

The plot, at 6638 Wizard of Oz Way, is now ready to be transferred to the land bank, as Bolender said she has a copy of the deed and judgment. The council also voted to pay a bill from the attorney’s office for the completion of the foreclosure.

Walker asked if the property was “ready to sell”. Current, Bridges and Bolender all said ‘no’ and that the package ‘needs to be cleaned first’.

• After a request from Mustard, council voted 5 to 0 to proceed with the seizure of a parcel at 6747 Heathermoor Trail.

• A local resident in attendance, Tim Atkinson, asked “how are you doing with the plans” for the 11 former Enchanted Hills Community Association plots. As previously stated, there are taxes and assessments due on each of the parcels, ranging from $701.99 to $5,209.37. The association no longer exists and no taxes have been paid since 2017.

Bridges said the packages are already on the list for expedited seizure.

• Klump – who has submitted several properties for Landbank review, including those targeted by the Demolition and Revitalization Grant – told the Landbank that Mowrystown Council had voted to “submit nuisance complaints for public health” against two properties.

Klump also asked Bridges about options for a property, which she said had an uncovered well. Bridges told her she couldn’t “give you legal advice” and referred her to Walker, who Bridges said could speak from a code enforcement perspective.

“Our street department, if we need to do something through our property maintenance codes, we can go ahead and deal with emergencies,” Walker said. “If there’s something we’ve done then if we keep track of that then when he walks into court you’ve got something to put back. If somebody comes out and puts a lid on the well and secure it, keep track of that time or how much that material costs, and that’s something you can eventually give back.

• Tax officer Beth Allering reported a checking account balance of $319,400.75 as of February 28. She requested to pay the HCCAO $9,945 for quarterly administration for the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, tax management from October 2021 to February 2022 and administrative costs for current grant applications and the process of transition.

“Generally the way the contract was written is $650 a month for administration,” Allering said. “However, with Mark handling a lot of grant applications and stuff, it’s been a lot more than is usually the case. I asked, or we ask, for an administrative fee just to cover his hours, of which he had 83 hours in January and February. That would be, at the rate of $650, $5,395.

The board of directors voted unanimously to approve the request for payment as well as to accept the tax report.

• Current said the former general store in Berrysville should be removed from the list of potential properties because taxes are not overdue and the owner is not interested in working with the land bank.

The next board meeting is scheduled for April 21 at 9 a.m. at the Highland County Administration Building.